Comfortable Kayak Seat Upgrade Options

Published Categorized as Boats

Many RVers and boaters carry a recreational kayak with them on their adventures. Kayaks are the nautical equivalent of bicycles–they represent exercise, fresh air, and exploration.

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kayak seat upgrade

But like any boat, kayaks need a little outfitting to make them your own. So after you’ve found a great paddle, one of the next kayak accessories you’ll want to invest in is a comfortable new seat.

When Is It Time for a Kayak Seat Upgrade?

Kayaking is a fun activity, and it shouldn’t be uncomfortable. But unfortunately, most kayaks come from the factory with the bare minimum necessary for a day on the water. That’s a good thing because we’re all different, and we all want something different from our water toys.

Some people might want to hop on and hop off at the beach, never spending more than a few minutes at a time on board. Others might want to sit comfortably and take a paddle down the Wilderness Waterway–a 99-mile, seven-day trek through the Florida Everglades.

Most of us lie somewhere in between those two extremes. But no matter how much you use your ‘yak, you’d probably use it more if you were comfortable. So finding a comfortable kayak seat upgrade should be one of your priorities when you get your new vessel, along with a great paddle and the best RV kayak rack.

Kayak Seats – An Overview

The first thing to realize is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Each kayak is designed differently, so you’ll need to ensure that whatever seat you want to buy fits in it.

Most sit-on-top kayaks are sold with no padded stock kayak seat–just a molded-in recess where you sit. That leaves it wide-open for future upgrading. There are various options, from simple back straps to padded high-backed stadium-style chairs. Most of these attach easily with webbing straps and snap hooks.

Some new fishing sit-on-tops come with a metal-frame folding chair. These are similar to a beach chair or a lawn chair, with comfortable mesh bottoms and backs. These are probably the most comfortable option out there, which makes sense because fishermen are likely to want to take their boats out for hours at a time.

The problem with these seats is that the kayak must be built with supports that hold it. It might not be possible to add a chair like this to a kayak that wasn’t built for it, not without undertaking some DIY modifications.

Sit-in kayaks are another story entirely. These kayaks usually have some sort of seat frame that is part of the kayak’s structure. Unfortunately, that means you can’t remove it, and you can’t easily replace it either. Instead, you’ll have to add padding around it to make it as comfortable as possible. Again, each of these kayaks is slightly different, so check with the manufacturer or the owner’s forums to see what others have done.

kayak chair upgrade

What Makes a Kayak Seat Uncomfortable?

There’s an infinite number of ways to become uncomfortable in something as simple as a kayak. Before you can solve your problems with a kayak chair upgrade, stop and identify exactly what is causing your discomfort. This could be:

  • Back pain
  • Bottom pain
  • Arm pain
  • Leg pain
  • Wet ride

Back Pain

Probably the most common problem that kayakers have, back pain usually stems from bad posture while kayaking. Unless you are paddling for exercise, a back strap or a seat with a high back design will likely fix you up. This will allow you to sit more comfortably by leaning back a little and putting more pressure on your feet. Bracing your feet properly will help you efficiently power the boat while taking the strain off your back.

Bottom Pain

We’ve all sat on a hard bench so long that we just had to stand up and move around. If your kayak has no padding, that’s exactly what it can feel like. But, of course, there’s no place to stand up if you’re in the middle of the lake! This discomfort usually only comes after 30 minutes or more of paddling.

The solution is to add a little bit of padding. This might be some adhesive pads or upgrading to a full seat with more padding.

Kayak Seat Cushion, Kayak Seat Pad - Kayak Cushion Seat Waterproof - Anti Slip Kayak Gel Seat Cushion & Kayak Seat Bottom

Arm Pain

Arm pain is fairly uncommon in kayaking. In most cases, it can be linked to poor technique. Proper paddling doesn’t involve your arms nearly as much as you might think. Your arms should be holding the paddle in position, but the actual power of your stroke comes from elsewhere. You twist your torso and brace your feet into the kayak for power.

Of course, a cheap paddle can make your arms feel like they will fall off. If you have a heavy paddle, do yourself a solid and upgrade to a lightweight, high-quality paddle like the Werner Camano.

