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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.
Top 9 Sit-on-top (SOT) Kayaks
Our Top Picks
My Best-Sit-On-Top-Kayaks For 2018
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Components of a Sit-on-Kayak
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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 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 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.
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.
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.
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