Sit on Top Kayaking for Beginners – Tips and Picks

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When you first start sit on top kayaking (otherwise known as SOT kayaking), it can be a challenge to learn the trade tricks. It can take time to get to a level of more advanced kayakers.

Choosing a good sit on top kayak to buy can also be a real challenge with the sheer number of choices available. Some kayaks have different purposes, built from different materials, and different designs.

When faced with the problem of too many choices, getting that relevant information is critical to make the correct selection.

In line with that, we provide this guide – Sit on Top Kayaking for Beginners – with tips and our top picks for the best SOT kayaks hoping that you can become a better kayaker in a shorter amount of time.

The focus of this post is to help you with the most important choice at the start, choosing the best sit on top kayak to start your journey. 

Sit on Top Kayaking for Beginners – Our Top 6 Sit on Top Kayaks:

  1. Sundolphin BossClick here to see it on Amazon – Our #1 Top Pick!
  2. Intex Challenger K2 kayak Click here to see it on Amazon
  3. Sevylor Quikpak K1
  4. BKC UH-TK181
  5. Driftsun Teton
  6. Pakayak Bluefin

This is a list of sit on top kayaks that have impressive strength, whether it is for specific activities such as fishing, hauling gear, or because of their portability.

There are two major types of kayaks, one that lets you sit inside, much as a regular boat does, and one with an enclosed and shaped hull, which you sit on top of.

There is no question about what you should get for a beginner, and that is a sit on top kayak, which is the safer choice between these two kinds of kayaks.

For those starting out, the sit on top kayak should be the only choice. There are other advantages, but for someone just starting out, safety is never a compromise. A sit on top kayak’s design makes it virtually unsinkable, so let that ‘sink’ in for a moment (pun intended) if you doubt its safety.

A sit on top kayak lacks the enclosure that a regular kayak affords, and the kayaker mostly sits on top of the kayak’s tubular body.

If that is not graphic enough, take a look at this one from Sundolphin Boss, which is a great example of a robust and hardshell type sit on top kayak.

Click here to see it on Amazon.

One of the main reasons why this design is most popular with beginning paddlers is its stability.

In kayaking, that translates to how hard the vessel is to capsize. It is not completely capsize-proof, of course, because capsizing does happen on both kayak types. But when it happens, the design makes it so much easier to correct and get back into.

Sit on Top Kayaking for Beginners – Tips and Recommended Kayaks

Next, in our Sit on Top Kayaking for Beginners Guide, I’ll cover 6 factors to consider when buying a sit on top kayak, as well as our top recommended kayaks.

1. Hardshell vs. Inflatable Sit on Top Kayak

For avid and budding adventurers, a kayak ride is a thrill. Paddling through waterways is a great way to experience the outdoors and nature, especially if you love exploring with your family or loved ones.

There are kayaks for more than just one person, such as the Intex Challenger K2 Kayak, that can comfortably and safely transport two people.

Click here to see it on Amazon.

We have narrowed it down to the safest type of kayak, but now, there is again a choice to be made: a hardshell kayak or an inflatable one?

2. Portability

Portability depends on several factors. For example, an inflatable kayak can be transported much more easily and conveniently versus a hardshell one.

If you are an adventurer who values portability, take a good look at this prime example of one. The Sevylor Quikpak K1 one-person kayak will snugly fit into a bag.

Click here to see it on Amazon.

If it is a larger one, such as the Intex Challenger K2 Kayak mentioned above, it can still easily fit into the trunk of even the smallest sedan or hatch.

Generally made of plastic polymers, inflatable kayaks can be easily stowed and folded up into a neat little package. Inflatable kayaks start from a decent weight of twenty-five pounds, with the heaviest being just around forty pounds. 

A hardshell kayak is usually made up of wood, plastic, fiberglass, and a variety of modern, composite, strong materials, such as carbon fiber and kevlar.

However, most of the time, they come up with hardshell kayaks that are a combination of these materials.

Speaking of combinations, the Pakayak Bluefin is a packable hardshell kayak, combining the properties of a hardshell kayak with the portability of an inflatable one.

Click here to see it on Amazon.

A hardshell kayak that packs like an inflatable? Watch this video to get a clearer picture of the Pakayak:

The difference between these kayaks in the portability department is worlds apart. A rigid kayak will require a trailer for the larger ones and at least a roof-rack for the smaller ones, whereas inflatable type kayaks will fit in a backpack, and the larger ones can sit comfortably in a trunk or the backseat of a car.

