Tubing is the best activities to do while out boating in the summer. It’s exhilarating; the speed, the hard wind, the soaring water, and sometimes even some crazy air. Tubing is also a wonderful activity because it is available to people of almost all ages! Though it can take a fairly significant amount of strength and skill to hold on if your driver is really whipping you around on some big waves, tubing generally requires far less skill than other water sports such as water skiing or wakesurfing. Time flies when you’re on one!
What Should You Look for in a Tube?
When looking to purchase a tube that can go behind a boat, there are five key traits to keep an eye out for.
If you plan on having only one person ever go tubing at once, two grips on the tube will do. Any more, however, and you may have some upset riders! As a general rule of thumb, any tube you purchase should have around three grips for each rider you plan to tow. Most tubes made to support two or more riders will have this taken care of, but it is always a good thing to keep in mind.
There is nothing worse than coming in after an epic day of tubing on the lake and finding that your fingers have borderline rope-burn and your wrists are scraped! Always check that there is some sort of softened padding, typically EVA padding, around the grip area as well as the area where a rider’s belly and knees might be. Without this feature, even the slightest bump in the wake can translate to extreme discomfort for the rider. An additional benefit of padding being on the tube is additional grip for the rider, as laying or sitting on padded areas will allow the rider to be situated much more securely on the tube.
Pull-up Straps (for circular tubes)
Especially after falling off or having already been out for a while, getting back onto a tube from the water can be difficult. The handles used for riding tend to be quite flexible, which is very good for riding, but frustrating in the case of boarding. This is where pull-up straps come in; most often located on the back of a tube, these straps allow for easy access to the tube from the water and make a truly amazing difference to the rider.
Total Fabric Coverage
This may sound like an odd one, but it actually means wonders for the durability of your tube. The only part of a tube that should not have fabric is the bottom, which often will have some sort of plastic or rubber plating to allow for easier gliding over the water. Aside from this, there is not a single spot on the tube where the fabric should end. Insufficient cover provides the tube many more opportunities to rip, and therefore makes it much less safe.
Easy Tow Capability
Optimally, your tube will come with its own rope. If not, make sure to buy a tow rope specifically made for use in water; it should be capable of floating as well. The main purpose of this point, though, is to make sure that your tube has a piece attached to the front of the tube that is specifically designated as a tow point. In most cases, these pieces are a combination of a strap and a plastic notch that is somewhat triangle-shaped. Tubes lacking this component can prove quite troublesome to get rigged up and ready to go.
Best Tubes for Tubing in 2022
Now that you have been briefed on all of the qualities of an awesome and safe tube, it is time to get into recommendations. As a quick thought before they are listed, it is good to know the two major water tube producers: O’Brien and Airhead. If you go for any tube, try and make sure that it is one of these two brands. That will assure safety and quality. This being said, here are our top 4 tube recommendations (in order of rider capacity):
The O’Brien Screamer
This is an excellent one-person tube, and it is guaranteed to last you. Outfitted with padding for the body and wrists, the only thing that a rider will have to worry about on this tube is the intensity of their ride. This tube also has pull-up straps, which are always an excellent feature. On top of all this, the Screamer has recently been redesigned with a new plug design that allows for the fastest inflating and deflating on the market.
The Airhead Chariot Warbird 2
Whether you prefer sitting or laying on your stomach, this is a wonderfully versatile two-person tube that offers better-than-normal splash-protection to the rider while keeping all of the speed. In addition to being properly padded, this tube stands out in that it has a specialized self-bailing system that offers additional protection against taking on water.
Airhead’s Big Mable
Specialized for sitting, this is a two-person tube with excellent range in terms of rider preference. Though one may think that a sitting-focused tube would be much too easy to ride, this is not actually the case! Riding this tube off-wake at high speeds is just as if not more exhilarating than a lay-down tube. Of course, with this tube, you always do have the option to take a nice, leisurely ride.
The O’Brien Ultra Screamer
The Screamer’s big brother, this option by O’Brien features a design similar to the Screamer while being able to comfortably hold three riders! Built with the strongest and most resilient materials O’Brien has to offer, this tube will be a juggernaut on the water while providing multiple years of fun. This is arguably the best multi-person circular tube on the market.
Don’t ever forget about safety when tubing. There are a few basic things to keep in mind, rules that every tuber or boater should know.
Always Wear a Lifejacket
Anyone tubing should always wear a lifejacket. It doesn’t matter if you are an olympic swimmer. Things can happen in the water, you can get disoriented if you fly off the tube. Wear a lifejacket, always.
Always have a Spotter
The spotter is someone in the boat whose job it is to watch the tube and tubers at all times. They should be interpreting signals from the tubers and relaying messaging to the driver of the boat. If the tubers fall off the tube, the spotters should immediately tell the driver.
Don’t Tube Near Boat Traffic or Obstacles
Tubing should be done on a wide open lake, not near other boats or docks. Find open water where there are not many other boats around.
Never Allow the Tube Near Your Boat’s Propeller
Tubes and props don’t mix. At best, the tow rope can get caught in the prop which is a terrible mess. At worst, a prop can cause major damage to human limbs.