Werner Camano Fiberglass Straight Shaft Kayak Paddle-GradientAbyss-230cm

Leg Pain

Leg discomfort can usually be traced to improper placement of your foot braces. Leg position is key to transferring the power of each stroke from your paddle into the boat. Start by sitting straight-backed in the kayak, and then place your legs against each side of the hull. Your knees should be slightly bent, and the balls of your feet should be on the brace. As your torso brings the paddle through each stroke, press lightly on the brace to move the power into the hull.

Another source of leg pain can be the position of your seat relative to your foot braces. The flatter your kayak, the bigger this problem can be. Generally, it’s most comfortable to sit a few inches above where you will rest your feet. An elevated seat or a seat cushion pad might help.

Pelican Adjustable Kayak Foot Brace/Pegs with Trigger Lock - Set of 2 - Black - PS0540-2

Wet Ride

Some sit-on-top kayaks have wet seats. These boats are equipped with self-draining scupper holes. But when you load the kayak, the holes often let in some water. The heavier the load, the more water comes in. At the same time, some designs have a seat molded very low. This makes for great stability and a ride similar to a sit-in kayak, but it makes the ride even wetter.

The solution is a set of scupper plugs. These rubber stoppers fit into the holes and keep the water out. If you flip the boat and need to drain it, you pull the stopper out and let it drain. But otherwise, the stopper keeps water from coming up and into the boat and getting everything wet.

Ocean Kayak Scupper Stoppers - Pack of 2, (Small, Yellow),07.1960.0000

Types of Kayak Seat

Let’s look at the various seats you might find on a kayak and some of the upgrades worth having.

Backrest Strap

The simplest type of support is a belt that straps behind your lower back. It is usually attached with webbing straps on each side, which allow you to adjust the tension and thereby adjust how far back you can lean. Some have a third strap holding it roughly upright, making it much easier to get in and out of the kayak.

The backrest is an inexpensive and simple solution if you don’t have any major problems with your boat. The strap allows you to lean back a little, which reduces your back fatigue and muscle strain. Most sit-on-top kayaks have a contoured seat, and if you don’t find that too hard, adding a backstrap is likely all you need.

Another good thing about leaving the seat bare is that it will drain easily and stay dry. This is a plus if you are in and out of the water swimming or snorkeling. Also, not having all of the extra straps and webbing required by other chairs will make getting in and out easy and keep the setup simple.

Surf To Summit Performance Back Band with EZ Clips, Kayak Surfing Back Band, Kayak Seat, Comfortable Kayak Back Support, Foam Kayak Seat, Adjustable Kayak Fishing Seat, Padded Seat

Foam or Gel Pad Seats

These are contoured seats or strips of padding that are usually glued to the kayak deck with adhesive. If you have a backrest that you like, but the seat is too hard, this can be a good solution.

However, adhesive pads are best reserved for situations where you can’t add any type of seat. For example, many sit-in kayaks have molded seats that are too small to add a foam chair, so this low-profile gel cushion makes a lot of sense.

Surf To Summit Hot Seat Kayak Seat - Mild

Sit-On-Top Adjustable Seat

The folding foam chair is a pretty cushy upgrade if you have a sit-on-top (SOT) kayak. This combines a backrest with a seat to make a low-profile folding chair. It’s made of foam and is covered with a breathable mesh fabric. The dry-fast foam doesn’t absorb water, so the chair doesn’t get soggy even if you get wet. The backrest and sides of the chair are available in various sizes, each offering a different level of support.

The good thing about this type of seat is that it will not affect the boat’s stability. So while they might raise your sitting position slightly, it won’t be enough to make the boat any more unstable. However, they make the boat a little hard to get into from the water.

Since these chairs add padding for your bottom and support for your back, they’re a complete solution that can provide comfort for long trips.

Leader Accessories Black/Gray Deluxe Kayak Seat (Black/Gray)

Stadium Seat with Metal Frame

Not every kayak can carry one, but if yours can, there’s nothing more comfortable than a folding fishing chair. These are similar to portable stadium seats or beach chairs. They fold flat for storage, and the backs usually have several settings to make them as comfortable as possible. These chairs usually sit higher than others, making standing up or peddling bigger kayaks easier.

