The best kayak seat for bad backs. How to make a kayak comfortable.

The best kayak seat for bad backs. How to make a kayak comfortable.

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Many articles out there say they’ve reviewed kayak seats that provide the most support for a bad back, however, I’ve found that they have simply selected from the broader range of seats, often with thin padding, rather than targeting their selection to aching backs. 

The best kayak seat for a bad back is one that:

  • Supports not only the back but the buttocks and shoulders too.
  • Has a seat with thick foam cushioning to make the kayak more comfortable.
  • A supportive high back with support on the sides to stabilize the torso when paddling to provide the greatest comfort.
  • Also, raising your kayak seat will help to maintain a less stressful posture for your body. 

As a bad back sufferer myself, I’ve put together this article to provide quality, not quantity when choosing the best seat for a bad back – a selection of seats that have the most padding, support, stability, and elevation to provide relief for your back when paddling – and at reasonable prices.

For those in a rush, here is my recommendation for the best kayak seat for avoiding back pain.

  • OceanMotion Ergo-Fit sit on top Kayak seat
  • For the money, it has the thickest padding to support and cushion your butt, with broad back support, water grooves for water run-off, and adjustable straps to find the right position on the kayak. 

If you wanted to provide even more cushion to your butt, then I’d recommend adding this cushion as well if you’re kayaking for anything over an hour or two:

Also, here is a handy comparison table that outlines the best kayaks seats for different back support needs. The best seats are at the top of the table, in descending order to make it easy to compare and choose.

Butt pad thicknessBack heightBack pad thicknessAdjustable strapsCheck Price Now
Ocean Motion Ergo-Fit2.5 in18in2 in4CHECK PRICE
Clio Thickened Padded Kayak Seat2.36in19.4in1.61in4CHECK PRICE
Blue Camo Clio Extra Thick Padded Kayak Seat2.17in19.69in1.61in4CHECK PRICE
GTS Expedition Molded Foam Kayak Seat2in18in~2in4CHECK PRICE
Surf To Summit Drifter Elevated Fishing Kayak Sit-On-Top Seat3in11.5in_2CHECK PRICE
Anti Slip Kayak Seat Cushion1.02N/AN/AN/ACHECK PRICE

Top 6 best kayak seats for bad backs

1. OceanMotion Ergo-Fit sit on top Kayak seat

This seat is the top choice due to its very broad coverage and height of the back, and because of the huge thickness of the padding in the bottom of the seat. It has 2.5 inches of padding here, and a decent backrest height of 18inches. 

The backrest padding itself also has 2 inches of cushioning too. The back has also been strengthened to provide greater support and stability to the back when paddling, meaning the transfer of energy from paddle to kayak is more efficient. This is an important factor, and this seat delivers well on the thickness, allowing you hours of paddling with less back trouble.

There are deep grooves in the seat too, which water to run off and avoid pooling, as well as non-slip surfaces to get traction on the kayak.

It comes with a handy storage bag to pack up at the end, too.

2. Clio Thickened Padded Kayak Seat

Next on the list, and kind of joint second with the next seat too (just slightly different dimensions and colors), is the Clio Thickened Kayak Seat. 

This has slightly less butt-padding (2.36inches), but has a higher back (19.4inches) for those taller kayakers out there, or those with long backs… like me! 

This seat comes with the fixings you need to secure the seat to the kayak, so if you don’t have the right type of fixings already – this seat is a great option for you. 

The fixings will ensure you’re not slipping about everywhere paddling and the non-slip underside will grip on too.

3. Blue Camo Clio Extra Thick Padded Kayak Seat

This seat is really similar to the previous one, it’s actually the same brand. Although it comes in a cool (pardon the pun) ice-blue-camo color. 

The only other differences are that the bottom padding of the seat is a little thinner, and the back height is a little taller. 

So if you’re needing a little more height on the back, this might be the better option for you.  

4. GTS Expedition Molded Foam Kayak Seat

The heavy-duty padding on this seat will provide a lot of comfort, and has very deep water run-off channels to let water from the seat area escape, keeping things a little drier. 

The backrest shape and sections have been designed to mold around the lumbar area of your back to deliver more support as your paddling, giving greater comfort and therefore time on the water. The backrest sits 18 inches high so not as tall as the others. 

The bottom seat padding is 2 inches thick so provides a great deal of cushioning, but if this is an area you don’t want to skimp in, one of the other seats might be better for you. 

The straps attach to the rear of the seat at 6 different points – unlike other kayak seats – to give maximum adjustability to the position you sit in. 

