Everything You Need to Know Before Going River Tubing

With these tips, you'll be ready for your first river tubing adventure.

Laughing female friends floating down river on inner tubes and pink flamingo on summer afternoon
Photo: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

Editor’s Note: Travel might be complicated right now, but use our inspirational trip ideas to plan ahead for your next bucket list adventure.

Picture it: You’re floating down a river atop a tube, listening to the sounds of the water and watching the world pass by as you enjoy the great outdoors. River tubing is a popular summer activity in riverfront cities across the United States, and it’s perfect when you just want to relax and soak in nature. We’ve rounded up some of the most important river tubing tips, so you can have the best trip down the water, wherever you are in the country.

What to Know Before You Go

You’ll want to use common sense while planning your tube trip, as you would for any outdoor adventure. Check the weather before you go, and be mindful of any river conditions that might make the journey unsafe. If you’re going on an organized tubing excursion, the company will likely map out your trip, drive you to a drop-off point upstream, provide any relevant safety advice, and offer supplies like tubes.

If you’re planning a DIY river tubing trip, there are a few things to keep in mind. Go with a group — drowning is a danger in rivers, so it’s best to have people with you that can call for help if needed. On that note, wear a good, appropriately sized life jacket the entire time you’re on the water. You’ll want to thoroughly research the river you’re planning to float down, especially checking for any rapids or risks. You’ll be entering the river upstream from your final destination, so you’ll need to make a plan for how you’ll get home. If you’re going with a group, consider parking one car at the start and one car at the end.

Related: 25 Best Lake Vacations in the U.S.

What to Bring River Tubing

Whether you’re heading out for a couple of hours or a full day of river tubing, there are a few things you won’t want to forget. You’ll want to wear a swimsuit, water shoes, and a life jacket (safety first!), and put on sunscreen before hopping in the water. Bring extra sunscreen, snacks, plenty of water, sunglasses, a waterproof bag to stash your cell phone and money, a hat, and a cooler for your food and drinks. You’ll also want to have a towel, a change of clothes, and another pair of shoes so you can dry off after your adventure. It’s also great to have a first-aid kit on-hand in case anyone is cut by a rock or bitten by a pesky bug. If you have a waterproof radio, bring that along, too, so you can listen to music while you float. If you’re not river tubing with an outfitter that specializes in the activity, you’ll have to bring your own float as well. Some tubers opt for pool floats, but these can pop easily, leaving you tube-less for the rest of your journey. Instead, invest in a sturdier tube to reduce the risk of deflating.

What to Do When You Go River Tubing

Now, onto the fun part. Enjoy your float down the river, and keep that life jacket on to stay safe. Be mindful of other groups tubing, and be sure to keep any trash, including empty bottles or snack wrappers, with you so you can properly dispose of it at the end of your trip.

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