Category Archives: Gear

Paddles, clothes, buoyancy vests, etc

Coastal Packrafting

Rebel 2K main page

Around here the inshore sea paddling is exceptional, even if packrafting the inland lochs is also pretty good. Having done most of the latter routes, I thought I might try some coastal packrafting.
Garvie Bay arcing west to Achnahaird Bay looked like a good one and happens to parallel probably the best walk on the peninsula which we’ve done many times. That route could be a 20-km combination of cycling, walking and paddling, but as it was the last calm evening for a while, we thought we’d go out together in the kayak and I’d try the packraft on the way back. That way everyone got to play.

A light NW breeze blew onshore as we cut across Achnahaird Bay like a blue fin tuna. The approach of HW meant we slipped through the submerged skerries of Rubha Beag and into the crab’s claw inlet of Camas a Bhothain (Bothy Bay). This seemed a good spot to deploy the packraft with the aid of my exciting new gadget, a mini electric pump. I unrolled the boat over the water and let the pump buzz away for a couple of minutes, topped off with the hand pump, then clambered aboard.

Paddling away, I realised this was the first time I’ve paddled my Rebel 2K unloaded and I was a bit shocked by the bow yawing. Now fully back-heavy, one good swipe of the paddle and it could flip a 180°, just like my old 2010 Alpacka Llama.

Ah, but in my haste to launch the lifeboat I’d forgotten to fit the also-untried skeg which comes standard on the 2K. I waddled over towards Rubha a Choin beach and slipped it on easily, while the Mrs transferred to the Seawave’s front seat.

I’ve been ambivalent about the value of a skeg on a packraft, but now back on the water the yawing was notably reduced. If you think about it, a packraft actually pivots from a point around the middle of your swinging paddle, not from the stern, as it feels from the seat. The centre of mass behind the pivot point does make an unladen bow yaw more, but the stern will yaw too; just less and unnoticed.

On the Wye my 2K was fully loaded with the centre of mass moved forward and which minimised any yawing, even without a skeg. (With a heavy load over the bow a reduction in yawing is well known with packrafts). Now unloaded and with the bow riding high, swish-swosh yawing was exacerbated, but is actually happening at both ends of the boat. So any type of fin or extension of the stern (like the post-2011 Alpackas – right – and all subsequent copies) will constrain this, while not affecting steering. So, bottom line: skegs work on a packraft and are easy to retro-fit.

All the remains is a packraft’s agonisingly slow speed. These are not boats made to enjoy the sensation of flatwater paddling; they are boats to enjoy getting to out-of-the-way places easily. Any type of disturbance to progress, be it wind or current, may slow you to a stop, or worse. Something like the longer Nomad S1 I had would be better for this while still being packable. Still, in these ideal conditions it’s nice to float along observing the coastal features.

Paddling back down the east side of Achnahaird Bay, a back-breeze made progress feel achingly slow. Lately, I’ve come to value metres per second (m/s) as a metric of wind or paddling speeds. Something moving past you (or vice versa) at three metres per second is easy to visualise, though I suppose we can all visualise a 3mph walking pace, too. It’s what YR uses and is easily converted to ‘double + 10%’ for miles per hour (so 5 m/s = 11.18 mph). Or just double it and you nearly have knots (5 m/s = 9.8 kn), for what that’s worth. Crawling past the rocky coast it looked like I was doing 1 m/s at times. We had a race: diminutive Mrs in a big, long kayak; me in the packraft. Within ten seconds the Seawave streamed away while Bunter frothed up the water like a cappuccino machine.

Oh well, you’re as fast as you are. Like cycling in Tajikistan rather than Kazakhstan, for the best experience match your routes with your mobility and conditions. Next calm day I’ll do the full Garvie loop.

Tested: FlextailGear Max USB rechargeable Packraft Pump

See also:
Pumps for IKs and Packrafts

In a line Cheap, light, compact and fast, for when air-bagging is a faff.

Cost £22 on amazon (with discount voucher).

Weight 148g + nozzle 8g (Anfibio airbag: 110g).

Where used Scotland.

Light, compact
Takes as long as a clumsy air-bagging
Can suck (vacuum) as well as inflate
Has conventional slide switch, not ‘touchy’ inductive switch on the newer Max 2 version
Will do other stuff, like Exped Synmats and fire embers
Newer models can be used as a power pack, have LED lights, are IPX7 rated and can be programmed to sing Waltzing Matilda.

