How To Inflate A Kayak

How To Inflate A Kayak

Inflatable kayaks are gaining popularity from season to season.

Meanwhile, the so-called inflatables occupy a large part of the places on the bestseller list.

This is reason enough to take a closer look at inflation.

In this article, we present a selection of tips that will make inflating easier for you, and we address potential problems.

1. The valve

All types of pumps must be connected to the kayak via a special valve. The used systems differ partly from manufacturer to manufacturer.

You are on the safe side if you use the air pump included in the delivery or a model of the same brand.

The actual connection is quite simple. Often, the hose of the air pump is simply connected to the valve of the kayak and fixed by turning.

2. Then you can start pumping.

When should the kayak be inflated?
The best time to inflate the kayak depends on how you transport the kayak.

If you have to take the kayak to the water in the car, you should inflate it only on the spot. Enthusiastic kayakers who have already mounted roof racks on their cars for transporting kayaks can also transport an inflated kayak.

This way the kayak can stay inflated all the time. This is also better for durability. We recommend anyway to store the kayak in the inflated state.

For space-saving storage, kayak wall mounts prove to be especially helpful.

The ideal storage place for kayaks should not be exposed to direct sunlight, especially humid or cold air. For example, a well insulated or heated garage is well suited.

However, with the space-saving wall brackets, a kayak can also be easily hung on the living room wall.

Over time, the kayak loses air pressure. Before the next use, you should measure the air pressure with a pressure gauge and pump a little if necessary until the PSI value is back in the desired range.

3. Which air chamber do you pump up first?

Modern inflatable kayaks have three separate air chambers. Typically, this is a central air chamber for the bottom of the kayak and two side chambers.

It is best to inflate the bottom of the kayak first. The two side chambers follow after. When inflating the side chambers, it doesn’t hurt to switch sides from time to time to gradually fill both chambers with air.

If one chamber is inflated to full strength right away, this can warp the material. Once the side chambers are full enough for the kayak to assume its final shape, the side chambers can be fully inflated.

Note: Some systems require the fin to be inserted into the kayak while still uninflated.
into the kayak when it is not inflated.

4. The correct handling of the kayak

At this point, it is time for a little appeal. In fact, the handling of the kayak also plays a major role. In fact, a large part of the damage to the hull, seams and valves is not due to manufacturing defects, but to improper use.

In the inflated as well as the uninflated state, the kayak should not be dragged over the ground under any circumstances. Small stones could drill deep into the hull, damaging the hull and thus shortening the life of the kayak.

5. Buying the right kayak air pump

What kind of pump you choose is ultimately a personal decision, with other factors such as available time and space in your kayak backpack playing into it alongside the rest of your gear.

For example, you can’t run an electric pump without electricity. On the other hand, if you want to shorten the time spent inflating, you should definitely set an electric kayak pump as well.

Below we will go into more detail about the different types of air pumps for kayaks

Foot pumps

Foot pumps are a good choice for inflating the kayak quickly. A big advantage in direct comparison to conventional hand pumps is that the arms and back muscles are completely spared.

Consequently, you can give more power while paddling.

In our experience, however, foot pumps are also somewhat more susceptible to dirt. Dirt and grains of sand quickly have a negative impact on efficiency.

Too much force while pumping has also led to destroyed pumps.

All in all, foot pumps for inflatable kayaks are an exciting choice. The ease of transport and the focus on the leg muscles, which are less exercised when kayaking, are what make these models stand out.

Electric pumps

In terms of time, it takes to inflate, electric pumps are unbeaten. Completely without own effort, the kayak is ready for use in 2 to 4 minutes.
The motor of the electric kayak pumps is powered by a built-in rechargeable battery or by the current from a car battery or the current from a cigarette lighter.
The shortcoming of electric pumps is costly transportation. The batteries are heavy and several cables have to be considered. In addition, electric air pumps are significantly more expensive than pumps operated by hand or foot.

Hand pumps

Hand-operated air pumps are the most commonly used. A hand pump is included with almost all inflatable kayaks.

When pumping, it’s hugely important that you bend your knees. The power should not just come from your back. Instead, you need to pump with your whole body.

From unpacking to ready to use, it takes about 5 to 15 minutes to assemble the kayak. The exact time depends on the capacity of the kayak, your air pump and the frequency with which you pump.

Double-lift pumps

Double stroke pumps are a kind of further development of classic hand pumps. Typically, hand pumps only pump air into the hull of the kayak when the piston is pushed down.

Double stroke pumps, on the other hand, which are also often referred to as double action pumps, pump air into the kayak when the piston is pushed down and when it is pulled up.

The time required for inflation is not halved, but it is nevertheless significantly shorter. Especially with the right procedure you can save a lot of time…

6. The correct pumping procedure

With a double-stroke pump, you can significantly shorten the time it takes to fully inflate the kayak. The first step is to provide volume in double-stroke mode.

In other words, as long as there is little air in the kayak, pumping is not very strenuous because there is hardly any pressure. Only when pumping becomes really strenuous do you switch to single-stroke mode in order to reach the last stripes on the pressure gauge.

In our experience, double-stroke pumps are about 50% to 66% faster than comparable single-stroke pumps.

If the time for inflating the kayak with a classic air pump was 10 minutes, you would probably only need 6 to 7 minutes with a double-stroke pump.


With our listing of tips, we should have given you a better overview of how to properly pump up a kayak.

If you have specific questions about your kayak or pump, you should consult the owner’s manual or, better yet, the manufacturer’s website.

On the manufacturer’s site you can often find more detailed information about the products they offer (such as the exact name of the valve installed and a list of compatible systems).

At first, even inflating the kayak seems complicated, but after a few times, a routine already sets in. On the next tours, this all happens already subconsciously and you can completely focus on kayaking!

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