Inflation and Care of Tubes and Towables

Best Practices

Please note, in the following article we refer to all tubes, towables or doables as a “tube.”

Why is inflating a tube properly so important?

You’ve made an investment in a tube or towable that should last for years with the correct care.  To maintain that product life, and also achieve the best in performance, it must be inflated properly.

Why is under inflation a problem?

If a tube is under inflated the tube will sit low in the water.  This creates stress on not only the tube, but the covering, the rope and even the watercraft pulling the tube.  The tube is dragging through water rather than being pulled on top of the water.  Air in tubes is then displaced and it may cause the tube to rupture.

Under inflation can also cause the watercraft to be unable to plane off and cause excess use of fuel.

What is the right amount of air for a tube?

  • The easiest test would be to ask yourself, “is the tube firm”
  • Correctly inflated tubes will be free of wrinkles
  • When an average weight adult stands on the tube it should not give more than a few inches

What kind of inflating device do you need?

Overall, the chosen inflator must be able to pump in a high volume of air while having enough pressure to stretch the PVC cover of the tubes.

PUMPS do not require high pressure; they are low pressure/high volume product classified.  The pressure of a tube, fully inflated, should be around 2 PSI (PSI is defined as pounds per square inch)

  • Hand Pumps – used to top off a tube, maintain proper inflation levels and assist with a 12 volt pump for bigger tubes
  • 12 Volt Pumps – will work on beds, loungers, tubes, but may not properly inflate the larger tubes you now find available.  These are the kinds of pumps you usually think of for use on bicycle tires or car tires.  This usually plugs into your boat’s cigarette lighter
  • 110 Volt Pump – the best way to fill those big tubes and towables.  An alternative might be a shop vac with a blower option and leaf blowers.

Note on Power Inverters – these are becoming more cost effective and are a great way to power 110-volt appliances on or near the water.

What kind of VALVE do you need?

Most of the tubes we carry have their own patented valve on their products.  Sportsstuff carries a Speed Safety Valve for inflation and deflation while Kwik-Tek/Airhead products feature what is known as the Boston Valve which performs basically the same function allowing you to insert the nozzle of your pump on the valve and inflate.  These are also referred to as “one way valves.”

Maintenance of your tubes:

Finally, but certainly not the least of information one needs on tubes, is the maintenance of these investments.

  • Do not leave your tube sitting in the sun for a long period of time as it will expand. Store in the shade, or let some air out
  • Conversely, storing in a cool place or putting in cool water may cause the tube to need additional air.  Remember, heat expands, cold contracts
  • Check and adjust inflation levels each time you use your tube

Note:  Please refer to the use of protectants, such as 303 Aerospace Protectant, to keep your tube from UV fading and prevent damage from the elements.  It will keep the tube looking like new from season to season.

Many of our customers who own commercial white water rafting businesses, as well as individuals,  have provided testimonials to the use of 303 on their vinyl and rubber products.