Inflatable Boat Pumps & Pressure Indicators
Of all the tools and accessories needed for kayaking, inflatable boat pumps and pressure gauges are among the most important. Most inflatables are sold with a just pump it up and go approach, but the reality is a little more involved.
Why Pressure Gauges are a Necessity
Inflatable boat pumps should come with a good pressure indicator. A pressure indicator is a gauge that will work for any type of spring pin air valve, which is the most popular type of valve used on inflatable kayaks and canoes. The exception would be any boat brand (such as Zodiac) that uses a special air valve, in which case you must use the manufacturer’s recommended gauge indicator.
In order for your watercraft to perform to the best of its ability, don’t rely on the “thumb test” to try to determine the inflation level in the tubes. You could be more than 1psi above or below the recommended pressure rate. An under-inflated kayak or raft will not track or paddle well, and as for over-inflation, we’ll get to that issue in a minute. Some boats, such as Saturn, have safety valves that prevent over-inflation, and you may not need a gauge with your inflatable boat pump. Be sure and check your owner’s manual for guidelines for filling the tubes, keel, and floor.
Attention to Proper Inflation
As the temperature rises and falls, it can greatly affect the air pressure in the tubes and air floor of your inflatable boat. Tubes heat up and expand in hot weather, and lose air pressure in cold water and cold weather. It is just as your middle school science teacher taught you: hot air expands and cold air contracts.
Electric, Foot & Hand Pumps at Amazon
That means that you may need to bleed some air out of the hull if you are storing an inflatable boat on the deck of a larger vessel where it will be exposed to direct sunlight, or when you are transitioning your RIB or inflatable boat from cold water and setting it up to dry in a hot sun.
Studies show that internal tube pressure can increase as much as .06psi for every 1.8 degrees F increase in ambient temperature. One inflatable boat manual cites an example that an inflatable boat left in direct sunlight on a hot day can see its 3.4psi air tubes double in internal pressure, reaching as high as 6.8psi. This kind of situation can potentially damage your boat and shorten its lifespan.
Why Two Pumps are a Necessity
Most boaters and kayakers find that using two inflatable boat pumps, one electric and one manual, gets them on the water faster and with the best results. The good news is these pumps are equally inexpensive tools.
You can buy a good 12v inflatable boat electric pump or a rechargeable pump for about $15 to $30. The electric pump is ideal for doing 90% of the work in a matter of minutes. If you have ever spent 20 minutes or more pounding away with an inflatable foot pump ($15) or hand pump trying to inflate an 12-foot tandem kayak, you’ll know how bad you wished you had an electric one to do it in about one-third of the time.
After the boat is nearly fully inflated, top off the tubes using an inflatable hand pump (around $25) to achieve proper air pressure. Then you can save space and weight by taking the manual pump with you on your weekend river trip and leaving the other one back at your car or RV.
Pumps for Sea Eagle Inflatable Boats
As you can see, having two inflatable boat pumps isn’t so much a luxury as it is a necessity. Even if you are on a modest budget, it is a good idea to have a manual back-up pump when you are in the wilderness and miles away from your vehicle. As for a pressure gauge, while your inflatable kayak or boat doesn’t need constant attention, it should become second nature to you to check the tube pressure regularly for optimum performance and to ensure your boat’s lifespan.
Inflatable Boat Accessories & Replacement Parts
Return from Inflatable Boat Pumps to the Best Inflatable Boats & Kayaks Home Page