Tag Archives: bravo barrel pump

Pumps for inflatable kayaks and packrafts

Inflation valves and PRVs are here
Updated Summer 2020

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barrel or stirrup pump isn’t something you’d want to tour with and is usually intended for pumping up high volume/low pressure things like rafts, lots of IKs or kite wings. Some pump air on both strokes to fill your boat more quickly but may automatically switch to the downstroke only to attain higher pressures. They work best on flat, firm ground where you can stand on the stirrup plates and get stuck in. The Bravo 4 RED pump above is still only about £20 and will pumps up an IK in 5 minutes.

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I got a Bravo 6 with my Seawave once 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 this isn’t some gimmicky acronym. Like a Bravo foot pump, the other port on the Bravo’s handle can be used to deflate or suck air from an IK so it rolls up good and flat; you can see creases forming in the hull as you suck it down.
I left my Bravo 4 at home one time so bought a Sevylor RB2500G barrel pump (below left) for 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 sucks as well as pumps. But pumping up my Seawave from flat was exhausting due to friction and the effort towards the end; I actually got out of breath and had to rest. Morale of this fascinating story: get a Bravo 4 RED and the right adaptor for your boat.

Not all barrels have a built-in pressure gauge which is obviously dead handy in getting the right pressure without needing to faff about using a separate manometer (see below). It’s worth an extra tenner to get a built-in gauge, especially with D/S boats, but if it’s much more you can fit your own manometre: see bottom of the page.

kpump200

The K-Pump Mini (above right) is a handy top-up pump or compact 600-g travel pump. It took 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). I also now use the K-Pump to top up my Nomad S1 packraft which is too big and long to inflate firmly with just the airbag.
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 now 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 blow its brains out trying to reach the typical 7-10psi.
Barrel pumps with slim and long bodies (as opposed to some of the shorter, stockier examples above) will 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. Some of these pumps may be double action, but at a certain psi will become single action to help gain higher pressures. I beleive the Bravo Alu 4 R.E.D (0.8 bar) works like that.
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 <£20 • Middle: Bravo 110 >£40 • Right Itiwit (Decathlon) £20
bravohose

Suited to low-pressure (non-dropstitch) IKs the popular Bravo bellows foot pump initially looks a bit crap, but I found lasted well, was fairly travel-compact and is easy to use without doing your back in. Occasionally the yellow tube splits near either end if packed too tightly, so needed taping up (left) or cutting down and got shorter and shorter over the years.
After many years a crease in the back of the bellows wore through, though that’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 get a barrel pump.

amigauge

Pressure gauge (manometer)
Until I got a 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 didn’t need a pressure gauge to get the right pressure, I simply kept pumping until each PRV hissed: the boat was 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.

Add a manometer dial to a plain barrel pump

I got myself a new Brave 4 Alu R.E.D barrel pump (left) rated to 0.8 bar (typical D/S pressure). It was under £20 without a gauge. The next similarly rated barrel with a gauge worked out at nearly fifty quid. That’s inflation for you.

Then I decided a gauge probably was a good idea in case my next IK doesn’t have full PRVs (quite likely; most don’t). I couldn’t find a way to fit my handheld manometer (as pictured far above) neatly, but on ebay saw manometer dials at various displays and with rear (behind) rather than bottom inlets for a fiver (right)
I chose one which displayed up to 1 bar / 14.5psi. Whatever boat I get next, D/S or otherwise, it won’t be higher than that, and anyway the Alu 4 is only rated to 11.6psi (0.8 bar).
The easiest place to drill the hole is into the hard plastic end of the hose by the handle (below). The brass thread will screw into the plastic hole easily enough, but a dab of glue does no harm. Now, finally I can measure as I pump.

