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“The cool thing about a mobile sauna is that it goes where you go.”

“The cool thing about a mobile sauna is that it goes where you go.” We’ve got the Hiki Hut Sauna in Duluth, the 612 Society Sauna in Minneapolis, Custom Mobile Saunas, Sisu, the Traveling Sauna, the Stokeyard Mobile Sauna, Fortune Bay Mobile Sauna, and these are just the ones that Saunatimes has told you about! (so far, and there’s more!).

Only in Minnesota can you go skate on smooth Minneapolis lake ice, then walk a few steps to a mobile wood burning sauna. Mobile saunas are so awesome as we can bring sauna to Nature. And we can bring Nature to sauna.

Soon there may be a mobile sauna idling at many traffic lights around your town. Until that time, all we can say is: “more mobile saunas!” Are you ready?

Why are Mobile Saunas More Popular in the US Than in Finland?

If you’re driving in Finland and stop at a convenience store, try striking up a conversation with the clerk behind the counter. Ask them about sauna. 88% chance their eyes will light up, and you’ll have to politely cut the conversation short and back your way out the door, to get back on the road.

Don’t believe me? Try it.

Not so in the US. Undertaking this same scenario, whether in Sheboygan, Chicago, or Charlotte, 88% chance that the clerk behind the counter in the US will narrow their eyes in confusion or distrust, and will maneuver themselves a little closer to the hidden button under the counter that summons the local police.

Attention Finns: This is the environment we have to deal with here in the US. (People generally think we are crazy).

“In my opinion, foreign people who are really dedicated and into sauna by their own will, they have so much heart in it, which makes them also tougher… There is a reason why they enjoy the sauna so much. They had to work to get to a sauna. We were maybe born there, so it is different for us.”

– Jesse Hämäläinen, Export Manager, Narvi Stoves

Chassis Considerations for a Mobile Sauna Build

Guest post series continues. Please welcome Wade Litt to saunatimes who will help you with chassis considerations for your mobile sauna build. Wade started bombarding Glenn with mobile sauna questions, and before too long we realized that Wade was very much up to speed on mobile sauna. He has done a lot of research and we are pleased to be able to share his story with you… for you! Welcome Wade!

Enter Wade

My parents had a traditional sauna built a few years ago and I’ve been hooked ever since. Not only has it been an amazing place to connect with family and friends, but also a relaxing place to disconnect and find solitude. My enthusiasm for sauna has me planning a pilgrimage to Finland this winter if travel restrictions allow, and with a rough road map full of ideas from Glenn’s 2019 trip and a good Finnish friend to boot, I should be set! Apparently, though, my parents’ sauna and a trip to Finland isn’t enough to smother my desire for a good sweat; my Kuuma stove just arrived. I’m going to build a mobile sauna!

Mobile Sauna Trailer Research

My first step has been researching the various chassis to house both the hot room and a small changing room – the winner of most unique being a sauna built inside a combine harvester, found in pictures from a 2018 mobile sauna festival in Finland – their next go-round in July is another trip I’d love to make next year. Although my county’s combine demolition derby is being held this week and I could probably score a great deal on a fixer-upper combine, I wanted to consider more common mobile sauna chassis options.

I was initially debating the tradeoff between a horse trailer (à la the Little Red Sauna in Maine. Or the one found in a recent Saunatimes article: “If you heat it, we will come!”) versus an enclosed trailer of some sort – perhaps either a cargo trailer or fish house trailer depending on budget considerations. I’ve also seen a couple built inside older, pull-behind camper shells.

Law of Löyly and Mobile Sauna

As it turns out, researching the first step of a mobile sauna build can quickly lead one down the rabbit hole of researching the complete details of an entire sauna build. This is especially because space is a scarce resource in trailers. Stove selection, the width of walls and benches, and trading off space for the hot room and changing room become important considerations. It doesn’t seem too difficult to find long trailers – 12 and 16 foot are fairly common lengths. Height and width, however, are where sizing issues creep in. Six feet seems to be a common height and width for many horse and cargo trailers. It becomes harder to adhere to the Law of Löyly in short-ceilinged trailers and bench width and layout become more of a puzzle in narrow trailers. Used trailers on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace weren’t too difficult to track down. However, from my search anyway, many trailers seemed too short or narrow for my ideal hot room.

