The 10 Best Pool Floats
This wiki has been updated 24 times since it was first published in March of 2015. When it comes to keeping yourself afloat, you can tread water or you can lie back on something that does the work for you — such as one of these hammocks, loungers, chairs, or adult pool floats. Available with sunshades, coolers, and cupholders, any one of these options is sure to have you relaxing in style this summer. They come in a range of prices to meet every budget. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
April 19, 2019:
In choosing floats for this collection, we wanted to represent the diversity of the category by including items built purely for comfort as well as inflatables that pack more of a visual punch. Here, you'll find products that have practical features such as cup holders, shades, arm- and headrests, and more, which should appeal to any serious pool-partier.
We've added the Swimline Inflatable Pizza Slice and Cococabana Phoenix because of their downright fun designs and dependable performance. The Poolmaster Water Pop was removed due to reports of air leaks. Several of the models that remain in this list were investigated for similar complaints, though those reviews were found to be isolated incidents rather than recurrent complaints.
Buoyed By Displacement: How A Pool Float Works
All that really matters is the force of that displacement fighting against the force of gravity.
If you’ve ever wondered why it is that the human body naturally floats, you’re not alone. For some of us, trying to float on our own in water is rather difficult, and this only makes humans’ natural floating abilities seem even stranger. Of course, the reason most people who can’t quite float have trouble is more psychological than it is physical, but a deeper understanding of how exactly a pool float works might help us all relax into the water a little better. And, if you can’t quite find yourself calm enough to bob along safely on your own, then you can just buy a pool float to do the bobbing for you.
Pool floats and the human body alike float along thanks to the principal of buoyancy. Simply put, fluids exert an upward force against an object submerged in them, and that force is directly proportional to the weight of the fluid that that object would displace from that body of water. You’ll notice that the size of the body of water matters little; throw a rock in the ocean or a small pond and it’ll sink either way. All that really matters is the force of that displacement fighting against the force of gravity.
You can feel this force simply by taking any inflated object like a child’s ball or pool toy and holding it underwater. When you let go, the buoyant force will send the ball hurtling up through the water and into the air.
A pool float not only utilizes this principal to stay atop the surface of your pool, but it also distributes your weight across a larger amount of your pool’s surface area. That way, the tension on the water surface adds a modest amount of support to your frame much the same way that a snowshoe can keep you from sinking into several feet of light powder.
How To Choose The Perfect Float For Your Pool
While relaxing in the sun on an excellent pool float may be a great way to take the edge off a long week, if you don’t have the right float supporting you, that edge might only get sharper. As you consider one float against the next, keep certain things in mind that will help guide you toward the best decision.
With some pool floats, it’s absolutely impossible to climb on board without submerging the majority of your body.
For example, the most aggravating thing about the majority of pool floats is actually getting into them. With some pool floats, it’s absolutely impossible to climb on board without submerging the majority of your body. If all you usually want is a quick bit of sun from the surface of your pool without having to spend 15 minutes adjusting to the cool temperature of the water, look for a float that provides you with an easier method of entry.
Another agonizing moment in what should ideally be a peaceful experience is having to leave your float (and again, perhaps, enter the freezing water) to get your hands on things like drinks or a ringing phone. A pool float with dedicated storage areas and cup holders would most certainly be the answer to your woes. Even if you disembark from the float and go exploring in the depths of your pool, leaving a drink floating along will keep it closer at hand should you need a sip. Of course, if you’re going to keep your phone in a pool float it’d be a good idea to get your hands on a high-quality waterproof case for it.
The size of your pool matters here, as well. If you have a relatively small swimming area, investing in a pool float designed to accommodate more than one swimmer will likely take up the majority of your space, leaving little room for other dippers to enjoy. In this case, look for a more streamlined float that won’t take up the whole pool. If, on the other hand, you have a miniature ocean at your disposal, then the field is wide open.
Finally, when considering a pool float’s durability, make sure that you pay attention to its materials. Higher gauges of vinyl will do a better job resisting punctures and weathering in the sun. That could mean the difference between a comfortable nap on the surface of your pool and a far less comfortable and much waterier wake-up call.
A Princess On The Water
In the storied history of humans on the water, a Princess in Thailand is often inappropriately credited with being the first person to float along in the inflatable tube from within a large truck tire. This credit often falls somewhere in the middle of the 20th century (Sports Illustrated included it in an article published in 1965), but given that the automobile had been around and popular for more than 50 years at this point, it’s hard to believe that Princess Chumbhot of Nagar Svarga was the first to float this way. In fact, there are advertisements and other evidence of people using inner tubes to float on water dating back at least to 1916.
There, a truck would ferry them back to the starting point where they could take the ride again.
Another early floating innovation took place in Wisconsin back in 1941. In the last summer before the United States entered World War II, a nightclub owner whose establishment bordered the Apple River in Somerset decided to supply patrons attending his 4th of July party with inner tubes. They could hop into the river (presumably with drinks in hand) and float downstream to a cataract some 45 minutes away. There, a truck would ferry them back to the starting point where they could take the ride again.
These tube were all made of rubber, however, and it wouldn’t be until the advent of the plastics age that pool floats as we know them today would explode into our culture. 1967’s The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman, provides impeccable context to this history. One of the most iconic images from the film is Hoffman’s character Ben aimlessly aloft on a pool float just minutes removed from a moment when an older gentleman, hoping to inspire Ben toward a lucrative career takes him aside and says just one word to him: “Plastics.”
In today’s landscape of inexpensive, foreign-made goods, plastics may not seem like the most innovative or potentially cash-rich field, but they do allow us to continue to evolve the shapes, designs, and durability of items like the pool float.