Intro To Towables
Tubing is a great way to enjoy the water and share time with family and friends. The rush of excitement and the camaraderie of good company is a recipe for some of life's greatest memories.
Overton's has been providing towable tubes to the watersports community since they were just a tube shape without much design, covers, or comfort for that matter. We've seen this exciting watersport develop and grow until now you'll find all sorts of unusual designs created for unique rides. Plus the addition of sturdy covers with tow harnesses, handles, and body pads has made the ride much easier. There are so many different tubes, including new creations and old favorites, plus many accessories that can enhance the towing experience. As you begin your search for the perfect towable tube, we know it can be a little confusing. We've created this guide to help you understand a little more and make your decision a little easier. You can also always gives us a call at 1-800-334-6541, and our capable watersports technicians will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Everything You Need To Go Water Tubing
As the excitement builds for your next trip to the lake, there are a few things you need to make sure you have in the boat before going tubing. You don't want to find yourself on the water and suddenly realize that your tow rope is frayed or your air pump is sitting in the garage. Here's a checklist to help you remember everything you need to go water tubing.
Get ready for your day of fun by having the right towable for your crew. Consider the size of the group you're taking as well as their ages and abilities. Do you need a one-person towable or a multi-rider towable? Do riders enjoy cutting back and forth across the wake and catching some air, or do they prefer a quiet ride without too many bumps? Do your riders want to lie on top of the tube or sit inside? If you've already got your tube, check it out for any leaks in the bladder or tears in the cover. Make sure the towing connection is in good order. If your towable is beyond repair, it might be time to step up to a new towable tube.
The connection between your boat and tube is a very important one. Make sure that your tube rope is not frayed, cut, or damaged in any way. Whether you're just starting out tubing or it's time to replace your tow rope, Overton's offers several tube ropes with varying break strengths. You can choose a tube rope that matches the capacity of your towable. Select a rope rated at 1500 lbs. for single-rider tubes. For 2-rider tubes, use a rope rated at 2300 lbs. A 4-rider tube requires a rope with a 4100-lb. rating, and a 6-rider tube needs a rope rated at 6000 lbs. Standard tube ropes are 60' long with loops built-in for easily attaching to the quick-connect on your towable.
Inflator/Deflator Air Pump and Hand Pump
Whether you're pumping up your towable for the first time or just maintaining the right amount of air in it, you need the right air pump for the job. Most towable tubes require a high volume of air, but not at a high pressure. They can be filled with one good electric 110V AC pump or a combination of a 12V pump and a hand pump. In addition to a 110V or 12V inflator/deflator, it's a good idea to also have a hand pump close by to finish inflating your tube to the right inflation level, as well as to maintain the proper amount of inflation throughout the day.
Flotation Life Vest
A life vest is required for everyone on board and especially for everyone riding on the towable. Overton's offers many different brands and styles of flotation vests. Make sure the life jacket you choose is a U.S. Coast Guard Approved Type III Personal Flotation Device, and make sure you have enough on board for everyone.
Other Optional Accessories
Here are a few more items that can help make your day of tubing a lot easier.
Easier Connections - If your towable doesn't have a quick connect, then a Quick Tow Rope Connector will make it a lot easier to attach and detach the tow rope to and from your towable. The Gladiator Tow Harness clips to your boat with its ½" hooks, so you can then easily attach the tube rope to the quick-connect end of the tow harness.
Extra Performance - Add a little zing to your tubing with a Bungee Tube Tow Rope. It provides surges of speed as well as absorbs shock and reduces wear and tear on tubes and riders. The addition of a Doable Booster Ball can also enhance your ride. This inflatable buoy is connected between your towable and the boat, floating across the water's surface to keep the rope from getting caught under the water during turns. It also absorbs shock; reduces drag, rope spray, and snapbacks; and improves planing and directional control.
Extra Preparations - Be ready for emergencies by always having an extra Inflation Valve or Vinyl Repair Kit available
Easier Transportation - A Towable Mesh Storage Bag is a great way to store and carry your tube to and from the lake. The unique Tubekeeper attaches your tube to the boat with suction cups and bungee cords so it's secured out of the way.
Choosing A Towable Tube
Styles of Tubes
The many innovative designs and convenient features found on today's towables provide you with plenty of wonderful choices for your next towable tube. Here are just a few of the various styles you might consider.
