Inflating floatation bags

What’s a good pump to inflate floatation bags? Depending on power source there are 5 styles:

  • 120V AC: useless for paddlers

  • 12V DC: reliable power source from your car, but can be inconvenient since your boat needs to be next to the car during inflation.

  • C or D batteries: good when they’re full. Available at gas stations. I’d love to use rechargeables like I do with AA and AAA batteries, but I’d need to buy another good charger since they don’t fit in my current one.

  • built-in rechargeable battery (eg Coleman Quickpump rechargeable): Convenient hands free. Don’t forget to charge the night before! Personally, I hate built-in rechargeables as the battery will inevitably die, sometimes sooner than later, rendering the whole product useless. Much prefer standardized external rechargables that can be replaced and extra batteries can be carried as spares.

  • hand pump: reliable power everywhere. More work and bulk.

    What are you using?

Canoe or kayak?
In my sea and WW kayaks I just blow them up by mouth. Maybe canoe needs something fancier though.

I wanted to be more inclusive, although I wondered if kayakers just blow it up by mouth.

Any pump will quickly inflate your
new canoe bags. I’d just get the cheapest portable one I could find and call it a day. Do you plan to leave the bags in the boat all the time? If so you’ll quickly decide to leave them inflated anyway.

12V DC or hand pump
Years ago I used to blow up my twin 60" end bags by mouth and invariably put on the river lightheaded.

Nowadays I use either a hand pump or an electric that runs off of 12V DC. Yes, it is slightly awkward to have the boat right next to the vehicle but it is usually doable. It is also possible to design your bag cages with some sort of quick release feature that allows you to inflate your bags part way to where you can get them in the boat and top them off by mouth pretty easily.

The electric pumps such as those made by Coleman make quite a bit of noise. That usually isn’t a problem but can be at times. Such as when you pull in to a campground late at night and want to get bags in your boat ready for an AM departure.

I was tempted to get one of the Coleman rechargeable pumps, but heard from a couple that had them that the batteries did, in fact, die a relatively early death.

Hand pump
which hand pump are you using? I looked at one at Walmart and it was almost a little too cheap for my taste.

Also, roughly how long does it take you to blow up a 60" bag (I have 48"s). A couple of minutes?


Using a hand pump by yourself is slightly inconvenient because you need one hand to hold the pump fitting against the filler tube of the bag which leaves only one to work the pump. I managed to break the handle on a rather cheap Coleman hand pump this way. If you have someone to hold the pump tubing end and bag valve together it is much easier.

If you have bags with the large diameter dump valves which are about 1" diameter, you can fill them with an electric pump pretty quickly, say in a minute or less for a 60" bag. If you need to use the small diameter filler tube it takes considerably longer.

Works for me…

– Last Updated: Oct-02-15 2:47 PM EST –

12V DC (vehicle power source)

If I need air bags inflated for early a.m. put in and am in campground; I inflate bags before quiet time, the night before. Top them off with lung power before putting on the river.

I know how pissed off I'd be hearing inflater noise in the middle of the night.


Hand pump similar
To the one on the link is what I use. It pumps on both the up AND down strokes so it works twice as fast.

My large bag fills up in a couple of minutes. I speed it up by using the large dump valve opening to put the air in. To maximize the flow I got some plastic tubing from the hardware store that that fit over the outside diameter of the pumps outflow tube and then stuff the plastic tube into dump valve hole. Top off using the smaller inflation valve. The plastic tube has an interior diameters of about 3/4 inch

at home:
grandma’s hair dryer. On the road a 6 liter foot pump (bellows typy). Ive had mine for years and i see northwest river supply still sells them for under $ 40.00.

I like that idea
I don’t know what kind of pump I have, except that it’s a double-acting hand pump that somehow didn’t get included with someone’s purchase of an inflatable raft. One of the hose-connection adapters that came with the pump fits pretty snugly around the outside of the screw valve on the hose of the air bag, and even though that method works reasonably quickly, I have to hold that connection with one hand, and the resistance when pumping is pretty high for one-handed operation. I think there’s a good chance I can find a hose that will work as you describe. That would greatly reduce the back pressure AND let me use both hands. In that case I’d have no trouble pumping up a bag by hand in about two minutes. Thanks for the idea.

at 11


– Last Updated: Oct-02-15 9:46 PM EST –

on pumps....let's see

Wal sells an electric 12V pump at $25 in Sandiego with a rotten tube.

