We Review The Best Air Pumps For Inflatables In 2020



Ah, Beach Baby loves the summer, and particularly likes fun by the poolside or lake.

Especially with a zillion and one ride ons, and other assorted pieces of bouncy joy, that are part and parcel of going to the beach or lakeside.

But hang on, there is one thing we definitely do not enjoy, and that is getting blue lips from blowing them all up… or losing the sensation in our foot from trying to use a foot pump to keep everything going.

That’s why we’re here today – to review the best air pumps for inflatables for the year 2020, ’cause you’re gonna need them!

best air pumps for inflatables

The fact is, if you are at the beach this summer, and you have got yourself more than a couple of beach balls to blow up, you might be in need of some err.. power charged external help.

Enter the electric pump.  Some of these take batteries, although most of them are mains operated. Some will plug into your car, in order for water-side inflation.

Others are intended solely for home use, so you will have to pump up your latex banana in the privacy of your bedroom. Stay with us to find out more about these amazing machines. Here is what we are going to cover today:

  • What Is The History Of The Air Pump?
  • What Have Air Pumps Done For Us? 
  • What Is The Principle Of An Air Pump?
  • What Are The Different Types Of Pump?
  • Diaphragm Pump 
  • Bellows
  • Bicycle Pump
  • Rotary Vane Pumps
  • Vacuum Pump
  • Gear Pump
  • Piston Pump
  • [ps2id url=’#1′ offset=” class=”]What Is the Difference Between an Air Pump and an Air Compressor? [/ps2id]
  • [ps2id url=’#2′ offset=” class=”]How Do Pumps Work?[/ps2id]
  • [ps2id url=’#2b’ offset=” class=”]What is PSI?[/ps2id]
  • [ps2id url=’#2c’ offset=” class=”]How Much PSI Do I Need?[/ps2id]
  • [ps2id url=’#2d’ offset=” class=”]12 Volt vs 120 V?[/ps2id]
  • [ps2id url=’#2e’ offset=” class=”]What Is This Adaptor For?[/ps2id]
  • [ps2id url=’#33′ offset=” class=”]What is the best type of air pump for inflatables these days?[/ps2id]
  • [ps2id url=’#3′ offset=” class=”]Top 5 Best Air Pumps[/ps2id]
  • [ps2id url=’#3′ offset=” class=”]Airhead AHP-120[/ps2id]
  • [ps2id url=’#4′ offset=” class=”]Coleman Quickpump[/ps2id]
  • [ps2id url=’#5′ offset=” class=”]Swimline 9095 Electric Pump For Inflatables[/ps2id]
  • [ps2id url=’#6′ offset=” class=”]Black & Decker AS1300[/ps2id]
  • [ps2id url=’#7′ offset=” class=”]Ecoplus 728450 Single Outlet Commercial Air Pump[/ps2id]        [ps2id id=’1.1′ target=”/]

What Is The History Of The Air Pump?

otto van guericke

The air pump was first conceived as long ago as 1649, by Otto von Guericke, a German scientist who spent most of his life working on vacuums.

In England, it would be Robert Hooke who made the first air pump built for science, in 1658.

It would be 1705 when another Englishman, Francis Hauksbee made a double barrelled air pump.

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This was used for scientific research and could make a vacuum.

What Have Air Pumps Done For Us?


Although it might not seem like the most important of human inventions, the humble air pump has done much to aid progress.

Without the invention of the air pump there would be no vacuum pump. The rise of vacuum pumps would be instrumental in many areas of human life, from atomic energy to the simple light bulb.


light bulb

If there was no means of pumping air mechanically, then pneumatic tools as we know them would not exist and this in turn would have prevented the rise of cities. Industrialisation and innovations like skyscrapers and other feats of engineering could not happen without the principles of an air pump behind them.

And without air pumps, there would be no cars! Engines require a system of pumps to drive them – never mind pump the tires up!

