River Tubing: Repairing a Recreational Inner Tube

A Short History of Recreational Inner Tubes

When I was a kid, back before dinosaurs strolled the earth, goin’ tubin’ meant finding an old, used inner tube.  Since cars, trucks and tractors still used inner tubes, finding one was easy!

Keeping an inner tube from summer-to-summer wasn’t so easy. I never seemed to remember that an inflated inner tube left in the hot sun deteriorated quickly.

I didn’t worry about cracks in my recreational tube, after all – inner tubes were cheap and they were everywhere!

Inner Tubes Today



1 Person Towable


Finding any large inner tube today for river tubing isn’t so easy.

Generally, most folks have started buying “towables” — clever float-ables that can move one or more people at the same time.

However, this post is about keeping and repairing a large inner tube.

Tips for ‘River Tubes’

  • Keep inner tubes covered and out of the sun,
  • Keep them away from moisture and deflated,
  • Keep a repair kit with you while tubing,
  • Keep a spare inner tube with you,
  • Learn how to repair your tube  “on-the-fly”
  • Carry a small roll of duct tape while river tubing

Duct Tape & Other Repairs

Yep, duct tape will make quick, temporary repairs. However, duct tape must be applied to a dry tube.

Learning to repair an inner tube was a ‘rite of passage’ when I was a kid.  Here’s the process of a “cold” patch repair:

  • Scuff up the area around the tear — with the lid of the repair kit.
  • Apply cement to the area to be patched (cement is included in kit).
  • Cut a piece of patching material and round the edges,
  • Peel off the backing of the patch piece,
  • Apply the patch piece with both hands,
  • Press into place,
  • Turn the repair can on its side and roll repeatedly over the patch.
  • Let things rest for a few minutes.

Other hints:

  • Roughing up the area around the tear is necessary for a firm seal.
  • Use the tip of the container to smooth the cement around the hole or tear.
  • For large tears, make sure you cut and round the edges of the patches.
  • If you don’t, the patch may peel off while brushing against rough stuff.
  • Instructions on the can will indicate how long the patch should “rest” before use.


I still remember how much a “cold patch kit” cost (when I was a kid) — 29 cents!


This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com