The sun is out, and the breeze is calling, that can only mean one thing: summer is here! This season is the perfect time to work on that tan, take a dip in your pool, float down the river or spend time with your family and friends.
There are many activities that you can do to make the most of the summer, such as hiking, visiting the beach, or river floating. If you have never heard of river floating, the name speaks for itself. You visit your local river with your family or a couple of friends, bring an inner tube that can be used to float down the river for hours of fun. If that doesn’t sound like the perfect summer trip, then we don’t know what is!
It’s no surprise that inner tubing is growing in popularity, and the activity is spilling from river trips to the lake escapades. Of course, to fully enjoy a river adventure, you will need the perfect inner tube to take you on a ride down the river. So, we’ve compiled a comprehensive buying guide and FAQ to help you determine which inner tube is the best for you and your family.
Let’s dive right in!
- 1 Our Top Picks for The Best Inner Tubes In 2020
- 2 What To Look For In An Inner Tube
- 3 Size And Weight Capability
- 4 Frequently Asked Questions
- 5 Conclusion
Our Top Picks for The Best Inner Tubes In 2020
Intex River Run I Sport Lounge
The first inner tube on this list is the Intex River Run I Sport Lounge. Intex is known for its river lounge products, and so you will probably see a number of their models throughout this list. The Intex River Run I Sport Lounge is your all-around inner tube for your river and lake adventures. The tube has a diameter of 53 inches, and when fully inflated, it can measure up to 53 by 50 inches.
The I Sport Lounge can carry up to 250 pounds of bodyweight with just enough room to move around comfortably. Although the tube can only seat one person, its design is functional and safe. The most vulnerable part of the tube, which is the bottom, is sourced from mesh, ensuring maximum comfort and draining any excess water that gets into the tube.
Aside from mesh, vinyl material is also incorporated into the tube. Vinyl is sturdy and does a great job at preventing sharp rocks, sticks and debris from puncturing the tube and causing leaks. This makes the floater usable on shallow bodies of water as well as deeper rivers alike. There are also two secure handles installed on the tube’s surface, which the rider can use for support in strong water currents.
A cord or nylon rope can be tied to these handles as well so that the rider can be pulled along the river with his or her companions. Additional features also include a neck rest that inflates along with the tube and cup holders. The neck rest provides comfort and support during long rides down the river. There are also standard cup holders that can carry up to two drinks of your liking at once. The tube comes painted a light color that discourages heat absorption, ensuring that you won’t burn your skin from the material after being exposed to the sun after a few hours on the water.
The only downside to the Intex River Run I Sport Lounge is that it can’t be inflated by mouth, so you will have to carry around an A/C pump that fits a Boston valve to do the job. It is also significant in size, bulky, and can pose a bit of a logistical challenge if you’re trying to move it around when it’s fully inflated. But overall, this model is a good and practical choice if you’re only really looking for a river tube that will do the trick on a budget.
Tube In A Box
If we’re talking about river tubes, then nothing beats the classic Tube In A Box. It is the original inner tube that can be used in the summer and winter seasons alike. This means unlimited fun swimming, floating, and even sledding in the snow. While this product is easily underestimated due to its relatively simple and understated design, don’t let its simplicity fool you.
The Tube In A Box’s strength comes from its size and source of the material. The tube is made from 100% commercial grade rubber. This material boasts maximum tear protection and UV resistance. This tube is expected to endure the toughest versions of leisure activities, whether it is floating down a heavy-current river or sledding down the side of a steep snowy hill.
However, although it’s heavy-duty, it only weighs around six pounds when fully inflated, making it lighter compared to other tube models. The tube stretches to a full 40-inch inflation height when appropriately aired. It can fit two small children or a relatively large adult. But it’s best to not push limits, so we recommend it for riders who are no more than six feet tall and weigh no more than 200 pounds.
The Tube In A Box also got rid of the pokey metal rods that annoyed many of their previous customers. Instead, they replaced it with safer and less hazardous valve stems. So with this version, you won’t have to worry about a random rod poking your back when you’re riding.
While this product comes with many pros, including its durability and simplicity, it also has a few cons. For starters, it doesn’t have handles, which can be a little bit of a challenge for the rider who will have nothing to hold on to during the ride. It also doesn’t have any mesh protection underneath, and this makes it somewhat vulnerable to punctures from random debris.
Lastly, it doesn’t have a neck-rest or cup holders, so this can be a bit of a deterrent if you’re planning to float leisurely for hours on end. You will also have to hold on to your drink for the duration of the ride, which can be distracting, especially if you need to grab onto your tube during intense rapids. But if the lack of accessories doesn’t bother you, then the Tube In A Box is a perfect go-to if you’re looking for an inexpensive and straightforward floating and sledding tool.
