Best boat tubes and towable toys for boating thrills and spills

Buying one of the best boat tubes is a great way to upgrade your boat for fun on the water. We put 9 of the best to the test...

Unlike wakeboarding or waterskiing or most other towing watersports, tubing requires very little skill from the rider and, provided the boat driver knows what they’re doing, they can be as safe or as exhilarating as you wish.

But choosing the best towable boat tube isn’t as easy as it sounds. Quite apart from the obvious limitations of size and price, you need to have a good idea of how the shape and style affects its towing characteristics and whether it’s suitable for the size, age and experience of the intended riders.

The only way to find out was to put them to the test, so we brought together nine of the best boat tubes and submitted them to a rigorous series of tests at the hands of five fearless riders and one experienced sportsboat driver. Their remit was to rate them all for comfort, thrills, versatility and value for money.

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Whichever model you go for, be sure to read the safety warnings, consider if you need to add any boat tube accessories, and take care when towing – the pendulum effect of a long tow rope means that during turns the tube will end up travelling much faster than the boat.

At a glance

Best boat tube for beginners – Airhead Slice

Best boat tube on test – Jobe Binar

Best boat tube for big families – O’Brien Sombrero

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9 of the best boat tubes and towables

Airhead Slice

Best boat tube for beginners – full review


Capacity: 2 people | Handles: 4 | Diameter: 58 inches

Reasons to buy: Kid-friendly, good value, easy to mount from the water
Reasons to avoid: Limited room for adults, not the most fun, painful on the legs

Thrill rating: 2/5
Comfort rating: 2/5
Overall rating: 2/5

As the name suggests this towable boat tube is shaped like a slice of cheese, with its tapered design meaning a thinner back end to allow for easier access when clambering onto it from the water. This beginner-friendly focus continues throughout the design, with comfortable neoprene pads and knuckle guards as well as a relatively stable ride.

The Slice was first up on our testing menu so my fellow crash test dummies and I were raring to go. Unfortunately, the Slice failed to meet our expectations in terms of thrills or comfort levels perhaps because as relatively lanky students we found our shins were left hanging off the back and bouncing uncomfortably across the waves.

While the Slice was easy to slide outside the wake at speed, its low centre of gravity and compact disc-like shape proved reluctant to jump over waves or tip off its occupants. This could be perfect if you’re looking for a stable ride that won’t discourage younger kids or nervous riders from having a go, especially if their smaller frames means the lack of space wouldn’t be an issue for them. However, for more experienced riders it felt a bit tame and predictable.

Airhead Poparazzi

Best boat tube for laughs – full review


Capacity: 3 people | Handles: 12 | Dimensions (deflated): 72″L x 68″W

Reasons to buy: Thrilling ride, unique design, spectacular tumbles.
Reasons to avoid: Premium pricing, difficult to right, takes up a lot of space

Thrill rating: 5/5
Comfort rating: 3/5
Overall rating: 4/5

The next towable boat tube from Airhead couldn’t be much further from the Airhead Slice on the thrill scale. This whacky design isn’t just fun to ride, it also makes a great spectator sport with lots of opportunities for hilarious photos, which we can only assume is the inspiration behind the name.

Its 12 handles are perfectly positioned, allowing the riders to hang on through turns and counterbalance the lateral g-forces, whilst the three EVA foam pads guard against chafed knuckles and knees.

The U-shaped hull means there’s less drag across the water and a higher freeboard for launching it up and over the wake, enabling it to skim sideways at speed and helping it to pop over waves without digging in.

Buy it now on Amazon

Airhead Big Mable

Full review


Capacity: 2 people | Handles: 10 | Dimensions (deflated): 69″L x 66″W

Reasons to buy: Good airtime, dual towing points, floating sunlounger
Reasons to avoid: Lack of leg space, unstable in chariot mode, not as good as Super Mable

Thrill rating: 3/5
Comfort rating: 3/5
Overall rating: 3/5

After its big sister, the Super Mable, wiped the board in our last towable test back in 2005, we had high hopes for the slightly smaller Big Mable.

Resembling an inflatable sofa with a padded back wall and cushioned side rests, we were looking forward to a more relaxed ride after the rough and tumble of some of the other tubes. Little did we realise that the Big Mable was going to provide some seriously large jumps, rivalling the O’Brien Screamer for the biggest air award.

When running in a straight line behind the boat, the sofa design provided a comfortable ride with the deep base and back rest helping absorb any impacts and the handles being well placed to hang on to. The side rests also proved invaluable for counterbalancing any tipping when being flung outside the wake.

