As high-pressure inflatable paddle boards have increased in popularity – and the development of even higher-pressure materials on the rise – the issue of pumps has become a hot topic.
Specifically, what is the simplest, easiest way to get your inflatable SUP to the higher pressures of 18 to 20 PSI without developing a hernia or popping a blood vessel?
While we have used many of the pumps that have come through the door, we had not actually compared one to another. So, we pulled out all the SUP pumps in the warehouse, lined them up and tried them out, one by one.
(AirKayaks note: We have updated the post to now included the Red Paddle Co Titan Pump, and the AquaGlide 12V Electric High-Pressure Turbo Pump, neither of which were available when we originally published this article. Red Paddle Titan Pump shown below as “H”. AquaGlide pump at the bottom of the article, listed as “I”)
Before going further, here are a few things you need to keep in mind when reading our review:
- All pumping times and amounts are dependent on the size of board (length, width and thickness) which equates to the volume of air you will be pumping. Many of the popular boards run from 190 to 220 liters, but we do have smaller boards down to 160 liters and some big, beefy boards at 370 liters.
- Despite what the manufacturer may tell you, try out the board and figure out what PSI you actually need – no sense in spending the time and energy pumping something up with little gain. While some boards can be inflated to 25 PSI, for most of us that is overkill. Smaller people may get away with 12 PSI and we had one 6’4, 300lb customer fine at 19 PSI. But in no case should you go higher than the manufacturer recommended pressure.
- I have ranked them by “difficulty” level, but I am a smaller adult at 5’4″. Larger people may have an easier time reaching higher pressures.
- The pumps we used all have the Halkey-Roberts (HR) valves and attachments. If you purchase an aftermarket pump, please make sure that a) the adaptors that come with it will work with your board or b) that you can get your hands on an adaptor and glue it onto the hose end. The HR valves are on the following inflatable boards that we know of: Red Paddle Co, C4 Waterman, Advanced Elements, AquaGlide, Airis Inflatables, Conquest, BIC.
- To give a rough factoring, we’ve listed the air volume for the pumps – check on the volume for your pump. For example, 2000 cm3 is equal to 2.0 liters. If a pump puts out 2 liters and the board is 200 liters, theoretically it would take 100 full strokes to fill the board – we didn’t always see that, though. So, a 2000 cm3 pump will put out less air – and be easier to pump to higher pressures – than a 2500 cm3 pump. The 2500 cm3 pump will fill out a board faster, but be tougher to reach higher pressures.
That said, following are our observations on several SUP pumps used with a medium-sized inflatable board – the Red Paddle Venus 10’0″ with a 3.93 inch thickness and 30 inch width, 193 liter air volume. While all of the pumps come with pressure gauges, for continuity pressure was checked using the K-Pump Kwik Check gauge. We have compiled them into an easy-read table at the bottom.
A: Thick Barrel EZ Pump.
- Pump Brands: Red Paddle Co EZ Pump; Std. Bravo High Pressure Pump:
- Specifications: 2500 cubic cm (2.5 liter output per stroke).
- Barrel size: 22 x 9 x 3.5 inches
- Weight: 2 lbs 15 oz.
- Prices: $39.99 to $69.99 but comes included with many boards.
This is a squatter, thick-barrel single-action pump designed to put in more volume (2.5 liters per stroke), and is currently included with many inflatable SUPs, though the trend is to switch to the Slim Barrel pump (B) listed below. The name can be confusing – while it is a “high-pressure pump” it is higher-volume/lower-pressure than pump B.
It took 1.5 minutes for the first 50 strokes to reach 6 PSI, then it started to get a little tough. I switched to the half-pump method (half strokes putting in half the volume) and with another 50 plumps (2.5 minutes) was at 12 PSI. With an additional minute I was at 13 PSI, but was probably doing quarter pumps. While I gave up at this point, there are people who go doggedly higher. I did retry it when the board was already at 18 PSI, but really struggled to move the handle.
Pros: Included with many boards so minimal investment. Higher volume output good for larger volume boards as well as smaller, as long as one doesn’t need to get above 13 to 15 PSI. Has an inline gauge.
Cons: Huge struggle to reach 18 PSI.
B: Slim Barrel, High-Pressure pump
- Pump Brands: Red Paddle EZ HP pump; C4 Waterman HP pump.
