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Do you need to improve the comfort of an older kayak? Comfort Checklist

by Tom Holtey
Special thanks to Frank Ladd - based on his article: Kayak Seat Comfort Part I

Older kayaks are outfitted with simple, no frills seating. While durable and rugged, this primitive outfitting is often not as comfortable as the outfitting of newer models. Try these comfort options for your sit-on or sit-in kayak:

OUTFITTING TIPS & TRICKS W/ LINKS TO PRODUCTS
~ Sit-On & Sit-In ~

~ SIT-INSIDE KAYAKS: ~
Use this link to SIT-INSIDE specific outfitting at Tom's TopKayaker Shop


sit-inside kayak diagram
  • A SEAT PAD
  • B BACK SUPPORT
  • C THIGH BRACE
  • E HIP PADS
  • F FOOT BRACE

Key Concepts
for a Sit-inside Kayak



IMPORTANT:
Outfitting components should not inhibit wet exit or re-entry from deep water. Replacing the seat should be a last resort option for customizing comfort.
  • Lumbar supporting back bands are best for active paddlers.

  • A taller recreational back support is best for relaxed paddlers, and those who are tall.

  • Legs should be bent, adjust foot braces as needed.

  • Knees and/or thighs should be pressed against the inside of the cockpit.

Sit-inside Kayak
Adjustments

  • Add or adjust hip pads as needed

  • Foot Pegs - move forward or back

  • Back Band Tension (performance kayak)

  • Seat Back Height and Tension (recreational kayak)

  • Thigh Braces (adjustable on some models)

  • Hip Pads (available on some models, often adjust fit with foam shims)

  • Leg Lifters (found on a few brands)

~ SIT-ON-TOP KAYAKS: ~
Use this link to SIT-ON-TOP specific outfitting at Tom's TopKayaker Shop

sit-on-top kayak diagram
  • A SEAT PAD
  • B BACK REST
  • D LEG STRAPS
  • F FOOT BRACES

Key Concepts for a Sit-on-top Kayak

  • Seat adjusted properly for support and comfort.

  • Use taller seats for relaxed paddlers or for those who are large.

  • Use shorter seats for active paddlers and those who are small.

  • Legs slightly bent (adjustable foot pegs on some models).

  • Adjust leg straps for proper control of kayak. (usually an optional after-market accessory)

Standard Sit-on-top Kayak Seat

A standard SOT seat is a separate accessory that is removable from the kayak. It has four straps. The rear straps must be very tightly adjusted to hold the seat in place. Adjust the front straps to suit the paddler’s need for support.

Leg Straps for Sit-on-top kayak

Leg straps allow the kayaker to grip and control their sit-on kayak. Leg straps should be tight, but not so tight as to spread the legs wide. The paddler’s knees should not be touching.

~ STEPS YOU CAN TAKE TO IMPROVE COMFORT: ~
Use this link to COMFORT specific outfitting at Tom's TopKayaker Shop
  • Add or replace the seat pad. Thick seat pads (such as the Tech Lift Seat Pad) are best for sit-on-top and sit-in rec kayaks. Thinner seat pads (such as the Harmony Seat Pad) are best for tight fitting sit-in kayaks.

  • Replace the back support. Use a lumbar hugging back band (such as the Sonic Back Band) for sit-in touring kayaks. Use the Tall Back Back-Band for sit-in rec kayaks. Replace the seat accessory on your sit-on-top kayak. Sometimes you can upgrade a back band to recreational seat back, using something like the Phase 3 AirPro Touring Seat Back Kit. See the Phase 3 Seat Video for info. Consider a taller seat back, thicker seat pad, or a better quality seat.

    Seat attachment points can be improved with custom located strap eyes. Some built-in sit-top seats can be removed and replaced with a standard sit-on-top seat.
    Read more about kayak seats: How To Choose Sit-on-top Kayak Accessories as well as How To Use Sit-on-top Kayak Accessories.

  • Thigh pads can be added to recreational sit-in-side kayaks not originally outfitted with them. Consider adding bolt-on or stick on thigh pads. Thigh braces (such as the Cayuga Thigh braces) can be added to sit-in-side touring kayaks if not originally outfitted with them. Find here: Sit-inside Outfitting Dept or use close cell foam.

  • Leg supports are very rare on older sit-in-side kayaks. Modern kayak seating (such as the Necky ACS Seat or Wilderness Systems Phase 3) is not often available or compatible with older kayaks. Consider using the Seal Line Thigh Support Cushion. This cushion can also be used for a sit-on-top kayak.

Proper Kayak Seating

  • Back Strait and Erect

  • Legs Slightly Bent

  • Feet on Foot Braces, Adjusted to Fit Legs

  • Backside Pressed into Seat (adjust as needed)

Back Pain? Try the following:

  • A taller seat back support.

  • Sit higher on thicker seat pad, butt higher than feet.

  • Use a lumbar support or switch to a back band.

  • Add leg support, under upper legs.

Feet Get Numb or Fall Asleep? Try:

  • Sit higher on thicker seat pad, butt higher than feet.

  • Add leg support, under upper legs.

Sciatic Leg and Back Pain? Try:

  • Sit on a thicker seat pad, placed as far back as possible, and up the back edge of the seat a bit.

Article:

Shopping for a Kayak?

  • Make sure the kayak seating is properly adjusted to fit you while testing. Seek the help of an expert if necessary.

  • Attend a demo day, kayak lesson, join a tour or rent a kayak for the day.

  • Try a few different kayaks. Test paddle them on the water for as long as you can, about 1 hour or more each boat for the best results.

Can’t Test Paddle on the water?

  • "Test sit" the kayak on the showroom floor for as long as you can. Read a kayak book or magazine to pass the time.

  • Fully understand the return policy.
Sit-inside kayak shoppers:

Sit-on-top Kayak shoppers:

White Water Kayak Outfitting:

  • Seek the help of a certified white water instructor for the safest and best results.

 


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