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Open Kayak vs. Closed Kayak: Your Ultimate Guide



Updated on 7/11/2024
Abigail ScottBy Abigail Scott
Hi, I'm Abigail đź‘‹ Since embarking on my kayaking and boarding adventures in 2010, I've navigated rivers and lakes across North America and beyond. With over a decade of experience and countless waterways explored, I'm here to help enthusiasts like you embark on unforgettable water adventures!
Learn More about Abigail Scott

There are two different types of kayaks: open kayaks vs. closed kayaks. An empty kayak, also known as a sit-on-top kayak or open cockpit, and a closed kayak, also known as a sit-inside or closed cockpit. The open Kayak is the most prevalent type of Kayak. 
You can purchase either the hard shell or the inflatable one, and they are both available in single or double configurations. 
You absolutely must comprehend this! 
You may have a pleasant and memorable kayaking journey regardless of which choice you choose to go with. It will be well worth your time.

Although the two yaks are not identical in every way, they have numerous components in common with one. The part of the yak that sits on top, often called the deck, is called the hull. The part closest to the bow and the element closest to the stern is called the stern. You'll frequently find bungee cords or deck lines on the uppermost part of the deck. Some of the types are equipped with rudders and skegs to help in navigation through the water. In addition, both kinds of yaks have seats, but the positions of the seats on the two types of yaks are very different.

We are aware that choosing between the two options can be challenging. When making your decision, it will be helpful to consider the following points. These include where you intend to paddle, how much money you must spend, how big your Kayak is, and your personal preferences. But before we get into that, you must better understand these yaks' characteristics, advantages, and downsides. In this section, we will address questions about the two types of kayaks so that you can make an educated choice.

Keep reading!

Which Is Better, Sit On Or Sit In Kayaks?

Both of them provide beautiful services to a wide variety of people who are interested in the sport of kayaking. There are times when sit-on yaks are more appropriate than sit-in yaks, and likewise, there are times when sit-in yaks are more relevant than sit-on yaks. Suppose you want to determine which of the two options is best for you. In that case, you should think about where you will paddle and the bodies of water you will be floating on, the amount of time you will spend paddling, and any additional activities you plan to participate in while paddling, such as fishing or white water sports. In addition to that, think about your preferences and how much money you have available.



Indeed, many people are interested in determining which of the two is superior. Before purchasing, you must understand each option's benefits and drawbacks. Each one is constructed in a unique way to accomplish a particular goal. For example, sit-on-top kayaks offer enough flexibility to be used for fishing, whereas sit-in kayaks perform exceptionally well in stormy conditions.

In the following paragraphs, we will detail each of them to assist you in making an educated choice.

Sit-On-Top, AKA Open Yak.

The lack of a cockpit and the seated posture that places a paddler on top of the yak above the water level are the primary characteristics that set sit-on-top kayaks apart from other kayaks. This style of Kayak is regarded as being user-friendly; furthermore, it is incredibly secure and is highly recommended for children just beginning their kayaking careers. It is also the model most frequently purchased by novice kayakers and anglers who use yaks. The sit-on-top design prevents paddlers from having the experience of being confined within the Kayak, which is especially beneficial if the boat capsizes. In addition to this, they are not only inexpensive but also quite challenging to drown in.

Open kayaks are the best choice if you don't mind getting wet and enjoy getting in and out of the water multiple times during your adventure. The boat is perfect for cruising on calm rivers and lakes and spending the day lazing on the sand at the beach. Numerous individuals agree that this yak is remarkable and performs admirably in its designed role. Now let's look at its advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages Of Sit-On-Top/Open Yaks

  • As was said previously, the sit-on-top open cockpit is the most advantageous feature that gives kayakers the impression that they are not trapped within their yak, particularly if the yak capsizes. Re-entering the water after the boat capsized also feels far more natural than the other sort.
  • In the event of an accident, such as capsize. Self-bailing scupper holes allow for the normal drainage of water from the cockpit. Because of this, they are a fantastic option for beginning kayakers who paddle on their own and want to improve their skills.
  • The open tank in the stern of the sit-on-top yak provides storage space, which may be used to store items like a cooler, food, and supplies.
  • The design of this yak makes it impossible for it to sink, making it an excellent choice for novices and young children.
  • They typically cost less than their sit-inside equivalents, making them an excellent choice for starting paddlers.
  • These kayaks are excellent choices for paddlers who want to engage in leisure paddling on the water, along protected beaches, or in water moving slowly.
  • Anglers can stand when fishing from a sit-on-top kayak, in addition to several features designed specifically for fishing; this is impossible with a sit-inside kayak.
  • The sit-on-top method offers high initial stability thanks to the greater surface area and higher gravity center. Because stability is the essential quality for novice boaters to look for, the yak has become highly popular among those just starting. Stability is another requirement for successful kayak fishing, which is likely why most of these yaks are popular among anglers.

