Best Sit-On-Top Kayak – SOTs That We Like The MOST!

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Sit-on-top kayaks, abbreviated as SOT kayaks, have become more popular in recent years. There are different reasons for their rise in popularity, including the fact that the paddler has easy access on and off the kayak – which is a big deal for some people.

Top SOT Picks:

We’re going to delve in further to find out more about sit-on-top kayaks. And we’ll hopefully help you decide whether or not a SOT is the type of kayak for you. And we'll look at the top pick, the Wilderness Systems Targa 100.

Top 12 Best Sit-On-Top Kayaks

Here are our picks of the best models on the market today. Everyone’s needs are different, so plow through the top boats to see which of these many models might suit you best.

1: Wilderness Systems Targa 100 (best overall)

  • Length: 10 foot
  • Width: 32 inches
  • Weight: 57 pounds 8 ounces
  • Weight Capacity: 325 pounds

The Wilderness Systems Targa 100 is an incredibly stable sit-on-top kayak offering the ultimate in comfort, space, and convenient features.

The Targa offers easy entry and is designed to be easy to paddle, with a short hull that can be great for maneuvering in small rivers. It’s stable for paddling in coastal waters and lakes, with excellent tracking performance for open water so you can paddle in a straight line. It’s also easy to transport with an integrated roof rack notch for easy loading, but it’s not the lightest for its size.

It has a padded deck for standing (similar to the Hi Life model) and one of the best features of this kayak is the integrated and removable cooler, so you can easily carry your lunch to your favorite waterside picnic spot - something you don’t often find on other sit-on-top kayaks.

There’s hooded storage at the bow and bungees on the rear deck for keeping your dry bags safe.

The seat is built to be comfortable for all-day paddling, with foot braces for great stability and support. There’s even a raised heel rest for when you’re relaxing.   

Pros

  • Maneuverable
  • Built-in cooler
  • Comfortable
  • Stable hull design

Cons

  • Heavy for a small boat

2: Perception Hi Life 11.0 (runner-up)

  • Length: 11 foot
  • Width: 34 inches
  • Weight: 55 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 280 pounds

The Perception Hi Life 11 is a sit-on-top kayak with a difference. It’s a hybrid. So it combines the best features of a stand up paddle board with a kayak.

This can be a super versatile craft that can be ideal for recreational kayaking, paddle boarding, and fishing. It has excellent primary stability so it can be best suited to flatwater paddling on calm lakes and bays.

Its compact hull length can be great for navigating smaller bodies of water and narrow rivers.

It has decent tracking, with a removable fin that can help you paddle in a straight line.

One of the best things about the Hi Life is the padded deck that offers complete walkability, with traction pads providing grip. The padded seat is elevated for comfort and visibility, and the backrest folds down for convenience. There’s also an underseat cooler recess. But there are no footrests or storage hatches.

There’s storage at the bow with bungees. And the swim-up rear deck can also be used as storage space.

Another great feature is the central gear track that’s great for installing accessories.

Pros

  • Hybrid design
  • Adjustable seat
  • Versatile
  • Walkable deck

Cons

  • No footrests

3: Sea Eagle SE 370 (best inflatable)

  • Length: 12 foot 6 inches
  • Width: 34 inches
  • Weight: 33 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 650 pounds

The Sea Eagle 370 is the best inflatable kayak in terms of portability, ease of use and versatility. This can be ideal for beginners and anyone looking to explore lakes and rivers with Class II rapids or choppy waters.

This is a super lightweight and stable kayak that is rated for up to Class III rapids. It has an integrated skeg for flatwater but it’s not the easiest to paddle straight.

With a huge load capacity, this could be a great choice for kayak camping. It can also hold up to three people - although you may not have much room for camping gear if there are three recreational paddlers on board. 

One of the best things about this kayak is that it’s portable. It can fit in the trunk of a small car for easy transportation and it can be stored at home in a closet for convenience.

