Do Kayaks Have Seat Belts? Everything You Need To Know

Whether kayaks should or shouldn’t have seat belts is a widely debated question. Everyone has their preferences for their reasons. Perhaps your kayak came without a seat belt, and you want one, so you’re here.

We are going to answer some questions about seat belts and safety in your kayaks and give you some alternatives. Keep on reading to learn more!

Do Kayaks Have Seat Belts?

Generally, kayaks do not come with seat belts or any harnesses. You can buy seat belts and harnesses or buy a kayak seat that comes with them. There are various types of seat belts and harnesses you can choose from.

You can choose from quick-release lap belts, thigh straps, leashes or lethers, and seat belts. It is ideal for getting quick-release harnesses, but it is all about preference and safety. Many kayakers do not use seat belts, however. 

Is a Kayak Seat Belt Necessary?

No, seat belts in kayaks are not necessary. If it were, all kayaks would come with seat belts. The debate about kayak seat belts is about how safe or unsafe it is.

Many kayakers debate against it, whereas others are for it. Generally, it is unsafe to fix yourself onto any vessel. In the event of a capsize, you might struggle to free yourself and remain underwater.

However, you can find quick-release straps and harnesses if you still really want to fix yourself. Fixing yourself onto the kayak can help balance and stabilize your vessel much easier. But still, during a capsize, it would take you a moment to free yourself and resurface.

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If you want to use a kayak seat belt, you should practice releasing yourself out of it as quickly as possible. You could practice on land, but it’s best to try in the water with people to help you when you can’t get out. Never practice alone!

Now let’s discuss the different types of harnesses you can get.

Quick-Release Kayak Lap Belts

These are belts that go over your lap and fix your legs to the vessel while leaving your torso free. The quick-release means that you can free the belts in just one or two moves. Usually, there will be a quick-release button, or you can pull them right off in one motion. 

These are ideal if you have an open-top kayak. Lap belts are easy to fix and remove, whether normal or capsizing. If you have a closed-top kayak, you probably shouldn’t get this type of harness.

It would be very risky, and you might struggle to get out. In that case, let’s look at how a seat belt compares to thigh straps.

Kayak Thigh Straps vs. Seat Belt

A seat belt is ideal for a closed-top kayak because they are easier to reach and release. A seat belt will harness your body and fix it to the back of your kayak seat. There are various kayak seat belts, but the most common one is the most familiar.

Most kayak seat belts will look a lot like car seat belts, the shoulder harness going across the torso. Kayak seat belts can also come as straps around your torso and fix you downwards or backward and upright. 

On the other hand, Thigh straps will wrap over your thighs/lap and fix you downwards to the kayak’s interior. As mentioned earlier, these are best for open-top, wider kayaks. It would be impossible to fix if you used this on a close-top kayak. You wouldn’t reach the straps, and if you did, you would struggle to get them off. 

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Thigh straps are generally easier to get out of because only your legs are bound to the kayak. You could kick hard enough and free yourself. Moreover, thigh straps are generally cheaper than seat belts because they are simplistic. 

You might have to pay a little more for quick-release technology in your harnesses, but we believe it is well worth it anyway. 

Using a Kayak Leash or Tether

If you are worried about losing your kayak paddle when you capsize, you can get yourself a kayak leash. A kayak leash is essentially a leash secured to your paddle shaft and your life vest.

Sometimes, your kayak paddle will drift away from you if you were to capsize. You’d have to flip your kayak over first and then swim after the paddle to get it back. However, with a kayak leash, your paddle will stay close by at all times. 

Suppose, in an emergency where your kayak is severely damaged, at least you wouldn’t lose the paddle too!


So, do kayaks have seatbelts? Generally, they do not, but they could if you prefer them. Should kayaks have seatbelts? It is a safety concern, but it comes down to preferences as long as you won’t put yourself at risk. 

Before you decide to invest in a seat belt or lap belt, you should consider how it can impact your kayaking experience. Most importantly, your safety. 

Will having a harness prevent you from capsizing, or will it pose a bigger risk when you capsize? We suggest getting a quick-release lap belt if you have an open top kayak.

However, if you use a closed-top kayak, we suggest not using any seat belt or harnessing system. It is already hard enough to get out of a closed-top kayak; adding a harness on top of that is asking for trouble!

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Closed top kayaks are also much easier to balance and stabilize because you can also use your legs to control them. However, open-top kayaks are harder to capsize because they are wider, so perhaps you won’t need a harness. The only time you’ll need a harness is if you tend to make yourself capsize too often.

We hope this was helpful in helping you decide whether you should get a harness or not.