Floating foam pads make for a great way to relax out on the lake. You can let your kids play on them, do a little sunbathing, or even let your dog out onto it. They also serve as being a rather handy extension to your boat, which is ideal if you’re going to entertaining on the water.

However, some are better than others, and I have personally bought two in the past so feel that I am in a good position to explain what I believe the best floating water mat is.

What is the Best Floating Water Mat for a Boat?

The first one I ever owned was given to me as a gift, and I believe it was purchased from Sam’s Club. It lasted me around three months and started splitting and tearing up – it was a complete waste of money and time.

After that I decided to buy a better brand one, and you can see which floating mat for boats I now recommend based in order of size. The second choice below, the Big Joe, is the one I have now owned for three years with no problems.

Rubber Dockie Duckling Floating Mat: 9 x 6 Foot

  • Dimensions: 9 x 6 foot (18 x 6 also available)
  • Tether Included: Yes
  • Capacity: Up to 4 adults on the larger mat
  • Safety Tested: Yes
  • Warranty: Yes

This is the smallest of my recommendations and is best if you’re not 100% sure this is the right type of product for you and want to literally test the water.

It’s also a lot smaller than the other floating foam mats you can use on the lake, so is a good choice for smaller boats and pontoons. The downside to having a smaller size is that you’re only really going to be able to have a couple of kids use it at any one time.

But, they do offer a large floating mat version that’s twice the size, it can be quite expensive though. Click the image and that will take you to Amazon where you can view both sizes and their respective prices.

The Rubber Dockie mats are designed in very bright colors, and for me that’s very important when you compare that to the blues that some other brands use. It means it’s going to be a lot easier to spot should it become un-tethered from your boat.

It’s manufactured from a tough and resilient material that is designed to not tear or puncture and is sturdy enough for adults and children.

Big Joe 2050ABW Waterpad: 15 x 6 Foot

  • Dimensions: 15 x 6 foot
  • Tether Included: No
  • Capacity: Up to 4 adults
  • Safety Tested: Yes
  • Warranty: 1 year

This is the foam floating mat I own for my pontoon boat. It’s made of the same material that those swimming noodles you use, and after 3 years of continuous summer use, still works like a dream. You can see the reviews on Amazon plus some prices.

We’ve had 4 adults on it at once, and there are grommets on it that you can use as cup holders too. That makes things a load easier if you just want to chill out for a few hours.

The only thing that lets it down a little is that it doesn’t come with a tether, so what I use is a bungee cord through the grommets and that’s works just fine for us.

It’s quite easy to roll and doesn’t absorb any water. Once rolled I would estimate that it has a diameter of about 2 foot, so you can easily store it on your boat with no issues, even if you own a smaller boat or pontoon.

It doesn’t have a carry case but uses Velcro straps to keep it rolled up.

FloatDaddy Foam Lake Swim Mat: 16 x 6 Foot

  • Dimensions: 16 x 6 foot
  • Tether Included: Yes
  • Capacity: Up to 5 adults
  • Safety Tested: Yes
  • Warranty: 1 year 

As one of the thickest water pads for a lake that you will find, the FloatDaddy is a very good product, I just don’t like the fact that it’s blue – I would prefer a bright color for my kids to be sat on in the water.

However, putting that small negative to one side, it’s very, very buoyant due to the thickness, and possibly the sturdiest floating mat you will find for your boat or pontoon. You can see some of the comments on Amazon about the quality here.

But, that extra thickness does mean it’s not as easy to roll up as the other mats, and I’ve never seen just one person able to get it packed up – it’s certainly a two-person job at least.

It’s also a lot smoother than other foam mats and won’t scratch your kid’s legs and body up like some of the others can do.

The FloatDaddy comes with an anchor point and 5-foot bungee cord which you attach to a rope off your boat for safety and security.

Rosso Water Floating Fortress: 18 x 6 Foot

  • Dimensions: 18 x 6 foot
  • Tether Included: Yes
  • Capacity: Up to 8 adults
  • Safety Tested: Yes
  • Warranty: 1 year

If you really want to get the party started then you can’t go too far wrong with the Rosso Water Fortress. It is one of the larger water pads on the market, and I’ve seen adults standing on it, jumping, partying, and throwing a lot of punishment at this, and it always copes well with it.

It can handle a massive 1,200 pounds of weight. Has a 12-foot bungee cord tether included, plus Velcro straps to help keep it in place when not being used.

