The 6 Best Sit on Top Kayaks for beginners in 2023 (For All Budgets)

Sit-on-top kayaks, also known as SOTs for short, have grown in popularity in the kayaking community in recent years, particularly with beginners. They’re the most ideal kind of kayak for learning how to kayak or to improve your kayaking skills.

The main reason for this popularity is the way the kayak is designed. Because sit-on-top kayaks are built without an enclosed cockpit, they’re very easy to board from the water. They are also easy to maneuver and offer a lot of safety and stability that many beginners need.

All these benefits combined with how affordable these kayaks are, make them the go-to kayak for beginners. However, if you’re new to kayaking and looking to buy your first sit-on-top kayak, the choices can be overwhelming especially when you don’t know what you’re looking for.

We’ve compiled and reviewed some of the best sit-on-top kayaks for beginners that are currently available on amazon to narrow down your options and help you make the right decision.

Comparison Table – The Best Sit On Top Kayaks for Beginners

KayakMaterialSizeWeightMax Capacity Style
Pelican Sentinel 100XRAM-X with UV finish9’6″ X 30″44 lbs.275 lbs.Fishing, Recreational
Sun Dolphin Journey 10High-Density Polyethylene10′ X 29.5″44 lbs.250 lbs.Fishing
Sevylor Quikpak K1Reinforced PVC8’7″ X 36″18 lbs.400 lbs.Recreational
Pelican BasscreekHigh-Density Polyethylene10′ X 30.5″50 lbs.325 lbs.Fishing
Perception Tribe 9.5High-Density Polyethylene9’5″ X 31.25″46 lbs.300 lbs.Recreational
Perception Pescador 12High-Density Polyethylene12′ X 31.25″64 lbs.375 lbs.Recreational, Fishing

List of The Best Sit-On-Top Kayaks for Beginners in 2021

1. Best Overall – Pelican Sentinel 100X

The top recommendation for the best sit-on-top kayak on our list is the Pelican Sentinel 100X. It’s mainly designed for fishing purposes but it’s also perfect for recreational use and beginners.

It’s constructed using Pelican’s material RAM-X which consists of a triple-layer of high-density polyethylene. This makes it extremely durable and UV resistant.

It has a large cockpit which allows for easy entrance from the water. The design is wide with a multi-chine flat bottom hull which provides great stability and tracking. It’s suitable for paddling on calm, flat waters.

It’s light in weight, weighing a total of just 44 pounds, which makes it easy to transport. It also comes with four carry handles positioned on the bow, stern, and gunwales to make carrying it a lot more convenient.

This kayak comes with many other great features that make it more comfortable such as paddle tie-down and molded footrests that can be adjusted to fit the paddler’s needs. It has a large seating area with an extra-thick, adjustable seat and an anti-slip floor mat for added grip.

As for storage, the pelican sentinel features a 13L removal storage compartment with secure bungee cords and it has a maximum weight capacity of 275 pounds.

Pros Vs Cons


  • It offers great stability for beginners
  • It’s light and easy to transport
  • It’s made from a durable and UV resistant material
  • It has a secure, easily accessible, and open storage area
  • It’s constructed with a comfortable seating system


  • The length of the kayak doesn’t allow for great speed
  • It doesn’t come with a paddle

Bottom line

This Pelican Sentinel sit-on-top kayak would be the best option for you if you’re looking for an overall better than average recreational kayak that combines durability, stability, and comfort.

2. Runner Up – Sun Dolphin Journey 10

The second recommendation on the list is the Journey 10 kayak from Sun Dolphin. It’s specifically designed for fishing with extra features to satisfy the angler’s needs

It’s made from a high-density polyethylene material which makes it UV-resistant, durable, and able to withstand strong impact from hitting rocks. It’s more ideal for kayaking in still flat water.

The open cockpit allows for easy entry and the wider hull frame provides more stability and safety for a beginner. It’s also light in weight and easy to carry because it comes with retractable carrying braces.

This sit-on-top kayak ensures the angler’s comfort with a comfortable padded seat, adjustable foot braces, and built-in protective thigh pads.

Since it’s designed for fishing, it comes with multiple storage compartments for your fishing gear. However, it has a maximum weight capacity of 250 pounds., so you might need to take note of the amount of gear and fish you bring aboard in order not to overload the kayak.

What also makes it great for fishing, is that it comes with a portable accessory carrier that can be used as extra storage as well as two built-in flush mounts and one swivel fishing rod holder.

Pros Vs Cons


  • It’s durable and UV resistant
  • It’s light in weight and easy to transport
  • It has multiple storage compartments
  • It comes with a portable accessory carrier
  • It has two built-in fishing rod holders
  • It comes with a comfortable padded seat
  • It provides more safety with protective thigh pads


  • It’s not the best when it comes to speed
  • It has a low weight capacity

Bottom line

This sit-on-top kayak from Sun Dolphin would be the option for you if you’re new to kayak fishing and looking for a high-quality fishing kayak that satisfies all your needs as an angler.

