The best kayak bilge pumps are quick and easy to use, so you can purge water from your kayak or canoe after breeching wave or a rescue...
For anyone doing any sort of serious paddling in a sit-inside kayak – from going out for a few hours or the whole day along rivers and around coastlines, to multiday touring and exploring adventures in a sea kayak – the best kayak bilge pump is an essential piece of safety equipment.
For canoeists, too, such pumps are invaluable, although open boaters may need to invest in an additional hose in order to get the water being pumped out far beyond the side of the craft.
Even the most experienced paddlers end up with water inside their boats sometimes. It can happen in multiple scenarios, from unexpectedly getting swamped by a surprise wave when your spraydeck isn’t fully engaged to ingress during a roll, or while righting your kayak after a wet exit.
And when you have water sloshing around inside your boat, it’s not just uncomfortable – it makes the kayak extremely heavy and cumbersome to paddle, doubly so for lightweight inflatable kayaks, and results in the boat becoming unstable in the water, leading to an increased chance of suffering a capsize.
Besides being an essential item while you’re out on the water, a good kayak bilge pump is an extremely useful item to have at home, for emptying the cockpit of your boat and other compartments of all water after post-adventure wash downs.
Purging water from your boat as quickly as possible is a priority for paddlers after a rescue. Luckily, the best kayak bilge pumps, which make this process quick and easy, are simple to operate and relatively cheap to buy.
The best bilge pumps for kayaking are also buoyant, highly visible, compact, lightweight and easy to stash in or on your boat, somewhere that they remain accessible but where they won’t get in the way of your paddling action or legs.
Here we take a look at the best bilge pumps for kayaks and canoes.
Best hand-operated kayak bilge pumps
Sea to Summit Solution Bilge Pump
A handheld double-action bilge pump
– Design Hand-operated bilge pump
– Length 46cm/18in
– Water extraction 400ml/14oz per pump
Reasons to buy: Plastic and stainless steel components don’t rust; reasonable price; simple to use; floats
Reasons to avoid: Additional tube required to be compatible with canoes
This high-volume, double-action 18-inch hand pump from excellent Australian adventure brand Sea to Summit expels 14 ounces / 0.4 litres per stroke, enabling paddlers to quickly drain both single and double-sized touring kayaks.
If you’re using this pump in a canoe, a 1-inch ID hose can be attached to the outlet to reach over the gunwale. The pump floats, and the foam sleeve that makes it buoyant is also brightly coloured to assist with spotting and retrieval if you do drop it in the water.
This pump is easy to attach to boats via its ‘D’ handle. Made with ABS plastic and stainless steel screws to cut down on the risk of saltwater corrosion, the S2S pump has an anodized alloy shaft, which facilitates a smooth action and reduces wear and tear.
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Palm Kayak Bilge Pump
Affordably-priced, unfussy, hand-operated floating bilge pump
– Design Hand pump
– Size 46cm / 18in
– Water extraction 30L / 8 gallons per minute
– Weight 133g
Reasons to buy: Floats; brightly coloured; decent purge rate; robust plastic components
Reasons to avoid: Hose not included, so extra purchase required to use with a canoe or dinghy
Capable of purging 30 litres of water per minute from your kayak, and smartly designed to float and be visible in the event of a dramatic capsize, the Palm Kayak Bilge Pump is priced sensibly and makes a great addition to your kayaking kit.
It can be securely lashed to any kind of boat, with a wide D-shaped handle, and weighs less than 150g. You can fit an outlet pipe (internal diameter 2cm /external diameter 3cm – not included) for use while canoeing, in order to shoot the water over the gunwale.
The plastic components are resistant to corrosion no matter how much exposure to saltwater the pump has.
Buy the Palm Kayak Bilge Pump from Amazon
NRS Kayak Bilge Pump with Float
A longer hand pump with impressive purge propulsion, a floating foam sleeve and non-corrosive elements
– Design Hand pump
– Size 53cm / 21in
– Water extraction 30L / 8 gallons per minute
Reasons to buy: Floats; brightly coloured; no hose required
Reasons to avoid: Longer than other similar models, so takes up slightly more room in the cockpit
This uncomplicated kayak bilge pump is brightly coloured to make it easy to locate in your kayak and if it enters the water, and if it does go overboard then the pump will float thanks to its full-length foam sleeve.
The plastic and stainless steel components mean that it won’t corrode even after exposure to saltwater, and design of the handle allows you to lash it to your boat.
