Sit-on-top kayaks are one of the most popular types of kayaks you can buy right now. They offer a variety of benefits over other types and can be suitable for any skill level, activity, or water type.
A sit-on-top kayak is typically larger than other types of kayaks, providing more room for larger or taller paddlers, and allowing for more movement of the body. They’re also one of the most stable types, making them a perfect kayak for beginners.
If you want to get into kayaking for the first time, or you’re looking to upgrade your kayak, then you may be wonder what are the best sit-on-top kayaks on the market right now.
To help you make the right decision we’ve made this list of some of the most popular kayaks, and included ones ranging in skill level needed, and ones designed around activities like long-distance or recreational outings.
Read on to find the best sit-on-top kayak for you!
OUR TOP PICK
OUR TOP PICK
Perception Kayaks are known to be one of the best brands for beginners to buy, and this kayak is no exception. Perception has created this unique hybrid of a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) and sit-on-top kayak, making this one of the most versatile kayaks on the market today.
Designed for flat, slow-moving waters like lakes, slow rivers, and calm coastal waters, thanks to the Hi Life 11’s design this kayak is perfect if you want to share your water experience with a friend, family member, or even pet.
At 11 feet long this is a very stable kayak whether you’re stood up or sat down, making it perfect for beginners. The sort-but grippy cushioning on top of the Hi Life 11 allows you to stand up and paddle without having to worry about slipping off.
The elevated seat provides you with a large field of vision over the kayak and also gives you more space for arm and body movement, making paddling easier.
For comfort, the seat comes with a supportive, folded-down backrest and thick padding so you won’t be sore after a long day on the water.
Like all Perception Kayaks, the Hi Life 11 is made from highly durable polyethylene, meaning it can handle many knocks and bumps without denting or breaking apart.
This layer of safety will provide peace of mind for beginner paddlers and more experienced ones alike.
This durability hasn’t compromised the maneuverability of the Hi Life 11 though, as it still has smooth, straight tracking control, allowing for easy steering and speed on the water.
The Hi Life 11 also has some extra features designed to improve your kayaking experience. If you’re planning to be out on the water for a long time then you will probably want to take some snacks with you.
Perception has thought of this and has added a built-in cooler under the seat, as well as a molded-in cup holder to stop your drinks from spilling while you’re paddling.
There are also front and rear swim desks with low sides and grab hands, which makes getting the kayak in and out of the water very easy. Also at the front of the Hi Life 11 are bungee cords for you to store any extra gear under.
For a versatile beginner’s sit-on-top kayak with all the bells and whistles, this is one of the best ones money can buy.
- Unique design - this is one of the only paddleboard/sit-on-top hybrid kayaks on the market, making it incredibly versatile
- Very stable - despite all the extra features this is still a very stable kayak that ensures that you don’t tip over in the water
- Paddle not included - Some buyers aren’t aware that the paddle is not included in the purchase and has to be bought separately
If you want an inflatable kayak that’s built to last then the Driftsun Almanor is a great choice for you. Able to carry 2 passengers, this kayak is suitable for long-distance paddling on flat water and mild ocean waves.
Many beginners to kayaking worry about the durability of inflatable kayaks, but with the Almanor you’ll be given peace of mind on the water.
Constructed from rugged 600h polyester and with reinforced layered PVC construction, the Almanor can handle almost any type of knock or scrape without damage. This material also provides UV protection to extend the lifespan of the kayak.
Should an accident occur though, the Almanor is designed with three-chamber construction, so if one chamber gets punctured the other two will keep you afloat long enough for you to paddle to land.
Another issue beginners may worry about is the stability of inflatable kayaks, but the Almanor thrives here as well. The center of the kayak features an I-Beam PVC floor which is incredibly rigid and adds to the stability.
On top of this is a removable skeg that not only improves stability but also aids in paddling as this allows you to paddle in a straight line as well as make turns easier.
For comfort, the Almanor features an EVA padded high back seat, which provides a high level of cushioning and support while out on the water.
It can also be adjusted into almost any seating position, meaning you can sit however you like. The adjustable footrests also provide extra support while allowing paddlers of any height to use this kayak.
Weighing just 23lbs and able to inflate in 9 minutes, the Almanor is one of the best kayaks you can buy for hikes or paddling in remote areas because it’s so easy to transport, especially in the travel bag that’s included.
If you want a kayak that lets you get close to nature quickly and easily, why not give the Almanor a try?
