Do I Need A Bilge Pump For My Kayak? [What Is A Bilge Pump?]

If you’re an adventure-seeking kayaking enthusiast, you should be no stranger to getting yourself and your kayak wet. But if kayaks were made to be in the water, why would some water affect your ability to kayak? If you know how to kayak and have experience in keeping your kayak the right way around, do you need a bilge pump for your kayak? 

Bilge pumps are designed to remove any excess water inside a boat and are a must when kayaking. Regarding a kayak, a bilge pump is helpful because it clears away water that has been splashed back into the kayak from waves or your paddles. It can also remove any leftover water inside your vessel after you capsize.

Knowing what tools you will need and how to use them is crucial to having a good experience and staying safe when it comes to kayaking. For example, bringing a bilge pump along on your trip is not only good practice but is also able to save you a lot of time and effort in case the inevitable does happen.

What Is The Function Of A Bilge Pump? 

A bilge pump is a manual suction device created to remove or pull out any excess water that may have built up inside your watercraft. It manually pumps any remaining water from the bottom of your vessel through the pump and back into the river or lake. 

If you’ve never seen one in action, East Coast Kayaking demonstrates how it works.

Your bilge pump needs to be the correct length for the water to be adequately expelled from your kayak. A longer bilge pump will ensure any water that is expelled from your vessel will not be pumped back into your kayak. 

How To Use A Bilge Pump Correctly 

When using a bilge pump, grab the bottom of the pump and place it in the pooled up water inside the vessel. Next, press down on the pump handle using your free hand and then pull it back up. This will create a suction that pulls out the excess water from the interior of your kayak and expels it over the side. 

Repeat this process until you see that all of the water is removed. 

A bilge pump is meant to be used while you are still sitting inside your canoe/kayak. The bilge pump is long and narrow enough to be able to reach the bottom of your boat and expel any excess water over the top while you are still seated inside. 

The bottom of your kayak is not the only place that may have excess water building up. Therefore, it is good practice to use your bilge pump in other parts of your kayak. Such as the various storage areas that may have collected water.

When Should I Use A Bilge Pump?

Throughout your trip, your kayak will slowly take on water. You may notice that as the water starts to collect, your kayak will become increasingly unstable. 

While paddling, it may be more challenging to control your movements as the water sloshes around the inside of your vessel. A bilge pump will help remove excess water, making it easier to continue paddling. 

If you should be unfortunate enough to manage to capsize your boat, you will undoubtedly need to use your bilge pump. For example, after overturning a kayak, you will first need to flip it back over and lift yourself inside. 

After you have successfully positioned yourself back in your seat, you will see that there may be a lot of excess water inside your kayak. 

Not only is it uncomfortable trying to kayak while sitting in water, but it makes it difficult to paddle and maneuver your boat correctly. This is where your bilge pump comes in to save the day.

Automatic Bilge Pumps

While the bilge pumps we discussed are manual, automatic bilge pumps could also be used. However, you will need to stop paddling to use them with the manual pumps. While this is an easy fix for calmer waters, stopping paddling on rougher sections can be dangerous. 

An automatic pump is helpful for rough water because it continuously pumps any excess water out of your kayak while you are paddling. A mechanical pump is more of a necessity than a luxury for experienced kayakers who are brave enough for rough seas or high classes of whitewater.

The automatic bilge pumps are incredibly user-friendly, as all you need to do is ensure that the power supply is functioning. As soon as there is any excess water in the bottom of your kayak, the automatic bilge pump will mechanically expel it. 

If you are the type of person that would prefer a more hands-on approach, you can flip a switch whenever you want to activate the pump.

Characteristics of a Great Bilge Pump

There are numerous brands of bilge pumps on the market, and researching which pump is the right one for you may take some time; these are a few characteristics that should narrow down your search.

Size – A decent, good-quality bilge pump should be long enough so that it can pump any excess water over the edge of your kayak. The typical depth of a kayak is around 12-inches. Bilge pumps tend to be 16-21 inches in length. The longer your pump is, the deeper you will be able to reach the excess water pooled at the bottom of your kayak. 

Floatation – If your kayak capsizes, the last thing you want is for everything onboard to sink right to the bottom of either the lake, river, or ocean. Also, because your kayak is probably filled with water by now, the worst thing you could lose is your bilge pump. So the practical thing would be to purchase a pump that floats before embarking on your trip.

Suction – If you are worried about not being physically strong enough to operate the manual bilge pumps. A higher-quality pump will have enough capacity to suction a decent amount of water out of your kayak using the least amount of physical effort from the operator. 

Bilge Pump Prices

While we have looked at the characteristics of an excellent bilge pump, we still need to compare the different prices from various brands in order for you to find the perfect pump for your kayaking journey. 

Bilge PumpLengthWeightPrice
NRS Touring Safety Kits21 Inches1.9 Pounds$69.95
Seattle Sports Paddlers Bilge Pump21 Inches1.2 Pounds$24.43
SeaSense Bilge Pump18 Inches1.9 Pounds$17.79
Harmony High Volume Bilge Pump16 Inches 1 Pound$19.99
Beckson Canoe & Kayak Pump18 Inches11.2 Ounces$33.95
Atwood 24″ Bilge Pump With Hose24 Inches1.4 Pounds$31.48
NRS Kayak Bilge Pump21 Inches13.6 Ounces$24.95
255 Marine Rule 500 Automatic Bilge Pump7 Inches1.23 Pounds$32.99
Perception Kayaks Bilge Pumps21 Inches14 Ounces$19.99

Final Word

Any kayaker will agree that a bilge pump is a vital piece of equipment if you wish to have a water-free paddling experience. Moreover, they are crucial in rougher waters, where the chances of your kayak capsizing are even more significant. 

Always look at the essential characteristics of a high-quality bilge pump and compare the different prices to suit your budget, and you’re good to go!

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