Are Portable Saunas Any Good? What You Need to Know!

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Saunas have some killer health benefits, but finding an at-home treatment solution can be challenging. First, finding space in your home for a sauna is always a struggle. Next up is the cost; often at home saunas require a contractor for installation. But there is another solution that solves some of these problems: portable saunas.

Portable saunas can be an excellent way to enjoy the benefits of sauna use at home. They are often more affordable, have a smaller footprint, and are easy to set up and use. They come in infrared and steam styles, but the infrared portable saunas are easier to use than steam.

Saunas have been around for centuries. This age-old style of physical therapy is often done in large rooms that can fit several people, so it might seem counterintuitive to think of a sauna as a small personal device. Let’s take a deeper look at portable saunas, how they work, and what your best options are for home setups.

How are Portable Saunas Different from Traditional Saunas?

Durasage Lightweight Portable Personal Steam Sauna Spa for Weight Loss, Detox, Relaxation at Home, 60 Minute Timer, 800 Watt Steam Generator, Chair Included - Gray

First things first, what makes a portable sauna so different from a traditional style setup? While they differ in appearance, they do accomplish a similar task. That is providing heat—whether it’s dry heat or wet heat. How they accomplish this can be different. Here are a few ways saunas produce heat:

  • Infrared heat as we explained in our full tutorial, these types of saunas produce heat by using electromagnetic waves. 
  • Wood — burning wood creates embers or heats sauna rocks. You can add water for steam.
  • Electric — many commercial saunas will use electricity to heat sauna rocks. Again water is sometimes ladled on throughout the session for steam.
  • Steam — traditional Turkish-style saunas will use boiling water to create steam and heat. Often, these types of saunas are known as “steam rooms.”

When you think of a traditional sauna, you usually picture a big room with plenty of seating with a pile of hot rocks. Not something you can easily move around. In contrast, portable saunas look like small personal-sized tents. Things like burning embers or scalding stones won’t work for this use case, so most portable saunas will utilize either infrared or steam to provide the heat. Which one you choose could come down to a matter of preference. Infrared produces a dry heat, similar to charcoal-style dry saunas. If you prefer the “wet” heat of a steam sauna, there are options to explore. Let’s jump into some benefits of using a portable sauna instead of a full-sized traditional system.

Should You Get an Infrared or Steam Portable Sauna?

We recommend using an infrared portable sauna if you have the choice. When you use a sauna, the health benefits you get come from heating up your body for an amount of time, and while there are differences between steam and infrared portable saunas, they both aim to fulfill that goal. However, comparing the added benefits of either infrared or steam saunas helps make it clear why infrared is the best place to start.

Benefits of Portable Infrared Saunas

  • Concentrated detoxification — Dry sauna, like infrared sauna, promotes more sweat production. This, theoretically, pushes the toxins out through your pores. Additionally, infrared heat has different wavelengths that can penetrate muscle and tissue deeper, and heat you up faster.
  • Better weight loss — Some infrared sauna users report that they have lost more weight with their systems. This may be due to the increased amount of sweat the body needs to produce to stay cool, causing more fat to burn.
  • More comfortable — Generally speaking, infrared saunas operate at lower temperatures than steam saunas. This is due to the nature of infrared light. It can still get quite hot, but the air temperature will be lower than that of a steam sauna
  • No water to manage (for steam) — Since infrared saunas don’t require steam, they don’t need water. This means there’s no water reservoir to manage or keep full, reducing the amount of work you need to do to use your sauna.

Benefits of Portable Steam Saunas

And what about steam saunas? Do they have any unique benefits? Well, while infrared saunas have some things that really set them apart. There’s really only one benefit that steam has over infrared heat: if you suffer from allergies or other respiratory ailments, a steam sauna might be a great choice because the moist air can soothe sore throats and nasal passages. But if the style of portable steam sauna you have leaves your head out, you won’t be breathing the moist air so this may be irrelevant.

Are Portable Saunas Worth It?

When you consider the benefits of portable saunas, they are absolutely worth it for the right person. In fact, they are probably a great option for most people who want an at-home sauna option, and even for some who prefer the sauna at their gym or the spa but simply want an at-home option. Beyond cost, portable saunas take up less space, are easy to use, and allow you to take your sauna experience private or take it with you when you travel. Let’s break these features down a little more clearly:

  • Cost — when looking for at-home saunas, price is one of the most significant differences between full-sized systems and portable units. A portable sauna can set you back a few hundred dollars, while a traditional system could set you back thousands.
  • Space — a full-sized system means finding space for a whole new room. Portable saunas get easily broken down and stored away when not in use.
  • Easy to use — once you’ve set it up a few times, getting everything ready for an excellent relaxing session is painless.
  • Privacy — sometimes a community sauna space just isn’t super relaxing. Portable saunas can be your own private get-away.

