Articles - Sit-On-Top Kayak Reviews

Enjoying some Sit-On-Top kayaking fun at Rutland Water
Enjoying some Sit-On-Top kayaking fun at Rutland Water
Canoe & Kayak UK Test Team - Posted on 17 Mar 2013
Sit-On-Top kayaks are one of the easiest and most fun ways of dipping your toes into the fantastic world of kayaking, and their popularity is growing in strength year on year. When the sun shines it often seems like you can’t drive down any motorway in the land without seeing half a dozen or more Sit-On-Top kayaks happily strapped to roof-racks and heading for the nearest water! Simple and easy to use they are versatile and can be used in a variety of paddling environments. They’re perfect for tootling around at the beach, playing in the waves, cruising on peaceful lakes and even exploring estuaries and gentle rivers. Kayak fishermen often choose them as a platform because of their excellent stability and ease of use. Whatever floats your boat there’s a Sit-On design out there to suit everyone, no matter what you want to do on the water, from long-distance paddles or fishing, to family fun. So to help you find the right boat for you and give you a taste of what’s on offer we took a look at some of the best solo Sit-On-Top kayaks on the market.

Perception Triumph 13 Sit-On-Top kayak
RRP: £450
Length: 409cm
Width: 75cm
Weight: 27kgPerception Triumph 13 Sit-On-Top Kayak
This is a new model from Perception, and one that we feel very much reflects their touring kayak pedigree. The slight rocker and hull chines are features very reminiscent of sit-in kayaks made for touring, and the performance is, quite predictably, more similar to the latter than that of many other sit-on-top kayaks as a result: the sleek Triumph 13 is fast, and notably so, but also offers smooth and responsive tracking and handling even in swell or choppy conditions. We wondered before getting the Triumph on the water how much this would impact on its stability, and were pleased to find that it barely did. Despite its length giving the Triumph 13 the look of a sleek and fast kayak that may be wobbly, it does in fact have ample width, especially around the paddler’s centre of gravity, that anyone, apart perhaps from absolute beginners, will find it reassuringly stable.

There are some really nice design features sported by the Triumph 13, too, that we felt really added to the user-friendliness of this kayak. The moulded child’s seat in front of the main seating area (a very functional and comfortable seat is supplied for the adult paddler) is a really smart touch, for example. There are plenty of points for fixing accessories to, a paddle/ rod park, a large oval hatch and a very generously-sized storage recess at the back with elastic netting. You could really load up for some serious picnicking in this thing! If you’re into that sort of thing, there’s also a dedicated angling version too. If you’re looking for a little more performance, or the capability to carry some more gear on your sit-on-top kayaking trip, then we’d suggest you definitely take a look at the Triumph 13.   

Tootega Pulse 95 Sit-On-Top kayak
RRP: £369
Length: 288cm
Width: 75cm
Weight: 19kgTootega Pulse Sit On Top Kayak
CKUK Verdict
The Pulse 95 from Tootega is a nice all-rounder sort of kayak that you could try a little bit of everything in, we felt, but true to its original design brief seriously excels in the surf. We were mightily impressed with how much fun this nifty Sit-On-Top kayak was to mess around on at the beach when the surf was up!
Despite being a truly excellent sit-on-top for surfing, the Pulse isn’t so specialised that it can’t do anything else: it’s confidence-inspiringly stable, tracks well and is manoeuvrable, meaning you’d happily take it on flat-water day trips on lakes or rivers, too. It perhaps doesn’t offer quite so much as some of the other sit-on-top kayaks in the test in the way of accessories that would aid such trips – no seat included, for example – but it is also towards to lower end of the price scale and in our opinion more than makes up for this in its performance on the waves. There is a water bottle and handy little day hatch just in front of the paddler, too; and this is not to say that you can’t just get on and paddle this straight from the shop, either: there are moulded-in footrests which add to the excellent handling on ocean swells and breakers.  
Whether you’re a relative beginner or seasoned sit-on-top kayak beach surfer in search of a kayak that is particularly fun when used for surfing but still versatile enough to suit all your needs then the Tootega Pulse is certainly worth considering, in out view.  

