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When you’re loading up your kayak for your next trip you may or may not have considered adding a bilge pump to your kayaking gear. Depending on the type of paddling you plan to do, they can be useful to have. But what are they and how do they work?
We have done a bit of research (and playing around) to find the best bilge pumps for kayaks and we have put together this guide to answer some of the questions you might have. We will explain what exactly a kayak bilge pump is and when you might need one.
Top Kayak Bilge Pumps: At A Glance
What Are Bilge Pumps For?
Bilge pumps are designed for boats in order to remove any water that has built up inside. In the case of a canoe or kayak, a bilge pump would be able to remove water that has splashed into the craft from paddles or waves. It is also able to remove any remaining water inside your vessel after a capsize.
A kayak bilge pump can be used for pumping water from storage hatches as well as the cockpit of your kayak. This means that you can remove excess water without having to tip your boat upside down, and you can generally stay inside your craft while you do it.
While you might think that bilge pumps might be less useful in a sit-on-top yak, they can still be pretty useful. Even if your vessel has scupper holes to allow water to drain out, you may be using scupper plugs. And while this can prevent water from coming in from underneath, water can still come over the top. This is where a kayak bilge pump could come in handy to expel unwanted water.
Video: Kayak – Manual Bilge Pump
You may find you also want to keep a sponge with you while you’re on the water, as this can be useful in removing smaller amounts of water, sand and grit; amounts that are too small for even the best kayak bilge pump to remove.
Types Of Bilge Pumps
Manual Bilge Pumps
Manual pumps can be ideal for most kayaks, as they tend to be compact and can be easily stored in your craft. Most manual pumps work in a similar way to pumping air into a tire or air mattress, except the water pump is essentially sucking up water with each pump and expelling it through a connected tube.
In order to get rid of the excess water, you would use two hands to pump the water out of that specific area and position the tube or hose on the outside of your vessel. This is so that the water will be fired out of your yak and back to the lake or ocean instead of elsewhere in your boat.
One downside to manual pumps is that you probably won’t be able to pump and paddle at the same time. So, depending on where you’re paddling, this could be tricky.
Automatic Bilge Pumps
An automatic bilge pump can be useful if you tend to paddle in rough waters or whitewater. This is because electric bilge pumps can pump out the water for you while you continue to paddle, unlike a manual one.
Video: Kayak Electric Bilge Pump
This means you don’t have to stop paddling to do it yourself, which can save time on your journey, as well as allow you to keep control of your boat in challenging conditions.
The downside of an automatic bilge pump is that it will require some installation, which can be a little tricky if you don’t know what you’re doing. You will also need to ensure that the position of the pump doesn’t get in the way of you’re paddling, which might not be a concern on bigger boats.
Video: How to Fit an Electric Pump “Magnetx” Sea Kayak Mirage 580
Features To Keep An Eye Out For
When you’re choosing a bilge pump for your kayak or canoe, there are a few things you might want to consider.
If you’re out on the water and your kayak bilge pump takes a dive, the last thing you will want is for it to sink. So having one that floats can be a sensible idea for a paddling excursion.
You’ll find that many of the ABS plastic manual pumps are coated with a foam material with limited or no stainless steel components, that will help it to float if you knock the bilge pump overboard or you drop it by accident. However, stainless steel can be useful for durability and strength.
Another thing you may want to consider is a leash for your bilge pump, and make sure that it is attached to your yak. This way if it does end up in the water, it won’t be taken away by the current.
Automatic bilge pumps probably won’t have the same issues as hand pumps because they should already be secured and installed on your vessel.
The size of pump you will need will likely depend on the size of your boat and how much water you will be needing to get rid of. The larger the pump, the more water it will likely be able to remove in one move.
However, you don’t want the kayak bilge pump to be too cumbersome for your craft. Think about where you will store it and make sure it can be easily accessible without being in the way of your paddle strokes.
Securing it within easy reach of your cockpit, such as on the deck in front of you, can be a good idea.
Choosing whether you want to use a manual pump or opt for automatic pumps will depend on your style of paddling. It will also depend on whether you want to spend the extra money, as automatic ones tend to be more expensive. They will also require more work to install.
For an automatic bilge pump you will also need to consider how it will run, so you’ll need to think about the extra cost of recharging batteries or whether you want to keep an electric power source on board.
9 Best Bilge Pumps For Kayaks
1: NRS Touring Safety Kits
- Length: 21 inches
- Weight: 1.9 pounds (whole kit)
This NRS Safety Kit can be an ideal choice for both beginners and experienced kayakers, as it comes with basic safety gear for kayak rescues, making it the best kayak bilge pump in terms of accessories to add to your kayaking gear.
It comes with a manual kayak bilge pump, a whistle, a paddle float and a sponge. This kit means you can attempt a self rescue and be able to expel water from your craft with the use of the bilge pump and the sponge.
The 21 inch kayak bilge pump is coated in foam so it will float in water and it has the ability to move up to 8 gallons a minute.
