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Sit-in Kayaks vs Sit-on-Top Kayaks: Which one is better?

The choice of the first kayak can be challenging. There are a number of things to consider when making a decision. The design, the weight, the type, the manufacturer, etc. all play their part in the selection. In addition, there are questions such as whether inflatable or fixed kayaks are better, or the popular question of whether solo or tandem kayaks are better. With all these small but fine decisions, beginners in particular are overwhelmed.

In fact, there is one more important thing to consider when looking for a kayak. Kayaks can also be divided into two categories in a different way. On the one hand there are the so-called sit-in kayaks and on the other hand sit-on-top kayaks.

But what is better, sit-in kayaks or sit-on top kayaks?

Now comes the answer we all hate so much: That depends…

The answer is really not easy. The decision for or against sit-on kayaks or for or against sit-on-top kayaks is without question also a question of personal preferences.

However, for some situations one type is better suited than the other. Let’s start with the main differences between these two types of kayaks in order to work out the individual advantages and disadvantages.

Sit-in Kayaks vs. Sit-on-Top Kayaks: The essential differences

The two different types of kayaks are for the most part similar. Both types are normal kayaks. Be it the different construction forms, the different kayak types (inflatables and fixed kayaks), the materials used or the number of seats – sit-in and sit-on-top kayaks are basically the same.

The main difference between the two types is that sit-on-top kayaks have an open deck, while sit-in kayaks are the “typical” kayaks. Sit-in kayaks involve sitting in the boat and pushing the legs into a free space below a cover.

Field of Application

The field of application is the decisive factor that determines whether sit-on-top or sit-in kayaks are better suited for this case. Kayaks are suitable for a wide range of conditions. From the calm canal to the extensive lake to white-water rafting – kayaking is hardly restricted.

Warm vs. cold water

In general it can be said that sit-in models with a closed deck are the better choice in winter, cold water or bad weather. The reason for this is that sit-in kayaks sit in a kind of bowl. This keeps your legs warm. You should also bring a blanket or a simple splash guard.

Sit-on-top kayaks, on the other hand, are more suitable in warm weather. In summer weather, the open construction is more suitable because the heat cannot accumulate on these models. With sit-on-top kayaks it is difficult not to get wet while riding.

With every wave or strong gust of wind, a little bit of water is always washed into the interior of the sea kayak. The best protection against this is to simply put on your swimsuit and live with it.

Kayak fishing

If you would like to go fishing on the water with a kayak, you should rather use Sit-on-Top models. The construction with the open deck offers the necessary freedom of movement, which is needed, for example, for casting the rod.

You can also stand up on a sit-on-top kayak. This is especially convenient for anglers because it makes it easier to cast the bait from a standing position and also makes it easier to spot fish.

The disadvantage of sit-on-top kayaks is that they don’t offer much storage space. Therefore it is advisable to bring your own waterproof container (as for example in Drybag). This Drybag holds provisions, part of the fishing equipment, money, important papers and car and house keys.

Longer tours

For all trips that are more adventurous than simple trips, kayakers should use sit-in kayaks. Especially on tours lasting several days, you simply need the more storage space that sit-in kayaks offer.

Sit-in kayaks are typically designed for advanced kayakers, while many sit-on top kayaks are for beginners. For this reason, sit-in kayaks are usually longer and sleeker, so they have less resistance in the water.

This type of kayak is better designed for straight-line kayaking and is therefore better suited for long distance touring. The lower centre of gravity of sit-in kayaks ensures that, despite their narrow design, sit-in kayaks are stable in the water.

White water rafting

Experienced kayakers may be drawn to whitewater. Sit-in kayaks are the better choice for the fast rides through white foaming water. Sit-in kayaks are a good start for beginners who just want to start whitewater kayaking.

At a later date you can switch to whitewater kayaks. These types of kayaks offer a larger cockpit and are more stable than all-round and touring kayaks.

One trick you can use on sit-in kayaks is to press your knees on the underside of the kayak. This improves manoeuvrability and provides an even lower centre of gravity, which translates into better stability.


On average, sit-in kayaks cost more than sit-on top kayaks. The reason for this is that sit-in kayaks often use better materials. The design of sit-in kayaks is also often more sporty and therefore costs more to produce.

If you pay attention to your wallet, you should rather go for Sit-on-Top kayaks. These kayaks are the right choice for everyday use. If you want to take a sporty approach and plan trips lasting several days or white water rafting, you should probably opt for sit-in kayaks.

The higher number on the price tag should not deter you immediately. There are always a number of cheap offers that are within the price range of Sit-on-Top kayaks.


Finally, it can be said that both sit-in kayaks and sit-on top kayaks are suitable for everyday use. Both are normal kayaks suitable for a range of waters.

The increased storage space of sit-in kayaks can be a great advantage for certain uses of the kayak. A sit-in kayak offers enough space to store your camping equipment. In this way, nothing stands in the way of multi-day trips.

If, on the other hand, you want to do kayaking purely as a leisure activity and don’t want to go too far in the direction of fitness or whitewater, it’s better to go for sit-on-top kayaks. Besides, a Sit-on-Top kayak saves you a bit of money and the wider construction provides more stability. For beginners, this is a good idea.

There is no classic “right” or “wrong”. However, with our classification you can easily judge which type of kayak is more suitable for you.






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