In this article, we’ll review some of the best sit on top river kayaks for 2021.
My name is Steve Rogers, and I have a bit of an obsession with rivers. I grew up bashing Grumman aluminum canoes on rivers in the Northeastern US, moved to kayaks, and never stopped. I’ll give you some suggestions based on my experience.
Today, I will work with Angel, an ex-professional kayak athlete and instructor, to help you find the very best river kayak.
Sit-on-top kayaks have opened the sport of kayaking to people who don’t know how to roll. That makes them an ideal entry point to the world of paddling little boats. Rivers are ideal places to paddle little boats, so let’s put rivers and sit on top kayaks together and see what we get!
- Best for Fishing: Perception Pescador Pilot 12
- Best for White Water: Dagger Torrent
- Best 2-Seater: Liquid Logic Deuce Coupe
- Best White Water Inflatable: SOTAR 11’ SL
- Best Budget Recreational: Old Town Twister
The Best Sit on Top River Kayaks for 2021
Here are my most recommended sit on top river kayaks and their detailed reviews.
- Best for: Fishing, recreational use
- Key features: Pedal drive for hands-free propulsion
- Weight: 38 kg
- Capacity: 216 kg
- Price: $$$
Rivers are made for fishing, and so is the Perception Pescador Pilot 12. The pedal drive propellor gives you hands-free propulsion forward or backward. The boat is stable enough to fish standing up, and the stability and huge capacity make it ideal for taking kids for a spin.
A covered front hatch and rear well deck provide storage, there are multiple rod holders and accessory attachment points, and the roomy captain’s chair is made for all-day comfort.
The price is on the steep side, but you get what you pay for, and if you take care of it this kayak will serve you well long after the 5-year warranty expires.
- Best for: White water
- Key features: Thigh straps and adjustable foot braces for added control
- Weight: 113 kg
- Capacity: 22 kg
- Price: $
Many people are fascinated by the idea of white water kayaking but intimidated by the prospect of learning to roll. The Dagger Torrent allows immediate access to up to class 3 white water.
Dagger has made white water kayaks since the sport began, and they’ve set this boat up with a hull that has enough edge for control but not enough to trip you up.
The thigh straps give an added measure of control, and you can even use them to roll the boat up after a capsize. Adjustable foot braces give you a firm base for paddling.
There’s not a lot of cargo capacity, so you won’t be bringing much along. Never paddle white water alone, and remember that even “easy” white water presents special hazards.
- Best for: A kayak built for two… or more
- Key features: Deployable skeg for tracking, versatile seating
- Weight: 35 kg
- Capacity: 227 kg
- Price: $$
You may know Liquid Logic as a maker of premium white water kayaks. The Deuce Coupe brings that same obsession with quality design and construction to a 2-seat sit on top.
The molded center seat makes the boat easy to paddle with two adults and a child or one adult and two children. You could even paddle it alone if you want a fast boat that tracks straight.
The deployable skeg makes it easy to keep the boat on course. The two seats are as comfortable as anything you’ll find on a kayak. There’s a rear well deck with shock cords and three small dry hatches.
Liquid Logic adds paddle brackets to hold your paddle if you need your hands free, and even a small fixed wheel for off-water mobility: use it like a wheelbarrow.
The Deuce Coupe is on the heavy side, like most 2-seat sit on top kayaks.
- Best for: White water Inflatable
- Key features: Asymmetrical tubes, super tough material
- Weight: 21 kg
- Capacity: 170 kg
- Price: $$$
SOTAR makes some of the best white water rafts on the planet, and their experience is visible all over this boat. The Lexatron polyurethane fabric is incredibly durable and slides easily over obstacles, and the Leafield C7 valves are industry standard.
There are four air chambers for security. The floor is extremely rigid, and extruded aluminum foot braces and ergonomic thigh straps keep you in control. The seat is comfortable and the asymmetrical tubes, thinner in front, put the buoyancy where you need it.
A close friend paddles one of these on class 5 water with no problems. I’m not saying this boat will make you a class 5 paddler, but if your kung fu is up to it, so is the boat.
This is an expensive boat, but it delivers the goods. Cheap inflatables don’t last long in white water, and if you’re going into the rough stuff you need quality.
- Best for: Budget recreational use
- Key features: Simple design, quality construction
- Weight: 21 kg
- Capacity: 125 kg
- Price: $
If you want a sit-on-top kayak for rivers and you’re on a tight budget, this may be your boat. Old Town has been making quality kayaks for many years, and they designed this one to serve the needs of the entry-level recreational paddler who can’t spend much but doesn’t want junk.
Everything on this boat is molded in, except for a shock cord paddle holder, the shock cord retainer on the rear deck well, and the skid plate protecting the bottom. There’s nothing to break or wear out, just a solid hull molded by a company that understands plastic molding.
The hull is a well-designed compromise offering tracking and maneuverability, making it a great pick for kids or first-time kayak owners.
Don’t expect frills on this boat: it’s as basic as they get. That’s what it’s designed to be.
How to Choose a Sit on Top River Kayak
Before you even start looking at kayaks, consider two factors.
- The water you’ll be paddling.
- Your paddling skills and goals.
Those two factors will define your kayak options.
All rivers have current. Are the rivers you’ll paddle fast or slow? Do they offer extended paddling options or will you be moving short distances? Will you be fishing, running rapids, doing short trips with a family, or paddling long distances? All of these factors will affect your choice.
In general, a longer boat will be faster and paddle straighter. A shorter boat is more maneuverable and easier to bring to and from the water. If you’re planning to carry your kayak on a car top, make sure it’s light enough for you to lift without strain!
Almost all sit-on-top kayaks have some things in common. They are made of roto-molded polyethylene, they have scupper holes for self-bailing, and they have molded-in footrests.
Those features make them very easy to use, and you can get back on them (with practice) if you fall off. It also means you’ll stay wet, potentially a problem if it’s cold, and that you need to secure anything you have with you!
Sit on top kayaks are fun and easily accessible, and make a great introduction to kayaking. Consider your goals, decide what type of kayak you want, and review the features of the boats available. This list should give you a place to start!