I consider a kayak bilge pump an essential kayaking accessory for all levels of kayakers. I know that there’s a movement out there that says that you don’t need one, but I’m not in that camp. At some point, if you leave swimming distance of the shore, you’ll need to pump out a kayak, either your boat or one of your paddling partners. The key about a pump is that in order for it to be useful, it needs to be accessible when you need it. And, that means that it really needs to be close to the cockpit. There are a couple of ideas about where exactly to store it, and they break down into these camps:
- On the deck
- In the cockpit
Both have advantages and disadvantages. The advantages of carrying it on the deck is that it’s easy to grab and you don’t need to pop your sprayskirt to get at it. The advantage of in the cockpit is that it’s out of the way and doesn’t take up any space on your deck. The disadvantage of carrying it on deck is that in rough water, it can get washed away, or the pump handle can be forced out of the pump when punching through breaking waves. When it’s inside your cockpit, you need to pop your skirt to get at the pump, which you might not have any desire to do depending on where you’re at. Both ways are valid and you might use each for style for different trips.
How to Fix the Problems Created by Carrying it on the Deck
To avoid some of the problems of storing it on the deck, kayakers carry the pump facing different directions. If you have the pump handle close to you, it can get forced out into your lap when breaking out through surf. If you face it towards the bow, then you don’t have that problem, but you can snag the handle on the bungees when getting it out. If I’m carrying my on my deck, I usually do the former, but I have experienced the handle in lap, and it’s slightly annoying. I’ve also saw one pump get its handle torn off, because it got stuck when someone pulled it out and the handle, which was towards the bow, snagged under a bungee.
Where to Store it in the Cockpit
A common place to store a bilge pump in the kayak’s cockpit is next to or behind the seat, but I like to carry mine on top of a North Water Under Deck Bag held in place with bungee. Some old-school kayakers still use a knee tube and carry their pumps there.
The Worst Place to Store Your Pump
I’ve seen the worst place to store your kayak bilge pump more often than I would expect, because it seems to me that it’s logical to have a pump, which is something that you’re going to use while on the water, easily accessible. The worst place to store your kayak pump is under the bungees on the very stern of your kayak. If you store it there, in order to use it, you either have to get someone to hand it to you or you need to come out of your kayak, swim to the pump and then reenter the kayak. Seriously, this is about a stupid of a place to store a pump as in your car (or inside the hatches). It makes absolutely no sense, so don’t do it.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a scenario that happened to a friend of mine. It was wavy on Lake Superior and he was rock gardening in his Kevlar Necky when he banged down on a sharp rock. A few minutes later, he felt water around his legs. He pulled his skirt and noticed water coming in all around his legs from a big gash in his kayak. To get his boat back to the landing, he had to pump at least once. Had his pump been out of reach at the very stern of his kayak, he would have either had to swim to get it or he would have had to land on basalt cliffs. While both are possible, they increase the risks of paddling, and they increase the risk stupidly so, because having a pump in an easily reachable location is so easy (If he would have had window flashing tape/band with him, he could have patched the gash on the water, pumped and paddled back without any issues).
Seriously, don’t store your pump at the very stern of your kayak (plus it looks dorky).