Having a good kayak seat can be the difference between following your spirit of adventure to a lifelong pursuit and giving up kayaking for good. However, finding the right seat can be quite a pursuit in itself! Well, we’re here to help. We put our heads together to come up with a complete guide to finding the best kayak seats on the market right now!
We know that every kayaker needs something a bit different from their seat, whether it’s a question of comfort or of price. That’s why we’ve put this guide together! It’s a comprehensive look at all the options, so there’s something for everybody.
You’ll find low-cost upgrades to replace your factory-included one, as well as premium options perfect for the experienced adventurer. Whether you have back pain, a short frame, or a tight budget, we’ve got you covered.
Below, you’ll find full, in-depth reviews of all our recommendations. We’ve also put together a quick guide to help you figure out what you need from your new seat.
Let’s jump right in with a glance at our Top Three overall!
Best for Sit-In Kayaks
- Our Rating: 4.4
- Popularity: Medium
Best for Sit-On-Top Kayaks
- Our Rating: 4.8
- Popularity: Low
Best for Any Boat
- Our Rating: 4.o
- Popularity: Low
Most Comfortable Kayak Seat Reviews
- Ocean Kayak Comfort Plus
- Ocean Kayak Comfort Tech
- Surf To Summit Outfitter Series
- Surf To Summit GTS Sport
- Surf To Summit GTS Expedition
This Comfort Plus model from Ocean Kayak is one of our favorite budget options. It’s a simple, durable option with basic padding in both the seat and back. It’ll fit nearly any kayak, sit-in or sit-on-top, and the straps give you 4-way adjustment for finding the perfect fit.
If you’re looking for an upgrade on your factory seat, this is an affordable solution! It also makes a great inexpensive seat for a kayak that didn’t come with one. You can save lots of money, and still make yourself substantially more comfortable!
It’s durable, made from nylon pack cloth. It’s rip resistant, and highly durable. Plus, it doesn’t stretch over use! This fabric is also UV-resistant, so it won’t fade like other fabrics in the sun.
We couldn’t find any complaints about durability with this model. Previous buyers said it felt rugged and well-made, and they didn’t have any complaints in terms of construction.
Underneath the nylon, there’s basic cushioning. It provides relief and support for your back and hips. There are also reinforcements in the back to make sure you have a sturdy support base. Most previous buyers said this one gave them a lot more support than the seats that were included when they purchased the boats.
There are reflective logos on the front and back of it. They provide good visibility for paddlers moving between seats, and for other kayakers nearby when you’re in low-light conditions.
The straps that secure this model provide adjustments in 4 directions. That makes it easy to adjust both the height and angle of it, as well as its position on the deck! They’re secured with heavy-duty brass clasps. The 4-strap design works with nearly any sit-on-top kayak, and it can be modified to work with sit-in kayaks as well.
It’s very affordable. Many buyers wrote that they’d had bad experiences with new kayaks, and bought it as a way to test whether they could ever be comfortable in a kayak. As they wrote in their reviews, it proved that they could enjoy kayaking more than they ever thought they would!
It’s not thickly padded. While the cushioning is better than most of the seats that are sold standard on kayaks, this model is definitely not on the cushy end of the spectrum. Especially if you’re a heavier person, you may find that this one isn’t comfortable for longer jaunts. Some previous buyers said that the pad in particular was a bit thin. With that said, many buyers found it was more than sufficient for their taste.
If you need prominent lower back support, you may find this lacking. There isn’t any specific lumbar support built into the Comfort Plus.
If you’re willing to spend a bit more, the Ocean Kayak Comfort Tech provides a nice boost in back support and comfort features. It’s compatible with nearly all sit-on-top kayak models.
Compared to the Comfort Plus, the Tech gives you more cushioning, a higher back, and a more breathable material for keeping you cool and dry for long paddles. Previous buyers said it kept their backs much more comfortable, and stayed dry easily. We’d recommend this as a good basic upgrade for people who need more substantial back support.
