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How to Make a Sauna When Camping

Updated on June 18, 2012

Why Bother?

Camping is an excellent activity, but let's be honest, sometimes it loses a bit of its appeal simply because you are cold, bug bitten, smelly and unwashed.

A few years ago, my husband and I were shivering around a campfire wearing winter coats in July and we were fondly remembering our sauna at home and wondering why we were huddling in the dark, mosquito infested woods.

Suddenly, my husband declared that he was going to have a sauna.

My husband has Finn blood coursing through his veins which means that every home we've had, has had a sauna; so I wasn't overly surprised that he was going to find a way to have a sauna while we were camping.

He did find a way and that night I went to bed warm, clean and not nearly so itchy for the first time all weekend.

Having a sauna helps to relieve the itch of bug bites, it makes it ever so much easier to get into a cold lake for a swim/bath and after your sauna you are warm and relaxed and ready for a great sleep.

It has become a family tradition to build a 'camping sauna' when we head out into the bush.

One of our 'sauna tents'.  The rocks on the outside hold the sides down.  The ends were later closed with an extra smaller tarp.
One of our 'sauna tents'. The rocks on the outside hold the sides down. The ends were later closed with an extra smaller tarp.
All is ready.  The water basin is there.  The hot rocks were going to go directly on the bedrock which we had cleaned off.
All is ready. The water basin is there. The hot rocks were going to go directly on the bedrock which we had cleaned off.
Digging the hot rocks out of the campfire with a shovel.
Digging the hot rocks out of the campfire with a shovel.
Ready to get warm!
Ready to get warm!

What you need.

Building an outdoor sauna isn't really that complicated.

All you need is a tarp, some rope, some garbage bags, clothespins and a shovel.

We simply draped the tarp over a line strung between two trees and close the ends with garbage bags clipped with clothespins.

We heated rocks in our campfire (for an hour or two - sometimes longer) and then when it was sauna time we brought the rocks from the campfire to our makeshift tent. The first time we did this we did not have a shovel for transporting the rocks so we used a pot.

The rocks need to be sitting in a bed of sand or on bedrock. Remove all debris (sticks and leaves) from the area you plan to put the hot rocks so you do not light anything on fire. If you want to bring extra items camping, you could bring along an old cookie sheet or a pot to hold your rocks in so that you do not start fires inside your tent. We usually do not want any more gear than necessary, so we are just careful to prepare a spot for the rocks and we have not had any problems.

Once your hot rocks are in your sauna tent, get in there quickly, close all the gaps and splash a few cupfuls of water on the rocks and there will be steam and warmth.

When the steam disappears, throw a few more cupfuls on the rocks. Repeat this procedure until you are warm enough to go for a quick dip in the lake.

It has been our experience that the rocks stayed hot for quite a while if you do not drown them too quickly. We were usually able to get hot, go for a swim and go back in the sauna to warm up again.

Warm at last!

I hope that this will bring some warmth and luxury to your camping experiences this summer. It is so nice to crawl into your sleeping bag feeling warm and clean.

I sometimes tease my husband about his obsession with saunas, but I have been very glad that he felt the need for a sauna while we were camping.

Enjoy! May all your camping saunas warm you up.


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    Post Comment

    • beverlyfaye profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      It's not for everyone, but it can be very refreshing.

      Thanks for the comment.

    • Outbound Dan profile image

      Dan Human 

      6 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      Ha! awesome - I can't say I've ever wanted to sit in a camp-made sauna while camping, but hey - whatever you like to do. There is no such thing as the "right" "wrong" or "best" way to camp.

      Now my wife, on the other hand, she may enjoy it if I pitched a sauna.

      Great directions and interesting Hub!

      Good camping to you.


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