Potential Problems with Portable Saunas

Portable saunas are not without their issues. To give you a better understanding of what it might be like to own one, it’s only fair to explore these negatives. Let’s learn about the potential problems with portable saunas.

  • Being able to set up and break down easily has its drawbacks. If you are using your sauna a lot, it will mean spending plenty of time fumbling with the components. While this may be a small inconvenience, it may annoy you just enough to not want to use the sauna as much.
  • Most portable saunas will need you to keep parts of your body outside the main tent because of their small size. This might mean having your head and arms sticking out. This means it might take longer for your body to heat up, which with a portable sauna can be an issue.
  • Most users of portable saunas complain about too little heat. These setups can be great, but the reality is they can’t handle as much heat as traditional saunas. Additionally, the walls are made to keep in the heat but often are the reason you lose a lot of that heat energy quickly.
  • Another issue with the size is it may seem cramped for some people. If you are larger or have a problem with small spaces, a portable sauna may not be a great idea because the space inside is physically quite small.
  • Most portable saunas will have no hard floor. This means those who enjoy using our saunas outside may have to deal with rocky or uncomfortable terrain.

These are just a few problems portable sauna users face. At the end of the day, there are always going to be tradeoffs. In this case, you trade convenience and portability for some of the full-size sauna features. But, if you are looking to have access to a sauna at home and don’t want to fork over serious dough, a portable sauna may be your best choice.

What Types of Portable Saunas Are There?

We already touched on the types of saunas but let’s dive a little deeper. More importantly, let’s explore the types of portable saunas on the market so you can make an informed decision.

Portable Infrared Saunas

SereneLife Portable Full Size Infrared Home Spa| One Person Sauna | with Heating Foot Pad and Portable Chair

When we are talking about saunas, infrared may seem futuristic. Basically, elements in the sauna give off heat in the form of infrared light. While they are marketed as saunas, a better term might be infrared therapy cabins because of how dry heat is delivered. The heating element does not incorporate steam in any way. Usually, the heat given off by the element bounces off the reflective material on the walls. This helps build heat in the small space.

There are plenty of infrared saunas on the market. If you are looking for a full-sized model, check out the Serenelife Portable Sauna (on Amazon). A sauna this size has enough room for one person to fit in comfortably. Serenelife also offers a smaller model in the Infrared Home Spa (also on Amazon). If you live in an apartment or other small living space, this sauna is perfect. 

Sauna Blankets

Higher Dose Infrared Sauna Blanket

Although the options in this article so far have been saunas you set up and sit inside, there’s a whole world of sauna blankets that you lay out and climb into like a sleeping bag. They’re almost always based on infrared technology, and models like the Higher Dose Sauna Blanket V3 can be a little more expensive than the other portable saunas on the list. That said, sauna blankets are also super portable!

Portable Steam Saunas

Durasage Oversized Portable Steam Sauna Spa for Weight Loss, Detox, Relaxation at Home, 60 Minute Timer, 800 Watt Steam Generator, Chair Included, 1.5 Year Warranty (Silver)

If you want a more traditional sauna experience, make sure to check out a steam sauna. These devices usually consist of a tent and a steam generator. This system is fairly low-tech compared to the infrared saunas but can still get the job done. Basically, a steam sauna is a tent that gets filled with steam from the generator. The steam is what brings the heat into the sauna. 

Most steam saunas will come in a more compact form factor. This is due to the steam needing to be more concentrated for proper heating. Products like the Durasage Oversized Portable Steam Sauna (on Amazon) are great for at-home use. If you don’t need so much room, the Angotrade Portable Sauna (on Amazon) is another excellent choice.

Do you Get the Same Results from a Portable Sauna?

You can get the same health benefits from a portable sauna that you get in a traditional sauna. Of course, there are some downsides, but overall you are going to get a similar experience no matter what size sauna you are using. Whether it’s detoxification from sweating, improved cardiovascular system functioning, or a boosted immune system, these effects come from heating the body up to an elevated temperature for an amount of time, and portable saunas can accomplish this just like traditional saunas can.

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