You’ll find some storage space at the bow and stern, with inflatable spray skirts that can make a good storage platform.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Easy to transport and store
  • Great for all types of water
  • Ideal for camping

Cons

  • Tracking performance is not the best

4: Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL Tandem Kayak (best tandem)

  • Length: 13 foot 4 inches
  • Width: 34 inches
  • Weight: 70 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 500 pounds

If you’re looking for the best tandem sit-on-top for exploring recreational waters with a paddling partner, the Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL could be the perfect boat, with two adjustable seats. It even has room for a child or a dog, so it can be ideal for adventures with the whole family. It can also be paddled solo.

This is a stable kayak that can handle flatwater lakes, slow-moving rivers, and shallow ocean bays. It has a generous capacity, with just the right amount of space to hold gear for a day trip.

There’s bungee rigging at both the bow and the stern to secure your gear and a dry bag to the deck.

It’s a very durable kayak (made from high density polyethylene to prevent UV degradation) with a skid plate to protect the keel. It has overlapping foot wells and comes with two removable padded seats with backrests.

It’s pretty heavy but there are side carry handles to help you and your partner lift it, as well as bow and stern toggle handles.

Pros

  • Easy to paddle
  • Stable
  • Durable
  • Room for a child or dog

Cons

  • Heavy

5: Perception Pescador 10.0 Kayak

Perception Pescador Pro 10.0 KayakPin
  • Length: 10 ft 6 in
  • Width: 32 inches
  • Weight: 57 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 325 pounds

This offering from Perception tracks well and is stable under moderate conditions. More suited to light rivers and lakes.

There is a large dry storage compartment on the bow with cover. There’s a large rear tank well with shock cords – and another small covered hatch for added gear storage. There are straps to secure the paddles when not used.

The foot braces can help you stabilize yourself but they're not the most durable. 

The Pescador also has gear tracks for attaching extra accessories and gadgets, such as a fish finder or GPS so it can be a good kayak for fishing.

Pros

  • Stable kayak
  • Ample storage space
  • Accessory tracks

Cons

  • Foot braces aren't great

6: Emotion Spitfire Sit-On-Top Kayak 9' (Budget Choice)

Emotion Spitfire Sit-On-Top Kayak, Orange, 9 ftPin
  • Length: 9 ft
  • Width: 31 inches
  • Weight: 45 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 350 pounds

Those looking for a sit-on-top at the more bargain end of the scale could consider the Emotion Spitfire 9ft kayak. It's durable, made from inexpensive plastic materials, and has scupper holes for drainage.

It comes with a padded seat with separate padded backrest and molded footrests. There's deck space for storage at the stern with a cover to go over the top. There are also molded paddle holders and handles on the side to make carrying around easier.

The biggest problem with this affordable sit on top is that stability & tracking isn’t the best. If you’re just paddling around leisurely on relatively flat waters, you should be fine. But if you’re powering ahead then the tracking issue can increase in intensity.

> In-depth review of the Spitfire

Pros

  • Budget kayak
  • Easy to maneuver
  • Ideal for beginners

Cons

  • Tracking isn't the best

7: Old Town Twister

  • Length: 11 foot 3 inches
  • Width: 30 inches
  • Weight: 46 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 275 pounds

The Old Town Twister can be great for recreational use and ideal for using at the beach, as well as lakes and rivers.

It’s designed to be easy to use and could be a good choice for families with kids or anyone learning to paddle, as it has a spacious, open seating area that can be easy to climb in and out of.

It has a molded seat and footrests and there’s space to bring along a dry bag with the bungee storage deck behind the seat. It also benefits from having a built-in cup holder and a paddle holder to keep your paddle safe if you want to jump on and off for swimming.

This is a stable, lightweight craft that’s also made from durable, abrasion resistant high density polyethylene (UV resistant). It has the added benefit of a skid plate to help protect the keel if it’s dragged along the ground. But there's no proper seat so it might not be the most comfortable for long trips.

