When it comes to kayaks, everybody has different preferences. Sit On Top kayaks are for paddlers who like greater freedom of movement and ease of getting in and out of the kayak. They additionally relieve you of the claustrophobic feeling which you might feel in a sit-in kayak.
Moreover, they are self-bailing as they get rid of the water which comes into the kayak on their own. They have this ability because of the built-in scupper holes. They are also generally more stable than sit-in kayaks.
However, on the flip side, you are bound to get wet in them. For one reason or the other, they are the kayaks of choice for a number of beginners and experienced paddlers.
Moving on, when it comes to Sit On Top kayaks, depending on the activity you intend to do, there are a lot of options. In this article, we are going to help you find the best budget sit on top kayak for your different needs.
Table of Comparison for Best Sit On Top Kayaks Under $500
There are a lot of things you can ask for in a kayak. However, everything comes at a price and adds to the eventual cost. Therefore, there are some things which you need to compromise on for some things which are essential. The basic thing we considered in our selection was durability.
You would see that almost all of our picks have polyethylene construction, which is not only lightweight but also provides durability. The table below presents some of the key features of the picks.
|Kayak||Weight (lbs)||Capacity (lbs)||Best For|
|Sun Dolphin Bali SS 10||44||250||Beginners|
|Ocean Kayak Frenzy||44||325||Recreation|
|Lifetime 10 Foot kayak||60||500||Tandem|
|Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100||52||275||Whitewater|
|Perception Tribe 9.5||46||300||Versatility|
|Ocean Kayak Venus 10||37||175||Women|
|Lifetime Tamarack Tioga 10||50||275||Flat Water|
There are some general characters to these kayaks, however, some features are unique to different kayaks. This makes them suitable for different activities. Let’s have a detailed look at each of them.
1. Sun Dolphin Bali SS 10 – Best Budget Sit On Top Kayak for Beginners
Sun Dolphin manufacturers affordable recreational and fishing kayaks. These include both Sit On Top and sit-in kayaks. Bali is their Sit On Top recreational kayak series and consists of four models including three solo and one tandem kayak.
We will be talking about Sun Dolphin Bali SS 10 which is a solo Sit On Top recreational kayak. It comes at a length of 10 feet and a width of 28.5 inches.
Moving on, Bali SS 10 has a construction of high-density polyethylene (HDPE). HDPE has a high strength-to-density ratio. This means it has high tensile strength and gives the kayak a rigid feel. HDPE kayaks are also scratch-resistant.
While HDPE kayaks may not have the smoothest of finishes, they are UV and chemical resistant which makes them durable. In addition, Sun Dolphin claims Bali 10 SS has a reinforcement of Fortiflex material which further adds to its durability.
As Bali 10 SS is a Sit On Top yak, this makes it ideal for beginners because it is easy to get in and out of a kayak. Moreover, it has a wide capacious cockpit for a 10-feet kayak.
The one thing which you want your recreational kayak to have is good storage for your camping gear. It has a dry compartment in the cockpit. This compartment although small is good to have for your wallet, cellphone, and other valuables.
In addition, Bali 10 also has what Sun Dolphin calls a Portable Accessory Carrier for extra storage. To add to its storage capabilities is shock rigging which you can use to rig paddles and other accessories.
The only real disappointment in this kayak is the seat. For a Sit On Top recreational kayak, you need to have a better seat. The seat this kayak comes with just essentially has a back pad, there is no padding for the bottom. However, you can always add a custom chair like a stadium chair. However, Bali 10 SS has thigh pads on both sides which are unique in kayaks and add to comfort.
In terms of performance, I found this kayak to be stable for a 10-foot kayak, and easy to maneuver. At 44 lbs, it is easy to carry to and from the water. Moreover, it has handles at the bow and stern which add to its easy portability.
2. Ocean Kayak Frenzy Kayak – Best Budget Sit On Top Recreational Kayak
It is hard to talk about Sit On Top kayaks and not talk about Ocean Kayaks. They are the world’s leading manufacturer of Sit On Top kayaks. Frenzy is their budget recreational kayak and comes at 9-foot length and 31-inch width.
