Help choosing kayak - sit in or sit on top

Hi, I’m looking to buy my first kayak after only borrowing or renting them for some time. I live in a city not far from both lakes and the ocean.

There are two kayaks for sale - perception sound 9.5 (sit in) and perception rambler 9.5 (sit on top).

I assume the Rambler is more versatile for both ocean kayaking and calm river/lake kayaking, but I kind of really like the idea of owning a sit in?

I’m a bit torn and would just love to hear experiences with either and which environments both work well in.

Thank you!

Either of those are ok for the lakes. Neither should be in the ocean. The Rambler might grow into minimal ocean use after you learn how to paddle and get some serious experience in windy/rough water conditions. Taking some basic lessons are the best $$$s you will spend learning how to kayak.


I have experience ocean kayaking, I’ve been doing so for several years, just in someone else’s kayak. Wasn’t sure if the rambler was a good enough ocean kayak to be considered a true versatile kayak for both lake and ocean. Their website says it can, but I’m looking to know whether it ~should~ go in the ocean.

They are rec kayaks not made for the ocean or open bays. Ocean you need minimum 14-15’ with a spray skirt. Really 16’+ is the ticket. They can say what they like to make a sale but they won’t be with you out there. It’s all BS.


PD52’s comments are spot on. The quick, direct answer is no. The rambler is not built to safely use in the ocean if you have any wind, current, or rough conditions.


Perception does not recommend the Rambler or the Sound for use in the ocean, where conditions can change rapidly.

They’ll be fine in most lakes, ponds, and slow moving rivers. You’ll need to do some more research to find a boat that is designed for big open water, including the ocean. Most boats suitable for big open water, are also suitable for more protected waters as well, with the exception of white water.

Awesome, thank you all.

So for non-ocean use, does anyone have any experience with either to recommend one over the other?

Perception seems to feel that the Rambler might be slightly better for somewhat more advanced conditions than the Sound.

I don’t have any personal experience with either boat. Just a guess, but the Rambler might be easier to remount in the event of a capsize.

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Like others have said, not for the ocean.
If I were choosing between the two for lakes where there was any chance of weather coming up or large wakes, I would take the sit on top simply because the large cockpit of the rec boats makes the sit in more at risk of swamping and becoming a problem.
There are shorter kayaks than 16 foot that are ocean worthy, but those are sit on top fishing kayaks with a completely different hull designs and even at that I would highly suggest some serious time and experiencing of widely varied conditions before attempting it.


What have you been renting…and where? ( kind water)

Depends, if I’m renting it’s usually a recreational sit in, but I know that perception doesn’t have a plug in their sit ins, so I’m leaning towards the sit on.

I usually rent on a calm river, but I also want to do some lake trips

A 9.5ft rev kayak?

Have you tried 12ft or longer kayaks? I think you’d find a difference.

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You don’t typically see a drain plug with a sit inside kayak. At least not outside of the recreational kayaks.

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Between those two, I’d suggest the SOT, but at less than ten feet, they’re both going to be sluggish. Look for a longer boat. In fact, I suggest you look for longer boats first and choose between SINK or SOT among those.


I’d say it depends on what kind of ‘ocean’ … we have 12’ eddyline caribbeans (sot) that are fine in an inlet/no-wake boat channel/edge-of-bay situation. And I see many 9-10 footers doing same. Wouldn’t take them beyond that, though. As far as sit-in/sit-on, two hip surgeries dictated my choice. No way I’m fooling with a closed cockpit.

It depends on whether you live in a cold climate, a temperate climate, or tropical climate, and where you’ll be paddling most.

Sit-on-tops are used a lot more for warmer waters and temperatures. The sit inside kayaks are better suited for colder climates and water. You can wear a wetsuit in order to mitigate the open-cockpit issue of sit-on-tops in colder temps and waters.

Perception makes decent boats, I have a sport 11’. If you are going out on the Ocean you should really get a boat designed for it. Depending on where you are at and what you plan on doing you might not need anything to extreem though. If you plan on using it anywhere other than warm flat water right by shore you should get a boat designed for the Ocean.

