Tips and Packing for River Tubing in San Marcos, TX

When you’re near the ocean, you go surfing and when you’re near a river, you go tubing.  Tubing in Texas has a variety of rules and regulations that always seem to be changing as local college students are always coming up with new loopholes in the last set of rules.  The long and the short of it is “Don’t be a jerk.”  Sounds easy.  And yet…

Yes, drinking is a big part of tubing for most, especially on a Saturday or holiday.  If you want a super relaxing ride, go on a Tuesday.  We chose to go on a Saturday and although I saw some rookie moves and party fouls out there, the overall fun and people-watching more than made up for it.  (see video)


They say hindsight is 20/20 and in that spirit, here is a PACKING LIST AND TIPS for tubing down a river and specifically, the San Marcos River in Texas.

    1. Bring but leave in car: towel, dry clothes, hand sanitizer, cash
    2. Someone should have a WaterProof Case to hold: ID, cash, lighter, anything you wanna keep dry.
    3. Find a tube rental and return ride company, so that you can get back to your car.  We used Don’s Fish Camp and had no problems.  Tube rental and return ride was $12 per person, but we scored a Groupon deal, so it was cheaper.
    4. Do it right and remember to bring a cooler.  Also, plan to rent an extra tube for it.  You’re not gonna sit that thing in your lap.
    5. Rope!  Don’t forget to bring a length of rope to ties your group’s tubes together.  It’s now effortless fun to chat and enjoy the scenery while having the full use of your hands and feet.
    6. Don’t mess with Texas.  Don’t litter, in general.  Anywhere.  It’s rude.  The tube rental company gave us a netted trash bag to float along behind us and we tossed it at the end.  Simple.
    7. Think about your shoe situation.  If you think you may want to move faster, sneakers are good for walking the tube(s) out of a slow current.  Old sneakers would be best or water socks.  I wore leather flip flops and I may have ruined them from all the water and then slipping in them all the way to the car.
    8. Put on sunscreen early.  Repeat.  Be outside more often and less harshly if you want to be a bronzed god.  You know this.
    9. Consider buying your own tube.  Fancy tubes with cup holders and head rests can be bought for less than $20.  Here’s the Intex River Run I tube that I was eyeing up on the river today.  PS: You can still pay for a ride on the bus without the tube rental.
    10. You’re gonna get thirsty.  Bring something hydrating, like water, even if you BYOB.  Glass bottles and jello shots are not allowed.  However… huge bags of “juice” are.  (What’s with the slapping of the bag?)
    11. You’ll probably want a snack.  It’s not that long of a float (3-4 hours) but if you are going through the trouble of bringing a cooler, you may as well pack some healthy snacks that are easy to eat and share.  I suggest trail mix, grapes, Popchips, pre-made sandwiches and granola bars.  You can always bum snacks off your new river family- if you’re brave enough to ask.
    12. Music makes everything better.  Next time I would vote for our group to invest in buying or renting a Rugged and Waterproof Stereo Boombox.  As we tubed along past other groups we heard a variety of music.  Hard Ghetto Rap.  Nah.  Classic Country?  Yee-haw!  I would have had a really good time playing DJ on the river.  From PitBull to Classical… maybe.
    13. Capture the memories!  I brought the Ultimate Waterproof Case I just bought for my iPhone 4S and although my phone never went under water, I was happy to be able to take so many pictures while we were on the river.  If you aren’t as brave with your phone, a Kodak PlaySport (Zx5) HD takes still pictures and video for under $90 and you won’t lose your “whole life” if the case leaks.
    14. Other items to consider bringing: headache medicine, strap for your sunglasses, nerf football, lotion…

Did I miss anything?  Add your tips and comments below.

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