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Good heat is easily felt, yet harder to understand

You don’t have to be a major sauna aficionado to step into a sauna, settle onto the sauna bench, and appreciate how really good heat feels. Good heat is as egalitarian and “righteous” as is the cold. Much like how, on a cold Northern Minnesota night, we can all feel that same blast of arctic wind on our faces.

Some of us can call it out: “it’s gotta be -10 wind chill!” while others just know “man, it’s fucking cold!” and that’s enough.

You don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows

– Bob Dylan (written possibly somewhere close to Duluth, MN on a cold winter’s day)

Good heat is easily felt

Sauna aficionados sitting next to those new to sauna will often share that same “ahhhhhh” feeling after a well timed blast of steam from tossing water on the sauna rocks.

Good heat is harder to understand

There is a lot to that blast of steam. The Finns call this löyly, and löyly is a very spiritual thing to the Finns. Every sauna has its own unique löyly, and this is saying something in a land of 3.3 million saunas. Good löyly represents the depth potential of good heat. Scientifically, good heat is produced from thermal mass: a quality sauna heater, with the right amount of sauna stones on the heater, and other Lämpömassa producing elements like a dense stove surround, depth to the wood paneling on our sauna walls, and thicker wood decking of our benches.

Most don’t notice these things, yet everybody feels these things.

Does this mean anything? Yes, this means everything. Good heat is what it’s all about. Without good heat, we have no chance of heating up evenly, thoroughly, completely. Without good heat, our ears may feel like they’ve been soaked in hot sauce while our body temperature never changes. Without good heat, after exiting the hot room, if we jump through a hole in the ice, we come out freaked out, because our core never warmed in the first place. Without good heat, we may as well wear a spring jacket while sitting on the sauna bench.

We owe it to ourselves to build saunas that make really good heat. Good heat is what it’s all about. It’s easily felt, and yet harder understood.

Enjoying good heat between sauna rounds (photo Brian Peterson)

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