2: Seattle Sports Paddlers Bilge Pump
- Length: 21 inches
- Weight: 12 ounces
The Seattle Sports Paddlers Bilge Pump is 21 inches long and features an easy to grip rubber pump handle, which can make it easier to use when your hands are wet.
The manual pump has a foam layer, helping it to float if it ends up in the water. It is also brightly colored in neon yellow for higher visibility.
This self priming pump can be used to remove water from kayaks and canoes, and a hose can be attached if you choose, but would need to be purchased separately.
3: SeaSense Bilge Pump Hose
- Length: 18 inches
- Weight: 1.9 pounds
This Bilge Pump Hose is designed to be used for manually pumping out water from your kayak or canoe and comes with a hose. This can allow you to pump water further away from your cockpit or other area and force it out over the side, directed through the hose.
It comes in a range of sizes up to 36 inches with a 36 inch hose. For kayaks you might be better with the smaller sizes for pump storage purposes.
This pump is designed to be corrosion resistant, which could make it a good choice for kayaking in saltwater.
4: Harmony High Volume Bilge Pump
- Length: 16 inches
- Weight: 1 pound
This High Volume Bilge Pump is a compact self priming bilge pump that could be an ideal choice for smaller vessels, as it could be easier to store at just 16 inches (and weighs only one pound), giving you more space for other gear.
It benefits from a foam sleeve that will help to keep it floating in the event that you drop it or it breaks loose from your deck. This pump is designed to remove a gallon of water with every 9 strokes and because of the shorter length, it shouldn’t take as long to complete one stroke.
It’s also built with a comfort handle and is designed to be corrosion resistant, so it could be a good option if you paddle in all types of water.
5: Beckson Canoe & Kayak Pump
- Length: 18 inches
- Weight: 11.2 ounces
The Beckson boat bilge pump is a lightweight 18 inch manual pump that could be a convenient tool to have on board your yak or canoe. Its sleeve is built to float, so you shouldn’t need to worry about it sinking if you drop it.
This pump can remove up to eight gallons per minute and is built to move a gallon of water with every 8 strokes. It’s a strong, durable pump that will remove water from your boat without a hose attached, but you do have the option of purchasing a hose to use with it if you prefer.
6: Attwood 24″ Bilge Pump with Hose
- Length: 24 inches
- Weight: 1.4 pounds
The Attwood bilge pump is a 24 inch manual pump that comes with a 32 inch long hose but it also has the benefit of being usable even without the hose if you wanted to save space in your craft.
This bilge pump is designed for kayaks and canoes. It can remove up to 8 gallons of water per minute and features a comfort grip handle which is also designed to float.
The pump is durable and made from plastic so could be ideal for all types of water conditions, including the ocean.
7: NRS Kayak Bilge Pump
- Length: 21 inches
- Weight: 13.6 ounces
This NRS bilge pump is a manual pump that can be ideal for all types of kayaks and canoes. It is 21 inches long and can remove up to 8 gallons of water per minute from your vessel. This can make it a good choice if you need to empty water quickly.
It is bright yellow to make it easier to spot in low light or if you drop it overboard. It also benefits from a full length foam cover, which will help to keep it afloat.
This bilge pump is designed to pump out water over the side of your kayak without requiring a hose, which could make it more compact to store on your kayak or canoe.
8: Rule 25S-Marine Rule 500 Automatic Marine Bilge Pump
- Length: 7 inches
- Weight: 1.23 pounds
The Rule 25S Marine Bilge Pump is an automatic bilge pump that is designed to be compact and convenient for kayaks, unlike larger electric pumps.
It requires a 12 volt power supply and would require electrical installation. The Rule 25S has a float switch and built-in sensors that can automatically detect water levels in your vessel. When the water is detected the bilge pump will automatically start pumping the water out so you don’t need to stop paddling.
It is also designed to automatically shut off when the water level inside your craft reduces. This could be a good choice if you need to remove water from your vessel but you’re not in a position to physically do it yourself, such as on whitewater or rough sea conditions.
9: Perception Kayaks Bilge Pump
- Length: 21 inches
- Weight: 14 ounces
This Perception kayak bilge pump is 21 inches long and weighs just 14 ounces, making it ideal for stowing on deck or in your cockpit.
It removes water at a rate of one gallon per 13 or 14 pumps and features a padded pump handle grip for non-slip use. The good grip also adds buoyancy, helping the pump to float.
A useful feature of this bilge pump is that it’s corrosion resistant for saltwater use. It’s also designed to expel water both on the upward and downward strokes for maximum efficiency and is a bright color for improved visibility when on the water.
A bilge pump can be a really useful tool to have on board, whether you’re kayaking, canoeing or boating, as it can help you remove the excess water from your craft and perhaps prevent you from sinking.
When you’re choosing the best marine or freshwater bilge pump, the storage space on your vessel and your budget can be things to consider, as well as personal preference. So remember to think about what will suit you and your kayaking needs the best.
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