- Specifications: 2000 cubic cm (2 liter output per stroke).
- Dimensions 23 inches tall by 8.5 wide with a 2.75 inch barrel.
- Weight: 2 lbs 11 0z.
- Prices: $49.99 to $69.99 but included with some boards.
This is a taller, thin-barrel single action pump designed to put in less volume (2 liters per stroke) thus allowing one to more easily pump to higher pressures.
It took 2.25 minutes and 100 strokes to reach 11 PSI, but then it started to get tough. I switched to half strokes and reached 14 PSI with 50 more pumps. With another 35 half-pumps for a total of 4.1 minutes, I reached 15 PSI before giving up. Once again, some people have attained higher pressures, but they struggled. At 18 PSI I tried again – while it was easier than the thick barrel pump, it was still tough to push the handle.
Pros: Great for quickly getting up to 12 to 15 PSI on smaller boards. Slightly easier to get to higher pressures. Has an inline gauge.
Cons: Still a struggle to reach 18 PSI.
C: K-Pump 220.
- Specifications: Dual modes of 2.6 liters and 0.8 liters.
- Dimensions: 30.5 x 3 inch outer barrel.
- Weight: 2lbs 9 oz.
- Price: $149-$179 with Kwik Check pressure gauge.
This is a two-in-one pump – one mode features a high volume/low pressure stroke of 2.6 liters, while a turn of the handle switches to low volume/high pressure of 0.8 liters. As there is no “coupling” one holds the pump over the valve with one hand, and pumps with the other. I did 80 pumps with the low-pressure mode; this took 2.5 minutes to reach 2.5 PSI. I then switched to high-pressure mode and easily reached 10PSI after and additional 4.2 minutes and another 200 strokes.
At this point though, being shorter, I had to stand on a rock as the pump reaches above my shoulders. The “rock stand” method worked well, as I could better balance the pump and use both hands to push. At a total of 9 easy minutes, I was through another 100 pumps and at 12 PSI; at 11.5 minutes and another 100 pumps at 16 PSI. At this point, I lost my hold which caused the pump to jump at an angle – losing 1 PSI of air. Sigh. With another 100 pumps (fairly easy) I was at 18 PSI. Success! Please note: Taller people will be able to pump a board up in much less time.
Pros: One pump will do both high and low pressure, and one can attain 18+ PSI. Pump feels rugged. Comes with a carrying case and extra o-ring/repair kit with 2 year warranty. The pump is made in the US and utilizes disabled workers. Comes with multiple adaptors that can be used on other inflatables.
Cons: Expensive. If shorter, it is tougher to get enough torque, as the handle will be over your shoulders – need something to stand on. As the pump end doesn’t couple with the valve, it becomes harder to hold the pump straight when reaching higher pressures. Need to constantly remove the pump and insert the Kwik Check pressure gauge to get a reading. Takes a long time to pump up.
D: Schrader Adaptor with bike pump:
- Specifications: N/A, depends on bike pump
- Dimensions: Varies. AirTool bike pump has a 1.25 inch barrel, has an 8 x 10.5 inch base and stands 25 inches tall.
- Weight: N/A, depends on bike pump (AirTool weighs 3.6 lbs.)
- Price: $29.99 for adaptor, $20+ for bike pump.
This is a nifty new Schrader adaptor from Red Paddle Company, which basically allows one to attach the board to a compressor, tire pump, gas station pump or bike pump that utilizes a Schrader valve.
I attached the Schrader adaptor to my husband’s $40 AirTool bike pump – it is very, very easy to pump, although takes a bit of time to first fill out the board – after nearly 4 minutes and 200 strokes I still had not evened out the creases in the board. I spent just over 13 minutes putting in 700 strokes, and only reached 8.5 PSI – I gave up. I then picked it up after using a different pump to fill out the board to 13.5 PSI. Another 100 strokes I reached 14 PSI, another 100 strokes to 17PSI and 50 more to 18PSI. It felt like it would be easy to continue on to 20 PSI.
Pros: Very easy to pump and bike pumps can be relatively inexpensive and easy to source locally. Able to reach 18 PSI and higher. The integrated gauge is very easy to read, and the larger “foot” pedals are easy to stand on. Very rugged and sturdy. Fairly inexpensive option, particularly if one already owns a bike pump.