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There are so many inventions that would never have happened if it wasn’t for air pumps that it is  impossible to list them all!

What Is The Principle Of An Air Pump?

air compressor for car

An air pump is a device for pumping air into something. This could be a tire, an inflatable or an aquarium.

The defining principle of an air pump is that it has a moving part within it, which propels the pushing air.

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And after the air is pumped, it creates low pressure, that quickly refills with air.

What Are The Different Types Of Pump?

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diaphragm pump double

This is something known as a positive displacement pump. It utilizes a mixture of the Teflon or rubber diaphragm and a valve of the right description on both sides. These can be butterfly valves or any kind of shut off valve.

A diaphragm pump may be used for pumping liquids. They are leak resistant and have low friction. They are also useful for low pressure detection. A diaphragm pump can seal in a diverse range of heats and pressures, and doesn’t require lubricating.


diaphragm water tank

  • A diaphragm pump can isolate the fluids from the internal workings of the pump.
  • A diaphragm pump may be used for pressure up to 1200 bar.
  • A diaphragm pump has excellent suction lift.
  • A diaphragm pump may be used for both low and high flow rates.
  • A diaphragm pump is often useful in dealing with slurries and matter which contains contamination.
  • A diaphragm pump is used in technology to create an artificial heart.
  • A diaphragm pump is also used in domestic homes, for example within the filters of fish tanks.
  • A diaphragm pump can deal with liquids which are toxic, noxious and also flammable.
  • A diaphragm pump may achieve an efficiency of 97%     
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bellows wooden

Bellows are an age old device which basically exists to blow air into something. At is most basic, it is a bag which has fixed sides on it, with handles and versatile sides which can be made bigger and smaller.

Traditionally it has been used to blow air onto a fire to keep it going. However, as you will see there is more than one kind and not all of them exist solely to pump air.

A few types of bellows that exist in the world;

bellows explained

POT BELLOWS: these were utilized by the ancient Egyptians.

TATARA FOOT BELLOWS: these hail from Japan.

ACCORDION BELLOWS:  these have been used in Europe for hundreds of years.

DOUBLE LUNG ACCORDION BELLOWS:  Double lung accordion bellows contain three leaves, the central piece of which cannot be moved. The top is weighted but can move and the bottom goes both up and down.  The purpose of a double lung accordion bellows is that it can create a perpetual flow of air, something that a common bellows cannot do. It is also stronger than two single bellows.

PISTON BELLOWS: these come from Southeast Asia and are borne from fire pistons which originated in the same area. They were used in iron and bronze metallurgy.

DOUBLE ACTING PISTON BELLOWS: these are used primarily by blacksmiths to drive air into the forge. They differ from simple bellows which just blast air when in one direction and then refill themselves in the opposite one. A double acting bellows provide a more continuous and therefore heavy duty blast of air. Examples of double acting bellows can be found as far back as 5 BC in China, however, it would not land in Europe until the 16th century. Additionally, double action piston bellows were also simultaneously invented as long ago as 240 BC, in ancient Greece.

cuckoo clock

BELLOWS USES – FLUID TRANSFER: Bellows are an essential tool in both cooling loops and  hydraulic energy. In addition to industrial applications, bellows are useful for many purposes. Some of their uses include musical instruments such as concertina, pipe organ, harmonium and reed organ. Other unexpected uses for bellows technology are found within cuckoo clocks!

BELLOWS USES – EXPANSION JOINT APPLICATIONS:  Not all bellows are used for moving air about, sometimes they have other applications which include lift covers, rail protective covers and so on.

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Bellows are found on both trams and bendy buses, with in the moving joint.


Most of us have used a bicycle pump at some time or other. The origins of the bicycle pump are slightly shrouded in mystery, but it was probably invented sometime in the late 19th century. The first production of it was by John Boyd Dunlop.

