Sit In vs Sit On Kayak: Pros, Cons & Which is Fishermen Approved

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Updated June 27, 2022

If you are just starting out, read about the best kayak for beginners.

One of the first decisions you need to make when purchasing a new kayak lies in the age-old argument of sit in vs sit on kayak. These are the two main types of kayaks. And then there are two person kayaks as well, like the Driftsun Voyager 2 – Best Two Person Inflatable Kayak.

Ultimately, the decision between the two is largely a personal one, but each type of kayak carries its own pros and cons.

If you know the differences between sit in and sit on kayaks, you will be better informed in your purchase, and you will likely be happier with whatever kayak you decide to buy.


Sit In Pros and Cons
Sit In Quick Pros and Cons

Sit In vs Sit On Kayaks: The Key Differences

sit in kayaksit on kayak
Sit In KayakSit On Kayak
StabilityHigher stabilityLower stability
ComfortMore dryMore leg and wiggle room
Gear StorageLots of storageMinimum storage
PriceMore expensiveLess expensive

For the most part, kayaks of all shapes and sizes offer the same types of features. They’re fast and agile in the water. They’re also incredibly versatile and flexible, allowing you to change between different uses without needing to buy a ton of extra accessories.

However, there are plenty of differences you’ll need to consider before buying one. You might want to read about the best kayak for kids as well.

Kayak Cockpit: Sit On Is Better For Fishing

  • Sit in kayaks feature closed cockpits that are built directly into the hull of the boat. This means you’ll be sitting closer to the water, but you may be surprised to learn that you’re also less likely to get wet in a closed cockpit.
  • Sit on kayaks are easier to board and disembark due to their open cockpit design. In fact, it could be argued that these types of kayaks don’t have a cockpit at all. Instead, the paddler sits directly on top of the hull for easier access. Also read about the best tandem kayak.

Stability of the Kayak: Sit In Is More Stable, But…

  • Paddlers who have purchased sit in vessels typically experience a much stabler time on the water. Since they sit right at the water line, kayakers in these boats have more control and are much less likely to tip over.
  • Since sit on kayaks are open air, they are more likely to tip over than their sit in counterparts. Stability is a little harder to come by on these kinds of boats, but can definitely still be achieved with practice and experience.

Comfort While Seated: Sit In Keeps You Dry

  • Since sit in kayaks offer a closed cockpit, you’ll experience more comfort by staying dry while on the river, unless you flip. They also keep you warm in colder waters, which is a huge benefit during the whitewater season.
  • Paddlers who are larger in size typically experience more comfort paddling with sit on kayaks. The open-air design gives paddlers more room to stretch out and relax while on the water. They also tend to offer more foot rest options so you can place your feet in the most comfortable position to you.

Gear & Storage: Sit In Wins

  • If safer and better gear storage is important to you, a sit in kayak will probably do the trick. These boats tend to offer more storage for your gear and do well at keeping it dry. This makes them perfect for long kayaking trips.
  • If you’re looking for easier access to your gear, you’ll want to consider getting a sit on version. These vessels don’t provide a lot of dry storage options, but they allow you to store and quickly access simple gear like water bottles and fishing rods. Also read about the best tents for camping and the best sleeping bags.

Price You’ll Pay: Sit In Are More Expensive

  • Sit in kayaks are usually more expensive than their more bare-bones counterparts. This is due in part to the specialized design and extra options.
  • Sit on kayaks are usually the cheapest type, and they make the perfect choice for paddlers who are on a budget. This is usually why most recreational kayakers tend to purchase sit on top kayaks, especially if it’s their first time out on the water. Check out the best place to buy a kayak.

How to Use Sit In and Sit On Kayaks

Sit On Kayak Pros Cons
Sit On Kayak Pros Cons

As it is with other kinds of boats, sit in and sit on kayaks excel for different kinds of paddlers looking to accomplish different outcomes. Each of these kayaks has certain applications where they excel more than others.

Sit In Kayak: Best for White Water

Sit in VS Sit on Kayak
Sit in kayaks are used for whitewater rafting and touring trips.

These kayaks are best for paddling enthusiasts who want to conquer whitewater rapids and long kayaking trips. The closed cockpit design of these boats allows you to stay dry in each situation, and provide lasting comfort over long distances. They also allow you to store more gear such like food and first aid kits.

Sit in kayaks can also be used for simple recreation. Many beginners who want to eventually learn to become experts on rough waters start with recreational sit in boats. These kayaks tend to have bigger cockpits for easier access and wider hulls for greater stability.

Sit On Kayak: Great For Swimmers (aka OK with getting wet) + Fishermen

Sit in VS Sit on Kayak
Sit on kayaks are used mostly for recreation and fishing.

These kayaks are used most by paddlers in warm waters who like to swim. The open cockpit design allows paddlers to jump off and get back on at will.

Fishers also enjoy sit on top designs more, as it allows them greater freedom to move around and get in the perfect position to snag the catch of the day.

Making the Right Choice

Whatever choice you decide in the sit in vs sit on kayak debate, make sure you do your research beforehand.

Check out our list of the best kayaks, where we review vessels of all shapes and sizes. You may also want to consider looking at our list of the best inflatable kayaks.

Each of these lists contains both sit in and sit on designs sure to meet the needs of any kayaking enthusiast.

At the end of the day, consider how you’re going to use your kayak and tailor your decision around that idea. The point is to have fun, and if the kayak you buy helps you have fun, then you’ve made the right choice.

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