Best Sit-On-Top Kayaks

John Kopischke
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I like to think of sit-on-top kayaks as the gateway kayaks. You can try the sport out for next to nothing (they don’t cost much at all), you can use them on almost any body of water and they have a relatively low skill level (which means they are fairly forgiving).

Sit-on-tops are also easy to learn and easy to get in and out of.

They also put you right in the middle of the lake, literally and figuratively ….

NameCategoryProduct
Perception Zip 9.5Best OverallPerception Zip 9.5
Lifetime Lotus Sit-On-Top KayakBudget PickLifetime Lotus Sit-On-Top Kayak
BKC UH-TK181 12-foot 5-inch Sit On Top Tandem 2 Person Fishing KayakUpgrade PickBKC UH-TK181 12-foot 5-inch Sit On Top Tandem 2 Person Fishing Kayak

1. Perception Zip 9.5

Our rating: 9 / 10

Perception Zip 9.5

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Pros:

  • Excellent Performance
  • Very Stable
  • Great Maneuverability
  • Luxurious Comfort
  • Sleek Design
  • Versatile
  • Fast and provides smooth ride
  • Great for fish

Cons:

  • Front mounted accessory track is a little difficult to reach
  • Low Glare Shield
  • Tracks poorly on open water and on windy days
  • Price

The Zip 9.5 is an affordable kayak that provides great performance for beginners and intermediate paddlers. The zip offers enhanced tracking, probably the best of any sit on top. This means you can paddle in open water, cross lakes and rivers easily and even fast enough to catch up with a canoe. In addition, there’s a good amount of storage space for all kinds of gear.

However, the Zip can drift a little when water is calm and there is no wind, especially if it is windy. The way that this kayak catches wind is particularly troublesome. It’s not great in chop and tends to get pushed around a lot. It’s ok in open water if there’s a medium to strong wind blowing from the side.

2. BKC UH-TK181 12-foot 5-inch Sit On Top Tandem 2 Person Fishing Kayak

Our rating: 7 / 10

BKC UH-TK181 12-foot 5-inch Sit On Top Tandem 2 Person Fishing Kayak

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Pros:

  • Nice materials
  • Stable, comfortable seating
  • Can carry two people
  • Comes with paddles, seats, and 7 fishing rod holders

Cons:

  • Doesn’t include a fishing rod
  • Relatively expensive

The BKC UH-TK181 is an entry-level kayak that is very stable and provides a comfortable ride.

It includes everything you need for kayaking including seats, paddles, and fishing rod holders.

The BKC UH-TK181 is the perfect choice for anybody looking to get into the hobby of kayaking as it is affordable and will provide you and anybody in your group with a satisfying experience.

3. Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 90 9 Foot Angler and Recreational Sit On Top Light Weight Fishing Kayak

Our rating: 6 / 10

Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 90 9 Foot Angler and Recreational Sit On Top Light Weight Fishing Kayak

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Pros:

  • Fishing kayak isn’t the slowest or most stable kayak, but it’s a great option for beginners
  • Large, comfortable seat
  • Durable and lightweight
  • Plenty of room for an angler
  • Very stable for fishing
  • Good price point

Cons:

  • Slower and less maneuverable than other kayaks
  • Makes for a tight fit for 2 people or gear
  • Might be too long for some people

The Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 90 is a high performing fishing kayak that’s easy to paddle and to set up.

It’s pretty fast, stable, and easy to maneuver. It’s made with a load of UV inhibitors so it can stand up to the beating it gets. This is a sturdy kayak and it’s well suited for the novice and the experienced kayaker.

The seat is wide and comfortable, and it’s adjustable to 4 different positions so you can easily find the right fit. The fabric will keep you nice and cool in the summer and it’s easily removed.

4. Lifetime Tahoma 100 Sit-On-Top Fishing Holiday Vacation River Lake Kayak

Our rating: 6 / 10

Lifetime Tahoma 100 Sit-On-Top Fishing Holiday Vacation River Lake Kayak

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Pros:

  • Tough single-layer PVC construction
  • Durable, scratch-resistant surface
  • Comfortable seat
  • Includes a paddle
  • Extremely inexpensive

Cons:

  • Doesn’t float very well
  • Not very stable
  • Y-strap for securing stuff needs to be purchased separately

If you’re on a tight budget, but still want a reasonably decent kayak, the Lifetime Tahoma 100 could be for you. The Tahoma is an inexpensive, single-layer inflatable kayak that’s suitable for beginners and intermediate paddlers who don’t plan on doing any major white water river running.