Tear and fade resistant, the Water Fortress is also very easy to roll, but due to the size of this mat, I would recommend that you have a couple of friends to help you out. In fact, on the Amazon listing you can see a photo of some friends rolling it back up to get some idea on what’s involved.

Taking just a few seconds to deploy, and probably a couple of minutes to pack up again, it’s a great floating mat for your boat, whether that’s a pontoon or anything else.

Maui Mat by Aqua Lily Products: 20 x 6 Foot

  • Dimensions: 20 x 6 foot
  • Tether Included: Yes
  • Capacity: Up to 8 adults
  • Safety Tested: Yes
  • Warranty: 1 year

This is one of the world’s most popular floating water mats and is seen on lakes all around the United States every summer weekend.

Being able to take up 1,300 pounds of weight this is the ultimate water pad for a lake, offering hours of fun for all of the family. You can read what other people say by clicking on these Amazon reviews of the Aqua Lily pad.

It’s come in nice and bright colors, has UV resistant coating, hook and loop straps, flexibility, and a fully installed tether system.

It probably is the best lake water mat for your boat, but you will pay a premium for it, but I do believe that the high price will be well worth it.

The thing that I also really like is that despite how large it is, it only weighs 25 pounds itself, and absorbs zero water. As long as you have the space on your pontoon boat, it’s a great option for larger vessels or bigger gatherings of people.

FAQs

Do you roll them up on the water?

I pull mine up of the side of boat towards the front. This way there’s no sharp edges to catch it on and it doesn’t scratch anything, you don’t roll it up on the water.

Alternatively, if you have a large open dock space, then you can do it on the dock area as a one-person job very easily.

The ones recommended in the guide above all don’t absorb a lot of water, so you should be able to roll them easily, and then you can use bungee cords to keep it rolled up.

Where is the best place to store them?

It depends on how large your boat is. I place mine at the front as I have enough room, and use attach it with a rope once rolled, tied with two cleats.

Other pontoon boat owners will roll theirs up and place it in the space behind the rear seats and engine quite easily.

Can you tow them behind your boat?

Yes, you can, and I’ve seen it done, but they are not designed to be towed, and the manufacturers will explicitly state that you should never do it.

The ones listed above do come with bungee cords or tethers that you can attach to a tow bar. But, I wouldn’t be pulling at speed.

If you do want to tow, and go against the advised safety rules, I would only recommend that you pull very slowly, possibly almost at trolling speeds. I think it would be dangerous to do any high-speed towing.

How do you clean lake water mats?

I rarely have to, as my Big Joe tends not to have anything stuck to it. But if you do want to clean your water mat, then I would simply hose it down with some soap and water.

Should you let the mat dry out before you roll it up?

I’ve never done this, they seem to dry out by themselves, and don’t attract algae or mold. Having said that, I am using mine every weekend, so if placing in storage I would recommend giving a clean and letting it dry in the sun before rolling back up.

Do they flip over in the wind?

Great question! Many of the floating mats shown above come with holes through which you can anchor them down if you wish.

I’ve never seen them flip, but having said that, I wouldn’t be using my water pad on a lake if the weather and wind starts to pick up.

Can dogs stand and play on foam water mats?

Definitely, and our dog comes with us all the time and absolutely loves it. It’s the perfect addition to our existing dog boat ramp.

I would watch out if your dog is a chewer though. Our dog loves to chew, and this foam material is right up his street so we keep an eye on him at all times.

Comments from Other Boat Owners

On some of the popular boating forums I asked the question whether the people who owned a floating mat for their boat believed it had been worth the money or not. Here are many of those responses.

“My wife really wanted a floating pad to go with our new pontoon boat. I questioned whether they were worth the money, but after last summer’s season I can say that they are worth every dime both for kids and adults. We spent whole week on our local lakes and the mat got used every day. We had many comments about it. The only con is rolling it up and hauling it. But it’s worth it.”

“Floating water mats are definitely worth the money, kids and adults love them. We have the Rubber Dockie brand and it has a good mount and bungee tether to hook the mat to our boat.”

“I won’t lie, they are bulky and hard to move around and trying to roll it up can be like wrestling alligators! Not sure of the brand name, but they are making some that stack by alternated foldable seams and they look a lot easier to handle, but I don’t think they would be as solid as the floating water pad I have.”

“We bought our foam floating mat on Amazon for around $200 and we’re going on our third year with it. It’s still just as fun as it was the first year, we all absolutely love ours.”

