Summer can never be complete without spending one of the fine sunny afternoons in the water.
Forget being stuck in a chlorinated pool or riding waves at the beach; nothing compares to the tranquility of riding down a river.
There’s something refreshing about the sun hitting your shoulders, toes dipped in water and the laughter of family and friends. You can’t beat that.
But before jumping in, there’re a few things to consider to enjoy a relaxing day outdoors.
For me, at least, a swimsuit and sunscreen are essential. From there’re, I can focus on the most important part; picking out a reliable river tube.
I know it’s tempting to pick a traditional pool float, but for safety’s sake, consider saving the flamingo and yellow-colored pool floats for your Instagram poolside adventures.
Even if you want an occasional dip in the river, I would suggest purchasing a proper tube.
When starting, I also made the mistake of using a tractor inner tube I had picked up at our local garage. It was nothing out of the ordinary; after all, original float tubes were made from automobile inner tubes.
But as it turns out, having a dedicated river tube is more important than you think.
Sure, a tractor inner tube did get me going, but I can’t mention the inconvenience they caused on the water. Because they’re black, they absorb light and sometimes get too hot and unbearable to use.
They also let you down when it comes to comfort as the nozzle is always in an inconvenient position and likely to stab you while tubing.
Plus, they’re pretty heavy to transport as they’re made out of rubber.
More importantly, they’re not designed for supporting you in the water, so they might give up the ghost and let you down at any moment, perhaps throwing you in a precarious situation.
But on the other hand, the best river float tubes will give you all the comfort and convenience you need while river floating.
Also known as belly boats, the best river tube always adds to the fun floating experience and is optimized for different water uses.
Of course, the best float tube will depend on whether you want to fish, drift calmly or tackle the river rapids. But here’s our guide to the best tubes in the market.
Table of Contents
The Best River Float Tubes For The Money
#1 Intex River Run I Sport Lounge - EDITOR'S CHOICE
We start our list of the best river float tubes with a water tube from a well-known brand and probably among the pioneers of water tubes.
The Intext River Run I Sport Lounge from Intex River Run is an awesome floating tube comprising almost everything for making your river expedition memorable.
It’s one of my favorite tubes because it’s designed with simplicity in mind, yet it is quite efficient.
I chose it for our editor’s pick because it blends three of my topmost criteria for any river water tube; out of the box, it guarantees the best comfort, safety, and functionality.
Let’s start with durability.
Intext River Run I Sport Lounge feels solid, and it is tough enough for the river.
I wouldn’t advise using the float tube for whitewater rafting, but the heavy vinyl construction is more than enough for your average river.
Index River Run powers over the rocks, and I’ve run over a few trees without issues.
But keep in mind this inner tube is still inflatable, so I wouldn’t want to go hard on it, especially in wild rivers with extremely sharp rocks.
Another feature I love with Intext’s design is size. Intext River Run I Sport Lounge is a monster, coming in at 53-inch diameter at the center bottom.
While it’s one of the best one-person river floats, it’s large, and several users can hang off it. I’ve no problem using it with my daughter, but it’s much more comfortable to have the tube to myself.
And yes, you guessed it right, it’ll accommodate the “bottoms” of the 300+ pound plus size users.
Plus, Intext heavy-duty river tube has a generous weight capacity of 250lbs, so you can rely on this tube to easily hold the large users.
Comfort is the name of the game with the Intext River Run I Sport Lounge. This model comes with a host of features that will support a convenient use on a hot summer day.
For example, the dual cup holders will let you carry your drinks without having to worry about them falling into the river. The cup holders are deep enough to hold your cans tightly, and the regular-sized beer cans or soda bottles won’t budge in mild rapids.
If you plan to go for long river rides, you’ll also benefit from the comfortable backrest seats: no muscle pain, no neck strains, but pure comfort and pleasure.
Another convenience feature is a mesh bottom that ensures you stay cool inside the tube. Water can flow through, but it doesn’t accumulate or pool to weigh you down.
Meanwhile, it features carry handles to help you two the floater when you need to. If you’ve kids, the handles are also handy for them to grab, especially when they encounter violent rapids.
Interlocking links are convenient when connecting with other inflatable tubes and having a gala time with your friend group.
Safety is also critical in inflatable river tubes, and Intext recognizes this.
This is clear from the inclusion of two air chambers. If one of the chambers gets abused with the river conditions, the other chamber lets you reach the shore unharmed.
#2 Intex River Run II Sport Lounge - Best Two-person Tube
Our second pick, the Intex River Run II Sport Lounge, is a monster!
