Inflatable kayaks are a great way to enjoy outdoor activities on the water, and are an increasingly popular piece of outdoor and camping equipment. However, when it’s tiring and takes forever to blow up your kayak it can take a lot of the fun out paddling. To properly use your inflatable kayak and to get the most enjoyment out of it, you need a good air pump.
There are a large range of air pumps available, with different features and designed for different uses, so it can be confusing to figure out what you need in an air pump for an inflatable kayak. Our guide will show you what to look for and recommend some of the best inflatable kayak pumps on the market.
The Top Pumps For Inflatable Kayaks
- AIRHEAD Watersports Double Action Hand Pump
- OutdoorMaster 20PSI High Pressure SUP Electric Air Pump
- Texsport Double Action Hand Pump
- Intex Double Quick III S Hand Pump
- ADVANCED ELEMENTS Double Action Hand Pump
How To Choose A Pump For Your Inflatable Kayak: A Buyer’s Guide
When looking to get a pump for your inflatable kayak there are a few things you’ll need to consider before hitting buy. Below we’ll cover all the things you’ll need to look at and consider when picking yours.
Types of valves on an inflatable kayak
When buying a pump for an inflatable kayak, it’s crucial that your pump is able to connect to the valve on your kayak. Some inflatable kayaks have different types of valves on different parts of the kayak, depending on their uses. Many pumps come with a few different connectors, for different types of valves, but it’s always important to make sure that your pump will work with your kayak. Here are some of the most common types of inflatable kayak valves.
The Boston valve is a two-way valve. The bottom half is connected to the kayak, while the top half is opened during pumping, and then sealed when the kayak is inflated. The top half has a flap that traps air inside, to prevent a rush of air when the pump is disconnected. The bottom then unscrews for faster deflating.
A military valve has a spring-loaded push pin that controls the outward flow of air. When the push pin is up, air can be pumped in, but will not flow back out. When the push pin is down, air will be released when the valve is opened.
A pinch valve has a long, needle shape with an air flap inside. The pump connector needs to be long enough to push the flap aside to pump air in, and then the flap closes automatically when the pump is removed. You have to compress these valves (pinch them) to hold the inside flap open to release air.
There are lots of different types of valves, and connectors and adaptors to attach them to pumps. Make sure the pump you want works with the valves you have.
Different types of pump for inflatable kayaks
There are a few different types of air pumps, some are a lot easier and require less energy to use than others. Let’s take a look at the options.
A hand pump is probably the most familiar type of air pump because these types are so often used for bicycles. These have a long cylindrical shape and pump air when the handle is pushed down. They are often used for small inflatables or quick top-ups. When using a hand pump for the longer, tougher job of inflating a kayak, look for one that has a generous, comfortable handle to prevent blisters, and look for robust braces to hold the pump in place with your feet.
A foot pump works much like a hand pump, with air moved on the downstroke, but the foot-bellows shape allows you to use your foot and pump without bending. These can still be tiring and time consuming to use to inflate a whole kayak, but have a compact size that makes them popular as an emergency backup or for top-ups.
A double-action pump looks like a traditional hand pump and works in the same way. However, air is pumped both when you push the handle down, and when you lift the handle up, making them twice as efficient. They are popular for lower pressure inflatables, and still require a lot of strength and endurance to fill an entire kayak.
Small electric pump
Small 12-Volt electric pumps, of the kind designed to work from a car adaptor, are a very popular choice for kayaks. They aren’t faster than manual pumps but require less physical effort. Often they don’t have the air power to fully inflate a kayak, and some may lack the power to open some tougher military valves. Most people use them to get their kayak mostly inflated, and then use a manual pump to achieve the proper PSI.
Types of pumps not to use with an inflatable kayak
There are a few different types of air pumps to avoid using with inflatable kayaks. Let’s take a look at the ones to steer clear of.
Air pumps designed for bicycle or automotive tires won’t work with an inflatable kayak. This is because they are incompatible with the valves. Even if you did have a connector it would take ages with a tire pump!
Traditional air compressor pumps
Most compressed air pumps are too powerful to use with an inflatable kayak, because they easily over-inflate and may damage the air chambers.
