If you are a Kiter that uses Leading Edge Inflatable (LEI) kites, aka tube kites, then a good pump to fill it up with air is a necessity! In this blog I’ll break down your pumping options, along with how to take care of them and how to fix most of them. You will learn what you should and shouldn't do with your pump and which pump is best for you.
Manual Hand Pumps
Dual action inflation pumps are most commonly used among kitesurfers and they’ve drastically improved over the years. Nowadays they come with the option of using single or double action inflation in either 2.0, 3.0 and up to 5.5 liter sizes. Basically, the higher the liter size, the faster your kite gets pumped up! For example, pumping 3 liters of air will inflate your kite about 30% faster than the smaller standard pumps. If you fly big kites, then I recommend a large double action pump for easier and faster inflation to get you out on the water quickly! Most of these newer, top of the line pumps include:
- A single to double-stroke inflation switch allowing for instant change from high-volume / low-pressure inflation to low-volume / high-pressure
- Tether and hook (To keep your kite from flying away while pumping)
- Pressure gauge (PSI)
- Integrated sand filter
- Wide range of kite nozzles (different kite brands require different nozzles)
Below are some examples of some manual hand pumping options.
As stated above, pumps also include the following parts that are easily accessible and replaceable. Many kite companies use their own special attachments to pump air into their kites so it's good to have a nice selection to choose from.
Most pumps now come with a PSI (pounds per square inch) gauge pre-installed onto the pump to assist you in viewing how much air your pumping into your kite. Now this could be a disagreement amongst some kiters, but I personally like to pump my kites up to 8 PSI making sure its not soft and flimsy, but more solid, stable and ready for action! Some may choose to pump to a higher PSI but ultimately you should take caution in over pumping and possibly resulting in a bladder and/or kite blow out! The green in the window indicates the ‘safe zone’.
Care and maintenance
It’s a good idea to kinda treat your pump like a baby and take care of it. Remember, no pump or broken pump means no kiting! Or you’ll simply just have to ask another kiter to borrow their pump. But the worst enemy to these pumps is beach sand as it seems to get in everything!
Best to avoid sand in all but that’s not always an option so good habits will help keep your pump clean, healthy and longer lasting. Avoid letting any sand get in between/inside the pumping shaft and its seals. Over time if that happens, maintenance and cleaning or even possible replacement of parts will need to take place to restore it back to its full strength! Also, always be sure to avoid sand accidentally getting scooped up into the end of the flexible hose and nozzle. Once sand gets in there and you’re unaware of it, then you just might be pumping some sand into your kites bladder and bladders don’t like sand! Sand, or even small sharp shells, inside the bladder can be very harmful and most likely will result in bladder damage, leaks and bursts!
Also, the flexible hose can easily get damaged over time as it is long and somewhat flimsy and can get bent in areas resulting in cracks. A quick repair with some electrical or duct tape should temporarily fix that though! If you have any cracks in your hose or have any unsealed connections, then that will disturb the pressure gauge giving you inaccurate readings. So as you’re pumping up then you may see the pressure gauge working but the moment you stop pumping, the gauge indicator slowly drops down to ZERO! That’s a clear sign your pump has an air leak, or even worse, it just might be your kite’s bladder experiencing a slow leak.
Maintenance of your pump is usually required over time to bring it back to a healthy state of pumping! So you will usually need to take your pump apart and if you’re new to this, then I would highly recommend doing your homework first and watching some DIY videos on it. Most double action pumps have piston seals within the pump housing and overtime, they begin to flatten out and unable to catch pressure. So you’ll need to either replace them or make adjustments on them and also adding some synthetic motor oil or other recommended oils for lubrication to both the lower seal and upper seal is suggested. Do not use grease. WD40 works well to clean the shaft but do not replace it as a lubricant. So again, there are plenty of online DIY videos to help you through your hand pump restoration!
Ohh yea, electric pumps...brilliant!! These can be convenient, especially when pumping up big kites in light wind areas. There are cheap pumps and there are higher quality, more expensive pumps. My first pump I bought many years ago was a cheap little pump that’s more commonly used for small inflatable pool toys, etc. But it only pumped my kite up about half way and then I had to finish it off with my hand pump...lame! I also had a construction worker friend who always used his air compressor that he had bolted to the back of his truck with an extra long hose to reach his kite, I was jealous. But if you are going to invest in an actual electric kite pump, get a good quality one that 100% finishes the job for you. Many offer an optional sand filter if you are going to be using your pump at the beach. The internal, rechargeable batteries of most high quality kite pumps can easily be trickle-charged using the included wall charger or car cigarette lighter adapter. If the battery is drained but you still want to use it, the pump can be run from other 12V power sources such as a car battery using an included power cable. Most come with a convenient PSI auto shut off feature so while your pump is automatically pumping up your kite to your preferred PSI, you could be setting out your bar and lines getting them ready for connection and getting you in the water much faster. These pumps are usually heavy enough to hold down your kite so it doesn't fly away while pumping is in progress! Also, you will be well loved by your friends if you pass around your electric pump letting them pump up their kites as well! In addition to that, these pumps come in quite handy for kite schools and kite demo’s when pumping multiple kites.
The disadvantages are having to remember to recharge the battery after so many uses. Sometimes batteries go bad or need to be replaced and It's always recommended to have a backup hand pump just in case the battery dies or your electric pump becomes faulty. Modifications sometimes need to be made with the fittings and hose lengths to connect to your kites inflation system. Electric pumps are heavier than normal hand pumps which will add more weight to your travels and/or lugging all your gear to the beach. For more detailed pros and cons from Kiters who have experience using electric pumps, click onto this Kite Forum and also The Kiteboarder did their own detailed reviews on various brands.
Personally, I prefer my regular hand pump as it helps me to warm up and get a little work out. Plus, my biggest kite is a 12m so it doesn’t take too long to get it pumped up and ready for action!
Do not hesitate to leave a comment below or reach our with any questions you may have. Or ask your local kite instructor or an experienced Kiter for more details on any of this. Check out some of our other Kite posts below.