Guest post series continues. Duluth, Minnesota is to North American Sauna as North Shore Hawaii is to surfing. And for good reason, Duluth, and Thunder Bay Ontario to the North, is home to many Finnish immigrants, attracted to the familiar chilly climate and mighty Lake Superior much like moths to nighttime camp fires.
Lake Superior is briskly chilly year round, so the ice cold lake is perhaps the most intensely awesome cold plunge lake in the continental US. Yes, a bold statement, but once you stand on a rock ledge along Superior’s shore, steam billowing after a sauna round, looking into the crystal clear water below, then plunging faithfully into the crisp, clear, clean water, taking it right to your bones, then working your way back up onto the ledge, those having immersed themselves with this experience will support this bold claim.
So, it makes sense that the Sundquists have constructed their own mobile sauna to strategically “shore up” alongside Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the World.
Let’s here more from hiki hut Mobile Sauna and Kelby and Whitney Sundquist:
Welcome to saunatimes. Please tell us a little about yourself and your background.
We are hiki hut Mobile Sauna. The word ‘hiki’ is Finnish for sweat. We are light and bright, 6 person sauna on wheels. The hiki hut was created by a husband and wife team, Kelby and Whitney Sundquist. The hut was built from an ice fish house in the summer of 2018 with the intent of hosting public sauna sessions around the beautiful, Duluth MN area. We have since kicked off our inaugural season with a ‘warm’ welcome from the cities residents.
Where did you first become exposed to authentic sauna, and how did the idea of you building a wood burning mobile sauna come about?
Our inspiration came from a wonderful mobile sauna community in the Twin Cities called ‘612 Sauna Society’. The sauna society provided us with exactly what we were looking for in terms of relaxation and a sense of community. We immediately identified a need for this type of experience in our home-town of Duluth.
Did you build yourself or who built it, how did you design and manage the build process?
After purchasing a used 7’x16’ ice fishing house, we set to work with demolition of the interior. We divided the trailer into 3 rooms including a changing room, relaxation room and sauna room. We installed a through wall feed, wood burning stove to minimize draft from opening the sauna room door and hooks for customers to store belongings while using the sauna. We worked with ‘Superior Sauna and Steam’ in Ashland, WI to determine sauna room design and materials. Materials used in the sauna room include aspen walls, basswood benches and cedar backrests.
We also installed a window on each side of the bench. The combination of light woods and sunlight from the windows provide a well lit, cheery space.
From your website, we see that you are offering “pop up” sauna events around Duluth. Can people register for these sauna sessions? Is the sauna available for private rental? How’s all that going?
We list our up-coming pop up events on our website and sauna guests may sign up for bench time from the website or the ‘Mindbody’ mobile app. 60 and 90 minute sessions are available. We also offer private rental for those looking for sauna at a special event with family or friends. Since our first event event at the beginning of December, we have hosted 90 guests at 4 locations.
You both have good sentiment towards sustainability and using natural elements and materials with this project, can you tell us a bit more about your philosophy and attention to this?
We wanted to use sustainable energy sources and achieve ‘off grid’ capabilities. We did this by using a wood burning stove to provide heat and solar panels to provide electricity for lights and radio. This gives us the ability to be entirely remote, without the need for a cord or a gas can.
How about a hiki hut Sauna story from Duluth land?
Our first public sauna event was a nail biter. We were invited to attend the Duluth Winter Village December 1st and 2nd, on the Glensheen mansion campus. This event draws 20k people, not ideal for a new business to get their feet wet, but great exposure to get us kicked off for our first season. We positioned the hiki hut within throwing distance of the Lake Superior shore.
This was a great location for both scenery and sauna cool down in the Gitchee Gumee.
Unfortunately, a gale was passing over the lake that weekend creating waves between 6′-10′ tall. This didn’t stop our hard-core north-land sauna guests. They sprang from the sauna with steam rolling off their backs and briskly made their way toward the water. On lookers produced camera phones instantaneously, and started snapping pics and recording videos as our guests crashed into the waves. A couple waves later, sauna guests were making their way back up the shore with icicles hanging from their beards and perma-grins across their smiling faces.
What I thought would be non-ideal conditions, turned out to be the perfect conditions for sauna bragging rights.
For more information on how to create your own icicles between sauna rounds, please visit Duluth’s hiki hut sauna website here.