Slow to recharge
Packraft still needs topping up by mouth or mini hand pump
Will run out eventually, unlike manual methods, and will eventually die for good

What they say
My name is Max Pump 2020. I can quickly inflate and deflate your swimming tube. air mattress. and other inflatables. With vacuum bags .I can create more capacity for your suitcase and wardrobe at home. When in outdoor.I can provide oxygen for your burning ovens. enabling you to enjoy your food more easily.

Apple, pump with nozzle and my Boston adapter

Review
An electric pump to save a couple of minutes’ packraft air-bagging? Do me a favour! That’s what I think when applied to bulkier IKs where a two-way barrel pump is fast and easy. But factor in cost, weight, size, USB rechargeability plus supplementary uses and, for a packraft, something from the FlextailGear’s pump range will be worth a punt.
Air-bagging is a clever idea to quickly inflate a typical packraft, but on some days it’s not the most intuitive of movements. Once a day is fine, but particularly on a trip where you’re airing up and down a few times a day, the effortlessness of the Max is most welcome. A good case to point was my recent paddle on the Wye where accessing my Rebel 2K’s internal storage pockets to get to the camping gear each night meant re-inflating the boat every morning. The Flexpump would have made this less tiresome. Another example was getting back from a tiring sea paddle and wanting to reinflate the rinsed boat to dry properly. Plug in the Flexy and get on with other after-paddle chores.

Out of the box
You get the pump, four nozzles, a short USB-A lead and a small bag. While one nozzle will fit loosely a Boston valve’s threaded airbag port, nothing fits the one-way valve body where you’d stick your hand pump nozzle. You’d think with Boston valves so common on Chinese-made slackrafts, packrafts and cheaper IKs, this Chinese brand would include a Boston valve nozzle. Luckily, I’ve amassed loads of adaptors and nozzles, and one 16mm (5/8″) adaptor fitted the pump’s main nozzle and jammed into the Boston port.
Off a computer allow two hours to fully charge the pump out of the box. After just three fills (12 mins?), it took another hour to get the green light. Maybe off the mains is faster.

I estimate the volume of my Rebel 2K is 550 litres, so at the claimed flow rate of 300 litres (currently the highest in Flextailgear’s range of mini pumps), that ought to take about two minutes. In fact it took 2:30s to reach the equivalent of airbag pressure in my unpacked 2K (full volume; above). And this was pushing through the valve, not direct into the body via the airbag port which may have been quicker. When the 2K is fully packed (with up to 140 litres stashed in the side pockets) it will be quicker. And it does this while left jammed into the valve so you make other preparations, or look around and admire the scenery.

My fat and comfy full-length Exped Synmat XP 9LW – which also needs air-bagging to avoid humid breath – inflates in just 25s. And as many will know, air-bagging a sleeping mat in a cramped tent when you’re worn out is not one of the joys of camping.
The Max 2020’s 3600mAH lithium battery is claimed to run for 40 minutes, so that ought to do at least 10-15 raft fills plus a few mats, when camping. By comparison, I read that their Tiny pump (just 80g) will do three raft fills.

Deflating either of these items is of course as easy as rolling them up, but getting the last bit of air out can be tricky, even though it can save a lot of packed volume. Pump suction definitely works on my Seawave IK because the one-way valve can be pushed open with the bayonet nozzle. On the packraft and mat, you have to suck from the unvalved port, and by the time you’ve plugged that, some air gets drawn back in. I found plain rolling up and squeezing or sucking the last of the air by mouth was easiest.

Last word to Sven from Anfibio: “Can’t live without one anymore. Cannot remember when I last used an inflation bag.”
These young people, honestly. 

Gumotex Slip-On Skeg Roller (kayak trolley)

The effort of portaging the dozen locks of the River Wey the other month wore me out. On some portages you can drag the boat along harmlessly on lush grass. Others involved narrow gates, or crossing busy or narrow road bridges. It all got quite effortful, especially towards the end as my energy faded like a dying salmon.

