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Old 07-18-2011   #1
Western, North Carolina
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 12
DIY top-off pump -- give me your ideas

Alright folks, I'm getting close to being on the water. I got the floor of my $100 used Riken fixed. And I got the valves on my other $100 used ducky fixed. I'm itching to get out on the water with the family. But as you can probably tell by my stable of ancient, former-rental watercraft, I'm am piss-poor these days. That said, i want to figure out some sort of top-off system ON THE CHEAP! I can get the boats nicely inflated with my shop-vac, but they don't have much rigidity.

I'm rigging together an adapter to go from a gas station air compressor to my boats' valves -- making it out of a few dollars-worth of stuff from the plumbing section at Lowes and Napa Auto Parts. Now for on the river, should i just bring that adapater and a bike pump? Or is there a cooler way to DIY a PVC barrel pump? They look simple enough, but I have to guess there's a reason K-Pump asks so much money for theirs (btw, as soon as I get a decent job again, I'm going straight to NRS and ordering one of those. But right now, i can't justify the expense).

I'm pretty handy, so building something is usually not a problem. Any ideas or web sites that you can share with me will be greatly appreciated.


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Old 07-18-2011   #2
Shit Creek, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 277
Search for the post on DIY PVC barrel pump on here. I would link it in, but am pretty computer handicapped. Most parts can be made, but some parts will have to be purchased. You will have to have the one-way check valve in the pump for what I am guessing are older military style valves. Bet if you build your own pump, you wont need to buy an expensive one.
Good luck to ya and post some pics if you do build one

Speak of Peace, (but carry a big gun)
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Old 07-18-2011   #3
Western, North Carolina
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 12
Thanks P-hound!

Homemade Barrel Pump

That looks easy enough. i think I have a lot of this stuff laying around in my garage. Should take me about an evening to slap this together. I'll definitely give this a try. The pics that one guy posted makes me want to use all stainless fittings.
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Old 07-18-2011   #4
Whoapiglet's Avatar
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 296
I made a barrel pump, and it works great cost me about $50 and a lot of time (figured it out myself not using the link above). that said, if you are just topping off and using it as an emergency pump, a $20 wonder pump works fine. I actually like to remove the top plug thing so it is only a one way pump (easier on the back) and gets the ducky super hard (as hard as any other pump besides maybe the k-pump that people use for iSUPs.
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Old 07-18-2011   #5
raftus's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 1,128
I'll throw in a second vote for the wonder pumps - not something you would want to use to inflate a big raft, but for the money and time saving versus building a barrel pump yourself, they will get your boat topped off. Now if you want a pump to completely inflate a raft and have the time and inclination, building a barrel pump could be well worthwhile. K-Pumps are well made and a great top off pump if you can afford one.
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Old 07-18-2011   #6
Shit Creek, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 277
And a third vote on the cheaper, store purchased pumps if the big barrel pump is a pain to build or takes too much room in your raft. I used to always use a $12 Coleman from Target, did a couple of dollars of upgrades (handle reinforcement, extra hose, and a plug to keep water out of pump when I carry it on my raft). It still works and I still carry it for longer trips to make sure boat stays tight as it might get soft over time even after an aggressive top-off.
Speak of Peace, (but carry a big gun)
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Old 07-18-2011   #7
BoscoBoater's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 228
4th on the Wonder pump. I used one for the first few years as my primary pump for a 12 footer. Took a while, but it worked every time. It still pulls backup duty with no problems.

The price has gone up to $35 though. Starting to get a bit pricey for what it is, but still a good deal. Bravo Wonder Pump 6: Sports & Outdoors

Good luck with your project bud!
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Old 07-18-2011   #8
Shit Creek, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 277
Oh yeh, I forgot. A battery powered (4 D cell I think) inflator for air mattresses does most of my work of inflation to I can leave my boat rolled up for transport. Again, not the fancy stuff from a boating company, but was about $10 and works awesome. This is my 4th year on one set of batteries. Check out little pumps at the big department stores, they work well and are about 1/2 the price of the Bravo. I guess all my posts show my true colors as a cheap dirtbag.
Speak of Peace, (but carry a big gun)
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Old 07-19-2011   #9
Andy H.'s Avatar
Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,909
Cheap Pumps

While there are those who'll swear by them I've had bad luck with the "Wonder Pumps." I often felt it was a wonder if the cheap barrel pumps made it through a season without gaskets or the one-way valves failing. I had high hopes for one I got with from a raft shop with a Hyside logo on it but it was just as crappy as the rest of my run of $30 barrel pumps. If you're just looking for a topping off pump, I recommend the Bravo foot pumps. About $5 more than the Wonder Pump and they are much, much more durable. I get about 5+ years out of a $35 pump before the bellows material wears out.

Also, you can replace the flimsy plastic ribbed hose on any of these cheap pumps with radiator hose from any auto parts store for about $5 or $10. Do this on the way home from the store after you get your pump.

Don't use an air compressor to inflate a raft, its the wrong tool for the job.

See this thread for more on the topic.

Welcome to rafting, ghetto's the only way to go when you're starting out.

Have fun and be safe on the river,


Nothing in the world is more yielding and gentle than water. Yet it has no equal for conquering the resistant and tough. The flexible can overcome the unbending; the soft can overcome the hard. - Lao Tse
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