River tubing hacks, please!
July 19, 2011 3:05 PM   Subscribe

Please share your river tubing hacks.

I'm going tubing this Saturday with some friends and am hoping to make it as fun as possible. I am looking for suggestions for making a cheap floating cooler (or buy one if super cheap). I could order online (saw some for like $25) but I've been dragging my feet until now would probably have to pay for rushed shipping. Plus this is kind of a one-time thing so I wont probably be needing one again in the foreseeable future. Is there a certain store that sells this type of thing?

Also it would be cool if we could have some music. We have an ipod home but I could probably get my hands on a boom box for full effect. Need to keep it dry though, obviously. This river is very shallow and slow so I'm not really worried about flipping over the raft/floating cooler thing with the stuff.

We are renting the tubes so I don't think I can rent one and modify it for the purposes of carrying stuff, like put something over the hole to set a cooler on. I'm debating tying a trash bag to my tube, letting the water keep the drinks cool and being a little more discreet. I have no shame, so embarrassment is not a factor, but I don't want to draw the attention of any park rangers. Is this a bad idea? I think it will probably slow me down compared to everyone else...

Also any other fun ideas appreciated. Right now I'm thinking freezer pops and maybe water guns. The more I think about this the more I love summer...
posted by halseyaa to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (22 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Usually, they rent tubes with bottoms and people can strap their coolers into them. Bring bungee cords or some scraps of rope; they're useful to hold flotillas of tubes together (hold you to your buddy/partner/girlfriend/etc.) and to hold coolers to tubes.

The cheap styrofoam coolers available at the grocery store work pretty well for single-use tube coolers. However ... I pack most of my beer in a 3 liter camelback.

The rule on the river is DON'T BRING ANYTHING YOU'RE NOT AFRAID TO LOSE ... the damndest things fall out of your pockets / backpacks / untie themselves from the strings around your neck, so leave your $100 sunglasses at home and bring a $2 drug store pair, have two people with a key to the car with them, etc.
posted by SpecialK at 3:22 PM on July 19, 2011

Response by poster: I should mention there is a no-styrofoam-coolers rule at this place according to their website.

@SpecialK I didn't realize anywhere rents tubes with bottoms, so that would be perfect! I'll see if this place has them...
posted by halseyaa at 3:25 PM on July 19, 2011

always take out with you what you bring in.
posted by violetk at 3:26 PM on July 19, 2011

Also, lube up the insides of your upper arms to prevent a rash from paddling (or wear a rash guard).
posted by dolface at 3:26 PM on July 19, 2011

Just get one of the cheap styrofoam coolers. Unless they're SUPER loaded down, they float pretty well. Just make sure the lid stays on and doesn't float away.

It seems ridiculous to say considering the heat wave that's going on now, but I've always gotten chilly on tubing trips. It seems like it can go from blazing hot (and in direct sunlight) to freezing in a matter of seconds. Make sure to wear sunscreen and a hat. I would also seriously consider taking a fleece or something rolled up in a ziplock bag (to keep it dry), and busting it out if it gets cold.

Also take a few carabiners. The tubes generally have rope threaded around them, and the carabiners are really handy for attaching stuff you don't want to lose to the tube or attaching the tubes to each other if you want to create a flotilla.
posted by phunniemee at 3:26 PM on July 19, 2011

Best answer: If you have a cooler with big ol' loop handles, you can easily suspend your cooler between 'tubes in the inevitable flotilla. Web it in with bungee and lots of rope and it won't even need it's own tube.

Don't futz around too much with tchotchkes to play with or music or anything. Wear water shoes or strap-on sandals, venture out, use lots of sunscreen, and have fun. Y'all won't get bored.
posted by carsonb at 3:36 PM on July 19, 2011

Not to be a stick-in-the-mud, but watch out for bridges if you tie rafts together. Every year the local news here has a few stories like this. Of course this might be less of an issue depending on where you are.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 3:43 PM on July 19, 2011

Please no music--other people enjoying the river might not share your taste, or might prefer the sounds of nature.
posted by LarryC at 3:50 PM on July 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: After spending countless days floating down the river in the past five years, I can say that the best days have been without music, it always leads to either great conversations or just complete chilling out and enjoying nature.