A bicycle pump works to compress air, which goes into the tube and then into the tire through the valve – the valve ensures that the pumped air does not escape again.


bike pump round up

 There are more than these three kinds of bike pumps, but these are the most common varieties. Technically speaking, a bicycle pump is really more of a compressor than a volume displacement tool.

HAND PUMP: You have probably used a hand bicycle pump. This is the one that fixes to the bike and can be transported with ease.
Hand pumps divide into two categories, integral and ones with tubes.

TUBED HAND PUMPS: A tubed hand pump comes with an extraneous tube that connects the valve with the pump. Generally speaking, these are the least expensive pumps on the market. But that is for a reason! Air escapes easily from this type of pump.

bike pump and tube

INTEGRAL HAND PUMPS: An integral pump is a sealed and firm construction, which comes with a hole in which a washer is inserted. This is the more efficient type of hand pump and works better than the tubed pumps do.

SIMPLE AND DOUBLE ACTION PUMPS: You can choose between a straightforward hand pump or one that is double action. The simple variety has a plastic piston and propels air into the cup. This creates a valve which seals it. The double action pump is more efficient, because it seals both ends of the piston and which means the tires can be pumped up a lot more quickly.

STAND PUMP:These are also called track or floor pumps. The pump should be laid with its base on the ground and the person operating places their feet on it and then pumps with the handles.

foot pump bike

FOOT PUMPS: Although foot pumps aren’t made especially for the purpose of pumping bikes up with, they may be utilized for bike tires which don’t require high pressure. They may be used with most mountain bikes.


bike pump 5

 Now we know you might be thinking that the humble bicycle pump is a pretty straightforward type of air pump, but there is more than just the manual kinds available, you can also use both electric and CO2 inflators for bikes.

electric pump 2

ELECTRIC PUMPS: What can be used to pump a car tire can – in theory – be also used on a bike. If you have got a jump starter for your car then it may be used with these pumps.

CO2 INFLATORS: Gas cylinders have been used to pump bikes for decades and probably date back to the interwar period. They are frequently used by either road bike racers or mountain bikers when they want to cut down on the weight.

co2 inflator

RECIPROCATING PUMP: This kind of pump is in the same categories as a piston or diaphragm pump. It is a positive displacement pump and is highly durable. If carefully maintained, a reciprocating pump will carry on for years.

TYPES OF RECIPROCATING PUMPS: There are many different types of reciprocating pumps, as have been mentioned already in this blog. The most simple kind is the humble bicycle pump. A bicycle pump can be used for more than just inflating bike tires and is often used for inflatables and balls, although it can be a long slog, depending on what you want to inflate.


There are also power assisted reciprocating pumps. Plunger pumps are displacement pumps used for pumping liquids and then there are single, double and triple acting reciprocating pumps.

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Other kinds of reciprocating pumps are; hand pumps and also axial and radial piston pumps.


rotary vane pump

This is a kind of displacement pump that has vanes attached to a rotor within a cavity. It was invented in the 1870s and has since been adapted for various usages.

These are often seen as good choice for fluids of low viscosity.
Rotary vane pumps are used in hydraulics and feature in cars for applications such as the automatic transmission pump, air con, power steering and supercharging. They also get used in coffee machines and chemical vapor deposition – so a pretty wide range!

Rotary vanes are vacuum pumps and can achieve pressures of less than 10 bar.

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They are to be found on truck brakes and also light aircrafts, as well as diesel engine cars.


vacuum pump

We have already mentioned an early type of vacuum pump – that was the one invented by Otto von Guericke way back in the 17th century.

The precursor to the vacuum pump is the suction pump, which have been around since Roman times.

They have a widespread use in both science and industry, and are used to produce electric lamps amongst other things. They also have applications in healthcare settings, for radiotherapy and so on.

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Additionally a vacuum pump may be used in a diesel engine and aircrafts.



Gear pumps use interlocking gears to displace fluids. They are the most common kind of hydraulic fluid power pumps and was invented as far back as 1600 by Johannes Kepler.