Emotion Temptation Sit-On-Top kayak
RRP: £475
Length: 314cm
Width: 76cm
Weight: 20kgPelican Apex 80 Sit-On-Top Kayak
We were impressed by the Temptation from Emotion, a kayak that certainly made a splash (if you’ll excuse the pun) and collected a fair number of awards over in the States upon its release. It wasn’t too difficult to see why: it handles well, has plenty of stability, plenty of storage in the form of a front hatch and rear recess, comes with an incorporated folding-down seat, has attached carry handles for easy transport and roof racking, space for optional rod holders and comfortable, ergonomic moulded-in footrests.
       There’s not a lot of rocker to the hull, and while this kayak is great on the flat in good conditions, we found that it wasn’t the most fun paddle we’d ever had in the surf, and its normally good tracking was occasionally subject to victimisation by choppiness thrown at it.
In all, though, the Temptation is a nice versatile kayak that offers all of the handling performance, comfort and storage that you’d want for a longer trip, while still being a stable platform to learn on. The four grab handles are a very nice feature, and make it easy to lug around on your own. Certainly a kayak worth considering of you’re after something user friendly and easy-to-handle for a relaxed day-trip with plenty of room for picnic paraphernalia.

Perception Scooter Comfort Sit-On-Top kayak
Length: 295cm
Width: 75cm
Weight: 20kg
Capacity: 150kg   Perception Sit-On-Top Kayak in action on Rutland Water
RRP: Beach Model: £350, Comfort Model: £399, Surf Model: £439, Platinum Model:

We’ve long been fans of Perception’s Scooter sit-on-top kayak range, which we’ve found to be versatile and user friendly regardless of ability; two quite essential accolades for a sit-on-top! The slightly rockered bow provides just enough lift for skipping smoothly over waves or chop, but at the same time the tracking and manoeuvrability are excellent, making this an ideal craft whether you’re surfing, crossing a lake or taking a gentle trip down the river. There’s a small hatch for taking the necessary chocolate and sandwich supplies for a gentle day-trip, and the package includes a seat and back rest, which we found quite comfortable.

The Scooter certainly isn’t a bad size: although it’s got the length and width to be fast enough and confidence-inspiringly stable, you certainly wouldn’t describe this sit-on-top as cumbersome. The moulded-in handles make it easy to lift on or off a roof rack on your own, and carry short distances to the water.

We’ve been testing the Comfort model of the Scooter, but it is also available in a more basically specced Beach version, a Surf spec, with thigh straps and a paddle leash thrown in, or Platinum spec, which incorporates angling points, an extra hatch and a paddle park. In all, we’d recommend that anybody in search of a versatile sit-on-top that you want to feel confident learning with should most definitely consider taking a Scooter out for a spin.

Islander Hula 8.5 Sit-On-Top Kayak
Length: 260cm
Width: 69cm
Weight: 18kg
Capacity: 100kg
RRP: £329.95
Islander Hula Sit-On-Top Kayak
The first thing that stood out about the Hula was its size. It was noticeably narrower and lower on the volume side, and had much lower sidewalls and a flatter hull that all the other boats we tested. The fittings were great and it had the most user-friendly grab handles of all the boats on test, especially the side handle. It felt light too, so loading and unloading and getting to the water was easy.

On the water our original thoughts matched up, the Hula turned quickly but constantly sat low in the water, shipping some water. Our biggest tester (14 stone/95kgs) onboard the Hula to sat very low with water constantly lapping onto the deck. Turning with a slight edge didn’t aid the performance but bought it to a stand still as water was weighing the Hula down causing drag. With a lighter paddler on board things improved a little, but one of our less experienced testers said it was a bit like ‘paddling on a surfboard.’ Not an ideal comparison for a user-friendly family Sit-On-Top kayak.
With all that said in the surf its drawbacks become pluses and it comes alive on a wave, with lighter paddlers onboard it handled well turned on a six pence and tracked very well for such a small boat. The fittings were well thought out with friendly grab handles and the build was top notch. There is no chance that this SOT is for mums and dads, but kids will love it. I guess parents will just have to sit on the beach reading the paper while the nippers have all the fun. 

Emotion Spitfire Sit-On-Top Kayak
Length: 244cm
Width: 50cm
Weight: 17kgEmotion Kayaks Spitfire Sit-On-Top Kayak in action
Capacity: 108 kg
RRP: From £350

The Spitfire from Emotion is a fun and stable little thing, ideal for beginners who want to build their confidence. For a sit-on-top kayak of its length it tracks pretty well, and is predictably nice and manoeuvrable, too. We were impressed with all of the handling, in fact, and felt that over all the Spitfire offers good value to any beginner looking for a versatile sit-on-top to improve with and try  out different things. It proved itself decent in the surf, for example, as well as providing a stable base for leisurely flat-water trips.