3. Best on a Budget – Sevylor Quikpak K1

This inflatable sit-on-top kayak from Sevylor offers many great benefits at a very affordable price. The Quikpak K1 is perfect for recreational use on calm and flat water.

Despite having a low price, it’s made from a high-quality reinforced PVC material that makes it durable and abrasion-resistant.

It has a rigid floor, flat hull bottom, and multi-chamber design that allows for stability and safety.

Since it’s an inflatable kayak, it’s very easy to transport and store. It even comes with a handy backpack to help you carry your kayak anywhere you want. It also comes with a double-bladed paddle that can break down for compact storage.

It’s a lot lighter in weight than rigid kayaks, weighing only 18 pounds. However, it still has a very high weight capacity of 400 pounds.

It fast and easy to inflate as it comes with its own high-pressure pump. More importantly, it will not accidentally deflate or leak while you’re on the water as it’s designed with an airtight system and double lock valves.

Pros Vs Cons


  • It’s very light and portable
  • It’s can be easy to inflate and deflate
  • It has an airtight system to prevent leaking
  • It comes with a pump, backpack, and double-bladed paddle
  • It has a high weight capacity
  • It’s budget-friendly


  • It’s not suitable for rough waters
  • It’s prone to get punctured by rocks
  • It’s not as stable as rigid kayaks

Bottom line

This inflatable kayak would be the best option for you if you’re a beginner on a budget and looking for a convenient kayak supplied with everything you would need to get out on the water.

4. Pelican Basscreek

This sit-on-top fishing kayak is yet another high-quality model from Pelican. The Basscreek kayak is perfect for many beginners and anglers who value stability over speed while paddling.

This kayak is constructed from high-density polyethylene which makes it highly durable. It also comes with retractable carrying handles to facilitate transport.

The large open cockpit allows for easy entry and the flat bottom hull design allows for unmatched stability and excellent tracking.

It has a lot of storage areas as it comes with built-in bottle holders, a 4-inch dry hatch with a storage bag, a quick-lock hatch, and a mesh deck cover. It has a maximum weight capacity of 324 pounds. to carry all the gear you need.

It very comfortable as it comes with an Ergofit G2 seating system that includes a padded seat cushion and an adjustable backrest cushion which provides the best support when paddling for long hours.

It also comes with several fishing accessories such as swivel rod holders and flush mount rod holders.

Pros Vs Cons


  • It’s made from durable materials
  • It has more stability and maneuverability
  • It comes with a big storage area
  • It has a high weight capacity
  • It comes with fishing accessories
  • It has a well-padded seat with an adjustable backrest


  • It’s can be heavy in weight
  • It’s more expensive compared to other kayaks
  • It’s not the best when it comes to speed

Bottom line

This Pelican Basscreek kayak would be the best option for you don’t mind spending a little extra on a high-quality kayak to help you grow your skills as a kayaker and also as an angler.

5. Perception Tribe 9.5

This recreational kayak is one of Perception’s bestselling kayaks. The Perception Tribe kayak is perfect for comfortably paddling in slow-moving rivers, flat-water lakes, and ponds, or coastal waters with light waves.

It’s made from high-density polyethylene which provides high UV and abrasion resistance. It’s moderately light in weight and easy to carry using the toggle handles on the bow and stern.

This kayak offers the most comfort as it comes with a ventilated ergonomic seat with a thick padded cushion and adjustable backrest. It also has molded-in thigh pads and multiple footrests that increase your stability.

It has multiple storage areas that include two open storage hatches in the front and back that are big enough to carry a cooler or any gear and an easily accessible center hatch with a built-in bag and a protective lid to carry personal items. It also comes with bungee cords for added security.

It has a lot of thoughtful features that will ensure you have a fun time on the water as it comes with a built-in drink holder and an integrated mount system for your mobile phone or camera.

Pros Vs cons


  • It provides the most comfort and stability
  • It’s easy to carry and transport
  • It comes with an adjustable seat and multiple foot braces
  • It’s durable and UV and abrasion-resistant
  • It comes with a built-in drink holder and mount system
  • It has a big storage space with multiple storage options in the front, center, and back


  • It doesn’t come with a paddle
  • The drain plug position is not centered

Bottom line

The Perception Tribe kayak would be the best option for you if you’re looking for a fun kayak that combines good performance and comfort.

6. Perception Pescador 12

Another fantastic sit-on-top model from perception is the Pescador 12 kayak. It’s versatile which makes it equally suitable for recreational use and for fishing.

