The Ultimate Guide to Kayak Seats


Lately, you’ve been obsessed with kayaking. The number of hours you’ve logged on your boat is already well into the hundreds. The problem is that the plastic seat that came with your kayak is quite uncomfortable. Should you switch to a kayak seat?

Kayak seats are recommended for frequent kayakers since the plush seat provides comfort and even lumbar and spinal support depending on the model. 

This ultimate guide will tell you everything you need to know about kayak seats, from their benefits to ideal materials and types as well as how to install and maintain the seats. We’ll even share a few of our favorite kayak seats, so make sure you keep reading! 

Why You Need a Kayak Seat

You’ve already spent a good deal of money on your kayak, so if you don’t have to shell out further, that’d be preferable. Kayak seats though are worth splurging on. Using a kayak seat is to your benefit, and they don’t always have to break the bank. Some seats are available for as little as $50.

Here are some of the perks of paddling with a kayak seat.

Awesome Comfort 

We don’t know about you, but a rigid, plastic seat isn’t exactly our definition of comfortable. If you feel the same way, a kayak seat is going to crank up your comfort by several notches. 

The lower half of your body will feel cushioned and cradled and you’ll be totally pampered. Whenever other kayakers pass you by in their boats, they’ll wish they too could have a kayak seat like yours. 

Ergonomics

Nothing stops a day of kayaking faster than body pain. Whether it’s your legs going numb from the hard plastic seat of your kayak or your back aching and screaming, you find it difficult to paddle when you’re in this much distress. 

Even once you get your kayak back to shore and head home (far earlier than you wanted to), the pain continues to plague you. You often wait days, sometimes weeks before you go kayaking again because you want to ensure you’re in good enough condition.

A kayak seat will cause a marked improvement in your kayaking experience. Many seats include lumbar support features for lower back and spinal support as well as better posture. You’ll feel great when kayaking, especially for hours. This will allow you to enjoy your favorite hobby to the fullest! 

Easy Setup

We’ll talk later about installing a kayak seat. Although the seats can attach to your kayak in a multitude of ways, getting your seat set up won’t take as much time or effort as you might have assumed. You’ll be ready to ride right away.  

Durability 

You won’t have to worry about your kayak seat falling apart after one boating season. Many seats feature UV protection and corrosion-resistant metal. You’ll have to take care of the seat (we’ll provide tips on doing so later in this guide), but it’s built to last. 

The Types of Kayak Seats

Not all kayak seats are the same, just as all kayaks aren’t. Depending on your type of kayak, there’s a seat out there for you. Let’s explore the different types of kayak seats now.

Inflatable Kayak Seats

If yours is an inflatable kayak, then it makes sense that your kayak seat would be inflatable as well. After all, aluminum frames or buckles from a harder seat might rub against the inflatable material, which could cause it to pop. 

Lawn Chair Kayak Seats

The lawn chair kayak seat certainly lives up to its name. These seats feature metal frames (often aluminum) that attach over your kayak’s cockpit. Anglers gravitate towards lawn chair kayak seats for the elevation. 

Single-Piece Kayak Seats

As the name implies, a single-piece kayak seat is made of one piece of foam with upholstery in nylon or polyester atop it. The solo piece makes for easy installation, which is one of its biggest benefits. 

Twin-Set Kayak Seats

A twin-seat kayak seat includes two pieces that connect. Then the assembled chair adheres to your kayak via straps or another securement system. Intended for sit-in kayaks, twin-set kayak seats let you adjust the back cushion and the seat separately for the ultimate in comfort and ergonomics. 

Universal Kayak Seats

The last style of kayak seat is the universal seat. Its clamshell style folds down flat. A base joint connects the back to the bottom and the back to the chair base. You can often set the back pitch angle in a universal kayak seat. 

Kayak Seat Materials – Which Are the Best? 

You’re convinced you need a kayak seat to enhance your riding experience. As you begin researching, you’ll come across a variety of kayak seat materials. Some are certainly better than others. In this section, we’ll tell you which is which. 

Canvas

If the kayak seat you’ve been eyeing up is a heritage seat or a fishing kayak seat, then it will likely be made of canvas. Other than that, you’re not too likely to come across canvas when perusing kayak seats. 

That’s not such a bad thing. Canvas might feel tough, but it’s not designed for durability as much as you might have hoped. As your canvas kayak seat is exposed to the elements day after day, the fabric will suffer. In some instances, the canvas can break. Otherwise, it will rot, which is just as bad.  

EVA Foam

Foam is a must for a comfortable kayak seat, yet where the foam comes from matters. One such source of foam that’s common in kayak seats is ethylene-vinyl acetate or EVA. 

