Kayak pumps

What can anyone tell me about electric bilge/bailers for kayaks? How are they mounted, who sells them, what battery requirements and any and all info.


Not electric but…
If it is of interest, West Marine has a battery powered one. (Forget the brand) No wires required. It isn’t small, but would go into a normal day hatch. Haven’t seen a battery powered unit anywhere else.


Check this link for several good options

Note that there has been some discussion here on p.net (check the archives) over the merits of bulkhead mounted (foot operated) bilge pumps and battery operated units. I currently carry a portable Water Buster pump in my day hatch along with a standard hand-pump kept in my cockpit. The best solution for your personal use will depend on your skill level, and the conditions you intend to paddle in.

Safe Paddling


I have the Atwood Water Buster…

– Last Updated: Oct-19-04 10:42 AM EST –

The pump uses 3 'D' cells and that lasts for 5 hours of continuous operation. Dewatering of my cockpit takes 5-10 minutes. You will need a means of securing the pump to your boat so that it stays in place in the event of a roll. Also, I plumbed the overboard discharge so that I can dewater with my skirt still in place.

As was mentioned above, there is another thread on here on foot pumps vs. battery operated, and I replied to that one as well. I think the battery operated is a much simpler installation, and I have not had any reliability issues to date.

I secured my pump using two small cleats and JB Weld. I have a fiberglass boat, so this might not work for thermoplastic. I then used a small bungee cord loop to lash down the pump. The tie-down 'cleats' I used were actually stainless bath robe hooks from Home Depot - but you can get real cleats from a boating supply store if you have one in your area. You will need a 3/4" hole saw and some hose barbs to run the discharge through the deck.

As for the pump, I bought mine online from JC Whitney, but if you do a search for Atwood Water Buster, you will find several sources.

West Marine
has the best price on the Atwood Waterbuster for $37.99 … uses 3 D cell batteries. Bob

“D” cell pumps pretty slow and weak
Better to rig up a 500gpm, or better 1100gpm bilge pump and some gel cells or other sealed rechargable batteries I think. If it’s rough enough to need to pump - you don’t want the water sloshing around in there that long.

Some useful chatter:


If you’ve got money to burn - there are nice pre-configured systems:


Footpumps would be simpler though.

General info with pro/cons in table format:


re: Rapid Runner Bilge System
Boy, the installation packages offered from Rapid Runner Bilge Systems look really nice and seem to cover all the bases. However, at well over $300 for Lith-Poly or Ni-MH they are a bit steep for my wallet! Yeah, you can get the Lead-Acid offering for a little over $200, but it weighs an “ton” and on paper would have to be replaced more frequently after repeated recharges.

I looked at the retail prices that RRBS was asking on individual components (under Accessories at their website). At first I could not figure out why the packages ran so much. The pumps and batteries seem to be reasonably priced, but the chargers for the Ni-MH and Lith-Poly run $89 and $149 respectively.



Electric pumps are awesome…
I’ve had mine for 3 years now. I use a 9.6 volt Makita drill battery and an Atwood 500gph pump.

I have some pictures here that I took to send to people interested in buying my boat. The pump is shown in pics 5-10.


An electric pump makes re-entry and roll a much more viable rescue option. All the materials are available at any Marine supply except for the switch. The switch came from a paddling aquaintance and has performed admirably so far. I can probably find out where he ordered form still if you decide you want one. Mine has been very, very reliable. The battery is in a Nalgene that is mounted inside the rear hatch. My next boat will DEFINITELY have the same system.

pump switch
That’s a really nice looking setup you have. How has that switch worked for you? From everything I have read the switch is generally the cause of failures. I still have some of these waterproof switches left (like the one I sent you) but I still have not installed a pump. Do you recommend this switch? I know I don’t have enough room in front of my feet to install a bulkhead mounted pump so I carry a hand pump right now. But, I don’t feel I could do a self rescue with it if the conditions were rough. On the other hand, I did three rescues this summer (not practice) where the hand pump was invaluable. Two of the rescues were done on fully loaded boats and one was done on a boat that was sinking and I could not pull it over my own boat to empty it.

