Float Tube & Inflatable Pontoon Transportation Kits
Transportation and Storage
One of the major considerations for tubers and tooners is how to get their craft from point A to point B, and back again. These two points can be any permutation of residence, vehicle, lake or stream, launch/beach site and targeted fishing spot. A basic float tube can be easily transported, fully inflated, in or on many vehicles. And, tubes are easily handled and carried by one person. Pontoons, on the other hand, usually require
more space and are often heavy enough that it is helpful to have a fishing buddy for assistance. The other option is to employ some kind of wheeled carrier if you are alone.
Not all tubers and tooners own trucks or other vehicles large enough to comfortably transport big bulky craft. Those on limited budgets or those who simply prefer to drive smaller vehicles have limitations on the type and size of the craft they can own and transport. Because tubes and toons can be deflated you can fit them into small spaces unless you want them aired up and ready for action when you reach the water. Even the frames on pontoons
usually break down into sections that fit into the back seat or trunk of the family sedan. You must sacrifice a few minutes of fishing time to set up your craft on the water but at least you are able to transport your pride and joy to your favorite spot.
Tubers and tooners prefer to be able to drive up to their launch site, unload a fully inflated craft, get aboard and start fishing. They also prefer not to have to go through a bunch of deflating and disassembly before loading up their craft for the ride home. In short, they want their tube or toon to be readily accessible and quickly loadable just like a boat and trailer. There is also the consideration of proper storage of your ride in between trips. “Down times” may be only a day or two or they could last throughout a long winter. There are some things you can do (and avoid) to insure the maximum useful life of your craft with minimal preventable damage. Storage strategies are covered in the final pages of this chapter.
Tubers and tooners need to plan ahead for getting their craft down the road and to have a place to keep it between trips. Obviously, float tubes require less space to store or transport than pontoons…especially when aired to the max and ready for business. However, most pontoons are easily disassembled and the air chambers can be completely deflated. That makes it possible to fit them into a surprisingly small space either in your vehicle or garage. All but the smallest SUVs can hold one or even two aired-up float tubes plus other gear. If you have a roof rack you can carry a tube or other gear on top. Some vehicles have large heavy duty car top racks capable of hauling lots of goodies. But, if you plan to carry a “combat ready” pontoon…fully assembled and inflated…it’s better to transport them in a pickup, van or trailer. Most people purchase vehicles to suit lifestyles and family needs. SERIOUS flotation fishermen buy a vehicle to accommodate their chosen craft. What if you already have a vehicle and can’t or won’t change it? Well, if you are looking for a new tube or toon you need to think about what will fit in your ride and how you will have to transport it…deflated or ready to rumble. Even compact cars can haul float tubes when they are fully deflated. And, if you have the right craft, patience and creativity, you can also carry deflated and disassembled pontoons in dinky autos. You might have to use up all the trunk and back seat but you can get ‘er done. Forget your family and fishing buddies. Impatient fishermen usually like to arrive at their fishing holes all aired up and ready to launch. If you fit that description you might have to make some tradeoffs. Smaller craft can be transported “locked and loaded” in smaller vehicles. Larger craft in the same vehicle may have to be only partially inflated for the ride to and from the water. Okay, now what do you do with your tube or toon in between trips? Hopefully you have a big garage. That will let you hang it on a wall, put it up in the rafters, hang it horizontally above your vehicles or store it deflated on a shelf. You can also keep it in a “guest room”. Most of us would rather keep our craft comfortable than have guests anyway.
Modern tubes and toons are made from materials that are not going to be damaged by spending a winter outside as long as you keep them covered and protected from direct exposure to sunlight and extreme weather. In other words, if you want to keep it in an outdoor storage tent or shed you can safely do so. Just be sure to bring your craft into warmer air and let it stabilize before airing it up or bending it while deflated. If the air chambers are stiff from cold they are subject to cracking. You should exercise precautions when storing your craft outside during the summer too. Keep it protected from direct sun and excessive heat. Also, never store anything with an air bladder fully inflated in the heat of summer…whether inside your garage or in your vehicle to or from a fishing trip. The air inside the bladders can expand enough to explode your ride. Not good. Be sure to read the chapter on Transportation for additional suggestions for getting your craft to and from the water.
I once bought a gently used pontoon that included a single wheel arrangement for moving the craft short distances to the water and back. It was cleverly fashioned (by the previous owner) from a single small bicycle tire and was attached to each of the foot rests with a hose clamp. I modified it so that a couple of pieces of PVC fit over the foot rests and it held together by pressure. It worked fine for one-man launches for short distances to the water. But, with only one wheel in the center it was prone to tilting left or right. You had to hold each of the pontoons at the rear and push slowly forward, being careful to maintain the balance. But, it DID work.
I fashioned several different carts for my float tube using the two sets of double wheels from the front of a baby stroller…on different PVC frames. They all worked…some better than others. My primary level of dissatisfaction was that the wheels were only about 6” in diameter. They worked on smooth surfaces but performed poorly over rocky terrain or in wet soil or sand.
GOLF CADDY CARTS:
I picked up a lightweight golf caddy at a yard sale for about $10. It looked like it might have some potential as a tube carrying contrivance. After a bit of experimentation I was able to rig it up to the bottom of my tube with some yellow nylon rope to lash it in place. It worked but it was wobbly. I added a couple of pieces of PVC to give lateral support to the underside of the tube. It worked better. Then, I chopped off some of the extraneous parts of the golf cart and permanently attached the necessary PVC stabilizers. With a short length of 1/2” PVC, as a handle I was able to take it over several challenging trips to the water…some over a long distance and some down steep
rocky trails. It has been my most successful experiment. I call it my “Chopper” cart.