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9 Best Sit on Top Kayaks of 2023: Your Summer Fun Awaits



Sit on top kayaks are designed for paddling excursions of all kinds, from weekend fishing getaways to family vacations at the beach. The best sit on top kayaks are stable, easy to use and won’t tip over easily.

One of the biggest advantages of a sit on top vs. sit in kayak is the extra room for gear or paddling companions such as dogs or kids. While it might seem counter-intuitive to beginners, sit-on-top kayaks actually provide better stability, thanks to a wider, flatter hull and self-bailing “scupper holes” that prevent the kayak from filling with water.

Sit on top fishing kayaks, likewise, can be loaded with professional features such as foot pedals — or even motors — designed to quickly and quietly sneak up on fish.

Sit on top kayak reviews American Paddler’s picks

Check out American Paddler’s review of the 9 best sit on top kayaks for 2023:


Perception Pescador Pilot 12.0Fishing12'5"475 lbs
Ocean Malibu Two XLTandem13'4"425 lbs
Lifetime Tioga 120 (with paddle)Budget10'275 lbs
Wilderness Systems RipperLightweight8'225 lbs
Ocean Kayak Venus 11People who like pink10'8"225 lbs
Pelican Sentinel 100xBeginners9'6"275 lbs
Lifetime Youth WaveKids6'130 lbs
Perception Tribe 11.5Recreation11'325 lbs
Intex Excursion ProInflatable12'7"400 lbs

Best Sit on Top Fishing Kayak

Perception Pescador Pilot 12.0

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Check latest price on AmazonSit on top kayak fishing is quickly growing into America’s next favorite hobby. The sport’s popularity has exploded over the past five years — and especially now, given our need for social distancing.

While most fishing kayaks are sit on tops, thanks to their superior stability and flexibility, the Perception Pescador Pilot 12.0 is a cut above the rest. In addition to an affordable price point, the Pilot has long been Perception’s flagship fishing kayak — and for good reason.

This superior sit on top fishing kayak offers rock-solid safety and stability — even while standing and casting — and a host of features, including Perception’s innovative Pilot Drive foot pedal system. The optional propeller system seamlessly switches from forward to reverse, and the wide-open deck offers plenty of customization options for tackle, gear or even a cooler. A rudder in the kayak’s stern is controlled with a single hand, meaning you can steer and hold your pole at the same time.

Exceedingly comfortable, thanks to the Pilot’s mesh-breathing and adjustable “captain’s chair,” this boat is built to be on the water for hours. The 12-foot version is designed for a single kayak fisherman, but a generous tankwell means you can easily bring a canine companion.

Among the best sit on top fishing kayaks, the Perception Pescador Pilot 12.0 is worth a serious look for any kayak angler.

Perception Pescador Pilot 12.0 features

  • Safe, stable, one-piece construction allows standing while casting
  • Four molded-in rod holders and generous rear tankwell storage
  • Foot-controlled propeller system or traditional paddle options
  • Comfortable and customizable with gear tracks and tackle storage

Best Tandem Sit on Top Kayak

Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL

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Check latest price on AmazonIf you’re thinking of paddling with a buddy, a tandem sit on top kayak can be attractive. Besides being more stable and easier to get in and out of, sit-on-tops are often more comfortable, given their roomier decks.

Perfect for couples, friends or even whole families, the Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL is the unrivaled king of two-person sit on top kayaks. One of the most popular dual kayaks on the market for nearly a generation, the Ocean Malibu Two XL is capable of carrying two adults and a small child or dog.

Rated for up to 500 pounds, this versatile 2-person sit on top kayak can handle almost anything — rivers, lakes, surf or light waves. Adjustable, high-back seats and molded-in foot wells mean paddlers of all sizes will be comfortable, and optional, sealable hatches can keep your wallet and phone dry.

The Malibu Two XL is easily transported, thanks to its skid plate, paddle holder and front, rear and side handles. That’s a good thing, given that this boat clocks in at 68 pounds.

Highly recommended for families, the Ocean Malibu Two XL is the quintessential weekend getaway boat. You can’t go wrong with this tandem sit on top kayak.

Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL features

  • Rated for up to 500 pounds and capable of seating two adults and a child
  • Can be paddled solo (with lots of gear) or tandem
  • Time-tested durability and stability
  • Adjustable seats and multiple foot wells provide comfort for any size paddler

Best Cheap Sit on Top Kayak

Lifetime Tioga 120 (with paddle)

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Check latest price on AmazonGreat for weekend warriors not looking to break the bank, the Lifetime Tioga 120 offers a comfortable, stable experience at an affordable price. One of the best cheap sit on top kayaks out there, the Tioga’s high-back seat and multiple footrests make it an accessible option for paddlers of all sizes.

The Tioga comes with a paddle (and paddle holder), which saves money, but doesn’t cut corners on stability or speed. With a flat, stable bottom and deep hull, the Tioga won’t tip easily or drift from course. It’s designed for a solo paddler on calm, open waters (think lakes and streams). The front, rear and side carry handles make it easily transportable — even for a single person.

