Best Floating Water Mats

Updated December 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

12 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
254 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best floating mats

Last Updated December 2019

There’s nothing like fun in the sun on a body of water, and what better way to enjoy time at the pool, lake, or river than by bobbing on a floating mat? A wide range of floating mats are available, from inexpensive inflatables that are more like basic pool floats to enormous floaty islands that several people can stand on.

Regardless of type, these mats will put you right at water level where you can float, frolic, and cool off on a hot day. There are a wide range to choose from, so you might feel like a kid in a candy store as you shop for the perfect floating mat. One of your first decisions will be whether to get a foam mat or an inflatable mat. Foam mats provide outstanding support, but they’re quite expensive. Inflatables are cheaper, but they can puncture. Other factors will also affect your experience, such as the thickness of the mat and any accessories that may be included.

Our buying guide to floating water mats will get you up to speed so you can understand the differences and get the features you need to enjoy your day on the water.

Consider a winter use for your mat. A few inflatables on the market claim they can also serve as snow sleds. Some canvas-covered inflatables and thick lily pads can serve as gymnastic mats.

Key considerations

As we mentioned, there are two main types of floating mats: foam and inflatable. There are pros and cons to each, so you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the materials and designs before looking into individual models.

Foam mats

Foam mats are sometimes called lily pad mats. (Aqua Lily Pad is a registered trade name, and the company’s high-end mats have become synonymous with the product.) Lily pad mats started out as industrial items used on docks and similar scenarios, but someone caught on to the fun fact that they can also be used as floating mats. They come in a range of sizes, and the big daddies can support literally thousands of pounds. You can walk, jump, do yoga, and even paddle board while floating about. Since they’re made of foam, they don’t puncture, so even the dog can use it (though sharp toenails can damage some types of foam.)

Foam mats are made from two or three layers of foam. High-end mats consist of marine-grade cross-linked foam. Less-expensive models use closed-cell foam (like pool noodles) and, much like pool noodles, these tend to degrade quicker after exposure to the elements.

The primary downside of foam mats is the cost, which can be substantial. The other downside is that they can’t be compressed much, so even rolled up, a foam mat is bulky. The bulk can make both transportation and storage a bit of an issue for some people.

Inflatables

The inflatable raft has been around for more than a century. With the invention of plastics, the pleasure industry launched the pool float, which is synonymous with a hot, lazy day in the pool, cool drink in hand. As a natural progression, the more sturdy inflatable mat arrived, allowing more people to climb aboard and enjoy the fun.

On the upside, inflatable mats are generally less expensive than foam mats. Also, they can be deflated and reduced to a relatively flat form, making them easy to transport and store. That also means they have to be inflated, preferably with a motorized pump for ease and speed. At the very least, you will need a hand pump. Sometimes, a pump comes with the mat — but not always.

Inflatable mats can sometimes be used as towables behind a boat. (Note: this is not the intended use of foam mats, since they may submarine when towed.) Always check manufacturer instructions before towing any type of inflatable behind a boat.

The biggest negative, however, is that they can puncture, even if covered with rugged fabric. While you may be able to repair a puncture, that might not be possible at the time of the deflating event which, according to Murphy’s Law, will happen just as the July 4th party gets underway. Even if you are in a position to make the fix, it can be tricky and a chore, and there eventually comes a point where the mat is deemed terminal.

EXPERT TIP

Use a mushroom anchor to secure your mat if you are anchoring it away from the boat. This type of anchor is small and easily portable, yet it will keep you safely in the same spot.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Thickness

Inflatable mats are generally a few inches thick, but the big mattress pads can be as much as 14 inches deep. Foam mats range from 1.25 to 2.3 inches thick. Generally, the thicker it is, the more weight the mat will support. But remember, the thicker the mat, the bigger and heavier it will be when rolled up for transportation and storage.

Size

Mats range from a personal float size up to 60 feet long. The most popular lengths for individuals and smaller groups are six feet long and nine feet long. For larger groups, a mat of 18 to 20 feet in length is often preferred.

Covering

The least-expensive inflatable mats may simply be made of vinyl, like an inflatable pool toy. Higher-quality models have a tougher fabric covering, which is more pleasant to lie on and gives you some grip. High-end inflatables have a marine-quality canvas or similar covering. Lily pad mats may be bare foam or may come with a protective coating, which gives it a nicer look and protects the foam. However, the covering can crack and degrade from constant exposure to water and sun. While that may not affect flotation, it’s unattractive and less pleasant to sit on. Without a covering, the foam may also be subject to blemishes.