Open Top Tubes - This style resembles the original tube designs of the first towables. Depending on the size, riders can sit in the opening or on the side with their feet in the opening. The open top tube is available in both fully covered and partially covered styles. The ride may range from a casual tow to a more exciting, fast slide across the wake.
Cockpit Tubes - These are similar to open top tubes with an opening in the top, but also with inflatable bottoms, so they can be ridden while sitting in the opening instead of on the side. Cockpit towables are great for children (or grandparents) looking for a simple fun pull around the lake. The comfortable confines of the cockpit provide the confidence needed for someone just starting out tubing.
Flat Deck Tubes - Deck tubes continue to be a very popular choice among towable enthusiasts. Designed for speed, the deck tube can occasionally catch some air coming off the wake. Most deck tubes have a low profile which means they're easier to board. Since deck tubes are ridden while lying in a prone position, make sure there are EVA pads on the cover to prevent chafing and to make the ride more enjoyable.
Winged Tubes - Tubes designed with upturned side wings are easier to control around the wake. The wings make it easy to maneuver and deliver tight turns. Winged tubes provide more stability than standard deck tubes.
Towable Tubes with Dual Tow Points - Some towables are designed with more than one quick connect for attaching to the tow rope. This lets you tow the tube forward or backward and provides you with a choice in riding positions. The versatility of the dual tow points is great when you have a variety of ages and abilities of riders wanting to ride.
Inline Tubes - Also known as Hot Dogs or Banana Boats, an inline towable has a long design that lets riders sit in a row. Think of a log ride, except your sitting on top of the towable with handles provided for each rider. These towable sleds are usually a little heavier and require a good towing watercraft, but they are a terrific all-around ride for everyone in the family.
Other Styles - New designs range from towables with towers that allow the rider the option of standing to interactive seating designs that provide plenty of riding choices. In an effort to reduce surface contact with the water, some towables are designed with rounded bottoms or spheres that suspend the deck off the water, making the towable tube faster and easier to whip.
When selecting the size of your towable, remember that the industry standard for weight limit is 170 lbs. per rider. This means that a 2-rider towable will be rated at 340 lbs., a 4-rider towable at 680 lbs., a 6-rider towable at 1020 lbs., and so on. Pulling a towable with more weight on it than recommended hinders performance and may cause drag or nose dives. It also puts undo stress on ropes, connections, and the tube itself.
Never use a tow tower or ski tow pylon to pull your tube. If the tube dives, the stress on the tube and rope would be tremendous. It's best to use a transom ski tow, or if you have transom rings, a Gladiator Tow Harness is great for pulling tubes. The Gladiator Tow Harness comes in 12' and 16' options, so it will fit most boat styles including pontoon boats.
For quick and easy inflation, it's important to have the right type of valve. Screw-on valves like the Boston Valve are very popular because they're easy to handle. It's also important that the nozzle on your inflator/deflator works with the valve on your tube. Many inflator/deflators come with adapters that fit a wide range of valves.
The Boston Valve is a screw-on two-way valve. The bottom portion is screwed into the towable, while the top valve is screwed open for inflation and then tightened after inflation. Air is easily released by unscrewing the base connector. It's important not to miss a thread when screwing in the Boston Valve as it may cause the tube to slowly leak air. Boston Valves can be replaced easily.
The Speed Safety Valave is a simple, easy-to-use valve that's welded directly to the towable bladder. It opens for inflation when pushed in. The Speed Safety Valve cannot be replaced. If it becomes detached from the bladder, then you'll need to replace the whole bladder.
The Lightning Valve from O'Brien is similar to the Boston Valve except that it is attached to the towable, so there are no parts to keep up with or lose. The wider opening inflates and deflates much faster than the Boston Valve. An interior flap prevents air from escaping even if the cap is not in place.
The Stem Valve resembles a tire valve in that it has a stem that opens the valve in order to fill the towable with air. Once the air pump is removed, the air pressure inside the bladder pushes against the valve to seal it and keep the air from escaping.
The Rapid Inflate and Wide Rapid Inflate Valves are designed to receive a high volume of air. They have a low profile and a valve cap.
Other Features Worth Checking Out
PVC Tube - Most towable tubes are made of PVC with thicknesses between 24 and 30-gauge. The higher the gauge, the thicker and stronger the material is. If the PVC on the tube is exposed, it's best to have a higher gauge PVC.
Coated Nylon Cover - Towable tube covers are usually a coated nylon with a 420 or 840 denier rating. The higher the denier, the tougher the cover is.
