Best Sit on Top Kayaks in 2020 – Enjoy a Comfortable & Smooth Ride

The traditional kayak is one where you sit inside a confined space, and it’s not really built for beginners. For newbies, it’s best to start with the best sit on top kayak you can afford instead. It’s great for recreational rides, but some of these kayaks can specialize in fishing, touring, scuba diving, or surfing.

With a sit-on-top (SOT) kayak, you don’t sit inside a confined space. You’re seated inside a molded open space on top of the kayak. These kayaks are often more inexpensive because they’re often either inflatable or made of molded plastic called polyethylene.

It’s also more comfortable to sit on, and they’re more suitable if you’re large, long-legged, or have flexibility issues. You also won’t have to learn how to do an Eskimo roll should the kayak tip over. Also, the open space gives you room for various stuff, and you can move around more to make yourself more comfortable.

Top 5 Sit-On-Top Kayaks - Comparisons

So which is the best sit on top kayak for you? This depends on your budget, although of course that’s hardly the only factor you should consider. Here are some excellent options that may suit your needs. Check out the following sit on top kayak reviews from our test & comparison:

Our Picks of 5 Best Sit-On-Top Kayaks

1. eMotion Spitfire Tandem Sit-On-Top Kayak, Yellow, 12'

eMotion Spitfire Tandem Sit-On-Top Kayak, Yellow, 12'

The Emotion Spitfire 8 is the most affordable kayak on this list, and it’s a great example of how an SOT kayak can be an excellent option for beginners.

Even veterans can make use of this for everyday trips on the water and for just some nice fun.

This is a kayak meant for a single user, and it’s been designed so that you can do everything on your own. It’s very compact at 8 feet long, and it’s extremely lightweight at just 39 pounds.

So you can easily bring this up and take it up to the roof of your car. It features carry handles at the front and rear so you can drag it to the water. It uses high-density polyethylene and it has UV protection.

Of course, it’s much better for the kayak and easier for you if you have a friend who can grab at the other end. It also has molded-in handles at both sides of the kayak. At 8 feet long, it’s not exactly the most suitable size for large adults who are at least 6 feet tall.

But even these large adults won’t have a problem if they’re going to use it only for a few hours. It’s great for children, but it can also handle the weight of average-sized adults. Its weight capacity is 240 pounds, so you can probably bring lots of supplies on your kayak as well. In fact, that weight capacity estimate is probably (but not certainly) conservative.

The seat doesn’t have padding for your bottom, but it’s still fairly comfy. There’s a backrest too, and it’s padded, adjustable, and very supportive. It features molded-in “Freedom” foot wells for comfort and secure bracing. 

If you’re tired, you can rest the paddle in the molded-in paddle ledges. You shouldn’t expect lots of storage space in an 8-foot kayak though. However, there is a nice tank well behind the seat for some supplies, and you can secure them with the cargo net lacing.

As for the performance of the Spitfire 8, it’s excellent. It’s probably far better than any other kayak with the same length. It’s short so it’s very maneuverable, but it also features the ST Performance Hull that boosts its tracking. It’s very stable too with its 31.5-inch width.


  • It’s certainly affordable.
  • It’s great for beginners and children, but also for experienced kayakers just looking to relax on short trips.
  • It can accommodate a lot of weight.
  • For its size, the performance regarding stability, tracking, speed, and maneuverability is exceptional.
  • There’s a tank well behind the seat.
  • It’s comfy enough to sit on for a few hours.
  • It’s easy to transport and carry.
  • It comes with a long warranty period.


  • There’s no cushion for the seat bottom.
  • It’s best for calm waters only.
  • It’s not really suitable for special purposes such as fishing, touring, or ocean surfing.
Sun Dolphin Bali SS 12-Foot Sit-on top Kayak

The Sun Dolphin Bali SS is certainly a very popular model, and it comes in several lengths. If you’re not too keen on the smaller kayaks, then you can get this 12-foot model for just a few bucks more.

This measures 30 inches wide, and despite the length it’s still just 48 pounds.

It features carrying handles at the front and rear, so you can drag it or carry it with a friend to help out. Yet this can also handle a tremendous amount of weight, as its weight capacity is 395 pounds.

It offers a spacious open cockpit, so getting in and out is easy. It comes with a padded seat and back rest, along with adjustable foot braces. You also have protective thigh pads, a cup holder and a small tray for items you can get to immediately, and a paddle holder. There are even 2 rod holders for fishing.

For your supplies, you have lots of storage solutions. You have a compartment at the bow that’s secured with shock cord deck rigging, and it also features a dry hatch. At the rear, there’s also a portable accessory carrier.

You can remove the PAC and you’re left with another tank well with shock cord deck rigging, and you can tow the PAC behind the kayak as an extra storage compartment.

This long kayak’s performance on the water is superb. It moves quickly enough and it’s very stable, and you’ll have to work hard to trip it over. The tracking is excellent, and you’ll have no problems paddling against the wind or the current.