Pros

  • Great for beginners
  • Good for beach use and flat water 
  • Rear gear storage deck

Cons

  • Molded seat only

8: Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120

Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 OrangePin
  • Length: 12 foot 3 inches
  • Width: 30 inches
  • Weight: 63 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 350 pounds

The Tarpon 120 is a 12 foot sit-on-top with a high capacity that could be a good choice for larger paddlers, or if you plan to head out with a lot of gear. It has some great features. But it's not the cheapest kayak.

There is plenty of room for your gear, with a large storage deck with bungee cords at the stern and a large storage hatch at the bow. There’s a second, smaller storage hatch in the center that can be useful for small accessories or valuables. 

The Tarpon has a padded, slightly elevated, fully adjustable seat, which can make longer paddling trips a little more comfortable. While this can be a great craft for a camping trip, it can also be ideal for fishing, with gear tracks along the sides so you can attach fishing rod holders or other fishing accessories. 

This yak is built for stability and maneuverability and can be a good choice for a range of water types, from flat water to rivers and oceans. Intermediate paddlers may find this more comfortable and it can offer more speed than some of the shorter, wider boats.

Pros

  • Incredibly comfortable seat
  • Great for longer trips
  • Ideal for fishing
  • Excellent storage

Cons

  • Not cheap

9: Ocean Kayak Frenzy Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak

Ocean Kayak Frenzy Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak Yellow - Best SOT KayakPin
  • Length: 9 ft
  • Width: 31 inches
  • Weight: 44 pounds (shipping weight)
  • Weight Capacity: 325 pounds

The Frenzy is a compact solo kayak and great all-rounder, crafted from high density polyethylene. With a stable hull for surf and calm waters and decent tracking (with its Tri Form hull design), it's great for beginners.

This versatile sit on top comes with a removable padded seat with back support. It can also be adjusted, which is ideal for those longer paddling sessions. But it's only 18-inches wide in the cockpit, so it might not be the best kayak for larger paddlers.

At only 43lbs, this 9ft kayak is one of the easier hard-shelled ‘yaks to transport around. It has handle at the bow and stern and on both sides and could fit in the back of most pickups.

There are no dry storage hatches. However, there are two tank wells, front and rear.

More on the Ocean Frenzy

Pros

  • Easy to maneuver 
  • Fits in the back of a pickup
  • Great on surf and flatwater
  • Storage deck

Cons

  • Narrow seating area

10: Vibe Yellowfin 100

  • Length: 10 foot
  • Width: 32 inches
  • Weight: 57 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 375 pounds

The Vibe Yellowfin is a fishing sit-on-top that is built for stability. With its short, wide hull it can be easy to maneuver, as well as transport, making it a great choice for beginners. Or if you’re looking for a compact, convenient fishing vessel (it has flush mounted holders). But it's great stability makes it a little slow.

Despite its compact size, it actually has a pretty high capacity, which can be useful if you’re planning to haul heavier fishing gear. But it can be equally handy if you’re a larger paddler. 

The mesh fabric seat is designed to be sturdy and can be adjusted. It also allows you to sit higher, giving you improved visibility.

As for gear storage, there’s a storage well at the stern with bungee cords for security and two sealed hatches with bag inserts so you can keep small items safely stored. 

Extra features include four rod holders. It also comes with a paddle, meaning you can get out on the water right away. 

Pros

  • Extremely stable
  • Fishing rod holders
  • Ideal for small rivers and lakes

Cons

  • Not the fastest

11: Sun Dolphin Bali SS 10-Foot Sit-On Top Kayak

Sun Dolphin Bali SS 10ft - Best SOT KayakPin
  • Weight Capacity: 375 pounds
  • Width: 30 inches
  • Weight: 44 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 250 pounds

This 10ft kayak has more storage options than the others and excellent stability on slow moving rivers.