Aesthetics are also an important part of the chassis debate. I may end up making a side business out of my sauna, although even if it ends up being largely for personal use. I want it to look nice. If it does become a side hustle, however, it should be social media-ready to help it market itself. Although barrel saunas have superb aesthetic appeal, they lack the thermal qualities and tall, upper benches I’m after – there’s only so much good heat I’m willing to sacrifice for good looks! Horse trailers seem to have a nicer visual appeal to me than cargo trailers. Maybe it’s a subtle nod to the agricultural and rural roots of traditional, old world saunas or, perhaps, it’s simply because I grew up in the country. Whatever it may be, I hope to install at least one scenic window in the hot room, and the chassis impacts the ability to do this. One would either need to work around the current framing of the trailer, or be prepared to structurally reinforce any necessary customizations to install the perfect window in the perfect location.

Mobile Sauna Chapter in Sauna Build Start to Finnish

It’s possible I only notice them more due to my own recent obsession. But I think the phenomenon is real: mobile saunas are on the rise. They are still relatively young in their development. However, and it has been tricky to find resources for the more technical questions I have been facing around topics like chassis selection. After a sizeable amount of independent research, I finally reached out to Glenn at Saunatimes to get his take. Much to my delight, he is finishing an updated edition of his eBook, “Sauna Build, From Start to Finnish,” which includes a new chapter on mobile saunas. What’s more, there is a section specifically on chassis options, including horse trailers, cargos trailers, fish house trailers, and homemade trailers. This topic is just what I had been researching!

The new chapter covers many of the topics I had been thinking about above, but also other important considerations like homemade trailer chassis, weight dispersal around the axle, legal limits on trailer widths, solar power, surrounding decking, and other topics. Reading an advance copy of Glenn’s second edition book gave me new ideas and useful technical details that will be critically important in my build.

Lots More Research

Armed with the information in the newest edition of the Saunatimes eBook, I continued the search and debate on which chassis to use. My Dad is convinced that his six-foot wide livestock trailer would be too narrow to be converted into my sauna. I passionately resisted initially, especially because such saunas already exist. But I have started to come around. Insulation, the vapor barrier, an air gap, and siding on both sides really eats away at the finished width. Designing a roomy layout which also includes the critical upper bench becomes tricky. Especially if it ends up being used on a commercial level with several people in the hot room at once, My online search continued with many messages to sellers for the internal dimensions of their trailers. I began to get an eye for their dimensions and became better at filtering out trailers that would be too small.

Whether it was a random-chance ad or Facebook’s algorithm detected my narrowing focus on larger chassis. An unexpected posting took my idea of a mobile sauna to an entirely new level. The new chapter in the Saunatimes eBook briefly mentions vehicle considerations for towing a mobile sauna but doesn’t go into great detail. The gist of it, though, is that you should probably have a truck, which I do not. The unexpected Facebook Marketplace post solved this problem while also providing a chassis that was slightly wider (6’10”), taller (6’9”), and longer (15’10”) than I been finding with the horse and cargo trailers.

Bread Truck Mobile Sauna

I am now the proud new owner of a former bread truck. Taking this big step in my mobile sauna build is exciting. The truck fits many of my desired specifications slightly better than a conventional trailer chassis, although it has opened up an entirely new set of challenges. For some reason, the first insurance company I called didn’t want to insure a vehicle with a giant wood stove in the back of it.

The Mobile Sauna Revolution Will Be Televised

09/12/2019

From Minnesota to Maine, Britain to the Baltics, a massive independent fleet of mobile saunas are being constructed and activated, all in the spirit of bringing good sauna to people in very cool places. How is it that the mobile sauna revolution is happening right now?

