The 5 Best Sit On Top Kayaks For Beginners & Leisure Strolls

by Jason | Last Updated:   April 11th, 2022
The 5 Best Sit On Top Kayaks For Beginners & Leisure Strolls


You’ve been thinking about getting into kayaking, but you’re not confident enough to get a sit-inside kayak, and you’re unsure about inflatable kayaks.

And this leaves you with one option:

A sit-on-top kayak!

In this article, we’re going to delve into the best sit-on-top kayak to give you an idea of where to start your search.

Sit-on-top kayaks are great for beginners or people that like to take leisurely strolls across lakes and rivers.

If you want a selection of the best sit-on-top kayaks and some information about how to make your decision, don’t go anywhere:

IN A HURRY? HERE ARE OUR TOP PICKS…

Reviewing The 5 Best Sit-On-Top Kayaks

Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 Fishing Kayak

The Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 was designed with the avid fisherman in mind. It’s made with high-density UV-protected polyethylene. The robust material reassures you that the recreational sit-on-top kayak will last a long time.

It’s molded with multiple footrests, so you don’t have to make any adjustments to the recreational kayak if someone else uses it. You can also adjust the padded back seat, which allows you to find the perfect kayaking position.

For the anglers out there, they also included two flush-mount rod holders and one top-mounted rod holder. They also added a spot to place your paddle securely, so you didn’t have to worry about it while you were fishing.

Overall the recreational kayak performs very well in the water; the sharp bow and stern make it great for speed and tracking. At the same time, the flat bottom of the hull increases the stability significantly. They also add a tracking skeg at the rear to help you keep going in a straight line.

Pros
  • The fishing kayak comes with a paddle, so you don’t have to worry about purchasing one on top of the kayak. 
  • Plenty of rod holders so you can enjoy a hands-free fishing experience while you enjoy paddling the rivers.
  • The kayak feels very stable in the water, giving you the chance to fish standing up if needed.
Cons
  • The kayak’s tracking isn’t excellent, so you do have to make adjustments while you’re paddling.

Pelican Sentinel 100X

The Pelican Sentinel 100X kayak was built for beginners who like to feel some stability over speed. It also uses a multi-chine hull, making it more stable in the water and providing excellent tracking.

It’s also multi with a patented RAM-X material which provides excellent protection and limited lifetime on both the deck and hull. I also loved the anti-slip carpet, which made it extremely easy to get in and out of the kayak, even when it was wet.

Another feature that stands out is the adjustable padded backrest, which is extra high and wide. You’ll also find multiple footrests on the kayak, which is great if you’re taking turns with your friends or family.

Overall the kayak is excellent if you are a beginner. It has incredible agility so that you can maneuver it easily. It’s also very stable and tracks exceptionally well, so you don’t have to make many adjustments when you’re paddling.

Pros
  • The kayak is exceptionally well built and tracked nicely in the water, so you don’t have to make extra adjustments.
  • You have multiple footrests built into the kayak and an adjustable seat so you can find the best paddling position.
  • There is plenty of storage space on the kayak, so you can take gear with you if you want to paddle long distances.
Cons
  • Many people have received their kayak damaged, likely due to poor packaging.

Pelican Basscreek 100XP Fishing Kayak

It’s another kayak that was built for people that love fishing. It comes with two-rod holders at the rear of the kayak and a swivel rod holder at the front. Both of these features make it the perfect kayak for fishing.

At the front of the kayak, you’ll find a 4″ storage hatch with a storage bag, which makes it great for storing your gear that you don’t want to get wet. And at the rear of the recreational sit-on-top kayak, there’s enough space to store a tackle box.

They used a multi-chine bottom hull to help with the performance, which increases the kayak’s stability when you’re casting lines. They also provide excellent foot pedals, which help you stay in control when you’re catching fish.

Overall the sit-on-top kayak is exceptionally agile on the water so that you can maneuver it easily. It also felt very stable on the water, making it great for the beginner kayaker.

Pros
  • The sit-on-top kayak is exceptionally well-crafted and incredibly easy to maneuver around the lake.
  • It’s stable on the water, so beginners shouldn’t have any trouble trying to control the kayak.
  • I loved the swivel rod-holder; it made catching a fish extremely straightforward.
Cons
  • Again, many people have complained about the kayak turning up damaged, which must be down to poor packaging.