If you have an eye for aesthetics, you would love the colors this kayak comes in. It comes in two color combinations. One is white with shades of green and the second is yellow with orange. They both are cool colors and are soothing to the eyes.
If you ever had a short kayak below 12 feet, you would know that they are not stable. However, Ocean Kayak has come up with a tri-hull design that takes care of this. It is basically the traditional “V” hull with additional hulls on both sides. What this gives you is a stable enough kayak to even stand on.
Frenzy Ocean has a construction of single-layer polyethylene. This construction makes it comfortable and gives uniformity to the construction. Polyethylene kayaks generally have high impact strength which means they can endure a good amount of thrashing.
You would see most of the recreational kayaks with polyethylene construction, this is because it is slippery. This makes it easy to transport in and out of water.
In terms of storage, Frenzy comes with front and back storage areas that have bungee to keep your gear secure. It additionally has a molded-in seat well where you can keep your valuables.
Frenzy comes with a Comfort Plus kayak seat which is unique to Ocean Kayak. The seat provides back and butt support, however, a little more padding would have been better. The seat has dimensions of 23 x 15 x 2 inches. This may be a little narrow if you are on the heavier side.
3. Lifetime Two-Person Fishing Kayak – Best Budget Sit On Top Tandem Kayak
Lifetime Products manufacture a variety of innovative plastic items ranging from basketball hoops to waterproof sheds. Among water sports, they manufacture kayaks and paddleboards. The item we have at hand is their Sit On Top tandem kayak.
They market it as to have a capacity of 500 pounds and can seat up to three people. Three people is a bit exaggerated, it can hold two persons with a kid or a pet on board.
Lifetime tandem kayak comes at a length of 10 feet and a width of 36 inches. It basically has a construction of high-density polyethylene which is durable and lightweight. High-density polyethylene is UV and scratch-resistant and fares well against chemicals too.
What I like the most about this kayak is how stable it is. They have built-in a tunnel hull which makes it more stable and difficult to topple. It does not track particularly well, however you can add a custom-made rudder and improve its tracking.
It comes with a set of double-sided paddles, so basically you do not have to buy separate paddles. What else adds to convenience is the paddle clips it has onboard. This means that you can rig your paddles to them without the worry of losing them into water. It additionally comes with a couple of backrests which you need to clip to the kayak. However, they are easily removable and you can use only one for solo kayaking.
However, if you are planning on going tandem kayaking, there is not much storage left to benefit from. Nevertheless, it has a 6-inch rear hatch where you can put your valuables. There is also a little bungee area at the front where you can put your gear.
They market it as a fishing kayak, however, just adding three-rod holders does not make it a fishing kayak. In fact, neither of the anglers is able to cast the line straight as it would catch the other person. Moreover, there is not much room to store your catch or your tackle. However, if you intend to use it as a solo kayak, you can adapt it better for fishing.
This kayak weighs in at 60 pounds which makes it difficult to carry by one person. However, it has a molded handle at the bow which enables easy movement to and from the water. Moreover, it has grooved multiple footrests within the kayak.
4. Emotion Spitfire 8 Kayak – Fastest Budget Sit On Top Kayak
Emotion Kayaks manufactures a variety of watersport boats including canoe, paddleboards, and kayaks. Their kayak line consists of all kinds of different kayaks. The one we have at hand is their Spitfire 8 kayak, which is their 8-foot recreational kayak. If you are looking for an affordable small kayak that can handle rivers and lakes, get your hands on one.
Although Spitfire has high-density polyethylene construction. HDPE usually does not provide the smoothest of finishes, however, I was amazed by this kayak’s stylish and smooth outlook. Moreover, HDPE kayaks are generally durable and are UV and erosion resistant, so is Spitfire 8.
