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Best river tubes 2018 – [Buyer’s Guide]Last Updated January 1, 2020
Best river tubes of 2018
I must say I am quite a fan of river tubes, so when the question “What are the best river tubes available on the market?” came to my mind, I excitedly started gathering information together with personal experience to write this article in the hope that it may help you find the suitable river tubes. We’ve narrowed down our options based on the customer feedback (read positive reviews), functionality, material and size. In other words, we’ve put all fundamentals into consideration to come up with a comprehensive list that suits various needs.
On that note, I review the three best river tubes of 2018 to help you get value for your money. If you’re scouring the market for the best river tubes, you’d better have the right info before spending your money.
Test Results and Ratings
|Ease of use||
Why did this river tubes win the first place?
The product is very strong. Its material is stable and doesn’t crack. I was completely satisfied with the price. Its counterparts in this price range are way worse. I don’t know anything about other models from this brand, but I am fully satisfied with this product. I really enjoy the design. It is compact, comfortable and reliable. And it looks amazing!
Why did this river tubes come in second place?
I recommend you to consider buying this model, it definitely worth its money. I really liked it. It is amazing in every aspect. It did even exceed my expectations for a bit, considering the affordable price. Seems that the material is good. It has a very beautiful color but I don’t really like the texture. This is a pretty decent product that perfectly fitted the interior of our office.
Why did this river tubes take third place?
It is inconvenient to use due to the size. I am going to get something different next time. I liked the design. We’ve been using it for 2 months and it still looks like brand new. It doesn’t squeaks nor bents. Looks great in my apartment. A very convenient model. It is affordable and made of high-quality materials.
river tubes Buyer’s Guide
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Tubing is by far the most popular way of enjoying any of Austin’s rivers. It really doesn’t require a lot of thinking or planning. There aren’t any major directional maneuvers you will need to make when going down any of Texas’ rivers besides avoiding branches, boulders, etc. There also aren’t any oars or other objects you would need to use to float the river. There are actually a number of different types of tubes to choose from though. Most outfitters have the standard donut shaped tube but there are many other varieties. Some tubes have bottoms to them, some don’t. There are arguments for and against each type so be sure to check out both options. Millions of people have rented tubes and floated down a river and you can do it too! Check out the scene and if you want to drink some brews, make sure the river you choose allows alcohol. Tubing is the most relaxing option for you to enjoy the river. It’s the least strenuous and cheapest option as well.
Rafting generally involves more than one person in an inflatable raft. The general idea is that you pack the raft full and just about everyone grabs an oar to help steer and propel the craft forward as well as around river obstacles. These rafting trips can be a ton of fun. Imagine getting together with five of your friends, sipping on beers, and floating down any of Austin’s rivers. This is virtually guaranteed to be a great time and isn’t as difficult as kayaking or even canoeing would be. Not all outfitters allow you to rent rafts though and be sure to check river conditions before you rent a raft as they are more fun with more rapids.
Canoes can be a lot of fun to go down the river in. This type of watercraft is for multiple people to enjoy and thus caters to couples or small families. Not all outfitters allow canoe rentals though, so be sure to ask if you are debating on using one on your next river adventure. Canoes don’t just float down the river like rafts or tubes do though. You will need at least one oar to steer and propel you forward as well as around obstacles. Be sure to realize this before renting one. It requires a little more brain work than the typical rafting or tubing trip does.
Stand Up Paddles
Stand up paddles or SUP’s are a lot of fun but can also be challenging. With these SUP’s, you stand on what can only be described as a large surfboard. The way you maneuver and propel yourself forward is with a long oar or paddle. SUP’s can take some time to get used to and should only be rented by the properly initiated. These floating devices are also great for getting a ton of exercise. After all, you will be standing the entire time and using a lot of arm strength. With that being said, SUP’s are an absolute blast when you get the hang of things. On your first time down a river, make sure to make it a short trip just in case you don’t enjoy the experience. If you do fall in love with this form of river fun, then gradually increase your river floats accordingly.