Quick Connects - Quick connects at the tow points are a must for easily attaching the tow rope. They should be attached to the tube cover with several layers of durable reinforced webbing.
Handles and Knuckle Guards - Grab handles with closed-cell foam cores inside a nylon sheath are made to easily grasp. Foam knuckle guards underneath prevent you from scraping your fingers.
Boarding Aids - Conveniently placed straps and handles make it easier for riders to climb back on the tube from the water after a spill.
Contact Area - A large riding surface combined with small water contact area makes for a thrilling ride. With less contact between tube and water, there is less friction to interfere with speed.
Headrest - For a relaxing cruise, look for features like inflated headrests to give you more comfort.
Storage - For even more convenience on your casual ride, some towables have storage compartments for holding ice, drinks, snacks, or other items.
How To Inflate A Towable Tube
Proper inflation of your towable tube is vital to a great ride as well as to extending your tube's life. Under inflation causes the towable tube to sit low in the water. Being dragged through the water results in more stress on the tube, the cover, the rope, and the boat. This extra stress can displace the air that's in the tube, creating more pressure on the seams and leading to a rupture. It can also cause the cover to rip and the tow rope to stretch. Plus it makes it harder for the boat to get on plane, so it uses more gas.
Over inflating your towable tube can also cause damage to the seams and cover. A bulging tube bladder or stretched seams can be an indication of over inflating. Using an air pressure gauge can help you determine if there is too much air in your tube
When a towable tube is properly inflated, the cover is taut with few wrinkles. An adult standing on a properly inflated tube will only sink in a couple of inches. When inflated correctly, the towable tube rides high on the water with better response for a more exciting ride. It also creates less stress on the tube, the cover, the rope, and the watercraft, so your towable tube will last longer.
The Right Amount Of Air
Generally, the towable tube is full when it is very firm. A covered tube should be free of wrinkles, and an adult should be able to stand on the tube and only sink a couple of inches. To achieve this level of inflation, the tube has to stretch, which means you need a high-volume air pump that can provide enough pressure to expand the tube.
Maintaining The Right Amount Of Air
One other thing to remember is that you can't just fill the tube with air and then forget about it. It's important to continually monitor the amount of air in the towable tube to make sure it stays properly inflated. If you leave your tube sitting in the sun for any length of time, the heat will cause the air in the bladder to expand and possibly damage the seams. Either store the tube in the shade or, if you do leave it in the sun, let some air out. Don't let it sit on the boat or dock full of air. Likewise, if the tube is stored in a cool place, you may need to add air before using it. It's always important to check and adjust the level of inflation every time you use your tube.
The Right Pump
Towable tubes are low pressure/high volume products that do not require high pressure. Most towable tubes can be inflated with one good electric pump or a combination of a 12V pump and a hand pump. While most 12V air pumps are fine for filling a tire, they do not provide the amount of volume needed to inflate many towables, especially some of the bigger tubes. So remember, if you're filling your towable at the lake and using a 12V source, it's good to also have a hand pump to use for topping off the tube and achieving the proper inflation level. A hand pump is also useful in maintaining the right amount of inflation for towing as previously discussed.
Care And Maintenance Of Your Towable Tube
Please be aware that there are risks associated with boating and watersports. Good judgment and personal awareness can help to reduce these risks.
- Familiarize yourself with applicable laws, waterways, and inherent risks. While it’s always important to be aware of buoys, anchored boats, and flotsam (like logs), this is especially true when towing tubers. Though some towables can be steered, they are in no way as maneuverable as skis or boards. And passive tube riders might be less aware than an athlete. Be extra careful.
- There should always be a capable observer in the boat other than the driver. Use agreed upon hand signals for communication.
- Always wear a USCG-approved life jacket that fits properly.
- Inspect all your watersports equipment before use.
- Ride at the proper speed, under total control, and within your limits.
- Turn the ignition off when anyone is near the watercraft's engine or power drive unit.
- Stay clear of engine exhaust.
- Do not touch the swim platform while the engine is running.
- Never tube in shallow water or in areas near swimmers, other boats, or obstacles.
- Never operate the watercraft or ride while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Always use common sense and good judgment.
Towable Tubes Are A World Of Fun
We hope this discussion has been beneficial. Please spend some time browsing our large assortment of towable tubes and towable accessories. We're sure you'll find everything you need for an amazing adventure on the water. If you still need help making your selection, you can call, email, or live chat with one of our technicians. We're always here to help you get the most from your life on the water.