Intex River Run Connect Lounge
The third product on this list is another model from Intex. While their first model was designed for one person, with this newer model, you can now enjoy the river rapids with your family and friends.
Although the River Run Connect Lounge does have several components that are similar to Intex’s original models, it does have some unique features that stand out. This model comes to a hair smaller than the Sports Lounge model (51 inches by 49.5 inches in deflated size). You can purchase them as a package, and it comes with two additional floating tubes of the same size. Each tube can sit one fully grown adult and can take up to 220 pounds in weight.
The tubes are also made from the same durable vinyl-coated materials as the original models, which adds quite a bit of sturdiness and ruggedness to this tube. The tube is coated in lighter colors to prevent heat absorption while still maintaining the general aesthetics along with comfort and snugness for the rider. It also has two air chambers to prevent air leaks while you’re riding down the currents. And just in case things get a little too intense, there are two handles on each side for you to grab on to.
The mesh padding on the bottom provides an extra layer of protection from pesky tree branches that have fallen into the water or sharp rocks that you may puncture your tube. It also allows a smooth hydro-dynamic flow to prevent any liquid from getting into the air chambers.
One cool feature lies in the fact that tere’s no need to tie ropes to the handles anymore since the Connect Lounge comes with connectors that can fasten each tube to each other in a handful of quick and easy steps. And if you happen to have an Intex cooler, you can attach it so that you can bring more drinks than just the two cups you’d be able to fit into the cup holders of each tube.
The Connect Lounge also comes with an extra repair patch in case you run into emergencies and need to quickly patch up a hole. Overall, the Intex River Run Connect Lounge is the best way to go if you’re looking for a fun river adventure together with your friends. The easy-connect system allows you to tie each tube together so that no one would miss out on the fun!
Intex River Run II Sport Lounge
While this model doesn’t offer the same number of seats as the last product on this list, it is undoubtedly the most luxurious out all of the river tubes listed. Intex doesn’t fool around when it comes to making sure they pack in tons of great features into their inner tubes, and the Intex River Run II Sport Lounge is a testimony to that. This model is the upgraded version with the added features of the original Intex River Run I Sport Lounge.
The Intex River Run II Sport Lounge is composed of two interconnected river tubes and can seat two people comfortably. This particular model can also double up as a single person tube that holds over two times the typical weight capacity, clocking in at just over 500 pounds between the entire set. The tubes also have five air chambers that make sure you never run out of the air and ensures safe and easy floating throughout the ride.
This model is also sourced from the same durable vinyl-coated material and mesh padding that you’d expect to see in many of Intex’s models. The vinyl surface easily wards off the heat of the sun to prevent bloating or heat damage. At the same time, the mesh padding offers structural support underneath and protection against objects that may puncture the bottom of the tubes. Unlike the original model, the Intex River II already comes with connectors that can fasten quickly and safely to other Intex products or another river tube from their lineup.
Intex also keeps the riders’ comfort in mind with the River Run II Sport Lounge with a comfortable neck rest. The seats provide just enough lower lumbar support for those long floating times down the stream, allowing you to kick back and cruise in total comfort.
Perhaps the best feature of the Intex River Run II is its built-in cooler. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, aside from the two cup holders installed on both sides of the inner tubes, this lounge also has a cooler built into it. Now you can store more than four of your favorite drinks at a time! You can also keep ice in it without worrying about the melted water making its way to the air chambers.
Although it’s on the more expensive side of the price spectrum, you can’t deny that the River Run II is definitely worth every penny. If you’re planning a lake trip, this tube set is there to make your trip even more fun. Grab a couple of drinks, kick back, and relax on this one of a kind inner tube for the rest of your summer days!
Intex Pacific Paradise 4-Person Tube Raft
The last item on the list is the reigns as the “biggest” in both the size and price categories. The Intex Pacific Paradise 4-person Tube Raft isn’t just your average inner tube. No, dear reader – its an inner tube raft!
If we’re asked to pick out the best feature of this raft, it is definitely the size. When fully inflated, the float can stretch up to 10 by 10 feet in total. And while there are only four designed seats, the amount of space can house up to eight or even ten people comfortably with no difficulties involved.
If one River Run II river tube can hold up to 500 pounds, then this tube raft can take a weight of over 1000 pounds! It is made from a durable 18 gauge vinyl material that can stretch well and doesn’t break under immense tension. The surface coating also prevents the raft from overheating and keeps the riders sunburn-free.
Unlike other rafts, the middle space of the tube isn’t empty. It is instead embedded with an ample mesh padding covering the underside of the whole tube raft. This lets a few riders get a taste of the water while floating down the river, but if you prefer staying dry, you can sit on one of the four designed seating areas. The larger mesh area also means more protection against debris and rocks grazing under the waterbed if used in shallow waters.