Sit on tops are great for warm weather and warm water. I enjoy them more than sit ins, plus you can swim out of them. If you are going to use them in rough water you need knee straps. Sit ins are a must for cold water. They are generally going to be better in rough water. The SOTs are more versatile but sit ins are more specialized which can be a great thing depending on what your intended use is.

I have a Ocean Kayak Prowler 13’ SOT and think it is suitable for the Ocean. I would not use anything smaller or anything with less rocker though. The 13’ and 15’ Ocean Kayaks might be good to check out if you want a sit on top. I also have a longer Old Town sea kayak and that would be better for rough water though.

The only Perceptions that look up to the task are the Essence, and maybe the Expression. Their SOTs don’t look up to the task.

I would check out some other brands. I like Ocean Kayak and Old Town by there are others. You probably want something long, sleek, has a decent displacement, and a decent amount of rocker.

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9.5" absolutely can be used in the ocean if it’s calm as long as you don’t care about how fast you go. For instance, in the Northeast, if you kayak in Long Island sound, there are often minimal waves, esp if you are paddling between the coast and some of the many islands there (looking at you Fisher’s Island). For reference, I’ve paddled my whitewater kayak along the coast of Acadia (again on a fairly calm, low-wind day) as well as around Mystic area without any problems whatsoever.

That said, if you have thigh straps for a SOT and are a skilled paddler, you can probably paddle it in larger waves too.

I’m not sure why people here keep saying a kayak must be 16ft long to be in the ocean…nothing magically happens all of a sudden at that length afaik. A longer boat is faster, but you may not care about that, esp if not traveling far. A longer boat will help bridge swells that are closer together a bit better but large concerning swells typically have a larger wavelength and thus it won’t be as much of a different in large waves; in fact it may cause you to sink your nose underwater much more often which can throw off your maneuverability/balance during those instances.

When looking at it from an engineering/mathematical standpoint:
-A short kayak mayyyy tend to weathercock easier (but depends more on the Center of Mass position in the boat than anything like length), but it’s also easier to correct.
-A long kayak has more surface area for the wind to catch, and will be further from the Center of Mass, but there is also more area in the water that counteracts it, so really it should be about the same.
-A shorter kayak should be easier for you to create a strong enough Moment (torque) to turn it as needed.
-A shorter kayak technically can flip over backwards easier…but is that ever a worry, since you are way more likely to just roll over instead?
-The biggest thing is to look at the weight capacity; a smaller boat will have a smaller capacity. I’m 140lbs with gear; a small 280lb capacity boat will perform similarly for me as a 420lb capacity boat that a large 210lb person is yelling at me that I “Should” have.
-If muscle is linearly proportional, than I can also say that when a 210lb person says they like the maneuverability of an 18ft boat but prefers no longer because it gets significantly harder to turn, that is the same as a 12ft boat for me. In this sense, tracking-ability should also scale more-or-less to the strength of your strokes. This will matter if you are going for speed over a long distance or trying to keep up with bigger paddlers than you, but otherwise it shouldn’t. That said people will often say a smaller boat tracks worse because they are pushing it as hard/fast as a longer faster boat. If you also do this, you will definitely find the same.

Who wants to point out where the objective data doesn’t show everything (cuz likely there are a couple areas that is true)? The only reason I see a longer boat truly being ‘better’ is when the paddler is heavier, you need to carry more gear, or you want to go faster.

That said, if you are planning to go further from the coast in a SINK, make sure your kayak has 2 bulkheads; shorter boats often don’t. If yours doesnt, then stuff a ton of floatbags in the back.

What size to you borrow or rent, I am on the Delaware Bay and I would not go in w a 9.5 boat but I am a newbie in skill level, I have both and the SOT is more stable but slower , I would look for at least a 12 foot sot if it was my money.

I ended up getting the 9.5 SOT but only for local calm lake kayaking, nothing more intense for now. I really just want it for an alternative to get active and I figure I can work my way up to a more specialized kayak in the future.

This is all really helpful though and I’ll definitely keep it in mind as I look to upgrade my kayak!