The Tioga packs a few nice features for a low-cost, budget sit on top kayak. For one thing, its center 6-inch hatch keeps valuables dry, and it’s got bungees for gear storage in the bow and stern. And, bonus, a cupholder keeps that indispensable cold one always within reach.

The Tioga isn’t a fishing kayak, but its durable polyethylene construction is easily modified with gear rails and tackle.

Lifetime Tioga 120 (with paddle) features

  • Inexpensive, entry level sit on top kayak great for beginners
  • Comes with a paddle and holder, plus easy-grab handles on all sides
  • High back seat and multiple footrests for long, comfortable outings
  • Three places to store your gear (front and rear bungees, plus 6-inch hatch)

Best Lightweight Sit on Top Kayak

Wilderness Systems Ripper

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Check latest price on AmazonWhen you’re a solo paddler carrying a heavy boat, a lightweight sit on top kayak can make a world of difference.

Let’s be honest. The worst part of owning a kayak is simply getting it to and from the water. Then hoisting it on top of the car. Then dragging it down again. By the time you’re finished, paddling itself can seem like a chore.

At just 39 pounds, the Wilderness Systems Ripper is among the lightest sit on top kayaks available — and it’s a great boat in its own right. Fast, playful and stable, the Ripper can handle coastal waters, light surf, lakes or slow rivers with ease. Six self-bailing scupper holes drain water quickly, and a hatch behind the seat keeps your valuables dry.

Lightweight sit on top kayaks should be easy to transport, and the Ripper is. Molded side handles and front and rear T-handles make it quick to grab your kayak from the car, throw it in the water and go.

While the Ripper is designed for a single paddler, its adjustable seat and multiple footrests mean it can accommodate all types of riders — including a dog, if that’s your thing.

Wilderness Systems Ripper features

  • High-quality, durable and lightweight sit on top kayak
  • Wide, stable deck and self-bailing scupper holes
  • 8’ long, 39 pounds and a 225-pound carrying capacity
  • Comes in yellow, red or blue options

Best Pink Sit on Top Kayak

Ocean Kayak Venus 11

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Check latest price on AmazonLadies, this one’s for you. We’re not saying you’d buy a kayak just because it’s pink — but it’s actually a rare option, believe it or not.

Thankfully, the fine folks at Ocean Kayak kept the finer sex in mind when designing this boat. Not only is the Ocean Kayak Venus 11 among the best pink sit on top kayaks, it’s one of the best kayaks for women, period.

Lightweight, comfortable and easy to paddle, the Venus 11 features a super-stable hull and low-deck profile designed with a woman’s center of gravity in mind. Its high-back seat features additional lumbar support for hours of pain-free paddling, and a paddle holder with an easy pull-tab release means your paddle stays where you want at all times.

The kayak itself features plenty of storage options, including a 6” locking hatch for valuables, bungeed tankwell, cupholder and a deck mount perfect for MP3 players. And at just 44 pounds, it’s easy to carry.

Like Ocean’s other sit on top kayaks, the Venus 11 is made to handle moderate waves and can be paddled on lakes, rivers or light surf. If you’re looking for a pink kayak, you can’t miss here.

Ocean Kayak Venus 11 features

  • Among the best pink sit on top kayaks for women
  • Designed with a woman’s center of gravity in mind
  • Comfortable, adjustable high back seat with lumbar support
  • Lightweight, easy to carry with lots of storage

Best Sit on Top Kayak for Beginners

Pelican Sentinel 100x

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Check latest price on AmazonSmooth ride? Comfortable seat? Stable hull? Check, check and check.

Long a trusted brand among newer paddlers, Pelican’s Sentinel 100x offers everything a beginner kayaker needs — and then some. With a sleek design that rivals more expensive boats, the Sentinel 100x doesn’t look like a sit on top kayak for beginners — even if it is exceedingly user friendly.

Extra wide and stable, the Sentinel 100x lives up to its name — it’s always on guard. Useful for lakes, slower rivers and waves closer to shore, the Sentinel can handle a variety of conditions without tipping over. And it doesn’t sacrifice on speed, handling or storage space, either.

Made with Pelican’s patented RAM-X material, a strong yet lightweight exoskeleton, this boat weighs just 44 pounds and is easy to store and transport. It’s also exceedingly comfortable, with a high-back cushioned seat, no-slip foot pad and four molded footrests.

Another cool feature is Pelican’s ExoShell 13-liter removable storage pod, which adds extra dry storage — a rare feature among recreational sit on top kayaks for beginners. Overall, an exceptional choice for rookies.

Pelican Sentinel 100x features

  • Generous front and rear storage (including removable dry storage pod)
  • Durable, lightweight (44 lbs) and easy to transport
  • No-slip pad great for dogs, kids or gear
  • Extra-cushioned high-back seat for superior comfort

Best Sit on Top Kids Kayak

Lifetime Youth Wave

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Check latest price on AmazonA small paddler deserves an appropriately sized kayak, and the Lifetime Youth Wave 6-foot kayak is perfect for youngsters age 5 and up.