It manages to provide a substantial boost in pressure relief without adding much height. Even though it’s thicker than the Comfort Plus, it’s still well under 2 inches thick. That means you can keep your center of gravity nice and low, which is important for safety and stability on the water.
Just like the Comfort Plus, it has a 4-way adjustable strap system for security. This one also has the same reflective logos on the seat and back, and it uses the same UV resistant nylon for the construction.
It has a heightened, reinforced back. That provides more support for your mid-back and shoulder region than most factory models. Because of the extra height on the Comfort Tech, we think it’s a better budget choice for people with back issues than the Comfort Plus.
It’s more heavily cushioned all around than the Comfort Plus. All of the Comfort Tech has thicker padding, and previous buyers said that the back of it was particularly comfortable.
It breathes much more easily than the Comfort Plus, thanks to the mesh material and built-in ventilation system. That’s good for keeping you from getting super sweaty on more intense adventures. It also means it will dry more quickly, which keeps you dry while you’re paddling and prevents mold when the boat is in storage!
Like the Comfort Plus, it’s almost universally compatible. We couldn’t find any buyers who weren’t able to make the Comfort Tech fit their kayaks, even with models from other brands.
It may not fit in all sit-in kayaks. As with the Comfort Plus, some buyers of the Comfort Tech said that they’d modified the straps to make the Comfort Tech work as a sit-in model. However, it is fairly wide, so it might not fit into your boat’s saddle.
Even though it’s more heavily padded than the Comfort Plus, it’s still not the most cushy option on the market. Some buyers said that while the back felt very comfortable, the seat still felt hard.
A couple buyers reported that the mesh-style fabric on parts of the Comfort Tech wore out more quickly than they expected.
This gel saddle cushion is an excellent choice for people who need to add lots of cushion to a sit-in kayak. You can use it on its own (for sit-in-kayaks only), or use it to supplement a full one. We think it’s the best choice for people who already have one they like, but need to add some more padding.
It’s much more heavily cushioned than the Comfort Plus or Comfort Tech. In fact, the Yakpad is all cushion! We like this one better than most factory seats because it’s padded with gel pockets.
Unlike foam or polyester wadding, gel padding doesn’t wear down over time. It also provides much more effective pressure point relief than traditional padding materials. If you’ve ever had problems with sore hips on a kayak, this is an excellent upgrade for you.
Previous buyers who experienced sciatica, numbness, and other circulation or soreness problems said that the gel pad provides excellent relief for their symptoms. They found that the extra padding made longer paddles much more enjoyable and lessened recovery times after their expeditions.
Like the Comfort Tech, it’s a thin, low seat/cushion that preserves your low center of gravity.
It’s easy to fit in pretty much any kayak. You can even use it in conjunction with a full-size model, to supplement its cushion. The back secures to your kayak with simple click buckles.
It won’t work for sit-on-top kayaks. We found some previous buyers who were very disappointed to find that it wouldn’t work with their sit-on-top models, so we want to clarify that this is only a solution for sit-in kayaks. If you’re simply trying to add cushion to a sit-on-top kayak, you could also tape the yakpad onto your full seat to give it more padding.
This is a saddle-style pad, not a full sized model. Depending on the design of your specific boat, you may be able to use it on its own. However, if you need something with a higher back, the YakPad might not be the best solo solution.
Some previous buyers weren’t impressed by the level of cushioning this added. Most said it provided plenty of padding, but some reviewers said it was a bit too thin to make a substantial difference.
The lycra fabric doesn’t dry as quickly as the nylon and mesh on the Ocean Kayak models.
The Outfitter series is Surf To Summit’s most affordable range. This model is their most popular, and it’s easy to see why. It’s an adaptive, adjustable, highly-cushioned replacement.
We’re very impressed by the rugged compression foam that’s been used for the padding. It’s much more durable and resilient than traditional materials. Since it’s so comfortable, versatile, and durable, we recommend it to anyone who can afford it. It’ll work for both sit-in and sit-on models.
