AIRE Heavy-Duty River Tubes Review


Paddling / Wednesday, April 21st, 2021

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AIRE (Argonaut Inflatable Research and Engineering, Inc.) is an innovative boating company that was started in 1989 by four, highly-skilled, river runners who set out to create a new design for whitewater boats. Today, AIRE stands out as a state-of-the-art, inflatable boat manufacturer with new boat models, fabrics, and technology that please river enthusiasts year after year.

This Idaho-grown company has a mission wrapped around quality and fun… Build boats and go boating! You’ve got to admire people who do what they love for a living. It shows in the craftsmanship and quality of design.

AIRE has two heavy-duty river tubes: the Rocktabomb river tube and the Bubbabomb river tube. Both of these tubes share the same high-quality, design features and differ in little more than size and load capacity.

Speaking of quality, AIRE river tubes are made with the same technology that goes into their inflatable rafts, kayaks, catarafts, and paddlecats. With that being said, the tubes are designed for leisurely floating, on calm moving water.

AIRE does not rate their river tubes for any particular class of whitewater, as it is the skill of the captain, not the ship when it comes to running whitewater. Experienced river runners do use AIRE river tubes on whitewater, but they are a tube, and will not perform on whitewater like an inflatable kayak or inflatable raft.

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Design and Construction of AIRE River Tubes

A collage of green, blue, and red AIRE Rocktabomb Inflatable River Tubes.

AIREcell bladder system: AIRE Rocktabomb river tubes and the Bubbabomb river tubes are made from a two-layer AIREcell bladder system comprised of a 12mm urethane bladder (the AIREcell), and a 23oz Ferrari PVC shell. The combination makes AIRE tubes virtually impervious to puncture from rocks, limbs, and other debris.

AIREcell: Every AIRE river tube has an internal bladder system made from 12mm urethane film. AIREcell bladders are oversized with thermal-welded seams this prevents overpressurization of the seams.

Ferrari PVC: The bladders of AIRE Rocktabomb river tubes and the Bubbabomb river tubes are 100% wrapped in a 1000-Denier, 23oz PVC shell with a double-zipper access seam. This Ferrari PVC shell provides the shape of the river tube and protects the AIREcell bladder from sun, saltwater, abrasions, and punctures.

Zippers: AIRE river tubes have double-zippers in the PVC shell to install and access the AIREcells. The zippers circle the inner circumference of the tube. The double-zipper rates force ten times stronger than that exerted by the recommended inflation pressure.

Thermal-Welded Seams: Thermal welding is a process of using pressure and heat to permanently bond seams of inflatable boats. The elimination of glue in constructing seams protects manufacturers and the environment from toxins and also creates a stronger more durable seam. Glue seams deteriorate over time and fail.

Summit 2 Air Valve: One of the most common valves installed on inflatable boats is the Summit 2 valve, and with good reason too. With rugged plastic and metal components, Summit 2 valves are built to last.

Handles: AIRE river tubes have two sturdy handles that make lifting and carrying easy, improve re-entry, and provide stability on bumpy rides.

Mesh Floor: AIRE river tubes feature a trampoline-style mesh, PVC Floor with built-in, security O-Ring. The mesh floor comfortably cradles while protecting the rider from scrapes and bruises from rocks, limbs, and other debris.

Security O-Ring: AIRE river tubes have a security O-Ring built into the center of the mesh floor. If theft is a concern on your tubing trip, run a cable lock through the O-Ring and secure the AIRE river tube to a tree or other immovable object.

Repairability: Everything on an AIRE River Tube can be repaired or replaced. The AIREcell bladder system provides the ability to access the inside of the tube through the double-zippers. The handles, valve, and AIREcell can all be replaced. Permanent Tear-Aid patches can be applied to a leak in the AIREcell and holes in the PVC shell can be stitched up and patched from the inside.

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AIRE Rocktabomb River Tube

Woman riding an AIRE Rocktabomb inflatable river tube down a whitewater river.

The AIRE Rocktabomb River Tube is a high-quality, float tube with an ergonomic design for keeping river goers comfortable on longer floating trips. The tube has a load capacity of 250lbs, 12″ tubes, and a 20″ interior diameter.

Most outfitters list this tube as having a 32″ interior diameter. This is not the case. It is 20″ inside.

The only real difference between the Rocktabomb and Bubbabomb River Tubes is the size of the tube, weight capacity, and price. If you aren’t going to exceed a 250lb load capacity, you can save around $50 by going with the Rocktabomb float tube.

