Very few things combine practicality, entertainment, and self-expression quite like a pool float. Stripped to their essence, they’re a distant cousin of the foam life preserver that used to adorn the side of ships. You don’t need a giant flamingo to keep you from drowning, but at its core, that’s what it’s here to do.
So trying to determine what makes a great pool float requires a clear set of criteria. We have to really consider what makes a pool float exceptional, so we will be judging on the elements that matter the most: Durability, ease of use, price, and, for lack of a better term, “special flair” for those that have accessories or perform some additional task beyond the aforementioned floating.
With that in mind, here are the ones that stand out for us…
Float on your favorite food. Amazon
First of all, this one gets bonus points for seamlessly combining two classic pool float tropes—it’s in the shape of a trendy and popular food item, and it has bonus playability. Not only does its avocado shape let everyone know that you adore nature’s creamy mayo alternative (and don’t mind shelling out for it on toast), but the pit is actually a removable beach ball. It is equipped with “Fast Valves” for quick inflation and deflation and made of thick, durable raft-grade non-phthalates material. Phthalates are an industrial chemical used to soften PVC plastic, and they have been shown through animal studies to be potentially harmful to livers, kidneys, lungs, and reproductive systems.
Chill on a flamingo. Amazon
Available in the vaguely terrifying-sounding sizes “Mega Float” and “Party Island,” the Intex offering is—as you may have been able to surmise – extremely generous in size. The exact dimensions are 86 x83 x53.5-inches. There two air chambers for inflation and deflation that certainly help with a float of this size as well as sturdy construction and two handles. This very on-trend Flamingo may not be welcome in smaller pools, but can deliver everything you need—legroom, comfort, fun—if you have space.
Swans, Unicorn, and Dragon… oh my! Amazon
Boasting enough space to comfortably seat two adults or “a bunch” of kids, the GoFloats designs provide strength, variety, and bonus fun. Constructed with UV-treated raft grade vinyl, the floats are also affixed with rapid inflation valves that claim to do the job ten times faster than traditional valves. The “Giant” line is available in Unicorn, Dragon, Flamingo, Swan, and, um, Bull to match whatever your summer spirit animal may be, and each one comes with a smaller “drink float” twin that can either spice up a more grown-up party or give the kids something else to play around with.
A round option. Amazon
As the name suggests, this float has designs beyond just being a “floatie.” Coming in at 60 inches in diameter, this is a hefty device capable of supporting a lot of activity. The Swimline Watermelon boasts sturdy radio frequency welded seams—a process that uses high-frequency electromagnetic energy to generate heat in plastic, used in a lot of medical devices like IV bags—and has a simple, gimmick-free design that will save you from having to scramble to inflate wings or giant tails.
A great option for younger children. Amazon
Although limited in range—this product is designed for babies, aged 9 to 36 months—it gets the nod for its clever design and versatility. Constructed of non-toxic, environmentally safe fabric (that is nonetheless waterproof and durable), this float has sturdy handles, a double cap inflation valve, and adjustable leg holes. The key feature, however, is the awning—since sun protection is a huge concern for little ones in the summer—that is both integrated into the overall design (a cartoony shark) but also removable. But perhaps the biggest selling point for parents is that the whole thing deflates down small enough to fit in a convenient string backpack (which is included).