“Both evolution and innovation thrive in collaborative networks where opportunities for serendipitous connections exist. Great discoveries often evolve as slow hunches, maturing and connecting to other ideas over time.”

-Steven Johnson, “Where Good Ideas Come From”

In Duluth Minnesota, we have Hiki Hut mobile sauna, making its way along the shores of Lake Superior, the World’s largest freshwater lake. You can read our interview with the founders here.

We have Justin Juntunen who has “Finnished” the framing stage of his Cedar & Stone Mobile Sauna installation, which promises to be deployed and activated for locals and tourists in Duluth Minnesota, “Sauna Capital of the United States!”.

Further North, Fortune Bay Resort and Casino has constructed their mobile sauna, where folks can “try their luck” with cool downs along the shores of Lake Vermilion.

In Minneapolis, a fitness gym crew, with a bent towards thermogenesis wellness, are in the midst of building their wood fired trailer sauna for parking lot and frozen lake deployments.

At 4700 Nicollet Ave., South Stokeyard Outfitters, saunatimes, and Custom Mobile Sauna‘s have turned a decomissioned power station into a pop-up Mobile Sauna village and show room where two of Stokeyard Custom Mobile Saunas are activated. You can read a recent article about sweating at The Yard here.

The budding Mobile Sauna building business, Custom Mobile Saunas, is currently “4-6 weeks out in production” says Eric Bongard, founder, as he checks with his build team between welding mobile sauna frames.

The 612 Sauna Society is gearing up for its second season, deployed outside the Trailhead, Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis. “After a hike, mountain bike, or ski through the old growth park trails, at Theo Wirth, you come upon a beautiful view of the Minneapolis skyline, then look down into the foreground to see folks cooling down outside the 612 sauna, and i’m just in awe of how beautiful our city is, and how wonderful it is to exercise in Nature, then sauna” declares Glenn Auerbach, board member, 612 Sauna Society.

Further East, The Little Red Sauna has been completed! This is Maine’s first wood-fired mobile sauna, and beckons not to be the last.

Even further East, we have the just completed barrel sauna, thanks to Lewis Jenkinson’s Regener8saunas. Lewis is keen to deploy his new mobile sauna to help others with “mental chilling out” and decompression from our busy lives.

Brighton Beach Box wood fired sauna and spa is turning blistery cool Brighton evenings into warm community gathering wellness thermogenesis activations, thanks to their wood fired sauna.

And not to be outdone, the Finnish Sauna Society, Helsinki, Finland, has commissioned their own mobile sauna, to complement their 7 fixed saunas, most of which are smoke saunas.

Saunatimes started their own mobile sauna revolution in 2010, and it’s been a joy to see the wave swell. The rising sauna tide is lifting all these mobile sauna boats. The collaboration between collaborators has been wonderful to be a part of

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31 Comments

31 thoughts on “Mobile Saunas”

  1. Nice saunas! I saw a ton of ice fishing trailers last spring when I drove down to Cuyuna for my cycling club’s “Spring Ride” and immediately thought of those as a great platform for a mobile sauna. I am heading into a second winter with my mobile sauna, which has been great, but the trailer I welded using scrap metal I got for free is not the best design for a mobile sauna.

  2. Glenn,

    First and foremost, wow! Major respect! The work you’ve done in the sauna sector is unreal! Keep up the good word. My name is Sergei. I’m a Russian sauna lover and a filmmaker. I just bought a horse trailer that I’m going to convert into a mobile sauna. I’d love to connect with you on this subject… If you’d like to see a sample of my work, check out Van Boom on YouTube (https://youtu.be/OniYdmH6QKA).

    Hope to hear from you!

    Warmly,

    Sergei

  3. Hey Glenn, im gonna build a mobile sauna, i bought your e-book also and wanted to get your opinion on this: do you think that its crucial that i incorporate a drain in my hot room or is a flat floor than can be mopped up sufficient. I have spoken to a few sauna guys and they each have their own opinions on the necessity of a drain in the hot room. Thanks!!