Go to McMaster Carr for tube and splicing hardware.

Add 10? foot tube with drier fuel filter to pump unit now equipped with a longer 12V cord for tapping the new Optima battery(s) and CTEK charger.

The pump, digital pressure gauge, tire tool(s) including a designated hub cap remover...we're using a small wonderbar....tire plugs and tools....drill bits for enlarging the finish nail hole...used in the battery powered electric drill with impact lug nut socket adapter....
a LED headlamp with extra batts. Spare lug socket.

and a plastic box from Wal...the cake hold this group.

when you need these tools....drag the box out and say....IS THIS COOL OR WHAT DUDE ! OUTASIGHT.

I am unable to explain why the bags are not inflatable at the car.

I can explain how long lung inflation takes....2 hours.

maybe more if you keel over.

Two handed operation
Is enabled by using the plastic tubing inserted into the dump valve. With 2 hands on the handle and both feet on the pump to steady it, a large bag fills fairly quickly. Using the smaller blow valve required me to use one hand to hold the pump tube in place - not too bad on a small end bag, but quite another thing with a big bag.

REI still,sells what looks to be the pump I have for $28.

parking at the put in
Many river access areas have very limited space for parking requiring drivers to park close together such that there is not enough room to put a canoe on the ground between vehicles.

It can be very difficult to install and inflate bags while the boat is still on top of the vehicle and the cords on 12V DC electric pumps are often to short to allow bags to be inflated in a boat in front of or behind the vehicle.

Why not lengthen the cord?

Your description of the two methods matches what I was trying to say.

My pump is marketed as a different brand from that REI model in your link, and has different colors, but looks to be exactly the same one, so I’m sure I can adapt a large-diameter hose the way you did.

Anyway, since I don’t use air bags very often, I don’t know when, or if, I’d have ever thought of the method you use, so again, thanks.

Foot pump

– Last Updated: Oct-04-15 5:34 AM EST –

Mine is at least 20 years old, but it looks exactly like this

I leave the bags in my whitewater boat all the time. I do make sure that they are fully inflated before putting the boat on the car. If not, they will flap around in the wind and develop leaks. The only time I ever use the pump is when I put the bags in. Otherwise I just top them off by mouth.

Some people feel the the bags will last longer if you remove them for driving. They might be right, but one thing that really bugs me is when someone shows up late, and they then needs to spend 15 - 20 minutes putting in the float bags. Don't be that guy.

I use the coleman

– Last Updated: Oct-04-15 8:32 AM EST –

cordless quick pumps to blow up rafts and duckys, then top off with a Carlisle barrel pump, ideal thing to carry on the river is a small foot pump- but I don't own one so sometimes I take a small hand pump as a backup or if its a river with traffic (like the Gauley or New) I'll poach a pump.

kayak float bags stay inflated- on a warm day I bleed them a bit.

The coleman rechargeable only lasts about 3 season and then ends up in the landfill- but so do rechargeable batteries which is what most of the unit is to begin with- very convenient- no cord but you still need a top off pump for inflateables

pblanc is right, kind of a pain in the *** to hold the pump in the valve and pump at the same time but it can be done

used to blow up canoe float bags by mouth, would get dizzy, and snuff would get in the tubes just below the valves- looked really gross- only "dips" I take are in the water now

coolest thing I've seen (demonstrated at Gauley fest) is blowing up a lightweight inflatable with just a bag- saves having to carry a pump if you're hiking in to boat in a remote locale

of course !

– Last Updated: Oct-05-15 1:33 PM EST –

thieves ? vandals ? behind the bushes ?

how many ?

gnaw....usually there's an area for unloading and an area for parking.

if one is too distant from the other then relay the 2 vehicles, one canoe cart one canoe Jeep into launch.

If you can't unload the canoe then WTH are you doing there ?