Best Sit-on-Top Kayaks of 2020 | 9 Stable SOT Reviewed

Fact Checked By James A Rockey | Post Updated On: September 3, 2020

I’ve been into kayaking for a while now, and based on my experience, sit-on-tops are the most popular type for cruising warm environments, particularly for nervy kayakers who dislike the feeling of confinement. Unlike their sit-in counterparts, sit-on-top variants are stable in strong and rapid currents, and they are also easy to enter or exit.

However, there are tons of kayak brands in the market, thereby making it hard to choose the best one for your adventure. As such, I have reviewed the best sit-on-top-kayaks based on experience and a few other factors to help you choose.

I get paid if anyone buys through the links on this page as I am an affiliate of Amazon.com, Skimlinks and CJ.com


Top 9 Sit-on-top (SOT) Kayaks

  • Sevylor Quikpak K1 1-Person Kayak
  • Intex Challenger K2
  • Ocean Kayak Frenzy
  • Perception Kayak Pescador Pro
  • Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120
  • Riot Kayaks Escape
  • Ocean Kayak 12-Feet Malibu
  • Lifetime Manta 10 Foot
  • Lifetime Tamarack


What is a Sit on top Kayak?

A sit-on-top kayak is considered as most user-friendly kayak thanks to its design. These types of kayaks don’t have a closed cockpit therefore it is very easy to get in and out of this kayak. Moreover, sit-on-top kayaks are more stable because these types of kayaks are wider and you won’t feel any confinement on them. You will enjoy fishing with this type of kayak as the fishing gears are easily accessible. Sit-on-top kayaks are self-bailing; they have scupper holes that allow the water to drain right through them. With so many advantages, the main problem of a sit-on-top kayak is that you're guaranteed to get wet while paddling.   

Our Top Pick


This Sevylor Quikpak K1 1-Person Kayak is inflatable, easy to carry, owns multiple air chambers and comes with a comfortable back-rest seat option to make your paddling enjoyable and fun. 


Here are some other awesome SOTs below - but you are requested to check those after a few days as these are not in stock right now. 

Best Sit-on-Top Kayaks
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My Best-Sit-On-Top-Kayaks For 2020



The Intex Challenger K2 accommodates two kayakers at a time. Therefore, it is a suitable option for kayakers who enjoy kayaking alongside their pet, friend, or a family member.

Unlike most kayaks, this one features a sporty, easy-to-paddle, and streamlined design that would navigate effortlessly through strong currents. Its bright green color enhances its visibility in the water, and its inflatable design gives you the freedom to store or transport your kayak conveniently.

The Intex Challenger K2 is made of rugged vinyl, a sturdy material that can withstand punctures as well as the wear and tear from prolonged exposure to external elements for a sensible time.

Pros

  • Comes with two bonus aluminum oars, a repair kit, and a high-capacity pump
  • Weighs only 33.57 pounds but can carry up to 400 pounds
  • Comfortable inflatable seats

Cons

  • Not be as durable as kayaks made from hard shells
  • The seat’s backrests are flimsy

Are you looking for an SOT kayak that is designed for your unique recreational purposes like fishing, diving, or picnicking? If yes, Ocean Kayak’s Frenzy would be your ideal choice. The kayak comes in bright envy, yellow, and sunrise color variations to let you choose your favorite.

The Frenzy’s tri-form hull delivers an enhanced stability and maneuverability even when pedaling through strong ocean waves, not to mention its replaceable skid plate makes it more durable than those without.

To improve your recreational experience, this kayak comes equipped with a tour-friendly outfitting like a cup holder which holds your water bottle, a spacious stem tank well for storing your luggage, and cushioned seats that keep you comfortable throughout your kayaking expedition.

Pros

  • Comes with bright colors to augment its visibility in the water
  • Responsive and stable design
  • Has molded-in carry handles for easy transportation
  • Adjustable seats
  • Weighs only 43 pounds for easy lifting and moving

Cons

  • Insufficient cockpit room for large-framed kayakers

The Pescador Pro is designed for kayakers who enjoy fishing. Its hull is made of polyethylene, a sturdy material that can resist the wear and tear from regular exposure to direct sunlight and water for a long time.

In addition to the sturdy hull, this kayak has cushioned stadium-style seats that would keep you comfortable all through your kayaking trip. You can adjust the seat to your most comfortable pedaling position.

