Sit Inside Vs Sit On Top Kayak – Which Is Best For You?

Sit Inside Vs Sit On Top Kayak

When entering the sport of kayaking for the first time, there are many brands, types, purposes, and constructions to choose from! There are many brands, types, purposes, and constructions to choose from! What factors should a new paddler consider when choosing a kayak? First, you need to understand that kayaks are divided into sit-on-top and sit-inside designs, each with advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, you should first decide how you will use the kayak before deciding whether you prefer a sit inside vs sit on top kayak.

Sit inside vs sit on top kayak

Sit-On-Top Kayaks

How does a person recognize a sit-on-top kayak when they see one? The paddler lies above the surface of the water rather than inside a sit-on-top kayak due to the lack of an enclosed cockpit. A prime example of this kayak is the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120. Because a sit-on-top kayak makes it easier to reenter if a paddler accidentally capsizes, this kayak is the most popular design among beginning paddlers and kayak anglers. Is this type of kayak design advantageous or disadvantageous?

Advantages of a sit-on-top kayak

  • During a capsize, the paddler does not feel confined within the kayak due to the open cockpit of a stand-on-top kayak. A paddler can also quickly reenter them if they capsize.
  • Since sit-on-top kayaks have a higher center of gravity, they are generally much more comprehensive than most sit-inside designs, which means they have a higher degree of initial stability (the tendency for the kayak to remain upright when a paddler lies directly beneath the keel).
  • Because their hulls are entirely enclosed, sit-on-top kayaks are unsinkable.
  • Because sit-on-top kayaks have self-bailing scupper holes, they are excellent for playing in the surf zone since paddlers don’t have to carry a bilge pump in case of an accidental capsize.
  • There is plenty of space in the “tank well” in the stern to carry bulky items like a cooler.

Disadvantages of a sit-on-top kayak

  • Sit-on-top kayaks are generally slower than sit-inside kayaks with a smaller beam due to their relatively wide beam. Since the paddler requires more effort to propel them forward, they are best suited for short-range excursions and kayak fishing.
  • Because of the wider beam width and the higher center of gravity, sit-on-top kayaks have a much lower degree of secondary stability (the tendency for the kayak to stay upright when it is leaning on its edge for turning or when it is paddling in rough waters).
  • Paddling in an open cockpit limits the paddler’s ability to place their knees against the underside of the deck, which limits the kayaker’s control and maneuverability.
  • Since the wide beam forces the paddler to use a longer paddle than they would with a narrower sit-inside design, the longer the paddle, the longer the Moment Arm, and the greater the effort required to propel the kayak.
  • Open cockpits expose paddlers to the elements and provide no protection from the sun or waves breaking over the bow or gunwale.
  • A sit-on-top kayak’s significantly higher profile makes it far more susceptible to wind than a stand-inside kayak.
  • Due to its self-draining scupper holes in the cockpit, there is always a tiny amount of water in the bilge of the kayak.

Sit-Inside Kayaks

After learning about sit-inside kayaks and their advantages and disadvantages, how do you recognize one when you see one? Sit-inside kayaks have an enclosed cockpit, so rather than being seated on top of the kayak above the water’s surface, the paddler sits below it. The Wilderness Systems Tempest is an example of this type of kayak. As a result, sit-inside kayaks are by far the most popular choice among intermediate and advanced paddlers since the lower center of gravity provides a much higher degree of secondary stability (the kayak’s tendency to remain upright when leaning on its edge when turning) than other designs. How does this kayak design compare with other types of kayaks? What are its advantages and disadvantages?

Advantages of a sit-inside kayak

  • A sit-inside kayak has a much lower center of gravity than a sit-on-top kayak, increasing secondary stability and allowing the paddler to turn more efficiently and remain upright in rough weather.
  • It is also possible to make sit-inside kayaks much narrower than a sit-inside design, which makes them much faster than wide, sit-on-top kayaks. Because of this, sit-inside kayaks are best suited for long-distance day paddling and expedition paddling since they require less effort from the paddler.
  • An enclosed cockpit of a sit-inside kayak allows the paddler to place their knees against the underside of the deck, significantly increasing the paddler’s control and maneuverability.
  • Additionally, the enclosed cockpit protects from the sun and waves breaking over the bow or gunwale. They can also be equipped with a spray skirt to protect the paddler from the elements completely, thanks to their integral cockpit coaming.
  • Due to the narrow beam, a paddler can use a shorter paddle than they would with a more comprehensive sit-on-top design, and the shorter a paddle is, the shorter its Moment Arm is, and therefore, the less effort it requires to propel the kayak forward.
  • A sit-inside kayak is significantly less adversely affected by wind than a sit-on-top kayak due to its significantly lower profile.
  • Due to the lack of self-draining scupper holes in the kayak’s cockpit, the cockpit remains dry unless waves break over the bow and splash water into it.

Disadvantages of a sit-inside kayak

  • In the event of a capsize, many paddlers feel confined inside a sit-inside kayak due to its open cockpit. Additionally, they are much less likely to enter a capsized boat.s.
  • In heavy seas, sit-inside kayaks can sink if both hatch’s covers come off, filling both the bow and stern hold with water.
  • In addition to having a lower center of gravity, sit-inside kayaks are generally much narrower than most sit-on-top kayak designs. Therefore, they tend to have a lower degree of initial stability (the tendency for the kayak to stay upright when the paddler stands directly underneath the keel).
  • The re-entry of a sit-inside kayak is considerably more complex than a sit-on-top kayak in an accidental capsize. In addition, paddlers must use either a hand-operated, foot-operated, or battery-powered bilge pump to remove water from the cockpit.
  • With their smaller hatch covers and no open tank well in the stern, sit-inside kayaks can only carry small items to fit through the hatches.


As you can see, both sit inside vs sit on top kayak have advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, sit-on-top kayaks are favored by beginning paddlers and kayak anglers looking for a kayak with a high degree of initial stability for short-range excursions. In contrast, sit-inside kayaks are favored by intermediates and advanced paddlers looking for fast kayaks for long-distance day trips, extended camping trips, and expeditions. Therefore, when choosing a kayak, please determine what you intend to do with it and choose either a sit-on-top or sit-inside design.

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