Published Jun 8, 2022 2:00 PM
Saunas boast an array of health benefits, and for those looking to make an investment in their wellness, an outdoor sauna provides one of the most authentic and enjoyable experiences. Outdoor saunas were traditionally used across Northern Europe as far back as 2000 BC. Today, however, many people think of Finnish saunas, which use stones heated over a fire to create steam and heat. And there’s a reason most people think of Finland when they think of outdoor saunas: they can be rejuvenating in cold weather. You can use an outdoor sauna year-round but, when the temperatures drop, saunas can really help you get through the winter and, hey, maybe actually enjoy it. Whether you’re looking for the best outdoor saunas or the best home saunas, we curated this list of options that include both traditional saunas, infrared saunas, and even wood-burning models.
Best overall: Aleko Outdoor Rustic CedarBest infrared: Enlighten Rustic 5-person SaunaBest steam: Traditional Outdoor Country Living Barrel Sauna by SaunacoreBest barrel: Redwood Outdoors Thermowood Panorama SaunaBest 2-person: Clearlight Sanctuary 2Best kit: Dundalk Leisurecraft Outdoor Luna SaunaBest budget: Sunray Grandby 3-Person
How we chose the best outdoor saunas
We scoured write-ups and reviews to find the best outdoor saunas for our readers. We wanted to include a range of products that could appeal to any user, no matter how much space you have for a home install. We know that outdoor saunas can be a serious investment so, while we included products across multiple price levels, we prioritized those that had materials or features that made them worth the money. We also looked at capacity, sustainability of materials, and complexity of assembly.
Most of the products we included have a DIY option to minimize installation costs, but this can be a laborious process. We also wanted to ensure that our selections used high-quality, non-toxic materials like natural cedar. Last, we ensured that each sauna we selected—no matter how cheap—has a high-quality heating element, as these can make or break your experience. (No one wants a really slow warming or inefficient sauna.)
Regardless of what kind of home sauna or outdoor sauna you’re seeking, there are some essential terms and features that you should know about before heading out into the market:
While saunas don’t cost much to maintain, the upfront costs can be high, especially when you consider installation and electrician costs. Set a budget and then determine if you’re okay with the baseline model of the sauna, or if you want to add extra features. Some saunas do not come with the heater in the price tag, so be sure to check this before you buy.
The price of the best outdoor saunas can vary widely but if you need to prioritize one thing, prioritize the heating element in the unit. While you may be able to cut costs on a less aesthetic design or smaller footprint, you shouldn’t skimp on the heater. This is one of the most important components of the sauna’s performance.
You can find outdoor saunas with different capacities, but they generally range from 2-person saunas to 8-person outdoor saunas. Two-person saunas have a smaller footprint but will not fit the whole family or social group.
Look for outdoor wood saunas with high-quality materials to make the most of your investment. You’ll want to look for a well-constructed sauna to retain heat, a premium electric heater or infrared panels, and comfortable benches. Wood, like cedar, will smell great as the sauna heats up.
Where you live
If you live in a cold region, you will be happier in the winter the winter if you buy a traditional sauna instead of an infrared. As infrared saunas operate at lower temperatures, they may be less enjoyable if the outdoor temperatures are too cold. Alternatively, if you live in the desert, an infrared sauna may be more enjoyable in the summer because you won’t have to withstand such high temps.
The best outdoor saunas: Reviews & Recommendations
Best overall: Aleko Outdoor Rustic Cedar
Why it made the cut: This indoor or outdoor barrel sauna fits four people while minimizing unusable space, resulting in a relatively affordable and energy-efficient sauna.
Dimensions: 72” W x 60” D x 75” HMaterials: Canadian Western Red Cedar, tempered glass, and stainless steelType of Heater: Harvia 6kW ETL approved electric heater for steam or dry heat
Great price-to-quality ratio Can be used indoors and outdoors Free shipping or local pick up at a retailer like Home Depot
Manufactured overseas The interior doesn’t have any windows, so the door is the only source of natural light
Aleko’s outdoor sauna tops our list because it is a high-quality barrel sauna without an absurd price tag. While the exterior may not be made with premium lumber as some of our other selections, this outdoor barrel sauna comes with a comparable 4.5kW Harvia electric heater. Harvia is a high-end Finnish brand and you’ll see these heaters featured in other saunas below. Also, while some other sauna kits charge extra for components and accessories (like the heater, bucket, ladle, and thermometer), this includes all of these parts in one package.
Like most traditional saunas, you can choose either dry or steam heat by adding water to the sauna stones. Many prefer this traditional experience to the hands-off infrared heating panels. We also love that the sauna heats up quickly because of the space-efficient design. Pick this up from Home Depot or another retailer and you can have your own outdoor wood sauna in less than a week.
Best infrared: Enlighten Rustic 5-person Sauna
Why it made the cut: This large outdoor infrared sauna is made with eco-certified, non-toxic materials and is great for cold climates, as it is insulated.
