Who doesn’t love a good towable tube? You’ll see them everywhere around the country – they fit any waters just perfectly, be it a river, a lake, a bay or even a calm sea beach. They’re a hit with all ages – kids love the feeling of adventure it offers, teens and youngsters enjoy that healthy adrenaline dose, and adults can even enjoy a relaxing session of sunbathing on them. Today here’s to one of the most popular Airhead products – the Hot Dog Towable tube. As soon as you get used to its shape, which is a little on the weird side at first glance, you’ll surely get love it. And if you have kids, it will surely be a great hit for them.
To start off, I’d like to point out the answer to a basic question you might have. If you’re not planning to pin the tube to your board and speed it up, or no one in your family is into such extreme sensations, should you still consider a towable? Why buy a towable tube when you can get a cheaper alternative, like an inflatable mattress? Having such a hobby as boating and pontoons, you might already know that cheaper doesn’t necessarily mean better. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. Most inflatable mattresses aren’t cut out for being used on water – the material is softer, the seams are weaker and it could easily get a scratch from any sharp surface it touches. Towables are designed for the specific purpose of swimming with them and can resist to a lot of pressure, be it kids jumping on and off it, hitting the sand or even a mildly rocky beach. You might want to keep them away from nails or any other sharp edges you might have on the pier or boat – it’s elastic enough, but don’t force your luck.
This Hot Dog Tube from Airhead is made of vinyl and nylon – the best material combination when it comes to sailing accessories. The vinyl chambers ensure even pressure when the tube is inflated, preventing that slippery effect of a too soft inflatable – you can be sure none of your little guests will step on one spot which will give in to their weight and make them fall into the water. Besides, as vinyl is rather unpleasant to the touch (it gets all screechy when coming in contact with the skin, kind of like a leather seat in a heated car in summer), the Hot Dog tube is covered with nylon. This makes for a soft and enjoyable surface that you can be sure will not slip, as it is secured by a double stitch. The seat pads and handles are also covered and nylon and neoprene, which helps with reducing the risk of canvas burns in case the tube hits a bump or makes a sudden turn.
Depending on how many people you plan to fit on your Hot Dog tube, you should consider getting a 3-seats one or a 5-seats one. When it comes to the people who can enjoy it, I’d say kids, teens and smaller adults should be fine. The only concern with bigger adults would be the weight and the space left for putting one’s legs – it just wouldn’t be enough for a taller person. The feet should not touch the water – again, works best with smaller passengers – which is always a plus for first timers or someone who isn’t really sure whether they like it or not. When it comes to stability, the Hot Dog is a great deal, as you have the side air chambers – the “buns” – offering the tube a lot of stability and bringing its gravity center lower. Physics aside, all I wanted to point out is that the Hot Dog is a much better alternative than, say, a banana towable, which is narrower and taller in shape, and, thus, less stable. You might want to think about the front-back balance and place the heavier passengers in the back and the smallest, lightest one in the very front. This will prevent the “hot dog” piece in the front from sinking lower into the water and slowing the tube down. The Hot Dog is also convenient because it gives the opportunity to feel like you’re going at a faster speed than you are – which is always a plus if you’re planning to attach it to your pontoon boat. As they are famous for being slow on building up speed, the Hot Dog is probably the best towable option you could get.
When it comes to inflating, the Airhead Hot Dog comes with a single Boston valve placed on the “dog” part of the tube. That means you have to inflate the whole tube through that one single opening in the center. The Boston valve (which is a kind that keeps the air in when you take out the pump) was a well-thought move, but I’d prefer they put three separate ones on each part of the tube. What happens is that, when I try to inflate the “buns”, some air inevitably escapes and I have to re-inflate it every other hour to keep it nice and sturdy. Many people have a problem with the cap as well – as it is not attached in any way to the tube, it’s kind of easy to lose. Tying a string or an elastic to it might do the trick.
As far as prices go, the Hot Dog is a decent option for any wallet – you can get yours online or offline. Many stores carry Airhead production as well, so you might want to check out your local boating equipment store. I don’t recommend specialized online stores – they tend to go crazy overpricing their items.