What Are the Best Kayak Scupper Plugs and Why You Need It (GUIDE)

One of the most attractive features of a sit-on-top kayak is that they are nearly unsinkable: flip them over, get smashed by a wave, it doesn’t matter, they won’t capsize because the boat’s hull is practically sealed and is a highly buoyant space.

That’s not to say you can’t get wet paddling one though. In fact, you can get quite a bit wetter in them thanks to their scupper holes – openings that allow water on the kayak’s deck to flow out. These holes let water back in too, but hopefully not so much as to create an uncomfortable experience.

Fortunately, there’s a solution for paddlers that want to use their sit-on-top, but don’t want water flowing in from underneath: scupper plugs. These little devices make your sit-on-top work more like a sit-in.

​So what are the best kayak scupper plugs out there? The ​ Scupper Stoppers from Ocean Kayaks have a fairly innovative design, using three rubber rings to create a cone shape plug. The rings make the plug more flexible and allow it to have a tighter fit than many of its competitors, making it one of the best scupper plugs on the market.

That’s not to say they’re the only option though, and some scupper plugs come with more features that can make them a great choice if you’ve got the right boat. While scupper plugs probably seem like really simple devices, I’ve done the research and can tell you which of them will be right for your situation.


​Reviews of the ​Best ​​Kayak Scupper Plugs

1. ​Essential Marine Products Universal Scupper Plug

Universal Scupper Plugs from Essential Marine Elements

Scupper plugs have a simple purpose: plug the holes in the boat. There’s no reason to get too fancy doing that.

The ​ Universal Scupper Plugs from Essential Marine Elements are about as simple as they come – just a rubber cone to plug up the holes. It’s an inexpensive and simple design that will last at least as long as your kayak. Since the plugs are tapered, they can fit a range of scupper hole diameters too.

Just because they’re simple doesn’t mean they work perfectly though. The most glaring problem with them is that the tapered cone only fits in perfectly round holes, while some kayak’s scupper holes have a more oblong geometry. Anything less than perfectly circular will result in some leakage and a wet paddler.

Additionally, you really need to force them into the scupper holes, which isn’t the easiest task, to get a tight fit that won’t pop out after a few hours.

These are some of the most inexpensive scupper plugs you can buy, so don’t go in expecting too much, but they do a decent job at keeping water out with their incredibly simple design.

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Simple design
  • Forms a very tight seal when installed properly

​Cons

  • Hard to wedge in
  • Doesn’t completely stop leaks
  • Not a universal fit

​2. ​Ocean Kayak Scupper Stoppers

Ocean Kayaks Scupper Stoppers

Ocean Kayaks went with a slightly different design on their ​ Scupper Stoppers, utilizing a series of increasingly larger rubber rings to get a snuck fit in your boat’s scupper holes.

Th​is might not sound like a major difference from the Essential Marine Product’s solid design, but they offer a little bit of extra flexibility that the solid plugs don’t have. They won’t fit in a square hole or anything like that, but if your scupper holes aren’t perfectly round they can still get a good fit.

Additionally, Ocean Kayak sells them in a few different sizes so you can get the one that fits just right, which is both a blessing and a curse. While the small, medium, and large sizes correspond to specific scupper hole diameters, there’s definitely some trial and error in finding the right one. Once you zero in on it though, the Scupper Stoppers work great, giving a tight seal and mounting flush with the deck of the kayak.

After some use though, you’ll start to notice wear on the tab used to extract the stoppers from the scupper holes. This feels like a design oversight, as these are moderately expensive scupper plugs and are essentially useless once the tab detaches from the plug. If you don’t take them in and out every weekend, it shouldn’t be a problem any time soon, but it’s something to think about.

Given their extra flexibility and more precise fit, these are one of my favorite scupper plugs currently on the market. They’re also not too expensive for the quality you’re getting. 

Pros

  • Easy to insert, flexible design
  • Comes in different sizes to ensure a better fit
  • Mounts flush to the deck

​Cons

  • Removal tab can separate from the plug body
  • Moderately expensive
  • Sizing can be difficult to get right

​3. ​Ocean Kayak Scupper Valves

Scupper Valves from Ocean Kayaks

With all the technology that goes into kayaking gear, it only makes sense that someone would eventually create a one-way valve that lets water out, but not in. The ​ Scupper Valves from Ocean Kayaks do just that and are easy to install and remove depending on the conditions. They also have a great fit inside your scupper holes and won’t stick up above the deck like some of the universal models.

The valve idea works better in theory than in practice though. The valve leaks much more than a standard plug would so don’t expect to stay completely dry. It’s better than having no plug or valve at all though.

One of the other problems with the scupper valve is that it doesn’t utilize a flexible design, and therefore won’t fit as many boats. Since it’s manufactured by Ocean Kayak, you can rest assured that it will work with their brand, but for others, it’s important to check the measurement (plugs are 1.25 inches wide) to see if it will work.

The Scupper Valve costs a few times what a normal scupper plug would, making it a relatively niche product. However, it’s not necessary to fill all of your scupper holes with these valves. You could use conventional scupper plugs in the areas that you’d prefer stay absolutely dry (many paddlers hate having a wet butt), and install the valves in areas that can get a little wet.