Dimensions: 81.5” W x 61.5” D x 86” HMaterials: Western Canadian Red Cedar, asphalt shingles Capacity: 5 people
Insulated to retain maximum heat even in cold weatherPlenty of features including a magazine rack and cup holdersTwo full-spectrum heaters and 10 carbon far infrared heaters
You need to request a quote for the price Slightly complicated installation
This gorgeous 5-person outdoor home sauna is made with Western Canadian Red Cedar paneling and is great for a family or larger group looking for an infrared sauna, no matter where you live. Thanks to its insulation, this sauna can withstand colder climates and still provide comfy warmth even in the winter. It houses a total of 12 heaters, two of which are full-spectrum infrared, including bench and floor carbon heaters.
Customize your experience by playing music through the built-in Bluetooth speaker or filling your space with reading material in the magazine rack—it won’t get as hot as a traditional sauna so people often extend their sessions to up to an hour. The exterior and interior materials are eco-certified and non-toxic, but the cedar still provides the feel of a more traditional sauna.
Best steam: Traditional Outdoor Country Living Barrel Sauna by Saunacore
Why it made the cut: This traditional-style steam sauna comes with a wood-burning stove option for total off-the-grid immersion.
Dimensions: 96” W x 72” D x 96” H Materials: Canadian Clear Western Red Cedar and tempered glass Type of Heat: Saunacore CTW-WS12 wood burning stove or electric heater
Choose either a wood-burning stove or electric heater.Quick heat time because of barrel designAvailable in both 6ft and 8ft lengths
The electric heater isn’t very sightly Wood-burning stoves are not allowed in all municipalities and may come with health concerns
For those that don’t want to deal with the electrical installation or don’t have the means to hook up a sauna, this outdoor barrel sauna comes with a wood-burning stove. (However, check your local regulations to ensure wood-burning stoves are allowed in your area.) Don’t worry, unlike traditional smoke saunas, this one has an extensive ventilation system.
It’s spacious, well-designed, and customizable to your budget and needs. You could add a porch with bench seats or substitute American Poplar wood if you need a hypoallergenic and scent-free alternative to cedar. It also comes in both 6-foot and 8-foot lengths, so it’s perfect for larger groups or community outdoor spaces.
While the barrel design is classic, it’s also energy efficient because of the reduced volume. So with the design and the wood-burning stove, this sauna heats up pretty quickly. Our only complaint is that you don’t get much natural light exposure from the only window on the door.
Best barrel: Redwood Outdoors Thermowood Panorama Sauna
Why it made the cut: A beautiful, full-sized glass window makes this an ideal backyard sauna if you want to take in your natural surroundings.
Dimensions: 71” W x 73” D x 76.5” HMaterials: Scandinavian softwood, stainless steel componentsType of Heater: Harvia 8kW Clindro Electric heater for steam or dry heat
Natural light from the full back window Wood sourced from PEFC-certified forests Self-assembly takes four hours
Only comes with a 1-year warranty
As soon as we saw the big, panoramic back window on Redwood Outdoors’ Thermowood Panorama Barrel Saua, we were swooning. It is designed with classic Scandinavian principles in mind and features an interlocking system that forms a tight, natural seal for energy efficiency. Thermowood, which is heat-treated Scandinavian softwood, is durable and resistant to heat, humidity, and fungi. It’s also naturally insulating so you can use this sauna year-round, even when snow is falling outside. You can even add on roof shingles if you want to further weather-proof your sauna.
While the large window provides ample outdoor views, the interior is equally impressive. The included Harvia 8kW Cilindro Electric heater is absolutely gorgeous and the bench seats have ergonomic backrests for comfy lounging. Best of all, you can easily assemble it at your house with only a few hours and some basic hand tools.
Best 2-person: Clearlight Sanctuary 2
Why it made the cut: Feature-packed infrared sauna with Bluetooth compatibility and an integrated audio system.
Dimensions: 57” W x 52” D x 82” H Materials: Cedartec coating, Western Canadian Red Cedar interior, and ceramic/carbon heating panels Type of Heat: Full-spectrum Infrared
Full-spectrum infrared technology that is rare in outdoor saunas A smartphone app allows you to control it remotely Integrated Bluetooth audio system and charging station
The exterior appears cheap because of Clearlight’s Cedartec coatingExpensive for a two-person sauna
This high-tech backyard outdoor sauna sure is packed with features. If you want to listen to music or watch TV from a tablet during your session, you can do that with the Bluetooth audio system and outside tablet cradle (which also doubles as the door handle). Inside, choose between an ergonomic seat style and a flat seat by flipping over the bench to fit your comfort.
While these features are beneficial, what really sets this Clearlight outdoor sauna apart for us is the full-spectrum infrared technology. Infrared technology eliminates the need for excessively high temperatures, so you can stay in the sauna for longer. True Wave™ heaters line the back, side walls, floor, and front wall to provide 360-coverage. Overall, it’s one of the best small outdoor saunas with infrared heating on the market.
Best kit: Dundalk Leisurecraft Outdoor Luna Sauna
Why it made the cut: High-quality components, a modern design, and “choose-your-upgrades” options put this at the top of our list for best sauna kits.