So, I encourage paddlers with installed pumps to carry a hand pump just in case you need it to rescue someone else (or as a backup if your electric pump fails).


portable pumps
How many of you have used portable pumps? If yes, what pumps would you recommend? I would rather not have to install a nice set-up, but I like the idea of a portable pump I can quickly set-up, begin dumping water and continue paddling/bracing as needed.

The Atwater Water Buster
mentioned above is a portable pump. I have used it with success in calm conditions. I have not used it in “lumpy” seas.

Safe paddling,


So far only one problem

The switch got stuck in the on position due to sand jamming between the button and the collar around it one time. I have easy access to the switch connectors though, and just pulled one of the wires until I could clean out the switch. I still like this switch better than the momentary-on switch that I had been using. It is really nice to re-enter, put the skirt on, hit a button, and be emptying as you paddle. I actually have to burp the skirt occasionally as the water exits. Worst case scenario, I can bypass the switch with a direct connection or use the hand pump that I still always carry under the deck.

However, like you, I wouldn’t want to have to rely on my hand pump for self rescue unless there was no other option.

i don’t think…
that bracing goes together with setting up a portable pump. But, if you ‘need’ to brace to stay upright how are you going to fiddle with equipment? It’s usually a bunch of little things that cause people serious problems in kayaking-having to setup a pump would be one of them.


I totally agree and this is what I struggle with. Is there a way to quickly set-up a portable pump and then resume paddling without too much effort? Based on my own experience of trying to stay upright with a fully loaded cockpit (in rough conditions) and using a hand bilge - I would say no. It seems the best answer is to install a bilge like others have done - it’s just the idea of a simpler solution that is cheaper and doesn’t involved an install that causes me to explore the portable pump solution.

thank you thank you thank you
for the link to rapidrunnerbilge pumps…exactly what i’ve been looking for, finally someone in the US is doing it up right!

I look at pumps like I do dry-suits, necessary insurance and with the features of the electric pumps it is hard not to consider them which I’m doing strongly…another consideration I stress is weight…the foot pump in my Nordkapp pushes it up to the 60lb range…an electric pump in the Eggemoggin would hardly be noticed.

The reason I’m interested is to put one in a boat I own that I may loan to a parpalegic. Somewhere on this site I read of a kayak that had been equiped with a backrest that had straps to hold one’s torso so that you would have better balance if you were paralysed from the waist down. That instigated the thought that with some mods it might be doable for a friend of mine. I though that an electric pump would make it safer if you had to use your upper torso to balance. I’m talking rec kayaks nothing too adventurous to start.

So far lots of good info! Thanks to all.

took the leap
ordered one of the electric pumps, i will post follow ups here if any are interested…

Battery = electric
Unless you know of some other kind of battery…

The Rapid Runner pumps look nice…

– Last Updated: Oct-22-04 10:35 AM EST –

...but they're rather big and pricey for the actual needs of a sea kayaker. Considering that the pump will probably be used very rarely, their systems - which are designed for river running where pumping out is a frequent occurance - are serious overkill.

On the other hand, if they came up with a more compact system with a 500 GPH pump that weighed less than a pound (with a lithium battery), they'd really have something. An inexpensive system with a gel cell, that weighs under 3 pounds, should be do-able too.

Their products certainly do look good and they're definitely on the right track.

Size and weight
Size and weight are battery dependent - not pump. A 1000 or 750 GPM pump does not weigh that much more. Much faster than 500s. The 1000 weighs 14 oz.

If you go all out and get LI battery - it weighs 10 oz. Box is 5.5" x 4" x 2". Pumps are all about the same size.

Very expensive yes, but hard to configure as nicely. Battery and charger is what drives the price.

Total LI system should be around 3 lbs. Pretty amazing really.