This type of pump is used for high viscosity fluids in chemical settings.

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Uses for a gear pump include within the field of chemicals, paints, resins and paper, soap and foodstuffs such as chocolate, sugar, oils and fats.



This is a positive displacement pump which is used to compress gases and move liquids about across a range of pressures.

A piston pump can cope with solid particles in it and used in applications where pressure must be maintained and needs to be kept high – for this reason it’s often used in water irrigation. A smaller scale usage for a piston pump is in paint spray.

Pistons pumps can be roughly divided into force and lift pumps.

FORCE PUMP: This can be engine or hand worked and it brings water into an inlet valve, with an upstroke and then pumps it out into the outlet pipe.

LIFT PUMP: This can be either a hand or engine operated device in which water is drawn into a valve through to the lower cylinder. Then, it is pumped into the top of the cylinder before being pumped out by a spout.

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Now, let’s start by explaining some of the differences between air pumps and air compressors…

What Is the Difference Between an Air Pump and an Air Compressor?

Although the words “pump” and “compressor” are used interchangeably, there is a difference between these two. Here is what makes these machines different:

A pump is a machine designed to move a fluid or gas from one place to another.

A compressor is a machine designed to squeeze a gas into a smaller volume and (if necessary) pump it somewhere else at the same time.

While pumps can work with either liquids or gases, compressors usually work only with gases. That’s because liquids are incredibly difficult to compress.

Here are some general pointers about the main differences between compressors and pumps;

  • A compressor works with gases which are compressible. This is why they can compress air.
  • But a pump can be also used on liquids such as water, which cannot be easily compressed.
  • However, there are some exceptions to this; technology such as coffee machines and pressure washers do compress water. Both these devices squeeze water at high speeds and pressures.
  • A compressor works in a closed system and make high pressure grow.
  • But pumps have a free flow of air (or gas or liquid) with very little back pressure and don’t increase the pressure.
  • Some compressors which are less expensive or elaborate might have cycles which are intermittent.
  • But a pump can be used to pump continuously, throughout.
  • A compressor will shut off automatically upon achieving a certain level of pressure, whereas a pump is designed differently.

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Next, we explain how pumps work.

How Do Pumps Work?

There are only two kids of pumps: reciprocating pumps (that pump by moving alternately back and forth) and rotary pumps (that spin around).

Reciprocating pumps have a piston that moves back and forth inside a cylinder, alternately drawing in and pushing out gas or liquid. One or more valves ensure that the gas or liquid you draw into the pump doesn’t go out the way it came.

On the other hand, rotary pumps use a spinning wheel to move the gas or fluid from the inlet to the outlet. These pumps are also called centrifugal pumps.

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All pumps are rated in PSI; the more powerful the pump, the higher the PSI. Let’s take a look at what that means.

What is PSI?


PSI is a unit used to measure pressure. It stands for pounds of force per square inch of area. It is measured using a pressure gauge pictured above. The needle will rise and fall depending on the air pressure in the item being inflated. 

You’re probably thinking great… Now what does that have to do with the blow up swan that I want floating in my pool?

Well, picking your PSI is very important. Picking the right amount of PSI could be the difference between your swan being blown up or blown to smithereens all over your yard.

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I think this might make your children cry and we definitely don’t want that! But don’t worry, we are here to help you find the right pressure for your needs!

How Much PSI Do I Need?

First of all, most pool inflatables, towables, air mattresses and beach toys require a very low pressure of 0.5 to 1 PSI. So don’t go hooking up the donut tube to a high pressure air pump or it will be looking a lot more like a beach ball. 

If you’re looking for something more powerful to pump up your car tires or blow up a few basketballs you will need something with a much higher pressure.

There is a wide range so check the specifications on each item you are inflating.

For example, a road bike with those skinny tires needs an incredibly high PSI of 80-130, where as a fat mountain bike tire only requires 25-35 PSI.