Grabner Amigo kayak modifications

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ami-dataUnlike my previous new IKs, out of the bag you don’t get much with a Grabner Amigo. In fact you don’t even get a bag. With Grabner IKs just about everything except the the repair kit and air you pump in is an extra which undermines the otherwise striking 14kg weight. To make up for this dearth of equipment, in the catalogue they even list the specification label (right) as among the boat’s standard features!
So my Amigo added up to the bare boat with carry loops at each end and two backrest bars. No seat, skeg, pump, lashing points (D-rings). On purchase I ordered half a dozen D-rings and a pressure gauge. The rest I’ll work out myself. Having learned what’s needed over the years, that suits me fine.
grabguageWith the high pressures an Amigo runs it’s great to finally have a pressure gauge that’s easy to use (left). There are no pressure release valves (PRVs) to stop an Amigo splitting a seam if left out in the hot sun, so it’ll be a quick way of keeping tabs on the boat’s pressure or ascertain it’s at full charge. I’ve added a marker in pink to easily line up with the Grabner’s rating of 0.3 bar (4.3 psi) – not 4.3 bar as I mistakenly did once (the old eyes are going…).
gumonewskegBefore the Amigo even got wet I glued on a Gumotex skeg patch (below left, £12) and thick plastic Gumo skeg (another £12). All up cheaper and stronger than Grabner’s similar slip-on €60 alloy version. I took a chance using MEK to wipe and Aquaseal to glue the Nitrilon patch to the Grabner EPDM hull as I didn’t have proper two-part adhesive to hand. I figured it would work OK as a skeg isn’t under great strain like thigh- or footrest D-rings for example. years later, no problems.
amipatchA fixed skeg is a pain in the grabgumskegshallows or when dragging a heavy laden boat over the heather; that’s one thing I liked about the Incept’s hinged rudder, but I can’t think how to make an effective hinged skeg except the way Feathercraft do it on their self-bailing Java (it slips up and down through a slot in the self-bailing floor).
fitskegA slip-in skeg can’t be slipped off a fully pumped up boat, at least one like a high-pressure Amigo, though actually after a couple of months it’s less tight and can be done. Being able to do that is very handy for portages or grass-dragging, though the skeg itself looks pretty tough. Of course, an IK works without a skeg, but on coastal waters they’re a good idea. More on that topic here.

nk4-pumpupThe Amigo uses more secure bayonet inflation valves which with the right adaptor (see inset below left) don’t pop out at the high pressures (0.3 bar/4.3psi) this boat requires. Unless that is, you’re using a push-on K-Pump handpump as I did on the Incept (right) and have for the Amigo too (see below).
ami-barrelIn fact, the Incept had bayonet valves too I now realise, and the pump hose-end adaptors are easily bought in the UK from RIB suppliers on ebay. Inset left, the black one is what Grabner sell with a fitted fibre sealing ring and steps in the bayonet to suit different valve depths. The ‘butterfly’ finger tabs make this easy to twist in place, too. The green one uses plastic spacers held in place behind a black rubber washer to get a good seal. You wouldn’t want to lose these push-on seals and it’s hard to twist in place, so for the moment I’d say the Grabner one is better. Write that down, quick!
ot-pumpA regular yellow-hosed Bravo foot pump (right) that suits a Gumotex can’t manage Grabner pressures, at least not my aged Bravo which hisses from various leaks before you can get a full charge. I’m amazed it’s lasted as long as it has. Bravo do make a twin-chamber high-pressure version foot pump, but I can’t see that hacking it, so in a rush to get my Amigo up to pressure for its Medway maiden voyage I got myself a bulky 2-litre RIB-style barrel pump (above left, £20) rated at over 11psi. As you can imagine, on a low-volume IK this works fast, not least because it pumps on up and down strokes. Like Bravo foot pumps, it also has a second port to suck out ever last dram of air – handy for compact packing at the end of a tour.
kpumpminiThe Bravo barrel is bulky so I’ve got a K-Pump Mini (right, review here) from i-canoe in Ireland who can import anything from the NRS catalog in the US, and without a huge mark up too (€80 delivered, not sold in the UK). My longer K-Pump 100 worked surprisingly well inflating the Incept; we’ll see how the Mini model performs on the Amigo. If nothing else it will be a handy top-up pump; Grabner cover themselves very comfortably by claiming that anything under a 20% pressure loss over a 24-hour period is not a warranty claim, though I’ve never owned an IK that lost that much air in weeks let alone a day. K-Pumps can’t suck out air like Bravo pumps, but using a loose hose with the bayonet fitting it can be done by lung.
ami-deeNext, I glued on my half-dozen D-rings (right). Front and rear will hold down gear; the other four locate my cut down packraft seat as well as an adjustable footrest tube similar to what I made for the Solar last year. The seat and foot rings will also double up as thigh strap location points.
I’ve not always been that successful at gluing on previous boats, so this time did it by the book: roughen with sandpaper, wipe clean with MEK or alcohol, apply glue to both surfaces thinly and wait half an hour, glue again and wait less, then apply and press down hard with the roller.
ami-polyDoing this I had a feeling the two-part Polymarine 2990 adhesive (left) was more effective than whatever I used doing the same job on the slipperier PVC-U Incept a year or two ago. I suspect Hypalon/Nitrilon is easier to glue; ‘plastic’ PVC-U is more effectively heat welded.

