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.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

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

5 Models Considered
18 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
154 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 towable tubes for boating

Last Updated July 2019

Looking for some exhilaration and fun on the water? Consider water tubing. All you need is a motorized boat, a tow line, a towable tube, and a body of water where you can do some laps. What kind of tube is best? That depends on what your goals are. There are tubes designed for slow trips up and down the lake — perfect for the young, old, and slightly timid. There are other tubes that will appeal more to adrenaline junkies — the kind of tube where you either “hold on” or “fly off.”

This guide will help you to find the best tube for your next family outing. In it, we examine the styles, features, and prices you can expect to find when shopping for a towable tube. We also touch on a number of our own tube recommendations.

Your first decision when considering a towable tube: what style should you buy?

Buy a tube for its visual appeal, but also keep in mind that a brightly colored tube offers greater visibility on the water.

Tube styles

Towable tubes come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but there are five general style umbrellas under which they all belong: donut tubes, cockpit tubes, deck tubes, banana tubes, and chariot tubes.

Donut tube

No surprises here: this tube is shaped like a donut. Donut tubes are simple, inexpensive tubes that you can usually sit, kneel, or lie on. They generally support one rider, although larger tubes may be able to support more. One downside to this type of tube is that they have a tendency to roll easily.

Cockpit tube

You don’t sit on a cockpit tube; you sit in it. These tubes usually contain some form of seat with sides built around it to give you some support. Cockpit tubes tend to be safer than donut tubes, and as such are great for kids. The tubes vary in size but can usually accommodate two or more riders.

Deck tube

A deck tube is flat and usually V-shaped. This type of tube can hold several riders lying down.

Banana tube

This type of tube is meant to be straddled. Banana or hot dog shaped, the tubes are long and thin and designed to be sat upon. They have less drag in the water and can accommodate several riders at once.

Chariot tube

You get two-in-one fun in the form of a chair/couch with a chariot tube. If you choose, you can flip the tube around and ride it like a chariot. This dual-tow feature opens up your tubing fun to a wide range of riders.

EXPERT TIP

Like all water sports, the number-one accessory to use with your towable tube is a personal floatation device (PFD).


Staff  | BestReviews

Important considerations

Construction

Any tube you consider should be designed with one or more inner PVC bladders. It should have a thick outer covering made of double-stitched nylon, polyester, neoprene, or PVC. The rugged outer material keeps the inner bladder safe from the forces unleashed by the water and the riders as the tube is dragged around.

Hand grips

Tubes without hand grips are essentially aquatic launching pads. Hand grips should be secure enough to withstand the pressures of you hanging on for dear life while also being comfortable. The best handles include knuckle guards to further protect your hands when you’re bouncing around.

Tow points

The area where the tow line connects to the tube is called the tow point, and it goes without saying that it should be one of the sturdiest sections of the tube. The majority of tubes will have one tow point, although some tubes, such as those of the chariot style, will feature one in the front and one in the back for different towing experiences.

Tube pockets

Some tubes include pockets for storing the tow rope or other valuables. Any tube storage compartments should be zippered or offer some other way to secure their contents.

Because they achieve speed quickly, banana-style tubes are a great option for dragging behind a pontoon boat.

Staff
BestReviews

Questions to ask before buying a towable tube

How comfortable is it?

A towable tube that is just built for durability is going to be a bit of a rough ride. In order to protect passengers from the ravages of tube burn, any tube you are considering should offer padding to protect against burn and prevent riders from easily sliding off. Inflatable headrests or backrests increase comfort, as do inflated seat bottoms.

How easy is the tube to inflate and deflate?

A tube that is quick to inflate is a tube that will be on the water all the faster. Similarly, the tube should deflate quickly so you’re not spending an hour breaking it down at the end of the day. Consider a tube with something like a Boston valve to help with both inflation and deflation. (A Boston valve is a special kind of screw-on valve that allows air to go in but not out. This can be a great help in terms of quickly and fully inflating the tube.) The tube should also have some form of flap or covering that can be secured over the valve to protect both it and riders when the tube is in use.