Buy it now on Amazon


Jobe Kickflip

Full review


Capacity: 2 people | Handles: 8 | Dimensions (inflated): 62″L x 49″W

Reasons to buy: If you have a sadistic joy for wipeouts then this might be for you. That’s all we can think of
Reasons to avoid: Unstable design, uncomfortable ride, unsatisfactory thrills

Thrill rating: 1/5
Comfort rating: 2/5
Overall rating: 1/5

We always look for the positives in our reviews but the Kickflip left us struggling to find many. Looking like a halfway house between a sofa and a disc, the Kickflip doesn’t really reap the benefits of either design.

It can be towed facing forwards or backwards, thanks to quick connectors on both ends, allowing riders to sit on it sofa style or kneel on it chariot style. An inflatable bladder under the angled backrest acts as a stabilising float to help prevent it flipping over backwards.

Not only does this need a different connector to all the other valves (we end up having to inflate by mouth) but it is not very effective either, particularly when riding chariot style.

Buy it now on Amazon


Jobe Binar

Best boat tube on test – full review


Capacity: 2 people | Handles: 7 | Dimensions (inflated): 97″ L x 72″ W

Reasons to buy: Comfort, thrill, suitable for all riders
Reasons to avoid: Relatively bulky, costly (but worth it)

Thrill rating: 5/5
Comfort rating: 5/5
Overall rating: 5/5

The strange thing about the Kickflip is that Jobe clearly knows how to make a really good sofa-style tube, as the Jobe Binar amply demonstrates. For us, this delivered the perfect mix of comfort and thrill, fear and fun – all our riders rated this as the most enjoyable tube on test.

It has lots of legroom, crucial for preventing overhanging legs from smacking against the water; the back rest is well angled and supportive – much like settling into your sofa at home for a night-time Netflix binge; and the handles and side supports are perfectly placed for lulling riders into a false sense of security!

Don’t be fooled – any sense of a relaxing ride was quickly dispelled the second the Binar hit the first wake, launching into the air like an F16 being catapulted from the deck of an aircraft carrier. The crucial difference between this and some of the other tubes, is that it proved equally adept at landing with the riders still in situ grinning from ear to ear.

Buy it now on Amazon


Jobe Revolve

Full review


Capacity: 2 | Handles: 4 | Dimensions (inflated): 77″ L x 69″ W

Reasons to buy: Leg extensions look cool and add comfort, wings, decent value
Reasons to avoid: Not as fun as bigger discs, too few handles, more style than substance

Thrill rating: 2/5
Comfort rating: 3/5
Overall rating: 2/5

An interesting take on a disc shaped tube, the Revolve instantly caught our attention as a possible solution to the leg slapping problem experienced on some of the smaller round-shaped discs. The two extensions at the back are perfectly situated to support your legs and have neoprene padding to further reduce chafing under way.

We did find that this meant a more comfortable ride when being towed in a straight line on flat water but as soon as you hit choppier water or the driver puts the boat into a turn, there is nothing to brace your legs against so they soon slip off to one side or the other and still end up getting battered by waves.

Furthermore, the extensions seemed to act like shallow keels, keeping the Revolve in a straight line and resisting efforts to fling it outside the wake. We wonder whether a full width extension at the back might be a better solution, solving the issue of leg space and making the whole tube slide more freely from side to side.

Buy it now on


Jobe Scout

Best value boat tube – full review


Capacity: 3 | Handles: 6 | Dimensions (inflated): 85″ L x 70″W

Reasons to buy: Value for money, thrill, space
Reasons to avoid: Not many handles, middle person squeezed, can only be ridden in one way

Thrill rating: 4/5
Comfort: 4/5
Overall rating: 4/5

Jobe seem to be slightly hit or miss with their towables but the Jobe Scout 3 is a clear home run, not least because this one has that all-important legroom. The other valuable innovation of this design are the inflatable pads between the riders that help wedge them in place and prevent them from colliding with each other over the lumps and bumps.

There are only six handles in total (two per rider) but they were perfectly placed to hang onto, even if the middle person felt a bit like a sardine in a tin.

The angled wings on the side of the Scout serve the same purpose as those on the Binar and Revolve, helping to right the tube when landing awkwardly and acting as a lip to prevent the outside riders sliding off.

Buy it now on


O’Brien Screamer

Best budget boat tube – full review


Capacity: 1 person | Handles: 4 | Diameter: 60″

Reasons to buy: Airtime, value for money, easy to store
Reasons to avoid: Uncomfortable, hard to get on, not for beginners

Thrill rating: 5/5
Comfort rating: 2/5
Overall rating: 3/5

The Screamer may look like a fairly innocuous disc but it had a few surprises in store! It’s hard to know if it was down to the slightly choppier conditions at the time of our test or the flat, hydrodynamic design of the Screamer but it proved to be an absolute jack-in-the-box out on the water.

