I first came across Restube at an event in Italy a few years ago. Originally created as a safety device for kite-surfers, the inventor saw the potential for outdoor swimming and sponsored the race. The organisers made use of the Restube compulsory, and the kit was provided free of charge.
Restube is an emergency floatation device you carry in a pouch around your waist while swimming. You inflate it by tugging on a short cord attached to a trigger that pierces a CO2 canister. It inflates in seconds giving you a bright yellow tube you can rest on, or wave to attract attention. If, after a brief rest, you can continue swimming and the tube floats behind, the same as a tow float.
My initial impression was that this was a nice idea but needed some refinement. The drag from the pouch was noticeable, and it kept slipping so I had to stop a few times and recentre it on my back.
Well, those refinements have been made. I got to try out a new Restube Active and liked the changes. The pouch is smaller and neater than I remember and, more importantly, closes better so the pouch flap doesn’t come loose and cause drag. Secondly, you now have the option to insert a splint into the waist strap. It’s an ingenious solution to the slippage problem and stops it completely. Consequently, the pouch sat comfortably in the small of my back and I barely noticed it while swimming. It was unobtrusive but reassuring. You can also choose whether to fix the pouch vertically (along your spine) or horizontally.
The float released easily and was comfortable to rest on, supporting my weight. Just hang your arms over it. Swimming with the Restube inflated is like swimming with a tow float, although it felt slightly heavier. Like airline lifejackets, Restube has a mouthpiece with a valve so you can top it up by blowing into it directly if needed, or inflate it completely without using the CO2 cartridge and use it as a regular tow float.
This does, of course, raise the question of when and why you might use a Restube rather than a tow float. I can think of a few scenarios. Swimming in surf would be the most obvious. A tow float would be knocked around too much. A crowded, mass-start event would be another, if we ever go back to those. Perhaps wild swimming somewhere where there is no danger of boat traffic and you’d prefer to stay low key or if you’re lucky enough to be swimming in clear water and fancy diving to get a closer look at the fish. A tow float would stop you from doing that. I can also see these having potential for swimrun events or training where carrying a tow float on the running sections would be a nuisance but having an emergency device strapped to your waist while swimming could be reassuring. Finally, it would be a useful thing to wear if you do other water-based activities such as stand up paddle boarding.
Find out more: restube.co.uk