We bought it for a trip down the Guadalupe. We’re not small people, yet, this heavy-duty river tube supported both of us comfortably. This is in addition to filling the in-built floating cooler to the brim with beverages.
The Intex River Run II Sport Lounge is a lounger designed from two interconnected floating tubes so that you and your buddy can share a comfortable float down the river.
It has a whopping weight capacity of 500 pounds, but even when you don’t want to float with a friend, you can use the extra lounge areas for legroom or holding your items.
While it’s probably among the best two-person river tubes, it also works well for a single person and won’t flip if you’re alone. It’s actually quite sturdy when using it alone, but be sure to put your built-in cooler on the empty side, though.
Getting on and off this river tube is also bliss. My 78-grandad didn’t have any issue whatsoever, but it’s much easier to get into from land. It’s helpful to have someone in the raft to lift you in.
As with our top pick, Intex Run II Sport Lounge utilizes heavy-duty Vinyl material.
Want to know the benefits?
The material keeps heat damage at bay, so you don’t have to worry about exposing the raft to direct sunlight for long.
Secondly, it wins by sliding over the rough rocks. We’ve used ours on a few long rivers and streams, and many times we scraped over rocks and gravels, and not a single puncture, leaks, or holes we’ve encountered.
Intex River Run II Sport Lounge’s bottom has a cushy mesh bottom paddling.
The mesh bottom allows the water to come through to cool your feet, but it doesn’t give or sag, so you won’t be sitting in a huge puddle of water.
It’s also a great feature for small kids or adults who just want to lounge.
The Intex River Run II Sport is also spacious, with a sitting area that allows you to stretch your legs or curl them under whatever you feel like.
You’ll also receive extra support for your back and neck from the comfy built-in backrest. It’s a handy feature that allows you to kick back and relax while you enjoy a cool beverage.
Speaking of beverages, this bad boy has a built-in cooler in addition to two cup holders. How cool is that?
The cooler is also pretty decent, and for our last outing, we managed to pack four beers, several bottles of Gatorade, and 12 packs of lime of Rita.
Filling the Intex River Run II Lounge is also pretty simple as it allows you to fill the inflatable tube using a standard mattress pump.
Safety shouldn’t be a concern either as there’re five air chambers, so even when the rocks win one safety chamber, you’ll still have gas with the remaining four chambers.
#3 Tube in a box: Original Swim and Snow Tube - Best Tube for Using All-Year Long
The Snow Tube Heavy-duty rider tube float is simple and the most versatile inner tube we’ve on this list.
And the best thing is that it can be used all year long!
It’s ideal for those who prioritize safety and durability over drop-dead looks.
Tube in a Box is a company that takes pride in their heavy-duty construction, and the Snow Inflatable Tube isn’t any different.
It utilizes 100% durable high-grade rubber, the same as those found on commercial rubber.
The commercial-grade rubber is UV resistant, so you won’t have to worry about exposing your float tube to the sun for extended periods.
Tube in a Box is also tear-resistant, so you can be confident riding the heavy-duty river tube in those narrower rivers where sharp rocks could be lurking below.
But more importantly, this heavy-duty river tube is so sturdy that you could use it for barreling down hills and mountains in the wintertime. You can use it as a sled to ski in the winter snow at the mountainside without worrying about it popping or bursting your fun.
Snow Tube’s versatile design makes it the ideal inflatable tube for thrill-seekers, water warriors, and snow bunnies.
The tube is also available in different size variants. We’ve 36-inch, 40-inch, 45-inch, and the humongous 68-inch.
The largest size tube will accommodate two kids conveniently and even support the plus-size users’ weight with the utmost precision.
The tube comes with a safety valve stem, but not like the old-fashioned metal styles. Instead, it’s made out of durable rubber, so it won’t dig into your skin.
Plus, the rubber used on this tube is latex-free, and this should protect riders who may have allergic reactions to latex.
For the best results, we recommend filling this tube with air to full capacity. Follow instructions carefully when distributing the air to the chambers in the tube.
Our only issue with this tube is it lacks the bells and whistles of other models in our bunch. It doesn’t include heavy-duty handles, cup holders, all-around grab rope, or backrest.
#4 Sevylor Covered River Tube - Best River Float Tube for Fishing
The Sevylor Covered River Tube is an awesome and big boat.
It’s a trusted option, and more importantly, a fish slayer. Once you reach your favorite spot, the Berkeley Quick Set Rod Holder will let you adjust your pole angle for an ultimate hands-free fishing experience.