Open Kayaks' Drawbacks 

  • Because they were designed to be used on peaceful rivers, lakes, and protected water along the shore, these kayaks are unsuited for use in rough seas or long-distance kayaking.


  • Due to the broader beam on which they are built, sit-on-top yaks move more slowly than their sit-inside counterparts, indicating that the paddler needs more effort to move the boat forward. Because of this, paddling for an extended period, one of these, would be physically taxing and so not recommended.
  • Because of their entire beam width and more significant center of gravity, which usually supplies them with initial stability, they have a lower degree of secondary stability.
  • Because kayakers sit atop the open cockpit, they cannot place their knees perpendicular to the underneath deck. This means that it will reduce the amount of control and maneuverability that you have over the yak.
  • The sit-on-top bottom of the yak has self-draining scupper holes, which is a benefit, but it is also one of the yak's downsides because this keeps the quantity of water in the bilge.
  • Because of how they are designed, open kayaks are more susceptible to the effects of the wind when kayaking than sit-inside boats are.
  • Paddlers who ride in sit-on-top kayaks have little protection from the elements, including the sun, the cold, or waves that break over the hull.
  • Because moving the yak forward takes a great deal of work, which becomes tiring over time, this Kayak is not appropriate for paddling over long distances.
  • Experienced kayakers and those with more skills avoid this type of yak since it has fewer uses and is less versatile. Novices and those with more paddling under their belts should use it.
  • If you paddle, there is a one hundred percent chance you will get wet.

Sit-Inside AKA Closed Kayak

They are the type of yak in which you sit, as the name suggests, which is why they are called "sitting yaks." They are a type of Kayak regarded as more traditional and have been created over several decades. In most cases, they have enclosed the cockpit, which places the person paddling below the water's surface. Because of their superior all-around performance and adaptability, the prices of these models are slightly more significant than those of its comparable yaks. They are also highly well-liked among paddlers of more advanced and intermediate skill levels. Because it has an essential lower center of gravity, it has a high secondary degree of stability, which makes it extraordinary.

sit on

sit on

Different paddling techniques and types of water are best suited for closed kayaks because of their altered shape. It is essential for every kayaker always to practice getting out of their boat while it is wet and getting back into their boat after doing so. This is especially important for sit-inside kayakers who, in an emergency such as a capsize, may feel as though they are trapped, as well as for people who tend to panic easily.

Let's have a look at some of the benefits and drawbacks of this option:

The Benefits Of Closed Yak

  • The greater degree of secondary stability afforded by these variants of yaks due to their lower centers of gravity was the quality prized the most by their owners. Strength allows the kayaker to lean to the side for flawless turning while still being able to keep their balance, which is very important when kayaking in choppy conditions.
  • Sit-inside kayaks are noticeably quicker than sit-on-top models. This is made feasible by the product's design, which results in a reduced centre of gravity, indicating that the paddlers need less effort to move the canoe forward. Consider purchasing this type of Kayak because it will not disappoint you over extended periods spent paddling in the water or on expeditions.
  • In contrast to sit-on-top yaks, they have a lower profile. Therefore they are far less susceptible to the effects of the wind.
  • The cockpit of a sit-inside kayak is typically dry, except for when waves were crashing over the bow, causing water to spill into the yak. It is feasible because of the absence of self-draining scupper holes, which are generally located in open kayaks and are a common feature of available kayaks.
  • The paddlers in these boats are shielded from the sun, the cold weather, and any waves that break over the ship's gunwale or bow. Some kayaks come with spray skirts, protecting the paddlers from the many elements.
  • Because the cockpit is enclosed, kayakers can position their knees so that they are perpendicular to the underside of the deck. This improves the angler's ability to control and move the yak.
  • Unlike the design of full-open kayaks, sit-inside narrow beam kayaks allow paddlers to use shorter paddle lengths. Because of the yak's shorter boat paddle, which translates to faster arm moments, less effort is necessary to propel the yak ahead, owing to the shorter arm moments.
  • Compared to sit-on-top kayaks, sit-in-side kayaks are less in weight, making them easier to transport and even load onto a car. This makes transporting and loading the kayaks a more comfortable experience.
  • The hull has additional storage space, which you can use to put part of your stuff in. This space is available to you.

Disadvantages Of Closed Yaks 

1. No question that having a closed yak open cockpit gives many kayakers the impression that they would be unable to escape their vessel if it capsizes.

2. Compared to the sit-on-top boat, it is more difficult to re-enter the boat if it capsizes by mistake. After the Kayak has been flipped over, the paddler will need to operate the drain by hand, foot, or battery to empty the cockpit of any water that may have entered.

3. A sit-inside yak can be quickly sunk in rough waves if both hatch covers are removed, allowing water to enter the stern and bow simultaneously.



4. The lack of a well or open tank in the stern of the Kayak and its smaller hatch prevents kayakers from carrying heavy objects. Instead, they must rely on small items that can be stored efficiently in the traps.

5. To stay dry throughout the day, purchase a sit-inside kayak skirt separately.

6. Compared to sit-on-top boats, these yaks are more expensive because they include a higher level of innovation. That is, one needs to have a higher level of competence to use them effectively.