With any small kayak, you are going to get the speed, the same is with Spitfire 8. It additionally is easy to maneuver. With Spitfire 8 and any other recreational kayak, manufacturers try to ensure stability and safety, the same is the case with Spitfire 8.
With any small kayak, the thing which often gets compromised is the storage. In Spitfire 8, Emotion has tried to make the best use of the available space. It comes with front and rear bungee areas for your gear. In addition, it also has a dry hatch in the cockpit. However, the hatch is not completely watertight and underneath runs the length of the hull, which makes it not suitable for wallets or mobile phones.
One of the things I like about Spitfire is its seat. At this price, to come up with a seat like this is commendable. This is because in most budget kayaks the thing which gets compromised is the seat. Spitfire 8 seat provides a solid back and butt support. This kayak additionally has grooved footrests which adds to your comfort and stability.
5. Lifetime Lotus Sit On Top Kayak – Best Lightweight Sit On Top Kayak
Lifetime Lotus is an 8-foot recreational kayak that comes at a lightweight of 38 pounds. The thing I would like to mention straight off the bat about this kayak is that it comes with a paddle. Most budget kayaks do not come with paddles and you have to buy one separately which adds to the cost. Moreover, it has a capacity of 250 pounds which enables you to have some gear on board.
Lotus has a construction of high-density polyethylene. This means that they are UV protected and their color would not fade. HDPE construction additionally makes them durable and impact resistant which prevents denting and scratching.
The hull design is flatter, however, it is wider for an 8-foot kayak, which makes it stable. Additionally, just like any other small kayak, it is easy to maneuver. However, it is not an ocean kayak and we would recommend only kayaking on flat waters.
The seat this kayak comes with is not the best one around. There is essentially just a backrest that does not have much padding. Moreover, you will be sitting on the hard surface of the kayak as there is no butt support. Therefore, this kayak is not suitable for long kayak excursions. However, this kayak has attachment points for a high back seat, which you can attach to it for improved comfort.
In terms of storage, there is a rear bungee area where you can place your gear or attach your cooler. There is also a cup holder in the cockpit. However, there is no dry storage hatch.
At 38 pounds, Lotus is easy to carry and transport. It additionally has two bow and stern handles which make transport to and from the water easy. Its cockpit also has multiple footrests for different-sized paddlers. It additionally has scupper holes which makes it self-bailing.
6. Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 – Best Sit On Top Whitewater Kayak
Lifetime Products are making simple affordable kayaks for a while now. This is their third product on our list and not without a reason. This could easily be the best budget fishing kayak out there. It comes at a length of 10 feet and a width of 31 inches.
With its UV-resistant HDPE construction, it promises to last you years. Talking more about its construction, the HDPE it uses is blow-molded. Blow-molding adds more stiffness and makes it more resistant to cracking and high temperatures.
Lifetime advertises this as a fishing kayaking. It comes with a top-mounted rod holder which is on the right side. It additionally comes with two flush-mounted rod holders with each on the side of your seat.
In terms of storage, it has front and back storage areas with shock cords. This enables you to add your fishing gear or crate at the back. It additionally has two 6” hatches, one in front of you and the second one behind the seat. The hatches are not entirely watertight and they run the whole length of the hull, which renders them almost useless. However, you can add a custom dry box to make it useful.
The seat it comes with is adjustable and has a flat bottom. However, there is not much padding. Therefore, you might need to add some cushion to make it more comfortable. There are multiple grooved footrest positions for added comfort.
In terms of performance, it has a multi-chine design which adds to its stability. It also has an integrated skeg which gives it better tracking. In addition, I found it easy to maneuver and handle. Moreover, it comes with a paddle and a paddle keeper on board to keep it secure while you fish.
7. Perception Tribe 9.5 Kayak – Best Versatile Sit On Top Kayak
The next entry on our Best Sit On Top Kayak Under 500 is slightly above our cut-off price limit. It comes at around the $530 mark, however, it makes our list for being versatile and more comfortable. Perception Kayaks have been making kayaks for around 40 years now. The characteristic feature of their kayaks is their alluring and fun color options.