Dimensions: 85” W x 86” D x 86” HMaterials: White cedar, bronze-tempered glass, stainless steelType of Heater: 6kW Saaku Electric heater for steam or dry (not included in price)
Quick, 20-minute heat-up timeGreat design that blends modern and traditional elementsUpgrade the kit depending on your needsSustainably-sourced cedar
Can get pricey once you start upgrading componentsLengthy assembly—expect it to take the whole day if you DIY
Somehow modern and classic at the same time, this outdoor sauna has wooed us with its incredible aesthetic design and sustainably sourced materials. The full-size door and large window really make this feel like an outdoor sauna because you’ll be able to get glimpses into your surrounding environment as you soak in the dry or steam heat. The inside has two cedar benches so you can fit two in luxury, or four comfortably.
The price point fluctuates for Dundalk Leisurecraft’s Luna Sauna because you can customize it to fit your needs, making it a top choice for an outdoor sauna kit. Upgrade to include a front porch or lounge bench option if you want the added space and comfort, or just add some basics like an outdoor solar light and sand mount wall timer if you’re trying to minimize expenses.
Also, while you may want to hire an electrician, many people opt to set this up themselves. The manual installation is relatively simple, yet lengthy, so plan a day around it.
Best budget: Sunray Grandby 3-Person
Why it made the cut: A more budget-friendly option for an infrared sauna that heats up in minutes.
Dimensions: 69” W x 47 D x 83” HMaterials: Canadian hemlock Type of Heat: Far infrared
The price tag is appealing7-year structural warrantyEasy to set up
Not as powerful as many outdoor saunas
Okay, let’s start off by addressing the obvious: home saunas are an investment and no outdoor sauna is cheap. But this one clocks in at around $3,000, making it a more budget-friendly option than anything else on our list. It comes equipped with seven far-infrared ceramic heaters so you can quickly warm the room in less than 15 minutes.
The temperature maxes out at 140 degrees Fahrenheit, which is standard for infrared saunas. It comes with a built-in bench and lighting, cup holders, and a Bluetooth/USB compatible audio player. Although this sauna can technically fit three people, it’s a better option for two people.
Overall, this is a solid entry-level infrared sauna option with easy assembly and an aesthetic of all-wood construction.
Q: How much do outdoor saunas cost? Outdoor saunas ran in price based on materials, size, and components. They range from around $3,000 to upwards of $12,000. You’ll also have to factor in installation (some saunas are DIY) and electrical assistance for higher-voltage units.
Q: Will I have to assemble my outdoor sauna? Many modern outdoor saunas are “pre-fab” meaning they are pre-fabricated and ship in larger parts to go together quickly. Some outdoor home saunas have self-assembly, while others require installation. Check with each manufacturer for the complexity of installation before you purchase. Most manufacturers will recommend hiring a professional electrician to assist with the installation due to the high voltage requirements.
Q: Are outdoor saunas expensive to run? Many outdoor saunas are designed to run extremely efficiently, ranging from 1kWh for small models to 6kWh for larger saunas. Depending on where you live, 1kWh of electricity can range in price from $0.10 to $0.34 per hour. Typically, sauna owners will not notice a change in their energy bills and will spend less than $1/hour to run their sauna.
Q: Can you use an outdoor sauna in the winter? Winter is a great time to get warm, purifying benefits of an outdoor sauna. You can use any outdoor sauna in the winter, although barrel saunas and insulated saunas will have the highest performance in cold temperatures.
Q: How do I protect my outdoor sauna? If you buy an outdoor sauna, it should be treated or designed to withstand the elements. Some saunas come with mildew- and UV-resistant coating, while others use naturally durable wood like cedar. If you do decide to treat the exterior, you can use wood stain with UV protection or a wood-penetrating oil to reduce the weathering of your outdoor sauna.
For the interior, do not use any chemicals or household treatments. Maintenance is minimal, but you should clean your sauna regularly to get rid of sweat or buildup. If you’re purchasing a barrel sauna, use the cradle supports to keep it suspended off the ground, reducing its exposure to moisture.
Q: Are infrared saunas better than traditional? Both infrared and traditional saunas have their benefits.
Infrared saunas require lower operating temperatures because the heat penetrates your body directly rather than heating the air around you. It raises your core temperature much more effectively than a traditional sauna. Infrared saunas are great for people looking to maximize their health benefits without exposing themselves to very high temperatures or humidity.
Traditional saunas, on the other hand, use either dry heat or steam to warm the air in the sauna. They are more reminiscent of Finnish saunas and have a heating element, rocks, and water. Both dry and steam saunas can reach higher temperatures than infrared, so you can’t spend as long in the sauna as with an infrared. If you’re looking for shorter, yet intense steam or heat sessions, a traditional sauna is a better fit.
Final thoughts on the best outdoor saunas
The Aleko 4-person barrel sauna is a great introductory outdoor sauna for any backyard, as it comes with a high-quality heating system comparable to more premium models.
Source : Popular Science