When I was asked to try out the Ice Barrel (opens in new tab), I jumped at the chance. The company claims that “ice bath(s) can help with recovery, reduce pain, alleviate depression and anxiety, lower stress, stimulate weight-loss, improve mood and brain function, and can help strengthen one’s immune system.” I know from experience that many of those claims are true.
Back in my racing days, I frequently used ice baths to help recover from difficult training rides. Before the beginning of the pandemic last year, I visited Thermea, one of the Nordic-style spas sweeping Canada before COVID-19 hit, spending a relaxed night moving between a steam room, frigid dunk, and tepid pool. Do that rotation — hot, cold, temperate — at least three times, and your body will feel like a wet noodle.
Ice Barrel: Design and Features
Design-wise, it could hardly be simpler. It’s a barrel. There is a drainage switch at the bottom, allowing you to attach a garden hose to drain the barrel. (The company suggests draining and refilling the barrel about once a month.)
On the outside it has the markings of a traditional wooden barrel, along with a prominent Ice Barrel logo. The accompanying lid also features the company logo – without the words. All this gives the product a premium feel, and while its very obviously not made of wood, it makes it look classy out on the deck – or when the inevitable social media snaps once you get in it.
Constructed of lightweight, recycled and non-toxic plastic, the empty Ice Barrel was easy to move onto a corner of my backyard deck. (Do this before you fill it with water; it weighs about 55 pounds empty and 750 pounds when full.) It comes with a lid and a protective cover to keep the water from contamination. I expected the covered barrel to act like an insulated cooler, but it didn’t do much to keep the water chilled over multiple summer days.
Ice Barrel: Performance
Using the Ice Barrel on and off for a number of weeks, I did feel better physically. I had less muscle soreness and felt less tense. I didn’t experience as much weight loss, but that could be because I often enjoyed a cold beer while submerged in the barrel. (it made sense to me at the time – cold therapy inside and out.) But I would have used it more if I didn’t need to make constant ice runs or if the barrel was more convenient to get in and out of.
For best results, the water should be around 40-55 degrees Fahrenheit. I filled the barrel about three-quarters full of water for my first use, then added about 30 pounds of ice. It immediately melted. You’re going to need more than 60 pounds of ice every few days for optimal use. That can get very expensive, not to mention a huge hassle, if you’re buying ice from the corner 7-11. If you have access to an industrial ice machine – high school or college athletic departments, crossfit gyms next to Starbucks – the Ice Barrel makes more sense.
Climbing into the barrel for the first time, I had to ask myself, “Why am I doing this when I have a perfectly good bathtub inside?” My neighbors may have been asking themselves a similar question as they watched me sink into the barrel with bemused grins on their faces. I inched myself in, careful not to overly shock my system. The barrel comes with a stepstool to help you get in, but having a second one submerged inside the barrel helps to get in and out safely and comfortably – without having to hoist yourself over the edge.
Once inside, the Ice Barrel was surprisingly comfortable. I’m a fairly broad, 5’10” guy, and I didn’t feel claustrophobic in the slightest. It helped that you’re only supposed to stay in the barrel for 10 minutes at a time.
Ice Barrel: Verdict
I love the idea behind the Ice Barrel and actually enjoyed the experience (eventually). While it looks great, there are better – and much cheaper – solutions are available. Priced at $1,199.97 (US only), the Ice Barrel is probably best suited for those looking to kit out a Nordic-style deck or someone looking to create some extreme TikTok videos. It could also be useful for a sports team or gym (assuming you don’t mind using the same water as the person before you).
- Order from Ice Barrel direct (opens in new tab)
Ice Barrel: Also consider
In season one of Ted Lasso, the great Roy Kent took an ice bath in a large trash bin. Who are we to argue with the legendary former team captain of Richmond FC? Many professional or collegiate teams use plastic or galvanized steel stock tubs for their ice bath needs. You can pick up this plastic 100-gallon tub for less than $100 at most farm-supply retailers, while a metal version will likely cost $25-$50 more.