As for the cooler, if they don't rent bottomed tubes (which some places don't), you can always get an inflatable cooler from Dick's Sporting goods or any type of sporting store. I think I got my super ugly but extremely sturdy NYMets inflatable cooler from Dicks for about $20, they continually have 50% off coupons online as well, so look for something like that.

Also, a word of advice, if you have a Nalgene wide-mouth bottle, it becomes a great watertight storage container for cellphones and car keys, with it SECURELY tied to your swim suit or wrist, NOT your raft, as your raft can float away and you'll be SOL.
posted by banannafish at 3:51 PM on July 19, 2011

Yeah, think hard about where you put your wallet and car keys and stuff. Separate them from each other and from everyone else's gear.
posted by cmoj at 3:58 PM on July 19, 2011

I hate hauling stuff twice. So instead of a cooler full of beer, which creates a bunch of empties you have to haul back out, I take a flask of more potent booze and a plastic gallon jug half-full of water that I've frozen the night before. Then tie off the jug to the tube, slide your flask in a safe pocket, and you're ready to get your drink on with minimal encumbrance.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:58 PM on July 19, 2011

Water guns, yes! I picked some up cheap at Five Below, and no one else on our 30 person river tubing expedition had thought to bring any. Mwah-ha-ha!

None of bothered with food/drink except some water bottles, but then, we had a hot dog stand in the river about halfway through the trip.
posted by booksherpa at 3:59 PM on July 19, 2011

Fanny pack or small backpack for your keys and sunscreen. Wear a long shirt and light pants to keep from getting fried - you won't get hot if you dip them in the water. Re-apply susncreen every 30 mins, even if it says waterproof because you will be getting so wet it will wash off.
posted by yarly at 4:15 PM on July 19, 2011

Nthing no music. I am one of those people who plays music all the time -- but on the river, it is a dick thing to do. If you are anywhere close to an urban area there will be lots of other people on the river, floating along with you pretty much the whole time. How would you feel if another group on the river was playing "Girls Rule the World" all afternoon? Well, they'll feel that way about your jams of choice. And honestly, you really won't miss it.

Also, a thermos of hot coffee -- either with you, or in the car at your landing spot. Oh how good it is to have hot coffee when you are wet and chilly.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 4:15 PM on July 19, 2011

Best answer: Whitewater kayak instructor here. I have seen many a tuber and have even been one myself. My advice:

If you're in any whitewater or swift water, wear a helmet. Rocks + head = really, really bad.

Wear your life jacket. The whole time, fastened properly (it does nothing for you if you use it as a pillow, you have a tumble and watch as it floats away. Especially if you're drinking.

Foot entrapment: if you find yourself swimming, do not stand up, even in what seems like gentle current. If your foot gets wedged under a rock, you will get pushed forward by the current and do under water push ups for the rest of your very short life. Swim to the side and stand when the water is below your knees.

Strainers: anything the water goes through while you do not. For example, there's a log in the river, over time sticks pile on it. You swim up to it, water goes under and through, you just go under. These frequently occur on bridge abuttments. Avoid at all costs.

Ok? Now you know more than 95% of rubber jockeys and can be safe and have a damn good time.

And when you're really ready to have fun, learn to kayak!

...sorry for any typos or general weirdness. Writing on my phone.
posted by SampleSize at 5:06 PM on July 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

This is probably a no brainer but I'll toss it in anyway: dry clothes and towels in the trunk of the car. You'll be soaked and chilly at the end and driving back home in wet clothes is no fun. We always lock our phones and wallets and stuff into the car trunk - really, you don't need much of anything with you except a water bottle and why risk losing stuff at the bottom of the river? However I heartily recommend going to the supermarket and buying a disposable waterproof camera. Those things are inexpensive and great; tubing pictures rock.

Nthing what other people have said about music and also, check the rules before you bring a cooler. The rivers around here have been alcohol free for several years now and they are serious as shit about it, as in there are cops in the woods waiting for people with beer to drift by. I'm sure they're making bank on all the fines. I have heard (cough, cough) of people circumventing this by the time honored method of pouring beer into plastic ice tea bottles or something similar.
posted by mygothlaundry at 5:08 PM on July 19, 2011

Best answer: Another kayaker here.

