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Why are mobile saunas more popular in the US than in Finland?

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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

The backyard sauna is one thing, but a public sauna is an entirely different matter

Those of us so enthralled with sauna that we want to share good sauna with others by building commercial sauna businesses are mostly brushed back or warn down by municipal codes and red tape.

We can’t blame our local licensing agencies. “Sauna” in the US, unfortunately, devolved into a front for activities of ill repute: massage parlors with happy endings and places for minority sexual orientations to gather, to “meet up.” It only took one of these places to be located too close to a church or school for “saunas’ to be classified in the same category as strip clubs.

Enough about that. Fast forward to today: The Urban Sauna revolution is being televised. Budding saunapreneurs and sauna impassionistas are “Going Mobile” Sidestepping arcane policies, restrictions, costs, and limitations of brick and mortar by wheeling up their mobile saunas to cool places with cool views, welcoming sauna enthusiasts to good heat and community gathering.

In Finland, anybody can do about anything with sauna. It’s akin to Antonio in Naples wanting to open a pizza joint. “si, molte bene, grazie.. we needa more pizza!” But here in the States, we have to work for it. And we’ve found an awesome work around to do it.

“In the US we are growing sauna culture. We are educating people on quality sauna, just like Starbucks paved the way for better coffee” says Justin Juntunen, founder of Cedar & Stone mobile sauna in Duluth, MN.

Enjoying good sauna, better coffee, alongside the Superior lake with Cedar & Stone mobile sauna

In Minneapolis, Minnesota, Custom Mobile Saunas has been busy since converting their entire operation from ice fish houses to mobile saunas. “I Collaborated with Saunatimes to start building the best authentic Finnish Saunas with the Kuuma stove from Tower (Minnesota). It’s kind of fun because the people that I deal with now are more in tune to health and wellness and the health benefits of wood fired sauna . We’ve got them going all over the US and in Canada.”

7’x12′ mobile sauna. 6’x7′ hot room. Wood fired. Stokeyard Outfitter deployed.

In Duluth, MN, Kelby and Witney from Hiki Hut have experienced that ““Public sauna is a powerful community builder. Witnessing the way strangers connect with one another within the course of a sauna session shows us that there is a bright future ahead for the public sauna.”

Hiki Sauna husband and wife team Kelby and Whitney Sundquist

Daniel Wilson (not the singer songwriter Semisonic Dan, though he probably also digs mobile sauna) was the chief builder of Mindstrong‘s mobile sauna: “”We weren’t just building a sauna for Mindstrong, we were building Harvey his class room.”  And this sauna is affecting pro athletes and serendipitous passerby’s as Mindstrong deploys the sauna as part of their cold / hot breathing practices in Nature, as opposed to the stale chemical air in health clubs.

Mindstrong Sauna classroom hot room

The 612 Sauna Society mobile sauna is deployed adjacent to the Trailhead building, where thousands of skiers, hikers, mountain bikers converge amongst old growth trees in the heart of Minneapolis, as part of the Loppet Foundation. John Munger, Executive Director sums up the foundation’s commitment to mobile sauna: “There is a tendency to think of the reasons why not to do something. I tend to approach it from the opposite point of view. Let’s try and find reasons to do this, because it’s going to elevate everyone, and the sauna has certainly done that.”

John Munger, Loppet Foundation, and Glenn cooling down between sauna rounds outside the 612 Sauna Society mobile sauna, outside the Trailhead, Wirth Park, Minneapolis, MN

In Maine, Hannah from Little Red Sauna discusses how:

One in five Americans report having been on a digital detox within the last year to spend more time outdoors and to focus on their health. There is nothing better than the Finnish sauna experience to connect people authentically to nature: wood, water, fire, and natural materials. With a mobile sauna, you can drive and park right up to some of the most majestic and awe-inspiring views while experiencing communal bathing. You are outdoors in nature — looking out at snow-covered mountaintop peaks, on beaches with a vista of islands, along riverbeds with forest canopies — appreciating the stunning beauty of the world and how it gives you peace and a calm heart. 

Hannah, Little Red Sauna

In Finland, you can throw a stick and hit a sauna. yet here in the US saunas are a rare thing. Public saunas even more so.

Mobile saunas, whether deployed in a brewery parking lot or next to a stream in Nature, allow us to share the goodness of sauna in the public domain as a community gathering space with great heat at point of use with no limit controls set at 155 degrees f. (68 degrees c.).

Come join us! “We’re goin’ mobile.”

I can pull up by the curb,
I can make it on the road,
Goin’ mobile
I can stop in any street
And talk with people that we meet
Goin’ mobile
Keep me moving, mmm

Out in the woods
Or in the city
It’s all the same to me

Pete Townsend
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