Higher pressure pumps usually come with a pressure gauge on the pump to ensure that you are filling your item the right amount of air pressure.

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So take a look at what your gonna be pumping up and that will lead you to the right air pump for your needs. Now it’s time to think about your power source.

12 Volt vs 120 Volt?

Are you taking your pump camping or to a remote beach with no electricity? Or will you be using it poolside at your beautiful home?

Depending on where you are going will determine what type of voltage and power source your pump will require.

For remote trips you will need a 12 volt pump with a car adapter that plugs right into your cigarette lighter or a battery powered pump.

If you will have the convenience of electricity and have access to a plug you can get a 120V pump.

Ok, so now you know how much pressure and what type of voltage you need.

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Now how do you get the air into all these inflatables? You need to figure out what type of valve you have and which adaptor corresponds with it.

What Is This Adaptor For?


There’s a bunch of different types of valves and seems to be even more adaptors! They are all different shapes and sizes and which ones do you need?

Adaptor A & B – Small and Regular Boston Valve

Boston valves are a two part screw on valve often found in air beds and inflatable kayaks.

To inflate, you screw off the top cap leaving the bottom one way valve. Insert the appropriate sized adaptor into the one-way valve blowing open the flap inside until full and replace the cap.

When you are ready to deflate the item, remove both the top and bottom portions of the screw valve, opening the valve for a fast and easy empty.

Boston Valve adaptors can also be used on other valves such as Twist Lock Valves and Jumbo Double Lock Valves.

Adaptor D & E – Pinch Valves

A Pinch Valve is the most common and simple valve. Generally, all lighter weight inflatables for your pool and the beach have this type of valve.

It is comprised of a single interior flap to keep the air from escaping. Simply push the long needled adaptor through the flap to inflate.

Remove the needle when finished and quickly close the cap, pushing it inside the inflatable. To deflate, pull out the valve and pinch the base allowing the air to escape.

Adaptors C, F & G – Advanced Military Valves

Advanced Military Valves are definitely the most heavy duty and complicated valve of the three seen here. It is a spring loaded push pin style.

The valve can sit in two positions; open and closed. The open position (push pin is down) allows air to travel in when the pump is operating but also allows air to travel out when the pump is turned off. Use this position for 12 V pumps with less power.

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The closed position (push pin is up) only allows air to flow in when a high powered pump is on. There are quite a few different types of military valves but most work in the same way.


presta n shrader

SHRADER VALVE/ CAR VALVE: This is the type of valve found on a car and some lesser priced mountain bikes. These are quite easy to unscrew and can also be used to pump bikes. If your bike has a Schrader valve then you can hook it up to a gas station pump – but take care. As you might guess, cars require more powerful pumping and if you are not careful this can pop your bike tires.

PRESTA VALVE: A Presta valve can also sometimes be known as French valve and it is the one that the more expensive bikes will utilize. Using a gas station pump on a bike with a Presta valve means going equipped with an adaptor – this is going to basically turn it into a Schrader valve.

DUNLOP VALVE (ENGLISH VALVE): These are more likely to be utilized in Europe and Asia. This is a bigger valve, like the Schrader but has similar mechanics to the Presta.

What is the best type of air pump for inflatables these days?

presta and shrader foot pump valve

We asked some of the big manufacturers what was selling best for them these days when it comes to specifically air pumps that pump up inflatables, and we got in touch with Dion at Pool Supplies Canada, who gave us the lowdown on what seems to be popular right now.

Here’s a tip from him: “If a consumer is only going to be inflating small / lightweight pool toys or floats, manually operated foot pumps are becoming a popular option; they also greatly reduce the risk of over inflating due to too high a PSI.”

He also gave us a link for one of the bellows-style pumps that he recommends: https://www.poolsuppliescanada.ca/swimline-bellows-foot-pump.html

Bellows Foot Pump for Inflatables swimline

If you didn’t know, Canada is actually quite hot between May and August, so pools and beaches are a huge draw for them during those times, and so people in Canada definitely are in need of a good air pump for their inflatables! 