The kayak has a spacious stern tank well with a mesh gear cover, built-in rod holders, and the YakaAttack GearTrac system to hold your fishing lines and a storage console where you can store your electronic fishing gadgets.

Pros

  • Available in three color variations
  • Can carry up to 400 pounds
  • Its stern tankwell has bungee keepers to secure your luggage
  • Equipped with a removable skid plate for added durability
  • Enhanced stability and durability

Cons

  • Some users complain that the kayak feels shaky when standing on it
  • Quite bulky to transport

The Tarpon 120 from Wilderness Systems is famous for its top-class maneuverability and glide. For that reason, I would recommend it to kayakers who are looking for a multipurpose kayak which they can use for sporting or recreational needs.

The Tarpon 120 features the phase 3 AirPro seating system that keeps you comfortable during your prolonged kayaking expedition. Unlike the lightweight kayaks, this model weighs 63 pounds, making it a heavyweight kayak that remains stable while cruising through rapid and strong currents.

The Wilderness Tarpon features a generously sized storage area that accommodates more luggage, ergonomic handles for a hassle-free transportation, and self-bailing scrubber holes for drainage.

Pros

  • Molded-in cup holders to contain your water bottle
  • Gear storage pockets to store small items
  • Built to last long
  • Available in five color variations

Cons

  • A bit expensive than most kayaks in this list
  • Quite bulky to move around

Riot Kayaks’ Escape 12 is an ideal option for kayakers who are looking for a kayak which they can use in fishing, diving, or any other recreational activity. It weighs 65.7 pounds, allowing it to be stable when sailing in strong waves. Meanwhile, its sturdy construction can endure wear and tear from regular kayaking. The Escape boasts of comfortable seats which you can adjust to your most relaxed sitting position.

Furthermore, it has multiple travel-friendly outfitting like rod holders for fishing, a cup holder where you can place your favorite drink, and a generous storage area where you can store up to 300 pounds of luggage.

Pros

  • Comes with an ample cockpit room
  • Its comfy seats give you the comfort you need to accomplish long kayaking missions
  • Excellent stability and maneuverability

Cons

  • Not ideal for kayakers who are on a budget
  • Quite bulky for transportation

The Malibu is yet another excellent option if you are looking for a kayak you can use together with a friend, relative, kid, or a pet. It comes in sunrise, yellow, and envy colors to suit your preferences.

Ocean Kayak’s Malibu has two comfort plus seats which are ideal for long kayaking trips. You can adjust the seats into three sitting positions for convenient paddling.

It has skid plates for added durability, overlapping foot wells for convenient leg positioning, and side carry handles for a stress-free transportation. Lastly, it has a maximum carrying capacity of 425 pounds and weighs 57 pounds.

Pros

  • The hull and deck design facilitates easy stacking
  • Reasonably priced
  • Built from a sturdy material
  • Its bright colors enhance conspicuousness in water

Cons

  • It may feel unstable when used by one person
  • A bit too heavy to move around

The Manta 10-foot kayak comes in bright yellow and green colors. It measures 10 feet long, making it one of the most compact-sized tandem sit-on-top-kayaks in the list.

It is made of low-density polyethylene, a sturdy material which is resistant to damage from UV exposure. Despite its small size, the Manta features ditty trays and straps to secure your luggage, self-bailing scupper holes for drainage, and multiple footrest positions for comfortable paddling.

The kayak can accommodate up to two users and has a maximum weight capacity of 500 pounds.

Pros

  • Made of a durable material
  • Highly affordable
  • Its bright colors augment its visibility in the water

Cons

  • It has poor maneuverability
  • The seats are not cushioned
  • Lacks a storage compartment to carry your luggage

The Tamarack is intelligently designed for kayakers who not only love kayaking but also enjoy fishing. It is made of high-density polyethylene which can repel regular wear and tear.

In addition to the sturdy frame, it comes with stability chine rails, a flat bottom, and tracking channels for enhanced maneuverability and stability. Other notable features of the Tamarack are the padded seat back that supports your spine, a generously sized seat pad for enhanced comfort, and multiple footrest positions for a smooth pedaling experience.

Furthermore, it comes with fishing rod holders, two storage compartments, and carry handles for easy transportation.

