Pumps for inflatable kayaks

Inflation valves and PRVs are here

barrel or stirrup pump isn’t something you’d want to tour with and is designed for pumping up high volume/low pressure things like rafts, lots of IKs or kite wings. Pumping air on both strokes, they can fill your boat more quickly, but work best on flat, firm ground where you can stand on the stirrup plates and get stuck in. The Bravo 4 Kite pump above was only about £20 but pumps up an IK in 5 minutes.


Later, I received a Bravo 6 with my Seawave but found it hard work – who knows why. The cheaper Bravo 4 does claim to be an ‘R.E.D’ (‘reduced effort device’) and I can confirm that this isn’t some gimmicky acronym. Pumping up is effortless and they still cost under well £20 in the UK, last time I looked. Like the Bravo foot pump, the other port on the Bravos’ pump handle can be used to deflate and suck air out of the kayak so it rolls up good and flat; you can see creases forming in the hull as you suck away.
I left my Bravo 4 at home one time so bought a Sevylor RB2500G barrel pump for only a tenner posted off ebay. Same size as the Bravo barrels, it looks as well made and worked well for the awkward topping-up of my Semperit’s lilo plugs. It came with push-fit, lilo-plug and bayonet adaptors and will suck as well as pump. But pumping up my Seawave from flat was exhausting due to friction or the effort towards the end; I actually got out of breath and had to rest. Morale of this fascinating story: get a Bravo 4 Kite pump and the right adaptor for your boat.

Not all these barrels have a built-in pressure gauge which you’ll find dead handy in getting the right pressure without needing to faff about and lose a bit of air using a separate manometer (see bottom of page). I’d say it’s worth the extra fiver or tenner to get a built-in gauge, especially with D/S boats. Or, you can try and splice in a manometre if you already have one into a plastic T-piece.


The K-Pump Mini (above right) is a handy top-up pump or compact 600-g travel pump. It takes 15 minutes to pump up my Seawave; the push-fit nozzle works on any IK with one-way valves. You have to press the body of the pump against the valve. Using it a lot one time, I got the feeling it might break something or wear out the seal (which needs regreasing once in a while). Fuller review of the K-Pump Mini here. Hard to find in the UK, the long, and slim US-made K-Pump 200 (right) may also be suited to D/S applications.

High pressure pumps

More and more IKs feature super-rigid, high-pressure drop-stitch hulls – either just floors or the entire hull which runs 2–5 times higher pressures than regular IKs. Your old Bravo footpump will rupture itself trying to reach the typical 7-10psi.
Barrel pumps with slim and long bodies (as opposed to some of the shorter, stockier examples above) put out less volume (D/S IKs have less volume anyway) but can attain higher pressures. You don’t need a super high-pressure iSup board pump. Anything rated 50% more than whatever your IK runs should do the job. Some of these pumps may be double action, but at a certain psi will become single action to help gain higher pressures. Whatever you get for your D/S IK, make sure it is rated to comfortably exceed your D/S boat’s pressure rating by say 50%.

Left; Bravo Alu RED – middle Bravo 110 – right Itiwit (Decathlon)

Suited to low-pressure (non-dropstitch) Gumotex IKs and the like, the cheap and popular Bravo foot pump initially looks a bit crap, but I found lasted well and was fairly travel-compact. Occasionally the yellow tube splits near either end if packed too tightly or if left screwed in, so it needed taping up (left) of cutting down and got shorter and shorter over the years.
After many years a crease in the back of the bellows wore through, though it’s also easily fixed with duct tape. It’s a shame the Bravo pump is a tight squeeze into the Gumotex drybag’s outer pocket. If you use a Bravo footpump very frequently it just plain wears out, so if you’re using the car to get to the water, a stirrup aka barrel pump is better.


Pressure gauge (manometer)
Until I got the Grabner which has no PRVs but ran a relatively high, 0.3 bar (4.3 psi), I never bothered with a pressure gauge (manometer, left) and just pumped up by feel. Since then I got a Gumotex Seawave and fitted PRVs to all chambers. That means I don’t need a pressure gauge to get the right pressure – I simply keep pumping until each PRV hisses: the boat is then at operating pressure.
With high-pressure D/S IKs you probably do want a pressure gauge as the boat will perform best at the right pressure which may be higher than you’re used to.

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