The kayak we have at hand is their Tribe 9.5, which is a 9-foot-6 kayak with a width of 31 inches. I said it makes our list for being versatile, this is because there is a good rocker or lift at the front of the boat. This extra volume at the front enables it to punch through the waves on a beach. However, it still has enough keel in the middle so it can work on flat waters.
Tribe 9.5 has a construction of high-density polyethylene which makes it durable and UV resistant. Almost all of the kayaks on our list are made up of HDPE. This is because it is more in supply and is affordable, however, it is durable and scratch and UV resistant.
As I said earlier, the first thing which gets compromised in any budget kayak is the seat. However, this is not the case with Tribe. It comes with a comfortable seat with good padding. Moreover, the seat is adjustable and you can fit it to your personal liking. It provides good back and bottom support.
In terms of storage, despite being a short kayak, it provides good storage options and space. It has front and rear open bungee storage areas where you can put your cooler or other camping or fishing gear. It additionally has a dry hatch in front of you for securing your valuables. It also has a cup holder in the middle.
Perception Tribe 9.5 has molded-in side handles and also T-handles at the bow and stern handles. This makes car-topping a breeze. It also helps in easy to and from water movement. Additionally, as it is a short kayak, it is easy to maneuver.
8. Brooklyn Kayak Company UH-FK184 – Best Budget Sit On Top Fishing Kayak
Brooklyn Kayak Company produces a wide variety of kayaks, paddleboards, and kayak seats. Their kayaks are feature-rich and reasonably priced. The product we have on hand is their UH-FK184 which is their 9-foot fishing kayak.
This kayak is essentially what you call a proper fishing kayak. It comes with a number of rod holders and has enough storage options for your catch and gear. It also has paddle parks where you can stow your paddles while you fish.
It has a construction of HDPE which makes it durable and UV resistant and gives colorfastness. Its design has a good volume at the front which enables it to punch the waves at an ocean. Its hull design enables steady tracking and makes it difficult to topple.
When it comes to storage, I like it for the fact that it comes with two dry storage hatches, one at the bow and the second in the cockpit. The good thing about these hatches is that they come with net boxes that fit into them. This makes sure that your stuff remains in place and is not moving through the length of the hull. UK-FK184 also has a bungee open storage behind the seat where you can place your gear.
Talking of it being a fishing kayak, it has five-rod holders, four of them are flush-mounted and one top-mounted. Top-mounted is in the cockpit right in front of you. Two of the flush-mounted rod holders are at the front and two behind the seat.
The good thing about flush-mounted rod holders is that they are capped. This makes sure that they are not filled with water when you are not using them. However, this kayak does not have a cup or bottle holder which is a disappointment.
9. Ocean Kayak Venus 10 – Best Budget Sit On Top Kayak for Women
Ocean Kayaks have made Venus series for women who have a love for the sport. It has two base models, which come at 11 and 10 feet. There is no big difference between the two. However, Venus 11 has two dry hatches as opposed to one for the Venus 10 and gives 50 pounds more in the weight capacity. We will be talking about Venus 10, but you can get an idea about Venus 11 too.
With this kayak, Ocean Kayaks tried to come up with a design that is lightweight and something which handles well. It is easy to carry and has conveniently placed a central handle which makes car-topping easy for females. One of the other thing which makes it more suitable for females is the position of the seat. The seat is quite lower in the kayak and this is to accommodate the lower female center of gravity.
At 9′ 10″ and 28”, it is easy to maneuver. However, it has a low deck volume and is only suitable for flat waters such as lakes or ponds. Venus 10 has a construction of single-layer polyethylene which makes it compact and durable.
When it comes to storage, Venus has a seat well that is not entirely watertight. However, it does not go into the hull, so it is going to keep your items in place. It also has a rear tank well which has bungee support to keep your gear secure. This tank well also has a couple of scupper holes to keep your gear as dry as possible. It additionally has a small storage area at the front, which is not big but every bit counts.
