A bilge pump might not seem like a necessary part of your repertoire of kayaking accessories, but while it may not be as vital as your paddle or life jacket, it’s definitely something worth spending a few dollars on. Bilge pumps can save you a lot of hassle if your kayak takes on water. Whether you’re paddling through rough waters and taking on water, or trying to paddle again after capsizing, a bilge pump can keep you from soaking in a bath of water while you paddle.
Here are some of the best bilge pumps to use with any kayak. They’re small, portable, and can easily be stowed inside most boats.
Best Kayak Bilge Pumps for 2018
SeaSense Hand Bilge Pump with hose - Our Pick
What Are the Different Types of Bilge Pumps?
There are two main varieties of bilge pumps. Though they serve the same purpose, they are operated very differently.
Manual bilge pumps are lightweight and look like narrow tubes. They’re operated by lifting the pump handle up and down to project water out of a spout on the side of the pump. Manual pumps are great to keep in kayaks if you don’t think you’ll be taking on a ton of water. They’re also ideal for smaller kayaks since they can be stowed in your boat quite easily. The benefit of these pumps is that they are generally low-cost items, they’re lightweight and easily portable, and they don’t require any power to use.
Check out this how-to video for using a manual bilge pump:
Automatic bilge pumps use a motor and do most of the work for you. They’ll pump the water out of your boat with ease, you just have to switch it on. These are great for bigger boats, for times when your kayak might have a lot of water in it, or if you need to pump water out without having to stop paddling to pump manually. The downside with these pumps is that they require a bit of effort to install, and they’re bulkier and take up more space. The benefit is that you don’t have to worry about stopping to pump out water while you’re paddling or taking lots of time to do it after you’re off the water. Just turn on the pump and it’ll remove all the water from your boat quickly.
How to Choose the Right Pump
There are a few things to consider when trying to choose the best bilge pump. We’ve put together a list of our favorite pumps, but how will you know which one of these will work best for you? As with any purchase, you’ll want to consider all the pros and cons of each model before you buy them. Here are some things to think about as you make your choice:
What Type of Kayak Will You Be Using It In?
The size of your kayak will play an important role in determining what type of bilge pump will be best. If you have a small whitewater boat, a bulky automatic pump won’t work very well. But a slender manual pump can fit in the back of your kayak easily. Consider how much water you’ll be trying to pump out, how often you’ll need to use your pump, and how much storage space your kayak has.
What Do You Want to Spend?
Bilge pumps will vary in price anywhere from $15 to $150. Manual pumps will almost always be cheaper. If cost is a factor, you’d be better off choosing a manual one. You can find cheaper automatic versions, too, but generally the automatic pumps will cost a bit more.
Will You Use Your Pump for Any Other Purposes?
If you’re going to invest in a bilge pump, something worth considering is what other purposes you might use it for. If you’ll only be using it on the occasional kayak trip, an inexpensive manual pump will probably be fine. If you also have a larger boat or a jet ski, you might want to consider investing in a larger automatic pump that can be used for different types of boats.
Before you buy your pump, you’re going to want to think about where it will be in your kayak and how you will install it. Manual pumps are easy to store in most kayaks, but you may still want to set up an attachment for it. While most manual pumps have a foam covering that allows them to float, you still don’t want to risk dropping it in the water and having to chase after it while you’re paddling. You can stow it behind your seat or attach it to your cockpit with a cord and clip to make sure it doesn’t get lost.
For automatic battery-operated pumps, installation takes a little bit more work. These pumps have wiring that requires a little finessing to set up. You’ll want to pick the right place to position the pump so that it doesn’t get in the way when you’re paddling. Installing it behind the cockpit can ensure that you won’t knock any wires loose while you’re paddling. (And don’t worry, most pumps like this come with thorough instructions for installation and use.)
