Best Pool Floats

Updated June 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

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

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

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

Why trust BestReviews?
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.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best pool floats

Last Updated June 2019

Nothing says summer more than a pool. And nothing makes swimming more fun than a colorful pool float. But, as you’ve probably already realized, there are pool floats of every shape, size, and color. How do you pick just one (or two)?

We're here to guide you through the different types of pool floats, from those constructed of foam to fabric-covered models filled with beans. Many inflatables are perfect for one person while party floats can fit a number of friends. You’ll have to decide the form and function that appeals to you and base your decision on not only what will be the most fun but also what you have room to store.

But rest assured, whether it’s an inflatable dragon or foam plank for lounging, there’s a pool float out there for you. Read on to learn more. When you’re ready to buy, consider one of our recommended picks.

Foam and fabric floats are a nice addition if you have a backyard pool, while inflatables are a good option if you have to travel to the pool, beach, or lake to enjoy the water.

Key considerations

Types of pool floats


Foam floats

Foam floats come in a range of sizes and designs and often grace the poolsides of public pools, hotels, and resorts due to their durability. These are the most common types you’ll see:

  • Noodles: Is there a more classic sign of summer than a pool noodle? These inexpensive foam floats have a hollow or a solid center and vary in thickness. They are easy to store and lightweight. However, they're meant for pool play rather than complete relaxation in the water.
  • Planks: Foam planks are of similar length to a pool noodle but have a solid core and a wide, flat surface. Their larger size provides a bigger floating surface than a noodle and tends to be suited to adults.
  • Chaise: A foam chaise is definitely a step up in the relaxation department. The shape looks similar to an Adirondack chair and many include armrests with a cup holder. They're fantastic for relaxing on a hot afternoon but definitely take up more storage space when not in use.
  • Resort floats: These are a relatively thin foam pad that are large enough for one person. They may have a foam pillow and textured surface.


Inflatables

This is the pool float category with which you’re most likely familiar. How many of us spent our summers in an inflatable tube? Today’s inflatables go well beyond that. The shapes and sizes of these floats offer more variety than you might imagine. Flamingos, unicorns, crocodiles, riding bulls—the options go on and on.

While you’ve got your pick of novelty inflatables, there are also the standards:

  • Tubes: Tubes can be small and simple or big enough for a crowd. Today’s models may have a mesh floor in the center and cup holders built into the tube.
  • Beds: These are pretty much an inflatable air mattress. Some have built-in inflatable pillows while others are made for two. If you plan to fall asleep on the water, this is where you want to start your search.
  • Chaise: An inflatable chaise takes up less space than foam models simply because they can be deflated when not in use. Some are full body while others float like a chair, leaving your legs to dangle in the water. Many also have cup holders, so you’re never far from refreshment.


Remember, the larger the inflatable, the more chambers there will be to inflate. Large inflatables may come with their own pump. For those that don’t, you can get away with a manual bike pump but an electric pump is more efficient.

Bean-filled floats

These pool floats are made of thick water-resistant canvas filled with beans. They’re a good choice if you want to be able to use the float outside of the water as an outdoor cushion. They’re commonly found as a pillow, chair, or bed float. On the downside, they take longer to dry out, and they require a good amount of storage space in the offseason.

Baby pool floats

These specialty floats keep your littlest swimmers safe in the pool. They often have a seat that keeps the baby upright and may also include toys and a canopy for sun protection.

Party pool floats

Ready to entertain a crowd? Party floats seat far more than two people. Some are modular so you can fit them into different configurations. Others have a mesh floor in the center with inflatable seats around the outside, each with its own cup holder. You need a pretty big pool for most of these floats so be sure to check the dimensions before buying.

EXPERT TIP

Double pool floats are party models built for two. Some have seats side by side while others allow you to face your friend for comfortable conversations.


Staff  | BestReviews

Maintenance

You’ll have to take into account how willing you are to take care of the float. One-person inflatables are easy to inflate, deflate, and store, while party floats may take a day to dry out before folding for storage (and once they’re folded, they’re not small). Foam and fabric floats will also need to be dried out before heading to storage. Any water left behind can cause mildew or mold to grow. Your pool floats will also have to withstand sun damage. While they’ll be fine in the sun when in use, when you’re done floating be sure to store them away from the sun’s harmful rays.

Size and storage

Do you want to float alone or with a partner? Would you rather float with your whole family? Some floats can be pulled behind a boat, while others aren’t designed to leave the safety of a pool. Pool noodles and inflatable tubes are the best space savers. But an inflatable mattress provides the most relaxation space in relation to the ease of storage.

