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How to Pack for a 25-mile, Self-Supported, Overnight, Inner Tube Adventure

Here's what I brought on an unconventional trip down Ruby Horsethief Canyon.

By: Kyle Frost + Save to a List

My friends and I are big fans of weird adventures. Last year, someone surfaced the idea of doing Ruby Horsethief...in tubes. We did a test run last summer (raft supported) and determined that it was definitely possible. So, we snagged a permit for this August and the trip was a go!

Ruby Horsethief is a 25-mile stretch of the Colorado river that runs from Loma, Colorado to the Westwater put-in in Utah. It's a popular river, and mostly flatwater. We decided to tackle it in an overnight, taking everything we needed in tubes. We covered 8 miles the first day and 17 miles the second day. It made for some long hours on the water, but an adventure that was definitely worth it (to me, at least). I think the world needs more weird, hard, and ridiculous adventures. Here's a packing list that will probably be relevant to almost no one -- but I'm sharing it just the same :)

The Tubes

TubePro makes the best river tubes. We've taken these down fast and rocky Boulder Creek at high water, put them to the test in the Colorado Whitewater Tube Series, and I have friends who have tubed some of the biggest whitewater in the Grand Canyon in a TubePro tube.

Sleep System

Luckily, desert weather in August means you can pack pretty light. I decided to go with a quilt system, which was perfect for this trip. My Thermarest Vesper 32 and NeoAir UberLite pack down to about the size of a Nalgene bottle, and weigh only 25 ounces altogether. I also brought a camp pillow, because it's always worth it.

A quilt system is perfect for summer adventures like this -- basically, you get half of a traditional sleeping bag that attaches to your sleeping pad, shedding unnecessary size/weight. The Vesper also uses hydrophobic down (aka, it can hold loft/warmth when it gets wet), which I was grateful for when we had an unexpected drizzle of rain overnight. It was my first time using the NeoAir Uberlite, which is one of the lightest pads on the market, and it delivered both in packability and comfort.


I kept to pretty traditional backpacking packing here. Dinner was a Good-to-Go Mexican Quinoa Bowl, which is one of my favorite backpacking meals out there. Seriously. It's so good. We had some sandwich fixings for lunch, and the usual bars and snacks.

Dry Bag

We brought an NRS Bill's Bag, which was perfect for a couple of reasons. While it definitely had more space than we needed for a trip like this, we ended up putting gear for two people in each bag, and the dimensions were such that it wedged nicely in a tube. I think a smaller dry bag would have been more difficult to rig on a tube.

Clothing and other gear

Since we had good weather, this was pretty easy packing and none of us brought much. When you're only on the river for one night, there isn't much you need.

  • I brought Chacos, a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, and a sun-shirt for when I wasn't on the water
  • We all wore wetsuits while we were on the water (mostly picked up used from Play-it-Again Sports). While it was warm enough that you could probably go without, wetsuits definitely made it more comfortable.
  • Swim fins were an integral piece of gear. There's a lot of flatwater on this section and having fins made things much more efficient.
  • Paracord and straps for rigging and tying tubes together
  • I brought my Sony A7rii, a 16-50 kit lens, and a 35mm 2.8. Gotta get those photos.
  • A pump
  • PFD's, duh
  • Beer, duh
  • Sunscreen, duh
  • And a great attitude

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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