Best Manual Pumps
Best Manual Kayak Bilge Pump
This is a slightly different version of the basic manual pump. This one comes with a detachable hose, which is a great additional feature. It can be used for getting water from hard to reach places at the bottom of your boat and making sure the water isn’t just shooting out in one direction. You can be sure you’re getting the water out and pumping it out of your boat easily. The hose can be removed, though, if you don’t want to bother with it. If you’ve ever been paddling in a kayak and had your feet soaking in a puddle of water, you know how irritating that can be. With regular bilge pumps, it can be difficult to get water out from the very bottom of your boat. With the adjustable hose on this model, you can reach further into the cockpit to make sure all the water is evacuated.
One major downside is that the hose can be a hassle. Users have noticed that the hose can crack and break over time and since it’s detachable it can be separated and easily lost. But if you’re careful with it, it can definitely be an advantageous feature.
This is a standard, easy-to-use manual pump. It’s perfectly portable and stows conveniently in most kayaks. This is the most basic style of pump, but it’s really a favorite. For most cases, you don’t need more than this in your kayak. It’s small and simple, but it does the trick. Just put the base of it inside the cockpit of your kayak and pump the water out the side. (Bonus Use: if you get a few people with these pumps, you can easily turn a group kayak trip into a massive scale water fight!) It’s easy to use, there aren’t any extra parts to lose or break, and it’s a super affordable model. The bright colors make it easy to keep track of when you’re out on the water. The handle grip is convenient, too, since it can be hard to hold onto plastic and foam when you’re in the water. (For better grip when paddling, you can also consider getting a pair of paddling gloves.)
Another manual pump, this one is designed for extracting high volumes of water from your boat. It’s inexpensive, easy to use, and includes a removable hose. The hose is convenient for getting water out of tough-to-reach spots, but the downside is that it’s not as flexible or adjustable as the hose on the SeaSense pump. Like the other manual pumps, though, it’s lightweight and can be easily stowed, making it ideal for taking on paddling trips in small kayaks. The hose is more durable than the more flexible version on the SeaSense pump, but it can still be a bit of a hassle to use. The rigidity means you’ll have limited options of where to pump the water. The plus side is that it can pump out a lot of water pretty quickly and easily.
Best Automatic and Motorized Pumps
This is a great little automatic pump that comes in three different power options: 500, 750, and 1100 gallons per hour (GPH). The price varies a bit, but none of them are outrageously expensive. The high volume capabilities mean that they can move a lot of water out your boat pretty quickly, with pretty much zero effort from you! Just install it inside your kayak and watch it pump out water that fills your boat. The various speeds on this model mean you can select how powerful you want the pump to be. If you’ll just be using it for the occasional splashes of water that fill your kayak, the lowest power option will work fine. If you’ll be using it to remove a lot of water frequently, I’d opt for the highest power pump. One negative point of this pump is that users have reported that the float switch (the device that tells the pump when to turn on and pump water) sometimes has issues turning on.
Another pump from Attwood, this one has even more power. It has three power options, as well, but the highest is 1200 GPH. The higher power means that you’ll be able to move a lot of water quickly. It features a double filter base so you don’t get any issues with clogging. What’s great about this pump is that it’s built to be highly efficient but also easy to clean and repair. It has removable and replaceable parts so that repairs can be made if needed, so it’s not surprising if those parts wear out pretty fast. That being said, this pump is great if you need to get water out of your boat quickly and easily!
This is a pretty high powered pump that costs roughly the same as a manual pump. If you have a large boat that you need to get all the water out of, this is a great option. It can be fully submerged in water and still work efficiently. Of all the automatic pumps we looked at, users seemed to have the fewest problems with this one. It’s small and compact, and is wonderful once you get it going! It’s reliable and long lasting, which is also great! Just make sure you test it out before going on the water to make sure it’s working; it can be tricky setting it up.
So Which One Is Our Favorite?
The SeaSense pump is the perfect little pump to keep in your kayak. It’s small enough to not get in the way, but powerful enough that you’ll be able to get the water out of your boat in no time. Most kayaks won’t be taking on enough water to need an automatic pump too often, so the manual version should work fine. The adjustable hose on this one makes it easy to get all the water out of your boat, even in the hard-to-reach nooks and crannies. We love this pump for its practicality, affordability, and ease of use. But the others are all great options! Have you used any of these pumps before? Which is your favorite?