I quickly worked out what was needed: a simple and easily deployed alternative to the typical strap-on canoe trolley, like the 60 quid Decathlon example (left) with identical examples on eBay for nearly half that price. A closer look at some images shows them to be needlessly high (unstable) and the clip-out joints don’t look that sturdy in the long run, though the tyres are nice and fat and clearance is great. With these trolleys I think the V of the alloy frame would sit better in line with the hull, not across it (with bends in the tubes). But crossways simplifies the wheel axle set up. My idea was to use the IK’s own weight with the skeg to locate and fix a trolley in place. Quick to use; no strapping needed.

With workspace-and-tools mate Jon, we came up with a stable two-wheel folding platform with a drop-in skeg slot and hinged wheels which folded out to both roll and support the hull either side of the skeg. To portage, lower the boat’s skeg into the platform’s slot, pick up at the bow and roll it away.

On getting the trolley, the too-high sides were easily sawn down by an inch, and another inch got sawn off the bottom to improve ground clearance, as in the graphic. We hadn’t pinned down a way of stopping the hinged wheel plates folding inwards on the move. The trolley actually worked OK on smooth surfaces without any hinge lock, but eventually a bump would knock one side in. Until a neater idea springs to mind, the easiest way for me was stringing a loop of stretch-free Dyneema cord round the top to keep the wheel plates from folding in.

At 1.7kg it’s not that light, but as a prototype it was dead easy to make and the thing needs to be durable. Something similar out of alloy tubing (like the Decathlon trolley above) might be half the weight, but is less easy to fabricate in the front garden.

After a few miles…
By chance, I was left car-less during a few days of great weather. In either direction it’s less than a mile and a 50-metre drop along a quiet road to the seashore: an ideal trolley testing scenario. What extra weight there is sits best over the wheels, and at the bow I tie a shoulder loop into the mooring line, leaving me hands-free to check my messages. Coming uphill for a mile from the beach, I could walk at normal speed with much less effort (and time) than carrying the deflated IK.
By chance it seems the width and height proportions are pretty good for stability, and the cord works well enough to keep the hinged sides up. A couple of times over rough stony ground the cord came off and the trolley folded up, or on steeper side slopes it just fell over. So maybe another 10-15cm of width would be good, but without much added height. And there must be a simple latch or lock idea for securing the sides.

The solid plastic wheels (£12.50 for two pairs) make a racket or hard surfaces and will transfer shocks and eventual wear to the wheel mounts. Some near-identical rubber wheels cost about the same and ought to feel less harsh. But first, I may waste some time wrapping some spare motorbike inner tube around my current wheels.

Having a trolley makes an IK nearly as versatile as a packraft: a boat you can start here, end there and easily transport back across the difference.

Wax your paddle blades to reduce drips

See also:
Paddles for inflatables

IKs are mostly undecked and drips from the swinging paddle can be a bit of an annoyance on a chilly day if you’re not wearing waterproofs. A solution in three words: Wax Your Blades.

More than three words
After watching the vid above I found some Nikwax Solarproof (left) under the kitchen sink. As well as being a UV protectorant (like the Aero 303 spray I’ve used for years), it adds water repellency to outdoor fabric gear like tents and jackets.
Now that it’ll be out for weeks, I sprayed my Seawave 2 and noted the boat was slipperier than usual when we lashed it to the car roof to go for a paddle. Should glide better on the water, too.
I also sprayed Solarproof on one paddle blade and in the sink noted the unsprayed blade took over twice as long to dribble dry (4-5 secs), but the coated blade still brought some water up with it.

Out paddling on the water, I can’t say the coating made that much difference because, as in the video above, your paddle is typically out of the water and swinging forward for a second or two – not long enough for the Solarproofed paddle to shed its water.
However, his wax version did seem to shed near-instantly. So I beeswaxed the untreated blade and, in my vid below, you can see wax sheds water as fast as the sprayed paddle did alongside the untreated one.
Conclusion: water repellant spray works and has UV benefits, but wax sheds water better and probably lasts longer, too.

Tested: Gimp stove (solid fuel)

See also:
Honey Stove (wood burner)
Woodgas Stove (wood/pellet)

In a line Lightweight, compact ‘day’ or back-up stove using ethanol wax blocks.

Cost ‘Shoe polish’ tin (from £1) + optional band + cross-stand (from £5) + FireDragon blocks (from £1.14 a filled tin). Total: around £8.