Cons: Takes longer to pump up as the volume is lower. End cap protector on the Schrader is easy to lose (like maybe 3 minutes).
E: Portable Coleman air compressor with Schrader adaptor:
This was a small 2-gallon Coleman Powermate compressor. While it is easy to fill the board, it took 7.5 minutes to 10PSI and 12 minutes to get to 13PSI. Wasn’t very confident on the readings and gave up after 12 minutes as too time-consuming.
Pros: Not much effort involved in sitting there.
Cons: Takes a long time.
F: Bravo 12V Electric Pump
- Brand names: C4 Waterman Bravo 12V Electric Pump.
- Specifications: Two modes. Turbine mode 450 L/minute, Piston mode 160L/Min.
- Size: Bag size 12 x 8 x 6 inches. Weight 5.5 lbs.
- Price $170.
This hooks into the car battery (motor should not be running due to spikes). Set the dial reading to 14.5 PSI (highest it can go) and flip the ON button. In 1 minute the board was at 5PSI, 2 minutes to 11 PSI, about 2.5 minutes to 14.5 PSI. We double-checked with the KwikChek, which read 13.5 PSI, but were able to pump it up three times at approximately 2.5 to 2.75 minutes each time.
One does have to be careful that a) the adaptor is locked on properly and b) to carefully remove the adaptor without pushing down; we twice took the hose off, accidentally popping the valve, and the air came out. But, it’s easy to get it pumped up again. Please also note that the compressor should not run more than 20 minutes without a cool-down.
Pros: Very easy, very quick. Integrated pressure gauge. Also has a deflate mode. Comes with numerous valve fittings including the HR adaptor.
Cons: Only gets up to 14.5 PSI. Need a vehicle, or a heavy battery. Noisy. Expensive.
G. Gas Station air compressor and Schrader valve adaptor.
Our last test. We drove to the local gas station and hooked the Venus up to the tire air compressor using the Schrader valve adaptor.
The first thing to note is that many pumps do not have gauges, so you need to be VERY CAREFUL not to over-inflate. After attaching the Schrader adaptor to the board, hold the compressor fitting onto the adaptor (there is no means to couple it such as with the bike pump). After two minutes we were at 3 PSI, at 4 minutes 10 PSI and reached 18 PSI at 6 minutes; we checked the pressure every 30 seconds using the Kwik Check, but this requires one to remove the adaptor which sometimes releases air.
We subsequently used an $8 digital tire pressure gauge which allows you to leave the Schrader valve in place and check the pressure. We cross-checked the readings with the Kwik Check and were running pretty close.
Price: Schrader adaptor $29.99 and tire pressure gauge $8-$10.
Pros: Very fast and very simple.
Cons: Need to travel to a gas station, need a truck or roof racks to carry the inflated board, or need to be located near your launch spot. Requires constant pressure checking to ensure the board is not overinflated.
H: Red Paddle Co Titan Pump
- Brand names: Red Paddle Co Titan Pump.
- Specifications: Two modes. Both barrels 4.71 liters, single barrel approx. 2 liters output
- Size: 12.5 x 5 x 23 inches. Weight 5.1 lbs.
- Price $139.95.
(AirKayaks note: The new Titan pump was not available when this article was originally posted. As we no longer had the Red Paddle Venus 10-0 inflatable SUP, we used the Ride 9-8 for comparison.)
The Titan pump has two chambers, basically one side is a high volume/low pressure, and the other a low volume/high pressure. A unique double gear system actually combines the two chambers, so that when initially pumping, paddlers are using BOTH chambers to fill the board, allowing them to put in a whopping 4.71 liters, compared with just over 2 liters for the standard HP pump. When the pumping starts to get tough, one can switch the internal gear over to the high pressure chamber, allowing one to easily attain higher PSIs with less effort. An integrated pressure gauge allows one to monitor the process.
We started off pumping the Red Paddle Co Ride 9-8 using the double-barrel mode. It took 50 strokes to reach 5 PSI – at this point we switched to the single barrel mode. Another 50 strokes to 12 pSI, and a last 20 pumps to reach 15 PSI. Entire time was approximately 2.5 minutes, versus our original pumping time of 5 minutes with the HP EZ pump #B.