Dion also offers the following helpful tips: “If you can get one of the Swimline pumps (as mentioned), most of the newer electric air pump models feature a locking mechanism that prevents the float from coming loose during the inflation process, which is very handy!” 
That Swimline air pump makes our Top 5 Best Air Pumps for blowing up inflatables in 2019!  Take a look!

Airhead AHP-120

Feature Pick

Airhead Air Pump, 120V

First up, is the Airhead AHP-120.  This is a nice little pump which does the job it says on the tin, without any fuss, and is more or less designed to inflate your pool side party in one fell swoop.

Although not the smallest, it is extremely light to carry, and still has a max pressure of 0.92 PSI, which should be enough for most small and medium inflatables.  With high marks across the web, this is our highest scorer in terms of customer satisfaction, and it is an all round top buy.


  • DIMENSIONS: 6.25” (W) X 6” (H) X 7.82” (H)
  • VOLTS: 120

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On to the next one…

Coleman Quickpump

Feature Pick

Coleman Electric Pump For Air Mattress | Quickpump Handheld 120 Volt

The next of our picks is the Coleman Quickpump.  This is one of the lightest models on our list, and the least expensive of these five.

It should be noted, there are a few different variants within this model on sale, so make sure you pick the one that is right for you.

Generally, Coleman have a reliable reputation for all things to do with inflatables and camping, and Beach Baby thinks you could do much worse for your  twenty plus dollars.


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Moving on…

Swimline 9095 Electric Pump For Inflatables

Feature Pick

Swimline Electric Pump For Inflatables

A little heavier, but still a good buy is the Swimline 9095.

Like the other two models, you can also deflate with this pump, which is good for packing things down, and trying to get them back into bags/boxes/the trunk of your car.  You don’t want to be hanging about in the rain for hours squeezing your giant balls back into their sack, after all!

AIR PRESSURE: , , SPEED: 19.23m/s


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On to the next one…

Black & Decker AS1300

Feature Pick

Black+Decker Asi300 Air Station Inflator

On to the Black and Decker AS1300.  Beach Baby loves Black and Decker.

And like so many Black and Decker products, not only can this pump do every single damned thing in the entire universe, but it can also do it better than your neighbor’s, and will turn you into a superman while you are at it.

It inflates lawnmower, bike and vehicle tires, sports balls and a million other items quickly and with ease. 

This has attachments coming out of its…orifices, and comes with baffling, but dire warnings that must be heeded correctly.  

The only thing that this doesn’t apparently do, is deflate things afterwards, which is a pity.   Otherwise, it is highly recommended, and definitely on the list of things that you never knew you needed.


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On to the last pump on our list…

Ecoplus 728450 Single Outlet Commercial Air Pump

Feature Pick

Ecoplus 793 Gph 728450(3000 Lph, 18W) Commercial Air Pump W/ 6 Valves | Aquarium, Fish Tank, Fountain, Pond, Hydroponics

Lastly, we have the Ecoplus 728450.  This is something a bit different, because its intended usage is actually in aquariums, ponds and hydroponics. 

This plugs into the mains, so will not be usable for those wishing to use it in the car.  It also may not be the first choice for those just wishing to pump up little Jonny’s backyard paddling pool, due to its heavy duty nature.

Despite this, it has got a solid reputation, and is excellent quality.  So if you find that your pumping requirements are getting a bit more…extreme, this is definitely the one to pick.


We hoped you learned a thing or two, and if you end up trying any of these air pumps, please let us know in the comments what you think!

About the author: Emilia is the fashion guru of Beach Baby, with a deep appreciation for anything that can be worn or adorned. She makes her own apparel as well, including everything from swimwear, to dresses, and even shoes.  She also owns over 100 pairs of sunglasses!  Emilia also loves to surf, boogie board, and partake in a number of water sports.

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