Perception Tribe 9.5

The ultra-stable and versatile kayak is excellent for people who like long days out on the river with the opportunity to fish. It was built to be comfortable which is thanks to the padded seat, multiple footholds, and molded thigh rests, which means you’ll have no problems staying out all day.

It was also great to see a little bit of versatility in the kayak. Traditionally it’s a regular kayak, but with the mount location, you’re able to turn it into a fishing kayak. You can also add a camera mount to the sit-on-top kayak to video your experience.

Throughout the kayak, you’ll find plenty of storage options so you can keep all your equipment with you. This includes a small dry compartment and one placed at the rear and front of the kayak.

Overall it’s a pretty great sit-on-top kayak; it’s incredibly comfortable when you’re paddling and very stable. All of this makes it perfect for someone new to the kayaking world.

Pros
  • The kayak is exceptionally roomy and feels highly stable, so it’s excellent for beginners.
  • You can expect excellent tracking from the kayaking, so you don’t have to make any crazy adjustments.
  • The seat comes with excellent back support, so you won’t get a sore back while you’re paddling.
Cons
  • A few people had problems with shipping, which seemed to be down to Amazon’s delivery service.

Perception Pescador 12

The Perception Pescador was built for people that like to move quickly across the water. The boat is 12′ long and extremely streamlined, making it easy to paddle fast without using too much energy.

One of the standout features of the sit-on-top kayak is its adjustability and versatility. You can adjust the footrests and the backrest to provide more comfort where you need it. It also comes with gear rails to attach things like fish finders and rod holders.

I also really like the storage options the ocean kayak provides. At the front of the boat, you have a secure storage location so that you can store your valuables safely. And behind the seat, you have a series of bungee cords that could hold a cooler in place.

Overall the Perception Pescador is an excellent kayak for people who like to move quickly across the water. The large size meant it cut through the water smoothly and very efficiently while still remaining stable.

Pros
  • The sit-on-top kayak glides across the water with ease, so it doesn’t take much effort to paddle.
  • Feels very stable on the water, so it’s a good one for beginners to get started on.
  • You can use the gear rails to add extra pieces of equipment to the kayak to add some versatility.
Cons
  • It would be nice to have a dry storage compartment, but you can rectify this with a dry bag.

Our Top Choice

I’ve mentioned many of the best sit-on-top kayaks that are available on the market today. But even then, you might not know which one to choose. And this is why I want to show you my top pick from the list.

But if you’re looking for my opinion on the best sit-on-top kayak, it has to be the Pelican Sentinel 100X Sit-on-top kayak from this list. It performed very well on the water and was extremely easy to control.

I also really loved the non-slip carpet on the kayak. It made it really easy to get in and out of the sit-on-top kayak from a dock. 

And the smaller size makes it easy to transport and store, which is a considerable advantage for many people.

Things To Consider Before Buying The Best Sit-On-Top Kayak

Okay, you know more about the best sit-on-top kayaks, but you might not know how to choose between them, and this is how this section can help you.

This section will explain everything you need to know about the best sit-on-top kayaks and what features you need to understand.

So, let’s take a little look:

Kayak Types

Of course, today we’re talking about sit-on-top kayaks, but did you know there are different types of sit-on-top kayaks?

Well, there are actually four different styles of sit-on-top kayak, and knowing the differences might help you make your decision:

  1. Whitewater Kayaks: Whitewater sit-on-top kayaks are explicitly designed to take on fast-moving water and rapids. Because of this, they usually tend to be quite costly due to their high-performance nature. That being said, it’s not advisable to go down challenging rapids on a sit-on-top kayak.
  2. Fishing Kayaks: They usually come with extra features like rod-holders, gear rails, paddles, rudders, and much more. They’re designed to make fishing on a kayak as simple as possible.
  3. Sea Kayaks: Their purpose is for long/multi-day paddling trips, which usually focus on speed and comfort. Again, sea kayaks can get pretty expensive because of their performance nature.
  4. Recreational Kayaks: These are more your bog-standard sit-on-top kayak. Ideally, they’re aimed at the occasional paddler on a tight budget. They don’t have any special features and are also the cheapest form.

As you can see, sit-on-top kayaks have various categories to choose from, so it’s essential to have an understanding of what you’re looking for.

