Can You Use An Inflatable Pool As A Raft? Do They Float?

Written By: Jen

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Ever wondered whether an inflatable pool could be used as a raft? If you were heading to a larger pool for a day out, or to a lake, could you take along an inflatable swimming pool to use as a float?

Obviously, it’s not what the pools are designed for, but they are inflatable – and often, cheap. So, let’s take a look at whether you can use an inflatable pool as a raft or whether it’s a terrible idea.

inflatable pool as a raft

Can you use an inflatable pool as a raft? 

Inflatable swimming pools will float, but whether they can be used as a raft depends on their size and depth, and the weight of the user. Cheaper pools are prone to punctures if they’re used somewhere with any hazards.

It’s not a simple question on whether an inflatable pool works as a floating raft because pools come in all different shapes and sizes. You need sufficient air in the pool to create enough buoyancy to keep you afloat, and it’s not an easy calculation. There may just be some trial and error involved so prepare to get wet finding out!

Can inflatable pools float?

On their own, inflatable pools can float. The air inflating the sides of the pool is sufficient to allow the pool to stay on top of the water. When you start adding weight to the pool, it will cause additional displacement which could bring water over the sides, sinking the pool.

Bear in mind that inflatable swimming pools normally don’t have an inflatable base. They are usually a flat plastic material on the bottom, with inflatable sides.

So it’s the sides only which are helping to keep you afloat, and as soon as they are submerged, you’re going to sink the pool.

Consider how regular pool floats are fully inflatable – so you’re sitting or lying on a cushion of air, which adds additional buoyancy.

Friends on inflatable floats in swimming pool

If you had a swimming pool with an inflatable base, this would work much better as a raft, but they’re rare.

How to best use an inflatable pool as a raft

The downside to using an inflatable pool as a raft is that they are not built to handle any hazards that you might find in larger spaces. They’re designed to be static pools filled with water.

With some easy and quick modifications, inflatable pools can be used as a raft that’s a little more secure, and one option is to wrap it in tarp.

A thicker tarp material will add an extra layer of protection from punctures, but you’ll need to wrap the pool tightly. Any gaps could allow water in between the tarp and the pool, which could drag it down.

The first step entails purchasing a tarp that can effectively cover the inflatable pool’s bottom and sides, and it’ll need grommets.

Lay the tarp out on a clean surface in an open area, ensuring that you have enough space to work comfortably. 

Inflate the pool and put it on top of the tarp. With the help of a second person, pull the sides of the tarp so that it fits well and covers even the top side of the inflatable pool. 

To tightly fix the tarp, run a rope through the grommets on the tarp and tighten it before tying it. The rope will hold the tarp in place, thus avoiding the risks of it coming off or holding water. 

Now you have your makeshift raft made from your inflatable pool. The only thing remaining is to buy a couple of paddles, and you are ready to hit the water.

Are there risks of an inflatable pool sinking? 

An inflatable pool used as a float or raft will sink if you exceed the weight that it can hold, or if it gets a puncture. You shouldn’t use a pool as a raft alone or in very deep waters in case something goes wrong with it – especially as you could struggle to swim if wrapped in the deflated pool.

If you’re going to use a pool as a raft, either do it somewhere where you could stand up in the water if you fall out, or make sure you’re with others who aren’t in the pool with you.

That way, if you get into trouble, it won’t be too serious.

Little girl having fun on inflatable pool

How much weight can an inflatable pool support as a raft?

There’s no easy solution to offer here – while there are mathematical formulae you can use to calculate buoyancy, there are too many factors when you consider the weight of the passengers, the size of the pool, the depth of the walls, the volume of air it holds and so on.

So instead, it’s best to recommend that a 6-foot inflatable pool with sides 2-3 feet tall will likely support one adult or two children, but it may support more.

Larger pools may be able to support more people but the best thing you could do is find a safe patch of water and test it, somewhere where it doesn’t matter if the pool does start to sink a little.

The key to the pool staying buoyant is the volume of air it holds, so deeper sides are more beneficial than it being longer or wider.

Final thoughts

Inflatable pools can be used for a fun raft, but it’s not the purpose they’re designed for, so obviously they are not perfect for the job. If you want something you can use reliably as a raft, buy a raft.

But if you’re just heading to the lake for a day of fun and you want to experiment with your inflatable pool as a float for the day, then it should work – just don’t overload it.

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Jen is your go-to expert on all things inflatable, from pools to tents and beyond. A former hot tub rental company owner, she's experienced the ups and downs of inflatables firsthand. Nowadays, she writes practical guides on maintaining and enjoying inflatables. A mom of young enthusiasts, her family's favorite outing is the inflatable fun park!

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