  4. Barrett: My opinion: We only have to mop up once, after a rockin’ sweaty sauna party, to understand that a drain is a great idea for our sauna hot rooms. I shared more thoughts for you about the dual drain in the corner solution in comments section here.

  5. Hey Glen Kuuma said your the man to ask
    I bought a kuuma medium stove and will be installing it in a enclosed trailer . did not see no infro on height needed under the stove? for combustible, on sides will have heat shields and going with brick on walls front and one side.
    thanks
    Daryl
    in green bay wi

  6. Hi Daryl: I”m happy to help you but it’ll cost you. When I get to Green Bay, you better be ready to fire up your sauna and we sit on the bench together. Deal?

    Please email me picture of your trailer and answer for me: 1) your insulation plan: blown in? 2) height to existing ceiling and plan(s) for firing out your ceiling. 3) quick simple sketch of your build plan, including stove location. HINT: stove is best located over wheel wells. (bouncing around, tongue weight, etc.). saunatimes@gmail.com. We’ll take it from there.

    SHORT ANSWER: You can transition from black stove pipe to silver insulated chimney pipe before the ceiling, thereby conforming to distance to non combustibles above your stove.

  7. HI Glen, thank you so much for creating such an informative sauna site! I have a few. questions of my on starting my own mobile sauna business. I hoping to speak with you.

  8. Most wonderful/kindred spirit, Rob! Like fans of the Clash before they became popular, our mobile sauna building days date back to garageland.. Here’s a mobile sauna I built in 2008. Link here.

    Want to do a joint guest post detailing the US early pioneer action?

    Looking forward to coming back to Ithaca and maybe we can wheel one of your mobile saunas up to the base of Buttermilk or Taughannock Falls. If you can sort out the permit, i’ll bring the firewood.

  9. Glenn,
    You forgot about my mobile saunas- which I started making in 2013! Although the concept has been around for a while, they certainly are taking off now, literally. I have units being delivered from Long Island to Maine (and consults too- I helped Hannah with the Little Sauna).

    best,
    Rob

  10. I reside in Canada and am looking at going down the commercial sauna path. I would love to speak to someone regarding how sauna establishments deal with liability insurance. I am sure there would be differences between Canada and the US but and information is good information when your blind.

    Thanks

  11. I’m trying to start a mobile sauna business in Wisconsin. I found a local business where I can park the sauna and use their bathrooms, electricity, etc. The city is telling me that they do not consider trailers replacements for permanent structures and that I could only get a temporary structure permit that would be good for 180 days. After that, I would need to make the sauna a permanent structure. I see people with mobile sauna businesses all over the country. Has anyone experienced this? Thank you.

    Jaime

  12. Hi Glenn! As you seem to be the all knowing about sauna’s – I had a question for you! I recently ordered a Clearlight Outdoor Infared sauna [still hasn’t arrived and won’t till January due to supply chain issues] and have heard through the grapevine that apparently infared sauna’s in general are not designed for outdoor and are not as effective. Is this true? This particular sauna is *sold* as an outdoor model so wanted to get your take.

    Thank you so much in advance for your insight! –Juliet

  13. Hi Juliet. Well, i’m not all knowing, but a lifelong enthusiast/student.

    The danger with asking me about infrared is that infrared is not a sauna. Despite industry attempts to make them look like saunas and call them saunas, infrared therapy is quite different from sauna. The reasons why infrared cabins are made to look like saunas may be a matter of the fact that authentic saunas have reported health benefits, and manufacturers of infrared therapy rooms are trying to hitch their wagons.

    I’ve got nothing against various forms of sweat therapy. Whatever works, great. But I have issue with the industry branding infrared as a sauna. It’s an education battle, and my jam is sauna. Authentic sauna.

