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Fly Fishing Float Tubes: A Brief Buyer's Guide
Photo by Travis Duddles
Choosing the Right Float Tube
If you like to fish still water you should seriously consider a float tube. No, they don’t go fast and you can’t tote your family along, but as far as single-person fly-fishing vessels are concerned, they are tough to beat. They are easy to carry, easy to inflate, comfortable, extremely functional from a fly fisher’s point of view and they help to open up all that water that you just couldn’t reach before. Most tubes will carry you, your gear bag, your valuables and a small cooler. Not bad for fitting into a back pack!
Like pontoon boats, the most important determinant of quality and performance depends on the materials used and the overall size of the float tube. Most tubes have internal bladders constructed of either Vinyl or Urethane. The outer shell that holds these bladders is a fabric material that will vary in durability from the top of the tubes to the bottom. Typically the material on top is lighter gauge fabric than that of the shell material on the bottom of the tube. The durability is given a weight rating, typically between 200 – 600. Most tubes have an outer shell rating that is durable enough for average use. The main concern is what type of bladder is used.
Urethane bladders are far superior to Vinyl bladders. They are more likely to hold up and remain leak-free over time. Price is very indicative of what type of bladder is used. There are some tubes that do not use bladders. Tubes like the Outcast Trinity use a UCN (Urethane Coated Vinyl) shell to hold the air. They are not as durable, but they have drastic weight reduction as this particular tube weighs only 7 lbs! The type of valves is also a concern. Most valves are user friendly but some are more durable than others. Summit II valves are more durable than Boston valves. Leaks can occur at the valve but those tubes using Summit II valves are far less likely to do so.
The larger the tube diameter, the easier they are to maneuver. A longer, wider tube will be more stable and track better through the water. Carrying capacity also increases with overall tube size. But, those folks wishing to hike long distances with their tubes should seriously consider a tube’s packability and weight.
Photo by Steve Turner
Outcast Float Tubes are all very comfortable. They utilize a U-shaped design that helps anglers cut through the water more efficiently. The seats are all positioned above the water’s surface which keeps people dry above the knee. Seats are either foam material or they are inflated. Tubes that have inflatable seats are easier to pack and they certainly bolster the comfort level.
All Outcast tubes come with adapters that coincide with their particular valve type. There are many pumps available on the market. Outcast has pumps, but we really love the line of K-Pumps that are built here in Oregon. Their streamlined design and functionality make them tops in our opinion. If a leak does occur while you are out on the water Outcast has patch kits that are strong and user-friendly. Although, if no kit is on hand, a little duct tape can go a long way.
It should be mentioned that all Outcast Tubes have a 5 year warranty. Customers should contact Outcast for repairs and to see if it falls under warranty. Nylon bladders can typically be shipped out to consumers under warranty, however, Urethane bladders needing repair should be sent to Outcast for review before a full bladder replacement can be considered.
Photo by Steve Turner
Fins are also a necessity as your legs are the engine on these vessels.