There's dry storage at the stern. There's also a small open storage area at the bow, with bungees. You'll also find a ‘Portable Accessory Carrier’. The PAC ties onto the rear of the kayak and floats behind. 

The seatback is padded, as are the edges of the cockpit to help protect the thighs. There's an adjustable foot brace and a paddle holder. But it's not designed for comfort, with no seat bottom. So you may want to invest in extra padding for paddling long distances.

It's made from high density polyethylene to add durability to your Sun Dolphin journey on the water.

Pros

  • Portable Accessory Carrier
  • Lightweight kayak
  • Affordable price

Cons

  • Not comfortable for long trips

12: Lifetime Manta Tandem Sit on Top Kayak with Paddles and Backrests

Lifetime Manta Tandem Sit on Top Kayak with Paddles and Back Rests - Best SOT KayakPin
  • Length: 10 ft
  • Width: 36 inches
  • Weight: 60 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 500 pounds

If you’re looking for a tandem sit-on-top kayak, the Lifetime Manta is one that should be on your final comparison list.

Leg room might be an issue if you're tall, as there's not much deck space for two large adults in this compact tandem kayak compared to other tandem kayaks. 

It comes with basic paddles and backrests. But the seats are only designed to be comfortable for short trips - it's not a high performance kayak.

There's room for a child in the center seat. But this is not its intended use. Or you could use it for storage or for paddling solo. There's not much space for storage but there is a bottle holder for each seat.

Full Manta review here

Pros

  • Compact
  • Easy to paddle
  • Two seats
  • Two paddles included

Cons

  • Limited storage
  • Not built for comfort

Advantages Of A Sit On Top Kayak, Why Choose One?

As the name suggests, sit-on-tops are designed to be, well, sat on top of! The open cockpit means the paddler is not enclosed.

Easy To Get On And Off

One of the big advantages is just how easy it is to get on and off a SOT. Rather than having to loosen and tighten the spray deck around your waist. And having to climb in and out of a lowered cockpit, you can just step onto and off sit-on-top kayaks much more easily.

The open cockpit is also easier to climb on and off of from the water. A lot of people love to go swimming off a sit-on-top due to the fact they are so easily accessible, making them ideal for recreational use.

Less Chance Of Feeling Enclosed & Claustrophobic

This can be a big one for some people. Because sit-on-tops have an open air cockpit, the paddler may not feel as restricted as someone in an enclosed space. This is often exacerbated by thoughts of rolling over and being trapped under water.

Most types of kayaks are pretty stable and it actually takes quite a lot to capsize. However, if you do, a sit-on-top can very easily be mounted from the water in which you were dumped. In actual fact, enclosed cockpits are pretty safe too, but if you do leave your cockpit (and not Eskimo roll), they are harder to get back into again (compared to a SOT).

Keep Cool In The Summer

If you're out on a hot day, you're going to be glad you aren't enclosed in a covered cockpit.

SOTs help to keep you cool in the open air. Make sure you wear your must have life jacket and bring the sun cream (more on this later) to improve your overall safety.

Room To Carry More Stuff

Aside from perhaps having a small hatch to keep stuff dry, everything you carry will be out in the open. This means there are less restrictions as to what you can carry. Want to bring a tent, or lots of fishing gear? You won’t have an enclosed cockpit limiting the size of the gear you want to carry.

They may be able to carry more gear than some recreational sit inside kayaks.

Mom and Son SOT KayakPin

Disadvantages Of A Sit On Top Kayak

Can Get Cold And Wet

This is another biggie. And it’s going to depend on where you are in the world. In fact, the climate of where you are is probably going to determine whether or not a SOT is for you.

SOTs openly expose you to nature’s elements. If it’s cold outside, you’re going to feel cold, especially if it's windy. And, given that you’ll be paddling all the time, you may end up inadvertently paddling the contents of the river, lake or the stream onto your body. Water can also come through the scupper holes.