It’s made from durable rotomolded polyethylene, so it’s leakproof and UV resistant.

It’s easy to transport as it comes with handles positioned on the bow and stern. It also has a replaceable skid plate on the bottom that allows you to drag the kayak to transport it without worrying about damaging the bottom.

The longer length adds to its speed while the deck and wide hull design allow for a top-level performance combining good tracking and high stability for casting and reeling while you’re fishing.

This model comes with adjustable foot braces instead of footwells to improve your leg position and increase your comfort. The seat is ventilated and well-padded on the bottom and backrest.

It has an abundance of open storage spaces including a deep tank well with secure bungee cords and a large dry hatch in the front of the kayak. It also has a very high weight capacity of 375 pounds.

It adapted for fishing as it comes with built-in rod holders behind the seat as well as two gear tracks for any additional accessories. So, you’ll not need to drill any holes in the kayak.

Pros Vs cons


  • Its length allows it to be faster than most sit-on kayaks
  • It offers great stability and tracking
  • It’s highly resistant to damage
  • It’s easy to transport
  • It comes built-in rod holder behind the seat
  • It comes with dual gear tracks
  • It has a comfortable ventilated seat


  • It doesn’t come with a paddle
  • It’s not recommended to stand up on the kayak while fishing

Bottom line

This Perception Pescador 12 kayak would be the best option for you if you’re looking for a speedy sit-on kayak without sacrificing stability or comfort.

How to Choose the Best Sit-On-Top Kayak?

kayaks to show how to choose the best sit on top kayaks for beginners

First, you need to learn more about the basics of the sit-on-top kayak’s design.

Sit-on-top kayaks are designed without an enclosed cockpit which enables the paddler to sit directly above the kayak’s deck instead of being positioned inside the kayak or below the water level.

Everything from foot braces to the seatback is also positioned on top of the kayak’s deck with no way to reach the inside of the kayak except through storage hatch openings.

They are manufactured with four holes in the floor of the kayak known as scupper holes. The purpose of these holes is to act as a draining system for the water that comes on the deck of the kayak and prevent it from pooling below the paddler.

The design of a sit-on-top kayak has many advantages, but also some disadvantages. Let’s break them down.

The Pros and Cons of Sit-On-Top Kayaks


They’re user-friendly – They’re easy to steer which makes them ideal for kayaking in flat calm waters if you’re new to kayaking.

They’re very safe – They’re known to be unsinkable because of the lack of a cockpit. They also have scupper holes that let the water drain out in case you accidentally capsize.

They offer a high degree of stability – They have a high center of gravity and they have a relatively wide hull design. This gives them a higher degree of initial stability which allows the kayak to remain upright.

They’re easier to board — There’s no cockpit to lower down, so they can be easily re-entered from the water. You will be able to pull yourself back up onto the deck and reposition yourself for paddling with very little effort.

They’re suited for tandem use — Sit-on kayaks can carry hundreds of pounds of weight. Many of them are rated safe for 500 or more pounds meaning they can carry two or three paddlers.

They can be easily customized — Many sit-on kayaks can easily be modified to fit your wants and needs. You can add accessory fishing rod holders, GPS devices or cameras, rudders, and even motors.

They come with various pedal and rudder options — Some sit-on kayaks can be built with foot-driven pedals and hand-operated rudders. This allows for higher speed, better tracking and maneuverability, and overall more control.

They’re cheaper in price – A lot of quality sit-on-top kayaks come at a very affordable price which is perfect if you’re a beginner buying your first kayak.


They’re not ideal for rough water and harsh conditions — Since there’s no cockpit, there’s nothing to stop water from splashing in the kayak, so they offer little to no protection against the elements.

They have limited dry storage space — Sit-on kayaks usually have at least one dry storage hatch and it’s might be very small in size. However, this differs from one brand to another.

They’re very heavy to carry out of the water — They’re made from heavy materials, so it can be a struggle to transport your sit-on-top kayak.

They’re relatively slow-moving on water– Because of their wide beam, they can be slow which would require the paddler to excrete more effort to push them forward.

Now that you know the basics of sit-on-to kayaks, let’s take a look at the key factors you need to keep in mind when buying your first sit-on-top kayak.

You can learn more about it in my comparison of Sit-in vs sit-on-top kayaks here.

Factors You Need to Consider When Buying a Sit-On-Top Kayak


You need to consider the material used in manufacturing a kayak as it has a great impact on its performance and durability. Sit-on-top kayaks are typically made from plastic materials such as high-density polyethylene or ABS.

Polyethylene is more commonly used because it is abundant and affordable. It’s heavy but flexible and somewhat abrasion-resistant. However, it can be susceptible to UV damage, so you need to store your kayak in a dark place.

