A few years ago, I bought an inflatable as a Christmas present for a friends boating-enthusiast family. I was warned: "In this family, tubes don't last more than a few times out, if that". After doing some research, I still got them the tube; I just made sure they fully read the instructions. ... read more
So why do some families cycle through inflatable tubes like motor oil while others tube-purchase-cycles more closely resemble the frequency of solar eclipses? Technically there is no one answer but there is one best answer: Under-Inflation.
An underinflated tube will not have the same buoyancy as one fully inflated, forcing the tube through the water rather than on top of the water. If you've ever gotten on an inflatable and the tube started diving in the water when the boat started forward, it's likely that your tube needed more air. An underinflated tube is also more likely to rip with rugged use as there is more flexibility in the walls.
Finding the right amount of air pressure:
Most tubes do well with about 2 psi, but your tube manufacturer will likely include specs in the instruction manual/pamphlet. A rule of thumb SportsStuff suggests is to inflate the tube and have an adult stand on it. If the adult sinks more than a few inches (and the adult's not.. massive), the tube still needs to be inflated.
Also consider that the air in the tube will contract when used in cold water, so make sure to check the tube's air pressure periodically and re-inflate as needed.
Don't be fooled into thinking your towable is inflated when an electric air pump ceases to increase air pressure. Many electric pumps, especially 12v electric pumps designed to plug into cigarette adapters, do not have the power to fully inflate a tube. In this case, you'll want to use a manual pump to finish off the job. However, if you have the luxury of having access to a 120v power supply, there are heavier duty air pumps that will fully take care of the job, such as Sports Stuff 3psi Electric pump
Lastly, don't forget the old adult-boat-tube-wars saying: "no blood? no bruises? don't bother, you're a sissy."
Photo by hweeds