We were thrown off left, right and centre despite some admirable efforts from the younger stuntmen to cling on long beyond the point of no return – at times it looked like they must have had double-jointed shoulders!

The Screamer seemed to catch every wave going and spent most of its time airborne with riders dangling off it and at every possible angle – and a few impossible ones! The handles with their EVA knuckle guards were fundamental to the enjoyment of the ride and although we felt they were slightly too far forward for optimal balance, the fact there were four of them meant even the most extreme crash landings could be survived.


O’Brien Sombrero

Best boat tube for big families – full review


Capacity: 4 people | Handles: 16 | Diameter: 88″

Reasons to buy: Cool design, lots of riders, easy to get on
Reasons to avoid: Expensive, lack of thrill, big and heavy

Thrill rating: 2/5
Comfort rating: 4/5
Overall rating: 3/5

The most eye-catching of all the towables, the Sombrero is inspired by the traditional Mexican hat it bears the name of. With four padded seats on the outer tube, riders are meant to sit or stand facing inwards, holding onto the handles placed around the inner dome. However, we found you could also sit with your bum in between the tubes and your body facing outwards.

The handles are well placed, facilitating all manner of positions that you either choose to try or are forced to adopt during the tow. The pull-up straps at the entrance are a great addition to any design and did make boarding the Sombrero noticeably easier.

We were expecting a lot from the Sombrero, considering its price tag and outlandish design, and whilst it was by no means a disaster, it didn’t quite live up to these lofty hopes. The ability to fit four people at once is a bonus and the variety in riding styles did mean that each new seat or orientation felt like an entirely new experience, helping to ensure that the Sombrero’s enjoyment doesn’t go stale over the years.

Buy it now on Amazon

Towable boat tubes: Best of the rest


O’Brien LeTube


Capacity: 1 person | Tow points: 1 | Handles: 4

Reasons to buy: Inexpensive, suitable for beginners, renowned durability/longevity, quick connect tow system, quick inflation/deflation system
Reasons to avoid: Only designed for one rider, more advanced riders will find this tube limited fun

The O’Brien LeTube is a basic inner tube that has been around for decades. Suitable for one person, the LeTube is inexpensive with a small footprint and is therefore a suitable entry-level boat tube option.

With its donut configuration, the LeTube is also suitable for boaters with small children, as riding inside the tube feels safer and more comfortable for novice riders who tend to be a bit apprehensive about falling off when bumping over the edge of a wake.


O’Brien Super Screamer

Best boat tube for overall performance


Capacity: 2 people | Handles: 6 | Package dimensions: ‎19″ x 15.65″ x 4.75″

Reasons to buy: Best bang for the buck for a performance-oriented tube, padded grips, quick connect tow system, quick inflation/deflation system
Reasons to avoid: Some QC issues reported

Much like the Screamer, but suitable for two riders instead of just one, the Super Screamer by O’Brien is a very versatile choice for boaters needing to tow a crew of more experienced and adventurous riders.

For a negligible price difference, I believe the Super Screamer to be a much better option as it will still be sporty enough for daring single riders.

Airhead G-Force

Best boat tube for for versatility/value


Capacity: 2 people | Handles: 4 | Deflated dimensions: 64″ x 60″

Reasons to buy: Great value, comes in different configurations and colors, padded grips, quick connect tow system, quick inflation/deflation system, integral bolsters help stabilize riders
Reasons to avoid: Questionable reliability according to adverse reports from some users

One step up on Airhead’s performance spectrum from the Slice is the G-Force. Unlike the O’Brien Super Screamer, the G-Force comes in various sizes to accommodate the needs of different boaters.

Therefore, I would argue that the G-Force is just about the most versatile, performance-oriented boat tube on the market.

An additional differentiating feature on the G-Force is its integral bolsters, which help riders to stabilize themselves by restricting some lateral movement.


The Super Mable impressed on our first boat tube test way back in 2005

Airhead Super Mable

Best boat tube for big groups


Capacity: 3 people | Handles: 16 | Deflated dimensions: 79″ x 78″

Reasons to buy: Suitable for novices, affordable for such a large towable, padded grips, quick connect tow system, features an integral back rest

Reasons to avoid: Takes up a lot of space on board, will tend to bounce with only one lightweight rider, needs a fairly powerful boat to get three people planing

The Airhead Super Mable is a good option for boat owners looking to tow young children or other apprehensive riders as well as more advanced tubers.With the ability to carry up to three riders at once, the Super Mable is a good option for weekend party boats that are typically laden with several passengers.