Barton Creek Outfitters
Because of the hit or miss water levels of Barton Creek, it doesn’t make sense for outfitters to locate and service this river. Bring your own tubes or water crafts and be sure to check river levels before you go. The upper half of Barton Creek is usually best during the rainy spring season and the lower half will provide you with water access year round.
Tennis shoes or river sandals are highly recommended when floating down any of the rivers mentioned in this guide. Please note that flip flops might sound like a great idea but can actually have disastrous consequences. This type of footwear provides little protection from the river and its inevitable obstacles such as boulders, sharp rocks, broken glass, and things you can’t even imagine yet. Also, flip flops slip off your feet very easily while tubing and can float down the river never to be seen again. If for some reason you forget your river shoes, check with your chosen outfitter to see if they allow you to rent a suitable pair. Better to be safe than sorry on the river. We always hear horror stories of people who actually need to go see a doctor or hospital as a result of improper footwear while in the river. You are probably going to want to explore the banks of the rivers as well so be sure to come prepared with appropriate shoes or sandals.
Sun screen is necessary pretty much anytime you spend time on the rivers in this guide. In Central Texas, the sun is hot and intense and you should bring something to protect your skin with. You know your body and what SPF sun screen you might need, so don’t forget this item. If you do, the next day’s sunburn will be a nightmare especially if it’s bad enough to cause sun poisoning. You should apply sunscreen before and during your water adventures in any river in Texas. This is a given and should be a no brainer.
It’s also a great idea for both women and men to wear some sort of headwear and sunglasses. Its miserable having to squint throughout your entire rafting trip because you forgot your sun glasses and favorite hat. The Texas sun is intense and you will thank us for this tip. Sun screen is often not enough to allow for comfort on the water. It only protects the skin, not the eyes.
Securing Sunglasses and Prescription Eyewear
This is perhaps the most commonly made mistake for any new tuber or water adventurer in Texas. If you hit any rapids or turbulence during your trip, it is possible that your eyewear, prescription or non-prescription, will get knocked right off your face. This type of occurrence happens a lot. You will need to purchase something called float bobbers that attach to your glasses so they float on the water opposed to sinking immediately. Many of these float bobbers also attach to you as well so that they can be easily retrieved from the water. There really isn’t another way around this unless you leave your glasses at home and brave the sun without them. Perhaps you could get away without float bobbers and other attachments on the slower rivers but this is never recommended.
Do not wear clothing that will tangle or restrict your ability to swim which could cause you to drown if you fall out of your tube. Do not wear long pants, long sleeve shirts, scarves, coats, jackets, long dresses, etc. Basically avoid loose or baggy clothing of any type. Make sure your arms and legs have free movement at all times while you are tubing or when you are in the water. You would be surprised but when clothing gets wet, it doubles and even triples in weight. People that aren’t strong swimmers might find it difficult to reach the surface of the water if they fall overboard while wearing loose and heavy clothing. Just be aware of this and have a safe and enjoyable time in the water.
Be responsible with alcohol on the river. Avoid glass bottles since those have all but been completely banned in any of Texas’ rivers. Also, be smart about drinking and floating. Be of legal age and just like any other drinking establishment, be responsible with it. You don’t want to turn a perfectly awesome rafting trip into a disaster by getting too drunk, too rowdy, or get too tired. Alcohol on the river can be a lot of fun but if it gets out of control, it can be a nightmare. Be sure to check the river laws with your local outfitter and find out their particular laws and restrictions before making a reservation. As mentioned earlier, do not bring glass or even styrofoam coolers. There are laws on most of the rivers in Texas that state you are not allowed to bring glass or styrofoam containers into the water. Glass is not allowed for obvious reasons and styrofoam is banned because it breaks up so easily in the water and pollutes the river. To get past this, bring a cooler or rent one from your outfitter. You can usually buy or rent a plastic one that holds just as many beverages as a styrofoam one would. Instead of bringing glass bottles, bring aluminum cans and put your hard liquor in a non-glass container just to be safe.