Weight Tin (25g) packed with fuel: 133g. Cross-stand 28g, 10cm wind shield 7g. All up: 168g + lighter.

Where used River Wye and Knoydart, Scotland.

Light, simple, compact
Fast set-up, easy to light
Sits low (stable and out of the wind)
Tin makes a large burning area and is refillable
Tin fits inside a 400ml Tatonka folding-handle mug
No noise, no smoke, no smell, no residue on the pot
Fuel cools and resolidifies quickly and will relight later
Presumably can be carried on a plane, especially if you label it ‘hand sanitiser’ (which it also is).
So light and compact it can be used alongside or to back-up a gas stove or a woodburner

Expensive at around 37p to boil a big mug
Fuel may be harder to find than gas cans at outdoors stores, but sold in ‘home & garden’ stores like B&Q

Review: 
This Gimp Stove (a military acronym, apparently) isn’t something you can buy off the shelf. My bush-crafty mate put it together once he learned FireDragon ethanol firelighter blocks could be packed into a ‘shoe polish’ tin and easily refilled and re-lit.
He identified a small, screw-top tin (multi-buys off eBay or amazon) with the right diameter to fit the notches of the CNC-cut stainless steel cross-stand also widely sold online from around a fiver. For a stable set-up, finding a tin to fit this cross-stand’s notches is the key. Or you can as easily make your own stand to suit any tin you like, but the tin’s lid needs to be airtight so the fuel doesn’t dry up. My mate even added a silicon wrist band round the base so you can seal it good and tight.

I managed to cram about four blocks (108g) into my ‘100ml’ tin (actually more like 130ml). From this I got three 360-ml (big mug) boils in the field. To extinguish blow it out, or smother with the lid. The liquified gel quickly cools and resolidifies and will readily re-ignite next time.
Timings were 4 minutes tested indoors, and about 7 mins outdoors, using a thick tinfoil windshield from the base of a fruit pie or a take-away curry. There is no noise, no smoke, no smell and unlike toxic hexamine tabs, no residue on your cup or toxic smoke.
On the first freezing morning of our Wye trip, even though I’d slept with a 45% full gas can inside my sleeping bag, it failed to boil my water once out in the freezing morning air. The Gimp would have lit up readily and done the job. And the fact that you’re easily able to place a windshield on the ground, and need clever, faster but totteringly unstable, bulky and pricey JetBoils is another tick for the Gimp. All in all, the Gimp is a handy, cheap and foolproof pocket stove.
I used the Gimp again on a four-day Scottish trip to heat up water for lunch soup. Light and compact enough to carry in your day pack, it made the whole business effortless, while saving gas for other meals.

A one-ounce block of FireDragon

FireDragon Fuel
Made by BCB International from waste vegetable matter, the blocks come in individual sealed 27g (1oz) pods, bought 6 or 12 at a time. It’s the same (and can be used) as hand sanitiser. Once the packet is opened, the block (a mashable wax of ethanol or denatured alcohol, left) will evaporate and shrivel, but sealing in the screw tin works fine, at least for a few days. Long term you may want to verify this. The good thing with a full tin or two is you have no packaging to get rid of responsibly; you just come home with empty tins to refill.
Apparently you can ignite with a flint (BCB’s stove kit, right). I tried but couldn’t do it on used fuel, even with some magnesium shavings (the fuel lit right up with a lighter). I may try again with a fresh block, but honestly Bushcrafters, a lighter takes one second.
The best price in the UK works out about 28.5p a block by the dozen, so a penny a gram with a big mug boil at 37p – quite expensive. And you’ll struggle to find it at that price; very often it’s nearly double, or gets that way with postage. Your best bet seems to be larger Go Outdoors stores. I would guess you could get at least 30 same-sized boils from a typical 220g can of gas costing around £4 which is more than half price.


I skimmed through an online review (one guy was even wearing camo gloves!) and apparently the FireDragon boiled loads faster than hexamine (which I’ve never considered trying). I’m told the Brit army now use FireDragon instead of hexamine.

Seawave 2: improving the SoT backrest

Seawave Index Page

As soon as I received Seawave 2 last year I ditched the heavy and squidgy Gumotex seats (right), and implemented my proven packraft inflatable seatbase + SoT backrest idea (left and below right) at a fraction of the weight and bulk.