Now, if you’re in a hot or warm climate, this might not bother you too much. In fact, if it’s really hot, this might be pleasurable! But in cooler climates, getting wet isn’t much fun. So this reason alone could push you to go for a sit inside kayak based on the above.

However, there are some awesome wetproof (and dryproof) suits around today, and they will help you to feel more comfortable, even in the cold and wet.

Cannot Eskimo Roll

Sitting out in the open means that Eskimo rolling is out of the question. The thing is, it isn’t really relevant in this situation. SOTs are generally less likely to roll anyway. And as we said before, even if you do, they are so much easier to clamber back on board again.

One thing that should be noted. Oftentimes sit-inside kayaks can offer better support leg support when trying to paddle fast. Although some of the newer SOTs certainly give sit inside models a run for their money!

Leg support and a lower center of gravity also mean you have more control using a sit-in, as the paddler sits lower in the cockpit. 

Watch For Sunburn On The Legs!

Sit-on-tops are fully exposed to the elements which means more sun exposure . So please make sure you have a good sunscreen applied to exposed areas of your body. If you’re out paddling around, having fun exploring, fishing or taking a swim, it is so easy to lose track of time and forget about this basic ritual.

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Depending on where you are in the world, and your tolerance to the sun, your skin can get burnt in just a few minutes.

Before you even step onto your SOT, apply plenty of sun cream, and make sure it is of a high factor (factor 30 or higher – bare minimum). And keep your skin covered. Many materials can help protect your skin from UV rays.

Even if it’s cloudy, you can still get burnt, and burnt bad! Given the fact you will be sitting on top of water all the time, which reflects the sun’s rays back onto you, sun cream is very important.

Check the cream’s guidelines, but generally the cream should be applied every 2 hours or so. Make sure you do this, especially if you go swimming as part of your paddle!

Wrapping Up

Our top pick for the best sit-on-top kayak is the Wilderness Systems Targa 100 because it has excellent features that make it more comfortable. It also has the added bonus of a built-in cooler that you can take ashore with you: perfect for waterside picnics and boat-in campgrounds.

A great alternative is our runner-up pick, and one of the best recreational sit-on-tops, the Perception Hi Life, with its high level of stability and versatility (it can easily double as a fishing yak).

Remember to think about where you want to paddle and who or what you want to bring along with you. This can help you find the best kayak for your particular needs.


Do you have or are thinking of getting a SOT? Let us know about it below

Best Sit On Top Kayak VerticalPin
Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 9 comments
Linjo

I really liked the Emotion Spitfire Kayak(5th one), it definitely will suit my purpose. Unfortunately its unavailable in amazon, can we buy it else where?

Reply
Matt

What is the best 13 foot kayak to paddle long distance? I am currently paddling 20miles on long sessions on a 12 foot ocean kayak scrambler.
Is the hobie quest a good paddle option

Reply
Jay

A lot of these kayaks aren’t sold anymore…Seems so lazy to just update the article title to “2020” without putting in any effort.

Reply
    Kayak Guru

    Hi Jay,

    Thanks for commenting. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 affecting supply logistics since March, a lot of the kayaks are unavailable to buy at our favorite stores right now. We are updating where we can and are hoping all supply chains improve soon!

    Reply
maureen conner

I bought the Emotion Spitfire on this recommendation and was totally disappointed. Didn’t track worth a darn and if you stopped paddling it would spin. Shame ‘cuz it had nice features but what good is it if it won’t go straight.

Reply
Anonymous

I am confused. You show the Jackson tripper 12 as a sit on top. I go to their web site and they show a sit in. Same name and weight. How would I know what I was getting? How can I trust review or builder with this confusion or potential for error.

Reply
Russell ellison

I am confused. You show the Jackson tripper 12 as a sit on top. I go to their web site and they show a sit in. Same name and weight. How would I know what I was getting? How can I trust review or builder with this confusion or potential for error.

Reply

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