Sit-on-top kayaks offer a little bit of everything: stability, comfort, gear storage, convenience, and even performance. So it’s no wonder they’re among the most popular boats for recreational paddlers.
But with so many different sit-on-top kayaks to choose from, selecting just one boat for your paddling needs can feel overwhelming.
Thankfully, we’ve got you covered. We’ve reviewed the best sit-on-top kayaks on the market. For more information, check out our buying advice.
Our Top Picks
If you’re in a hurry, here are our top picks. Or continue scrolling to see our full list with in-depth reviews.
- Best Overall: Eddyline Caribbean 12 FS
- Best Value: Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120
- Best Budget: Pelican Sentinel 100X
- Best for Beginners: Perception Tribe 9.5
- Best Tandem: Ocean Kayak Malibu Two
- Best for Day Touring: Wilderness Systems Tarpon 140
- Best for Smaller Paddlers: Ocean Kayak Venus 11
- Best Paddle Boar Kayak Hybrid: Perception Hi Life 11.0
Best Overall: Eddyline Caribbean 12 FS
Length: 12′ | Width: 30″ | Weight: 45 lbs | Capacity: 275 lbs
Offering a mix of performance and comfort on the water, the Eddyline Caribbean 12 FS is a fan-favorite sit-on-top kayak that’s perfect for the adventurous paddler.
This boat features an innovative Gullwing hull design, which Eddyline engineered specifically to provide the Caribbean 12 FS with a blend of stability and maneuverability. It achieves these goals through its relatively sharp chines, which provide it with good primary stability on flat water and enhanced responsiveness in tricky terrain.
Additionally, the Caribbean 12 FS has an open cockpit that includes a set of fully adjustable footrests for added control as you paddle. The seat on this boat is also Eddyline’s proprietary Cloud 10 folding frame seat, which is made with an antimicrobial and marine-grade fabric for all-day comfort.
One of the other benefits of this kayak is its ample gear storage space. It includes a stern tankwell with bungees for strapping down large crates and buckets. The Caribbean 12 FS also has a large forward and small stern hatch to secure your most essential pieces of gear. There are also dual gear tracks in the cockpit to easily mount your accessories.
The Eddyline Caribbean 12 FS definitely isn’t cheap. It also has a 275 lb maximum capacity, which is relatively low for a 12’ long boat. This kayak is also fairly narrow compared to its competitors, so it might feel a bit tippy on choppy water. But if performance is what you seek, it’s hard to imagine a better sit-on-top kayak than the Caribbean 12 FS.
Reasons to buy:
- Hull design provides maneuverability and stability in calm conditions
- Very comfortable Cloud 10 folding frame seat
- Offers lots of gear storage space
- Includes adjustable footrests for better on-water control
- Cockpit comes with gear tracks for your accessories
Reasons to avoid:
- Expensive for a recreational boat
- Relatively low weight capacity (275 lbs)
- Narrow hull can feel tippy on choppy water
Best Value: Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120
Length: 12′3″ | Width: 31″ | Weight: 63 lbs | Capacity: 350 lbs
Want a sit-on-top kayak that provides excellent performance without a premium price tag? Then, the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 might be the boat of your dreams.
This award-winning kayak features a hull made from rugged rotomolded high-density polyethylene, so it’s designed to withstand years of use in rocky waters. The hull itself is also relatively flat around the midsection with slight chines toward the bow and stern, providing both speed and stability on flat water.
Feature-wise, the Tarpon 120 definitely brings its A-game. Starting with the cockpit, this kayak boasts an uber-comfy Phase 2 AirPro seating system that offers good breathability on hot summer days. There are also adjustable footrests for improved paddling control and a few accessories, like a water bottle holder and a DryTec gear storage box.
We also like that the Tarpon 120 has a large rear tankwell with a removable cover for storing gear. It also has a front storage hatch that can accommodate quite a few mid-sized dry bags for kayaking. This boat even comes with a paddle holder system, and it’s compatible with Wilderness Systems’ rudder add-on (rudder not included).
There are only a few notable drawbacks to this kayak. The first is that, at 63 lbs, the Tarpon 120 is heavy for a recreational kayak. Also, some paddlers find that the forward storage hatch leaks a bit in rough waters. However, if you can handle these minor issues, the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 is a great deal for the money.