The seatbase is fine of course; it weighs next to nothing and lifts you off the unavoidably soft floor for a good ‘raised-bum’ paddling stance. I’ve been using it for years, but sometimes I think I could use more back support than the SoT foam backrest. It presses nicely into the small of the back, but like a low-backed chair, is not something you can lean on. You could say in a kayak you shouldn’t be leaning on anything, but sitting bolt upright, knocking out a series of ‘searchlight beam’ torso rotating powerstrokes. But after too much of that you just want to lean back on something.

I picked up a used BICSport Power Backrest (for an SoT; right) which looked like it might be more comfortable. At 37cm, it was tall but lacked a hand rear pocket and instead had a centrally positioned adjustable bungy to counter-tension the back and keep it upright. Using it for the first time on the Wey last week, it started well but after a few hours collapsed as the pull from the front and back straps crumpled the backrest.

The problem: lack of stiffness. A backrest needs to be stiff like a chair back, while a seatbase wants to be soft like an armchair. One provides support; the latter takes your weight. The best way to fix the backrest was to insert a firm plastic plate. It just so happens I kept that very part from a rotting old Aire Cheetah seat bought 15 years ago for my Sunny.
I got that boat back last year, did it up with new seats and sold it. How’s that for recycling!

To be honest I’m beginning to think separate backrests and seatbases are a bit of a faff to fit and especially seatbase just right when getting in and out a lot (did someone say ‘Wey‘?). It wouldn’t be hard to attach the packraft seatbase to the BIC back rest.

I bought another Chinese cheapie IK seat (left; with back pocket; about £25) as I did for the refurb’d Sunny. I was considering semi-permanently attaching the packraft base underneath it with some sort of net arrangement, but I see the all-important backrest is just more mushy foam so also needs stiffening to work for me pushing against footrests. It will work fine as a second seat.

Inflatable Kayak guidebook: order direct for 25% off

I’m told my Inflatable Kayaking; A Beginner’s Guide has gone to the printers today which means you can now pre-order it direct from Fernhurst the publisher at 25% off if you sign up for their newsletter. Click this or the image below.

More about the book here. It is published in the UK in early April.

You can also pre-order it from amazon.uk for about the same cost, but you’ll get it from Fernhurst sooner, especially if you’re outside the UK.

Tested: Ortlieb Duffle RS140 review

In a line: Huge IP67 submersible roll duffle/backpack with integrated ‘trolley’.

Cost: £180 (shops seen from £185, typically £230).

Weight: 3170g (verified).

Where tested: A mile’s walk to a river on road, track and path.

ortRSspek

tik • Durable wheel design
• Rolls up
• Waterproof TiZip
• Non-rigid design less prone to damage
• Lockable main zip
• Exterior mesh pocket
• Detachable backpack harness
• Rigid handle eliminates bobbing
• Easy to remove wheels

cros • Costs a lot, but so do they all in this size
• PVC feels a bit thin
• Little mud clearance for wheels


ort140

What they say
… the Duffle RS is made to withstand the rigours of the most adventurous of expeditions while at the same time offering a high degree of travel comfort. The bag’s heavy-duty wheel system is connected to the body of the bag in a waterproof manner. The 100 mm wheels and the rigid floor plate made of contoured aluminium offer increased floor clearance – ideal for both airport terminals and rugged outdoor terrain. And given the importance of lightweight luggage, especially when travelling by plane, the bag’s designers opted for an adjustable grip that guarantees plenty of leg clearance and comfortable towing instead of a heavy telescopic towing frame. The foam padding at the base of the bag offers enhanced stability when the bag is fully loaded and the watertight zipper that runs across the whole length of the bag gives you quick access to your gear. The zipper can also be locked using the integrated wire loop and a small cable lock (not included).