Wear a hat. A ball hat with a brim is great to give you a wee bit of shade and will also serve as air conditioning if you wet it and stick it back on your hot head.

Depending on the length of your float, you might plan a small and portable snack. I tuck jerky in my life jacket pocket (and store the wrapper back in the same pocket).

Get directions. Ask your rental place some basic information -- how long is your float. Are there any obstacles/hazards to be aware of. What time do they expect you at the pickup/end point (and wear a watch to help gauge the time). If you're uncertain of where the pickup/end point is, ask for landmarks or a count of the bridges you should pass along the way. Communicate this information to the people in your group.

Figure out where you're eating afterwards. Inevitably you'll be hot, tired, and hungry. Decide on a post-float stop to avoid the painful "what should we do now" conversation while hot, tired, and hungry.

Don't make your group into an immovable island. Yes, it can be cool to have the option to tether a few tubes together but don't make a huge mass out of yourselves. Make sure other river users (kayakers, other tubers, fishermen) can negotiate around you and you can negotiate around them. If you come up on river traffic, communicate verbally with folks (ex: coming up on your right).

Bring sunscreen & bug spray. Bugs aren't *usually* too bad but when they're out they can be brutal.

Bring a garbage bag (grocery bag size) and round up the garbage as you make it.
posted by countrymod at 5:26 PM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have found the river tubing companies provide the cooler tube (for an extra fee) and the garbage bag. They also provide a place for your keys as well as parking. Also there is typically a changing area for when you return. Do they provide transportation back if needed? The place I use does.

Due to the rough terrain and rocks - we prefer to use the tubes with bottoms on them. The first time I went over a rock and felt the scrap on the bottom caused me to value the extra money we paid for the bottoms.

We check flow rates at the local water authority. With the drought in my area, tubing is not especially fun as the flow rates are too low and the drought has caused the river level to drop. As a friend once said, "The river is so low I had to get up and walk with my tube at times. It ruined my buzz." Don't ruin your buzz - perhaps you should check the flow rates to make sure it is at a recreational level.

We bring beer (in cans only) because no one wants to ruin the fun of others with broken glass. A town I can river tube through has a limit on cooler size, does not allow beer bongs, and in some areas forbid jello shots. This is why we do not river tube through this town. Check for restrictions.

Sunscreen, sunscreen and more sunscreen. Reapply several times during your adventure. Also, if you decide to drink alcohol you will find the calm river ride tricks you into thinking you are not as drunk as you are. You discover how drunk you are once you leave the water. Bad mistake. We have warned family and friends about this, but they always ignore us. They also ignore us about the sunscreen, and lived to regret it.
posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 6:11 PM on July 19, 2011

I live on a river that brings summer tubers floating past every day, and please, on behalf of everyone around you: Don't bring music.

You do not need it, and to everyone else who is not you, it is incredibly annoying and spoils the experience of being out in the country. If you need tunes, use a waterproof earbud set like this one.
posted by yellowcandy at 9:37 PM on July 19, 2011

Make a copy of your Driver's license, car insurance, registration, medical insurance card, a list of your prescriptions/allergies and a list of contact phone numbers onto one sheet of paper, fold it up and store it in a snack bag along with a $20 or two. You'll have that info & some cash if you need it without carrying your whole wallet.

(I used to not include phone numbers until I realized that I stored all the phone numbers on my cell phone & if that's not available, I probably won't remember any of them in a panic state. I include my allergy info since I can't expect my friends to remember those if I'm unable to talk.)
posted by jaimystery at 5:05 AM on July 20, 2011

Response by poster: Some really great ideas in here, thanks!! I will bring the rashguard, carabiners, sunscreen, etc and leave the music at home. I wasn't planning on blasting it, but enjoying nature sounds peaceful and thats one less thing to worry about losing to the river.
posted by halseyaa at 7:19 AM on July 20, 2011

Looks like the OP already went tubing, but this is for posterity: DO NOT bring a styrofoam cooler on a tubing trip, ever. If it hits a rock and breaks up, little bits of styrofoam will go all over the river and be impossible to clean up. Most tubing places in central Texas explicitly forbid them.
posted by bluishorange at 5:36 AM on July 25, 2011

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