Float Tube bladders - safety concern?

Peeping Caddis

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May 18, 2006
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So about 7 years ago I bought myself a float Tube, a Snowbee as it looked good: https://caddis.pl/product-eng-8519-Snowbee-SNOWBEE-FLOAT-TUBE-KIT-INC-FLIPPERS-PUMP-CARRY-BAG.html

As I recall it was a year or two before I got a chance to use it, as my wife had just given birth to our first child. First outing and I'm getting used to floating around in the water, when I notice one of the main bladders is deflating. I headed to the bank, and sure enough the bladder had a small split at the seem.

I ordered a new one from the same supplier, as I recall it cost me around £40 with P&P. Not long after I received it I went out in it. All good.

Second child comes along and the float Tube sits in my celler for a few years. Last week I get the chance to use it again, so this would have been it's 3rd outing, but on the bank getting it ready the right bladder won't even inflate. On inspection, once again a 5mm split at the seem.

Prior to using the float Tube several years ago, I had read in warmer weather the air inside can expand, so from first outing I was aware not to over inflate. I also know I stored the float Tube in good conditions, only folding it once at the V. There is absolutely no reason why the seems should be splitting.

Now my kids are getting older so i want to get back out fishing again, and would have loved to get out regular with the float Tube as the short time I got to use it I really did enjoy it. However, based on my experience, these things are a complete safety hazard. After so little usage, for the bladder seem to split not once, but twice, I cannot think I was just unlucky. Perhaps it is just the Snowbee bladders that are cheap rubbish, but I suspect other brands likely fit the same cheap plastic inflatable inserts. I would go and buy yet another replacement bladder, money is not my biggest concern here, but I can't see why a 3rd bladder would be any different???

What are others experiences of float Tube bladders, has anyone else had a terrible experience like I have? Is it perhaps just the Snowbee model that is using cheap tat bladders, or are most fitted with the same sort of cheap plastic inflatable seem splitting type?

Are there any float tubes out there that use much more reliable and robust bladders?

Now I have to decide what to do with my lovely looking, but rather Impracticle Snowbee float Tube! Is it possible perhaps to buy a better, more robust bladder, not supplied from Snowbee?
 

colliedog

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Sep 6, 2008
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Edinburgh
I have had a a snowbee float tube a good few years now and not had any problems. It doesn't get as much use as I would like and gets kept rolled up in its bag. Maybe I have just been lucky. I think most tubes as well as inflatable kayaks etc use similar PVC bladders these days. If another manufactured makes a comparable more robust bladder I would be interested to know.

My original tube was a caddis doughnut style with a rubber truck tyre tube. That outlasted the tube. If someone could make bespoke rubber bladders with a Schraeder type inflation valve they would probably last for life.
 

Ardbeg

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May 19, 2006
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I'm guessing it's a mark I Snowbee. The same happened to me but I did get a fair bit of use out of it. Poor bladder design that, I think, was rectified on the mark II.

ETA Actually just followed your link and that is a much later version than the one I had. Pretty poor show from Snowbee if they were still making bladders that split so easily.
 

ejw

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Feb 2, 2012
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Helsby, Cheshire
Have had 3 tubes, never had a bladder leak, but another chap who has the Snowbee is on his 3rd in 4 years, maybe it's the brand.
My only problem was hanging them up to dry on the back of a shed ? Tended to forget to put it away for a few days - result, the sunlight perished the stitching on the seams and straps. I now store it inside a dark shed (semi inflated)- no problems
 

Peeping Caddis

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May 18, 2006
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It would seem to be the brand. I find it amazing there are no safety standards that need to be met here in order for a supplier to be able to supply these float tubes. Snowbee have basically put a cheap balloon in which they call a bladder and are getting away with what could be potential murder. I am amazed there have been no serious accidents with their float Tube - or perhaps there have been and we just don't know about it?

Now I have to figure out what to do with mine. I don't want to buy a new float Tube, as I rarely use the one I have, and I refuse to pay for any more replacement bladders from Snowbee, therefore I will try to patch the one I have. If I can get it fixed, I guess I will end up just floating around near the shallows, in order to try and avoid a potential drowning accident should a bladder seem split while out on open water.

I will say this, I don't think I will buy another Snowbee product again in my lifetime.
 

dodders

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St Germans, Cornwall
I've also got the same Snowbee tube and not had any problems with it after 4 years. I leave it partially inflated in the garage which I think helps with the bladders. Not used it for over a year and pumped it up fully last week with no issues. I guess if there is a problem with the bladder it would be noticeable before you hit the water?
 

colliedog

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If it is any consolation there would have to be 4 or 5 failures before you were at serious risk of death, from drowning at least. Both bladders, two seat bladders and the lifejacket i hope you wear. There is a lot of buoyancy even in the seat.

last time out I found out just how little buoyancy is required to stay afloat.. Due to operator error after about an hour on the water I noticed one bladder was soft, one very soft. The problem was i hadn't properly tightened the Boston valves because I had caught a nick of fabric in them. I comfortably finished the drift before going ashore to sort them. I found it was also very easy to reinflate to normal pressure by mouth.
 

badcaster

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Jan 16, 2008
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I recall years ago,when I was first starting chatting the late great Mr Parton, really helpful on the phone to me as a total beginner. Sang the honest praises of his own range of tubes at the time, with focus on the life jacket quality bladders, plus design to avoid pinch points when on the water. He directed me towards the Shakespeare expedition which made to the same design as his, and I bought one.

So far so good, it doesn't get a great deal of use as I'm on the river mostly, but I've had no issues, touch plastic! Notice that the tubes get softer after about 10 mins in the water as the air cools and contracts, but I attach lengths of silicone tube to the bladder valves that can easily be used to reinflate if they lose pressure when on the water. Not sure how they would suffice with total failure, but could help out with a slower leak.
 

badcaster

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Jan 16, 2008
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I've also got the same Snowbee tube and not had any problems with it after 4 years. I leave it partially inflated in the garage which I think helps with the bladders. Not used it for over a year and pumped it up fully last week with no issues. I guess if there is a problem with the bladder it would be noticeable before you hit the water?
Good point also, as I use mine so infrequently I always inflate it the night before and then check in the morning to ensure it's not gone down seriously before setting off.
 

Ardbeg

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May 19, 2006
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I've also got the same Snowbee tube and not had any problems with it after 4 years. I leave it partially inflated in the garage which I think helps with the bladders. Not used it for over a year and pumped it up fully last week with no issues. I guess if there is a problem with the bladder it would be noticeable before you hit the water?

As mentioned previously, I had a Mark I Snowbee which had beach ball style valves!
I also always left it partially inflated and the leak happened on the water.

It was fine for an hour then I started to notice the arms were starting to get bendy. The two back rest bladders kept the tube afloat and I wasn't in any danger of sinking but I was shocked at seeing the split in the main bladder.
 
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