7. The self-rescue process is more complex than the sit-on-top yak's situation, particularly for novices.

Can You Use Sit-On Kayaks On Rivers?

Yes, but it depends on the water in that river. Most of the time, sit-on-top kayaks work best on calm waterways that move slowly. You can also kayak with your family or friends on the beach or a quiet lake in the afternoon to get some fresh air and see how beautiful nature is.



Going white water kayaking with your sit-on-top yak is dangerous and harmful. Not even an experienced or skilled kayaker would do that. Why would you do such complicated things when you know that safety is the most important thing to look for in a kayak?

Are Kayaks With Seats On Top More Stable?

One problem with sit-on-top kayaks is that they don't have as much secondary stability as sit-inside kayaks, which are so stable that kayakers can stay upright while paddling. The yak's full beam width and high center of gravity make it less durable in the secondary direction, making it hard for your yak to stay standing.



This is especially true when paddling in rough seas, and the boat is leaning on one end or turning. It is the main reason a sit-on-top kayak is unsuitable for rough seas, white water kayaking, or paddling long distances.

How Do You Get Out Of A Kayak Where You Sit On Top?

The best thing about a sit-on-top kayak is that it is easy to get in and out of. This is something that anglers and divers who like to kayak will not give up for anything. There is no one way to get out of a sit-on-top yak while on the water, and you can slip on or off, jump, or do anything else that seems right.

Suppose you want to get out on the water entirely from your sit-on-top yak while on the beach; place your boat so that half is in the water and the other half is on the sand. You can also get out at the dock or on a rocky or uneven beach. Most kayakers like that they can get out whenever they want instead of feeling trapped in a closed yak.

Why Are There Holes In Sit-On-Top Kayaks?

The scupper hole at the bottom of a sit-on-top yak is significant because it drains water that splashes while kayaking or comes in when a wave breaks the bow. If the yak tips over by accident, these holes will help the water drain out, making it impossible to sink.

The bad thing about these yaks is that you will always get wet while paddling because there is always a tiny amount of water at the bottom of the yak.

Can You Stand Up In A Sit-In Kayak?

If you stand up, we can't promise you won't fall out of a sit-in kayak. Even if you are a beginner, you can't stand upright in an open kayak because of how it is made. And you already know that it's not as easy to stand up in a kayak as it looks in those commercials and videos.

kayak sit in

kayak sit in

Several things play a role, like how your yaks are made, especially the hull, width, and water conditions, which all help to make them stable. How fit you are and how good you are at fishing also matter. For example, most fishers can stand on certain yaks, but that doesn't mean you can, too, if you haven't been trained and aren't sure of yourself.

What Is The Best Kind Of Kayak For Fishing?

Open kayaks are the best choice for fishing because they are more suited to this task. Anglers find it easier to stand up on these kinds of yaks, and Anglers can see more fish, structure, and bait when standing up. Also, it's normal to get wet when you're fishing, just like it's normal for water to splash into your yak. The sit-on-top will be better because it has scupper holes that drain water.

One Last Thing

After reading all of this, you should be able to choose the right kind of yak for your needs in an intelligent way. There are pros and cons to both open and closed kayaks. Free yak, also called "sit-on-top boats," are popular with kayak beginners and fishermen who like how stable they are initially. Sit-on-top yaks are also suitable for kids just starting because they don't think about sinking. They are also easy on someone's wallet if they are on a tight budget.

On the other hand, advanced and experienced kayakers who like to paddle fast and for a longer time like to use closed yaks, also called sit-inside boats. They are also suitable for kayaking in cold weather because the yak skirt will keep you dry and warm.

After all this, you should consider what the kayak is made for, what you need, and what you like to click the "buy" button dorayaki, close your eyes, and think about all the fun you'll have. Oops! We think you should plan where you will go kayaking for the first time after this exciting open kayak vs. closed kayak, how you will get there, and where Kayakill stores yKayakew yak.


Frequently Asked Questions

What's better, an open kayak or a closed kayak?

A sit-on-top kayak's open deck allows the paddler to cast, fight, and land fish more effectively than a closed-cockpit kayak. Some models feature pedal drives that allow you to keep both hands free while fishing on wide, stable fishing sit-on-tops.

Open kayaks: what are they?

It is easier to get on and off a kayak with an open, sit-on-top hull. Flipping it over won't result in it filling up and sinking. TAKE PRECAUTIONS TO BE SAFE.

How does a closed-deck kayak work?

Using a double-ended paddle, kayak rowers move forwards and backward across the water using a closed deck and stretched-out legs. Short introduction: Canoes are usually open-deck boats with one-bladed paddles, seated or kneeling rowers.

How does an open-cockpit kayak work?

Open-cockpit touring kayaks offer maximum comfort and space and are designed for recreational kayaking on flat water. As their name implies, open cockpit kayaks have a feeling of openness rather than being enclosed.