Of course, they aren’t without their negatives. The more complex the system is, the longer it takes to set up and take down each paddle. They also make it more difficult to reenter the boat from the water. Finally, unlike foam and fabric seats, these have metal parts that can corrode if not rinsed after every use.

These seats are only appropriate for boats that are wide enough to carry them. They greatly increase the height at which you will sit and raise your boat’s center of gravity. This will adversely affect your stability in all situations. If your boat already feels tippy, adding a seat like this will make it far worse.

Generally, you cannot retrofit a boat to accept one of these seats. If you need to replace yours, contact the manufacturer for the replacement parts. That way, you know it will fit perfectly.

BKC RA220/TK122/TK219 Upright Aluminum SEAT

Sit-In Kayak Seat

While there are several options for sit-on-top kayak seats, sit-in kayak seats are much more limited. Most have a built-in seat and backrest, and these vary from murderously uncomfortable to cozy. Some have an open floor that allows you to install any type of seat you want, sort of like an open canoe.

Most sit-in seating solutions involve the use of closed-cell EVA foam padding. This can be purchased in blocks and cut to shape. There are also small bands of foam padding that you can add around the existing seat to give a little more support.

Yakpads High Back Cushioned Seat Pad, Gel Seat Pad for Kayaks, Portable Seat Cushion for Outdoor Watersports and Recreation - Cascade Creek (High Back)

Are All Kayak Seats Interchangeable?

The short answer is no, not all seats are interchangeable. So whatever you do, don’t buy the best-rated seat on Amazon and assume that you can make it work.

Instead, start by looking at the seat options your kayak’s manufacturer sells for your model. This will give you an idea of what will fit and what will not. For example, does your ‘yak require a framed folding chair? Or is it a foam seat that straps on with webbing and clips?

Once you have an idea of the style, double-check the dimensions. There are plenty of kayak seat options available online, but kayaks vary greatly in their design–especially in their width. Some are very tight around the hips, while others are nearly flat and very wide.

Remember that photographs you see online can be deceiving. Just because a generic seat looks like the one your kayak maker sells doesn’t mean it will fit. You’ll want to compare the numbers and take a tape measure out to your kayak.

An OEM seat from your manufacturer is most likely to fit with no modifications. If you get an aftermarket version, you may have to add eye straps or other attachment points. For most sit-on-tops, most seats will work thanks to their adjustable straps and multiple positions–you just might have to tinker a little to get it right.

Best Kayak Seat Upgrade Options

Sit-On-Top Kayak Foam Chair Solutions

Surf to Summit Performance Back Band with EZ Clips

If your kayak is generally pretty comfortable, a backband may be all you need. This one is simple and will work on pretty much any sit-on-top kayak. Webbing straps hold it on each side, and these clip-to-eye straps are already on your kayak. The two straps on the back hold the band upright, making it easier to get in and out of the kayak.

BKC Universal Sit-On-Top Soft Padded Kayak Seat

If you want a little padding below as well as for your back, a basic padded seat like this is the way to go. It is very much like the back band, but it is taller and more comfortable. Plus, it adds a padded seat below, so you aren’t sitting directly on the kayak’s deck.

BKC makes some great, well-thought-out products, and this seat is no exception. It attaches with snap clips, so it should work on pretty much any kayak. The back even has a water bottle holder for personal belongings.

BKC Universal Premium Memory Foam Kayak Seat and Backrest

The best comfort you can find will be a premium seat like this BKC upgrade kayak seat. It has breathable mesh covers to keep you cool, a high-back for lots of support, and memory foam for just the right amount of comfort. This seat should fit in nearly any sit-on-top kayak. This seat is similar to the Ocean Kayak Comfort seat, which is another great choice.

Surf to Summit Drifter Elevated Fishing Kayak Seat

Even though it’s pricy, the Drifter seat is one of the few options that elevates you. This is handy if you don’t like the contour of your molded-in seat at all and want a fresh start. It is also good if you find your legs getting uncomfortable on long paddles, or if you have a peddle kayak and need more leverage on the peddles.