Reasons to buy:
- Hull design is both stable and fast
- Very durable rotomolded plastic hull construction
- Super comfortable seat for all-day paddling
- Has a large rear tankwell and a forward storage hatch
- Can be used with a rudder (not included) for steering
Reasons to avoid:
- Heavy for a solo kayak
- Storage hatch is known to leak in rough conditions
Best Budget: Pelican Sentinel 100X
Length: 9′6″ | Width: 30″ | Weight: 42 lbs | Capacity: 275 lbs
The Pelican Sentinel 100X is a fun and reliable sit-on-top kayak that proves that you don’t need to spend a fortune to have a good time on the water.
With the Sentinel 100X, Pelican used its proprietary multi-layer Ram-X material, which is both lightweight and surprisingly durable. The twin-arched multi-chine hull of this kayak was also crafted specifically with stability and speed on flat water in mind. So you can feel confident as you paddle.
As far as features go, the Sentinel 100X’s claim to fame is arguably its ERGOLOUNGE seating system. This seat is made with thick cushioning, and it has an extra high and wide padded backrest for maximum comfort. The cockpit of this kayak also has a set of molded-in footrests so you can stabilize yourself as you paddle and get more power into each stroke.
If that wasn’t enough, Pelican also built this boat with its unique EXOSHELL removable storage compartment, which provides you with 13L of gear storage space in the kayak’s stern. It even includes two paddle holders and a water bottle holder.
Although the Sentinel 100X is a solid all-around boat for budget-conscious paddlers, we should point out that it has a reasonably low weight capacity. Furthermore, since this boat is only 9’6’” long, it also doesn’t offer much gear storage space besides its EXOSHELL system. Nevertheless, if affordability is a top concern, the Pelican Sentinel 100X is a sure bet.
Reasons to buy:
- Made with very durable Ram-X plastic
- Features a super comfy seating system
- Twin-arched multi-chine hull provides stability and speed
- Comes with a removable EXOSHELL storage system
- Includes a bottle holder, paddle holder, and molded footrests
Reasons to avoid:
- Relatively low weight capacity
- Limited gear storage space
Best for Beginners: Perception Tribe 9.5
Length: 9′5″ | Width: 31″ | Weight: 46 lbs | Capacity: 300 lbs
A solid choice for new paddlers who want to take their kayaking skills to the next level, the Perception Tribe 9.5 is a stable and easy-to-maneuver boat that’s ready for any flatwater outing.
What sets the Tribe 9.5 apart from the pack is its wide, mostly flat hull, providing unparalleled stability in calm conditions. This is particularly beneficial for new paddlers who might be feeling a bit nervous on the water. However, it’s also an excellent option for anyone who prioritizes stability.
We also like that Perception designed this boat to have a set of molded footrests. These footrests are helpful so new paddlers can learn how to properly apply force through their feet with each paddle stroke.
Furthermore, the Tribe 9.5 comes with a fully adjustable and padded seat so you can be as comfortable as possible as you paddle. It also has a decent amount of gear storage space at the bow and stern, as well as a small dry hatch in the cockpit.
That being said, the Perception Tribe 9.5 is not designed for use in foul weather, and it’s not very stable in choppy water. It also doesn’t offer a lot of extra bells and whistles, so it’s best for paddlers who don’t need many accessories. But for new kayakers who want to improve their skills while having fun, this boat is a solid choice.
Reasons to buy:
- Relatively affordable price point
- Flat, wide hull design is very stable on calm water
- Includes a fully adjustable and padded seat for comfort
- Offers a decent amount of gear storage space
- Molded-in footrests that can accommodate paddlers of different sizes
Reasons to avoid:
- Not very stable in choppy waters
- Comes with few bells and whistles
Best Tandem: Ocean Kayak Malibu Two
Length: 12′ | Width: 34″ | Weight: 63 lbs | Capacity: 425 lbs
The Ocean Kayak Malibu Two is a spiffy and stable tandem sit-on-top kayak that makes family fun as streamlined as can be.
Compared to other sit-on-top tandem boats, the Malibu Two’s main advantage is its hull design. Thanks to its 34” width and mostly flat hull, this kayak offers exceptional stability on calm lakes and streams. Meanwhile, its 12’ length helps it track well over long distances.
Additionally, the Malibu Two can be paddled both tandem and solo, so you have maximum versatility in your adventure options. There’s also some space in the boat for a small child or a dog if you want to turn your outing into a full-family affair.
When it comes to features, the Malibu Two keeps things reasonably simple. However, it does have a set of adjustable Comfort Plus seats and a few gear straps for tying down dry bags. It also includes molded-in footrests that can be used regardless of whether you’re kayaking solo or tandem.
