Picking the Right Innertube for River Tubing


You don’t want to be the person that has their tube fail halfway down.

Not all tubes are created equal. But even if you don’t master the art of picking the right tube for floating the river, you’ll at least learn what to look out for and become a professional of what not to choose.

If you’re looking for the best tips choosing a tube at a tubing outfitter, scroll towards the bottom.

Different types of tubes for river tubing

There are several different types of tubes used to float the river. And remember, they’re not all created equal.

Here are a few you may find and the best one you should go with.

Then we’ll give you tips on choosing the right tube when you’re renting a tube from an outfitter.

Inner-tube for floating the river

The name ‘inner-tube’ comes from being the inner tube of large truck tires.

kid with tube

But if you’re floating rivers near Austin, you likely won’t find any outfitters that have these tubes. Of course, you can still purchase them in some places but we don’t recommend it. These tubes get really hot because they’re black and absorb the sunlight.

Plus, the nozzle is always in an inconvenient place and can stab you while you’re floating. Oh yeah, and they’re also pretty heavy since they’re made from all rubber.

Our recommendation is you skip these.

Modern innertubes for river tubing

As floating the river became more popular, tubes evolved.

There’s now a mind-bending array of options when it comes to choosing an innertube. But the surplus has led to a variety of high-quality tubes that are more suitable and comfortable for river tubing.

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Curious about what modern tubes look like? Check out this video of what it’s like to float with us on the San Marcos River near Austin.

And when you cruise with us, you never have to worry about getting a bum tube.

Can you take rafts river tubing?

If you’re questioning whether or not you should take your ‘raft’ river tubing, we recommend you don’t.

Most rafts aren’t actually designed for floating the river. In fact, we’ve seen many of them fall apart halfway down.

Just go with the tube. We know you want to take your unicorn raft but you may regret it.

Also, keep in mind there are size regulations depending on which rivers you float. Check out this guide if you’re looking for the rules and regulations for floating near Austin.

Choosing the right innertube at an outfitter

If you don’t own a tube and you plant to rent one instead, there are 5 things you should look out for.

Keeping at eye out for these 5 things can improve your experience and ensure you get the right tube for the experience you want.

Tip #1: Ensure the tube doesn’t have any patches

There are likely going to be plenty of tubes to choose from so don’t settle for one with a patch.

You never know what could happen so it’s not worth risking using a tube that already has a hole in it.

If you get a tube with a patch on it and can’t exchange it, don’t worry. It will likely be fine, but if you can avoid it, we recommend you do.

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Tip #2: Ensure the tube has plenty of air

It can actually become a really uncomfortable float if there isn’t enough air pressure in your tube.

You’ll find yourself sinking into the tube a bit more and it can be hard on your neck to sit up and look around.

Furthermore, a tube with less air may be a sign that there is a small puncture in the tube and it’s slowly draining. Therefore, we recommend looking for a tube that looks like it has plenty of air.

Beware of the ones that look like they’re about to pop, though! Too much of a good thing can be, well, too much.

Tip #3: Get a tube with a cup holder

Some outfitters have a variety of tubes in stock.

For the same price, some may have cup-holders, while others won’t. Not all the time, of course – it completely depends on the outfitter.

But if you’re renting a tube for river tubing, a cup-holder is something worth looking out for. It makes your experience of floating the river that much better.

Not only will this provide you with more freedom to move around, but your drink will stay cooler longer too since you’re not holding onto it. Plus, you’ll likely feel better the next day because you will only drink when you want instead of just drinking because you’re holding a drink.

Tip #4: Avoid black tubes

While black tubes are likely the cheapest option, try to avoid a black inner tube for floating the river.

Black absorbs more heat and can cause the tube to be too hot to touch. Unless you want to spend your river tubing adventure down the San Marcos River constantly flipping your tube over to cool it down, you’ll want to avoid a black tube.

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Choose the right tube for floating the river

That’s it!

Just make sure you use an innertube and don’t try to take that unicorn floatie down the San Marcos River, please. It’s for your own good.

Of course, if you float the river with an all-inclusive company like us, you never have to worry about getting a bad tube.

In fact, not only are they included, but they come with a cup holder too.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>