Material 

Sit-on-top kayaks tend to be made with two types of material: polyethylene and ABS. There are other forms like fiberglass, but these are very uncommon and usually come at a greater price.

So, let’s take a look at the two primary materials:

  • Polyethylene: This is the most commonly used material for sit-on-top kayaks. The material is pretty flexible, resists abrasions, and is pretty cheap. But it does have an issue; it’s somewhat susceptible to UV damage. 
  • ABS: It stands for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, and it’s a thermoplastic polymer. In other words, it’s an upgraded polyethylene that provides better UV protection and more longevity.    

If you’re looking to keep your sit-on-top kayak on a budget, then you should look for a polyethylene kayak. But, if you don’t mind spending a little bit extra, you should look at ABS kayaks.

Length 

Choosing the right length of the kayak is very important, and there are a few things you need to keep in mind when making your decision:

If you’re looking for a fast kayak, then you should be looking for a sit-on-top that’s over 10′ in length. But, if you’re looking for a kayak that’s easy to maneuver, you should be looking for something less than 10′ in size.

Another thing is do you want a tandem kayak? Because you’re going to need a long tandem sit-on-top kayak to fit two people inside.

It’s not just the length you need to think about though; you also need to think about the width of the beam.

Ideally, you’re looking for something wide enough to handle waves but thin enough to pick up speed when you need to.

The Kayaks Hull Design And Stability  

The kayak’s stability can play a massive part in what sit-on-top kayak you decide to go for. Some people don’t like the feeling of the kayak wobbling underneath them. Luckily for them, sit-on-top kayaks tend to be the most stable form of kayak out there.

So, let’s take a look at some of the hull shapes and what they provide:

  • Flat Hull: It’s probably the shape you’ll find the most open sit-on-top kayaks due to how stable they are. 
  • Pontoon Hull: They are slightly more stable than flat hull kayaks, and you’ll usually find them on fishing kayaks.
  • Rounded and V-Hulls: They are more maneuverable and have better speed than pontoon hulls. But they do have a little bit more wobble when you’re getting in and out of the kayak.

Remember, the hull of your kayak really affects how it performs in the water, so you need to know what you’re looking for.

Weight Capacity 

One of the big decisions you need to make is about the weight capacity, in other words, how much weight the kayak can handle. And this can be very important if you plan to take a lot of gear with you on the kayak.

Ideally, you should be looking for a sit-on-top kayak with a weight capacity that can handle at least 40-50 lbs more than you need; this way, you will never overload your kayak.

Storage Space

You might need to take some gear with you when you’re kayaking, which means you need some space for it on the boat. Luckily, sit-on-top kayaks usually provide quite a bit of storage options, but it’s still something to think about.

Some come with dry storage options, which are great for storing valuables and snacks. Others just come with a platform and bungee cords.

Is An Open Or Closed Kayak Better?

One thing I get asked about quite a lot is whether people would go for an open or closed kayak, and unfortunately, it’s not an answer I can give.

It’s a very personal choice, so what’s good for me might not be suitable for you. For example, I’m pretty experienced and feel very comfortable in a kayak, so I tend to go for closed kayaks. But…

My girlfriend isn’t comfortable in kayaks and hates the feeling of being enclosed in the kayak, so she always opts for a sit-on-top kayak.

So, in this section, I’m going to explain a little bit about what you can expect from each style. Let’s start with an open kayak:

Sit-Inside or Closed Kayaks

  • They have a larger cockpit which provides more room for larger people.
  • You’ll find it a lot easier to get in and out of the kayak.
  • They tend to be a lot heavier than sit-inside kayaks.
  • They have a larger maximum capacity, so you can usually take more gear with you.
  • They are very stable, so it’s nearly impossible to capsize or sink, making them perfect for beginners.
  • If you do fall in, they are easier to get back inside.
  • It’s great for people who like to fish because you can stand up in them.
  • They are harder to stay warm, and you usually get wet sitting in them due to the scupper holes.
  • A good option for beginners or people with knee problems.

Sit-On-Top Or Open Kayaks

  • They are usually lighter than sit-on-top kayaks, so they are easy to carry.
  • They provide better protection from the weather.
  • It is harder to get in and out from due to it being an enclosed space.
  • They cut through the water better due to the slimmer shape.
  • You have better control over the direction.
  • They tend to be more wobbly, which makes them prone to capsizing.
  • You can use a spray deck to keep yourself dry when paddling.
  • It requires more confidence when capsizing, and it’s easier to get stuck.
  • Offer less storage.
  • They are aimed at people with more experience.