5. Surf To Summit Drifter Elevated Fishing Kayak Sit-On-Top Seat

The awesome thing about this seat is the 3 inches of padding at the bottom of the seat that really helps to elevate your position and deliver maximum comfort to the bottom. 

The backrest is very broad, which wraps around the back and hugs the lumbar area, ensuring the lower back and shoulders are supported for sustained paddling.

However the backrest isn’t particularly high, only 11.5 inches, so may not be the best choice if you’re looking for higher support of the shoulder blades and upper-center of the back.

The surface of the seat bottom has drainage grooves to allow water to run off.

At the back of the seat, there is a small, removable storage bag, perfect for carrying small items or your fishing tackle if out casting for the day. 

Additional cushion pads for your kayak

Here are two great options that you could modify your current seat, or for maximum back and bottom support, combine one of these cushion solutions with one of the kayaks seats above. 

1. Anti Slip Kayak Seat Cushion

An additional 1-inch layer of non-slip, breathable cushioning to add to your bottom padding under your seat. 

2. Yakpads Cushioned Kayak Seat Pad

This is a great gel-pad solution to bolster the padding to both the seat bottom and the backrest. So if you want to improve the support in both areas, this is a great addition.

3. Everlasting Comfort Lumbar Support Pillow

This is actually a lumbar cushion typically for office chairs, but I have heard of people using something like this to beef out the padding in the backrest and get additional padding for the lumbar area. 

Why should I invest in a kayak seat?

  1. Bad backs are a common injury associated with kayaking. A padded seat gives crucial support while paddling.

When I was in my early 20s, I tore the meniscus in my right knee from an awkward twist I did when standing up off the floor. 

There was nothing particularly extreme about the movement. 

I was just sitting on the floor with my legs crossed, and went to stand up, twisting to uncross my legs as I stood up… and rip! There went my meniscus. 

I’m sure you’re wondering, what does a torn meniscus cartilage in a knee have to do with a bad back? 

Well, I had an operation and in that operation, under general anesthetic, my back was at an odd angle and spasmed during the operation. 

This left me with a vulnerable, weaker back, one that easily becomes inflamed if stuck in one position for a while. It’s fine if I keep it strong, but that’s difficult to sustain. 

I love kayaking, but the drawback is that you are typically sitting in one position for hours on end. And sitting in a bad position is not healthy for us, we all know. 

Even for those without back problems, the sitting position you are in when kayaking demands a lot from your core, your bum, and your torso. 

All those muscles are working to not only keep you upright, but transfer the force you are creating by paddling, through your body, and into the kayak to move forward.

And if like me, you are sat down for work for a lot of the week, the effects can be compounded when you head out on the water at the weekend. 

In fact, one of the most commonly reported injuries from kayaking is a bad back, according to this research report.

2. Improved paddling and ability to maneuver

Additional support for your back means that you are able to paddle harder and longer. You have support for your shoulders and upper back with a well-padded seat, meaning you can get greater purchase in the water when paddling without too much strain on your shoulders and core.

3. Some kayak seats come with additional storage

If you’re out fishing or need to carry additional items out on the water with you (like sun cream, water, tackle, etc.), kayak seats often come with additional pockets that you can stash things in. Even if they don’t the seat straps act as a great place to clip things too as well for easy access.

How do you stop back pain when kayaking? Choosing the right kayak seat for your bad back. A buyer’s guide.

One way to address back pain is by practicing and refining your paddling technique, but this article doesn’t cover that – that’s a long-term game and covered well elsewhere.

This is why it’s so important in the early days to buy a suitable, supportive, and comfortable seat for your kayak if you hope to stand a chance of remaining comfortable for anything longer than a 45-minute paddle.

This article: 

  • explores a self-experiment that led to discovering the surprising reasons behind why you get uncomfortable aches and back pain when kayaking, 
  • what to look for when choosing a kayak seat, 
  • and reviews different types of seats that help address these issues, appealing to different needs and budgets.

Consideration 1: Choose a cushioned kayak seat option that supports your back AND butt

Most people are triggered to purchase or upgrade their kayak seat due to discomfort or pain after some time on the water kayaking. 

Usually, the main sensation of pain comes from the lower back area, around the lumbar. 

It’s easy, therefore, to think that getting a seat that simply has a well-padded back to it will solve the problem.  

What is surprising about back pain from kayaking is that it doesn’t solely originate in your back. 

This might seem odd, because usually, at the end of a session, the lower back is usually the area that aches the most!

I did a mini-experiment on myself during my last kayaking session to see where the first sign of discomfort arises. 