Sit-On-Top Kayak Frame Chair Solutions

NRS Star Fishing Seat for Inflatable Kayaks or Paddleboards

In general, lawn chair-styles kayak seats are manufacturer specific. However, this NRS model is a little more generic and can be adapted to fit on anything with a flat deck. Many people even use these chairs on standup paddleboards by adding a few straps.

BKC Upright Aluminum Seat for RA220/TK122/TK219 Kayaks

This chair is specifically made for the listed BKC kayak models, but its design is universal enough that you might be able to make it work on some others.

Sit-In Kayak Seat Solutions

Yakpads Cushioned Lumbar Pad

This small pad is designed to go around the existing seat in your sit-in kayak. It adds extra cushion in the lumbar area–just enough to give you a little relief from a fixed-position seat.

Surf to Summit Kayak Hot Seat

The Hot Seat is a self-adhesive pad that sticks to the chair or deck of a kayak. Its comfort molded foam encourages a slightly forward posture for the best, and most comfortable, paddling position.

Tall Back Band for Sit-In Kayaks

This band can add a lot of comfort for sit-in vessels with limited back support. It has two straps on each side and is designed taller to allow it to go above the cockpit coaming. Combine it with the Hot Seat above for a total comfort solution no matter how terrible the molded-in seat in your kayak is.

Yakpads Cushioned Highback Seat Pad

If the built-in seat in your boat isn’t too bad, this Yakpad adds just a little bit of cushion for long rides. It has gel-filled pads on the back and seat area and is covered in lycra-faced neoprene.

You can also get the same pad in a standard height back or just the saddle area.

No Need to Be Uncomfortable – Time for a Kayak Seat Upgrade

It doesn’t matter what kind of vessel you’re paddling. You’re out on the water to have fun, and having fun doesn’t mean sitting on a bench seat for hours while you lose circulation in your legs. Thanks to the numerous online options, upgrading your kayak’s chair has never been easier. So long as you are careful and check the measurements twice, finding a suitable replacement seat is no big deal. And then, that 99-mile Wilderness Waterway will seem like no big deal.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

How can I make my kayak seat more comfortable?

There are many ways to be uncomfortable on a kayak, but thankfully there are also a lot of solutions out there to make it better. Start by identifying what makes your seat uncomfortable, and then look for solutions. If you have a sit-on-top kayak, the easiest solution may be to invest in a new chair with a support high-back design and extra padding.

What is the most comfortable kayak seat?

The most comfortable seats are usually elevated mesh chairs with metal frames often found on high-end fishing kayaks. Unfortunately, these are very difficult to put onto a regular kayak without modifying the hull. Short of upgrading your entire boat, another great solution is a high-back foam seat. These are universal in design and can usually be used with any sit-on-top. Some can even be used with sit-in kayaks or standup paddleboards. Look for a high back and maybe even an elevated seat.

Can you put a seat in a kayak?

Yes, kayaks seats are pretty upgradable. Depending on the type of kayak you own, you may be able to add a folding chair or a high-back foam seat to it. Even if you don’t want anything that fancy, self-adhesive foam padding can greatly improve your comfort. The one thing you don’t want to do is add a seat that is too tall for a kayak, which will make it unstable.

Are kayak seats universal?

No. Even seats that are branded as universal might not work in all kayaks. Before purchasing a seat, double-check the measurements and look at how it attaches. Most sit-on-top kayak seats are interchangeable, but if you buy a different brand, it may need some extra attachment points. Sit-in kayaks vary too much from brand to brand, so you’ll have to look and see what you can change and add to yours to make the ride better.

Additional kayak-related pages:

By Matt C

Matt has been boating around Florida for over 25 years in everything from small powerboats to large cruising catamarans. He currently lives aboard a 38-foot Cabo Rico sailboat with his wife Lucy and adventure dog Chelsea. Together, they cruise between winters in The Bahamas and summers in the Chesapeake Bay.

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