Pros

  • ​Lets water out, but not in
  • Can be pulled out easily
  • Fairly low profile design

​Cons

  • Don’t work as well as claimed
  • ​More expensive
  • Aren’t made to fit as many kayaks


What are Scupper Holes?

Let’s start with the basics: scupper holes only appear on sit-on-top kayaks as their decks are designed to get wet and then drain through the holes; a feature similar to self-bailing. Sit-in kayaks do not have scupper holes as they only float so long as there is not an excessive amount of water inside of them; to bail them out you need to manually remove the water.


What are Scupper Plugs Used For?

While scupper holes do an excellent job of funneling water from the kayak’s deck back into the river or ocean, the hole works both ways; water can enter through the bottom of the scupper holes too.

Sit-on-top kayaks are extremely buoyant, which means that water doesn’t go up through the holes all that often, but it can whenever a wave or some other disturbance rocks the boat. When it does, the paddler gets wet, and how you feel about that will determine whether scupper plugs are a necessity for you.

Scupper plugs stop up the holes that drain the deck and allow water to pass through. The downside to using them is that water can no longer flow off of the deck, so if you get splashed, you’ll still be sitting in water.

They’re usually just simple pieces or rubber or plastic, not unlike the kind used to plug a bathroom sink. There are a few models on the market that attempt to prevent water from flowing up through the plug, while allowing it to drain off the deck. These one-way valves can be hit or miss, usually in the form of leaking up through the valve. They’re a good option if you can’t stand the idea of getting wet, but still need your deck to drain well.


Do I Need Scupper Plugs?

It’s important to remember that how low your kayak sits in the water, and therefore ​how much of it comes in through the scupper holes, is determined by the load it’s carrying. 

Scupper plugs are only needed when the load weight exceeds the kayak’s buoyancy. On days when you’re not carrying much gear, they can be left at home.

Additionally, you don’t need to plug every scupper hole though. If you just hate the feeling of water on your butt or feet, you can plug the holes closer to your body, and then leave the holes near your feet and cargo areas open for better drainage.


How Do I Get Rid of Water with the Plugs In?

Scupper plugs prevent water from draining out of a sit-on-top kayak; if you want to remove water with the plugs in, you’ll need some of the tools used by sit-in kayak paddlers: sponges and bilge pumps.

Sponges can get rid of the small amount of water that drips off your paddle or splashes in, but they don’t have a lot of volume and wringing them out is time-consuming. If a big wave swamps your boat you’ll want a bilge pump, which can remove several gallons per minute if you’re really working at it.

However, if you’re really bothered by water in your kayak or are using it in cold conditions, it’s probably just better to paddle a sit-in kayak with a spray skirt, which is designed to stay completely dry.


​How to Choose the Best Kayak Scupper Plugs - Buyer's Guide

Picking the Right Size Scupper Plugs

Most aftermarket scupper plugs are designed to have a universal fit, so you shouldn’t need to worry about the size too much. That’s not to say every plug will fit your kayak, and it’s worth doing some extra research to ensure that they do, but there’s a good chance most universal plugs will work.

Aftermarket scupper plugs come in two basic designs so as to fit nearly any kayak. The first is a tapered rubber plug that is inserted as far as necessary to get a tight fit, with any excess stick out above the deck of the kayak. Unless your kayak has monstrously large scupper holes, these will fit, but they have the disadvantage of being harder to remove.

A second scupper plug design uses a series of increasingly wider rubber ribs to achieve the same tapered shape, but with the advantage of being much more flexible. This design is a bit harder to insert though, as you won’t have the same leverage as with a solid plug.


Built to Last Plugs

There’s not a lot that can go wrong with a simple scupper plug, but when it does, they fail pretty miserably. The most important thing to look for with a scupper plug is durable material. Many are constructed from hard rubber that will last for years, in fresh or saltwater.

The main thing that can break is the removal mechanism, usually a tab or pull string that can tear off from the plug’s main body. Nothing is worse than being unable to extricate your plug from the scupper holes when you want to, so be sure to look for ones that don’t have weak points on their removal mechanism.



​My Choice for the Best ​Kayak Scupper Plugs

Getting the very best scupper plugs probably isn’t at the top of your kayaking to-do list, but it’s not because they’re unimportant. It’s just that most scupper plugs work in the same way, so one brand isn’t likely to be leaps and bounds ahead of the others.

Bargain hunters will like the plugs from ​ Essential Marine Products because they’re cheap and simple. Tech lovers will probably enjoy the valve mechanism on Ocean Kayaks Scupper Valve, even if it doesn’t work perfectly.

For me though, the ​ Scupper Stoppers from Ocean Kayaks is the perfect middle ground. They’ve definitely put some thought into how to get the best fit using flexible materials and different sized plugs, but they haven’t gone so far with their innovation that they end up with multiple points of failure.

The Scupper Stoppers do what they’re supposed to do and they do it well for a fairly long time. What more could you ask from a scupper plug?


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