Cold-Water Therapy Can Help Everything From Anxiety to Achy Joints—These Are the Best At-Home Ice Baths To Get Started
Whether training for an ultra-marathon, cooling down from a gym session, or trying to get a grip on some untamed anxiety (been there!), take your recovery to the next level by icing things up a bit. Ice bathing and cold-water therapy have seemingly taken over the wellness world. What was once primarily utilized by professional and elite athletes as a recovery routine has since gone totally mainstream, and is no longer an expensive treatment you have to book at a luxury spa to try. The at-home ice bath revolution is here, and it's brr-illiant.
- 02Best ice baths
- 03best overall
- 04best luxury
- 05Best on Amazon
- 06Best budget
- 07Best bundle
- 08best inflatable
- 09Best portable
- 10Most versatile
- 11Most aesthetic
- 12Ice bath Q&A
A number of brands have surfaced to accommodate the demand for at-home ice baths, making it easier than ever to take daily dips in your own backyard. This is great news for those who don’t live by an ocean or lake to experience “polar plunges”, or don’t want to spend the money on a wellness studio membership in order to have access to an ice bath.
The benefits of ice baths
Though the physical and mental health benefits that people experience from cold-water immersion are entirely unique to each individual and not exactly a foolproof cure-all for everyone, research indicates deliberate cold exposure can benefit the human body and mind.
Michael Bourgoyne, DPT, CNS, a physical therapist at Home Health in Salt Lake City, UT, says that a cold plunge is essentially cryotherapy (cold therapy), which is known to induce a parasympathetic response in the body by stimulating the vagus nerve. That icy jolt to the system can slow your heart rate, lower your blood pressure and cortisol levels, and ultimately, reduce inflammation and stress in the body.
According to Bourgoyne, after lowering your core body temperature down in an ice bath, your blood vessels work to re-dilate as your body warms back up and readjusts its temperature back to normal levels, thus increasing circulation throughout the body. After a teeth-chattering plunge, you may also notice an invigorating sensation similar to that of a “runner’s high"—some studies suggest that a rush of chemicals like dopamine can be triggered by a chilly soak.
As noted, the benefits can differ from person to person. For example, Adam Klink, director of community and functional fitness coach at Bare Performance Nutrition, invested in an at-home ice bath to counteract his busy days and intense training. He notes the physical benefits, like soothing inflammation and aching muscles, but particularly enjoys the mental benefits of cold plunging, which he describes as a driving force to get him to do something outside of his comfort zone every day.
“Nothing makes me more uncomfortable than sitting in freezing water and I wanted to build some extra mental fortitude, amongst other things,” he says. “My mental capacity has improved noticeably. Hopping in the cold water first thing in the morning makes anything that comes my way the rest of the day that much easier. Once I hop out, I feel an endorphin rush and am quickly awake and alert to start the day.”
When Well+Good's associate commerce editor, Francesca Krempa, took an ice bath every day for two weeks, she noted the opposite—also confirmed icing made a big difference on her body, especially her joints.
"Ice bathing can be relaxing, when you train up to 30-degree water, of course," she wrote in a review. "And I did feel better, at least physically. While I didn't notice a difference in my anxiety or depression levels, my muscles felt great. My knees particularly felt looser and less angry than they had all winter, particularly on the days when I lasted three minutes or more."
If you are ready to give it a whirl, these are the best at-home ice baths worth taking the plunge in.
9 best at-home ice baths
Easy set up? Check. Small-space friendly? Check. Simple to clean? Check, check, check. The Ice Barrel ticks off all our boxes, which is what makes it the best overall at-home ice bath on our list.
It arrives ready to go—all you have to do is fill it with water and ice and climb in. (It comes complete with a step stool to help you jump in and out of the barrel) For some, sitting in a comfortably crouched, upright position feels a bit less vulnerable than having to lie horizontally with coldness circulating around you—the Ice Barrel is great for that. The accompanying lid keeps bugs and debris from flying in when it’s not being used while also keeping the water cold for a few days. When ready to drain, the valve at the bottom makes for quick and easy drainage. Bonus: It’s made out of recycled materials too, making it a more sustainable option on the list.
- Arrives fully assembled
- Small-space friendly
- Lightweight (when empty)
- Easy to clean
- No seat—need to crouch down
Best luxury tub
Should you have the spare dough to splurge, the Plunge Tub is one of the most popular at-home ice baths on the market, racking up a following of IG influencers, personal trainers, and even celebrities like Lizzo. With its sleek, modern design made of acrylic and fiberglass, Plunge aesthetically nails it. It even has a built-in underwater light for added vision and ambiance at night. The complete cold-plunge setup can cool down to 39°F while circulating water around your body for better water quality and an increasingly chilled experience.
- Automatically filters and cleans the water
- Built-in thermometer
- Gorgeous design
- Not portable
- Best for large spaces
Best on Amazon
The G Ganen XL Tub is a popular option on Amazon, and for good reason. For one, it’s affordable. It’s also inflatable and portable and includes a foot pump for quick inflation. And it’s big enough to stretch out in or soak with another person, making it one of the larger options on this list. Each tub is made from a 3-layer PVC that can be brought outside or inside, depending on your needs. It’s definitely not as fancy as others on this list, but the reviews say that it makes a great, budget-friendly option for those who want to soak without having to splurge.
- Inflatable and portable
- Fits two people
- Multi-purpose tub
- No frills
- Not as sturdy
Don’t want to drop thousands on an ice bath, but still want something nicer than a steel trough? Snag this one for just $80 on Amazon. With a foldable design, hassle-free assembly, and a quick-release bottom drain, it gets the job done, whether that job is icing down your muscles or heating them up. It’s a no-frills way to enjoy a soak on a budget and for tight spaces where a larger, sprawling tub simply won’t fit (it’s small enough to fit in most showers.)