How To Kayak On A Sit-On-Top Kayak

If you’re new to paddling, you might want some information on how to kayak on a sit-on-top. So, in this section, I want to give you the basics of paddling, along with some tips for getting started.

Sound good?

The first thing you need to learn if you’re new to kayaking is how to paddle in a straight line. It can be challenging at first, but you’ll get the hang of it over time.

But, it’s pretty hard to explain in text, so here’s a great video to watch:

And on top of the video, here are my top tips for getting started on a sit-on-top kayak this summer:

  1. Keep Safety As Your Priority: If you’ve never been paddling before, you need to make sure you’re going to be safe on the water. This means using a buoyancy aid when you’re on the water and never going kayaking alone. 
  2. Think About Your Technique: If you’re new to something, you need to learn it correctly to avoid picking up bad habits. Make sure you’re always thinking about your technique when you’re on the water.
  3. Practice, Practice, Practice: you’re never going to get better at kayaking if you don’t practice. Try to get out as much as you can so you can get used to it.
  4. Get Some Suitable Clothing: There’s nothing worse than being wet and cold. So make sure you have the right clothing for the job. Some waterproof layers should be enough to get started with.

Are Sit-On-Top Kayaks More Stable?

When people are new to kayaking, they often want to go for the sit-on-top kayak that feels the most stable. And without a shadow of a doubt, sit-on-tops are far more stable than sit-inside kayaks.

This is due to sit-on-top kayaks being wider and full of air. If you’re looking for stability, look no further than a sit-on-top kayak.

Are Sit-On-Top Kayaks Good For Rivers?

Sit-on-top kayaks work fantastically on rivers, as long as the water isn’t too choppy. The good thing about sit-on-top kayaks is that they are pretty stable, making them easy to paddle even if you’re a beginner.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Most Comfortable Sit-On-Top Kayak?

There’s no one size fits all when it comes to comfortability, but there are a few traits that you need to look out for. 

Ideally, you should be looking for a sit-on-top kayak that has an adjustable padded seat. This will help you stay comfy and provide decent back support.

You should also look for adjustable footrests. This helps you generate power while paddling and enables you to stay in a good position. The Perception Tribe is a great example of a comfortable seating system.

What Is The Most Stable Sit-On Kayak?

There are so many stable sit-on-top ‘yaks that it’s hard to pick just one, which is why I’m going to explain what features you should be looking out for instead.

Ideally, you’re looking for a kayak that has a good amount of width to it. The wider the kayak’s width, the more difficult it is to tip over.

You should also be looking for a kayak with a flat hull shape or a pontoon hull. They tend to feel a lot more stable on the water, which will make you feel more comfortable. But, if you do want an option for a stable kayak check out the Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 or the Perception Pescador 12.

Why Not Just Get A Traditional Sit-Inside Kayak?

There could be many reasons you’d get a sit-on-top as opposed to a sit-inside kayak. For example, if you’re looking for something with stability, you might not feel comfortable getting a sit-inside kayak.

Another thing you need to think about is the safety aspect. If you’re new to kayaking, it’s very likely you’re going to capsize in a sit-inside kayak. And to make things worse:

You can feel extremely trapped inside a sit-in kayak. It’s quite a tight space inside, and it can often feel like you won’t be able to get out of the kayak.

At least with a sit-on-top kayak, if you capsize, you fall straight out of the kayak without any major issue.

What Kayak Length Should I Get?

Again, this really depends on what you’re looking for from your kayak and how tall you are when it comes to longer vs shorter kayaks. If you’re a tall person, chances are you’re going to need a slightly bigger kayak to ensure your legs can fit inside.

But there are other things to consider when it comes to kayak length. And that’s speed vs. maneuverability.

Smaller kayaks tend to be easier to control and a lot more agile. While longer kayaks can cut through the water a lot easier, which means they can go faster with less effort.

Think about what you want from your kayak to determine what length you need.

Hey, my name's Jason, and before I was a writer, I worked as an outdoor activity instructor where I took groups kayaking and camping. Now I use my personal experiences to share tips and tricks I've learned over the years. For as long as I can remember, I've been passionate about the outdoors, and now I want to share that passion with my readers.