Regular kayaking is a sure way to keep your body healthy and your mind mentally alert, whether used for recreation, as a medical recommendation, or exercise. Some of the health benefits of regular kayaking include strengthening the muscles around your heart, reducing the risk of heart diseases, burning body fat, and both increased muscle strength and mass.
There are different types of kayaks out there, but what are the differences between a sit-in kayak vs sit-on kayak?
Types of Kayaks
When you want to start with kayaks, especially as a novice paddler, one of the first things you will notice is that there are basically two types of kayaks. There is the sit-inside kayak, also called sit-in kayak, and also the sit-on kayak. Each traditional type of kayak can be used by paddlers as a single or double.
There are many similarities between these types of kayaks.
- They have seats and either form of foot support: footwells or foot pedals. These are for ease of use, support, and convenience. Foot pedals are very good for long hours or recreational paddling.
- The kayak deck on both sit-in and sit-on kayaks have deck lines.
- They both have skegs for support and balance.
- They may or may not have rudder options.
Choosing one or the other may ultimately hinge on personal preference above most other considerations.
You may also come across inflatable kayaks. They are lightweight, easy to carry, and comfortable kayaks that can either be deflated, inflated, rolled up, folded down, or even carried around in a small storage box or backpack.
They are very durable and are made with different materials. Most commonly they are made from coated fabrics. What they lack in speed and maneuverability compared to traditional kayaks, inflatable kayaks make up for in durability and flexibility.
In this article, we’ll be exploring sit-in and sit-on kayaks closely to highlight the major differences.
Kayaks have a place where paddlers sit, known as the cockpit. Here, a spray skirt is used to stop water from getting in an area called the cockpit rim to provide secondary stability. This is the distinguishing feature of a sit-inside design kayak, and the biggest difference between the two types of kayaks.
As the name suggests, a sit-inside kayak allows protection from the elements with an enclosed cockpit that puts the paddler below the water level. The paddler climbs in to adjust the foot pedals to comfortably fit his legs under the deck.
Advanced paddlers and recreational kayakers may prefer a sit-inside kayak due to its relative stability even in rough water. Sit-inside kayak designs allow paddlers to wear a skirt design around their waists. They can also use it to close the hull, which can be very helpful in colder waters.
You have many choices of paddles too. If you’re in the market use our guide to help you find the paddles for you.
Sit-in Kayak Pros
Efficient Paddling: The major advantage of this style of kayak is its greater secondary stability that allows for more efficient paddling. The initial stability allows the kayak to lean on its side more efficiently, and enables it to withstand most weather conditions. Also, for cold weather, the skirt in the kayak would be helpful when navigating frigid waters.
Ease of Use: Sit-inside kayaks also tend to be much faster due to their low center of gravity, allowing them to be propelled effectively with the wind with minimal effort by the paddler. They are generally usually used as recreational kayaks due to them being better suited for paddling for longer durations.
Their narrower beams allow for easy comfort when paddling without stretching too much. This is very good for smaller occupants.
Waterproof Compartment: Although sit-inside kayaks do not have scupper holes that can be used to drain water from the deck, many do have waterproof compartments. In fact, the lack of scupper holes allows the cockpit to remain dry for the most part. Unless water breaks into the cockpit due to violent waves above the water level.you should remain dry.
Sit-in Kayak Cons
Difficulty flipping over: It may be hard to readjust if the kayak flips, especially if it ends up being filled with water since there are no scupper holes. The enclosed area means there is limited space to maneuver, which may be bad for nervous paddlers. This can be particularly bad in cold water. Some beginner paddlers prefer not to use this kayak unless in calm waters.
Stability and balance: Because of their lower center of gravity, sit-inside kayaks may have trouble with initial stability and maintaining balance. If you are paddling into much deeper waters it will be helpful to learn some special rescue skills to ensure you can reenter the kayak in the event of a capsize.
Small storage spaces: They tend to have smaller storage compartments due to the smaller hatch covers. You can only carry a very limited number of things on board with you.
As the name suggests, this kayak design allows the paddler to sit on the deck instead of inside it in an enclosed cockpit. This kayak design is much more popular among beginner paddlers and fishermen using kayaks since it allows them space to readjust in case it turns over.
They are generally more user-friendly due to their initial stability, and due to self-bailing drain holes at the sides that allow water to drain through.
Because you can move in and out as you like, since you are not confined in a space, sit-on-top kayaks are an excellent choice for beginner kayakers and warm environments. So what are the pros and cons of this kayak design?
Sit-on Kayak Pros
Easy to mount and dismount: They are very great for fun and recreation due to their sit-on-top design. In warm and tropical areas paddlers can jump in the water for a quick swim then get right back in with minimal fuss.
Can be used with scupper plugs: To prevent water from endlessly splashing onto the paddler, a scupper plug can help keep paddlers dry. They work by plugging the scupper holes that allow water to get in when splashing over. This will stop your deck from being filled with water.
Higher stability: They have higher initial stability due to their wider design and enclosed hull. This allows them to virtually stay afloat at all times. They are thus the most preferred option for paddlers with limited mobility or inexperienced paddlers.
Easy drainage: In the event of a capsize, a padder can easily get back in and the scupper holes help to quickly drain the water. You do not need any special self-rescue skills to get back on the boat.
Storage space: The storage hatch openings also allow for plenty of storage to carry a lot of items to use on your kayaking trip.
Sit-on Kayak Cons
They will get you wet: It is virtually impossible to stay dry when on a sit-on-top kayak. You are guaranteed to get wet since every wave leads to more splash, and some tiny amount of water can also be scooped under through the scupper holes. There is nowhere to stay inside since there is no deck so you are not protected from the elements. This is why it is never recommended to use this kayak type in colder weather, at least not without adequate protection.
They are typically slower: Sit-on-top kayaks tend to be slower than sit-inside kayaks due to their high center of gravity and wider design. This means winds and waves are not enough to propel them forward. These kayaks require extra effort from the paddler. They are a poor choice for long day paddling. They are best suited for short trips and, preferably, fishing. They also have a lower degree of secondary stability due to their wider design.
Might be uncomfortable for small paddlers: Sit-in kayaks have a wide beam which may make them uncomfortable for smaller paddlers who have to use a large paddle to steer them. It adds to the general discomfort of using it.
Both types of kayak designs, as shown above, have their unique characteristics, strengths, weaknesses, and utility. There is not one that is really any better than the other. Most times it is just a question of the unique preferences of the paddler: where he chooses to paddle, the weather and water conditions, the experience of the paddler, and relative fitness, among other considerations.
Generally, a beginner or novice paddler, fishermen, or people of limited mobility would prefer a sit-on-top kayak due to its stability, wide beam, no special need for rescue skills, and its durability for short trips.
On the other hand, sit-in kayaks would be favored by advanced paddlers, or those that have a bit of intermediate experience, since it is lean and has secondary stability. It can be used for extended trips, recreational purposes, or day-long expeditions.
In any case, the best way to choose the kayak that is the perfect option for you is to understand these considerations then measure the pros and cons of each type of kayak to find the right fit for you.
When you’re ready to purchase your next kayak, let our guides at the top of our website help you make your decision.