Ice Barrel 500 Review

Last Updated: Apr 04, 2024

Written by

This article contains affiliate links, which means that I may receive a commission if you make a purchase using these links.

After having had the original Ice Barrel 400 since September 2022, I recently upgraded to the brand-new Ice Barrel 500, which features a fully insulated body and lid (filled with polyurethane foam), connections for hooking up a chiller, and integrated steps for easy entry.

In this hands-on review, I’ll share how our kids, my wife and I have liked the Ice Barrel 500 and what I think Ice Barrel could have done better with its top-of-the-line model.

Here are my key takeaways:

  • The Ice Barrel 500’s fully insulated body and lid keep the water cold for several days, ensuring a refreshing experience every time. In contrast, Ice Barrel models without insulation can warm up significantly after just a few hours.
  • Hooking up a third-party chiller was easy but required extra garden hose adapters.
  • One of the Ice Barrel 500’s standout features is its effortless usability. The integrated steps are a great addition that makes getting in and out of the barrel a breeze.
  • However, the integrated step/seat combo on the inside practically forces you to face the back of the barrel (which, for us, means staring at a brick wall).
  • The barrel’s shallow depth makes it difficult (albeit not impossible, with some acrobatics) to submerge your head in the water.
  • The new barrel requires more floor space and is $300 more expensive than its older siblings. 

You can read about my experience with the older (and cheaper) version in my Ice Barrel 400 review.

Ice Barrel 500 Review

The way we set up our Ice Barrel affords me a view of our beautiful brick wall.
The way we set up our Ice Barrel affords me a view of our beautiful brick wall.

Delivery and Setup

Similar to the delivery of the Ice Barrel 400 we got in 2022, the new Ice Barrel 500 was delivered by FedEx and dropped off in front of our garage, which means I had to use a hand truck to wheel it to our backyard. After unboxing the Ice Barrel, setup was relatively straightforward and included screwing in the drain spout and chiller connections on the back of the barrel.

Since the spa area in our backyard already has two full-sized saunas and several cold plunges, I didn’t have much room for the larger Ice Barrel 500. After some back-and-forth, I positioned the new Ice Barrel between our saunas, with the integrated steps facing our backyard and the other side facing a brick wall. 

I figured the spot would be perfect during contrast therapy (going back and forth between the sauna and cold water), and I would also be able to hide the chiller (which I had planned on hooking up) behind our six-person barrel sauna, considering that the chiller connections are on the back of the Ice Barrel.

I didn’t realize until my first time in the 500 that the integrated texturized seat (which doubles as a step) inside the Ice Barrel would force me to face the brick wall rather than our backyard. It’s not a big deal, but I would have preferred not having a step on the inside to make it easier to turn around and face the other way. 

So remember that when you think about where to place the Ice Barrel 500.

Performance (How Long it Stays Cold)

The well-insulated Ice Barrel 500 keeps the water cold for days.
The well-insulated Ice Barrel 500 keeps the water cold for days.

I honestly didn’t have high hopes for the Ice Barrel 500’s capability to keep water cold for extended periods without adding ice daily. 

I pre-chilled the water to 55 degrees Fahrenheit for my initial test using a chiller from another cold plunge. Then, I turned off the chiller, added three seven-pound ice blocks, and monitored the water temperature over the next few days. As I suspected, all three ice blocks melted within a few hours.

However, I was positively surprised when I realized that the Ice Barrel 500 maintained the water at 50 degrees Fahrenheit for four days, even with direct exposure to sunlight and ambient temperatures in the low 70s during the day. The Ice Barrel might have kept the water at the desired temperature even longer, but I decided to turn the chiller back on to keep the water sanitary. 

For what it’s worth, I set the 500’s water temperature to 50 degrees — which is a relatively mild temperature by cold plunging standards — because it will primarily be used by my wife and kids, who prefer plunging in slightly warmer water. 

How long the Barrel can maintain the desired temperature depends largely on two factors: the water temperature and the ambient temperature. It’s the beginning of April in Georgia at the time of this writing, and I suspect to see diminished performance in high summer when daytime temperatures reach the high 90s. 

But even then, I expect the fully insulated Ice Barrel 500 to blow the original Ice Barrel 400 out of the water as far as its capability to maintain stable water temperatures is concerned, whether you’re aiming for the low 50s or much colder temperatures.

Size, Dimensions and Ergonomics

The step on the inside makes getting out of the Ice Barrel easy.
The step on the inside makes getting out of the Ice Barrel easy.

One of the downsides of the new Ice Barrel 500 is its relatively spacious design compared to the previous generations (the Ice Barrel 300 and 400). That’s because the newest Ice Barrel doesn’t come with a separate step stool but includes built-in steps that make getting in and out of the barrel easier. 

Unfortunately, those steps also double the barrel’s footprint from less than 5.5 square feet (with the Ice Barrel 400) to 12.5 square feet. In other words, it might be more challenging to fit the Ice Barrel 500 in smaller spaces such as apartment patios.

Obviously, if you have sufficient space, the integrated steps are a huge benefit and likely render the larger footprint irrelevant.

With the increased size also comes increased weight. The new barrel weighs 104 pounds (empty) compared to the original Ice Barrel’s 55 pounds.

Despite the increase in size and weight, the new Ice Barrel holds slightly less water (94 gallons vs. 104 gallons) than the Ice Barrel 400, but significantly more than the Ice Barrel 300 (77 gallons).