This is very tough boat, and the polyethylene stands up well even if you drag this over the ground into the water. It’s UV-resistant too. It can also be customized easily, so you can add to the rod holders and add an anchor trolley.


  • It can handle a lot of weight.
  • Despite its size, it’s very easy to carry.
  • You can be very comfortable sitting on this kayak.
  • There are lots of storage solutions for all your supplies.
  • There are already 2 rod holders, and you can customize it further for fishing.


  • There aren’t any side handles, although you can add them as a separate purchase.
  • It’s not great for racing.
Ocean Kayak Scrambler 11 One-Person Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak

The Ocean Kayak is one of the most well-known names in the kayak industry, and they’ve full deserved their reputation with their wide array of models.

This Scrambler is a longer version of the popular Frenzy model, and it’s meant for recreational yet versatile use.

You can try it out on the surf, and you can even do a bit of fishing if you don’t have a real fishing kayak. This actually measures 11 feet and 6.5 inches long, and it’s not too wide at 29.5 inches. It offers an open cockpit, so you can get in and out and move around easily.

The seat is padded and is 18 inches wide, and it has a nice back rest. You can even adjust it 4-ways. The leg length is 50 inches and it features overlapping foot wells.

This is just 47 pounds, so it’s easy to carry for an adult. You can drag it along with you by using the carry handles on the bow or stern (it has a skid plate), or you can carry it with the side handles. It may be better if you just have a friend help you carry it, though.

Though it is lightweight, it can carry up a weight somewhere between 300 to 350 pounds. That should be enough to let you bring supplies with you. For your stuff, you have an extra-large tank well behind your seat with bungee cording, plus 2 rod holders.

In front of the seat, there’s a 6-inch Cam Lock hatch with a storage bucket. At the bow, there’s another compartment with bungee cording. You also have paddle keepers at both sides and the paddles can be secured with bungee.

This features the famous “Tri-Form hull” that offers the best mix of stability, maneuverability, and tracking. It uses an integral keel for tracking and sponsons (air tubes) for stability.


  • This is great for beginner kayakers.
  • It’s lightweight so it’s easy to carry. You can even drag it along without worry because it comes with a replaceable skid plate.
  • You have lots of storage space.
  • It’s quite comfortable to sit on even for many hours. It can even accommodate a huge person.
  • It is extremely stable, so much more so than other kayaks.
  • It also tracks well and is very maneuverable.


  • There’s space at the bow for an oval hatch, but you’ll have to buy and install that separately.
  • It’s not really very fast.
  • The hatch isn’t waterproof, so you need a water proof bag to put your stuff in.
Riot Kayaks Escape 12 Angler Sit-On-Top Flatwater Fishing Kayak (12-Feet)

This is one of the most lauded kayaks today and it’s easy to understand why when you take a closer look at it. It’s a mainly recreational kayak as the name says, but it’s actually quite versatile.

First, as a recreational kayak it’s outstanding. It offers extremely comfortable seating as the seat comes with a high back rest.

You can customize the seat position to how you really want it, as it comes with 4 attachment points mounted on straps that you can adjust independent of each other. It has adjustable foot braces as well.

It can accommodate up to 300 pounds, though it’s a bit heavy at 65.7 pounds. It does come with handles at the bow and stern. For your stuff, you have a storage well at the stern secured by bungee cords

You also have 2 rod holders, a cup holder, a small dry hatch, and a large15-inch oval rubber hatch at the bow. The kayak performs very well on the water, as it very stable yet also very fast. It also tracks nicely thanks to the pilot rudder system.


  • This comes with ample weight capacity.• It has lots of storage compartments for all your supplies and items.
  • It’s great for recreational use, but it’s very versatile. It can be used for touring since it is comfy and has lots of storage, and it even has 2 flush mount rod holders for anglers.
  • The performance is terrific, as it is both fast and stable. Usually, you can either get a fast or a stable one. It tracks well too.


  • This may be too expensive for a beginner kayak, though the price is more than reasonable for more experienced kayakers.
  • Its’ very heavy so you won’t find it easy to carry by yourself.
Perception Kayak Tribe

As a general rule (and this rule doesn’t just apply to kayaks), cheap consumer items offer cheap quality and performance.

So you may want to expand your budget a bit if you’re going to get a kayak, especially if it’s your first kayak.

A first-rate kayak makes for a much better experience on the water, and they’re a better investment since they tend to last longer too. The 9.5-foot Tribe is a small kayak (there are 11.5 and 13.5-foot versions), but for its size it’s superb.

The short length of the perception Tribe Sunset makes it very maneuverable, but it is wide at 31.25 inches so it’s also stable. It only weighs 46 pounds, so an adult can carry this alone. It has “soft-touch” handles along the sides and at the front and rear. You can drag it along with you, and the skid plate protects the kayak from the ground.