But, keep in mind that this boat doesn’t include much gear storage space when it’s paddled as a tandem kayak. It also doesn’t offer many other features, so it’s best for shorter paddling trips. Despite these shortcomings, the Ocean Kayak Malibu Two is still one of the best-performing tandem sit-on-top boats available.
Reasons to buy:
- Can be paddled tandem or solo
- Wide, long, and flat hull is stable and tracks well
- Enough room for a dog or small child
- Includes adjustable Comfort Plus seats
Reasons to avoid:
- Limited gear storage space when paddled as a tandem
- Doesn’t provide many extra features
Best for Day Touring: Wilderness Systems Tarpon 140
Length: 14′ | Width: 28″ | Weight: 68 lbs | Capacity: 375 lbs
Engineered for adventure, the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 140 is the boat you want to have on the water for more extended day touring trips.
Although it’s a fully-fledged sit-on-top kayak, the Tarpon 140 takes a lot of its design features from its sit-in brethren. In particular, it features a long, narrow hull with a slight V-shaped profile that provides unparalleled tracking and speed over long distances.
At the same time, the Tarpon 140 features a fully open cockpit with an adjustable Phase 3 AirPro seating system so you can be as comfortable as possible. You also have a set of adjustable footrests for more control as you paddle, plus nifty gear storage pockets and even a small dry hatch. There are also two built-in SlideTrax to accommodate your accessories.
One other aspect of this kayak that truly puts it in a class of its own is its collection of gear storage options. We’ve already mentioned the in-cockpit storage pockets and day hatch, but this boat also includes a sizeable forward hatch, deck bungees, and a massive rear storage deck.
The Wilderness Systems Tarpon 140 is a fantastic boat, especially if performance is a priority. But the narrowness of the kayak’s hull and its heavy weight are worthwhile drawbacks to mention. That said, if you’re an experienced paddler looking to head out on longer trips, the Tarpon 140 is an incredible option.
Reasons to buy:
- Provides sit-on-top kayak comfort with sit-in performance standards
- Offers an exceptional amount of gear storage space
- Phase 3 Air Pro seat and adjustable footrests for comfort
- Includes SlideTrax accessory mounts for attaching your favorite gear
- Long length and narrow width provide speed and tracking ability
Reasons to avoid:
- Narrow hull can feel tippy
- Very heavy for a solo kayak
Best for Smaller Paddlers: Ocean Kayak Venus 11
Length: 10′8″ | Width: 28.5″ | Weight: 44 lbs | Capacity: 225 lbs
Crafted purposefully for smaller paddlers, the Ocean Kayak Venus 11 is a versatile boat that can handle a range of flatwater kayaking adventures.
Thanks to its 10’8” build and its svelte 44 lb weight, the Venus 11 is about as portable as it gets for a solo kayak. This makes it an excellent choice for smaller paddlers or anyone else that often struggles to get their boat onto the roof rack of their car.
At the same time, the Venus 11 is built out of rugged rotomolded polyethylene, which provides it with enhanced durability on the water. It also has a mostly flat hull for stability in calm conditions and a low-profile deck, so it’s easier for shorter kayakers to paddle.
The Venus 11 includes a slew of features, such as its Comfort Hybrid adjustable seat and molded-in footrests. It also includes a rear tankwell, front storage hatch, and cup holder for all your gear transportation needs. The kayak also comes with an integrated paddle holder for maximum convenience.
Since the Venus 11 is designed for smaller paddlers, its low weight capacity isn’t really a concern. But we should point out that the shorter length of the kayak and its lack of a skeg or rudder means that it won’t track as well as its longer counterparts. Even so, the Ocean Kayak Venus 11 is in a league of its own for anyone that wants a small, fun, and stable boat.
Reasons to buy:
- Very portable design is great for smaller paddlers
- Includes an adjustable seat and molded-on footrests
- Provides a decent amount of gear storage space
- Durable rotomolded polyethylene hull
- Stable hull construction for flatwater use
Reasons to avoid:
- Doesn’t track as well as some longer boats
Best Paddle Board Kayak Hybrid: Perception Hi Life 11.0
Length: 11′ | Width: 34″ | Weight: 55 lbs | Capacity: 280 lbs
One of the more unique options on our list, the Perception Hi Life 11.0 is a hybrid sit-on-top kayak and SUP that you can use for a wide range of paddling outings.