Make a Reservation
Reserve ahead of time with an outfitter if you can. This will speed up the process as well as guarantee you the tubes you and your friends need for floating. You never want to drive out to the river and find out that all their tubes are rented out. What a bummer that would be! Make a reservation just to be safe.
You might be thinking that this is going to be easy no matter what river you choose to raft or tube down. This is hardly the case. Obviously it depends on what river you choose but you never know what you are going to encounter while going down a Texas river. Children should generally be 5-years of age or older in most cases. Check with the outfitter you plan on using for recommendations regarding little ones. The elderly, sick, and children under five should probably stay out of the water. There are no life guards along these rivers for obvious reasons. People do drown and get injured every year. Be absolutely sure that you and your guests are in good health and just to be even more secure, make sure you and your guests can swim. It’s also risky to float down any river in Texas alone. It is usually not a requirement from the outfitters but the buddy system works. With two or more people, if one gets hurt then at least they have a friend to help get them the assistance they need in time. There is no law saying you can’t go by yourself but common sense and years of experience have shown us that you should at least bring a friend to watch your back. Also, be sure to tell at least one friend or family member that you plan on going tubing that day and which river you have chosen. It’s always a good idea to let people know where you will be just in case something happens and you don’t return on time. A friend or trusted family member will be able to vouch for your whereabouts. Medical releases for the elderly and those with chronic issues are highly recommended for a river trip.
Nylon is the most commonly used material for towable covers. It typically comes in different weights or thicknesses, commonly referred to as denier. The greater the denier number, the stronger the nylon is going to be. Note here that higher denier numbers will typically be found on more expensive towables or tubes that are designed for multiple riders.
As a guideline, a 420 denier is typically used on less expensive and single rider towable. This denier is lighter, thinner, and should only be considered when purchasing a single-rider towable.
An 840 denier is the heaviest nylon you will find in towables. Deniers at this wei ght are not simply heavier, but they are also stronger and used typically in more expensive, larger towables.
Polyester is another commonly used material in towables. Polyester coated with PVC is often used to strengthen Polyester and provide an additional alternative to high denier nylon. 600 denier coated with PVC Vinyl will be as strong as 840 denier nylon.
Polyester is also found in a “solution-dyed” form, most typically on boat lift canopies or awnings, due to its color retention and non-fading properties. Treated polyesters have good durability and resistance to fading from the sun. Note: 600 Denier Treated Polyester is found in place of nylon on and 2-rider towables.
Adults will typically use it as a lay-on-top towable and find it easy to get the tube outside of the wake. Due to its small size and high center of gravity, this shape towable tends to roll over quite easily.
In comparison, children will find this shape somewhat uncomfortable because of the size of the center hole. It is often too small to sit in and too large to lay on for younger children.
More expensive ride-in tubes offer neoprene head rests as well as fully nylon-covered sides and floors. Usually riders will be hard-pressed to tip ride-in tubes due to their low center of gravity.
If Ride-in tubes mean that the rider rides inside of the towable, you may be able to guess what a Ride-on tube is, but allow us to explain more about them anyway. Ride-on tubes are available in many shapes and sizes to accommodate up to riders simultaneously. As opposed to sitting down inside of the towable, Ride-on tubes require the rider to sit atop or to straddle the fuselage of torpedo Ride-on tubes, or sitting in a recumbent style tubes.
Torpedo towables are designed for multiple riders and have the least amount of whip of all tubes. They can be somewhat unstable due to their long, narrow shape and high center of gravity.
Recumbent towables come in a D-shape design and provide riders with the thrills of deck tubes while remaining seated upright with head and back areas supported.
Technically not really a pontoon boat, but we decided to include them in the buyer’s guide because of their similarities. Inflatable float tubes are for the fishermen that want to get up close and stalk their fish. Instead of standing at the bank hoping the fish will come to you, you come to fish instead. It’s basically a inflatable seat with a couple of pockets and to power the boat you paddle with your feet.
