All Things Kayaking

Why Sit On Tops?

Real kayakers never use sit on tops. They’re a toy, not a kayak. So we thought for years. When we decided to buy kayaks we spent a long time researching sit in sides, trying them for size and attempting to pick the best kayak for each of us.

Then quite by accident on trip to Florida we became acquainted with the Wilderness System Tarpon 160i. This 16 foot sit on top is not a play boat, but a serious kayak that just happens to be a sit on top.

Once we started listing the advantages they far outweighed the disadvantages (as soon as we find some disadvantages I’ll write about them.)

Safety – if you’ve ever taken a kayak rescue class you know it’s not an easy task, you really need a skilled partner and you’re going to spend a lot of time in the water. With the sit on top you just climb back in. The water drains through the scupper holes and you paddle on.

Summer Comfort – a sit in side is hot in the summer. With a sit on top, splash some water on yourself to cool off. Then watch the water drain through the scupper holes.

Self bailing – water collects in the bottom of a sit in side. Eventually you use a sponge to squeeze it out, or you just watch it slosh around all day. A sit on top just drains through the scupper holes. (See the pattern.)

Better for your knees – Know that cramped up feeling you get in your knees? After several hours you can hardly crawl out of a sit in side. With a sit on top even if you’re using thigh straps there’s a lot of flexibility to move your legs.

Getting in and out is much easier and less tippy. This is extremely important when trying to get out in marshes, banks with slopes etc.

I could go on. But we are totally attached to our sit on tops and have never regretted their purchase. Later I’ll write specifically about the 160i and how we’ve outfitted them to take us anywhere.

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Categories: All Things Kayaking

2 replies »

  1. Tell me about it. We discovered sit-on-top kayaking in Hawaii, then quickly got two short Hobie kayaks. The following year we replaced the two short ones with a much longer one and a sailing tandem, both Hobies. Then we replaced the sailing tandem with a used 30 footer, thinking that if the smaller sailing tandem was great, a full sized sailboat would be awesome, right? Wrong. Now we’re thinking that we’re going to downsize back to a Hobie sailing tandem and leave it at that.


  2. Hi Mark. We saw someone sailing one of those Hobie’s near Taylor’s Landing once. Had a nice chat with the sailor who was from NJ. There have been a number of occasions when we have looked at sails for our kayaks. We even used a large umbrella on the Susquehanna one time to take advantage of the wind!

    Love your photos!


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