If you’ve tried a sauna at least once, you can confirm that the sauna experience sells itself. The mix of deep-seated skin cleansing and relaxing sweat therapy make for a rejuvenating affair that is sure to capture the hearts of most first time users.
Add the numerous associated health benefits, and it’s no surprise that saunaing is quickly becoming one of America’s favorite pastimes.
However, like most things that are “truly” America, sauna culture did not originate anywhere close to home.
The first modern-day saunas first popped up in Finland about a millennia ago. Over there, saunas were used and are still used as a vital aspect of personal hygiene, an excellent way to keep warm, and as makeshift, relatively sterile, birth houses.
These “original” saunas are today more aptly termed smoke saunas because of their heating system and how they operate. Smoke saunas get their heat from an open stove that burns wood inside the chamber. The smoke is then vented, leaving only the temperature that you need for one sauna session.
However, smoke saunas are now all but phased out with the remaining few mainly being used by connoisseurs and purists that value this authentic sauna experience. Some of these types also still exist in Finland where there are three sauna units for every five people, and in neighboring countries like Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.
Today saunas feature more efficient technology as well as improved features that significantly improve the overall sauna experience. Most contemporary saunas include an electric sauna stove that works with the touch of a button and does away with the need for wood or smoke.
These types typically feature stones or a large stone slab that retains heat at keeps the chamber warm. Dousing these rocks with water releases steam into the room, increasing the temperature and humidity.
Another type of sauna with even newer technology is infrared saunas. The infrared wavelength of light powers these types.
With improvements in sauna technology, you can now get units tailored to match any need. You can get full feature saunas with temperature and humidity controls that are common in spas and high-end apartment buildings. You now also have saunas built into buses, boats, car trailers, or even cars.
However, for the ultimate customizable personal sauna experience, your best alternatives are an easy-to-assemble outdoor sauna for your home, or a super convenient, relatively affordable portable sauna.
Portable saunas are small-sized, mobile units that often made to fit a single occupant. These models typically feature a fabric housing and can include either steam or infrared heating component.
These saunas are becoming increasingly popular for their portability, space savings, and extreme convenience.
Why You Should Consider Getting a Portable Sauna
Portable saunas provide one of the easiest ways to get into sauna culture. Compared to traditional offerings like outdoor and indoor sauna units, portable saunas offer several pros that include:
Gym and spa sauna memberships can get quite expensive, especially with the high brow brand names. Hence, a unit that offers a similar experience at only a fraction is immediately attractive to many sauna enthusiasts.
Many public sauna subscriptions are in the $30-$60 range. While this price may seem pretty inexpensive, consider that a six-month subscription will cost you the same as a high-quality portable sauna like the Radiant Saunas BSA6315 Harmony Deluxe.
Another hidden cost with sauna subscription is the added price and hassle of moving to and from your sauna spot.
Portable saunas offer a cost-effective way to gain access to a sauna longterm and build a healthy habit of saunaing. Another more durable option is to construct an in-house sauna or set up an outdoor sauna, although these cost significantly more.
We’ve all been there. Setting a new month resolution to pick up one healthy habit like visiting the gym or saunaing, and failing miserably. One key reason why goal like this sometimes fail is the friction from trying to fit the activity into your schedule and your logistics plans for the day.
Bring the sauna to your home helps significantly ease this friction if you are trying to build up the habit.
Portable saunas are available for use in an instant at any time of the day. You could jump into your mobile unit even at ungodly 3 am if that’s when you’ve got the free time.
Privacy and Hygiene
Say goodbye to prying eyes, that shifty fellow in the corner, or the self-proclaimed political analyst that is parroting the views of one sensationalist media outlet.
With portable saunas, you get to enjoy your steaming experience in the comfort and absolute privacy of your home.
While hygiene is rarely an issue with public saunas, portable saunas also afford you the confidence to guarantee a level of cleanliness that matches your standards. Furthermore, with these units, you eliminate the risk of exposure to foreign germs from other users.
With portable saunas, you also get the ability to adjust the temperature configuration to match your specific needs.
Public saunas typically set their units in temperature ranges. However, the preset figures may be significantly higher or lower than the peak temperature that affords you the best sauna experience.