The middle space can also house an Intex cooler to make sure your ride doesn’t go dry. This contributes to the overall beverage storage aside from the two cup holders already available in between each seat. Another cool feature is the rope ladder attached to the tube raft. You’ll find a sturdy vinyl rope along with some rigid plastic steps that you can use to make getting back onto the raft a whole lot easier than it would otherwise be.
If there is any downside to this tube raft, it’s also the size and the price in one go. It is bulky and may need several people to carry once it’s fully inflated. It can also be a hassle to pump up solo, so we recommend purchasing a small electric pump. So if you’re not planning on some big parties with family or friends, and don’t want to make the extra investment into an electric pump – this may not be the best option out there.
However, if size is what you need, the picture changes drastically. This model is one of the most affordable tube rafts on the market and features just about everything you’d want and expect out of an inner tube raft, making it worth every penny you’ll pay!
Bonus – Best River Tube Accessory: Bradley Heavy Duty River Tube Cover
The second item on this list is a fantastic river tube accessory from Bradley. We repeat, this is a river tube accessory and not another river tube in itself. The Intex-style inner tubes that work with this accessory are sold separately. The Bradley Heavy Duty River Tube Cover is an extra layer of protection that riders can use on their river tubes. While the tube itself is sturdy enough, it never hurts to add another layer of protection against punctures and leaks.
Even though this product is only a cover, Bradley didn’t hold back when it came to its features and material. This heavy-dutycover’s primary purpose is to extend the lifespan of your inner tubve, making sure that you can use it for many next seasons to come. The cover stretches up to 53 inches in diameter, similar to the size of the inner tube itself. It also has designated holes perfectly catering to the neck rest and the two cup holders so that you can still carry your drink around even with the cover in place.
The material is definitely premium quality and is composed of two main parts: the 1100-denier canvas top with a vinyl coating, and the micro-mesh bottom (1000-denier). The viny-coated canvas top works as protection against the harsh rays of the sun and reduces the wear UV rays have on your tube. It also has a new rope-clip system that allows for a quick connection between several river tubes if you want to float as a group. The system is designed to endure under heavy water currents so you won’t have to worry about the ropes breaking off during a ride.
On the other hand, the 1000-denier thick mesh bottom doubles up on the leak-proof qualities of the river tube. It also helps with letting the water flow seamlessly through the tube, preventing any excess water from getting further in. And because the holes in the mesh are super small, this helps keep out debris such as tree branches, leaves, and protects the tube from jagged rocks that can puncture a hole.
While it can be a bit of a chore to set up the cover, there is a way to make things easier. The Bradley cover is compatible with the Intex River Run series. It can stretch to cover the entire tube without compromising safety or quality. We suggest slightly inflating the river tube first, then placing the cover over the tube. After this, you can finish pumping the air into the tube until the cover settles in its place.
What To Look For In An Inner Tube
Before you go buying the best inner tubes for river floating available on the market, there are several factors that you need to consider. These are questions that you must ask yourself beforehand to figure out what it is that you really need, which will help you really narrow down your pool of options and find the tube that’s best for you.
The material can play a significant role in the functionality of the river tube. It will strongly impact the tube’s resistance and durability along with its longevity in the years to come. While vinyl is a common source for inner tubes, there are also other kinds of materials, such as nylon, polyester, and neoprene for you to consider.
Neoprene is the most expensive material out of the bunch, as it is used in most wetsuits and rubber sheets. It is a synthetic rubber that is flexible and can withstand a wide range of temperatures. It’s also the most comfortable and can prevent chaffing during high-friction water movements.
Polyester, on the other hand, is a cheaper alternative to neoprene. It is just as sturdy and has a wealth of properties that prevent the material from fading from the usual UV ray exposure. The third is nylon, which is a synthetic polymer. It is a generic fiber, referred to as a denier. Basically, the higher the denier number, the sturdier it is. Usually, you want a high denier range, which will determine the tube’s overall weight-capacity and thickness.
The shape is another aspect to factor in, as choosing the right model is essential for the place you’re planning to go tube floating. Generally most inner tubes can come in four different shapes: donut, ride-in, deck tubes, and rockers.
Donut-shaped inner tubes are the most popular. As a ride you would lay top of this tube or within the hole, depending on your personal preference. The round shape allows for comfortable sitting and balanced riding. Since you are mostly up-right, some inner tubes come with cupholders, allowing you to bring along any of your favorite beverages.
The ride-in tubes have inflated seats that offer further support and comfort to the rider. Most ride-in tubes come in a donut-shape, but this additional feature is considered a luxury and may make for a more expensive price tag compared to tubes without the seat. We usually recommend ride-in if you are looking for added stability during your river ride, which will allow for more upright positioning and better steering when avoiding obstacles.
