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One of the biggest questions in the kayaking world is which is better, a sit-in or a sit-on kayak? Well, the answer to that question really comes down to personal preference, but in this article, we’re going to highlight the benefits of both a sit-in and a sit-on kayak, along with which type of kayak is better suited to your style of paddling.
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A sit-inside kayak allows the paddler to climb inside the hull of the kayak and place their legs under the deck. This position inside the boat puts the paddler below the water’s surface and gives the boat a lower center of gravity which ultimately improves the kayak’s secondary stability.
The inside position also means you’re able to brace your knees off the kayak’s walls to deliver more strength and efficiency in each paddle stroke.
A sit-on-top kayak, on the other hand, has an open deck which means the paddler is sat directly on top of the boat with their entire body exposed. Rather than being positioned inside the kayak at water level, the paddler is instead positioned above the water’s surface.
So, now that we’ve covered the difference between a sit-in and a sit-on kayak, let’s get into their advantages and disadvantages, starting with sit-inside kayaks.
As with all things, sit-in kayaks do also have their disadvantages which may sway your decision before purchasing.
Sit-on kayaks also have their fair share of advantages, which we’ll get into now.
And finally, the disadvantages of a sit-on-top kayak include:
Now that we’ve covered the main advantages and disadvantages of both a sit-on and a sit-in kayak, it’s time for the ultimate showdown of a sit-on-top vs a sit-inside kayak.
Both types of kayaks are stable in their own ways, and as a boat's stability is determined by a few different factors, it’s hard to pinpoint whether a sit-in or sit-on kayak would be the most stable.
One of the biggest factors that play a role in the kayak's stability is its width. Now, I know we said that sit-inside kayaks are typically narrower than sit-on kayaks, but this doesn’t mean that you cant find a wide sit-inside kayak on the market. Most recreational kayaks, whether they sit-inside or sit-on, will be stable enough for even the newest paddlers.
Another factor is the height of the seat. If you have a seat that is higher than the waterline, it is going to decrease the boat's overall stability. But, if the seat is closer to the waterline, then the stability will increase.
Many fishing kayaks, for example, have seats that are mounted above the waterline, to give anglers a better view of their potential catch. As the seat is going to decrease the stability of the kayak, companies enhance the width of the boat to make up for it.
The shape and fullness of the bow and stern are also other factors that can impact the boat’s stability. Boxy-shaped kayaks with fuller ends will be more stable than kayaks with narrower ends.
So, If you’re comparing a narrow sit-inside touring kayak to a wide heavy-duty fishing kayak, then the fishing kayak is going to come out on top. But, if you’re comparing sit-ins vs sit-ons of a similar shape and size, then stability will come down to the water the kayak is being paddled on. Sit-on top kayaks will perform better on flat waters, and sitting inside kayaks will excel in choppy waters.
Performance in kayak terms usually refers to the speed at which a kayak can go and the speed of the ‘yak is largely determined by the boat’s width and length. The longer and narrower a kayak are, the faster it can travel through the water, regardless of whether it's a sit-in or sit-on variety.
Many touring kayaks, however, will be a sit-inside design as the paddler can use their knees to deliver power into their strokes.
Storage can sometimes be the biggest deciding factor when it comes to a sit-inside or a sit-on kayak. Sit-inside kayaks are fairly limited regarding storage space, but some have the advantage of water-tight hatches in the rear bulkhead. For more basic designs, however, you’ll have to pack your drybags into the cockpit with you.
Sit-on-top kayaks, on the other hand, have ample amounts of storage on the front and rear ends of the deck. There are usually bungee areas or at least tie-down points so that you can securely fasten all your overnight camping gear or tackle boxes in place.
The answer to which kayak type of kayak is more comfortable is a no-brainer. Sit-on-top kayaks give the paddler more freedom to move around and adjust their seating position, which can make a huge difference during a long day of paddling.
If you’re a beginner paddler, then the main thing you should be looking for is a recreational kayak that offers great stability. Sitting inside recreational kayaks and sitting on top of recreational kayaks can both be stable, so you should instead consider what you’ll be using your kayak for and the waters in which you’ll be paddling.
Beginner paddlers who want to paddle over calm lakes or float down slow-moving rivers would probably be better suited to a sit-in top kayak, whereas paddlers who want to paddle through the ocean or choppy waters may prefer the benefits of a sit-inside kayak.
If you plan on recreational ocean paddling far from shore, then a sit-on-top kayak would be the better choice. Their open deck makes them easy to climb back onto if you happen to capsize, and they also won’t fill with large amounts of water.
But, if you want to travel vast distances in the ocean, then touring kayaks are one of the best sea kayaks out there. Touring kayaks have bulkheads that prevent the cockpit from flooding if you capsize and these bulkheads also create flotation chambers which will keep the kayak afloat even if water does get inside.
If you do choose to go with a sit-inside touring kayak for ocean paddling, however, it is recommended to learn the best ways to get in and out of the kayak if the boat decides to tip.
The vast majority of fishing kayaks sit-on-top kayaks, as the open deck of a sit-on-top gives anglers more room to cast their lines and reel in fish. They’re typically far wider than most other kayaks, and some even feature pedal drives to allow the angler to be hands-free at all times.
With that being said, however, you can go kayak fishing in a sit-inside kayak. The enclosed cockpit does make a sit-inside a better choice when paddling in cold climates or on overcast days where rain may or may not make an appearance.
The answer to this question will come down to personal preference and the type of paddling you wish to participate in.
It’s hard to determine which kayak is more stable as a lot of elements factor into the answer. But, if everything to do with the kayaks is equal, such as their length and width, then a sit-inside kayak would be more stable as your center of gravity is closer to the water.
If the length and width of both a sit-inside and sit-on kayak are equal, then a sit-inside kayak would be able to travel at faster speeds because of its lower center of gravity. An additional point is that sit-inside kayaks can be made narrower than sitting on kayaks which only enhances their speed even further.
There are a few reasons why some people declare sit-on-top of kayaks better than sit-inside kayaks, and these reasons include:
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