- Handles well in choppy waters - for beginners who want to try paddling in the ocean, the Almanor will provide you with a safe but exciting experience
- Lightweight but durable - these are two of the best features of this kayak, as often the more durable a kayak is the heavier it can be. Weighing just 23lbs, you can carry the Almanor on a hike to the water without getting tired on the way
- Topside takes a while to dry - Once wet the Almanor will take a while to completely dry, although this can easily be fixed by drying it with a towel
The Wilderness Systems Ripper kayak is just 8 feet long and 39lbs, making it a good choice of portable kayak both in and out of the water.
The short size and light weight of the Ripper makes it a quick and playful kayak on the water, and it can handle multiple water types like ocean surf, calm coastal waters, and slow-moving streams and rivers.
Designed to be easy to use the Ripper is very stable and combines high durability with high performance, allowing you to enjoy your day on the water without worry of tipping over or breaking the kayak.
With an adjustable seat back you can sit in whatever position is most comfortable for you, and the molded-in footrests also provide added comfort for the legs while also meaning that paddlers of any size can make use of this kayak.
If you want to take some gear or personal items out on the water with you then you could make use of the midship hatch that provides dry storage space, and the bungee cords at the back to hold down your bigger items.
Transporting the Ripper to and from the water is very easy thanks to the front and rear toggle handles, as well as the molded-in side handles.
A smaller kayak than others on this list, the Ripper is suitable for beginners and experienced paddlers alike and is a good choice if you want a speedy and playful kayaking experience.
- 6 scuppers for drainage - drying the Ripper is very easy as these allow water to drain away from the inside quickly
- Stable but manuverable - The Ripper is stable enough for beginners but still good for experienced paddlers who will appreciate the manuverability and ease of steering
- No bottom cushioning on the seat - while the back of the seat is cushioned, the bottom is not, reducing overall comfort
No kayak list would be complete without the Sun Dophin Bali SS. Currently one of the best-selling kayaks in the USA, it’s easy to see why it’s a favorite for outdoor adventures.
Perfect for use on lakes and rivers, the SS lets you get to the water quickly thanks to its lightweight and easy-to-carry design. Despite being 10 feet long it weighs just 44lbs, and the carry handles on the side make it super easy to move to and from the water.
The design of the kayak also makes it very stable, as it features a large cockpit and multi-chined hull which aids in stability. It also tracks and paddles with ease which helps with stability and also means that the SS is very manuverable and can build and maintain its speed.
The large open cockpit makes getting in and out of this kayak is very easy, and it also helps to keep you comfortable. For added comfort, the SS features an adjustable padded seat as well as adjustable foot braces.
Though the SS is on the smaller end of the scale in terms of size, this kayak comes with so much storage space making it perfect for long trips out on the water. In the footwell is a small sealed compartment that’s a perfect size to hold your keys and phone.
Then at the front are two large open compartments with bungee cords so you can hold down your bigger items like camping supplies. If that’s not enough then you can use the portable accessory carrier that can even be towed behind you to save space on board.
If you want a kayak for perfect long trips out on the water, and one that’s able to hold everything you’ll need to keep you comfortable outside in nature for a few days, then the Bali SS is the kayak for you.
So much storage - as you can see the amount of storage is a big selling point of the SS
Good tracking and paddling ability - this keeps the kayak stable, while the ease of paddling means you won’t be too tired or sore after a long day on the water
Limited weight capacity - despite all the storage space, the SS can only handle a max weight of 250lbs. When packing your kayak remember to keep your own weight in mind so you don’t overload the kayak. The accessory carrier can be used to reduce the weight on the kayak
Best Sit On Top Kayaks Buying Guide
When looking to buy a new sit-on-top kayak there are a few features you should consider that are specific to this type of kayak. These are:
The maximum weight capacity of a kayak is the amount of mass the kayak can hold and still remain floating. It’s best to pack under the max weight though as the heavier the kayak is the less stable and maneuverable it will become.
As sit-on-tops have an open cockpit, you will get wet no matter what. But to save on drying time while on land getting a kayak with many scupper holes allows for the water to drain away quickly
A lot of kayakers use sit-on-tops for long-distance paddling to remote camping sports or for fishing, so the amount of storage space available on the kayak is one of the most important features you should look out for.
Best Sit On Top Kayaks - FAQ's
Is A Longer Kayak Better?
Longer kayaks provide you with more storage space for longer journeys while also helping the kayak to cruise across the water more efficiently. However, they’re less maneuverable than shorter kayaks and turning can be harder.