What's the Right Water Tube for You?
Back in my youth, my family owned one tube and it was a black circle with a hole through it. We felt dang lucky, too. These days, my kids have so many options; they tell me some are more “boring” than others. As if the word boring and water tube ever belong in the same sentence. But the truth is, there is a huge variety out there and it’s made the world of tubing so much more adventurous than it ever was before. Tubes are available in a wide range of shapes and sizes, all built with the common goal of having a great time on the water.
Before you buy, you have to consider the average number of people you would like to pull at one time.
• Single-rider tubes tend to be smaller yet higher performing. Their small stature makes them very maneuverable for tricks and jumping. As a reminder, even with a single-rider tube, never try extreme tricks that require improper use of your tube. Also, remember if you are going to have a group of people on your boat, it will take longer to cycle through everyone with a single-rider tube.
• A double-rider tube will be a bit bigger and will move with less speed, given the extra weight. They are perfect for people who need a little extra encouragement of having a riding partner and you’ll be amazed on how quick they get up and go.
• The last option is a multi-rider tube (three rider, or four+ rider tubes), which is like a big party on the water. Built for three to six people, they are perfect for a group of kids or for adults who aren’t concerned with top speeds, though most are designed to get moving fairly quickly. Naturally they are larger, slower and heavier than their smaller counterparts. They will also be a tad more expensive and bulkier to store. Remember, multi-person tubes usually require a heavy-duty tow line and it’s important to pay careful attention to weight and stress limitations while out on the lake. Even more importantly, understand the capabilities of your riders and don’t put more on them than they can handle.
Once you’ve got the number of people you’ll want to entertain, you can start narrowing it down further based other different factors in your life.
• A cockpit tube is great for little ones because it cradles the rider as they sit down into the tube instead of riding on top. With kids under 12 years of age, you should keep your speed under 10 mph when towing. This will keep the ride smoother and safer.
• The old-fashioned "open top" inner tube has gone through a complete remodel. Now days, some versions come with a floor on the inside of the hole and all have padded handles on top. Available in both single and multi-rider designs, this modern-day classic is great for all ages.
• Tubes with multiple tow points allow pulling the tube in different directions. The same tube creates a completely different ride when pulled from the back instead of the front. For the price of one, you can get two separate riding experiences.
• Another popular idea for teenagers is a tube that is more of a deck. This requires riders to sit on top of the tube instead of down in it and adds a more thrilling motion to tubing. It also requires some athleticism, as the rider needs to sit farther back and hold on a bit tighter.
• At the end of the day, a good float will be just what your party needs to unwind. Not designed to be towed, these fun floats are built completely for floating along the river or the lake.
You have a lot of great options out there but always keep safety as your top priority. Coast Guard-approved personal floatation device (PFD) and a spotter onboard are a must for tubing. Choose tubes, activities and speeds that are appropriate for your family and follow the manufacturer’s specifications regarding the number of riders, maximum weight and towing speed. After all of this, remember to relax and have a great time using your tube or float.
Article written by Katie Burke
Katie Burke is the Editor of Houseboat Magazine and the Assistant Editor of Pontoon & Deckboat Magazine