Inflatable pontoons without any frame look a lot like dinghies, they behave pretty much the same way. The only real difference is the motor mount and the few added accessories that most frameless pontoons come with, swivel seats and rod holders are one of the most common accessories. These are easier and faster to set up compared to pontoons with frames, they also take up less space. They are versatile as you can both row them or use a motor.
If you want to get the most out of your lake fishing, a frameless inflatable pontoon is highly recommended, you’ll be able to go further, fish in more water conditions, store more gear and if you want to, you can stand up and fish.
Pontoons With Frames
Pontoons with frames are another hit among fishermen. Instead of a hard wood floor, they have pockets and bags to store all your fishing gear. They get you closer to the water than a frameless pontoon, not as much as a float tube but just enough so you can reach down and grab a fish from the water. Just like the floating tubes, framed pontoons give a more ‘personal’ feeling to your fishing. It’s hard to explain but it’s almost as you’re one with the lake, it’s definitely a different side to fishing. If a float tube had an upgrade, it would be this.
A bathing suit will ensure you get a tan, but if you’re sensitive to the sun, bring light-colored clothing and a hat. Sunglasses and sunscreen are essential because most of the river is fully exposed, particularly if you go midday. The water maintains 5to 6degrees year-round, so the optimal time to go is when the air temperature is at least 80 degrees.
Choose to take extra clothes or towels with you, especially if you want to stop for a cool drink once you’re off the river. If you park a car at the end of your float it’s best to leave dry items in the car. The banks are muddy and can sometimes be a little slippery, so you’ll want to dry yourself and clean up once you get off the river. Store cell phones in plastic bags to prevent them from getting wet.
If you aren’t opting for a tubing company, park one car at your put-in point and one at the take-out point. Another option if you don’t take two cars, or decide to get out early, is using Uber. Just be wary if you are wet, you’ll want to have that dry bag with clothes and a towel. Let your driver know that you are coming off the river too, to make sure they are okay with it.
Family Pool Floats
A great family activity during the summertime is to hit the pool, river or beach! But when you have a large family, it’s hard to keep track of all the little ones when they each want to go separate ways in their own float. For situations like this, a float that can fit multiple people will make the day fun and safe at the same time.
Two great options here would be the Shock Rocker Pool Float or the Sofa Island Pool Float. Both of these family floats have room for at least four people, and even more if you have little ones! Or, if you are looking for something a little less traditional, the Labyrinth Island Pool Float will keep all the kiddies in place while providing them with a float that they can play some fun games with.
Ok, you don’t really climbing shoes, but the point is you pass a lot of rock. Those grubby cliffs stained with waterlines and bird splats have undiscovered routes. Screw deep water soloing in Mallorca. The shallow water solos of your local river are up to snuff. Bring your shoes. Test the rock. You might just find the next new spot.
As you enter Rainbow Springs, signs will direct you to the entrance to the ranger’s office. Be sure to ask for a map and take time for the walking tour. Shady, fern-lined, hilly pathways with scenic vistas lead to elaborate, luscious green gardens, older (manmade) waterfalls and a roped swimming hole for those seeking a refreshing 72-degree dip. Walkways lead out to the river where there are plenty of areas for picnicking.
Many Floridians recount the earlier park amusement days of glass bottom boats that toured down river as well as the Leaf Ride Monorail, a system that transported visitors through the treetops. As you follow the walkways, you will see the historical remnants of a zoo and even a rodeo arena.
There is also an outdoor butterfly garden which alone is worth the price of admission. Volunteers have done an amazing job of planting a wide variety of plants that attract many species of butterflies and is certainly one of the best butterfly gardens I have ever seen.
First of all thanks for reading my article to the end! I hope you find my reviews listed here useful and that it allows you to make a proper comparison of what is best to fit your needs and budget. Don’t be afraid to try more than one product if your first pick doesn’t do the trick.
Most important, have fun and choose your river tubes wisely! Good luck!
So, TOP3 of river tubes
- №1 — Linking Intex River Run I Tube with Heavy Duty Cover – 4 Pack
- №2 — Intex River Run I Sport Lounge
- №3 — Intex 58837EP River Run II Sport Lounge