The Ice Barrel 500 affords plenty of legroom.
The Ice Barrel 500 affords plenty of legroom.

The question is how all this impacts comfort during a cold plunge. 

I’m six feet tall and have relatively broad shoulders; I like to get in and out of a plunge quickly, be able to submerge my entire body from head to toe (while remaining in an upright position), and even briefly submerge my head. Thanks to the built-in steps (on the outside and the inside), getting in and out of the new Ice Barrel is a breeze. Even our kids (who are 8 and 10) have no issues getting in and out alone.

When I sit on the interior step, which doubles as a bench, I can submerge myself up to my jawline without any issues. However, submerging my head requires some acrobatics. Specifically, I have to hinge forward because there is no room to squat down like in the older Ice Barrel 400.

The Ice Barrel 500 makes it difficult to submerge my head under water.
The Ice Barrel 500 makes it difficult to submerge my head under water.

While that’s not a deal breaker, it’s an odd movement that takes some getting used to. Even though the step on the inside makes getting out of the barrel easier (especially if you have mobility issues), I would have traded it for a deeper bottom that requires me to stay in a squat rather than sitting down.

The second minor issue associated with the interior step is that it makes it challenging to face the exterior steps during a plunge. In other words, the built-in bench/step combo practically forces you to sit down after stepping into the barrel by facing away from the exterior steps.

That might not sound like a big deal unless you position the Ice Barrel to face a wall. That’s exactly what we did for all the reasons I explained in the Delivery and Setup section. As a result, I have to look at a brick wall rather than our backyard. 

Of course, I could turn the Ice Barrel around, but that would mean entering the barrel from behind our saunas. I haven’t decided yet whether facing a wall or sneaking into the barrel from behind the sauna is the better approach.

Regardless, the main point here is that you should think about the position of the inner step/seat and how it relates to the view you’d like to have while plunging. 

Pricing and Discount Code

While the Ice Barrel 300 and 400 retail for $1,199.99 each, the new Ice Barrel 500 costs $1,499.99. While that’s a significant increase compared to the previous versions, I think the new barrel is worth the asking price, especially considering the limited lifetime warranty. 

Proponents of DIY cold plunges have accused the first-generation Ice Barrel 400 of being an overpriced rain barrel that costs even significantly more than a converted chest freezer. With the Ice Barrel 500, the company has addressed most of the older version’s shortcomings by adding extra thick insulation, chiller ports and integrated steps for easy entry. 

Those extra features make the Ice Barrel 500 a much more competitive product and an excellent choice for those who don’t possess the skills or desire to build a cold plunge.

Shop Ice Barrel 500

If you want to try the new Ice Barrel 500, use code MKUMMER at checkout to get $150 off. I also recommend ordering the maintenance kit, which includes everything you need to keep your Ice Barrel and the water clean and sanitary.

Chiller Hook-up

Unlike the Ice Barrel 400 (which I still own), the new chiller-ready Ice Barrel 500 comes with built-in ¾-inch NPT with 14 TPI chiller ports that make it easy to connect to the Ice Barrel chiller (currently available for pre-order) or any third-party chiller, such as the well-known Penguin chillers. Remember that the latter is only a chiller and doesn’t offer water filtration capabilities. 

Since I already own several cold plunges and chillers (check out my article about the best cold plunge tubs to learn more), I decided to hook one up to the Ice Barrel 500. Specifically, I borrowed the chiller from my TheraFrost cold plunge to see how it would perform with the Ice Barrel. 

Unfortunately, the inlet and outlet hose of the TheraFrost chiller had female connections with a different threads per inch (TPI) configuration than the Ice Barrel accepted. So I had to get adapters to bridge between the hoses and the Ice Barrel’s chiller ports. Once I got the proper adapters, I was able to hook up the chiller, turn it on and set it to the desired temperature.

Ice Barrel 500 Review: Final Verdict

My wife started cold plunging regularly when we got the Ice Barrel 500.
My wife started cold plunging regularly when we got the Ice Barrel 500.

Overall, I have grown fond of the new Ice Barrel 500 and our kids and wife love it. 

In fact, the three of them started cold plunging regularly because of the latest Ice Barrel, and I’m thrilled about that. Besides the warmer temperature (I keep the Ice Barrel 500 at 55 F for them), one of the main reasons they like the new Ice Barrel so much is how easy it is to get in and out, paired with the ability just to stand up in case the cold temperatures get too intense.

That makes the Ice Barrel 500 an ideal cold therapy training tool regardless of your age, body type and your level of cold water immersion experience.

Personally, I would have preferred not to have a step/built-in seat on the inside, so I could face in either direction. That would have further increased the barrel’s depth and made it easier to submerge my head — something that’s straightforward to do with the older Ice Barrel 400. 

What’s your take on the new Ice Barrel 500? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Medical Disclaimer

The information shared on this blog is for educational purposes only, is not a substitute for the advice of medical doctors or registered dieticians (which we are not) and should not be used to prevent, diagnose, or treat any condition. Consult with a physician before starting a fitness regimen, adding supplements to your diet, or making other changes that may affect your medications, treatment plan or overall health. MichaelKummer.com and its owner MK Media Group, LLC are not liable for how you use and implement the information shared here, which is based on the opinions of the authors formed after engaging in personal use and research. We recommend products, services, or programs and are sometimes compensated for doing so as affiliates. Please read our Terms and Conditions for further information, including our privacy policy.

Leave a Comment