This is also quite comfy to sit on. It features a padded seat bottom as well as a high back rest. The cockpit is sizable as it is 53 inches long which makes it comfy even for long-legged folks, and it has several molded-in foot wells. It also has a wide cockpit at 20.5 inches, compared to others with just 17 inches. So it can fit in your large hips.

You also don’t have to worry about your weight either, as this small boat can actually carry up to 300 pounds. This means that you can carry a lot of supplies as well. For these extra supplies, you actually have a large tank well at the rear as well as some space at the front. Both are secured with bungee cording.

There’s also a hatch right by your seat, where you can put your wallet and your smartphone if you can’t bear to part with them. There’s a cup holder too. The performance of the Tribe is exceptional for its size. Its short length makes it a very maneuverable boat, yet it’s fast for its size and it tracks well too. It’s also nicely stable.

While you should expect to get a bit wet when you’re on a kayak, with the Tribe you can be relatively dry. The SOT design helps, of course, but the deck height is also high at 16.25 inches. If you do get water in the cockpit, you have self-bailing scupper holes to deal with it.

It’s not too expensive, so if you can afford it you may want to get one of these for every member of the family interested in kayaking. This allows everyone to join in the fun at the same time. Don’t worry about how you will store this at home, as the Tribe kayaks are stackable.


  • It offers lots of space even for tall and heavy adults.
  • You have two tank wells at the bow and stern, plus a center hatch.
  • It’s very comfy to sit on.
  • It’s quite fast, nimble, and stable, and it tracks well enough.
  • It’s very portable and not a problem for a single adult to carry. The skid plate helps when you drag it along.
  • It uses tough polyethylene that’s resistant to abrasion, impact, and UV rays.
  • It comes in several interesting color schemes.
  • It’s stackable too.


  • There are no paddle rests.
  • Some people may have trouble opening the dry hatch, so you may have to lube it.

How to Buy Sit-On-Top Kayak

So aside from the price, how do you pick the best sit on top kayak for you to use and have fun with? Here are some factors that you need to be aware of:


Many best sit on kayaks are classified as recreational kayaks. They’re used main for general fun on the water, and they’re great for beginners. On the other hand, some kayaks are designed for a main purpose, and they have features that make them more expensive.

Some are best sit on top tandem kayaks, which means you can have 2 or maybe even more people aboard. Some are fishing kayaks, and you can tell them apart since they usually have rod holders already installed. There are ocean surfing kayaks that can surf the waves, though on flat water they’re very slow.

Scuba kayaks have large basins that can accommodate scuba gear. Touring kayaks let you go on longer trips, so they need to have the storage space for your supplies.


Some best sit on kayaks are inflatable, which means you can deflate them so that you can fit them inside a bag you can put in your car trunk.

Others are made of tough plastic that are still light weight enough for a single person to drag along. You need to check the weight and dimensions of the kayak, as well as features such as carry handles and skid plates.


Generally an SOT kayak is more comfortable, but you have to check the seating design. There should be an adjustable seat with a backrest and with lots of padding.

There should also be adequate leg room with lots of foot braces. The width of the cockpit should be able to accommodate today’s expanding waistlines, and a cup holder nearby should be available.


For beginners and anglers, the stability of the kayak is probably the most important performance factor. But you shouldn’t just pick the most stable kayak you can find if you want to improve your kayaking skills.

For best results, you want a kayak that can also offer decent tracking, which is basically its ability to maintain the direction you want. The best ones can handle swells as well as strong winds, and a rudder or a skeg can always help.

Maneuverability is also good so you can get into less accessible water areas, and faster kayaks are always appreciated.

If you want a stable kayak, go for the wider ones. Short kayaks are more maneuverable, while longer kayaks are faster and tend to track better.

Weight capacity

This is one of the factors that manufacturers state on their ads, and it states the maximum weight they kayak can carry. So you have to make sure that your weight plus the weight of the equipment and supplies you bring with you won’t go over the weight capacity of the kayak.

It’s very rare for a kayak manufacturer to exaggerate their kayak’s weight capacity. More often than not, they even tend to understate the capacity.


Buying a kayak isn’t exactly a trivial purchase. So what you don’t want is to buy one every year. The best clue to a kayak’s durability is to read reviews and see user comments about how long they last and how easily the parts wear down or break down due to impact.The length of the warranty period is also a clue as to how long a kayak can last.

Final Verdict

Sit on top kayaks are much friendlier than their sit-in counterparts, and they make it easier for beginners to get into kayaking.

An SOT kayak is very comfortable, and for fishing or just plain fun times on the water, it’s the more comfortable and less expensive option. Just pick the best sit on top kayak for your purpose and for budget, and the fun times are sure to come.

Related Resources:

Share This Post
David Valle

I started this blog to provide advanced material, guiding you towards a better and more comfortable fishing experience. I deliver more than fishing gear guides, and motivate people to hit the water!