Pros

  • Comes with a five-year warranty
  • Enhanced stability
  • Highly affordable
  • Portable and lightweight

Cons

  • Small weight capacity
  • Quite slow

Are you looking for a compact-sized and affordable kayak for your recreational activities? If yes, the Sun Dolphin Journey would be an excellent choice. It measures 10 feet long, weighs a mere 44 pounds, and can accommodate a load of up to 250 pounds.

Despite the compact size, this kayak comes with loads of features that would enhance your kayaking experience. Some of them include the padded seat back for comfort, fishing rod holders, and an enclosed storage compartment to keep your luggage.

Also, it has protective thigh pads and adjustable foot braces to keep your legs comfortable.

Pros

  • Easy to transport and store
  • It is affordable
  • Ideal for beginners

Cons

  • Reduced stability more so when you are standing
  • Not for experienced kayakers
  • The cockpit may feel a little confined for large-bodied users

Advantages of Sit-on-top Kayaks

  • One of the biggest advantages of a sit-on-top kayak is its open cockpit. If there is an event of capsizing then the paddler won’t fill confined within the kayak and he/she can easily get out of the kayak.
  • Sit-on-top kayaks are completely sealed from top to bottom therefore if a paddler accidentally flips the kayak then he/she can easily get back in action by flipping the kayak back upright and climb back on.
  • If there are waters inside the sit-on-top kayak then you don’t have to swim to the shore and empty it like other types of kayaks because there are drain holes that you can use to drain the water.
  • Sit-on-top kayaks have a low, flat design which is very helpful when launching and landing. Therefore this type of kayak is a great choice for paddlers who have limited mobility.
  • Sit-on-top kayaks have a significantly higher canter of gravity compared to other kayaks and they also have a much wider design that provides excellent initial stability.
  • Thanks to the completely enclosed design of sit-on-top kayak’s hulls; this type of kayak is literally unsinkable.
  • Sit-on-top kayaks have open “tank well” in the stern and it provides a lot of space to carry big items like a cooler to keep the drinks cold.
  • This type of kayak provides excellent comfort to people who have larger legs or who don’t like to feel enclosed when out in the water. It’s very easy to get in and out of the kayak, so you won’t feel trapped or cramped inside the kayak.

Components of a Sit-on-Kayak

  • Cockpit

The cockpit is the interior side of your kayak where the seat is situated.  When looking for the best kayak, I suggest that you shop for one whose cockpit is spacious enough to accommodate your body size. Such cockpits will let you engage your entire body while moving or steering the kayak.

  • Hull

The hull is the bottom side of your kayak. There are two types of hulls: the displacement hull and the flat hull. Each has its unique set of pros and cons that you need to take into account when looking for the right kayak for your needs.

The displacement hull is similar to the traditional boat’s bottom. It is one of the most common hull designs in touring kayaks since it boosts the kayaks maneuverability and speed.

On the other hand, the flat hull has a flat base with sloping sides. It has an excellent stability, but it is quite slow and more difficult to maneuver compared to kayaks with a displacement hull.

Usually, the hull is designed from polyethylene, fiberglass, polyethylene, and other sturdy materials that can withstand water damage for an extended period.

  • Deck

The deck is the upper frame of your kayak. It houses the storage compartment, seat, hatch, and the carry handles. Just like the hull, the deck is designed from sturdy material that can resist prolonged exposure to UV, water, and other external elements for a long period of time.

  • Nose/ Bow

A kayak’s nose or bow is the front side of your sit-on-top kayak. Its design can impact your kayak’s speed and maneuverability, more so when the kayak is breaking through the water.

  • Stern/Tail

The stern/ tail is the rear part of your kayak. Just like the nose, this part plays a significant role in your kayak’s maneuverability and speed.

  • Seat

The seat is an important part of a kayak. A good seat should be padded to keep you comfortable as well as provide proper support to your back. Otherwise, you may find it hard to accomplish long kayaking trips and be even prone to backaches throughout your kayaking adventure.

  • Spray Skirts

The spray skirt is a watertight fabric that you pull around your waist to prevent water from splashing into your cockpit. The spray skirt may not be available in some kayak models.

  • Grab Handle

Grab handles are placed on both ends of your kayak and help you carry your kayak in or out of the water or kayak trailer. Some kayaks may have only one grab handle on the front side.

  • Thigh Pads

Thigh pads support your thighs while pedaling. They keep your thighs comfortable, especially when you are making strokes to maneuver or control the kayak. Not all sit-on-top-kayaks have thigh pads though.