It’ll work with nearly any kayak. While it excels as a sit-on-top model, you can also modify the straps to install this in a sit-in kayak. The Outfitter Series uses the same 4-point latch system as the Ocean Kayak models we’ve recommended. Previous buyers said they didn’t have any troubles with compatibility!
It’s much more heavily cushioned than the Ocean Kayak model. Think of it as a combination of the comfort level of the YakPad with the full-seat design of the Outfitter Series!
Previous buyers were quick to compliment the Outfitter’s comfort level. They said it provided excellent support for their back, especially the lower back and lumbar region. We also found that unlike the Ocean Kayak models, buyers had nothing but praise for the cushioning on the Outfitter Series!
There’s an extra storage pocket on the back, for keeping small objects and valuables in. Previous buyers found it very helpful for small stuff like sunscreen, chapstick, phones and keys.
It’s extremely durable. Surf to Summit says they’ve designed this to be one that’s affordable enough for the average consumer, but with the ruggedness of a rental or commercial grade model! It’s made from compression-molded foam, which is extremely resilient to use. It doesn’t pack down or wear out over time like cheaper materials.
Plus, the compression process bonds the fabric outer layer to the inner foam core. So, it can’t separate or tear. The company have also modified the strap system to reinforce any stress points, which prevents the fabric from giving out.
In fact, this model’s so reliable that it’s backed by a lifetime warranty! In our experience, that’s pretty unheard of for a model at this price point. While the Outfitter Series might not be the cheapest model on the market, we think it’s one of the smartest buys. You won’t have to pay for a replacement, ever.
The back isn’t super high. While it was very comfortable for most users, people who like a stronger support for their mid to upper back might want to look at the high-backed version.
A few buyers said that installation instructions weren’t included with their seats. They said that installation was hard to figure out without the guide.
5. Surf to Summit GTS Sport
This Sport model from the GTS line is a compact, rugged upgrade on the Outfitter Series model. It’s made by the same company, Surf To Summit, and it follows the same basic design. However, it has thicker padding, smarter design features, and heavier-duty fabric to give it an edge in both comfort and durability.
It’s our top quality recommendation for smaller paddlers who want strong support for their lower back with the freedom to paddle comfortably.
It’s designed specifically for people with shorter torsos, who need strong lower back support. The GTS Sport allows shorter people to have total support without impeding their shoulder area.
Previous buyers who were on the shorter side said they really liked being able to paddle with the freedom of motion that a mid-height back offers. At 12.5” tall, though, it provides plenty of support for the average paddler who simply likes a lower-profile seat.
Like the Surf to Summit Outfitter Series, the GTS Sport is made from pressure-molded foam. The GTS series, including this Sport model, adds a flexible but sturdy plastic core for a bit more structure. Around the core, there’s a mix of EVA foam (like you’d see in a shoe sole) for comfort, and PVC/plastic foam for strong support. The foam will all conform to your body shape, like a good mattress.
It also sees a nice upgrade in fabric, which is a 600-denier, high density weave. It won’t wear or tear nearly as easily as the fabric on the Outfitter Series (which was already pretty rugged!).
The seat and backrest have smart drainage channels cut into the foam. They help direct any excess water away from you, keeping you and the seat dry.
This one uses the same 4-point adjustment system as the Outfitter Series. The difference here is that the GTS Series adds easy one-hand adjustment locks on each strap for changing the tilt setting of the backrest and the tension on the straps.
There’s a large cargo pack attached to the backrest for storage. Buyers said it’s extremely convenient for grabbing a quick snack, or checking a phone.
Like the Outfitter Series, the GTS Sport is covered by a lifetime warranty. Previous buyers raved about the quality, and said that while they were aware that this wasn’t the cheapest choice, it far outlasted any less expensive models they’d owned previously. People who kayak at sea will be particularly pleased, since the Sport is very resilient to salt water damage.
While the GTS Sport has nearly all of the features of Surf to Summit’s top-shelf models, it doesn’t have the anti-slip, 6-point strap system that you’ll find on the GTS Expedition. That means that the pad does slip around a bit as you paddle.
