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Sunday, April 14, 2024

The Bote Hangout Turns Every Gathering Into a Pool Party

My kids are 5 and 7, and like many kids their age, they love the water. But we aren’t rich—we have neither a pool in our backyard nor a beach house in the Seychelles. We also live in Portland, Oregon, where access to pools is extremely limited. But we've figured out a way to make it work, and that's with Bote's Hangout Suite

It's an inflatable and snazzy float that packs onto the rack of my car. Instead of trying to rent a pool on Swimply, or waiting in line for an hour for our turn to dunk in a warm public pool for a few minutes, I can drive out with my family to the nearest lake.

There, we inflate the Hangout dock and push it off the shore. The rest of the afternoon is spent dog-paddling back and forth, lounging in the sun, dangling our feet in clear alpine water, and eating snacks. Every single person we’ve taken out on the dock asks, “How can we get one of these?” As far as I’m concerned, this is the high life. I’m glad my kids have a chance to enjoy it.

Bits and Pieces

Bote Inflatable Dock Hangout 240 Classic$1,317 at Amazon$1,317 at Backcountry$1,549 at Dick's Sporting Goods$1,394 at Bote

The Dock Hangout is one component of Bote’s customizable Hangout Suite. The Hangout 240 is 240 degrees of an inflatable doughnut that comes with two large, inflatable pool backrests, a repair kit, a hand pump, a carry sling, and four dock connectors that connect to other floats. It fits two lounging adults (four if they’re good friends) and around 6 million children if they’re continuously jumping on and off.

Bote's entire suite of floats is pretty extensive. You can attach the Hangout to the chair or couch, or pop the round hangout bar into the middle using the company's Magnepod attachment points, which, yep, use magnets. I only tried its Hangout Tumblers. These are nifty because they have magnetic bottoms, so you can fill them up with a beverage and place a drink upright on magnetic spots on the surface of the Dock Hangout without the tumblers spilling or getting kicked over. 

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The magnetic attachment is shockingly strong—you could throw an (empty) tumbler from 10 feet away and have it snap upright into place. You also don’t have to buy into any of its magnetic attachments at all—we customized ours by just using webbing and carabiners to tie drugstore floaties and stand-up paddleboards to the side. 

Once you’ve unfolded the Hangout 240, it seems shockingly huge. However, it doesn’t take more than 15 minutes to inflate or deflate with the included pump. I’ve never had to use the repair kit either, and we have bashed this thing around quite a bit. It rides on the top of our car to the lake, gets dragged (sorry!) up and down gravel put-ins, and has not needed to be patched after a year.

In a moment of extreme pity, I also pulled my ancient 75-pound dog with dagger-like nails on top of it, and her paws only scrabbled at the surface without puncturing it.

Bobbing Around

Obviously, you don’t need a Dock Hangout to enjoy the water. One of the best parts of visiting a lake or river in Oregon in the summer is that it’s free. Sitting on a towel and reading a book is wonderful. You can rent or borrow paddleboards, kayaks, or other watercraft. You don't need to spend roughly $1,500 for a floating seat. 

In fact, I was skeptical of the Dock Hangout at first. I have a pretty good time just lying on the shore, and my spouse had to persuade me it was worth the effort to drag it out of our garage, tie it onto our rack, blow it up, and push it out. But once I stretched out on the Hangout, a beer in a magnetic tumbler next to me, I was a convert. 

If you remain unconvinced, please consult the classic track “Pontoon” to see a demonstration of the pleasures therein. It turns out there’s a reason why people pay premium prices for waterfront views and cabins on top of the water in the Maldives. Who knew?

It just feels good. The small kids wore their life vests and jumped off the side to swim in cool, clear water, instead of struggling to keep their footing when wading through rocks on the shore. The bigger kids also liked jumping off, paddling, and getting some space from their parents. Once the kids were off the Dock Hangout, the parents could pour a beer into the tumbler and dip their feet too.

It's great to bob around in the water, sure. But it's also nice to have a chance to be together. In the middle of winter, when everything is chilly and gray and will stay so for months, it’s nice to think back on a time when it was warm and 85 degrees and the sun was on your face. The Hangout 240 was one of my favorite things I tested this year.

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