This sleek craft is 11’ long and 34’ wide, offering a mix of natural stability and tracking on calm water, which is perfect for recreational kayaking and paddleboarding. It has a relatively flat hull with a removable fin that offers superior tracking control without compromising maneuverability.
However, the most innovative aspect of the Hi Life 11.0 isn’t its hull, but its deck. With this model, Perception designed a unique open deck with a soft, grippy surface so you can stand up and paddleboard to your heart’s content. At the same time, it includes an elevated and well-padded seat so you can stay comfortable while you kayak.
Other useful features on the Hi Life 11.0 include its built-in gear track for your accessories and its under-seat space, which is large enough to store a cooler. This boat also has a rear low-profile swim deck, so you can easily climb back on if you decide to go for a swim.
As far as drawbacks go, the main thing to note is that this boat doesn’t perform well in choppy seas due to its flat hull and deck design. It’s also reasonably heavy, both from a solo kayak and paddleboard perspective. However, if you want one boat that can do it all, the Perception Hi Life 11.0 should be at the top of your list.
Reasons to buy:
- Can be used as a paddleboard or kayak
- Includes a soft, well-padded deck for paddleboarding comfort
- Comes with an elevated and fully adjustable seat for kayaking
- Provides lots of gear storage space
- Rear low-profile deck makes it easy to climb aboard after swimming
Reasons to avoid:
- Heavy for both a kayak and a paddleboard
- Not ideal for use in windy or rough conditions
Sit-on-Top Kayak Buying Advice
A sit-on-top kayak can be a tricky boat to shop for. There are dozens of different models out there. Each one offers a unique set of accessories and design features that make it best for a specific type of paddler.
Navigating your way through the often confusing world of sit-on-top boats can be a challenge, so we’ve put together a nifty buyer’s guide to help you out. Next, we’ll discuss some of the key things you ought to consider as you shop for your next kayak.
- Paddling Style & Intended Use
- Maximum Weight Capacity
- Gear Storage Options
- Comfort & Convenience
- Extra Features
Paddling Style & Intended Use
If you’re in the market for a sit-on-top kayak, you probably intend to use your boat for recreational paddling.
What is recreational paddling, you might ask? Unfortunately, there’s no universal or official definition for what “recreational kayaking” is, per se. Still, most people would classify it as a type of paddling where you venture out onto mostly flat lakes, calm streams, and sheltered bays for short kayaking adventures.
In other words, recreational paddling isn’t whitewater, sea kayaking, or expedition paddling. Instead, it’s all about having fun, relaxing, enjoying the sun, and making the most of your time outside with your friends and family.
But, within the realm of recreational paddling, there are many subdisciplines, and each paddler has their own kayaking style. Therefore, it’s essential to consider your paddling style and your preferred types of adventures as you shop for a sit-on-top kayak.
For example, suppose you like to head out on longer paddling trips or even brief overnights. In that case, you might want a day touring sit-on-top kayak, like the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 140, which offers lots of gear storage space.
Or suppose you’re primarily interested in hanging out and relaxing on the water while taking in the views. In that case, a boat like the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 or the Eddyline Caribbean 12 FS that provides a blend of performance and comfort might be a more suitable option. Better yet, maybe you’re a paddleboarder and a kayaker that wants one boat that can do it all, like the Perception Hi Life 11.0.
Ultimately, everyone has their own unique way of adventuring outside. As a result, no single sit-on-top boat will work for everyone. What’s critical here is that your future kayak matches your paddling style so you can live your best life on the water.
The last thing you want when you go kayaking is for your boat to hold you back while you’re out on your adventure. Therefore, you need to find a kayak that offers the performance features you need to make the most of your time outside.
As a general rule, sit-on-top kayaks tend to prioritize stability above all else.
We see this because most of these kayaks have wide, mostly flat hulls that provide superior primary stability, which is the boat’s ability to stay stable on flat water. Unfortunately, this often comes at the expense of secondary stability (the boat’s ability to remain stable on choppy waters). Still, for recreational paddling, that’s usually not a huge issue.
In addition to stability, you can find sit-on-top kayaks designed for speed, tracking, or maneuverability. Most of these characteristics come from differences in a boat’s hull design or overall construction.
For example, all else being equal, longer boats tend to have a natural advantage over shorter kayaks as far as speed and tracking are concerned. But shorter kayaks tend to be more maneuverable.