  • Outfitting

The outfitting is made of different parts put in place to enhance your kayaking experience. Such parts may include foot pegs, backrest, ratchets, and bulkheads.


What to Consider When Buying a Sit-on-top Kayak?

Sit-on-top kayaks are available in various sizes, specs, performance, characteristics, and features that might or might not suit your kayaking style and skills. Therefore, you have to consider a few things before buying a sit-on-top kayak.

Types of Kayak

The first thing you have to decide when buying a sit-on-top kayak is the design. If you are planning on paddling in the flat water on the local lakes and rivers, then a medium length and width sit-on-top kayak will be the best option. This is because a longer sit-on-top kayak is faster and very hard to turn. Moreover, you have to consider whether you are kayaking solo or you have company. If you are planning on kayaking with your partner then a tandem sit on a top kayak will be perfect for you. However, if you love kayaking solo then you should buy a dedicated solo sit-on-top kayak.

Types of Water

Sit-on-top kayaks are best for freshwater. In fact, most of the sit-on-top kayaks will be suitable for flatwater paddling on rivers, lakes, and other inland waterways. Moreover, you also have to consider how far you want to go, how easy a paddle you want, how stable and comfortable you would like the kayak, etc. If you are planning on kayaking on seas then it’s totally a different matter altogether. You have to consider a few extra things to ensure your safety. Short sit-on-top kayaks will be ok for close to the shore and surfing but you will struggle against strong tides or in windy conditions further out in the sea. Therefore, you should consider a long sit-on-top kayak that is 12 feet long.

Seats

There are three types of seats available and they have their own properties. The three types are basic, deluxe, and premium. The basic type seats have cheap price and they are best for people who are on a limited budget. The deluxe type of seats is more comfortable and they are best for people who spend a lot of time in the water. Moreover, deluxe seats provide better support from the backrest as well as provide better control. The premium type of seat is arguably the best sit on a top seat available today. This type of seat is fully adjustable with backrests, has leg lifters and some of them even provide lumbar support.

Features

Different kayaks have various features and they come very handy when you are out kayaking in the water. Many sit-on-top kayaks have to carry hands as a part of the hull molding. It is very easy to lift this type of kayak compared to other kayaks that have webbing straps fitted to the sides.

Most sit-on-top kayaks have a storage tank and it is the most commonly found storage area on them. The storage tank is normally found behind the seating area but some sit-on-top kayaks also have an area at the bow that you can use as a storage space.

Scupper holes are very common in a sit-on-top kayak and they allow water to drain away through the hull. You will see the scupper holes in the foot area, under the seat, and in the rear storage tank area. If you are kayaking in the river then you can block up these holes but if you are kayaking in the sea then you should keep these holes free to allow water to drain away if a wave breaks over the kayak.

Common Materials Used in a Sit-on-Top Kayak

Sit-on-top-kayaks are not constructed from similar materials. Some are made from sturdy materials that can resist wear for quite an extended time, while some low-end types are made from less robust materials. That said, I have conducted some research on the most common construction materials used in making an SOT kayak.

  • Wood

Wood is one of the most common materials used for a DIY kayak’s deck or hull. The wooden part may be laminated with fiberglass, varnish, or any other waterproof material to protect it from water damage.

Typically, wooden kayaks are lighter than those made of fiberglass, not to mention they are affordable. Moreover, wooden kayaks have a pleasant aesthetic value since they can be finished with any color.

  • Polyethylene

Polyethylene is yet another common material used in constructing kayaks. Manufacturers prefer this material because it is easy to color, easy to mold, and is sturdy enough to withstand wear and tear due to regular kayaking.

Most polyethylene kayaks are affordable which makes it a good option for recreational kayakers who are on a budget. On the flipside, the material deforms easily when exposed to harsh external elements like direct sunlight. Also, it wears out quickly when subjected to regular dragging on rough surfaces.

  • Polycarbonate Plastics

Polycarbonate plastic is mostly used in the manufacturing of middle-priced kayaks. The material is durable, scratch-resistant, and less susceptible to damage from exposure to direct sunlight. Also, polycarbonate plastics have an excellent resistance to heat.

  • Fiberglass

Fiberglass is used for creating high-end kayaks. The material is lightweight and virtually resistant to water damage, UV exposure, and any other external factors that could quickly deteriorate your kayak’s quality.

