How do You Choose a Kayak Seat?

A bad kayak seat can give you one of the worst kayaking experiences. If you have tried sitting in an uncomfortable seat for hours, then you know what I am talking about. You keep shifting, looking for a comfortable position. But everything in your body hurts more with every minute.

A good kayak seat, on the other hand, feels like it was made for you. The padding is just right, it is breathable and the backrest supports your back perfectly. It makes you look forward to your next kayaking adventure.

So, here is a comprehensive guide to help you choose the best kayak seat.

Types of Kayak Seats

Kayak seats come in different designs. And what’s ideal for one kayaker may not work for another.

Check out the various types to see which one suits you.

a. Basic Kayak Seat

As you can guess, a basic kayak seat doesn’t have any fancy features. It is simple in design.

The chairs have little padding, just enough to keep you comfortable for a few hours. 

These basic kayak seats don’t have premium back support. Some of them may not even have extra storage.

A basic kayak seat is best suited for short recreational boating trips.

b. Deluxe Kayak Seat

This seat type has more padding than a basic kayak seat.

Some of the deluxe seats you see in the market are not universal. So not all of them will fit your kayak. Have this in mind before you buy.

Deluxe kayak seats are suitable for longer kayaking adventures. Most of them have a more comfortable backrest, making them ideal for kayakers with back issues. Or anyone who desires added back support.

c. High Back Kayak Seat

These kayak seats are the best when it comes to comfortable backrests. Not only do they support your lower back, but your upper back too.

You need a high back seat if you are an angler who spends many hours in your kayak. It will help you cast more comfortably too.

If you are super tall, you will also find that this seat type holds your back well.

d. Inflatable Kayak Seat

Like inflatable kayaks, inflatable kayak seats are easy to transport and store. That is their biggest advantage.

Some of them, however, are not as reliable as regular kayak seats. But the designs keep getting better. You can find some really awesome inflatable kayak seats.

How to Choose a Kayak Seat

Several factors will determine whether or not a kayak seat is right for you.

Let’s look at them.

1. Type of Kayak

Not every kayak seat will fit your boat. Some seats are universal, designed to be compatible with almost any kayak. Others are made for specific kayak types or models.

Most manufacturers state the models that are compatible with their kayak seat. If not, check the attachment style to see whether it will be right for your boat.

Even better, enquire from the manufacturer or read other kayakers’ reviews.

Make sure the seat you are buying will fit in your kayak as well. Confirm the kayak cockpit measurements so you don’t end up with a kayak seat that is too big for your yak.

2. Type of Kayaking

Whatever you do in your kayak influences the kind of seat you should get.

For instance, when it comes to fishing and touring, you will need a little more padding. With these activities, you can spend hours in the seat and you don’t want to be sore at the end of the trip. You will also need a chair with great lumbar support.

Another thing that especially kayak anglers should look for is storage. You’ll love having your fishing gear where you can conveniently reach it.

For whitewater kayakers, a stable seat with an anti-slip feature would be nice. You will not like having a sliding seat when kayaking down a waterfall or rapid.

3. Body Type

Don’t forget to factor in your body type when choosing a seat for your kayak. This mostly has to do with your size and shape.

Larger kayakers should look for wider seats and backrests. 

If you are taller, consider a seat with a high backrest—this has already been mentioned above. 

4. Padding

The right kayak seat should have a reasonable amount of padding. Too much will make it less breathable. Too little and you will not be comfortable. 

If you expect to be in the kayak for hours, find a seat with more padding.

A kayak seat will either have foam or gel padding.

Foam padding is more durable. It is ideal for kayakers who paddle often and for extended periods. However, the foam may compress with time, making it uncomfortable.

Gel padding is the most comfortable and it doesn’t compress over time. But it is less durable compared to pressure-molded foam.

5. Back Support

Regardless of how amazing the seat is, you will still be miserable if the back support is uncomfortable.

The right backrest should be wide and high enough for your back. This means that larger people should get seats with a wider backrest. And taller kayakers should opt for higher backrests.

The back support should also be sturdy. And you will be even more comfortable if it is contoured and form-fitting.

You may also want to check whether the backrest angle is adjustable. That way, you can set it to your preferred position.

Note: higher is not always better for the back support. A very high one may limit your ability to paddle fast and cast. The backrest should be just high enough, not too much.

6. Seat Fabric

Kayak seats are commonly made using polyester, nylon, and sometimes neoprene.

Nylon is not expensive but it is water repellent and extremely durable. It can take a lot of abuse and is suitable for heavy use. The material doesn’t get easily damaged by the sun or saltwater.

Polyester feels soft against the skin and it is a moisture-wicking fabric. It will keep you from being all sweaty—perfect for kayaking in the summer.

Neoprene is suitable for use in and around water. That is why it is preferred for sit-on-top kayaks. You won’t have to worry about it getting wet.

