Where to keep your kayak pump?

Northwater Under Deck Bag

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:

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  • 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

beckson kayak bilge 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).

The Best Pump Is?

The best pump on the market, in my opinion, is Beckson’s Thirsty-Mate Kayak Pump. To help it float, you’ll need to buy the float.

16 thoughts on “Where to keep your kayak pump?”

  1. Well I think the best pump is an electric pump. Here is mine http://www.pbase.com/dc9mm/kayak_bilge_pump I also carry a manual pump for back up on trips which I keep under the bungees on my low profile deck bag. I have read both Sea Kayaker Deep Trouble books and what I have read is that people who did have there pump on rear deck couldn’t get to it without risk of tipping over in rough conditions. Also from my own experience its not easy to use a manually pump when your skirt is on so more water doesn’t poor in when it comes over the deck plus it doesn’t allow you to have your hands were there most needed which is on the paddle to keep from getting flipped again. Ever try and pump out a kayak in rough conditions without someone steading your kayak, its not easy. That’s why I think electric pumps are a much better solution. Sure they can fail which is why I also have a manual pump for backup.

  2. I’ve mounted mine to the front of my boats seat. I cut a slot in the seat just wide enough to run a one inch wide strip of heavy velcro thru. The Scotty small pump fits perfectly left to right in front of the seat. The velcro wraps around the pump holding it in place securely. I razored the nibs off the last inch of velcro in order to have a “tab” that doesnt stick so i can easily grab it to remove the pump when needed.

    I like Dans idea of an electric pump, backed up with a manual pump. Maybe in the future.

    Keep up the good work Bryan !

      1. Maybe you are right and you don`t need to tether the pump to the kayak, its one of those things that have been done without thinking and then it becomes routine. Time to rethink. I agree that it needs to be within easy reach at all times.

  3. I fit fiber glass knee tubes under the deck and stow my pump and sponge in there, no tethers, the sponge jams it in place. I also fit battery operated pumps to all my expedition kayaks. The electric pump is my first choice followed by the backup of the hand pump should the first one fail.

  4. By window flashing tape, do you mean house wrap seam tape? (in the wider width for around openings)

    I’ve not heard of using it as an emergency patch. Can it be applied wet ? A whole roll seems bulky, but as an acrylic adhesive, I don’t see rerolling it as effective as the home brew mini duct tape roll on a straw, how to you store/bring it along?

    hmmm this may be a mini blog post in itself…

  5. ah, i thought you were referring to this stuff which comes in a 4″ version.


    in practice i suppose the psi on any one inch of boat isn’t too great at all, so a less robust adhesive would work for an emergency patch, but wet stick and removability for proper repair would be critical. rubberized, acrylic and duct’s acid are all not going to be ideal for that depending on hull material.

    by “peel and stick” do they mean that has a backer tape, so that you can cut and bring along 4″ sections of it for easy application?

  6. I have been Kayaking for only 4 years,some might say that is a ling time, but in that time i have done a a lot, i am a trip leader based in auckland nz ,i keep my pump in my cockpit its out of the away and keeps my deck clear,

  7. I agree with your reasoning Bryan and the real life example you give is highly relevant, but I’m just putting it out there that I can easily reach my pump (with fat, visible orange float) stored under the rear-most stern bungees (handle pointing fwd) without leaving the cockpit or destablising the kayak by reaching for it. I need to try it with the cockpit flooded and see if it’s still a workable option. The main risk with storing the pump anywhere on your deck is that a breaking wave might claim it, and if it’s on deck behind you, you won’t even notice it missing. I also carry a set of flippers in case all else fails. Also if you do store you pump on deck, consider tethering with a suitable length of bungy.

    1. Easily reach it when it’s six feet behind you? Do you lay down on the rear deck in order to reach out to the stern?

      I haven’t run into a situation that would need a tether, but I’m sure it’s possible.

  8. It’s a 5 meter kayak and the rear deck is too high for layback. I just twist around and reach for the handle. There’s no day hatch so probably the rear hatch and hunters are further fwd.

    1. Ahh, caught out by auto-text!

      “so probably the rear hatch and hunters are further fwd” It should have read as: “so probably the rear hatch and bungees are further fwd”

      Anyway, I guess it depends what sort of a kayak you are paddling and where you paddle it. And a manual pump is really only a device that will help when conditions or the situation allow for it. Like a paddle float, most people seem to look at it as a last resort, when you are paddling alone.

      When teaching myself to roll (in protected waters) I came out of the boat and found the short swim, towing the kayak to shore wasn’t easy and I could only image how hard it would be in more challenging conditions. I know now how to get back into the kayak, but regardless – it could happen that one day I can’t, so I carry flippers with me (my old bodyboarding fins) as I know I can swim the ocean 100% better with them on. I believe I could also tow a kayak (but it’s unsubstantiated so far) and it frees up my arms since propulsion is now from my legs. Another thing, flippers mean that you can use the waves and stay on them longer, which is a consideration if you are separated from your kayak in the ocean, tiring and need to get to shore.

      I definitely don’t store those under bungee as they are heavy and get washed off the deck in surf. I keep them behind the seat, but ideally I would have an ultra-light pair that I have attached to my PFD somewhere, and reachable in the water. Does anyone make very light, short fins?

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