In most cases, fiberglass is coated with gel coat to protect your kayak from scratches. The best-sit-on-top-kayaks designed from fiberglass are also easy to repair.

  • Kevlar

Kevlar has similar properties to that of fiberglass. The material is highly resistant to water damage, prolonged exposure to direct sunlight, and even heat. Kevlar may be coated with gel coat to protect it from scratches.

The primary difference between Kevlar and fiberglass is that Kevlar is lighter and is more expensive. As such, you should be prepared to spend some reasonable amount if you are looking to buy a kayak made of Kevlar.

  • Inflatables

Inflatable kayaks are a popular option for highly mobile kayakers. The kayaks are designed from nylon, rigid aluminum, rigid fiberglass, and many other inflatable materials. They are the cheapest types in the market, and they may not last as long as the best-sit-on-top-kayaks designed from hard shells.


Different Sit-on-Top Kayak Types

Sit-on-tops are categorized into four different types which are as follows:

  • Recreational – they are often used by kayakers who want to kayak on flat water or lakes. Due to their stability and easy maneuverability, recreational variants are ideal for beginners.
  • Touring – designed specifically for speed and kayaking on oceans and lakes, a touring kayak is ideal for long kayaking journeys which may take two hours or even longer.
  • Whitewater – whitewater variants are designed for paddling on whitewater rapids. They often have shorter length for easy maneuverability.
  • Surf – as the name implies, they are used for surfing and catching waves. This is ideal for those who want the thrill of surfing but with the convenience and stability of a kayak.

FAQs about Sit-on-top Kayaks


What are 10 ft, 9 ft, and 12 ft sit-on-top kayak?

The 8 or 9 ft sit-on-top kayak is the smaller option that you can find for this type and they are best for kids and adults who are relatively new to kayaking. This type of kayak is also perfect for white-water kayaking. The shorter length of a sit-on-top kayak makes it more maneuverable.

 A 10 ft sit-on-top kayak is the more common size for recreational kayaks and they provide the same stability as the 8 ft kayak but they have more storage space compared to the 8ft kayaks. Therefore, 10 ft sit-on-top kayaks are best for longer day kayaking trips.

A 12 ft sit-on-top kayak is best for experienced kayakers because the longer the kayak is the more speeds it will gain. Therefore, it will be very difficult to control the kayak if you don’t have enough experience or proper skills.

How can I make my sit-on-top kayak more stable?

There are many ways you can make your sit-on-top kayak more stable. The very fast thing is you have to remain calm when you are kayaking in the water. Moreover, you also have to learn your tipping points if you want to keep your kayak stable. You can modify your kayak by adding ballast, foot pedals, or adjust the kayak’s seat to make the kayak more stable. You can also try changing your paddling technique as well as turning a stroke to make the kayak stable.

Are sit on top kayaks more stable?

Yes, sit-on-top kayaks are more stable compared to other types of kayaks. Sit-on-top kayaks have a higher canter of gravity; wider body shape therefore this type of kayak provides more stability.

Do sit-on-top kayaks need plugs?

Yes, sit-on-top kayak needs plugs. Tiny splashes might come through these plugs but you have to keep them open so that the over washed water will back out of the vessel.

Final Notes

Sit-on-top-kayaks are an excellent option for warm environments and for those kayakers who dislike the feeling of confinement associated with the sit-in models. I’ve created the list above by carefully reviewing brands and products based on their performance, durability, features, and budget.


If you’re a seasoned kayaker who wants to make the best out of your kayaking or adventure, or a novice who wants to try kayaking, then I recommend checking out the best sit-on-top kayaks I’ve included in the list.


A kayak is a small, low-to-the-water, narrow, and canoe-like watercraft where a person sits in it, front-facing and propelled by a double-bladed paddle. There are many types of kayaks available. They are basically divided into two categories: Flatwater and White-water. There are 5 types of flatwater kayaks and 4 types of White-water kayaks available. In this article, I have discussed sit-on-top kayak which is in fact a flatwater kayak. Moreover, the sit-on-top kayak is best for kayak fishing because of its build structure and other features that are favorable for this task.   


I hope you have found the above information helpful and this article gives you a proper overview of a sit-on-top kayak. If you have any questions regarding SOT then leave it in the comment section. 


Also, don’t forget to share it with your friends. Thanks for reading!

Last update on 2020-10-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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