7. Stability

Can you imagine what it would be like to kayak in a seat that won’t stay in place?

Not only is it annoying, but you can also find yourself taking an unplanned swim. 

When shopping around for a kayak seat, see if it is slip-resistant to prevent sliding. 

The seat attachment to your kayak helps with stability too. More straps offer secure attachment. Most seats have four; two at the front and two at the back. 

The straps should be sturdy so they don’t start coming apart.

8. Features

On top of the above important factors, there are others that are not necessary but would be nice.

One of them is a mesh panel. It facilitates ventilation which will maximize your comfort, especially in hot weather.

Something else you may appreciate is extra storage. It could be a pocket for a few essentials, a bottle holder, or even fishing rod holders for the anglers.

How to Make Kayak Seats More Comfortable

Maybe you already bought a kayak seat. Or you are not prepared to buy a new one. Can you make the one you have more comfortable? Certainly!

Here are a few options.

a. Pad It Up

If you think you could use more padding on your kayak seat, get a seat pad. There are tons of kayak seat pads on Amazon—both foam and gel pads.

Remember not to pick a seat pad that is too thick. You wouldn’t want to raise your center of gravity too much. You should also pick a pad with anti-slip technology so it can stay in place.

This is a simple solution instead of going out and buying a whole new seat.

b. Add Inflatable Thigh Support

The seat pan (the part of the seat that you sit on) may not be long enough to support your thighs. As you can imagine this is not very comfortable.

Thigh support will solve this and alleviate discomfort as you kayak. You can get it with your kayak; but if not, buy one. They are not expensive and they are adjustable.

c. Adjust Back Tilt Position

This is where it helps to have a seat with an adjustable backrest. When you are tired of paddling, you can tilt it slightly and lean back to get some rest.

When you start paddling again, remember to bring the backrest back to a 90-degree angle. You will strain if you try paddling with the back tilted.

d. Adjust the Knee and Foot Position

The knees and feet play a role in controlling the kayak. If they are not properly positioned, you will have a hard time.

Adjust the footrests such that you can stretch your legs comfortably. Your knees, on the other hand, should be able to contact the deck of your kayak, especially in a sit-in boat.

This video explains it clearly.

e. Adjust the Height of Your Seat

Lastly, you can raise or lower your seat to a more comfortable position. 

Understand that a higher position means a higher center of gravity and, hence, less stability. So while you want to be comfortable, make sure you consider stability as well.

How to Upgrade Your Kayak Seat

What if the kayak seat you have is just bad? You have tried everything but the discomfort is still too much. In that case, it is time for an upgrade.

Factor in the following features when choosing an upgrade.

1. Lumbar Support

A seat with great lumbar support properly holds your back, promoting good posture. It helps the back stay in a natural position.

Everyone knows that poor posture is the root cause of many issues, including back and neck pain.

This is important, more so for people with back problems.

The Expedition kayak seat is one example of a chair with proper lumbar support.

2. Breathability

We have discussed this briefly above.

A kayak seat that allows air circulation will keep you cool and comfortable, especially when it is hot.

Breathability is also useful for kayakers with sit-on-top boats. You can’t stop the seat from getting wet. But breathable material, in most cases, dries faster.

3. Size and Compatibility

Find a chair that is compatible with your kayak and your body type.

Be careful not to buy a seat that is too wide for your canoe. Or one that is too narrow for your body. You will not be comfortable in it. Factor in your measurements and that of your kayak when buying the seat.

4. Use

For people who specialize in one type of kayaking, like touring, you only need to buy a seat that works for your style. But if you like to try different things—fishing, recreational, touring—get a versatile kayak chair.

You should be able to adjust the backrest angle, seat height, lumbar support position, etc. This will ensure comfort and you can spend more hours kayaking.

Kayak Seat Q&A

Q: How Do I Keep My Kayak Seat from Sliding?

A: Here is a simple solution to help keep your kayak seat in place.

Q: How Can I Make My Kayak Seat More Comfortable?

A: You can make your kayak seat more comfortable by:

  • Adding more padding
  • Adjusting the height
  • Adjusting the backrest angle
  • Adding thigh support

Q: How Do You Install and Secure a Kayak Seat?

A: The process is pretty much straightforward and this video explains it well.

Q: Do Sit-on-Top Seats Work with Sit-Inside Kayaks?

A: Most kayak seats attach to D-rings using hooks. So they will be compatible with sit-in kayaks and even SUP boards with D-rings.


Choosing a kayak seat can quickly get complicated. You don’t want something that will make you miserable. But now that you know what to look for, you can easily find a kayak seat that suits you perfectly. There is no reason to deal with soreness or pain anymore.

Do you have any questions about kayak seats? Feel free to ask us below. Happy kayaking!