Are kayak drain plugs universal? Are all scupper plugs the same?

Are kayak drain plugs universal? Are all scupper plugs the same?

When you start out kayaking you want to make sure you’re getting the right gear and equipment that complements your kayak.

If you’ve bought a sit-on-top kayak, one of the more confusing features to choose is the drain plugs, or scupper plugs as they’re technically called. Are kayak drain plugs universal? Are all scupper plugs the same?

What even are scupper plugs?

A lot of kayak drain plugs, or scupper plugs, are universal and will fit in most kayak drain holes. However, there are kayak models out there that require specific sizes, so check with the manufacturer. The plugs are often a cylindrical or conical type shape with one end thinner, meaning they often fit many sizes of drain holes when pushed in. 

It is worth checking with your kayak manufacturer or seller whether you can use any drain plug, or if it takes a particular size. 

What are kayak drain plugs? Can I use alternatives? 

Kayak drain plugs are rubber plugs that fit in the drain holes found in sit-on-top kayaks. They are small, short cylinders that taper almost into a cone shape at one end. 

Kayak drain plugs have either a loop offspring or additional rubber so they can be removed easily when not in use. 

Let’s have a look at some scupper plugs, their diameter, and how many plugs different models of kayak might need. 

I found this PDF from Ocean Kayaks useful to check different models of kayaks and the various sizes and numbers of kayak plugs you might need.

Click for PDF.

I also found this website, which is an entire site dedicated to kayak scupper plugs!

I’ve also read of people using alternatives, like bath plugs that apparently work well! 

How big is a kayak plug?

Kayak scupper plugs come in a general universal size, in most cases 1.5inches at one end and 0.7inches at the other.

Here are some ideas you could test out as alternatives to scupper plugs that you might have around the house.

Bathroom sink plugsYou can get bathroom plugs that insert into the hole cheaply. 
Multiple sizes often available.
Foam golf ballsThese come in around 50mm, which could work well for the drain hole.CLICK TO SEE
Round styrene fishing floatsMultiple sizes often available.
A 50mm styrene float could be moulded into the hole.

What are kayak plugs called? ‘Scupper plugs’ are the same thing.

Kayak drain plugs are also called scupper plugs. The word ‘scupperin nautical terms means drainage hole found in a ship’s deck. 

Why do kayaks have drain holes?

The plugs are inserted into the bottom of the kayak for two reasons:

  • To drain out any excess water that has entered the kayak. For example, from heavy splashing. 
  • To prevent water from coming up through the drain holes when paddling in particularly turbulent, rough water, or when the kayak is carrying additional weight and sitting lower on the water. 

You can kayak safely without drain plugs inserted – it just means that a little water may enter the hull, which some people are comfortable with. 

You’re likely going to get wet anyway so a slightly wet bottom is no big deal.

Do I need to plug the holes in my kayak?

You don’t have to plug the holes in your sit on top of the kayak. 

It really depends on your personal comfort, the weight of your kayak, and the conditions you’re paddling in. 

If you want to keep as dry as possible, leave the plugs inserted into the kayak. 

Personally, I don’t always have mine in. I paddle with not much weight on my kayak and don’t mind getting a little bit wet. That said, the conditions and weather are mild where I am, so it might be different where you are paddling. 

It’s safe to say, you won’t sink just because you have your kayak plugs out. Don’t worry, your boat won’t fill immediately with water.

Can I add any drain plug to my kayak?

You can add a drain plug to your kayak if you need to replace an old one or if you don’t already have them.

A lot of sit-on-top kayaks come with drain plugs when you buy them new, but if you’re purchasing a second-hand kayak it may not come with plugs ready to install. It depends on whether the previous owner has retained them and passes them on to you.

If you need to purchase new universal kayak plugs, there is a large selection of universal kayak plugs on Amazon. 

Looking at two of the top sellers on there, they both measure 1.5-0.7 inches – the tapering effect means they can fit in many different holes, even if there is slight variance. 

Universal Kayak Plug Option 1

Universal Kayak Plug Option 2

Look for those that say they are universal, and also check with your kayak manufacturer whether the holes in your will fit any or most kayak drain plugs, and don’t require special types of plugs.

If you’re really unsure, look for options that you’re able to return in the post, so you can try them out and if they don’t fit, send them back and try some others.

How do you install a drain plug on a kayak?

Installing a kayak drain plug is really simple. 

Most plugs are similar and work in the same way. All you need to do is hold onto the end of the plugs that have the string or rubber handle, and push them into the drain holes near the seat and near your feet.

There are some plugs out there that have a screw-like thread to them. Some of these fit in all kayaks too, but there are some screw-thread plugs that only fit certain kayaks, so it’s worth checking if the plug you’re looking at isn’t exclusive to a certain kayak. 

Are kayak drain plugs universal? Are all scupper plugs the same? Summary

There are a lot of options out there for kayak drain plugs and many of them are universal, fitting a wide range of kayaks.

It’s best to check with your manufacturer and the specifications of your kayak drain holes – or a quick measure with a ruler or tape measure will quickly tell you the diameter you need.