The propulsion with which it expels water from the boat means a hose attachment is not necessarily required (although one can certainly be fitted if you want to be extra sure of clearing the gunwale of your canoe or dinghy.
Buy the NRS Kayak Bilge Pump with Float at REI
Aqua-Bound BilgeMaster Pump
A high-volume hand-operated bilge pump from a reliable kayaking brand
– Design Hand-operated bilge pump
– Size 50cm / 20in
– Water extraction 475ml / 16oz + per pump
Reasons to buy: High volume; compact size; robust build
Reasons to avoid: T-handle not as easy to strap to boat; longer than advertised; relatively expensive
For its small size, this is a really powerful bilge pump, capable of purging over a gallon of water with every 8 pumps. However, it’s not as short as it claims, because the 17-inch measurement given in the stats doesn’t appear to include the handle. The BilgeMaster is a tough unit though, made with a stainless steel piston rod.
The T-handle design makes it slightly less straightforward to tie on to your boat than pumps with D handles, but this model does have an eyelet to supply an alternative option for lashing. It has a high-density buoyant foam sleeve, which is bright orange, making it very obvious in the water.
The BilgeMaster is designed to accommodate a 1-inch hose if you intend to use it in a canoe or dinghy and want to propel water further, to get it over the gunwale, but this doesn’t come included.
Buy the Aqua-Bound BilgeMaster on Amazon
Itiwit Drain Water Pump
An excellent budget bilge pump from Decathlon, which does the job
– Design Hand-operated bilge pump
– Size 53cm / 21in
– Water extraction 400ml per pump action
Reasons to buy: Floats; brightly coloured; good price
Reasons to avoid: Small foam area; slightly longer than similar models, so takes up a tiny bit more room in the cockpit
As you will no doubt note, these bilge pumps do not vary enormously in their design or the mechanics, so it’s one of those products where it makes a lot of sense to go for a budget option, so long as the components are resistant to corrosion and the build quality is decent. The Itiwit Drain Water Pump from Decathlon meets both of these criteria.
The main body of this bilge pump is constructed from 100% Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styren, which is resistant to corrosion, it purges 400ml of water from your cockpit or hatch per pump action, and it has all the features you require – such a D-shaped handle for ease of attachment to the boat, a foam sleeve to ensure it floats and a brightly coloured design to make it highly visible in the water.
The foam coverage area isn’t as big as on some other designs, but it works to keep it buoyant – it just isn’t quite as comfortable in the hand.
Seattle Sports Paddler’s Bilge Pump
A long bilge pump with a large volume for purging water fast
Design Hand-operated bilge pump
Size 54.6cm / 21.5in
Water extraction 830ml per pump
Reasons to buy: Big volume; high-vis; floats
Reasons to avoid: Green colour not as easy to locate in water; longer design takes up fractionally more room in cockpit
This bilge pump is the longest design in our line-up, and it has a capacity of 830ml per stroke, which means you can empty your boat or storage compartment of water pretty quickly. The Seattle Sports Paddler’s Bilge Pump is equipped with a foam hand grip, which makes it comfortable to use and ensures it floats.
However, the body of the pump is neon green, which is theoretically high-vis, but green doesn’t show up as clearly as orange and red in the water, so in the event of it going in the drink, it will be harder to spot than some others. However, the design features a D-shaped handle with a good grip, which makes it easy to lash to a boat.
For use in canoes or dinghies, when you might require the purged water to be expelled further over the side, an additional 1-inch hose can be purchased and attached.
Beckson 318P1 Thirsty Mate Pump
Big-volume and versatile manual pump with a T-handle
– Design T-handled manual bilge pump
– Size 45.7cm / 18in
– Water extraction:30L / 8 gallons per minute
Reasons to buy: Versatile; self-priming; easy to clean
Reasons to avoid: Less easy to secure to boat; larger than other manual pumps; floating collar and tube not included; expensive
Unlike most of the hand-operated products featured here, American brand Beckson’s most paddling-orientated pump has a T handle, which is fine to operate, but makes it less easy to lash to the boat.
The Thirsty Mate is a versatile pump that can be used for far more than just kayaking, but it does make a decent bilge pump for paddlers. It’s pretty high volume and can make quick work of emptying a flooded boat or storage compartment.
Most of these pumps don’t come with the tube required to shoot water over the gunwale of canoes and dinghies, but annoyingly, the Thirsty Mate also doesn’t come with a float – a small foam collar is sold separately.