Review

nzwhit-10

In need of a replacement for NZ, I chopped down a cheap folding trolley and lashed it to my trusty 96-litre UDB sausage bag (left). It was unstable but worked pretty well and all weighed in at just 2.7kg. With airline baggage limits at 22kg or so, luggage weight becomes important, but luggage must also be robust enough to withstand rough treatment, not least by baggage-weary baggage handlers.
This bodge was a valiant attempt at not splashing out on Ortlieb’s RS140 Duffle which I’s been eyeing up for months and fitted my needs: a stable and submersible roll bag with good clearance and integrated wheels. A few months later an unused, RS popped up on eBay about 20% cheaper than the shops and, like the feeble consumer I am, I fell for it. More gear, sigh…


ortort
ort-rg

Orlieb does two types of wheeled duffles: the RG (‘riGid’) series in 34-, 60 and 85 litres with a rigid floorplate or frame supporting an extendable aluminium handle (right), like regular wheeled luggage. And the more unusual frame-free ‘roll-able’ RS (‘Saggy’) series in 85, 100 and 140 litres.

ortwheel

Wheeled duffles are nothing new: all the major outdoor outfitters do models up to 140 litres. But like the Ortleib RGs, they all use rigid frames for the telescoping handles which sees weights exceed 5 kilos. None claim any level of IP-rated submergibility and few have a backpack harness which, at huge capacities, is more realistic than a shoulder or holdall straps.

In a kayak and especially a packraft, a rigid bag is a nuisance. Only the Ortlieb RS can be rolled up (below left) and only the 140 is big enough to easily swallow a big IK and gear (below right).

With wheeled bags intended for rugged terrain, large 100mm ø wheels roll over irregularities better and can give better clearance. What’s important is a solid mounting as the bearings or axles get a hammering when loaded up on rough ground. The RS’s wheels have a smooth solid feel and have replaceable bearings and the solid alloy plate – effectively part of the axle – also takes the knocks from stones. The wheels are also easily removable with a 3mm hex key. Handy if a stone gets jammed in there or mud clogs then up

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s the full-length TiZip which makes this bag special; IP67 rated which will do me. Because it’s long, getting my Seawave in there was easy and left 30 litres for camping and paddling clobber. If you just want a day transporter for a solo IK, the RS 100 may do you. When closed, the zip end hooks on to a stud and you can slip a padlock under an embedded cable to lock it in place (above right).
On the water, the idea is that, once you’ve deployed the boat, the bag carries the rest of your camping stuff in a more compressed form, plus with a guarantee that it won’t get wet inside. This makes the RS a truly do-it-all big-hauler on land and sea.

At the other end the two-part handle has a rigid bar and an adjustable strap for length and I found the bag rolled along better than my UDB lash-up. It didn’t bob because of the rigid handle, and it didn’t catch my walking legs either. Finally, a comfy roll bag.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Inside, a 20mm-thick foam base is glued in to protect the floor from sharp impacts; the floor gets an additional layer of Cordura on the outside too. And the compression straps incorporate a zipped document pocket. The backpack straps are thin and basic – good for stairs but not really fit for the north face of the Matterhorn. But the whole frameless soft bag sags nicely across the back and is surprisingly comfortable at 20kg all up. You’ll want to carry it on paths as below as the mud soon clogs up the narrow gap around the wheels.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The backpack straps join up with velcro to make a carry handle and there’s another handy grab handle at the wheeled end. The backpack straps are removable so could easily be replaced with something cushier, but it’s a big load to carry on the shoulders for long.
Four bag-top tabs (not really ‘daisy chains‘) allow you to lash on yet more gear, like paddles. There’s also a small zipped mesh pocket (left).
The PVC is the same thickness as regular Ortlieb roll bags. For something able to carry such heavy loads and getting knocked about in and out of airports, I’d have preferred something more durable. That would of course add weight, and one good thing with this stuff is that it’s dead easy to repair, either with tape or a dab of Aquasure.

My 100-L Gumotex Seawave backpack has been rolled up from new and is stashed for when the boat gets sold. The RS is now the Seawave’s spacious travel bag. It rolls along just as well as you’d expect: nice and stable (unlike my UDB trolley set up), has good clearance and protection, (although the Cordura picks up the dirt and mud) and sits surprisingly well on the back for a frameless backpack. My 4-part Manta Ray paddle fits right in, along with a foam PFD, barrel pump and all the other day-out knick-knacks. Full camping gear with Seawave may require an extra bag.


