When you go out on the water in a kayak there is a world of options available to you. I always love getting out on the water just to paddle around with my friends and family.

It is a ton of fun, and I even find it therapeutic. That being said, if you are new to the world of kayaking, you will need to purchase a kayak before you get started.

As a result, you are going to need to decide whether you would prefer a sit on top or sit in kayak. Fortunately, I am here to dive into the debate of sit on top vs sit in kayak.

Advantages of sit in kayaks

Photo by Devon Divine / Unsplash

I have found that the most obvious advantage of sit in kayaks is that you get protection from the elements. When you are using a sit in kayak, you can fit it with a spray skirt to keep drips and cold breezes from getting into the boat.

Additionally, the design of the boat ensures that the hull of the boat is kept safe from water getting in. That makes it far less likely that your kayak will sink, and as a result, you will have a safer experience when you are on open water.

Disadvantages of sit in kayaks

While the design of sit in kayaks makes it less likely that your boat will sink or take on water, it also makes it much harder to recover if it does.

If you flip your kayak, the large cockpit that comes with the kayak will take in a lot of water.

Furthermore, the design makes it more difficult to get back in the boat should you fall out of it. For those reasons, it is typically recommended that kayakers only use sit in kayaks close to the sure so that they can easily swim to safety should they flip their vessel.

Advantages of sit on top kayaks

Summer boats
Photo by Ksenia Zakharova / Unsplash

If you have ever used a kayak casually at your friend’s cottage, you were probably using a sit on top kayak. These boats are known for their ease of entry.

They are completely sealed from top to bottom, meaning that if you flip it and fall off, all you need to do is flip back to the right side and climb back on.

You do not need to learn any special rescue skills when using this type of kayak. Most people can master the basics of using this kind of kayak with very little effort.

Additionally, it is nearly impossible for a sit on top kayak to sink. Unless something goes wrong with the hatch where it gets punctured, it will not fill with water.

As a result, you can start paddling after capsizing as soon as you flip it back over. Most sit on top kayaks also include drain holes which allow water washing over the top of the boat to quickly drain back into the body of water it came from.

Finally, the design of these boats makes it easy to launch from shore and land back on it. It is easy to lower yourself into the seat when you are getting started, and you can easily turn to the side to get out of the boat when you get close to shore.

Disadvantages of sit on top kayaks

The most obvious disadvantage of using one of these kayaks is that the design leaves you exposed to the elements.

There is no cockpit to protect you from rain, wind, or cold weather.

Waves can easily splash onto you if the water is especially choppy as well. As a result, if you are planning on kayaking in suboptimal weather, you will need to wear the right clothing.

Which type is more stable?

Fortunately, stability is not something you need to worry about with either type of kayak. Stability is not affected much by the design at which the kayaker sits.

Instead, stability is largely a function of the width of the boat. Wider boats are more stable than thinner options. That being said, there are other factors that come into play.

The most notable factor that affects stability other than width is seat height. The higher the seat, the worse the stability.

As a result, sit on top kayaks have a little less stability than sit in kayaks. That being said, the average width of sit in kayaks is narrower than sit on top kayaks.

As a result, the stability between the two types of kayaks evens out. So, you need to look at it on a case of case basis.

Which type is faster?

If you are anything like me, when you go out on the water you will want to go fast. There is nothing more fun than flying down the water in a kayak at high speeds. That being said, not all kayaks are great at getting up to speed.

You need to sacrifice some stability to get a faster boat because narrower kayaks are faster than wider models. Boats that are less than 10 feet long will feel noticeably slow, and it is much more difficult to paddle with them.

I recommend that you start looking at kayaks that are 12 feet long or longer. You do not need to get crazy by looking at racing boats at around 18 feet long, but a 12 to 14 foot long boat will let you get up to decent speeds.

Which type has more storage?

If you are planning on going on an overnight trip, you will need a little extra storage space for your equipment. If that is the case, you should look for a larger kayak with the space to hold your gear. Most sit on top kayaks have an open space towards the back of the kayak where you can strap on a large dry bag. There are also some designs that have a front hatch that allows for the internal storage of dry bags.

Conversely, sit in kayaks usually have a rear bulkhead that makes a storage compartment that can be accessed through a hatch. You can use this to store extra gear. That being said, there are some designs that do not have this hatch, and it that case you will need to pack your bags into the hull from the cockpit.

Final thoughts

Generally speaking, sit on top vs sit in kayak is a debate that does not have a clear answer. Both types of kayaks are effective options, and they each have their own advantages and disadvantages. They are relatively equal in terms of stability and storage. However, sit on top options are easier to get in and out of. Conversely, sit in kayaks provide more protection from the elements.

With that in mind, if you only plan on using a kayak on sunny days at your family cottage, you are probably better off with sit on top kayaks. However, if you want to go fishing while it is raining, you should consider a sit in kayak.

Our kayak recommendations: 10 Best & Most Lightweight Kayaks.