If you’re using the Tahoma for fishing, you can stand in it to cast your line, which is an added bonus. Just make sure that you use a Y-Strap for the front and rear cargo panels when going out on the water so that you don’t accidentally lose your stuff. Also, the Tahoma only comes with a paddle, so you’ll have to buy one separately.

5. Lifetime Lotus Sit-On-Top Kayak

Our rating: 6 / 10

Lifetime Lotus Sit-On-Top Kayak

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Pros:

  • 3-year warranty for all parts
  • Comfortable design
  • Stable and safe
  • Durable material
  • Easy to store
  • One person setup
  • Well balanced for activities like yoga

Cons:

  • Can be difficult to drain water
  • Has a maximum weight capacity of 275 lbs.
  • The seat is integrated into the boat and can’t be adjusted or removed
  • No cup holders
  • Not as fast and maneuverable as sit-in models

For those with kids or who only plan to kayak solo, sit-on-top kayaks are a great option. The lotus is the most popular sit-on-top model and is made from rotomolded plastic. This particular kayak has an open cockpit and a center hatch to store your belongings and is easy to paddle, load, and transport. The kayak comes with a padded seat that can fold down to form a picnic table.

The Lotus comes in three colors (white, grey, and red) and is suitable for paddlers who are up to 275 lbs and up to 6” tall. The kayak is made to fit 24” or 20” diameter paddles, making it easy for you to find the right boat for you.

6. Ocean Kayak Frenzy One-Person Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak

Our rating: 6 / 10

Ocean Kayak Frenzy One-Person Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak

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Pros:

  • Unlimited seat rotation allows you to paddle in multiple directions
  • Extra comfortable with 4 inches of above-seat padding
  • Multiple foot-brace positions for enhanced control
  • Features a tank well for storage and dry storage compartment to keep your phone/wallet/keys dry
  • Plenty of quality for the price
  • Integrated hatch in seat provides easy access to extra storage
  • Rigid PVC construction makes is easy to pick up and carry
  • Comes in 6 different colors
  • Relatively sturdy for the price

Cons:

  • Seat is thin, even with padding
  • Tracking, speed and ease of handling are a little lacking
  • Can be hard to get in and out of
  • Sits low in the water
  • Weight capacity is low for a kayak at 250 lbs

If you’re looking for a one or two person kayak that can be used in salt water then the Ocean Kayak Frenzy is a great option.

The Frenzy track well in the water and is easy to maneuver due to its unlimited seat rotation.

7. Sun Dolphin Bali SS 12-Foot Sit-on top Kayak

Our rating: 6 / 10

Sun Dolphin Bali SS 12-Foot Sit-on top Kayak

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Pros:

  • Great all-around kayak
  • Has a welded hull
  • Has a Paddle with it
  • Tracks well
  • Great for beginners

This kayak is a great option for beginners. The Sun Dolphin Bali SS is ideally suited for those who are interested in either snorkeling or taking a leisurely float in calm waters.

The Sun Dolphin Bali SS can hold up to two people, and has a comfortable seat that makes the trip even more enjoyable.

The Sun Dolphin Bali SS is made with a durable, UV-resistant material that can handle as much as 160 pounds. The Bali SS is relatively lightweight, making it ideal for transporting.

8. Vibe Kayaks Sea Ghost 130 13 Foot Angler Sit On Top Fishing Kayak

Our rating: 6 / 10

Vibe Kayaks Sea Ghost 130 13 Foot Angler Sit On Top Fishing Kayak

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This sit-on-top kayak is a good option for recreational kayaking fans and those who want a fishing platform. Vibe Kayaks Sea Ghost 130 13 Foot Angler Sit On Top Fishing Kayak is a stable and cost effective kayak. I give it the best sit-on-top kayak, with regard to price. This kayak is an eye for those that want the best of both worlds, being able to catch some fish and do water sports.

The kayak is able to raise up and even fish off it. First, you get a fishing transducer mount, so you can add on a fish finder. In addition, it has rod holders and a storage box. It also comes with a padded seat for its comfort. However, even these features are still not enough to call this kayak the best.

9. Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 Fishing Kayak

Our rating: 6 / 10

Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 Fishing Kayak

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Pros:

  • Includes a trolling motor
  • Affordable price
  • Easy and quick to set up
  • Flexible leg and thigh pads
  • Plenty of storage space
  • Seat with comfortable back rest
  • Sturdy, waterproof carrying handle

Cons:

  • Can feel small for larger individuals
  • Doesn´t include dry storage
  • Limited colors available

This fishing kayak by lifetime is the one to choose if you have a limited budget. The Lifetime Tamarack Angler is a solid budget-friendly choice that won´t require you to sacrifice comfort or features. This kayak is less expensive than the Go-Anywhere and is not quite as refined, but still a great choice for anglers in the kayak fishing market.

The Lifetime Tamarack Angler is lightweight and rolls up easy for transportation. You can easily toss it on top of your car. Setting up is easy as well.

This is fishing kayak that includes the added security of a built-in, push-pull trolling motor to help you get where you need to go. The kayak includes a 1.5 HP engine with a 4-inch keel that can be powered by batteries or included AC motor, both of which power the 10-inch, paddle wheel at the back of the kayak.

10. SUNDOLPHIN Sun Dolphin Bali SS 10-Foot Sit-on top Kayak

Our rating: 5 / 10

SUNDOLPHIN Sun Dolphin Bali SS 10-Foot Sit-on top Kayak

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Pros:

  • Easy to assemble
  • Lightweight
  • Stand Up Paddle Included
  • Inflatable seats
  • Great beginner kayak
  • Reputable brand

This is one of the biggest kayaks on the market. It provides a stable platform for fishing, and can withstand sudden impacts and waves. It is manageable for even the largest body frame. It can also handle newbies.

This kayak is made for lakes as well as the ocean. The 'tracking' is excellent, due to the sturdy and deep hull. The stability of this kayak is exceptional, due to the wide base.

Though it doesn't have as many accessories or as an abundance of storage as other kayaks, this one has a built in paddle holder. It makes use of a carry handle and a molded-in cup holder, both of which are convenient, but not very effective. It also features a drain plug. If you are thinking about taking this on ocean voyages, the weight capacity is 1000 lbs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What are the best sit on top kayaks?

Sit-on-top kayaks are a great way to enjoy some time on the water without getting a boat load of water in your lap. They are also much more efficient at paddling, and some people consider them faster on flat-water than sit-insides.

The best sit-on-top kayak is the best one for you. The best kayak is one that works well for both your body and your style of paddling, so you can enjoy being on the water for longer periods of time in a kayak that fits you well with a cockpit size that is most comfortable for you.

Are sit on top kayaks comfortable?

As kayaking time is spent on top of an inflatable bottom, you can expect comfort on both the low and high end.

Sit on top kayaks are lighter and more maneuverable than those on which you sit inside. For those who are more comfortable sitting in a kayak versus on top of it, sit inside options are also available.

Sit on top kayaks are also more aerodynamic compared to inner shell options and are higher and dryer. They’re lower to the water which allows for a more stable foundation on varied water conditions. With an inflatable floor, you can adjust the air pressure to balance your boat, giving it more stability in choppy water.

Which is more stable sit on top or sit in kayak?

Sit in kayaks offer more initial stability, but if you lean too far in any direction, your bow will pop right up. Sit on top kayaks have less initial stability but once you lean into a turn, there is a lot of secondary stability to the kayak. The kayaks will pop up in front of you (which could be dangerous in some cases) but they will not flip over. I personally prefer sit on top kayaks because of this.

Are sit on top kayaks good for Rivers?

While they are never going to be as maneuverable as their hard-shell brethren, I own a sit-on-top kayak myself (Old Town Fox) and it is great for both rivers and ocean.

Conclusion

Depending on your needs, you should have plenty of choices that can fit your budget and lifestyle. If you’re a serious kayaker then you’re probably going to want the high-end kayaks. If you’re on a budget then you should have a great selection of affordable yet good quality kayaks. You shouldn’t have too much of a problem finding what you need. This article should help you narrow those choices down.

Our Recommendation

NameCategoryProduct
Perception Zip 9.5Best OverallPerception Zip 9.5
Lifetime Lotus Sit-On-Top KayakBudget PickLifetime Lotus Sit-On-Top Kayak
BKC UH-TK181 12-foot 5-inch Sit On Top Tandem 2 Person Fishing KayakUpgrade PickBKC UH-TK181 12-foot 5-inch Sit On Top Tandem 2 Person Fishing Kayak