ami-th2Over the years I never really got into using the thigh straps on my Incept or Java – perhaps the need for ruddering the Incept made them more tricky to use, or perhaps I’m just an idle paddler. But with the  Amigo, I want to have that option to help it shift. In any case it’s worth persevering with thigh straps as this is one of the main things that separates IKs from hardshell kayaks in terms of boat control in rough conditions ami-logand optimal torso-centered paddling efficiency. Straps are not quite as effective as bracing your knees under the top deck of a hardshell, but they’re all you can do with an IK. Otherwise you’re just sitting in a canoe or on a floating log. I’ve now got fully used to the straps on the Amigo and use them without thinking, just like I feel much more secure with the toe clips on my bike’s pedals.
ami-th3In my opinion you need some kind of footrest too, if a braced body is to make an efficient paddle sweep – it’s probably more important than thigh braces. Last year I improved this on the old Gumo Solar that’s occasionally used by the g-friend. The Gumotex footrest cushion (same as my old Sunny) was too far away for the 5-foot Mrs to use effectively and is squidgy at best. On the Amigo I was able to use the front thigh strap D-rings to hook up the 4-inch footrest pipe (above left) with an adjustable strap looped through. It works fine.

Seat
ami-th1At the other end I’ve separated the toilet-like seat base of my old Alpacka Denali packraft from the backrest section. It clips to the rear thigh strap hardware with mini snaplinks (left). This ultralight seat has already been repaired once by re-heat sealing the flat seam and another hard bounce may pop it again. It’s lasted the sumer but if that happens I’ll come up with something better; any inflatable pad or IK seat base will do. The Incept seat was pretty good, so was the firm-backed Feathercraft Java seat which didn’t fold under strain. Right now, at about 50 grams, the cut-down Alpacka seat base is about as light as a kayak seat can be.
grabbarpegThe hard plastic Grabner backrest was comfortable enough to lean on once I added a bit of karrimat, though it kept coming adrift from the lug holes when the bar pivoted down, usually when manhandling the boat, but occasionally on the water too. At sea it’s quite awkward to refit the bar into the black rubber lugs as the hull sides push apart. The only way I found was to face backwards in the boat, swing the legs out into the water and squeeze them against the hulls to repeg the seat bar.
grab-beltTo keep the bar in place while retaining a tool-free, quick detach element I hammered out the outer brass peg and replaced it with an R clip (above left). But that didn’t last too long – one clip bent and fell out and, as expected with footrests, the alloy bar was bending against the strain. I tried a blue seat strap instead (right), but hooking that to the rubber seatrest lugs looked like it put too much strain and distortion  them. Ripping those lugs off would be a pain. grabner-D-ringsNo way round it but to glue on another two D-rings as I did on the Solar; a 4.5-inch patch has four or five times the glued surface area of the seatbar lugs so ought to take the strain. D-ring prices seem high so I settled on what I knew – chunky Grabner items at €15 each (right). Grabner deliver fast from Austria.
sai14The seat strap was a crude solution so I figured I may as well try a proper, full-height backrest off an SoT. On ebay the ‘heavy duty’ item (left) with long adjustment straps and even a back pocket went for £24 – less than the two D-rings which hold it in place. As far as I can tell the rear straps’ only purpose is to hold the backrest upright, but it’s proved very comfortable – like a proper seat and with no inflation required. I’ll keep the original seat bar for less frequent two-up paddling where I don’t have a footrest to put a strain on it.
So after a couple of months use I have optimised my Amigo by completing the adaptions listed here, making a comfortable and more practical boat for coast hopping and river touring. The cost has been six D-rings £80; seat £24, glue £15, seat base and straps already had; Gumo skeg and patch £24, and two pumps, gauge and adapters £110.