There isn’t one and only one way to experience the benefits of cold therapy. We all have our own preferences, live in different climates and have personal reasons that we want to get cold.
If you’re regularly taking ice baths, you’re probably doing it one of three ways:
- You live in a location or climate that allows you easy access to cold water.
- You’re buying or making ice for your ice bath.
- You’re using a chiller to maintain your water temperature.
For those of us who don’t live near a cold lake, river or other body of water, there’s usually at least a little bit of maintenance that goes into getting and keeping our water cold.
Ice vs. chiller
These are the two most common methods for cooling your ice bath, and each offers different pros and cons.
Pros and cons of using ice to chill your ice bath
- Readily available — Ice can be purchased or made at home.
- Cost-effective — Ice is generally less expensive compared to investing in a chiller system.
- Natural experience — Immersing yourself in ice provides a more natural and primal experience, which some people prefer.
- Requires constant replenishment — Depending on your climate and the season, you might need to add ice every time you want to take an ice bath, which can be a bit of a burden.
Pros and cons of using a chiller
- Precise temperature control — Chillers allow for consistent experiences and can maintain the desired temperature for extended periods.
- Low maintenance — Chillers are generally designed for long-term use, requiring minimal maintenance once properly set up.
- Might filter water — Some chillers have additional settings or filtration systems to keep your water clean.
- Higher cost — Chillers can be more expensive compared to using ice, requiring a significant upfront investment.
How to make ice for an ice bath
If you prefer the experience of a true ice bath (complete with ice), you can save money by making ice at home. Keep in mind, however, that this will require some space in your freezer, as well as time to prepare your ice in advance.
Some in-home freezers come with a built-in ice maker, which can usually make between 5 and 15 pounds of ice per day.
Commercial-use ice makers can be another option, but can be expensive. If you go this route, we recommend an ice machine that can make 100 pounds of ice per day and has at least 55 pounds of storage capacity.
An ice machine with those capabilities can usually cost between $500 and $1,500 to buy.
Ice cubes vs. ice blocks
The main question to consider when you’re making ice for an ice bath is whether you want to make ice cubes or larger ice blocks. Both can be a great option for getting your water cold, but there are key differences to keep in mind:
Ice cubes are smaller and have more surface area, so they will lower your water temperature faster.
Larger ice blocks will melt much more slowly, so they will take longer to cool your water down but will help keep it colder for longer.
You can try both methods and find what works best for you, depending on your climate and personal preferences.
Choosing a chiller
When looking to purchase a chiller, we recommend:
- Opt for at least .5 horsepower — A .25 horsepower may provide enough flow in colder regions, but for most parts of the U.S., that size will struggle to keep your Ice Barrel cold.
- Add a pump — Chillers generally do not come with a pump, and we recommend that be .5 horsepower as well.
- Consider cost — With a pump, hose and clamps, and optional water filter, a chiller system will cost upwards of $1,000.
The most important thing: That you’re getting cold
Whether you’re using ice, a chiller or taking a dip in a naturally cold body of water, your experience will open you up to a host of physical and mental health benefits.
We always recommend experimenting with different times, temperatures and cold water experiences to find what is going to be most enjoyable and beneficial for you.
Remember, it’s not a competition. Listen to your body and build a cold therapy routine unique to you. And keep safety in mind at all times, especially if you’re trying something new. Have a buddy nearby and consult with a doctor before you begin with cold therapy or as needed.