A bilge pump is a must-have if you are an avid kayaker, regardless of whether you usually paddle on lakes, rivers, or the open water of the sea. To buy the most suitable bilge pump for your kayak, however, you have to know a little bit about the different buying considerations and specifications for this type of pump.
In this buyers’ guide, we will be taking an extensive look at the workings of a bilge pump. We will also review some of the best kayak bilge pumps available for purchase.
Purpose of a Bilge Pump
The bilge is the lowest compartment of a watercraft. In most cases, the bilge is located below the water level. While kayaking, water may accumulate in the bilge because of waves, capsizing, or leaks.
If you have water in the bilge of your kayak, it can be quite uncomfortable and, depending on the amount of water, even dangerous. Water accumulation in the bilge can also be inconvenient, as you will have to interrupt your paddling session and head to the shore to get rid of the water.
Having a bilge pump on board solves all of these problems. Pumping the water out is the only way to clear the bilge and continue kayaking. If you typically paddle in circumstances where water will likely accumulate in your kayak’s bilge is likely, it may be worth investing in a pump.
When it comes to power, you have two options: manual bilge pumps and automatic bilge pumps.
Manual Bilge Pumps
Manual bilge pipes are ideal for smaller kayaks as they are lightweight and compact. These pumps are also more affordable than automatic bilge pumps.
They require you to lift the pump handle up and down to project water out of a spout and out of your kayak. One of the drawbacks of a manual pump is that clearing a lot of unwanted water from your kayak’s bilge can take a long time, as manual pumps typically don’t have a high flow rate.
If you use a manual bilge pump, you also have to stop paddling or fishing and concentrate on clearing the water from your kayak.
Automatic Bilge Pumps
If you typically experience a lot of water accumulation in your kayak’s bilge, an automatic bilge pump may be the better option, as you can switch the pump on and continue with your kayaking activities.
An automatic bilge pump uses a battery-powered motor to pump water from your kayak. The downside of an automatic bilge pump is that it takes some time and effort to install. Automatic pumps also take up more space than manual pumps, and they don’t offer the same portability.
Size and Flow Rate
Bigger bilge pumps can typically remove more water from your kayak’s bilge per minute. If you have a single kayak, a bilge pump with a size of 17.5” to 20” that removes 8 gallons per minute (GPM) will be sufficient for occasionally eliminating water from the bottom of your kayak.
A manual pump requires, on average, eight strokes to remove one gallon of water. If you have a two-person kayak, you need a bilge pump with a larger capacity – preferably 20” or longer. For casual solo kayakers, a small and portable manual pump of 8 GPM will be more than sufficient.
A factor to consider when choosing the size of your kayak water pump is storage. It may be tempting to buy a powerful and bulky bilge pump to ensure that you never have to deal with water at your feet, but pumps that are larger than necessary can take up a lot of valuable space that you may prefer to use for fishing or safety gear.
Before you choose a pump, take some time to consider the layout of your kayak cockpit and how you will go about installing your bilge pump. In most cases, it is not as simple as throwing your manual pump somewhere near your feet and hoping that you will be able to reach it when the need arises. You also don’t want your manual pump to fall into the water accidentally. Attaching a cord or clip to your kayak that connects to your manual pump is often the safest and most convenient solution.
If you have an automatic bilge pump, it will require a little more effort to ensure that you install the pump so that its switch is within reach and that the wiring is out of your way. Fortunately, most automatic pumps come with thorough instructions to help with proper installation.
Now that you know a bit more about the types of pumps, their flow rates, and installation requirements, let’s take a look at some of the best kayak bilge pumps for avid kayakers.
1) Seattle Sports Paddlers Bilge Pump
The manual bilge pump from Seattle Sports is an inexpensive and basic pump that will clear water in a small bilge effectively and with limited effort. The popularity of this pump is mainly due to its light weight and portability, and it is simple to stow inside the cockpit of any kayak. The pump’s bright color makes it visible in low-light conditions, and the pump’s grip is comfortable.
- More affordable than most other manual bilge pumps
- Simple design
- Portable and easy to stow
- Not suitable for clearing a lot of water in little time
- No control over where the water will spray
Our rating: 4.7 / 5
2) SeaSense Hand Bilge Pump
This manual bilge pump offers all the benefits of a hand-powered pump, including portability and easy storage. The SeaSense has an additional feature – a detachable hose that makes it possible to pump water from places that are hard to reach.
The pump has a long, 24“ discharge hose and is perfect for use in single and tandem kayaks of all sizes. The strokes are smooth, the and you can easily disassemble to the tube to remove debris.
- Sufficient for water removal in all kayak sizes
- Self-priming manual bilge pump
- Comes with a detached hose to quickly clear all water
- Pumps water incredibly fast
- Some that the discharge hose tends to be too stiff
Our rating: 4.5 / 5
3) Perception Kayak Bilge Pump
This manual pump from Perception Kayak offers the best value for money in this product category. One of the key benefits of this pump is that it propels water from your kayak with upward as well as downward strokes to allow for optimal efficiency and minimal fatigue.
If you want, you can also attach an external hose to the output nozzle to propel the water in the desired direction. The Perception Kayak pump offers ample grip and allows for maximum comfort.
- Great value for money
- Pumps water with upward and downward strokes
- Comfortable, non-slip grip
- Ribbed output nozzle is compatible with an output hose
- Not suitable for use in double or large kayaks
Our rating: 4.4 / 5
4) Rule 25S-Marine Rule 500 Automatic Marine Bilge Pump
This automatic pump from Rule is available in two types, 12v and 24v. It does require a bit of wiring up, it i not an out-of-the-box solution. In fact, it is probably overkill for most kayakers (come on, many paddlers make do with a sponge so you really need to justify an automatic bilge pump).
The way it works is that it cycles on every couple of minutes and if the sensor detects resistance at the pump it keeps pumping until the resistance is gone – i.e. until the water is gone.
- Fully automatic once installed
- Removes water quickly
- Not too big nor heavy
- Could break down at inconvenient times
- It’s not built to last forever
Our rating: 4.3 / 5
When scupper holes and sponges are not enough to drain the water out of the bottom of your kayak, it’s time to invest in a bilge pump. Pick a manual pump to save money and space, or pick an automatic pump to save time and energy. The choice is up to you!