Outdoor Swimmer Contributing Editor Jonathan Cowie tries out the Restube Active
One of the things I love about open water swimming is the joy that it brings to our lives. Whether that is the sense of achievement of attaining a distance or time goal, or the fun to be had from larking about in the water with friends, life would be pretty dull without the good times that outdoor swimming brings. As we move into warmer months, there is something liberating about being able to pack a bum bag with a little towel and a pair of trunks and run off into the hills for a swim unencumbered by changing robe and bags full of winter kit.
But safety is still a consideration, which is why I was impressed by the Restube Active. Small enough to fit in a bum bag, it is a useful addition to your swim kit – especially if you are travelling light – and for a range of occasions is the perfect safety device. The Restube Active consists of an unobtrusive pouch (about the size of a mobile phone) that you strap around your waist. In the pouch is a self-inflating buoyancy float that – if the need arises – is simply inflated by pulling on a toggle. One pull will release the CO2 filled float in seconds, offering up to 75N of buoyancy instantly.
If you look in my swim kit wardrobe (yes, I do have that much swim kit!) you will find numerous tow floats – a bright pink buoy, various sized drybag/floats, floats that will hold a drink and gel, a RuckRaft. All are used regularly, so where does the Restube Active fit into my swim kit arsenal? Tow floats have various uses, but they are primarily an aid to visibility. If I am wearing a brightly coloured hat, sometimes you don’t really need the extra visibility of a tow float – for example in a lake with no boat traffic or on a long coastal sea swim close to shore. In these situations the Restube Active is perfect – so unobtrusive that you really don’t know you are wearing it, but ready to deploy should the need arise. In choppy and gusty sea swimming, when tow floats can get in the way a bit, the Restube Active would be a good choice too.
Tow floats are great but there are some things that they just aren’t cut out for – running, jumping and diving in the water is no fun when attached to a safety buoy. Here the Restube Active comes into its own: its streamlined design doesn’t get in the way of fun! And for less confident swimmers, it is a great way for them to stay safe while still joining in.
With my coaching hat on, I can see that the Restube has many benefits. When coaching a group of swimmers close to shore – where the visibility of tow floats is not necessary – Restube Actives would give swimmers the confidence of knowing they had inflatable floats if needed, but would be unencumbered by tow floats and able to swim in a more natural fashion. And as a coach, I could better see their strokes with no tow floats in the way! If in the water and wearing one myself, I can also inflate for another swimmer to use if needed.
The big question of course, is how easy is it to reuse and repack once inflated? The spent C02 cartridge screws out easily and the float is deflated by a two-way valve (which you can also use to inflate it if you want to use it as a traditional tow float). Once deflated the new cartridge is easily inserted and I then followed the instructions to best fold the float to pack it back into the pouch. A bit of a squeeze the first time but not as difficult as I thought!
I was impressed with the build quality of the Restube Active and at the range of situations where it would be the perfect safety solution. Streamlined and unobtrusive but there when I need it, it is definitely a useful addition to my kit bag.
Find out more: restube.co.uk
Photography: Wood and Company