See also: Best Kayaks for Women
10. Lifetime Tamarack Tioga 10 – Best Sit On Top Kayak for Flat Water
The last entry on our Best Sit On Top Kayak Under 500 is another simple and reliable kayak from Lifetime Products. Lifetime Tamarack Tioga 10, as you can guess from the name, is a 10-foot kayak that comes at a weight capacity of 275 pounds. Lifetime Tioga Sit On Top kayak has a flat hull with chine rails which gives it stability. However, it does not have much rocker, therefore is only suitable for flat water use.
To begin with, this kayak has a construction of high-density polyethylene. The biggest plus point with HDPE is that it makes the kayak affordable and durable enough to last you years. It also gives kayak UV protection and colorfastness.
Tamarack Tioga comes with a storage tank well at the stern which is big enough to have some gear on board. It additionally bungee straps to make your gear secure. Along with that, the tank well has scupper plugs to keep your gear dry on the go. It has also a hatch in the cockpit which is not entirely watertight and goes down to the hull. However, you can add a custom box inside it to make it useful. This kayak also has a storage area at the front with cord straps.
The seat Tioga comes with is not the best one around. It provides back support, but there is no bottom support. However, you can add some custom cushions according to your comfort. However, it has multiple molded footrests in the cockpit to cater to a variety of users.
When it comes to carrying, it has two T-handles at the back and stern. The thing I like about T-handles is that they provide a nice and comfortable wrist while carrying position. In addition to T-handles, it also has two handles on the side for easy car-topping. Tioga 10 does not come with a paddle, however, it has a paddle cord on one side to secure your paddle.
Ultimate Buyer’s Guide for Best Sit On Top Kayak Under $500
I hope the above list helps you find the best budget Sit On Top kayak for your needs. However, if you want to look for some more options, here are some of the things you need to consider.
The material of Construction:
The first and the most important thing you need to consider in a kayak is its material of construction. This is because it attributes a lot of important characteristics to the kayak. These characters include durability, impact resistance, scratch resistance, UV protection, and colorfastness to include a few. The material of construction also largely determines the price a kayak comes at.
Three of the most common materials used in kayak making are polyethylene, fiberglass, and carbon or graphite composites. Polyethylene is the most affordable material among the three. However, it provides the least strength-to-weight ratio of the three. One of the advantages of polyethylene kayaks is that they have excellent abrasion resistance when compared to other materials.
However, when it comes to UV resistance, polyethylene lags behind fiberglass and graphite composites which are extremely UV resistant.
If you are going for a budget kayak under $500, chances are your kayak will have a polyethylene construction. These kayaks are durable and provide high resistance. However, on the other side, these are heavier and can distort if not stored appropriately.
Another important factor that determines the performance of the kayak is its hull design. A few parameters of performance of a kayak include stability, speed, maneuverability, and tracking. Depending on the activity you are planning to do with the kayak, these factors vary in their importance.
For example, if the user intends to use the kayak for recreational activities, it is imperative that the kayak should have good stability. Moreover, it should have good maneuverability. This is because most of the recreational kayakers are beginners or intermittent kayakers who are not good at maneuvering the kayak. Therefore, for a recreational kayak, it has to be stable and maneuverable.
On the other hand, if the intention is to use the kayak for touring, it should have a good capacity for storage and good tracking. However, if you want to use a kayak for multiple activities, it should be better at most performance parameters.
Coming back to hull design, there are essentially four types of hull designs or shapes. These include a shallow arch, a “V” arch, a hard chine, and a soft chine.
Length and Width of Kayak:
The length and width of the kayak also determine their performance and overall usability. Longer kayaks generally track well. This means they are most likely to paddle in a straight line without veering left and right on their own.
The length of the kayak also determines some other properties like storage capacity and kayak’s weight capacity. Longer kayaks generally have more storage capacity and have higher weight capacity which makes them more user-friendly.