Pros: Very easy to use, cuts inflation time in nearly half from other pumps. Very rugged with dual pump shafts. Wider handles make it easier to hold. Ergonomically-designed feet make it more comfortable to pump. Integrated pressure gauge.
Cons: Larger, bulkier, heavier, more expensive.
I: AquaGlide 12V HP Turbo Electric Pump. Also new to the market.
- Brand names: AquaGlide 12V Turbo HP Pump
- Specifications: Two stages. Can be dialed in to inflate from 1 to 20 PSI. 15A @ 12vDC, 20.0 psi (1,4bar) max, ~ 10 cfm
- Size: 12 x 5 x 6 inches. Weight 3 lbs. 5 oz.
- Price $139.95.
(AirKayaks note: This pump was not available when this article was originally posted. As we no longer had the Red Paddle Venus 10-0 inflatable SUP, we used the Ride 9-8 for comparison.)
Read our Detailed Review on the AquaGlide HP Turbo pump.
Pros: While it doesn’t necessarily cut inflation time, it is VERY easy to use with little effort. Can dial in 1 to 20 PSI, so can be used with inflatable kayaks as well as paddleboards. Comes with two standard adaptors – an HR military valve adaptor and a Boston valve adaptor. Easily plugs into a car power point but also can be clipped directly to a battery.
Cons: More expensive
Summary of SUP Pump Results
ID# Pump Volume Output Time to PSI Ease*
A EZ Pump 2.5 Liter 3.5 min to 13 PSI 5
B HP EZ Pump 2.0 Liter 4.1 min to 15 PSI 4
C K-Pump 220 2.6/0.8 Liter 12 min to 18 PSI 3
D Schrader/Bike Unknown Est. 20 min to 18 PSI** 2
E Small Compress 2 Gallon 12 min to 13 PSI 1
F Bravo 12V 450L/160L per min. 2.5 min to 14 PSI 1
G Tire/Schrader UNK 6 min to 18 PSI 1
H Titan Pump 4.71/2 liters 2.5 min to 15 PSI 2
I AquaGlide HP 1-20 PSI 9 min to 18 PSI 1
*Ease of stroke – 1 (Easiest) to 5 (Hardest)
** Guess estimate
Bottom Line on Pumps Able to Reach 18 PSI:
Following are our “picks” for easiest, quickest, least expensive and most compact.
Easiest and Quickest Method:
The AquaGlide 12V HP Turbo Electric Pump. It took nearly 9 minutes to attain 18 PSI – and that’s it. Set it and forget it. One can set the pressure from 1 to 20 PSI, and it is simple to use – just plug it in to your car power point. Price – $139.
The Bravo HP 12 Volt Electric pump, Schrader valve adaptor and bike pump/tire pump. With 2.5 minutes to nearly 15 PSI (once again, larger boards will take longer) and then a couple hundred EASY strokes with a bike pump, you’re ready to paddle. The board can also be fully deflated, making it easier to roll up and fit in the bag. Easily see real-time pressure readings. You do need access to a car or carry around a battery as well as a bike pump (or find a gas station). Price for bike pump, 12V and valve adaptor: $200+
We also select the Titan Pump for this category, as it is the quickest and easiest method when a car battery is not available – 2.5 minutes to get up to 15 PSI. It’s also less expensive at $139.95, and slightly less heavy/more compact than the Bravo 12V/bike pump/Schrader combo.
A combination of the Schrader Valve, Board Pump and manual Tire/Bike Pump. Use the pump that comes with the board to pump as much air in as possible, then the Schrader valve with bike or tire pump to reach 18PSI. Price for valve adaptor $29.99 plus cost of bike/tire pump if you don’t already own one.
The K-Pump 220, as the dual modes allow you to have one pump that reaches the higher PSIs. A twist of the handle easily switches from low pressure/high volume to high pressure/low volume. Slim profile. Price $150 to $179 with pressure gauge.
While one could certainly classify the G: Gas Station Compressor/Schrader Adaptor/Digital Gauge as both “Easiest and Quickest” and “Least Expensive” we did not include that as you would also need either 1) a truck or roof racks or 2) find a gas station near your launch spot.
There are also a few more pumps that will be appearing on the market in the next few months; we will add them into this writeup as we get a chance to use them, but we would also like to hear about any pumps you’ve found that work well.
See all the pumps we carry at AirKayaks.com.