Adding an oral inflation/suction valve

Some reviewers say the RS is saggy to roll when not packed full. I suppose that may be true. But because the RS should be airtight, fully inflated or vacuum sealed, it ought to hold that form and be less of a wheeled sack. Yes you can squish it down and do up the zip, quick. Or you can fit an oral inflation valve protected inside the exterior mesh pocket (left). They’re hard to find online; try here or here.
Now I can suck the bag down, much like I would a boat using the pump in reverse to get it compact. Do it to RS and the bag becomes ‘vacuum sealed’ and much stiffer. There’s less chance of the belly dragging on rough ground and you’d like to think less chance of snags from loose folds. Fully inflating would not be quite as effective as I find the bag cab be into an annoying bob as you walk because the air can compress. Sucked down it’s as stiff as a board.
Another good reason for a valve on a bag like this that you can blow it right up as a buoyancy aid to cross a narrow but deep river, or to get ashore after a razorbill puffin bites your boat. Either way, for wheeling rigidity or emergency buoyancy, an oral inflation valve is handy when using such a bag for paddling.

Sealed bags on planes
Whenever I checked in my UDB for a flight I always opened the zip a bit so it wouldn’t burst or strain the seams in the decompressed hold. Turns out I was over-thinking it.
Cargo holds are pressurised at the same level as the rest of the craft; a tubular fuselage shape (right) requires it to spread stresses evenly. Yes, it is reduced to 20% less than sea level pressure. That’s why some containers occasionally leak a little.


Tested: Tyre pump adaptor for inflatable kayaks

See also
Pumps

You may have seen these bayonet/car tyre adapters on eBay in recent months (left). The bayonet end clamps into your IK’s raft valve (won’t work on Boston valves). The other end is a regular Schrader valve like on your car/bike wheel. Attach that to your 12-volt Halfords tyre compressor and you can inflate your IK from your car battery. No more of that effortful, back-breaking pumping!

Me, I’ve never seen the value of electric pumps for IKs. (Packrafts are another matter). You can only use them near a power source, or the rechargeable battery will run out. And how hard and slow is inflating an IK with a good barrel pump anyway? As IKs catch on with more mainstream recreational users (whose cheap boats may come with a rubbish pump), some find manual pumping too tiring. What is this world coming too?!

The difference between tyres and IKs:
• a car tyre is a low-volume, high-pressure vessel (~30 litres @ ~30psi)
• an IK has high volume but runs low pressure (3 chambers of 50–160 litres @ ~3psi). Drop-stitch has less volume but runs much more pressure.

That’s up to five times more volume in an IK, but at a tenth of the pressure. I would guess the swept volume of my better-than-average car pump (left) is 3–5cc. My Bravo RED 4 barrel pump is 2 x 2000cc (it pumps on the up and the down strokes).
Even if my 12-volt compressor whizzes along at 1001rpm, it will still take a long, long time to fill a 160-litre IK floor. But for a fiver, I thought I’d prove myself right.

The Test
The easiest way was to pump up my Seawave’s floor to the point the PRV purged at about 3psi. The actual psi is immaterial but it’s consistent.

No surprise: it took less than a minute to pump up the 160-litre floor with the barrel. With my car tyre pump it took over 7 minutes.
And if you want say 4psi in the sides, or a 10psi drop-stitch boat, the duration of the tyre pump (or effort with the barrel pump) rises exponentially. It will take forever with the car pump adapter and I think the tyre pump would auto shut-off or burn-out before it reached anywhere near 10psi.

Just a tenner on amazon

I looked into rechargable or D-cell battery or mains/car electric pumps like above. They go on amazon from just £9.99, or even less for mains only or 4 x D-cell battery. These may be great for pool toys, air beds and other low-pressure items like slackrafts which just need a shape, not rigidity.
The Pumteck (left; £15) claims an obscure pressure rating of 4.5 kPa which sounds impressive but translates to just 0.65 psi or 0.045 bar. That is slackraft pressure; there is no worthwhile IK that runs such a low psi.

All these pumps do is save you the initial pumping which merely takes time (< 5 mins), not effort. The rechargeable ones will be spent in 10 minutes and then need hours of recharging. For a typical 3-psi IK you’ll still need some sort of manual pump to top off to full pressure; even more so a higher pressure DS IK.
If your back can’t handle a barrel pump (taller pumps work better for taller folk), consider a Bravo foot pump, but with any dropstitch IK there is no getting round the need for a high-pressure barrel pump or a very expensive SUP electric pump.