The width of the kayak is measured at the widest point kayak. Generally, greater width gives kayaks more primary stability, however, it makes them less efficient. Recreational kayaks, in general, are wider in terms of length to width ratio.
Rocker of Kayak:
The overall curvature of the kayak from stern to bow is the rocker. Greater the rocker, the lesser the resistance kayak from the water. However, it negatively affects the tracking because water resistance is essential in making kayaks move in a straight line. Kayaks with good rockers are better in the ocean against waves.
Storage of Kayak:
Storage is another important factor to consider when going for a kayak. This is because whether you intend to use a kayak for recreational, touring, or fishing purposes, you need plenty of storage.
Essentially, there are two types of storage areas in kayaks, dry hatches, and open storage areas. Most of the kayaks have a dry hatch in the cockpit right in front of your seat. This is hatch is for storing your valuables like your cell phone and wallet or a snack. They are also used for storing your tackle or your catch. Other types of dry hatches can be at the bow or stern of the kayak. These dry hatches are generally bigger than dry hatches in the cockpit.
However, there are two things you need to consider in dry hatches. One is how watertight they are. A dry hatch that is not 100% watertight can ruin your valuables. The other thing you need to look for is whether it has a box inside. If it does not have a box inside it, it will run down to the hull and will run throughout the length of the hull. This will essentially render it useless.
In addition to dry hatches, kayaks have open storage areas. These areas are used for your securing your camping or fishing gear. These areas mostly have bungee or shock cords which make them more secure.
The seat of Kayak:
Whether you plan to spend days fishing or just enjoy nature, you need a comfortable seat. However, in most budget kayaks, this is the factor that mostly gets compromised.
There are a few things that you need to look at in a kayak seat. First is how much padding it has. Some kayaks come with a seat that is next to nothing and have absolutely no padding. With these kayaks, you just can not expect to spend more than a couple of hours on the water.
The second thing to look for in a kayak seat is the back support. A seat with a high and rigid backrest would give you a much more comfortable and enjoyable experience.
Another factor to consider in kayak seats is whether they are adjustable or foldable. A foldable seat with help in easy transport of the kayak. An adjustable seat, on the other hand, will enable you to adjust it to different positions for different activities.
However, seats along with storage are things which you can improve on by adding custom accessories. Therefore, if you are getting a good durable kayak at a reasonable price with a bad seat, go for it. You can always improve on the seat. Kayaks with good seats can cost you a few hundred dollars more.
Miscellaneous Features to Look For:
As said earlier, depending on the activity you want to use your kayak for, you should look for appropriate features. For example, if you intend to use a kayak for fishing, it should have a good number of rod holders. It should additionally have enough storage for your tackle and your storage.
On the other hand, if you want to use it for touring or recreational purposes, you do not need rod holders. Instead, you should look for greater storage for camping and touring gear.
In addition to the above, you also need to determine the type of water conditions you want to kayak in. Whether you intend to kayak in flat waters or running water, go for the kayaks that best suit your circumstances. In this aspect, you need to consider hull design among other factors such as rocker as described in detail.
If you want to make the best use of your budget for a kayak, look if they come with accessories like paddles or scupper plugs. This will make sure that you do not spend any extra on these accessories which are necessary.
The above are the most important factors along with your budget that you need to consider before buying a kayak. I hope this will help you make a better choice according to your needs.
Frequently Asked Questions About Sit On Top Kayaks
Whether you are a beginner, a recreational kayaker, or an angler, Sit On Top kayaks provide many options to cater to you. We have tried to come up with a list that provides budget options for different paddlers.
When you are spending your hard-earned money on a kayak, what matters is the value you get. If you are buying a $1000 kayak which provides value that you can get in a $300 kayak, there is no point in spending the extra $700. Therefore, do your research and do not fall prey to clever marketing gimmickry. After all, all that glitters is not gold.
I hope the above piece answers some of your questions regarding an affordable kayak. If not and you still have some confusion, do comment below and we would love to respond.