It’s important to inflate your kayak to the manufacturer’s specifications. Over or under-inflation compromises the designed shape of the kayak, making it less easy and effective to handle on the water, and perhaps even making it unsafe. Keep in mind that air temperature affects pressure, so slightly under-inflated kayaks that will be used in the hot sun and slightly over-inflate kayaks that will be used in cold water. An inflatable kayak that had the correct PSI at 6 a.m. for a fishing trip will not have the same PSI at noon on the same day. This is why it’s a good idea to keep a small pump and a PSI gauge with you on the kayak, so you can make periodic adjustments, and never leave a fully-inflated kayak sitting in the hot sun.
Some air pumps have built-in pressure gauges so you can see your air pressure in real-time, which is a convenient solution. Some valves, like military valves and Boston valves, naturally trap air inside, so it can be difficult to measure PSI when you aren’t pumping. Opening the valve to take a PSI measurement naturally allows air out, making it hard to measure.
To address this difficulty, many kayaks give visual alternatives to measured PSI, such as measurements on the hull, or directions for touch firmness.
Whatever method you are using to measure pressure, whether you have a PSI indicator on the pump, or a separate PSI gauge, or an inflation indicator on the kayak itself, remember to keep an eye on it periodically, and reduce pressure during steep temperature increases.
Inflatable Kayak Pump Reviews
Now we’ve covered some of the features you want to look for let’s take a look at the pumps that we think are the best.
AIRHEAD Watersports Double Action Hand Pump
- Double Action, perfect for topping off towables
- Four universal valve fittings are included
- Accordion-style hose stretches to 5 ft. long
- Volume is 2 liters / stroke
- Peak pressure is 14 psi
The AIRHEAD Watersports Double Action Hand Pump is a good low-cost option for
those who don’t mind having to do some of the hard work themselves instead of simply using an electrical pump. This pump is also great for topping off your inflatable when it’s almost full and there is backpressure.
The pump includes four universal valve fittings, making it extremely versatile. It can also be used for quicker deflation, although the valve can be a bit tricky to use and might break easily. This pump can be used for kayaks and other inflatables, such as pools, boats or air mattresses. Best suited for single-sized inflatables, not necessarily best if you need to inflate something big that needs a high-pressure pump.
This hand-pump is a great option for camping or other conditions where you might not have access to electricity. The seal is also good, and no air is wasted when you are pumping – this assures your hard work won’t go to waste.
- Can use anywhere, as it does not require electricity
- A budget-friendly option for those who don’t mind putting in the muscle work
- Well-sealed – no wasted air when pumping
- Not as quick as an electric pump
- Not the most lightweight option if you wish to carry it in your backpack
- Some issues with the deflate function – the valve can break easily
OutdoorMaster 20PSI High Pressure SUP Air Pump
- Made to Share - 20PSI HIGH PRESSURE FOR UP TO 3 BOARDS IN A ROW - Enjoy a sleekly designed pump with fast, high pressure inflation of up to 3 SUPs in a row - ONE PUMP FOR YOU AND YOUR FRIENDS! Comes...
- DUAL STAGE & AUTO OFF FOR EASY INFLATION - Automatic dual stage pump: 1st stage for MAXIMUM SPEED at 350L/min and 2nd stage for MAXIMUM PRESSURE at 70L/min. The AUTO-OFF FUNCTION turns the pump off...
- CERTIFICATIONS - The SHARK has gone through rigorous testing and has CA65 and CE certifications.
- 12V DC CAR CONNECTOR & 3 NOZZLES ATTACHMENTS - Connects to your car's 12V DC connector. Features a 12A fuse for increased safety. Compact design and BUILT-IN CARRYING HANDLE for easy transportation....
- DIGITAL DISPLAY WITH REAL TIME PRESSURE MONITORING - Use the digital display to set your desired pressure and monitor the pressure in real time. PUMPING HAS NEVER BEEN EASIER!
The OutdoorMaster 20PSI High Pressure SUP Air Pump is a 12V electric air pump with a lot of convenient features. It can achieve pressures up to 20 PSI, and is programmable, so you can set your desired pressure and then the machine will automatically turn off. It also has automatic dual-stage inflation, where it pumps 350L/minute to fill inflatables quickly, then switches to 70L/minute to deliver high, accurate pressure. It can inflate up to 4 SUPs consecutively, so it can be used to fill inflatables for a crowd.