Lightweight and not very dense, EVA is often injection-molded. The downside of EVA foam is that while it starts out nice and springy, the more you use it, the worse its compression gets. Once the foam becomes flat, there’s no going back.

When combined with polyurethane foam, EVA foam can retain its shape even with consistent use.

Molded Foam

Speaking of polyurethane foam, that’s the next type of foam we want to talk about. Also known as molded foam, polyurethane foam is injection-molded as well, although not exclusively. The foam can also be assembled via slab pieces that are glued into place. 

Molded foam is the type of foam you see in automobiles such as your car in the driveway. It’s beloved for its ergonomics and durability. Polyurethane foam is superior to EVA foam, which is why it’s often used in conjunction with EVA in kayak seats. 

Gel Cushions

Some kayak seats feature gel cushions. Gel is adept at weight distribution, which is a definite plus. However, gel cushions tend to hold onto heat to quite a significant degree. You can get warm and sweaty from sitting in your kayak seat, and that’s not desirable.

Polyester

For kayak seat upholstery, polyester is one material you’ll come across often. Economical and soft enough, polyester has moisture-wicking capabilities. However, it’s also rather cheap, so its durability is not guaranteed.  

Nylon 

A higher-end kayak seat will feature nylon upholstery instead of polyester. In some instances, the chair might have a nylon and polyester blend. Nylon is moisture-wicking like polyester, and it’s better for durability as well. 

Neoprene 

Last but certainly not least is neoprene. Sourced from rubber, neoprene is quick-drying, which makes up for the fact that the material isn’t quite waterproof. Saltwater can begin to break down neoprene, so you’ll have to wash your kayak seat after a ride in the ocean. 

How to Choose the Right Kayak Seat

With so many kayak seat options, how can you possibly pick one? In this section, we’ll review the factors you should consider as you narrow down your options.  

Prioritize Padding

Padding is so important, but don’t fall into the trap that many kayakers do, which is that you need padding in excess to be comfortable. If your kayak seat is so padded that it’s bulky, that’s usually to hide design flaws like using cheap materials. 

The padding shouldn’t fluff up the kayak seat or this can affect your paddling as well as the weight distribution on your boat. That said, you certainly do want all lateral spots to have adequate padding, especially the back. 

Consider the Seat Shape

It’s a good idea to try a variety of kayak seats before committing to one style or brand. That’s the only way to know whether you’ll fit in the seat. After all, if you’re too small or big for the kayak seat, then the lumbar support won’t work as intended. 

An adjustable kayak seat can help prevent a scenario like the above, but you also want to shop for a kayak seat shape that’s compatible with your own body. 

Set a Budget

Kayak seats, as we touched on earlier, can start as low as $50 and cost up to $400, sometimes more. If you can afford to spend a greater sum on your seat, then you’ll end up with a higher-quality kayak seat that should last you for many seasons to come. 

That said, you can always get a good kayak seat for a steal. When you find a seat you like, bookmark it and come back to it around the next holiday. It might be on sale. End-of-the-season sales are another perfect time to snag a kayak seat on the cheap. 

Select Durable Materials 

Our overview of kayak seat materials per the last section will now help you be a savvier shopper. You’ll be able to review the materials of any seat you’re scoping out online so you can gravitate towards some materials and away from others. 

Vet for Ventilation 

Even if your kayak seat has no gel cushions, it can still get warm considering it’s sitting exposed to the sun all day. Plus, your body heat is contributing to the warmth as you sit against the kayak seat.

Ventilation will keep fresh air moving and allow your perspiration to exit before you stink up your kayak seat. 

The Best Kayak Seats – Our 5 Recommendations

Are you ready to start shopping? Here are 5 of the most recommended kayak seats for your perusal.

Leader Accessories Deluxe Padded Kayak Seat

The Leader Accessories deluxe padded kayak seat is a favorite of kayakers everywhere. It’s also an Amazon’s Choice product. 

The kayak seat includes four straps in total, two in the rear and two in the front. The straps have buckles for pulling the straps taut. Brass connecting straps will keep your setup secure. 

The seat itself includes a plush layer of EVA and molded foam and an exterior that’s 210-denier polyester. The taller back of the Leader Accessories kayak seat is designed for cushioning your rear and your back.

Included with your purchase is a waterproof storage bag that can hold your essentials when your kayak seat doesn’t occupy the bag. 