Made from heavy-duty PVC and a hard plywood bottom, this inner tube boat is a float tube that is tough enough to get to your favorite out-of-the-way fishing holes.
The Sevylor Fishing Float Tube is a tough boat, and while I wouldn’t recommend using it for sea, the custom wood floor makes it ultra-rigid. I’ve been through some decent size waves with it, and it handled them fine.
A true heavy-duty boat, the Sevylor River Tube has an incredible weight limit of 990 pounds. It can comfortably hold you and your entire family or a group of friends without the worry of taking a swim.
The Sevylor Covered Tube maneuvers well on the rough water, and when you’re not paddling with oars, you can mount a trolling motor for greater riding efficiency.
The Sevylor Covered Tube can support several motors, but the Minn Kota with an aftermarket prop is probably the best match.
When inflated, the Sevylor Covered Tube weighs around 40 pounds. It’s bulkier than most of the heavy-duty river tubes on our list.
One person can move it, but two people make it much easier to move around.
Despite the huge size, blowing up this inner tube only takes about 15 minutes.
And that’s not all!
It comes with a host of awesome features that promote convenient use. For instance, the Delrin swivel oarlocks make rowing natural and easy, while the raised inflatable seat will make fly-fishing bliss.
And regardless of how hard you paddle the craft, the tunnel air chambers help steady the boat, so you don’t have to worry about taking a swim even in choppy conditions.
The manufacturer also pays huge attention to safety, thanks to the five air chambers. Puncturing one ai chamber isn’t the end game for you. Instead, the remaining chambers will allow you to paddle to the shore in one piece.
#5 Intex River Rat Swim Tube - Best for Ages 9+
We’ve used the Intex River Rat Swim Tube for several summers to float the river near our house, and our kids love everything about this tube.
First, it has the most interesting design of the bunch. As its name suggests, the River Rat inner tube comes with an eye-catching rat design that many kids love.
But that’s not the only selling point!
It’s a simple offering, but one that will keep your kid river floating on the water and enjoy the whole experience.
On our first outing on the water, I was a bit leery regarding its sturdiness, and I didn’t want to bring it on the river.
But surprisingly, it’s more sturdy than I thought. Our river has small rapids and plenty of rocks, but the Rat Pool Float holds up wonderfully.
The 12- gauge top and 16-gauge vinyl are thick enough, even for the rock and shallow water. My kids have used it a couple of times with no issues. No loss of air, and even after scraping rocks and gravel on the shore, this bad boy is still going strong.
My only concern with the Rat Tube is the lack of a protective mesh bottom, as we’ve seen with other tubes on our list.
I know you don’t need one when river tubing, but if you’re petite, you might fall through. But that said, it is still pretty comfortable and will allow you to bob down the river gracefully.
Safety-wise, your kids can ride this inner tube with confidence. My kids, both 10 and 12, could use the tube without much of a struggle.
Even seven years can comfortably use the Rat Tube, provided the all-around grab rope handles are pretty tight, then there’s no tangle hazard.
Plus, this heavy-duty river tube comes with a separate inside air chamber if the main chamber gets popped.
Of course, adult supervision is crucial, and you must never let them in the water without the protective safety gear.
The Intext Rat is best for kids, but adults can also find joy on this bob tube. My eldest son is about the same size as I am, yet he uses it all the time. They’re durable, and you’ll love them.
The only issue we encountered with the Rat Tube was the inflation process. The traditional valve is small and takes longer to inflate with my pump than some other Intex products.
Best River Float Tubes Buying Guide
Even with a list of the best five river float tubes, it can still be challenging to pick the right tube for your needs.
But in the guide below, we share everything you need to know about selecting the best river tube for your needs.
But first, let’s understand the different types of river float tubes.
Types of River Float Tubes
The functionality of river float tubes remains similar in all floats, but you’ve the choice of buying them individually or in multi-packs.
You can also get these devices in several configurations beyond a ring shape.
Individual River Float Tubes
Since pretty much everyone in the family has different tastes when it comes to tubes, it makes sense for the whole family to get their heavy-duty river tube.
Most of these river tubes are circular, coming with a regular ring shape, though the specific features may vary.
Multiple River Float Tubes
Most of the major brands offer discounts if you purchase tubes in multi-packs.
For those with large families, the multi-packs make the most economic sense
Lounge-Style River Tubes
If you need a more laid-back approach to the river floating with comfort as your highest priority, we recommend the chaise lounge style float.