It’s just for sit-on-top kayaks. This one isn’t designed to be strapped into sit-in kayaks, and it is probably too wide to fit the saddle of a sit-in model anyway.
It’s not as deeply padded as the full GTS Expedition model. The Sport is designed to be more of a slim-line option, and some previous buyers said it felt a bit too stiff for longer paddles.
Our top quality recommendation is this GTS Expedition model from Surf To Summit. The GTS uses a similar compression-molded foam construction process, but it adds thicker cushions and lots of smart features.
It has drainage channels, slip-prevention straps, and superior ergonomic support built into it. If you’re looking for the absolute best option out there, look no further!
It’s even cushier than the GTS Sport. At 2” thick, this has some seriously thick cushioning in both the seat and the back. Previous buyers said it gave them excellent pressure relief. They said that even after months of long paddles, they were still impressed by how comfortable it was to use.
One huge comfort factor on the GTS is the backrest. It’s the highest of any of our recommendations, at a full 18”. That’s ideal for people who like a full-back support, as it supports the whole of your spine. It makes everyone that much more comfortable, and helps you maintain good posture as you paddle.
The whole thing is molded to shape around the body, providing all-over padding and special support for the lumbar region. That’s a weak point on many models, so we’re pleased to see some specific lumbar features here. Previous buyers said the GTS provided excellent support, and kept them very comfortable over longer paddles over 5-5 hours.
They especially loved the back molding. Even people with ongoing back and spine issues said they didn’t have any problems. In fact, many said that the GTS allowed them to kayak pain-free for the first time.
It’s built from the same compression-molded foam material as the Outfitter Series and the GTS Sport. In fact, the GTS is even more rugged. Like the Sport model, its fabric is a very high density, 600 denier nylon which is laminated to the seat. In the middle, there’s a flexible plastic sheet which provides structure without sacrificing comfort. It’s sturdy enough to give you the structure you need from a sit-on-top model. At the same time, it’s flexible enough to keep your body comfortable.
There are drainage channels cut into the design, just like we saw on the Sport. They help drain any excess water off of it, keeping you dry and comfortable. Previous buyers said that overall, the GTS stayed much drier than other models they had used. That’s thanks to both the drainage channels and the nylon bonded fabric.
It has a mesh bungee pouch built in. It’s a good place to keep essentials that you want close at hand (though you might want to use a Ziploc bag to keep water out.
The GTS’s strap system is even more adjustable than the 4-point strap system we’ve seen on the Outfitter Series and the Ocean Kayak models. With 6 separate attachment points, it’s almost infinitely adjustable. Previous buyers said it’s easy to find your perfect setting. They also appreciated that the straps stayed in place!
It’s also universally compatible with any latch system. The best part is that the 6-point “triangulated” design gets rid of the issue of slippage that makes so many of them annoying to use.
The upper strap points on the back control your tilt angle, while two additional points at the bottom of the back keep it from slipping forward. The overall effect is an even more supportive backrest, which stays in place no matter what!
Like the Outfitter Series, the GTS is guaranteed for life.
This one’s only for sit-on-top kayaks. It’s too wide in both the seat and the back to fit in most sit-in models.
It’s not a casual purchase. At nearly $200, this one can cost as much as a cheap kayak! However, we think it offers a superb level of quality to lifelong adventurers. Plus, the purchase is guaranteed for life.
It doesn’t come with the same storage pack as the GTS Sport. Frankly, while the mesh bag on the Expedition is perfectly functional, it’s just not as deluxe as the Sport pack.
Which is the Best Kayak Seat for You?
The Ocean Kayak Comfort Plus is the cheapest seat here, and it’s the clear choice for people who are buying their first kayak without a seat, or people who are on a tight budget and need to replace a factory seat. It’s simple, easy to install, and much more durable than your average factory seat. However, it’s not as thickly padded as our other recommendations, and some buyers said they felt sore during longer paddles.