Surf to Summit Outfitter Series Kayak Seat

Our next pick is quite excellent: the Surf to Summit Outfitter Series kayak seat

The seat measures 16 inches wide by 14 inches long with a seatback that’s 20 inches wide and 13 inches in length. The layered foam base is injection-molded at 60 tons of pressure and 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

This baking process adheres the foam base to the kayak chair’s upholstery without the need to sew and cut the fabric. 

The Surf to Summit kayak seat features a four-point attachment system. You can adjust any of the four points for a customized fit. 

Ocean Kayak Comfort Plus Seat

The Ocean Kayak Comfort Plus Seat is a mid-priced selection and an Amazon’s Choice product.

The kayak seat features a nylon base for durability. The material is also UV-resistant. Ventilation throughout will keep the seat breathable whether you’re sweating a lot or you’re wet from the water. 

The mounting straps can adjust four different ways. With brass swivel buckles, your attachment points will feel secure. 

Sea Eagle Deluxe Inflatable Kayak Seat

For those inflatable kayak owners, the Sea Eagle Deluxe is an inflatable kayak seat. 

The seat inflates to weigh 3.5 pounds. When inflated, the seat is 19 inches tall by 21 inches deep and 14 inches wide. The seat base of the Sea Eagle Deluxe measures five inches tall, 12 inches deep, and 14 inches wide when inflated.

Once you deflate the kayak seat, it’s 14 inches by nine inches by four inches. 

The Sea Eagle Deluxe boasts 14 spacious inches of lumbar support. The seat can also raise you five inches higher over your boat. A rear pocket can store essentials such as your phone.  

GTS Expedition Molded Foam Kayak Seat 

The last kayak seat we recommend is the GTS Expedition

A single-piece kayak seat with thermoformed EVA foam and a 600-denier high-density fabric base, the GTS Expedition has grooves throughout the backrest for lumbar support and stability. 

The seat base is 18 inches tall while the seat bottom is two inches thick. Comfort channels throughout the seat bottom allow for long-term sitting. The comfort channels also double as a cockpit water drainage measure. 

A triangulated strapping system around the rear makes it easy to attach your kayak seat to your boat. The six-point attachment system prevents slippage so your seat stays secure even if you’re working up a sweat when paddling. 

How to Install a Kayak Seat

Before we delve into kayak seat installation methods, we want to say that depending on the type of kayak seat and the brand, how you attach the seat can vary. These are generalized instructions. You should always defer to the instructions included with your kayak seat for secure installation.

Step 1: Pick a Location for the Kayak Seat

Although the cockpit seems like the most obvious place for a kayak seat, depending on the type of kayak you have as well as the type of seat, you might have to install the kayak seat elsewhere. Pick that spot now.

Step 2: Put the Seat in the Kayak

Situate the kayak seat so it’s loosely into position.

Step 3: Use the Straps to Secure the Kayak Seat

Unfurl your kayak seat’s strapping system and pull the straps into the correct position. Affix them to the included metal rivets or hooks so each strap is taut. If your kayak seat uses Velcro or another means of attachment, secure those as well. 

Step 4: Adjust the Straps

Now that your kayak seat is in place, it might not be just right yet. That’s okay, as you can adjust any of the straps for a better fit.  

Step 5: Sit and Ride  

Your kayak seat is now installed. Sit it in and go kayaking!

Tips for Maintaining Your Kayak Seat

Your kayak seat–like anything else on the rest of your boat–is an investment. To maintain the condition of the seat for many seasons ahead, be sure to follow these tips.

Clean Your Kayak Seat After Every Use

Although many kayak seats feature corrosion resistance and other durable features, saltwater can still wreak havoc on some of the materials. Even if you’re exclusively a freshwater kayaker, you should still clean your kayak seat–not to mention the rest of your boat–after every use. It’s a good habit to get into!

Ensure Your Kayak Seat Is Completely Dry Before Storing

You might not always keep your kayak seat on your boat, especially if you have a carrying bag for it. Before you store your newly-washed seat in the bag, please give the fabric time to dry.

Mold only needs a moist, dark environment to begin growing. You would hate to come back to your kayak seat in a couple of days only to see that it’s riddled with mold.

Don’t Leave Your Kayak Seat Out in the Open

A kayak seat bag or cover also comes in handy for protecting your seat from the elements. Many kayak seats have UV resistance, but you don’t want to push it by leaving your seat in a sunny backyard in between kayaking adventures.

You also don’t want your kayak seat out in the open because then it’s more appealing to thieves. They’ll steal not only your kayak seat but your kayak as well! 

Final Thoughts 

A kayak seat can spare your back and legs from the pain they often endure when sitting in a plastic cockpit for too long. Now that you have all the information you need to buy your own kayak seat, your kayaking trips are going to be even better! 

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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