“We own the Big Joe floatie which is kind of like a massive pool noodle on steroids with a seat. It’s nice to float around on while anchored or tied off with others and not so huge that the seating is lost.”

“Floating foam pads are loads of fun and kids love it, but it does get in the way on our smaller pontoon boat so unless I buy a bigger boat, I am going to figure out how to possibly mount it to the side of my railings.”

“We bought a cheap one and it held up really well so far with kids and adults using it for a couple seasons already. We find that the best place to store it is between the seats and motor when we’re underway.”

“They are great fun, but my only complaint is that it will takes either two adults or and adult a couple of older kids to roll them up tight enough to fit in behind your boat seats.”

“We never go boating without our floating foam pad. Our water mat is five years old now, it still looks great and gets used a lot, literally every single weekend.”

“We bought the Rubber Dockie brand, and the adults and kids love it. I ordered an extra tether and installed it at the opposite end of the pad from the stock single tether. That lets me clip each end to the bow and stern ends of the port pontoon where my door is. It’s used as sort of a water patio and it’s used the whole time we’re anchored on the water.”

“Our mat is a great place to send the kids out onto with their hot dogs, hamburgers and messy food so they don’t spill it all over the boat carpet. I made up two tethers and ours is almost as long as our pontoon boat.”

“We love ours. It’s well worth the money and is the best investment we ever made for our grandkids. They will wrestle off of it, jump from it away from the pontoon. I’ve had ten people on ours at once including adults and kids at any given time.”

“I bought one from Sam’s Club but would advise you not to waste your money on their product. It did not hold up and started tearing. Spend the money instead on a quality brand such as Rubber Dockie or the Big Joe pads and you won’t regret it!”

“We don’t have kids and all we have ever had on our water pad is full grown adults. And many of us are not small by any means! It’s like having an extension on your boat, and we always have ours out floating when we hold boat parties each summer weekend.”

“Brand makes a massive difference as you do get what you pay for. A good one is costly so definitely do your research before you buy. From a personal perspective they are great for kids. Not sure we would have one if we didn’t have grandchildren, and yes, they are kind of a pain to roll and store and transport but still worth the money.”

“Our boat’s floating mat is hands down the best pontoon toy I’ve bought. It is the greatest way to relax. We have the Aqua Lily pad and we love it. We’ve had 5 adults and 4 kids on ours. You can get different sizes.”

“Adults buy these so that they can get their kids off the pontoon boat. Throwing children straight overboard is frowned upon! Seriously though, we just bought one on Friday and we love it having used it this weekend.”

“I don’t own a floating foam pad for my boat, but my advice would be to carefully consider how many people will be using it and how often. They are pretty big for just one or two people and can take up a lot of room.”

“If you have a big dock to lay it out on say 6 by 20 feet of open space then they are very easy to roll up with just one person. I just lay the Velcro strap down first, set the mat over the strap, then roll the mat up from one end. That way it’s an easy one-person job, if you have a big open dock, that is.”

“They can be expensive but fun to float on. The hardest part is where to store them while heading out on the water as they will be big and bulky. I manage it by laying the foam pad across the front of my pontoon boat and then I run a rope through it and tired from cleat to cleat and have never had an issue.”

“The Big Joe is very light and does absorb much any water at all. My wife and I can roll it up easily and use two bungees to keep it rolled up and in place when not being used.”

“We love ours! It’s 15 x 6 foot and it’s not hard to roll up once you get the hang of it. We strap it to the front of the boat, but I’ve seen others stand it up on the back as well. We bought ours on Amazon for around $300.”

“If you have dogs then I really recommend buying a floating mat for your boat. Dogs love it, play on it all day and it’s just like letting them out into the yard. They can get on by themselves, and no need for dog ladder, as they can step on the back of the pontoon.”

“We love ours. It’s a stack mat with zippered sections so stores in smaller spaces very flat. You can make it as large or as small as you like, as you simply don’t put as many sections in. Plus, if one section gets damaged just replace that piece not the whole mat.”

“I like our Rubber Dockie we got off Amazon and it’s great when you have a group. For two people we don’t get it out because it is a bit of trouble to carry it down and back to the dock on the steep slope.”

Final Thoughts

As with any activity on the water, it’s essential that you are safe and secure when using a floating water mat.

Always make sure that your kids have personal flotation devices on, and the mat is securely tethered to your boat or anchored down.

If you do decide to buy today, many people often regret going too small, so give some consideration to the larger sizes, as if you have enough room on your pontoon boat it’s going to be a great way to spend days on the lake.