While not as extreme as smaller, sportier variants, with a suitably experienced boat driver at the helm it can still deliver a surprisingly wild ride.

MBY editor Hugo Andreae is a big fan of this particular boat tube, writing in his review: “Unlike some tubes that seemed to rely on fear rather than fun to deliver their kicks, the Super Mable scored on all counts.

“You can tow it using the kicked up section as a back-rest or turn it around, attach the tow rope to the other side and use it as a foil to hide behind. This gave it much more versatility for riders of all ages, sizes and ability.

Airhead Jumbo Dog Rider

Best hot dog boat tube


Weight limit: 5 people | Handles: 5 | Deflated dimensions: 150″ x 44″

Reasons to buy: Able to seat up to five riders, suitable for novices, affordable for such a large towable, padded grips, quick connect tow system
Reasons to avoid: Not suitable for high-speed tubing, experienced riders may find this tube boring

For those looking to tow up to 5 riders at a more leisurely pace, the Jumbo Dog Rider from Airhead is a prime option and an affordable alternative to the ubiquitous banana boat tube with its fun hot dog aesthetic.

Unlike the other boat tubes on this list, the Jumbo Dog Rider is only designed for towing at moderate speeds rather than more extreme wake riding antics.

In most cases, long, slender tubes like the Rider are typically used in coastal areas with moderate surf — many times even straight off the beach.

The ride isn’t as exhilarating as it is with faster boat tubes but the pitching and rolling through gentle coastal swells is fun, especially its enough to unseat one or more of the riders.

Sportsstuff Booster Ball

Best boat tube accessory

Reasons to buy: Prevents annoying spray and whipping effects, reduces acceleration jolting, will smooth out ride, but also allow for more rider/driver control
Reasons to avoid: An additional expense, an additional failure point, makes setting up and breaking down take longer

While not a tube, the Sportsstuff Booster Ball can and should be paired with any of the best boat tubes on this list to enhance tubing performance.

One of my major annoyances while tubing over the years is when the tow rope drags in the water, causing water to spray into your eyes.

Additionally, a lagging tow rope can create a sudden whipping effect, which can cause less experienced riders to capsize if they’re not expecting it.

Designed to stop this happening, the Booster Ball works by raising the tow rope above the water’s surface.

Our crash test victims

Top tips for enjoying boat tubes safely

Fun as these toys undoubtedly are, it is extremely important that you take great care when using them. You only have to look at the number of disclaimers and warnings plastered all over them to get a sense of how badly things can go wrong. It is also worth noting that a lot of insurance firms will happily cover waterskiing but won’t touch ringos, donuts and other boat tubes. Check with your insurance provider to see where you stand.

Boat tubing equipment

As well as the toy, you will need to invest in some proper accessories. Ordinary lifejackets are out of the question and even most buoyancy aids won’t stand up to the kind of battering they are likely to get. Your best bet is a decent waterskiing jacket that provides both additional buoyancy and some level of impact protection. In British waters a summer wetsuit will also reduce water-slap, chafing and of course unwanted jets of water penetrating swimming trunks, bikinis and the like.

You will also need a proper tow-rope designed for pulling inflatables and rated for the same number of people as the toy. Unlike ordinary ropes they are woven to allow stretch and prevent sudden snatches – 50-60ft (15-18m) is the norm but you may want more on a big boat.


We used a Karnic 2250 as our tow boat for testing the best boat tubes

Driving the tow boat

Unlike waterskiing, in which the skier has some control over their direction, speed and balance, the rider of a boat tube is completely at the mercy of the boat driver. They don’t even have the option of letting go of the tow rope, so it’s extremely important that you know what effect your driving is having and learn to adapt it.

Most manufacturers recommend you keep your speed below 20 knots but even this can be deceptive. Put the boat into a tight turn and the inflatable will accelerate out of the wake carving a much wider arc than the boat and reaching speeds well in excess of the boat.

This may be part of the fun but don’t assume that everybody will enjoy this treatment. Take things gently at first, stop to see how they are enjoying it. Above all make sure you agree some simple hand signals so that the rider can communicate with the driver. You won’t hear the screams above the engine noise and the last thing most riders want to do is let go of their grab handles for any longer than necessary.

You must also have a lookout to let you know what’s going on behind so that you can concentrate on the view ahead. And whatever you do make sure you keep your engines in neutral or better still switched off entirely when picking people up from the water.

Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Head to Amazon’s dedicated boating page for more marine products.


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