Kayaks with a more rounded hull or a more defined hull rocker tend to be more maneuverable. While those with sharper chines (the “edges” of a boat) at the bow and stern usually slice through the water better.
All of this is to say that whatever sit-on-top kayak you end up with will probably be great as far as stability is concerned. But you’ll need to decide whether you want to prioritize speed, maneuverability, or tracking on the water.
Maximum Weight Capacity
One of the most important yet often overlooked aspects of a kayak is a boat’s maximum weight capacity. This metric is calculated by the boat’s manufacturers. It represents the maximum weight you can load into a kayak without decreasing its performance or increasing its risk of capsizing beyond a reasonable level.
The good news is that many sit-on-top kayaks have impressive maximum weight capacities, so they can work for a wide range of paddlers. These high capacities also make sit-on-top boats great for loading up with gear for fishing trips or overnight outings.
But you should still pay close attention to the weight limit before you buy. You generally want to avoid loading a kayak beyond 80% of its stated capacity for best performance. So if your kayak has a 250 lbs maximum, you don’t want to put more than 200 lbs of weight in the boat.
This metric is particularly vital to pay attention to if you plan to pack a lot of gear onto your boat. Be sure to weigh all of the equipment you plan to bring while kayaking before starting your shopping process.
Gear Storage Options
The open deck plan of sit-on-top kayaks often makes them superior to sit-in-kayaks as far as gear storage is concerned. However, not all sit-on-top kayaks are created equal, and some certainly have more gear storage space than others.
There are a few different gear storage-related features that you can look for as you shop for a sit-on-top kayak, such as:
- Storage hatches
- Tank wells
- Deck bungees
- Tie-down points
- Gear tracks
Each of these gear storage features offers something different for paddlers, and you may find some to be more useful than others.
If you think gear storage might be a priority for you, take some time to consider what gear you actually want to bring while paddling and how you’d prefer to store it on your kayak. This will help you narrow down your choices and make it easier to find a boat with gear storage options that suit your needs.
Comfort & Convenience
Many paddlers prefer to use a sit-on-top kayak because they like the additional comfort when using an open-deck boat.
The wide-open deck space in sit-on-top kayaks is clearly an advantage compared to the tight cockpits and lack of legroom that you often get in a sit-in kayak. But every sit-on-top kayak is different, and some offer more comfort than others.
There are two comfort-related features that are worth paying particular attention to when shopping for a sit-on-top kayak: seats and footrests.
As far as seats go, you’ll want a kayak that has a fully adjustable and padded seat. An elevated seat is an added bonus as many paddlers find that they’re more comfortable to sit in. However, they decrease the amount of control you have over the boat in windy conditions.
Footrests are also an important comfort-related feature. In reality, footrests are there, not for resting, but so you can push off of them to get more power in each of your strokes.
But if your footrests aren’t the right size for your legs, they won’t do much good for you, and they’ll be pretty uncomfortable. So it’s worth looking for kayaks that have either adjustable footrests or a set of molded-in footrests so you can be as comfortable as possible on the water.
Last but not least, you’ll want to consider any extra features that might come with your kayak that could enhance your paddling experience.
For sit-on-top kayaks, good extra features are scupper holes and scupper plugs. These scupper holes help drain any water that makes it into your cockpit area. In contrast, scupper plugs can help prevent water from getting into the boat if you’re in relatively calm conditions.
There are several other accessories and extra features that you can look for in a sit-on-top kayak. Like water bottle holders, fishing rod holders, and paddle keepers. Of course, which features you want to have are up to you, but it’s worth creating a list of accessories you’d like to have before you shop so that you can find the kayak that’s best for your paddling style.
A sit-on-top kayak is a fantastic option if you’re looking for a mix of fun, convenience, and performance on the water. But there are dozens of different kinds of sit-on-top boats out there, so finding the right one for your needs is no easy feat.
We reviewed the very best sit-on-top kayaks on the market, and it was clear that Eddyline Caribbean 12 FS is one of the top performers in its class.
What stood out to us about the Eddyline Caribbean 12 FS is its stable, albeit maneuverable, hull design and its finely tuned open cockpit that’s about as functional as it gets. The boat’s vast number of gear storage options and its comfy seat weren’t half bad, either.
As is the case with any boat, finding the perfect kayak for your outings starts with identifying what features are most important to you. From there, you can narrow down your options to select the kayak that offers precisely what you need to maximize your time out on the water. Happy paddling!