Want to get outside but don't actually wan't to DO anything? A river float is the perfect solution to your dilemma. And while you may think all you need to float is a tube and a few cold beers, I'm here to tell you (from experience) that there are a few more items you should add to the list to not only have a successful and fun float, but also to keep the environment safe!
1. A sturdy tube
Yes, duh, you need a tube, but be sure to bring one that is durable. The flamingo and swan tubes at Target may be really cute, but they don’t always stand a chance against the river. Pro tip: I prefer the tubes with a cup holder for drinks and some string so that it is easier to grab on to if you find yourself drifting away from friends or tumbling over going down some rapids.
2. Non- alcoholic drinks, a cooler and cooler tube
Don’t forget to stock your beer cooler with some water too! It is very easy to become dehydrated when you are out floating for hours in the hot sun, so be sure to bring enough water for everyone in your group. I used to use my Yeti cooler on the river without a cooler tube because it floats, but it was always complicated to open it without dumping out everything so I would recommend a cooler tube for your cooler.
3. Waterproof pouch
If you plan on bringing your phone, keys, ID or money, you will need a waterproof pouch to keep your belongings dry. This is something that seems like common sense, but many forget about it until they get on the river and realize they don’t have anywhere to put their stuff! You can always try using a Ziploc bag to keep your things dry, but just be sure to keep it somewhere that it won’t get punctured.
4. Bags for trash
Most places along the San Marcos River hand out potato bags for trash to floaters, but you can always bring your own just in case. Protect the river, don’t litter!!
5. Waterproof speaker
As a Texas native, I usually prefer to listen to some classic Texas country while we float down the river, but you always get a little taste of all kinds of music from others floating down the river.
If you like to keep your shoes on during the float, I would recommend wearing Chacos or swim shoes because they are great for low spots where you can touch and for at any stopping point when you get out. If you don’t plan on wearing your shoes while floating, I still recommend bringing flip-flops or any cheap pair of shoes you wouldn’t mind losing. They come in handy for getting in and out of the river.
7. Plenty of sunscreen
While you should have already put some on before the float, it is always a good idea to bring some with you to reapply midway through the float. Even if you don’t feel like your skin is getting burned, it most likely is as there's usually not much shade in the middle of a river. Bring a small sunscreen bottle and stash it in your cooler until you need to reapply.
8. Cheap sunglasses
Shades always come in handy for protecting your eyes from the sun, but I do not recommend bringing your favorite brand new pair of Oakley’s or Ray Bans. It is so easy to lose things on the river, so you don’t want to bring anything you would be devastated to lose. My $2 sunglasses from Wal-Mart have always done the trick, and somehow I have managed to not lose them yet!
Unless you just ate a big meal before the float, you will probably get hungry on the 4-5 hour ride. We usually just bring a big bag of chips or some trail mix to pass around to hold us over until dinner. You don’t want to be trapped on the river with some drunk and hangry friends.
10. Optional items – Snorkel gear, binoculars or a river hat
Snorkel gear may be cool to have with you depending on the clarity of the water you are in. In most parts of the river I’ve floated, the water seems too foggy but it may be different for other areas. Binoculars are good to have if you want to spot some interesting wildlife along the river. A river hat is great for protecting your scalp and face from sunburn. These are all additional things that you would have to worry about keeping up with, so bring at your own discretion!
Remember to keep it light but always bring the essentials. The river is a beautiful part of nature so always do your part to help keep it clean during your float trip. Best of luck on your future floating endeavors!