Most kids prefer sit on top kayaks — since they’re easy to get in and out and don’t require much effort to paddle. For children new to paddling, the Lifetime Youth Wave inspires confidence with its wide, stable “twin fin” hull and fun “swim-up step” for easy access from the water.

A must-have for kids who might be a little scared at first, the Lifetime Youth Wave features self-bailing scupper holes to ensure the kayak doesn’t fill with water. And like all good sit on top kids kayaks, there’s plenty of room for a favorite stuffed animal or toy.

Parents will appreciate a few things, too. First, it’s only 18 pounds, so it’s easy to pick up and store once your child is done paddling. Second, it’s pretty inexpensive. And third, it will grow with your child, thanks to its molded-in footrests designed to fit kids of varying heights.

Lifetime Youth Wave kayak features

  • Great sit on top kids kayak perfect for learning paddlers
  • “Twin fin” hull and wide deck promote stability and confidence
  • Comes in blue, green, orange or pink
  • Includes a paddle

Best Recreational Sit on Top Kayak

Perception Tribe 11.5

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Check latest price on AmazonRecommending the best recreational sit on top kayak is a little like choosing the best pair of blue jeans. There’s so many to pick from! But Perception’s award-winning Tribe series actually makes this easy.

A versatile, ready-for-anything kayak, the Perception Tribe 11.5 is everything you’d want in a rec boat: quick, stable, innovative, comfortable, feature-laden and affordable. The Tribe actually comes in three size — 9.5, 11.5 and 13.5 — but the mid-class version offers the best of all worlds.

Built for lakes, rivers and slower streams, the Tribe is the quintessential “everyman” kayak. Exceptionally easy to maneuver and rock-steady, the Tribe can handle most types of water (except ocean swells). It’s big enough to fit tons of gear or even a dog companion, yet small enough (52 lbs) for a single person to transport.

Recreational sit on top kayaks are built for comfort, and the Tribe’s designers took this to heart. An adjustable metal-framed chair features a cushioned seat, and optimally placed gear storage (including a 6” center hatch) means you’re never reaching far for a cold drink.

Read American Paddler’s in-depth Perception Tribe review here.

Perception Tribe 11.5 features

  • Bestselling recreational sit-on-top kayak standing the test of time
  • Versatile, stable and great tracking
  • Front and rear bungeed tie-downs for gear storage
  • Multiple molded footwells to fit paddlers of all sizes

Best Inflatable Sit on Top Kayak

Intex Excursion Pro

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Check latest price on AmazonWhile most inflatable kayaks could be classified as “sit on tops,” the Intex Excursion Pro series combines the best features of a hard-shelled boat with the ease and portability of an inflatable.

Inflatable sit on top kayaks are growing in popularity, and the Excursion shows why. With a durable laminate and polyester core, this boat resists even the toughest elements and handles both deep and shallow waters with ease. It can hold up to 400 pounds — enough for two paddlers or a single paddler with lots of fishing gear.

Unlike many inflatables, the Excursion is built with fishing in mind. It includes two recessed fishing rod holders, an adjustable gear track for GPS, fish finders or additional rods, and two removable skegs for better tracking and speed. The Pro package comes with two aluminum paddles and a high-pressure air pump for quick and easy inflation and deflation.

Paddlers will find a comfortable ride, with adjustable foot rests, plenty of legroom, two inflatable bucket seats with an added “booster pad” for raised seating. But the best part? You won’t spend an arm and a leg.

Intex Excursion Pro features

  • Three-layered PVC construction that resists puncture, tears and sun damage
  • Comes with two aluminum paddles and a high-pressure air pump
  • Two removable skegs for speed and tracking
  • Fishing features including rod holders, gear track and tackle storage

Sit on top vs. sit in kayak: How to choose?

While there are many different types of kayaks, newer paddlers might prefer a sit on top kayak to a traditional, “sit inside” model for a few reasons. For one, it’s much more difficult to tip a sit on top kayak — and it’s literally impossible to sink one. If you do happen to capsize, you won’t get caught underneath — which can be a risk with sit-inside kayaks.

Larger paddlers might also find sit on top kayaks to be more comfortable, thanks to molded-in footrests and roomy decks — often 10-14 feet in length. It’s also much easier to get and in and out of a sit on top kayak, and some models offer room for a second paddler.

The downside, of course, is that you’re more exposed to the elements (or maybe that’s an upside for you!). Without a cockpit or spray skirt covering your legs, you’re likely to get wet.

Tl;dr (Too long; didn’t read)

The best sit on top kayaks offer a stable, roomy experience for newbie paddlers and a versatile, do-everything boat for more experienced kayakers. Sit on top kayaks come in many styles, from fishing and recreational kayaks to those designed for kids or tandem paddlers. Just hop in and go!

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