River tubing is among the many fun activities we often crave for. It provides the perfect time to relax, chill out, and enjoy the scenery. However, you only get the most out of it when done right.
So, how about I teach you a thing or two on how to float the river like a pro? In this guide, I’ll provide helpful tips for beginners. Not only that, but I’ll also give tips on how to stay safe down the river. So, let’s get cracking, shall we?
Pick a river
Pick a river you deem best for your tubing adventure. You can choose a favorite spot near you or search online for the best river float destinations.
When making your choice, consider the state of the river. Most importantly, get to know the water level.
But how does that help?
Well, a shallow river puts you at a high risk of bouncing off the rocks. Also, floating on shallow waters seems less feasible. High water levels, on the other hand, create super-fast currents that might be unsafe for tubing.
So, I always recommend you head out when the river is at its average, neither too low nor too deep. Another option would be to check with the tubing outfitters regarding recent water levels. Most often, they provide updates on the condition of the river. Hence, feel free to check their website or give them a call.
Check the weather
Also, keep the weather report high on your checklist. After all, you don’t want to be caught out in inclement weather. Ensure it’s going to be a nice, calm day for floating the river.
Choose your floating device
There are different equipment for floating the river. Hence, choose one that works best for you. You can settle for tubes, rafts, or kayaks.
If you choose to use tubes (the most preferred option), there’s a handy checklist of must-have features. It will help improve your experience and also keep you more comfortable. Well, some of the features also apply to rafts and kayaks.
- A mesh bottom
It’s a must-have feature for floating tubes. A mesh base keeps splashing water from collecting inside the tube. Still, the mesh lets the water in to cool you off while creating a barrier that prevents you from losing your stuff.
Fatigue can easily set in, especially if you’re floating the river for hours. So, consider a floating device that has head and back support to keep you comfortable.
- Drink holder
You’re most likely going to bring some drinks or beverages along. Hence, consider a built-in cupholder to keep your drinks from spilling.
Handles provide the ideal point for tethering and tying ropes. Additionally, they come in handy when carrying the tube over short distances.
- Thick material
Your raft or tube will most likely get jagged on sharp rocks and branches. So, consider a material thick enough that it won’t puncture.
Renting vs. buying your own. Which is better?
Renting rafts and inflatable ride-on
- You’ll worry less about purchasing equipment
- Tubing outfitters often provide shuttle transport for a small fee
- You’ll be limited to the parts of the river the outfitters operate on
Using your own rafts and inflatable ride-on
- You have the freedom of choosing the style and size that suits you best
- It pays in the long run as you’ll have it for years to come
- You have the freedom to explore anywhere
- Requires extra research regarding the safety of the spot you choose
- You’ll most likely need someone to take you to the launch site as well as transport you back when done
But there’s a way to deal with transportation issues if you choose the DIY route. Well, you can use two cars. Pack one at the endpoint and once you exit the river, drive it to the launch point to pick up the other car.
How much should I spend on inflatables?
You pretty much don’t need to shell out hundreds of bucks on a floating device, especially tubes. Still, ensure you avoid cheap tubes mostly intended for pools. Always consider quality and durability when choosing the best river float tubes.
Other must-have essentials for floating the river
Rope and carabiners
Each river is bound to have a few fun rapids along the way. Hence, there’s a chance your tube will flip, dumping everything out. Well, to avoid that, consider bringing along strong nylon ropes and carabiners. It will help to secure everything onto your tube. Moreover, you can use the ropes to tether multiple tubes together.
Portable air pump
Well, a portable air pump is a must-have, especially when going the DIY route. After all, you’ll need to inflate the tube before hitting the waters. Mostly, I recommend one that plugs into your cigarette lighter. It makes it fast and easier to inflate your tube.
Purchase a patching kit if necessary
Most rafts and tubes are designed to take a beating. Still, you never know what lies ahead. So, it’s better to be prepared. That said, it’s best if you purchase and bring along a patching kit. It will come in handy should the tube develop leaks.
Waterproof pouch or phone case
Let’s face it. We rarely leave behind things, such as your driving license, cash, phone, and credit cards. If you plan to take them with you during the trip, have some kind of safe storage.
So, consider a waterproof pouch or phone case, preferably one with a lanyard. Now, for the phone case, pick one that has a touchscreen function. It allows you to use your phone while inside the case.
Water and snacks for long floats
Eat a full meal, or better still, pack some snacks before you head out. It’s something I recommend for trips lasting at least three hours.
Also, don’t forget to have a bottle of clean, drinking water. It will protect you from hydration, especially when floating under the sun for hours. Consider floating coolers or insulated bottles to keep drinks and beverages cold for hours.
Does the type of clothing matter?
Yes, you should also give the type of clothing top priority. I recommend you bring along a swimsuit. Moreover, have a pair of water shoes. It will protect your feet from the rough, rocky river bottom. Also, ensure the water shoes fit securely on your feet.
But that’s not all.
You’re most likely to get wet from all the excitement. As such, ensure to leave a set of clothes as well as a towel in your car. It will help you dry off for the ride home.
Wear a life jacket
A life jacket is a prerequisite for most tubing adventures. In most states, it’s a must-have for kids aged 13 years and below. Hence, ensure you have one on board.
Consider sun protection
There’s a high chance you’ll be under direct sunlight for hours. Hence, it’s wise to have some kind of sun protection.
So, consider applying a good sunscreen. Also, bring along a wide-brim hat or a pair of sunglasses. For the latter, pick polarized versions as they provide better sun protection.
Now, you don’t want to lose your sunglasses down the river. So, incorporate a strap in your sunglasses to keep them in one place. Alternatively, you can buy floating sunglasses.
Stay near the middle of the river
This safety tip pretty much applies to beginners. By staying near the middle of the river, there’s less chance you’ll get jagged by tree branches or get stuck on shallow waters.
Beginners should avoid tethering tubes together
Tying multiple tubes together might seem a wise idea since there’s safety in numbers. Still, I wouldn’t recommend it if it’s your first time. Usually, it makes steering much harder. Also, there’s a higher chance of tipping over should you encounter small drops or diversion dams.
Additional tips for floating the river
- Don’t bring more than is necessary
- Don’t drink and drive, or drink too much
- Don’t bring glass or Styrofoam
I hope you now know how to float the river like a pro. Get all your gear ready and plan for the next adventure. Even better, be prepared to be the envy of fellow crew members.