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How To Inflate A Kayak (And Deflate)

Nicola Burridge
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Knowing how to inflate a kayak can be one of the first steps on your inflatable kayak journey. Without this skill, you might not get too far.

While it might seem like a simple process, there are some things you may want to keep in mind, such as the order of inflation of the chambers.

To help you get your inflatable kayak ready for the water, we’ve made this quick step-by-step guide on kayak inflation and deflation. 

How To Inflate A Kayak (And Deflate) - Pinterest ImagePin

Before You Start Inflation (Preparation)

Inflatable kayak with paddle on beach sandPin

Before you begin inflating your kayak, you should probably make sure you have all the correct equipment.

One of the most important things to check beforehand is that you’ve got the right valve adaptors to work with the specific type of valves on your inflatable kayak.

There are many types of inflatable kayak valves. You will probably find that your inflatable kayak uses either Halkey-Roberts valves or Boston valves. But there are other types of valves.

The best inflatable kayak pumps tend to come with a variety of adapters to use with different valves.

What You Need To Get Going

  • Pump (manual or electric or both)
  • Large enough area to inflate the kayak
  • Pressure gauge (to set the correct pressure – this can be essential for kayaks with high-pressure drop-stitch floors)

The main thing you’ll need is a kayak pump. Whether you use an electric pump or a manual pump is up to you. An electric pump will inflate your kayak faster than a manual pump. It will also require less effort from you. But it will require a power source. So if you’re at the edge of a remote lake, a manual pump might be better.

A manual pump or hand pump can be better for finishing off the inflation on drop-stitch kayaks. The manual pump lets you have more control over the amount of air that’s going into the chambers, so you can inflate to a more accurate pressure.

You can use a manual pump to inflate the kayak from beginning to end. However, this will require physical effort from you.

How To Inflate An Inflatable Kayak

Step 1: Unfold The Kayak

The first thing to do is unfold the kayak and lay it out flat in front of you. Make sure you have enough space around you to accommodate you and the kayak once it has been inflated.

Step 2: Inflate The Floor

Grab your air pump (electric or manual) and make sure the valves are compatible with the valve adaptor on the hose of the pump.

Air valves vary across brands and models of inflatable kayaks so you need to make sure your pump will work with your particular kayak valves.

Once you’ve got the right valve adaptor, locate the valve and open it.

If you have Boston valves on your inflatable kayak, unscrew the cap at the top.

If your inflatable kayak uses Halkey-Roberts valves, remove the cap and make sure the pushpin is in the higher position (it can be pushed down for deflation).

Attach the hose of the pump to the valve and start inflating the floor chamber. Use a pressure gauge to set the inflation to the correct pressure for your specific kayak (recommended pressure settings vary between kayaks).

Once the floor is fully inflated, remove the hose. Remember to close the valve by screwing the cap back on.

Step 3: Inflate The Side Walls

Now that the floor chamber is fully inflated, you can start on the rest of the air chambers. You will usually have two sidewalls to inflate, unless your kayak has more than three air chambers.

Open the valves and connect the pump hose like you did for the floor chamber, using your pressure gauge to get the level of inflation right. Fully inflate the chambers, detach the pump and close the valves.

Step 4: Attach The Accessories

Your kayak should be completely inflated. You can then attach your accessories. If you have an inflatable kayak seat, you will need to go ahead and inflate this before you attach it to the kayak.

Install your seat and foot braces (if you have them). If your kayak has a removable skeg, its time to install this too.

How To Deflate An Inflatable Kayak

Step 1: Find A Clean, Flat Surface

Find a spacious area with a clean, flat surface so that you have enough room to work around the kayak and roll it up once it’s deflated.

Step 2: Remove The Seat

The next thing you want to do is remove the kayak seat. You should also remove all other accessories that you attached before you launched. The seat, skeg, and footrests should be detached from the kayak.

Step 3: Open The Valves

Now that everything is removed from the kayak, it’s time to open the valves. Most inflatable kayak valves are one-way valves. So the air won’t come out in the same way that it went in.

This is why you need to open the correct part of the valve.

If you have a Halkey-Roberts valve, you should remove the cap and push down on the center of the valve. This should open the valve for deflation.

If you have a Boston valve, you should unscrew the base of the valve (not the cap at the top) to open it for deflation.

Air will begin to escape from the valves once they have been opened.

Step 4: Deflate

You can speed the deflation process up by attaching your pump if it has a deflation setting. If not, you will have to wait for the kayak to deflate by itself.

You can press down on the chambers to allow air to escape more quickly.

If you have an inflatable kayak seat, remember to also deflate this.

Step 5: Start To Fold The Kayak

As the kayak is beginning to deflate, you can start folding the kayak. Start at the end and fold toward the valves. As you fold, you will force more air out of the valves.

If you fold from the valve side first, air can become trapped inside the chambers and you might struggle to get the kayak packed small enough to fit inside the storage bag.

Video: How To Inflate, Deflate And Fold A Kayak

Step 6: Pack It Away

Once all the air is out of the kayak and you’ve folded it up, you can then pack it away in its storage bag. It can be a good idea to close the valves before you store the kayak to prevent any dust or dirt from getting inside the chambers.

Don’t forget to pack away your accessories and kayak paddle.

> Storing an inflatable kayak

Conclusion: Are You Pumped-Up And Ready To Go?

Hopefully you are now ready to hit the water with your fully inflated kayak (or ready to go home with a fully deflated kayak). Before you start, make sure you have the correct fittings to connect your pump to the valves on your kayak.

The next important thing to remember is to start by inflating the floor chamber first. If you inflate the sides first, you might not be able to get the floor in the correct position between the side chambers.

Once your kayak is fully inflated, make sure you close the valves. Remember to make sure the deflation valves are closed before you inflate the kayak, or it could start to deflate before you’ve even got to the water. 

Leave us a comment to let us know your thoughts. And if you think your buddies need some help inflating or deflating their kayaks, share this guide with them.

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