The folding seat is very comfortable and convenient for transportation, although we did feel that the moulded-in carry handles were a tad on the shallow side, meaning that they helped less than those of some other sit-on-top kayaks we tested in lugging the Spitfire around. This is a minor niggle, however, given that it is fairly small and therefore not overly difficult to get to or from a roof rack and the water despite this. All of the storage comes in the form of a carry recess at the back, which provides all the room you’d need for a day out picnicking.
Versatile, stable and very beginner-firendly, the Emotion Spitfire is a fairly competitively priced sit-on-top kayak option that anyone who wants a stable and confidence-inspiring base to learn on should try out.

Feel Free Nomad Sit-On-Top Kayak
Length: 300cm
Width: 78cm
Weight: 20kg
Capacity: 150kg
RRP: From £359Feel Free Nomad Sit-On Top Kayak on Rutland Water

The Nomad has a clean, sleek look about it, it’s tidy, simple and ready to hop on and enjoy the water. The only odd feature to the Feel Free Nomad Sit-On-Top kayak was the rope deck-line that ran the length of the boat on both sides. We couldn’t find any use for it and found it a tad pointless, it was no help on climbing back onto the and wasn’t any use for clipping items on, as they would fall off and drag in the water.

On the water though the Nomad provided great performance. It was fast, stable but still manoeuvrable. The seat was injection moulded and provided a comfy and supportive enough ride for the paddler, even without the optional backrest. It tracked very well and instilled a sense of confidence with our testers. It’s a popular choice amongst centres and hire operations and we can see why, as it puts a smile on experienced and beginner alike. The pronounced rocker at the front cut through the waves and would provide a joyous and exciting ride out in bigger surf.

Pelican Solo Sit-On-Top Kayak
RRP: £199.99
Length: 183 cm
Width: 61 cm
Weight: 8kgPelican Solo Kids Sit-On-Top Kayak

Designed specifically with smaller people – namely children – in mind, the Pelican Solo is a short, lightweight sit-on-top kayak with a recommended maximum capacity of 63.5kg. Having tested it, we think this figure is somewhat on the optimistic side: a small adult weighing this much would really struggle to find any stability on the Solo. Having said this, for smaller children the Solo sit-on-top kayak can make a fun little craft for messing around on the water; it’s also lightweight and easy to carry and store, meaning that if you have kids who are keen to get onto the water and are old enough to be on their own it may well be a good alternative to a full-size SOT or new tandem if you’re short on garage space.

At the rate that kids grow, though, it’s probably not going to be a long-term solution! Given its – in our view – quite limited weight capacity, the Solo caters for a relatively short window between kids being old enough to be on their own kayak and getting to the stage where they require something a little larger with a few more performance features. Putting these limitations aside, though, seen as what it is – a scaled down sit-on-top for children to enjoy learning with – the Solo does a good job of doing what it says on the tin. Kids won’t have any trouble manoeuvring it, it’s self-bailing so they can capsize and jump in as much as they like, and it isn’t going to take up too much of your valuable and limited kayak storage space.  

Pelican Apex 80 Sit-On-Top Kayak
RRP: £279
Length: 236cm
Width: 71 cm
Weight: 13kgPelican Apex Sit On Top Kayak

We felt that at the price, the Apex 80 from Pelican offers a pretty good value all-round sit-on-top kayak for recreational use. It’s manoeuvrable and stable enough that anybody, beginner or otherwise, will be able to just hop on and feel comfortable enjoying the water. Out of all the sit-on-tops we tested, it wasn’t the one that tracked the best, although this is to be expected with it also being one of the shortest. The small storage recess in the back is ideal for sandwiches, a warm top and anything else you might like to take along on a short day out, but again if you’re after a lot of room for gear to serve you on a longer journey and more bounteous picnic, then the Apex 80 isn’t necessarily your best option. 

So, while the Apex 80 isn’t designed to cater for long journeys on rivers or lakes, perhaps, it is stable, fun and manoeuvrable on the water for maximum enjoyment when just messing around on your local stretch or at the beach. The fact that it’s a fair bit smaller and notably lighter than many of the other sit-on-tops we tested is a huge advantage if you’re limited for space, and it’s nice and easy to get on and off a car roof and carry to the water. Definitely worth looking into of you want a general purpose sit-on-top like this, but don’t want to spend quite as much.

Check out our Handy Tips on Paddling your Sit-On-Top Kayak

Get Set for a Summer of Sit-On-Top kayaking fun with our useful destination guide and safety tips

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