On a recent trip that unexpectedly became a sauna marathon, field correspondent Tom Carlson discovered Sauna Camp. It made such an impression we bumped the prior plan for January’s Public Sauna of the Month to give the honor to this amazing, unique experience. We hope some readers will make the trip to Sauna Camp before this Winter ends, perhaps beginning an annual tradition.
Sauna Camp, a Unique Concept
If anything like Sauna Camp ever happened before news never made it to me. Organizers essentially rented a Summer camp near Minneapolis for the Winter, filled the waterfront with mobile saunas, and keep holes open in the ice for plunging. Visitors generally book a 3-hour session and those who want more can purchase multi-packs, season passes, private sessions, etc.
The camp directors (owners) of Sauna Camp made it memorable via thorough and quality execution. Campers park their cars near the entrance and walk to the other end of camp for check in. Extensive signage and twinkling lights line the path, warmly welcoming guests. The 5 or 7 minute stroll builds excitement and gives the camper a chance to physically and mentally leave the real world behind. The final stretch descends to the waterfront, revealing Sauna Camp’s extensive facilities. The amenities surround a cluster of top-notch barrel saunas from Nomad. (I’ve never seen higher quality barrel saunas.) After they’re suit up in heated tents or right on the beach. And following their rounds of sauna, plunging, socializing and chilling, campers can use a large, heated shower building to transition back into winter attire.
Visitors who want to bring Sauna Camp home can purchase the camp’s saunas. Staff will deliver the units post-season, pre-“seasoned” by a winter of marinating in the vibes of hundreds of happy campers. Seems like a good deal to me: buy a slightly used sauna at a generous discount and it comes filled with the warmth and vigor of countless sauna aficionados.
I planned to visit Sauna Camp for a quick tour but stayed over 3 hours, unable tear myself away from the excitement and positivity of the morning’s guests. Having added the stop to an already-busy itinerary Sauna Camp began a busy day. Though facing over 5 hours of driving and a visit with a sauna builder, a visit sounded worthwhile.
I arrived at Camp and quickly completed my planned mission: toured and spoke with owners and staff and took a bunch of pictures (possibly to include in some future Sauna Times article.) But I just wasn’t ready to leave. I sat down by a fire pit and soaked in the vibe. Some of the “campers” had never been in a sauna or taken a cold plunge. Others were obviously veterans Some learned and others coached.
And among all those moments we got to know each other a bit. We formed a little temporary community that morning. Perhaps no one will again see any of the people they met that day. Yet we all gave each other such gifts.
Though they came in small groups, generally the session’s campers didn’t know each other. But when someone needed a little encouragement to plunge everyone joined the effort Fellow campers voiced support, offered a tip, or found another way to assist. And when a camper showed pride for making the dip the others erupted in cheers and praise. The smiles per person per minute rate jumped off the charts. Literally everyone grinned most of the time…outdoors on a crappy-weather day in the middle of the Minnesota winter. When one woman’s friend and dunking partner gave up and ran back to sauna, another plunger grabbed her hand and together they dunked for a minute-plus (I became the de facto timer, drafted to watch clock for those trying to hit a certain duration in the freezing water.)
Go. No, Go Twice.
Here’s a scary idea: visit Sauna Camp your first time alone. I doubt many go without a squad or buddy. But there’s a power in discovering something different for the first time by yourself. Your experience is entirely yours and you’ll have more bandwidth to deeply appreciate this unique adventure. Then visit again and bring others.
And Sauna Camp 2024 is only version 1. I’m excited to see what’s to come in ’25, ’26 and beyond.
So for creating an infectious, remarkable, unique experience we happily name Sauna Camp our Public Sauna of the Month for January. Find it and hundreds of other great public saunas on the Public Sauna Map.
Photos by Tom Carlson and Sauna Camp