How large is the tube?

Know the actual physical size of the tube, both inflated and deflated. Some of these are pretty large and may be a handful to use and store.

Another important consideration is the tube’s weight limit and rider limit. For safety’s sake, these limits must be adhered to. Overloading the tube with too much weight or too many people puts everyone at risk.

Towable tubes for boating: prices

A lower-end option like a simple one-person donut tube may cost under $50. However, the majority of towable tubes will run you at least $100 and can reach into the $200 to $300 range or higher. With a higher price, you can expect to find towable tubes with greater rider/weight limits, more towing options, and an overall higher build quality.

DID YOU KNOW?

Some tubes have stabilizer fins on the bottom. These helps keep the tube upright when it is being towed.

Tips

  • A cockpit-style tube that includes drainage vents will “self-bail” and spare you from constantly having to empty the tube of water.

  • Check the forecast before heading out. High winds and severe storms can blow in quickly. Know what to expect, weatherwise, before your tube ever hits the water, and keep up-to-date on conditions if they are at all questionable.

  • Before hitting the water, read the documentation and any tube warnings to be sure you’re abiding by all weight/rider specification, speed limits, and other safety factors.

  • Don’t leave or store your tube in direct sunlight. The heat will expand the air within the tube, which could lead to over-inflation and tube damage.

  • Invest in an electric inflator. These are inexpensive and can save you both time and energy when inflating your tube.

  • “Booster balls” are compact inflatable balls that attach between the towing tube and your boat. Investing in one of these will help to keep the rope out of the water, which reduces drag and helps improve the tube ride.

  • While the majority of towable tubes don’t ship with one, think of picking up a tube repair kit to keep minor problems from ruining your day on the lake.

  • For safety, always include a spotter on the boat. This person can let the driver know when someone has fallen off the tube and use a flag to wave off other boats when someone is in the water.

  • A comfortable towable tube, preferably with cup holders, can double as a relaxing floating tube when you want to take a break from water tubing.

  • Boat drivers should familiarize themselves with who they will be towing before heading out. Ages, familiarity with towable tubes, swimming experience, and the number of riders that will be on the tube are all important to know so the driver can provide the safest conditions possible.

Other products we considered

In addition to the towable tubes we selected for our matrix, we wanted to mention a few others that stood out for us. WOW’s Big Bubba Towable Deck Seat includes both front and back tow points and doubles as a relaxing standalone float. The single-rider Airhead Rebel Tube Kit includes everything you need — tube, inflator, tow rope — in one lake-ready package. Finally, the Rave Sports Warrior 2 Towable Ski Tube looks amazing and provides comfortable full-back support for two riders.

Tubes that are designed for both fast and slow pulling are the perfect choice for families with kids of varying ages.

FAQ

Q. How easy is it to climb back on the tube?

A. If you fall off the tube out in the middle of the water — and chances are you will at some point — you are going to want an easy way to climb back on. Boarding straps and sturdy hand grips are two features to look for. The overall design of the tube can also provide more stability when you are trying to climb back on.

Q. Can I use a regular rope for towing?

A. It is not advisable. Specialized tow ropes are designed with a high breaking point and generally sold by specific weight or rider limits. For safety, the length of the tow line should be 50 to 65 feet long.

Q. How inflated should the tube be before I use it?

A. For safety and performance reasons, you should inflate your tube to the point where it is firm. It should support an adult sitting on it with little give, and the covering should be tight with no wrinkles.

The team that worked on this review
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Katie
    Katie
    Editorial Director
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor
  • Rich
    Rich
    Writer
  • Samantha
    Samantha
    Writer

BestReviews wants to be better. Please take our 3-minute survey,
and give us feedback about your visit today.

Take Survey