  14. Wade, the bread truck is intriguing, indeed! I built on an 8×12 snowmobile trailer, which has proved effective as a size, though I’m unsure of how close I am to trailer capacity (over?).

    My main point in replying, though, is to consider stove attachment. In a fixed location, gravity is quite sufficient to keep a kuuma in place. Mobile saunas likely require some kind of fixed attachment. There are two holes in each ‘leg’ you could use; I felt like trying to use them once the stove was in place would be tricky. Perhaps with a good template, a builder could solve that problem by predrilling attachment holes. My solution was to lay a piece of angle iron across each leg, and attach that through holes outside the stove width – and thus easier to access with the stove in place. They’re screwed into pavers, which are adhered to the floor per Glenn’s normal instructions. Perhaps not a perfect solution, but should keep the stove in place for most traffic events.

  15. Brian..

    You’re right, it’s tricky to line up the four holes in the base of the Kuuma to set bolts into the frame of the trailer. This next build, I will do the angle iron gig, as you describe, to lock down the Kuuma, with bolts beyond the stove. I am thinking of only two bolts, in the back, for aesthetic reasons, and thinking I can crank down on the plates enough to hold the Kuuma in place.

  16. Hi Matt…

    no sealant (zero) of any kind in the hot room. Pls. trust me on this one. Awesome you are advancing with the mobile sauna revolution.

  17. Glen,

    I’m 3/4 complete in my build of a mobile sauna by having built it on good old fashioned skids.

    Pretty excited to start cooking soon! My question is about sealing the cedar. Should I seal and what product should I use? Should I only do the benches or do the walls as well?

  18. Hello from Clark County, Wisconsin. I have been digging into your E-book and have run into a foundational question, literally.

    I want to make my sauna moveable (not necessarily far distances behind a truck but on skids) so am debating on treated lumber versus aluminum. Any thoughts?

    I have a friend well-versed in the aluminum industry and we can get our hands on it fairly easily. Just wondering if it would behoove us to step up the foundation and make it out of aluminum. Our biggest question/concern is weight, but I dont feel a sauna would weigh much considering the fairly lightweight materials used within.

    Thanks for any insight you can provide…

    Ben

  19. Hi Ben:

    Aluminum all the way! It’s a great idea. I am just now “Finnishing” a special build. 8×12 on aluminum chassis. it has come out great. Tuff Shed uses stainless steel studs for their shed bases.

    If you have a well-versed friend in the aluminum industry and can source framing for a base, by all means, that will be your best option. Just beef up the perimeter and frame it to how your well-versed friend suggests, and on you go!

    PS.. we used angle iron aluminum for perimeter and the bottom plate snug right against that with a bead of construction adhesive and a few anchor screws, atop plywood subfloor.

  20. I’m curious if you can help me. I’m considering converting a 6x12ft aluminum enclosed cargo trailer into a sauna. Do you think the expansion and contraction of the alluminum compared to the wood be an issue? Look forward to hearing from you 🙂
    On a side note, would you tow a noble sauna while a fire is burning in the woodstove, if the stove was latched closed securely?
    Thank you for loving saunas people!

  21. Hi Luc.

    Many build mobile saunas adapting from aluminum skinned trailers. There’s a debate as to whether spray foam is a good thing or not a good thing, but with a well insulated hot room, you’re heat transfer to the aluminum should be minimal.

    I’m a fan of traveling with the fire going in the wood sauna stove. It helps wave a flag of freedom. That said, there may be fire marshall’s that would red flag the practice. To me the trick is minimal air flow, and a well secured rain cap, and not traveling too far or fast.

  22. Sorry, I should have been more clear with my question. I’m looking for information on the types of insurance to rent out mobile saunas as a business.

  23. Hi Jeremy.

    This comes up a fair bit. Insuring mobile saunas for rental businesses depend upon your carriers and where you live. It’s a crap shoot. One idea is to stop into a rental company in your area, one that does party stuff, and see if you can get some allegiance/alignment there, in your community.

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