  • Tough PVC outer shell
  • Urethane inner bladder
  • Double-zipper access seam
  • Thermal-Welded seams
  • Rugged Summit II air valve
  • PVC floor with built-in security O-Ring
  • 2 Sturdy handles
  • 1-year manufacturer warranty against manufacturing and material defects

Specifications for the AIRE Rocktabomb River Tube

Best UsePools and Calm Rivers, Lakes, and Oceans
Skill LevelBeginner, Intermediate, Advanced
Structure TypeInflatable
Cockpit TypeSit-on-Top / Open Cockpit
Person Capacity1
Seating ConfigurationSolo
Occupant SizeUp to Average Adult
Weight8 lbs
Total Diameter44″ Octagon (eight sides)
Interior Diameter20″ Octagon (eight sides)
Tube Diameter12″
Load Capacity250 lbs
Number of Air Chambers1
Inner Chamber12mm Urethane, AIREcell Bladder System
Air Valves1 Summit 2 Air Valve
SeamThermal-Welded Seams
Outer Fabric1000-Denier 23oz PVC Shell w/ a Double-Zipper Access Seam
FloorTrampoline-Style Mesh, PVC Floor w/ Built-In Security O-Ring
Inflation Pressure2.5 psi
Inflation TimeUnder 5 minutes
Number of Handles2
D-RingsNone
Warranty1-Year Manufacturer Warranty Against Manufacturing and Material Defects

AIRE Bubbabomb River Tube

Big and tall man floating down a calm river in an AIRE Bubbabomb Inflatable River Tube.

The AIRE Bubbabomb River Tube is a high-quality, large-capacity river tube specifically designed for big and tall river goers. This tube is a bulked-up version of the Rocktabomb with a load capacity of 300lbs, 14″ tubes, and a roomy 24″ interior diameter.

With the Bubbabomb River Tube, anyone from a child to a large adult will float in comfort while being cradled by the tube’s trampoline-style, mesh floor. The mesh floor not only improves comfort it protects your rear from being scraped by rocks, limbs, and other debris.

  • AIREcell bladder system
  • Tough PVC outer shell
  • Urethane inner bladder
  • Double-zipper access seam
  • Thermal-Welded seams
  • Rugged Summit II air valve
  • PVC floor with built-in security O-Ring
  • 2 Sturdy handles
  • 1-year manufacturer warranty against manufacturing and material defects

Specifications for the AIRE Bubbabomb River Tube

Best UsePools and Calm Rivers, Lakes, and Oceans
Skill LevelBeginner, Intermediate, Advanced
Structure TypeInflatable
Cockpit TypeSit-on-Top / Open Cockpit
Person Capacity1
Seating ConfigurationSolo
Occupant SizeUp to Large Adult
Weight10.5 lbs
Total Diameter52″ Octagon (eight sides)
Interior Diameter24″ Octagon (eight sides)
Tube Diameter14″
Load Capacity300 lbs
Number of Air Chambers1
Inner Chamber12mm Urethane, AIREcell Bladder System
Air Valves1 Summit 2 Air Valve
SeamThermal-Welded Seams
Outer Fabric1000-Denier 23oz PVC Shell w/ a Double-Zipper Access Seam
FloorTrampoline-Style Mesh, PVC Floor w/ Built-In Security O-Ring
Inflation Pressure2.5 psi
Inflation TimeUnder 5 minutes
Number of Handles2
D-RingsNone
Warranty1-Year Manufacturer Warranty Against Manufacturing and Material Defects

Conclusion

If you’re going river tubing in a location that has rocks, risk of downed limbs, or other debris that could puncture a tube, a heavy-duty river tube is the smart way to go.

Low-end tubes are not made of reinforced synthetic polymer-coated materials and will fail you sooner than later. They aren’t a safe choice for a river float.

AIRE river tubes are at the top of my list. The two things that stand out most against the competition are the AIREcell bladder system and the built-in security O-Ring. The AIREcell bladder system makes it virtually impervious to puncture and protects the tube from overinflation and it has a PVC floor with a built-in security O-Ring so you can lock up the tube at a campsite.

The only negative about these AIRE river tubes is the lack of a D-ring. When my two girls are old enough to go tubing, I want to be able to tether their tubes to mine and my wife’s.

With the lack of a D-ring, you can attach things to your handles or add a D-ring patch to your tube. I’d opt for adding the D-ring patch. It’s less likely to get in the way or cause your tube to seem off-balance. BTW AIRE sells patches that will work with their river tubes.

I like the AIRE Bubbabomb River Tube for me, I’m taller, and I like the Rocktabomb River Tube for my wife and kids.

Outside these features, there is little difference in quality or function between AIRE river tubes and those from STAR and NRS.

Have fun on the river!

Note: If you find it difficult to understand the materials and specs of these or other inflatable boats, check out Understanding Heavy-Duty Inflatable Boat Air Chamber Materials And Specs.

P.S. The Boating Safety Basics For Paddle Boaters will cover many of the safety basics that you need to know when tubing on a river.

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