Ties

In most cases, you will want to tie up your float so you can relax without drifting away. Some water mats have a grommet for attaching a rope or bungee cord, which may be included or sold separately, so you can tie up to a dock, boat, anchor, or another mat.

Accessories

With inflatables, there’s a much wider range of bells and whistles, since they can be molded to any shape and may have pillow rests and seats. Lily pads lack these, although they sometimes have rolled edges at one end to form a pillow. Larger inflatables may have grab handles so that you can clamber on board from the water with some modicum of dignity. Foam mats often have built-in straps to tie up the mat when it’s rolled for storage.

Storage bag

Many high-end mats come with a storage bag. Alternatively, you may be able to purchase one separately. The best storage bags have water drainage holes to prevent mold and mildew and are constructed of marine-grade material (think boat cover).

Warranty

Floats can be pricey items, so a manufacturer warranty of at least one year is desirable.

EXPERT TIP

If you want to stay really cool, you can bob in the water and use the mat as a table for drinks or games.


Staff  | BestReviews

Floating water mat prices

A very small inflatable might cost around $40. For this price, you can expect the material to be on the flimsy side. A smaller mat like this might hold one or two people, and durability might not be as reliable as it is for pricier options. Most options in this price range are more like pool floats than floating water mats.

If you want the ability to gather with friends on a large, reliable floating water mat, your purchase will be much more substantial. A smaller mat (say, 6’ x 8’) may cost between $300 and $400. A larger size (say, 13’ x 6’) may cost several hundred dollars more — between $400 and $600.

You will find floating water mats that cost over $1,000 as well. This type of investment is equivalent to or greater than the cost of a pedal boat or fishing kayak.

EXPERT TIP

Don’t forget to wear ultra-waterproof high-SPF sunscreen. Between the sun and its reflection off the water, sunburns can happen in no time.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Hose off your mat, removing any debris or algae, and let it dry completely before putting it away for the season to avoid mold and rot.
  • To avoid punctures and abrasions, make sure the area you are floating in is away from rocks, rough-edged docks, buoys, and other submerged dangers. Stay clear of other boats, and don’t swim underneath the mat.
  • Make sure a competent adult is in charge of kids at all times. The use of a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket while using a floating water mat is highly recommended, especially for children.

Another product we considered

The Wow Sports inflatable 10’ x 6’ Floating Water Walkway has a zipper system so you can seamlessly link them together. Made of heavy-duty 30-gauge PVC, it’s easy to inflate and stands up to a lot of wear and tear.

If you’re on a budget and don’t mind something smaller, the Giant Waving American Flag Pool Float from BigMouth Inc. is a fun choice. At five feet wide, it’s designed for just one person, but it’s a colorful choice for someone who doesn’t want to spend a lot on a floating water mat. The company also makes a Laughing Emoji Pool Float that’s affordable and a definite conversation starter at the pool.

Always check the manufacturer’s recommendations before using your mat as a towable. Most lily pads and some inflatables will submarine if towed behind a boat. Others have a recommended speed limit that you must adhere to.

FAQ

Q. What size mat should I get?
A.
Decide how many people you want to entertain, and then check the manufacturer’s description for an accurate measure of how much weight the mat can hold. Bear in mind that if you are going large, such as a 20-foot lily pad mat, you will need a sizeable vehicle with the seats folded down to haul it to the water. Consider boat or dock space needed as well as storage. Removing it from the water, which adds extra weight, will be tricky, too. Even inflatable mats can be very heavy and bulky once you get to giant size. The 9’ x 6’ mat is popular because it’s more manageable and can usually support a couple of adults plus a few kids.

Q. How do I repair a puncture?
A.
You can buy inexpensive repair kits for vinyl and PVC products that include adhesive and patches. Ready-to-stick patches are another option.

Q. Can you use a floating mat in salt water?
A.
Not all mats are suitable for use in salt water. The manufacturer will usually state if the construction material can withstand salt water. Any mat used in saltwater will tend to have a shorter lifespan. Getting a mat that has UVA/UVB protection can help; make sure to rinse it with clean, fresh water after every use.

The team that worked on this review
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor

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