It’s easy not to notice this normally while kayaking because you’re focused on paddling or fishing, not focusing on where the pain is happening first in your body. 

What I found really interesting was that, after about 45 minutes, the first bit of discomfort actually starts in my upper thighs and particularly in my buttocks. 

The discomfort then gradually works its way upwards towards the lower back and central area of the back. 

This intrigued me and led me to read up a little on why this happens.

The reason your buttock area is where discomfort can often originate first is that it is the central connection to the kayak that takes all of the energy through it. 

So if your paddle technique is not efficient, and you are not using your legs to drive the energy into the kayak, your bum takes the brunt of the work. 

And because you’re sitting on a flat, hard surface you are squishing and holding the muscles in a cramped position, while driving lots of energy through them. 

This made me realise that having a comfortable back to the kayak seat is not the only solution. 

A padded bottom to your kayak seat is just as important to avoiding early discomfort when kayaking. 

The ideal solution to a bad back when kayaking is to get a well-padded, adjustable seat with backrest and bottom padding, in combination with an additional waterproof, grippy cushion underneath it. 

Something like this seat, with this cushion, would work well and provide a good level of comfort. 

If your hip flexor gives you particular trouble, then a raised seat can create a better angle that puts less strain on your hip flexor. 

Consideration 2: Some kayaks seats can be used for most types of kayaks, but not all

This article is most relevant for those with sit-on-top kayaks. These don’t often have in-built seats on them, so you can customize them with newer options if you wish, to save your back from excruciating pain!

Most seats on the market are targeted mainly at the sit-on-top kayak, and there is a good range. 

I’ve seen people using sit-on-top seats in sit-in kayaks, but not all fit properly, so be careful with what you choose.

A lot of mid-to-upper range sit-in kayaks come with an inbuilt seat anyway, particularly kayaks designed for touring. You can add to these and change them too, so you might get some ideas for customizing your seat in this article.

Consideration 3: Choose a durable, breathable material when selecting a kayak seat

I’m not going to go into in-depth detail about what materials kayak seats are made of, but to call out some key factors that matter.

Breathability – this will prevent your back and bum from becoming a sweaty mess. Look for materials that help transpiration of water, i.e. wick the water away, and you’ll avoid chafing and sores. 

Materials that are breathable include:

Durable – this means more than just being sturdy when you sit on it. This is important but you also want the material to last. 

UV protection is a great additional factor that will help your seat last longer and not fade. 

Tough materials will help the seat retain its integrity over time, but they still need to be looked after and rinsed after kayaking. 

Material suited to water environments – most kayak seats are made of pretty hardy foam and polyester/nylon materials, with some using neoprene in their designs too. 

Consideration 4: Adjustability = greater comfort for your back

As mentioned above, when you’re kayaking you’re often sat in one position, which can lead to an avhe or a pain developing fast without much relief. 

I find the adjustable straps on my kayak seat so useful. It means you can adjust the seat to lie right back if you need, getting into a more straightened position and providing relief for your shoulders, back, and importantly, the hip flexor which can easily flare-up. 

The hip flexors are often a cause of lower back pain because they are attached to the legs right through to the back of the hips. If you ever get tight hip flexors, these exercises work pretty well.

Consideration 5: Raised seats protect your back, hips and keep you dry. 

Raising your kayak seat is also a great option for avoiding a premature onset of hip flexor pain and the resulting lower back pain because the angle your legs are positioned just seems to be so much more comfortable and less stressful on the hip flexor muscles.

With a raised seat, you are sitting in more of a regular position and angle to how you would normally sit in a chair. 

You also get the added benefit of better vision into the water if you are fishing and more clearance for paddling. 

One thing to be careful of is raising your seat too far for your paddle length. You can read more on choosing the right paddle length here.

Consideration 5: Price

How much is consistently comfortable kayaking worth to you?

How much do you hate the pain of a bad back, and how long that pain and frustration can last after a long session paddling on the water.

Like most things in life, if you go for the super-cheap option, then you’re going to suffer some shortcomings and setbacks in the design.

In this purchase, it is worth investing. That is why I am suggesting not only the most padded cost-effective, adjustable seat option but also suggesting adding additional padding to that – it will just be worth it in the long run.

The best kayak seat for bad backs. How to make a kayak comfortable. Summary

I hope this article has been useful and shown you specific seats that are best suited to those kayakers with a bad back, or kayakers hoping to get some long distances in and remain comfortable. 

Remember, don’t trade back comfort for bottom comfort, or vice versa – you need both to avoid pains and niggles creeping in too soon to a session. It’s not worth being a tightwad when your comfort is at stake!