What To Know About Portable Saunas

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A portable sauna is a convenient, more affordable way to bring the rejuvenating qualities of the sauna experience to your home, yard or campground.

Every year, more and more people discover what people in Finland have known for thousands of years: Saunas are good for you. Numerous studies point to the health benefits of sauna use, including lowering your risk for high blood pressure and pulmonary diseases, as well as relieving arthritis, headache and the flu.

Regardless of the sauna type — woodburning, steam or infrared — sauna sessions make you feel relaxed, refreshed and restored, especially after a workout. Lately home saunas have been gaining popularity, especially since the pandemic shuttered many public facilities.

No room or budget to install a traditional sauna in your home? Consider a portable sauna. It’s an affordable, convenient solution for those seeking to make sauna a regular part of their health and wellness routine.

Types of Portable Saunas

Here are the most common portable options:

  • Tent sauna: These are often one-person collapsible tents that function with steam or infrared heat. The user zips themselves into the sauna with their head protruding. It looks funny, but it does the job! There are also tent saunas for two people, including their heads! One from SaunaSpace is pictured here.
  • Sauna blanket: This looks and functions like a sleeping bag. You zip yourself in, lie down and relax as infrared heat warms up your body. They come with timers so the blanket shuts off automatically, even if you fall asleep.
  • Towable sauna: If don’t have space for a permanently installed sauna or want to take it on the road — say to your mountain cabin — pull-behind saunas are a solution. Often custom-made, they’re usually Finnish or steam saunas. You can also look into renting a towable sauna if you want to try before you buy.

Benefits of a Portable Sauna

Despite their smaller proportions, the health benefits of a portable sauna are largely the same as a permanently installed one. Portable saunas offer several more plusses as well.

Portable sauna pros

  • Flexibility: Choose when and where to enjoy your sauna — at home in front of the TV, early in the morning, after a vigorous workout, or even in your hotel room.
  • Affordability: Except for towable saunas and certain high-end infrared models, portable saunas are much, much cheaper than built-ins. If you use them frequently enough, they’re cheaper in the long run than regular visits to the spa or the health club.
  • Privacy: If you’re not comfortable sweating among strangers, then a portable sauna offers privacy. Some spas even have rules that you must be nude to use their sauna. If that’s beyond your comfort level, then a portable home sauna is a discreet option.

So what are the downsides of a portable sauna? Spa and sauna expert Mark A. McKenney points out a few.

Portable sauna cons

  • The experience: “The major difference would be in the quality of what you are looking for, [and] if you want company or not,” McKenney says. “How many people do you want around you while sweating?” For many sauna aficionados, the ritual involves being around other people. “In larger spas in Europe,” McKenney says, “there are actual Sauna Masters (Aufguss Meister) who move the air around with towels and perform steam and entertainment rituals for groups of people.”
  • High heat: Finnish saunas all but impossible to replicate in a compact, portable model. They heat up to 200 F, while portable steam sauna tents reach about 150 F.
  • Room to move: Also, a small tent sauna allows for one position — sitting. So if you like to stretch out or lay down while in the sauna, a tent model might feel constricting. Lastly, if you’re looking for the respiratory benefits of a sauna, most portable models won’t deliver because the user’s head protrudes.

Choosing a Portable Sauna

Before you buy, decide what kind of sauna experience you want and how much you’re willing to spend.

Portable steam sauna features to consider

  • Tent size: Some portable steam sauna tents have enough room to stand, but most only have space for the user to sit with their head protruding.
  • External parts: They come with an external steamer, to which you add water.
  • Options: Some have additional features, like armholes so you can read or scroll while you sauna; heated foot pads; plastic windows; or herbal boxes so you can infuse some aromatherapy.
  • Price: We found a portable steam sauna tent priced from $93 and a larger steam tent, where the user sits with their whole body inside, for $252.

Portable infrared sauna features to consider

  • Tent or blanket: Only the latter can only be effectively used laying down.
  • Zoned heating: Some blankets feature heating zones that can be individually adjusted. Many come with armholes.
  • Timer: If you opt for a sauna blanket, buy one with a timer that automatically shuts off.
  • Price: A portable infrared sauna tent costs around $205 for a mid-range model. Infrared sauna blankets start at $146 for an entry-level model and up to $599 for the HigherDose blanket that’s a favorite of athletes and celebrities.

Both blankets and tents need to be cleaned after each use. Wipe them down with antibacterial wipes, or paper towels and white vinegar. Only after the sauna is completely clean can you take it down or roll it up.

Whether you go with a steam or infrared tent sauna or a sauna blanket, keep in mind how much you’ll use it. If you’re not sure you even like saunas, we recommend trying out a few sauna experiences — steam and infrared — before buying. If you already enjoy frequent saunas, a portable option is likely to be a welcome, affordable addition to your home wellness ritual.

Towable sauna features to consider

We’ve covered towable saunas a little less here, mostly because they’re not an entry-level option. The towable saunas we found must be custom-made, to the tune of $20,000 to $25,000 per. For dedicated sauna lovers who want to bring the sauna experience camping or to their lakeside retreat or mountain cabin, a towable sauna comes closest to replicating the spa experience in a portable model.

One way to try out a towable sauna is to rent one. In the greater Hudson Valley region in New York State, visit Spa Fleet. And check out SaunaShare. It’s like Airbnb but for saunas, both portable and permanently installed.

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Elizabeth Heath
Elizabeth Heath is a travel, culinary and lifestyle writer based in rural Umbria, Italy. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, HuffPost, Frommers.com, TripSavvy and many other publications. Her guidebook, An Architecture Lover's Guide to Rome, was released in 2019. Liz's husband is a stonemason and together they are passionate about the great outdoors, endless home improvement projects, dogs, their unruly garden and their slightly less unruly 8-year-old.