If you do invest in the foam collar, it’s bright red, like the T handle, but the rest of the body of the pump is grey and not very easy to spot in the event of it going overboard. On the upside, the Thirsty Mate has a self-priming plunger valve and a solvent-welded construction, which is resistant to saltwater corrosion.
Buy the Beckson 318P1 Thirsty Mate Pump from NRS
Best electronic kayak bilge pumps
Attwood 4511-7 Sahara S1100 Automatic Bilge Pump
A versatile electronic bilge pump that works well for draining kayaks and canoes on land
– Design 12V auto bilge pump
– Size 12 x 80 x 10cm
– Power Mains
Reasons to buy: Self cooling; effortless; quick
Reasons to avoid: Requires power; more expensive
For draining water from boats at home, or back at the shed, this 12V pump is perfect – just plug it in, turn it on and purging the H2O is simple. It is a compact unit, and can be used in tight spaces, and it comes with almost 11 metres of 16-gauge lead.
The smart design of the Sahara means that the motor is cooled down by the flow of the water being expelled. Of course, without power this pump is no good to you, so this is not a bilge pump for carrying out on the water while you’re paddling.
Expedition Kayak Integrated Kayak Bilge Pump Kit
A bespoke button-operated electronic bilge pump kit that can be fitted to sea kayaks
– Design Integrated electronic bilge pump for sea kayaks
– Power FPV 12V 7aH Lithium Ion Battery and charger (IP67)
– Water extraction 500 gallons per hour
Reasons to buy: Easy to use; integrated into the kayak once fitted; all components can be replaced
Reasons to avoid: Tricky to install; not 100% reliable; installation requires holes to be drilled in the body of the kayak; expensive
Imagine having an electronic bilge pump fitted permanently on your sea kayak, which can purge your boat of water with the press of one easily reached button mounted on the deck of the kayak.
Compared to sitting in a kayak getting pitched around on a rolling sea, after experiencing a capsize or a drenching, while furiously hand-pumping water out of your boat, it all sounds pretty dreamy right?
Well, yes it does, and when this cleverly designed pump works as it’s intended to, it is genuinely awesome, making rescues much quicker and easier. But… even the producers of this pump, Expedition Kayaks, recommend carrying a hand-operated bilge pump with you out on the water as well, just to be sure, because the electronic pump doesn’t always perform as you need it to, and if that happens in an emergency then you’re in strife.
Also, the installation is a bit fiddly, and it involves drilling holes in your beloved boat. But all that said, if you like gadgetry and DIY, and want to pimp your kayak, then it’s a pretty cool bit of kit, which is typically fitted to the rear of the seat, just inside the back dry storage zone.
Buy the Integrated Kayak Bilge Pump Kit directly from Expedition Kayaks
How to choose the best kayaking bilge pump
Although the vast majority of water expulsion pumps used by kayakers are hand-operated products, which follow a relatively simple design that doesn’t vary enormously between models, there are a few things to look out for when buying the best bilge pump for you.
Make sure it floats Almost all kayak bilge pumps are fitted with a foam sleeve or band to ensure they are buoyant, but double check – it’s absolutely no good to you on the sea floor. With a few models, these are sold separately, but they’re definitely required.
Ensure it’s high-vis When one thing goes wrong, sometimes everything goes wrong, and it can be easy for your bilge pump to end up in water after a capsize, or once you have detached it from your boat in order to use it in rough conditions. If that happens, it not only needs to float, it needs to be highly visible so you can retrieve it.
Get a pump that’s easy to attach to your boat To minimise the risk of losing your pump in the first place, it’s great to have a few options for securing it to various parts of your boat (while remembering that it will need to be easily accessible if and when you need it). A D-handle design is ideal for this, but other lash points might be incorporated into the design.
Size and volume This is a pay-off. The bigger the chamber, usually the more water it can expel per pump (and after a rescue, you really want to clear your boat as quickly as possible). But larger pumps are of course bulkier and heavier to cart around.
Wear and tear We all know how destructive saltwater can be, so look for a pump made with non-corrosive components – plastic and stainless steel are ideal. It’s a good idea to rinse your pump after each use in a saline environment regardless, and if you use the product in sandy or silty water, be sure to backwash and rinse the pump out.
Extras The exit valve of virtually all bilge pumps will feature a connection point for a hose (usually a 1-inch diameter pipe), although the hose is never usually included. This optional attachment is for use when you’re expelling water from a canoe or dinghy, and need to propel it further in order to get it over the gunwale or side.
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