More Convenient than Outdoor Saunas
Compared to wooden outdoor saunas, portable saunas require less space, are way easier to install, more comfortable to move around, and can be stored away easily
Portable Sauna Cons
However, portable saunas are not the end all be all of saunaing. These units come with several cons that can make them a worse choice compared to other sauna types.
Furthermore, they share the same potential disadvantages of traditional sauna use. Prolonged use of portable saunas can lead to dehydration or more chronic situations like heatstroke.
Like standard sauna offerings, portable saunas are also unsuitable for people with severe medical conditions like heart disease, cardiovascular conditions, or multiple sclerosis.
The cons of portable saunas include:
They Can Occupy Considerable Space
If you have a relatively small condo, setting up a portable sauna indoors can eat up a significant portion of your floor space. Space concerns can come up, especially if you opt for any of the double-person models. However, the standard one-person models often have a small enough footprint to fit right into any regular home.
The compact design of portable saunas make them excellent for convenience but terrible for people with a low tolerance for small confined spaces.
Best Portable Steam Sauna: Durherm Portable Personal Folding Home Steam Sauna
If you need to replicate that traditional sauna experience in the comfort of your home, this unit is the one for you.
At only 11 pounds, the Durherm Portable Steam Sauna is super lightweight, plus it folds neatly to allow for secure storage. This unit is also decently priced, offering you some of the best value for your money you can get.
Measuring 33 inches wide by 43 inches high, the sauna packs a lot of depth for its insubstantial weight. Furthermore, the unit is roomy enough to fit most full-grown adults with space to spare.
The model is powered by an ample 800w steam generator that pumps enough steam to saturate the chamber thoroughly. However, the Durherm sauna only reaches a maximum temperature of 120° F. Hence; the sauna might be inadequate if you are a seasoned sauna enthusiast that prefers sweltering temperatures.
One strong suit of the Durherm Portable Steam Sauna is that it ameliorate the steam direction problem with a hose that allows you to change the direction of the steam jet.
- Roomy and comfy design
- Affordably priced
- More portable than most
- Lightweight and easy to store
- Heats up fast
- Watertight with no leaks
- With timer
- No chair included in the package
- Maximum temperature of only 120° F
- Construction is less durable than premium models
Best Portable Infrared Sauna: SereneLife Infrared Home Spa Portable Sauna
The SereneLife Home Spa unit is a portable sauna unit any expert will recommend. Its convenience, enhanced comfort, superior construction, and added safety measures, makes this model the number choice of many sauna enthusiasts worldwide.
The unit features multiple energy-efficient heating panels that heat your body fast in all directions to give you that authentic sauna experience. Furthermore, the heating panels are made from a low EMF carbon fiber that helps conserve energy. This model also features a foot heating pad that warms your feet directly to complete the superior heating experience.
Compared to other options on the market, this model features relatively solid construction. However, like the Durherm, this unit is foldable and easy to store. Furthermore, the unit is reinforced at the bottom so you can use it over your carpet or at any other sensitive location.
However, we did find a few reviews complaining about the zipper quality.
Straight out the box, with the SereneLife Home Spa unit, you get a foldable chair, and an included heat and time controller.
If you want that authentic sauna experience every single time, the SereneLife Infrared Home Spa Portable Sauna is your best bet.
- Energy-efficient low EMF heating panels
- Adjustable heat levels and timer
- Easy to set up, use, and store
- With foldable chair
- With foot heating pad
- Low-quality zipper
Types of Portable Sauna (Design)
There are two main design types of portable saunas: fabric sauna cabinets and sauna domes.
Fabric sauna cabinets are the most popular type of portable saunas. These units are primarily defined by the often colorful sturdy fabric that makes up the walls of the sauna chamber.
With fabric cabinets, you typically get a zippered enclosure complete with slits for your hands and head. These slits are especially handy if you want to spice up your sauna experience with some light reading.
These portable sauna types typically a wooden or metal frame to support the structure, and a chair in the center to keep you comfy.
Fabric saunas are lightweight, easy to move, and often collapse or fold for secure storage, making them some of the most portable units you can get.
Sauna domes are mound-shaped units that sit horizontally like an MRI, so you typically have to lie down in the chamber face up.