The Ocean Kayak Comfort Tech is a slightly more comfortable, smarter upgrade to the Comfort Plus. It’s a better option for people who know they need some extra back padding, but still need to save money.
The YakPad is our recommendation for people who already have a decent seat, but simply need some more padding. It’s a low-cost alternative to buying a more expensive seat. It’s also the best option here for a sit-in kayak.
The Surf to Summit Outfitter Series is our best value recommendation. It’s not the cheapest seat here, but we think it’s a bigger bargain than our other choices. Thanks to the thicker padding, more rugged fabric, and lifetime warranty, we think it’s a smarter investment for the long term than the Ocean Kayak models. On the other hand, we realize that some buyers simply won’t have the means to spend more for the Outfitter Series.
The Surf to Summit GTS Sport is our top quality pick for people who are shorter, or paddlers who like a lower-profile seat. It also has a good mid-range price point between the Outfitter Series and the GTS Expedition.
The Surf to Summit GTS Expedition is our all-around top quality choice. It’s simply a fantastic seat, between the fit and finish, full-body cushioning, and smart design features. We think it’s the absolute best you can do for a new model. However, it might be a bit large for shorter people. It’s also pretty expensive, so we wouldn’t recommend it to people who aren’t lifelong kayakers.
How to Choose Seats for Kayaks
Know your boat:
Before you get too far into your shopping, make sure you know what kind of seat your boat requires. Know whether you have a sit-in or sit-on-top kayak, because you’ll need a different seat for each type. Some seats will work for both types, but many will not. It’s also a good idea to measure your seat well, and get a sense of how wide a seat your kayak can accommodate.
Think about your body type:
While you’re measuring, get a sense of how far up your back you like your chairs to extend. Think about whether you like support behind your shoulders, and whether you need strong lumbar support. This is easy to establish when you consider which car seats and chairs around your house keep you most comfortable.
If you have any ongoing back issues, don’t skimp on back and hip padding. You want plenty of cushion, to ensure that you don’t aggravate your symptoms. It’s also a good idea to measure across your legs, to establish how a seat you need. Balance your comfort preference with the size restrictions of your boat.
If you’re a taller person, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting a full size seat, with a back that extends at least 12-18” from the seat. If you’re on the shorter side, you’ll want to stick with 12” and under backrests.
If you’re on the heavy side, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting a seat with pressure-molded foam. Polyester fills and traditional foams can pack down quickly and lose their comfort quickly. Pressure-molded foams are more resilient. Gels are increasingly popular but we’ve found that the meshy material used to wrap them doesn’t stand up to use on the water. We love the idea of gel cushioning in a kayak, but the execution just isn’t there yet!
If you have bony hips, you’ll also want to make sure you’re getting a seat with thicker padding. Even the slightest discomfort can get very painful over long paddles.
Decide on your budget:
They can cost anywhere from $25-$250. We recommend spending at least $40-$50 on your new seat, even if you’re on a tight budget. In our experiences, seats that are cheaper than the $40-$50 range aren’t worth the savings, since they need to be replaced so quickly. They’re also asking for back aches and circulation issues.
You’ll see a number of differences between the cheap seats and the expensive models, but all those features really come down to comfort and durability.
More expensive seats have thicker padding, better body cradling, and better pressure-point relief. They also have features like drain channels and quick-dry materials which make each expedition that much more pleasant.
Likewise, the more you pay for your new seat, the longer you can expect it to last. More expensive models have pressure-molded foam which is incredibly resilient and maintains its comfort properties for years. They’ll also use more rugged fabrics which are more resistant to UV damage, as well as day-to-day wear and tear.
Above $75 or so, you can expect a lifetime warranty on any seat. We strongly recommend buying a warranty-backed seat if you can afford it, because they’re the smarter investment over the long term. However, they might be cost prohibitive for new paddlers.
We recommend that beginners spend about $50 on a new seat. Experienced and lifelong paddlers will want to spend $100+ on something that’s comfortable enough for day trips and longer jaunts where extra padding and reinforcements are necessary.