ABS, on the other hand, is a thermoplastic polymer. It offers more resistance against UV light so it’s a lot more durable which makes it a little more expensive than polyethylene. It’s also lighter in weight.

There are other kinds of materials used to make sit-on-top kayaks but not as popular such as Kevlar, carbon fiber, and fiberglass. These materials are much lighter in weight than plastic and usually more durable. They’re also significantly more expensive which is not ideal for beginners. You can learn everything about Fiberglass kayaks here.

Weight and Weight Capacity

You need to consider the weight of the kayak itself as well as the amount of weight it can withstand. It’s important to be aware of this to avoid overloading your kayak.

A sit-on-top kayak is generally heavy in weight which might make it harder to transport. However, they have a high weight capacity so they can handle carrying more than one paddler and any gear you might need to bring on board.

Shape and Design

A kayak’s design has a great impact on its performance. When choosing the length of your sit-on-top kayak, you need to keep the following in mind

A kayak that’s longer in length will be better for kayaking with more speed. While a kayak that is shorter in length will be better for more maneuverability and stability.

You also need to keep in mind the width of the beam of your kayak. It is recommended for the beam to be wide enough to handle rough waves and thin enough to maintain the kayak’s speed.

Storage and Onboard Space

Typically, the bigger your kayak is, the more space you’ll have to carry your gear.

Most sit-on-top kayaks have an open deck with dedicated tank wells, bungee tie-down areas, and waterproof hatches that all allow for easy access.

Stability and Safety

Sit-on-top kayaks have a wider beam so they have a higher center of gravity, which means they have a higher degree of primary stability.

When it comes to safety, sit-on-top kayaks are the safest kayak because they’re easy to re-enter from the water in case of capsizing.

Paddling Environment

You need to take into consideration the kind of weather you’ll be paddling in. Sit-On-top kayaks are generally more suited for recreational use on flat water and warmer weather.

Seating and Comfort

In sit-on-top kayaks, the seat is positioned higher above the water level. It’s can be a built-in seat or it can be a removable seat that’s attached to the deck.

You can easily purchase a seat or a padded cushion for your sit-on-top kayak to increase your comfort while paddling. You can find the best kayak seats here. We tested dozens of seats before settling on these, and they are definitely the most comfortable, practical, and the best value for your money, so definitely check them out.


The price of sit-on-top kayaks varies depending on several factors including the construction, materials, size, load capacity, comfort features, and the intended use. Generally speaking, sit-on-top kayaks tend to be less expensive than other kinds of kayaks.

If cost is the deciding factor for you, make sure to also check out our guide to the best kayaks for under $500 here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Sit-On Kayaks Better Than Sit-In Kayaks?

Sit-on-top kayaks are considered better if you’re new to kayaking. They’re easier to use, cheap, relatively safer which makes them more suited for casual use. While sit-in kayaks are considered better if you have more experience and skill as a paddler as they’re suited for touring, surf, and paddling longer distances. Which one is better mostly depends on your level of experience and how you intended to use the kayak.

When Is It Best to Use a Sit-On-Top Kayak?

It’s best to use a sit-on-top kayak if you’re a casual paddler or if you’re completely new to kayaking and want to learn how to kayak. They’re good for fishing and many of them are specifically designed to suit the angler’s needs. They’re also perfect for families because there are safe enough for kids to use them.

How to You Stay Dry in A Sit-On-Top Kayak?

In order to stay dry in a sit-on-top kayak, you need to dress in water-repellent clothing and stay away from cotton material as it absorbs more water. You can also try to make your paddle strokes more shallow to reduce the splashing of water and avoid paddling on rainy or windy days.

How to Get Water Out of a Sit On Top Kayak?

The most effective method is to drain the water out of a sit-on-top kayak is through the scupper holes. You can remove the scupper plugs if you’re using them to close the holes and the water will drain away on its own. There are other methods you can use to manually expel water out of your kayak at a quick such as bilge pumps or highly absorbent sponges.

Why Are Sit-On-Top Kayaks Good for Fishing?

A lot of fishing kayaks are sit-on-top and some sit-on-top kayaks are even specifically designed for anglers. Sit-on kayaks offer a good range of motion for better casting, trolling, and reeling in fish. They come with standing platforms to allow kayak anglers to stand up while fishing. They also come with built-in rod holders and have more space on the top of the deck to attach the needed fishing gear.

Are Sit-On-Top Kayaks Pet-Friendly?

Yes, Sit-on-top kayaks are pet-friendly. That is because they have more space on deck for the paddlers and their pets, so they won’t hinder your ability to steer the kayak. They’re also very stable and safe due to the lack of a cockpit which makes it easy for pets to climb on to.

Helpful Resources

Recreational Kayaking: The Ultimate Guide By Ken Whiting (you can get this book on Amazon here)

Kayak your way to Freedom

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