Deck tubes are the opposite of donut tubes. They are basically flat floating tubes where one or more riders can lay on top at the same time. The main issue with deck tubes is they are unbalanced and can be easily flipped over due to their flat surface.
Lastly, we have the rocker. A rocker is similar to the deck tube in design, but it can only sit one person. It also has backrest support for the rider and maybe some additional armrests. Although these are typically used in pools, feel free to use them during lake trips too! Albeit – they likely won’t do very well in the river due to the fact that they’re generally a little less durable then their counterparts.
Size And Weight Capability
Although inner tubes usually indicate their total weight capacity, it’s not a bad idea to know the average numbers before buying one. A typical 40-inch inner tube can hold up to 175 pounds of body weight with ease. If you weigh more than that or up to 280 pounds, we recommend getting an inner tube above 40-inches.
Although inflation may sound like a silly factor to think about, it’s equally as important. Understanding whether your inflatable tube requires an electrical pump or can be pumped up manually can save you time, stress and lots of headaches. The last thing you want is a tube that takes 15-minutes to manually pump half-way.
You usually want to go for one with either a canvas or mesh padding underneath. Both are made from durable materials and offers a robust knit-like structure underneath to protect the tube from tearing when hitting rocks and other debris while you float. It also provides safety for children when they are using the tube, ensuring that they don’t slip out of it and into the water.
Valve Stem and Cap
If you’re used to using an old tire as a floating tube, then you’ll be excited to know that the new inner tubes don’t have the old valve stems that poke and backstab you. Instead, companies have given it more thought and replaced them with a sealable cap system that is guaranteed to keep the air inside and provide you with an extra bit of comfort.
It’s essential to consider safety features such as handles and ropes because they offer the best grip support if you’re navigating through rough rapids. Having nothing to hold on to can endanger the passenger even if he or she is wearing a life jacket.
Frequently Asked Questions
When Is The Best Time To Go River Tubing?
Before you plan on any river tubing trips, make sure to check the weather. It’s possible that the weather now can be tubing-friendly, but worsen as the day goes by, so it is better safe than sorry. Avoid strong winds and thunderstorms; winds can cause irregular waves and unstable waters.
Try to also avoid cold water (or limit your activity), especially from May to June, as temperatures tend to drop below 65 degrees, depending on your location. Lastly, it is always best to go river floating with friends and family to accompany you. This will maximize your safety and visibility in the river.
How Do I Use A River Tube?
Depending on the river tube, you will first have to inflate it partially if there is a cover available. Then place the cover on top and continue on to fully inflate the tube. Some river tubes are inflatable manually, while others also offer the option to inflate them by means of an electrical pump. We recommend that you at least have a portable air pump without blowing the tube manually.
Are There Specific Rules That I Have To Follow When River Tubing?
To go river tubing, you will need access to a river. Whether these rivers are run and maintained locally or by a tourism company, you will need to abide by their set of rules. This usually includes wearing a life jacket and not throwing any trash into the river.
What Else Should I Bring When I Go River Tubing?
A set of extra clothes and sunscreen won’t hurt. When tubbing, anything can happen during your journey, so dry clothes can come in handy, especially if you’re out with children. And if your skin burns quickly in the sun, additional sunscreen to reapply can help you avoid heat exhaustion and sunburn. Bring a pair of water shoes to protect your feet from glass or other objects when exiting the tube. Hydration is also essential, so pack a few bottles of water to keep within the cupholder (if the tube comes with it).
Hopefully, this guide steered you in the right direction, so you can purchase the best inner tube for river floating and enjoy your time with family and friends. Tubing has no doubt been one of America’s most favorite summer past times, and it surely isn’t stopping now! More people are now jotting down river tubing into their summer bucket lists, and we definitely know why.
Our top pick has to be the Intex River Run I Sport Lounge if you are looking for the best all-around inflatable tube. It has a 53-inch circle, which allows for it to fit most people of almost any size and weight. However, it doesn’t come with a pump, so you’ll need to invest in an electric pump or manually blow it up yourself, which we don’t recommend as it’s exhausting and takes a while. Overall, you are getting an excellent and sturdy tube, that is safe and comfortable for adults and children alike, at a totally budget-friendly price!
Whichever inner tube you use, make sure that it can endure the activities that you’ve got planned for it. The tube design and features might appear fancy at a glance, but safety and comfort are really the top priority. So, ensure the tube comes with at least a handle or rope for small bit of added stability. Also, aim for a durable floating tube, with a high-quality material composition, instead of a lightweight floater, which may not last but a single season. Quality material helps the floater stay intact, so you can ride through even the rockiest parts of a lake or river, knowing that you and your tube will be just fine.