The OutdoorMaster 20 PSI High Pressure SUP Air Pump comes with three different nozzle attachments to fit a variety of valves and is powered by a car’s 12V DC connection and a 9-foot cord. It has a sleek, attractive design with a built-in carrying handle and a built-in sand filter. It has been rigorously tested and is certified and backed by a one year warranty.
- 3 connectors for different valves
- Up to 20 PSI
- Auto-shutoff means you don’t have to monitor pumping
- Dual-stage inflation makes it inflate quickly to high pressures
- Convenient operation from a car DC connection
- Deflation setting
- Prone to overheating over prolonged use
- Quite expensive
- You need to be near the car to inflate
Texsport Double Action Hand Pump
- Texsport double action hand pump, flexible, non kink hose, plastic
- SELECT propellants that deliver consistent accuracy and performance
- The product is manufactured in canada
The Texsport Double Action Hand Pump is meant for air mattresses, but can also be
used to inflate kayaks, as long as the nozzle fits your kayak. It is a double-action pump, which means it can be used for inflation also. This pump has propellants that deliver consistent accuracy and performance when pumping.
If you do not mind doing the work, this is an excellent pump for all your inflation needs. It is one of the quicker hand-pumps, and is also sturdy and built to last. The pump is compact, and good for camping trips and other occasions where you might not have access to electricity – and it only weighs one pound!
However, it is not a very small pump and might not be the best option if you are trying to fit it in your backpack. Regarding the price, it is not the most expensive nor the cheapest hand-pump, but the quality is great. If you are looking for something that will not break right away and willing to pay a little bit extra to get that quality, this pump is an excellent choice.
- Strong and sturdy – built to last
- Quick to use
- Requires a lot of strength
- Not the most lightweight option
- Might need slightly more muscle than with hand-pumps
Intex Double Quick III S Hand Pump (Budget Choice)
- Great for airbeds or other large inflatables, the simple to use
- Designed to pump air on both up and down strokes, this double action pump maximizes airflow, making inflating fast and simple
- This hand pump includes 3 interconnecting nozzles with hoses to inflate or deflate different types of inflatables
The Intex Double Quick pump is another great option for those looking for a cheap and easy way to get their kayak blown up. It’s super compact and is very easy to pop in the back of your kayak should you need to top up at any point.
Being the cheapest pump that we look at we were pleasantly surprised at how quickly it inflated kayaks and it’s very durable. It also comes with an adapter so you can use it on your other inflatables like air beds and pool floats.
- Pumps air on the up and down strokes
- Very small and easy to transport
- The nozzle can sometimes pop out during inflation
ADVANCED ELEMENTS Double Action Hand Pump
- It is durable
- High flow inflation
- It is made of multiple adaptors
- This high flow pump inflates and deflates
- Designed with a pressure gauge
The Advanced Elements 2-Way Kayak Hand Pump model includes a pressure gauge which can be adjusted from 0-14.5psi (the dial shows 0-15 but the maximum pressure this pump can do is 14.5psi). This is a double-action pump that can be used for both inflating and deflating by using a different setting.
The pump also comes with universal valve adaptors to fit all of the most common valves, including “twist and lock” types. The varied selection of valves means this pump is versatile and can be used on most inflatable kayaks and other inflatable devices too.
Calibrating the pressure gauge can be slightly tricky, which, if you are not being careful, may lead to over-inflation. Some reviews suggest the dial on the pressure gauge might not be completely accurate, and therefore you need to be careful when inflating your device. Weighing only slightly over 1 kg this pump is a fairly lightweight option, and good if you need something that does not rely on electricity.
- A reliable lightweight option which does not require electricity
- Versatile use – includes adaptor valves
- Adjustable pressure with the gauge and dial
- Calibrating the pressure can be tricky – you need to be careful not to over-inflate
- More expensive than some other pump models
Most people who frequently use an inflatable kayak opt for a few different pumps. They may use a 12V electric pump to do most of the work, then a dual-action pump to finesse it to the correct PSI. Then they may carry a small manual pump as part of their kayak emergency kit, in case they need to make adjustments. In other words, there is no perfect pump for every situation and every kayak owner, and you may want to consider a combination of devices to make the task of inflating a kayak as fast and easy as possible.