These recliner-style tube floats offer the best comfort on your river runs.
Float Tubes vs. Pontoon Boat
If you’re getting a river float for the first time, you know the other inflatable with an almost similar design is a pontoon boat.
Looking at the two, it can even be challenging to identify the difference.
But which is better?
None is better than the other because they all have different pros and cons and are ideal for different water uses.
Generally, pontoon boats are the ideal inflatables for those looking for performance.
They’re better suited for anglers as they’re generally “fast,” cover more water and provide more room for storage of your rod and fishing accessories.
However, they’re expensive, and most of them are bulky.
Float tubes excel in small bodies of water.
They’re portable, easy to store, and not as expensive.
The only issue with the float tube is they’re simple and don’t perform as well as the pontoon boats do.
They don’t move as fast, and fighting the wind can be more challenging.
Generally, the float tubes are ideal for those looking for an inexpensive pontoon purchase and those that need to travel miles while lounging.
What to Consider When Purchasing the Best River Float Tubes
It’s easy to figure out the type of river floating tube you need once you identify the features to consider.
Here are what you should look out for:
River floats endure plenty of open-water challenges, so durability is key.
Ensure to find a float tube utilizing high-gauge PVC rubber material and nylon covering.
Besides the choice of material, consider its thickness.
The inner tubes should feature a polyester bottom with canvas covering.
You could also go with an option with a mesh-denier base if you need a product with a cooling system.
Using a river float tube on the river means you’re likely to come into contact with unpredictable currents.
This is why you should pick a river float tube with a handle for added security.
You don’t want to bump on the hard rocks or friends when you’re on your ride.
The bottom of a float tube bears all the abuses of the river, including scrapes against hard rocks and sharpies.
Therefore, it should have greater strength, and if you’re looking for durability, tubes with canvas bottom are the best.
The triple stitches provide a firmer grip, which can carry the plus-size riders and prevent the petite person from slipping,
If you need comfort over durability, get an option with a mesh bottom.
While not as durable as a canvas bottom, it may last for several seasons because of the knitting protecting it from tears and snags.
Safety Valve Stem
The valve is the part that maintains air within.
Fortunately, most modern river floats have rubber valves, so you don’t have to worry about cuts and scratches brought by metal valves of inner tubes.
Lounging on a float tube is incomplete with a drink.
You also don’t want to be dehydrated after spending extended periods on the water.
Because of this, you want a tube with a built-in cup holder to hold and store your beverages and drinks for more convenient use.
Most inner tubes lack this feature.
Best River Float Tubes Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: Can I Use Pool Tubes on a River?
A: It’s not a good idea since pool tubes are not designed for rough abuse.
Most of the pool tubes are flimsy, and are designed to be used on the pool alone. They can’t hold up against the sharp rock, twigs and will pop up easily, putting you in a potentially risky situation.
Q: Are water tubes and snow tubes the same?
A: They can be, but it’s not a rule.
If you’re buying a tube for both purposes, ensure the manufacturer specifies that.
Generally, the water and snow tubes should be durable, resistant to extreme weather changes, and stand up to rocks.
Q: What do I need for river tubing?
A: You definitely need a good river float tube.
From there, you need other extras such as sunscreen. Many people also like wearing water shoes for walking in shallow waters.
If you can’t leave your valuables on the beach or car, it’s also a good idea to bring a dry bag for keeping your car keys, ID, cards, and other valuables.
Q: How do you stop from falling on a river float tube?
A: If you’re worried your tube will sink, try pulling back a little. This might help.
Also, keep a good grip on your heavy-duty handles as they play a big role in keeping you on your tube.
Q: Do I need water shoes for river tubing?
A: Water shoes aren’t a necessity, but we highly recommend them for your feet protection.
Wrap Up: Our Choice
Our review of the best river float tubes is over.
We’ve looked over a couple of awesome options, but if there’s one that has stood out, it’s the Intex River Run I Lounge.
It’s the best one-person float tube and comes with everything you would need to lounge on the river.
It’s durable too and will stand up to rough usages. Sharp rocks, tree stumps, or even obstacles won’t cut your trip short.
Intex River Run I Lounge is an inexpensive option too and fits within the budget of most users.
Of course, depending on your river tubing needs, you may find other options better.
For example, if you need a tube, you can use it all year-round, both summer and winter; the Snow Tube might be a great pick.
On the other hand, if you want to have your better half or friend next to you as you share a chilled beer, nothing beats the Intex River Run II Sport Lounge.