3. Safety

Safety is another area that both these kayaks offer, just in varying degrees. An inflatable kayak is generally safer to use in casual and in good weather conditions. Hardshell kayaks are generally more stable in inclement weather due to their added weight.

This makes hardshell kayaks advantageous in the durability side, and the fact that it is rigid all around also gives it points for overall safety.

Click here to see it on Amazon.

In general, hardshell kayaks are preferred in rough waters like river rapids and rougher conditions. But there are inflatable kayaks that are rated to handle these conditions as well.

Modern manufacturing methods and newer composite materials make the difference in the safety margins of both kinds of these boats minimal. Bear in mind, though, that inflatable kayaks that have a higher safety rating for rough water kayaking will be a bit on the pricey side.

Hardshells are the safest bet when it comes to this aspect. However, if you research well and have that extra cash, an inflatable version can also be had that will not compromise safety.

They are able to handle more wear and tear, especially in rough water situations right out of the box. And to really bring home the fact that sit on top kayaks are safer in the event of a capsize, watch this video:

4. Utility

Choosing a kayak would largely depend on how you will be using it, as both kinds do certain tasks well. For instance, an inflatable kayak may not sit well for a fishing trip that includes very sharp hooks, which may puncture the boat’s skin by accident.

There are amazing hardshell designs that are specifically made for fishing, complete with those pockets to store that really sharp fishing gear.

Take a look at the BKC UH-TK181 that is made for this task alone. There are also inflatable kayaks that may be specifically built for fishing.

Click here to see it on Amazon.

If you want to go camping out in the wilderness and have more concern with how much you can carry, the inflatable kayak is king. The main reason is that due to the lightweight nature of an inflatable, you will be able to carry more weight in equipment.

For example, an inflatable kayak that weighs no more than twenty-five pounds will be able to handle loads of up to five hundred pounds.

A slightly bigger kayak will dramatically increase the amount of gear you can carry and will be especially helpful for camping equipment, hiking gear, and, well, more fishing equipment.

5. Convenience

The time it takes to set up and get you well on your way into paddling is mainly what we will be talking about here. From getting the equipment to deploying it into the water, the easier and faster it is, the better. This is where inflatables are currently reigning as kings. When it comes to how fast a kayak can be deployed, an inflatable will beat the hard shell kayaks by a huge margin.

Even when you have to pump the air manually, it still beats trying to unload a kayak from a trailer or the roof rack.

Furthermore, most inflatables now come with a motorized pump, which inflates or deflates the boat in no time at all.

Click here to see it on Amazon.

Storage is also a no-brainer for an inflatable kayak. On the move or for a long time storage need, one can just put the stowed away package of an inflatable kayak in a small corner of your garage, versus the space that a hardshell would occupy.

Even a larger-sized inflatable two to three-person kayak will not take up too much space in any garage.

6. Cost

How much its construction also dictates a kayak cost. A hardshell is typically more expensive because of the materials involved in its production.

Sometimes wooden kayaks cost a premium over the more modern ones, probably because of their handmade nature. Inflatable sit on top kayaks are priced well below their rigid counterparts. 

Conclusion – Sit on Top Kayaking for Beginners

To sum up our guide – Sit on Top Kayaking for Beginners – here is a list of both inflatable and hardshell sit-on-top kayaks that will surely be a great addition to your adventure gear. These are in no particular order:

  1. Sundolphin BossClick here to see it on Amazon – Our #1 Top Pick!
  2. Intex Challenger K2 kayak Click here to see it on Amazon
  3. Sevylor Quikpak K1
  4. BKC UH-TK181
  5. Driftsun Teton
  6. Pakayak Bluefin

There they are, the advantages of both rigid and inflatable sit on top kayaks. When it comes down to it, it really boils down to which has the most benefits.

A kayak is like the water version of a bicycle – personal, portable, and it brings you so much closer to the adventure. The greatest thing is that no matter which of these sit on top kayaks you choose, you always win.

Kayaking is one of the healthiest activities one can undertake, not to mention it adds a myriad of other benefits to your social life and general well-being.

The obvious benefit is that it is a physical activity, and you stand to gain from the exercise you will be getting while paddling. And the other more subtle benefits will be improving your mental health and enhancing your social life, especially when shared with your loved ones.

Related reading:

Best Sit on Top Kayak Under 300 – Our Top 5 Picks

Intex Challenger K1 Kayak – Complete Review and Specs

Intex Challenger K2 Kayak – Complete Review and Specs

Intex Explorer K2 Kayak – Complete Review and Specs