- Easy to clean
- Not that sturdy
For those looking for a more modest option, this tub bundle has a great look and even greater affordability. The Ice Pod Pro Bundle includes a tub, insulated lid, water flow pump, floating thermometer, and even a skimmer—all for $240. The tub itself is made from high-quality materials and engineered with the capability of indoor or outdoor use—making it weather- and UV-resistant, and able to withstand temperatures below freezing. It’s even insulated to keep water cold for up to 24 hours, and includes a waterproof cover to keep the water clean and colder for longer.
- Easy to set up
- Small and low—requires crouching
Best inflatable tub
Totally inflated within 2-5 minutes with its pump, Tru Grit’s patented inflatable ice bath features an industrial-grade drop-stitched chassis, overlayed with a high-grade PVC shell that rolls up into a simple carry backpack. Your ice bath can stay put at home, or go with you, if you so please. There’s also an option to protect your ice bath from the ground with a custom Tru Grit Rubber Floor Mat.
- Quickly inflates
- Easy to clean
Best portable tub
If you’re a van-lifer, RVer, or travel often, Cryospring allows you to take your ice-bath routine to virtually any location. A great portable option for the vagabonds whose home is wherever they park it, this tub comes with a backpack that makes it easy to transport and store while traveling. Its made of a material similar to an inflatable stand-up paddleboard and pumps up in two minutes.
And if there’s no ice, no problem—upgrading is available with the Cryospring Wi-Fi-enabled smart chiller, which allows you to control the temps directly from your phone. If you decide to keep it inflated at your home-away-home, the lid includes a locking combination buckle, so you can keep it safe and protected until you’re ready to plunge again.
- Portable and packable
- Easy to drain
- Chiller sold separately
Most versatile tub
A multipurpose tub that can be hot, cold and cook?! Sign us up. The Aleko was created to be an all-inclusive at-home spa experience. Cool the water to become a cold-plunge tub or heat it up to use as a hot tub, whichever you’re in the mood for that day. Whatever you decide, you can even cook up a delicious meal while you soak using the attached charcoal stove—fancy! A tub cover is included to help retain the temperature when it’s not in use and keep debris from falling in, while the pine wood finish has an earthy, natural look that blends in with your backyard backdrop. Another benefit is the option to fit two people into this tub, giving you the ability to soak away the stress with a friend or your significant other.
- Luxurious look
- Built-in stove
- Takes up a lot of space
Redwood outdoors makes stunning saunas, red cedar hot rubs, and not ice baths, as well. The tub is built to replicate the Finnish tradition of jumping in the snow between sauna sessions. The Scandinavian spruce thermowood (a heat-treated wood) covering the entire exterior creates a rustic, Hyyge design that comes fully assembled at delivery. Each tub includes a step stool for easy entry and exit, a plastic liner fully fitted to the inside, and a comfortable bench seat so you don’t have to crouch or hold yourself up. For an upcharge, you can add on the Redwood Outdoor Chiller + Heater to control water temperature as desired for your daily dips.
- Beautiful design
- Arrives fully assembled
- High quality
- Not ideal for small spaces
- Accessories like the lid and thermometer sold separately
At-home ice bath Q&A
Before you get started, Bourgoyne says it’s a good idea to consult a medical doctor to determine it's safe before taking your first dip, especially if you have family or personal history with heart, vascular, or nerve conditions, if you are pregnant, or have other conditions that are a concern with cold or water.
How cold should the water be to see the benefits?
There’s really no definitive answer, as some people tolerate cold better than others. As to not completely shock your body, experts recommend starting out with warmer temperatures in the 45-55<<°F range before working down to colder temps (35-39°F).
"Gradual cold exposure and listening to the body, never forcing, is the way to build cold tolerance until you are ready to try an ice bath," Andri Einarrson, a certified Wim Hof instructor, leads the cold water therapy experience on adventure travel company Flash Pack’s Unknown Iceland trip, previously told us. "What you can do is put cold water (no ice) in your [tub] and see if you manage to be as relaxed as if it was hot water. If not, keep with cold showers until you manage to go into the [tub] in total relaxation."
How long should you take an ice bath for?
This will also vary from person to person depending on their experience level, threshold, and the temperature of the water. But the colder the stimulus, the shorter amount of time you need to expose yourself to the cold. If it's your time taking an ice bath, If it’s your first time taking an ice bath, it’s often recommended to aim for 1-3 minutes. If the plunge was manageable, you can increase your time (or decrease your temp) next time.
How much ice do you need for a cold plunge without a chiller?
The amount of ice depends on the size of the tub and the temperature you are seeking in your ice bath. For a ballpark, you’ll need about 60-100lbs of ice to get your bath to the desired temp (under 50 degrees).
What are some tips to mentally get through a plunge?
Like most things, starting is the hardest part. Upon submersion and shock, your body’s fight or flight response will kick in (telling you to get the hell out of there). This is where the true challenge lies: “Mentally getting through a plunge is actually the toughest part for me,” says Klink. “I have had to train my mind to slow down and focus on my breathing. The more you focus on your breathing, taking deep breaths, and focus on staying in the moment, the quicker the time goes. This takes some time to get to a point where you can feel relaxed in the cold water.”
When is the best time to take an ice bath?
It’s easier said than done, but try to stay consistent and commit yourself to a regular schedule. Like most habits, it will take time and repetition to develop. “My biggest piece of advice is to start with a manageable time duration and water temperature,” says Klink. “You can build on this session after session as you build a tolerance.” Even better, setting goals throughout your cold-plunge journey always makes it a personal challenge to reach/beat, adding even more of a pep in your step as your dry off.
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