Scupper Plugs: Should You Keep Them In Or Out?

You probably noticed holes inside if you are in the market for a sit-on-top kayak (SOT). The holes may seem insignificant, but they are designed with a purpose. Scupper plugs are used to seal these holes. It’s a great debate for many paddlers whether a scupper plug is necessary.

Kayak scupper plugs help to keep water from entering your kayak. With a sit-inside kayak, you have to bail the water out manually when water gets in. With a sit-on-top kayak, scupper holes allow for self-bailing (a way to get water out), so you don’t have to do it manually.

Read on for more information on what scupper plugs (also known as “kayak bungs” or “kayak plugs“) are and why you may need them.

Why Do Kayaks Have Holes in Them?

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Kayak designs have changed over the years and there are many different types. First was the more traditional kayak or sit-in kayak. This model allows paddlers to sit inside the hull while their legs are under the deck.

Sit-in kayaks have skirts that can cover the cockpit opening to prevent water from splashing inside. This is good for use in cold water.

Sit-in kayaks are easy to maneuver. But when water pools inside, it adds weight to the kayak. Thus, it makes it heavier and harder to paddle through the water.

As kayaks have grown in popularity, the design of the sit-on-top kayak emerged. This is how scupper holes on kayaks were introduced. You will see these self-bailing holes in various places, including the boat’s deck, front, cockpit area, and rear.

Scupper holes are purposely placed in these parts as a safety feature to prevent water from pooling in. Scupper holes allow water to pass in and out, and the kayak drains efficiently.

What Are Scupper Plugs?

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Scupper plugs are an essential kayak accessory for sit-on-top kayaks. These are the little rubber kayak bungs that seal the scupper holes.

Contrary to scupper holes’ purpose, they block the water from entering the kayak. Kayak scupper plugs are typically made of rubber or plastic.

There are different types of kayak scupper plugs. The universal scupper plugs fit most sit-on-top kayaks and are easy to find. These kayak bungs are made of plastic or rubber and have strings that make it easier to detach from the scupper hole.

Some kayak plugs have a screw-in design that ensures a water-tight fit. However, this type of scupper plug only fits specific kayaks. If you prefer this scupper plug, check if it matches your kayak’s model.

Why Do You Need Kayak Scupper Plugs?

The concept of scupper holes and scupper plugs is a bit confusing. Why do you need scupper plugs anyway? Scupper holes are designed as a safety feature of sit-on kayaks. Then, why do you need to seal the holes?

So, let’s talk about the importance of scupper plugs.

As I mentioned, kayak drain plugs are designed to cover the scupper holes. Imagine you’re paddling in choppy water. The continuous water flow may hamper your kayak’s natural buoyancy. This is when kayak scupper plugs are handy.

By plugging the holes, it keeps the stability and balance of your kayak. But the water in your kayak while the scupper plug is in will not drain by itself.

If you’re paddling with a heavy load, you should put in your kayak plugs before paddling. The extra weight will further submerge your kayak, and water will rise from the holes. The scupper plugs will protect you from capsizing.

In different weather conditions, scupper plugs are very efficient. If you’re paddling in a colder location, you might want to keep your cockpit dry. You might also want to consider a wet suit or a dry suit (more information)

In the summer, covering the scupper holes might not be a priority. You might want a small amount of water in your kayak. This can cool you down during high temperatures throughout the day. If you don’t want to sit in a puddle, insert the scupper plug anytime.

Why Is Water in My Kayak?

Many paddlers have experienced water entering their kayaks, even with scupper plugs. Is this something you should worry about? If it’s just a tiny amount of water, the answer is “it depends.”

Aside from a crack in your yak, getting water inside your kayak is pretty much unavoidable. It will always find its way into your kayak one way or another. You can accumulate water from paddle splashes and waves.

Your kayak scupper holes can be an entry point of water, too. Don’t be alarmed when this occurs. Your kayak is buoyant and will keep you afloat.

If the accumulated water bothers you, a sponge or a bilge pump can be efficient. These tools can help you remove excess water without dislodging the kayak plugs.

I highly recommend using a sponge. It is absorbent and a great way to reduce water in your kayak. Not to mention, it is cheap, small, and easy to replace. However, you should always dry it out after use as it is prone to molding.

A bilge pump is also a must-have for your kayaking adventure. It’s a safety drainage system that sucks up the water in your kayak and sprays it outside. The standard hand-use pump can do the work well. Electric pumps are also available if the physical effort is an issue for you.

How to Use Scupper Plugs?

Scupper plugs are easy to install. You can even do it while you’re sitting in the cockpit. All you have to do is push it on the scupper holes. Most kayak drain plugs fit scupper holes between 1 and 1-3/8 inches.

Though they are universal, they only fit well in some specific models and brands of kayaks. With that being said, you need to get the right scupper plugs.

Some kayak plugs come with a string. It makes it easier to pull them out when you want to drain your kayak.

It is also essential to know that you should remove your scupper plugs before storage. Hot air may build up in your kayak. It can cause your kayak to swell while in storage. When this happens, and the scupper plugs are still in place, they can be stuck permanently. Extreme heat may also damage the hull.


What is a scupper hole?

Kayak scupper holes are in the bottom of a sit-on-top kayak. This scupper hole is designed to let water drain out of your kayak. If you take on water from rough paddling conditions, or whitewater, scupper holes are self-draining holes to let the water escape.

What is a scupper plug?

A scupper plug is a little rubber bung that plugs up the holes in the bottom of a kayak. Kayak scupper plugs are designed to keep water from entering the kayak from underneath.

Do you need scupper plugs in a kayak?

That depends on you. Kayak scupper holes are designed to help drain water from the kayak. But scupper holes can also let some water inside the kayak.

Can you use a kayak without scupper plugs?

Absolutely! Honestly, it’s up to you whether you use kayak scupper plugs. If you want an easy way to get water out of your kayak, then leave those bungs out!

Will you sink without scupper plugs?

No, you won’t sink without kayak scupper plugs. If the kayak plugs are not in the holes, water entering the kayak will drain. These self-bailing holes are designed to let water out so your kayak doesn’t fill up with water.


Scupper Plugs - Should you keep them in or outPin

Scupper plugs and scupper holes are designed for a significant reason. They protect paddlers in a variety of different situations. In normal conditions, you can leave your scupper holes open.

It is designed to let water in and out of your kayaks and serves its purpose. A well-designed kayak won’t let a lot of water in.

There are also exceptions; sometimes, your scupper plugs are handy. When you’re paddling in choppy waters, it is important to keep all the holes closed.

By doing that, your kayak may lose its self-draining feature, and water may build up. So, it’s best to bring a sponge and bilge pump to remove the excess water out.

You should know by now the pros and cons of plugging the holes in your kayak. Whether to use a scupper plug or not is always a personal choice. However, remember that you should prioritize your comfort and safety on your kayak adventure.

Let me know if you have any questions.

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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.