Features

For extra comfort

Sometimes it’s the little extras that take the float from okay to fantastic. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Pillows: Foam, inflatable, and fabric floats may all have built-in pillows. The question is whether the pillow is the right height and thickness for you. If you like to lie on your stomach, you might want to pick a model without a pillow as they can’t be removed.
  • Armrests: If you don’t want your arms dangling in the pool, a float with armrests keeps your body aligned and relaxed while you float.
  • Cup holders: Sipping a lemonade might be the perfect addition to your water activities. Cup holders are also a great place to store your cell phone (if you dare bring it on the water) while you float.

Valve design

Inflatable floats may have a single valve design from where air escapes as soon as the air pressure is released. This type is most often found on simple tubes and small inflatables. A double valve design has a valve that’s used when inflating the float under your own power and one that’s used when inflating with a pump or compressor. The second valve keeps the air contained if pressure is released.

Handles

Floats with handles are easier to carry outside of the water and give children an anchor when they’re in the water, too. Some floats have ropes which can be tethered to another float or the side of the pool. Tethers are also a good feature if you’ll be floating on a lake. They can be tied to a dock, so you don’t find yourself in the middle of the lake after a nap.

Baby pool floats are not a substitute for adult supervision. You’ll still need to keep a hand on your baby at all times while he’s in the water.

Built-in activity center

Children or babies who won’t necessarily be entering the water might like to have some entertainment while they float. Built-in activity centers are pretty basic with a toy or two and a canopy, but if you want to have your little one on the water with you, they’re a great option.

Repair kit

Repair kits are typically included with large vinyl inflatables. The contents are similar to those found in a bike tire repair kit. These are great to have on hand because you never know when punctures are going to happen.

Colors, shapes, and design

This is where it gets fun. Green mermaid tails, avocados, emojis, dolphins — you name it and there’s a pool float out there to match. You can color coordinate for your family or outdoor décor or simply pick a shape that goes with your hobbies. For instance, you can search for pool floats by themes, like fantasy or sci-fi, or patterns, like polka dots or stripes.

Pool float prices

Inexpensive: Pool floats start in the $10 to $20 range. Foam noodles, planks, and a wide range of inflatables fall into this entry-level category, though these inflatables are not very big.

Mid-range: In the $20 to $50 range, the pool floats get more sophisticated — floating recliners, chairs, and mattresses — and, of course, larger.

Expensive: Foam floats, large novelty inflatables, and filled fabric floats range from $50 to $100. Convenience features, such as armrests, cup holders, and canopies, set these apart as luxury floats. Large inflatables and party floats can be found for well over $100 with some over $300. At this point, the larger the float, the more expensive it is.

DID YOU KNOW?

Novelty inflatables really do come in every shape and size. Some have a ride-on bull while others have slides or create a water rocker (think a teeter-totter for water) for some serious water play.

Tips

  • Even though floats are made for the water, mildew and mold can be a problem if they aren’t dried and stored properly. After each use, unless you’ll be using it all day every day, lay the float out to dry. For most, that also means you’ll have to remember to flip it to get both sides.
  • Many a great inflatable has met its doom from punctures. Inflatables should not be used outside of the water. Rocks, sticks, and corners can easily puncture an air chamber.
  • Pool floats can be heavy outside the water, even inflatables. If you’ll be carrying your float very far, stick to small inflatables and foam floats.

Other products we considered

The Intex Floating Recliner has everything to make your time in the pool an absolute dream. Armrests, cup holders, and handles let you thoroughly forget your troubles and relax in the sun. The SwimWays Spring Float Recliner has an innerspring to keep it in shape while in the water. We’ve got one word for this one — unicorn: the GoFloats Unicorn Pool Float is perfect for the child (or adult) in your life who wants nothing more than to ride their own mythical beast.

When storing an inflatable float, try to store it rolled rather than folded. Otherwise, the vinyl or plastic can become weak at the fold points.

FAQ

Q. Do pool floats have maximum weight capacities?
A.
Pool floats do have maximum-weight capacities, and they vary from model to model. Weight capacities are usually only listed on models where too much weight can compromise the structure of the float. For example, some models have a canopy that connects above the float. Too much weight can cause canopy supports to break.

Q. What kind of pump do you need for an inflatable pool float?
A.
Most inflatable floats do not come with their own air pump. Hand or bike bumps may work for small inflatables, but you’re generally going to want an air mattress pump or compressor, so you don’t break a sweat while getting ready to relax.

Q. How many chambers do inflatable floats have?
A.
The number of chambers depends on the size and shape of the float. Models with a pillow may only have two — one for the bed and one for the pillow. Others may have four or more. For example, a dragon-shaped inflatable may have a chamber for the head, body, and each wing.

The team that worked on this review
  • Angela
    Angela
    Editor
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor
  • Michelle
    Michelle
    Writer
  • Stacey
    Stacey
    Writer

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