Many sauna domes use a similar fabric housing to regular fabric cabinets. However, several others feature relatively denser materials like ceramic or hardwood like mahogany that stretch the definition of portable saunas to the limit. However, they retain a small footprint and are relatively easier to move than outdoor options.
Types of Portable Sauna (Heating Element)
Like traditional saunas, portable units use two main types of heating processes: infrared and steam.
If you have been saunaing anywhere in America, the chances are that you used a steam sauna. Sauna enthusiasts consider steam saunas the traditional option; hence, they are the most widely available sauna types worldwide.
However, unlike full-scale steam saunas that often use an electric stove to heat stones, portable steam sauna typically use a steam generator. The steam generator sits outside the chamber (for safety reasons) from where it pumps hot water vapor into the unit.
Compared to infrared saunas, steam units are relatively slower to heat up. However, once they get going, steam saunas can get quite hot and steamy. The hot water vapor has the added effect of cleansing your orifices and clearing your nasal passages.
For an even more pleasant experience, you can add essential oils and herbs to the steam jet.
Steam saunas can often reach a maximum heat of 150° to 185° Fahrenheit. However, one major quirk of steam saunas is that due to the rising of hot vapor, the top of the chamber gets relatively warmer than the bottom.
Infrared saunas, on the other hand, ditch steam for a dry heating method that uses infrared light. Infrared portable saunas feature heating elements that use infrared wavelength to heat the skin directly without affecting the surrounding air.
Thanks to their lack of a boiling component, the heating element for this unit can be safely situated on the interior of the engine. Many of these units have multiple heating pads spread out across the housing for efficient heating of the chamber. Hence, infrared saunas completely negate the temperature disparity caused by rising water vapor in steam saunas.
Some deluxe models even offer the ability to set different temperatures for different heating pads. For example, you could have a lower temperature for the top half of the chamber for increased comfort.
Unlike steam saunas, infrared units use a measured infrared wavelength that allows them to provide the required heat from the get-go. Infrared saunas are also significantly more energy-efficient.
The maximum temperature range for most infrared saunas is 120°F to 160°F. However, thanks to their heating efficiency, you will rarely need to get to the top setting.
More: Best Home Infrared Sauna
Why You Should Consider Saunaing More Often
According to a study by the University of East Finland and another in the JAMA Journal of Internal Medicine, an increased frequency of sauna bathing is correlated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, sudden cardiac arrest, and all-cause mortality.
Other studies have associated sauna use with a reduced risk of high blood pressure, a reduction in the risk of pneumonia infections, and with lower markers of inflammation in the blood.
The potential benefits of sauna use do not end there. Sauna users also enjoy a potentially reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. For many illnesses, specialist doctors often use therapeutic sauna sessions in conjunction with physiotherapy or hydrotherapy to enhance treatment.
Sauna use may also negatively impact people with alcohol or cocaine withdrawal as well as children and older persons who have heart disease or suffer from seizures. In these cases, sauna use can lead to hyperthermia, heatstroke, or even death.
Excessive sauna is also associated with a temporary loss of fertility in men that can last for up to two months.
Prolonged stay in a sauna may lead to dehydration, especially after vigorous exercise. Sauna-created dehydration can be easily combated by regularly sipping water or isotonic drinks.
However, for an active, healthy person, sauna use poses little to no risk and a whole lot of upside.
Other Factors to Consider When Choosing a Portable Sauna
If you are a seasoned sauna enthusiast with a high-temperature tolerance, you may want to check the maximum temperature of the unit before pulling the trigger. Many safety-focused models have a maximum heat quotient of only 120° F.
Related: What’s the best Sauna Temperature?
Size and Dimensions
Make sure to double-check your unit’s dimensions to ensure it is roomy enough to fit your frame comfortably. Furthermore, if you have living space constraints, you want to make sure the size of the portable sauna fits your available room.
Ease of Setup and Use
Most portable saunas are straightforward and easy to use. However, the setup process for some models can get a bit complicated. For a hassle-free experience, it’s best to get a model that requires minimal setup.
Depending on the model, portable saunas come with a wide range of features. Some units feature foldable chairs, timer controls, handheld remotes, and heating footpads.
Check that the package matches the feature set you need for a pleasant sauna experience.