Complete Guide to Boston Valves and Inflatable Kayaks

If you’re in the market for an inflatable kayak, you have probably heard of a Boston valve.  Boston valves are commonly found on inflatable kayaks, where they work to inflate and deflate the vessel.

If you own an inflatable kayak or are thinking of buying one, it’s essential to be familiar with Boston valves.

This post will explain what Boston valves are, why they’re helpful for inflatable boats, and provide some tips on how to use them properly!

What is a Boston valve?

Boston valves are a type of one-way valve that makes inflating and deflating a kayak quick and easy. The valve comes with two ports, one for inflation and one for deflating your kayak.

Boston valves come in a three-piece design consisting of a base, middle (check valve), and a top cap.

Open Boston valve on an inflatable kayakPin

The valve base gives you access to the hull of the kayak and is what lets air in and out of the kayak.

The middle portion is where the magic happens. This is the check valve, which screws into the base. The check valve lets air in but won’t let it out.

The final component of the Boston valve is the cap. The cap serves to cover the valve, so nothing gets inside.  The cap protects the boat from debris that can impact the integrity of the inflatable hull.

Boston valves are popular and allow you to inflate and deflate your items quickly. These valves can be found in boats, mattresses, and other larger products.

How do you open a Boston valve?

Simple. Unscrew the top cap to inflate the kayak.  Unscrew the bottom of the valve from the base to deflate the kayak.

How do you use a Boston valve?

Boston valves are easy to use with the help of a pump. 

  • Unscrew the top cap to inflate your boat
  • Attach the end of the hose to the connection point on top of the valve
  • Pump air until you reach desired pressure for your inflatable kayak
  • Screw the cap on when you have reached the optimal pressure for your kayak
Closed Boston valve on an inflatable kayakPin

Unlike other inflation valves, you don’t have to scramble to put the cap back on a Boston valve.  That’s the beauty of a Boston valve. The air you just pumped in won’t come out.

To deflate your kayak, unscrew the valve from the base and wait for all of the air to escape.  Then screw the pieces back together, so nothing gets inside the valves.

Some pumps are even configured to deflate, which speeds up the process. 

When you want to inflate your kayak, ensure that the Boston valve is open and not clogged. If it’s closed or blocked by debris in any way, air will leak out of the kayak as you’re inflating it.

This can be avoided with a little bit of care when setting up your equipment for use on the water. To ensure the best experience possible, take a few minutes to inspect everything before getting started!

Can I check the air pressure on a Boston valve?

To check the pressure on your inflatable kayak, you need a special gauge designed for Boston valves. 

To use it, you insert the gauge into the valve, where it will measure the pressure. Note that the pins might not be long enough to push open the diaphragm and let air in.

In that case, you might not be able to use this type of gauge. It’s a good idea to make sure you can return the pressure gauge just in case it doesn’t fit your application.

Are Boston valves universal?

Unfortunately, Boston valves are not universal and vary depending on the brand, but the concept is universal.

If you need a spare part for your Boston Valve, it is unlikely that generic ones will be the correct size. You may have to purchase a specific one from the manufacturer.

What kind of pump does a Boston valve work with?

A Boston valve works with a standard hand pump or electric pump.  You may need to have a Boston valve adaptor for the end of the hose to fit the valve.

The inflatable kayak is inflated by using the Boston valve as an air inlet and then sealing this shut when you are done pumping.

When you’re ready to deflate your boat for transport or storage, remove the cap from the top of the Boston valves so any excess air can escape.

What to do if a Boston valve loses air

If a Boston valve loses air, then the valve may not be fully closed. Check to make sure there are no holes or tears in the inflatable kayak, and re-inflate if needed.

Often, a Boston valve will leak air if there is sand in the threads or cross-threaded.  Check that the threads are clear and you have screwed the cap on tight so it won’t lose air again.

It’s essential to keep an eye on your kayak and know the signs of trouble before you get into trouble on the water.

What if a Boston valve doesn’t inflate?

If a Boston valve does not inflate, then your kayak may have a hole.

This can be identified by looking for bubbles escaping from the inflatable kayak when you release air from the Boston valve. Apply soapy water around the valve to see if there is a leak.

If your kayak has more than one Boston valve of the same size, you can swap them and see if it’s a valve problem or maybe a leak in your boat.

Can you replace a Boston valve?

It’s a good idea to have an extra Boston valve available if you need it. The first thing to do is check with the manufacturer to see if they sell replacement parts.

If not, you will have to measure the valve and see if you can find a replacement online.  Since not all Boston valves are created equal, it can be hard to find an exact fit. 

Some inflatable kayaks will come with a replacement valve along with a repair kit.


The Boston valve is a simple system that can be used to inflate and deflate your kayak. The best thing about using a Boston valve is how easy they are to operate.  The check valve makes inflating a snap. Deflating your inflatable kayak is easy by unscrewing the valve from the base.

Boston valves make transporting and storing your kayak simple!

If you have any questions, please let us know below.

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About the author
Steve Morrow
Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.