One of the first decisions you need to make as someone entering the sport of kayaking is which kayak to pick. There are two main types of kayak, and each have their own unique set of pros and cons. The two types of kayak are called ‘sit on top’ and ‘sit in’ kayaks. We will not discuss the advantages and use cases for each model.
Sit on top kayak
The sit on top kayak has an enclosed air tight hull, and you sit on top of that hull on a seat. Your entire body is open to the elements, and you have much more freedom to move around than in a sit in kayak. Sit on top kayaks often have scupper holes which are holes in the hull that let water drain out and back into the lake you’re in. This is helpful in the case of sit on top kayaks because the entire deck area is open to the elements.
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Sit in kayak
A sit in kayak has a single wall hull which you sit inside of. When you sit inside your legs are completely enclosed inside the kayak, and when you put on your spray skirt this turns you into an integral part of the hull and stops water from entering.
Inside the hull you will find the same layout as on a sit top kayak, just without the scupper holes as they’re not needed in a sit in kayak. The splash skirt you wear works to keep the water out of the hull
So why would I want a sit in kayak?
Sit in kayaks completely shelter the lower half of your body from the wind, rain, and general bad weather you might experience while out on the water. This makes them much warmer to use, so if you live in a colder climate then this is probably the kind of kayak you will want to look at buying.
You’ll stay dryer, and you’ll be warmer, but you’ll still want to use a wet suit!
A key disadvantage to using a sit in kayak is that you’ll have a much harder time getting in and out of it. So if you want to paddle into the middle of a lake, and then go for a bit of a swim, it’s unlikely you’ll be wanting a sit in kayak.
So why would I want a sit on top kayak?
Sit on top kayaks are the most beginner friendly form of kayaks. They’re easier to get in and out of than their sit in cousins, but still just as stable. You’re also less likely to feel trapped in them, which can be a bit of an advantage when you’re new to kayaking and haven’t yet built up your confidence on the water. Sit on top kayaks also have a self bilging system made up of 4 to 6 scupper holes. This is handy as it means you don’t have to worry about water getting inside your kayak, it’ll just drain away. Whereas with a sit in, water inside can be a bit of a pain and quite uncomfortable.
In general, you will get wetter in a sit on top kayak than in a sit in kayak.
Length and width
Sit inside kayaks are generally the sports cars of the kayaking world. They’re longer and thinner in general, and this allows them to cut through the water faster and with less turbulence. So if your goal is to just get from point a to point b as quickly as possible, then a sit inside kayak might be for you.
A sit on top kayak is more the pickup truck of the kayaking world. They’re wider and shorter, and more stable and user friendly. They’re good if you want to use your kayak as a means of doing something other than kayaking. For example, sit on top kayaks are very popular with fishermen. Their stability and open cockpit design mean there’s plenty of space and manoeuvrability to fish off of them. Their wider profile also makes them a bit more stable of a platform for fishing off of.
They’re generally considered to be the recreational kayak, for hobbyists who maybe aren’t that interested in kayaking as a sport.
Both types of kayak are usually made from a hard durable plastic that will withstand the bumps and scrapes that come as part of enjoying water sports. They weigh about the same as the only real difference is the enclosed vs open hull. So a bit more plastic used in a sit on top kayak, but not enough to make a significant difference in weight.
You can only get sit on top kayaks as an inflatable. This is because the shapes needed for a sit inside kayak just don’t lend themselves well to being made of inflatable material. If you have a small car, or you need to keep weight down while camping or hiking, then you will probably be looking at buying a sit on top inflatable kayak.
Sit In vs Sit On Kayak, who wins?
Well a lot of that will come down to your own personal preferences and use case.
If you’re someone who will just be using your kayak on a still lake in the summer months, then you should look at purchasing a sit on top kayak. If you’re only going to use it infrequently, then an inflatable model could be a safe bet as it’s easier to store.
If you’re someone who will be using your kayak all year around, and you’re more interested in the actual sport of kayaking, then a sit in kayak will likely suit you best.
They keep you warmer, they allow you to travel further and faster. If you’re thinking about using your kayak in the sea then there really is no other option than the sit in.
Sit on top kayaks are completely unsuitable for sea usage, as you’ll be knocked off them easily by any big waves.