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Hands-On Ice Barrel Review: Is It Worth the Hype?

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Last Updated: Nov 01, 2022

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The Ice Barrel* is a simple, fun and relatively inexpensive way to add cold exposure to your daily routine. I’ve been cold plunging for more than a year, and recently decided to add the Ice Barrel to our home spa to find out if it’s a reasonable alternative for those who either don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a fancy cold plunge tub or who aren’t comfortable building a DIY cold tub out of an old chest freezer. 

In this Ice Barrel review, I’ll cover everything you need to know about the product and answer the following questions:

  • Does the Ice Barrel get cold enough?
  • How long does the Ice Barrel stay cold?
  • Do you need an icemaker for optimal performance?
  • Is the Ice Barrel big enough?

After several weeks of testing the Ice Barrel, I conclude that it’s an excellent and well-built solution that can work great for many (but not all) people.

Ice Barrel

Michael Kummer

Value
Quality of materials and craftsmanship
Capacity and space
Maintenance

Summary

The Ice Barrel makes it easy to add cold therapy to your daily routine, but unless you live in a cold climate, you’ll need a dedicated icemaker to keep the water cold.

4.5

Benefits of Cold Water Therapy

Our six-year-old declined the offer to jump in first.
Our six-year-old declined the offer to jump in first.

If you’re thinking about buying the Ice Barrel*, you’re probably already aware of the benefits of cold water immersion

But if you’re still unsure about whether or not to make ice bathing a regular part of your wellness routine, here’s a brief overview of the health benefits:

  1. Increases energy levels.
  2. Triggers hormesis and improves resilience.
  3. Speeds up physical recovery.
  4. Improves your discipline.
  5. Boosts your mood.
  6. Helps you better manage stress.
  7. Improves your sleep.
  8. Helps burn fat.
  9. Boosts your immune system.
  10. Improves brain function.

You can learn more about each of these benefits and get links to key scientific research about cold therapy in this article.

Hands-On Ice Barrel Review

The Ice Barrel, situated in our backyard.
The Ice Barrel, situated in our backyard.

Pros

  • Offers a low-cost and convenient way to add cold plunging to your daily routine.
  • Made with high-quality and non-toxic materials.
  • Insulated to keep water cold for a relatively long period.
  • Has an attractive design that easily blends in.
  • Is ergonomic and comfortable enough to chill out in.

Cons

  • Requires a regular and steady supply of ice.
  • Requires regular water treatment and water changes.
  • Can be difficult to get in and out of the barrel, especially if you’re not in the best of shape.

Delivery and Setup

Some people may disagree, but I think the Ice Barrel is a great fit for any backyard.
Some people may disagree, but I think the Ice Barrel is a great fit for any backyard.

Our Ice Barrel was delivered to our driveway by FedEx in a big cardboard shipping box. Fortunately, the box wasn’t heavy (about 60 pounds, including the packaging), so I was able to easily pick it up and put it on a hand truck before wheeling it to our backyard, where I unboxed everything.

If you don’t have a hand truck, you may need the help of a friend or family member to carry the box to its final destination.

Setting up the Ice Barrel was straightforward. After deciding where I wanted to place it, I positioned the stand and ensured it was somewhat level. Next, I lifted the empty Ice Barrel on top of the stand and turned it until the spigot (for draining the barrel) was facing away from the house.

After that, I positioned the step stool next to the barrel, filled the barrel to the second ring from the top with water using a garden hose, and poured in about 140 pounds of ice cubes I got from Walmart.

Once I had filled the Ice Barrel with water and ice, I was ready for my first ice bath. 

All in all, it took less than half an hour from start to finish (including filling the barrel with water but not including the time it took to go to the store and buy the ice). 

The first thing I learned after diving into the Ice Barrel was to not overfill it, because the mass of my body displaced so much water that a lot of it spilled over the edge — including a significant portion of the ice I had poured in. So I recommend only filling the Ice Barrel about two-thirds with water before add the ice.

The second thing I learned was that moving the Ice Barrel once it’s filled with water and ice is almost impossible. So make sure you position it exactly where you want it before filling it up. For example, I wanted to move the Ice Barrel so we’d have a nice background for my upcoming video review, but I had to drain it halfway before that was possible.

Ice Barrel Size and Dimensions

The Ice Barrel holds 105 gallons of water and is 42 inches tall with a 25-inch opening. For reference, I’m 6 feet tall, weigh 210 pounds and have relatively broad shoulders, but I easily fit inside the barrel with room to spare.

The most comfortable way I found to position myself inside the barrel was in a half-squat. Since I was suspended in water, I wasn’t engaging my quads to hold the squat. In other words, my legs didn’t start burning from holding that position.

If I wanted to submerge my head underwater (which I sometimes do to amplify the effect the ice-cold water has on my nervous system), I would just sit back until my butt nearly touched the bottom of the barrel. 

Overall, the Ice Barrel is a great size that works well for many different body types.

Materials and Craftsmanship

The body of the Ice Barrel is made out of high-quality recycled materials composed of low linear density polyethylene (LLDPE), which is a lightweight and durable non-toxic plastic. That’s the same type of plastic used in food and medical-grade applications (which can be recycled after usage). The advantage of LLDPE plastic is that it’s lightweight and sustainable but sturdy enough to last a long time.

When I first stumbled across the Ice Barrel, I was concerned because I figured that LLDPE would have the same endocrine-disrupting properties as other types of consumer-grade plastic. But after sifting through the scientific literature, I couldn’t find any indication that LLDPE leaks endocrine disruptors into the water.

Based on what I’ve seen, the Ice Barrel appears to be very well-built and should last for many years. 

The only part of the barrel I recommend being gentle with is the plastic drain valve. If you bang against it too much or aren’t careful when attaching a garden hose with a metal thread, you could damage it. The good news is that damage to the drain valve is covered under the lifetime warranty and Ice Barrel will replace it free of charge.

When you’re not using the Ice Barrel, I recommend covering it with the included protective UV cover to prevent the color from fading over time. 

Speaking of color, you can get the Ice Barrel in black or tan. I decided to go with tan because I figured it would heat up a bit less when exposed to direct sunlight. I asked the company about this and they said, “while we know that the tan barrels do keep the temperature lower for long periods of time in direct sunlight, it’s something we haven’t measured or tested to date.”

How Cold Does the Ice Barrel Get?

​​I usually fill my Ice Barrel with 120 to 140 pounds of ice
​​I usually fill my Ice Barrel with 120 to 140 pounds of ice.

A few minutes after I had poured in 140 pounds of ice, I measured the water temperature at the top, in the middle, and at the bottom of the barrel. 

As I expected, the water at the top was the coldest (because that’s where all the ice cubes were floating). It measured 37 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius). The temperature was 41 in the middle and 45 at the bottom.

Note: Depending on how much ice you add, the water in the Ice Barrel can get close to freezing. That’s even a few degrees colder than the water in my Cold Plunge tub.

I suspect that I could have achieved even colder temperatures by using either block ice or a different ice-to-water ratio, despite the 75-degree ambient air temperature during my testing. However, I think 37 degrees around your chest and throat is cold enough to achieve the desired health benefits.

If you’ve never cold plunged before, I recommend a water temperature of 50-59 degrees. That’s cold enough to achieve the desired benefits if you can stay in the barrel for five to 10 minutes.

The colder the water is, the less time you need to spend in the water.

How Long Does the Ice Barrel Stay Cold?

The Ice Barrel can keep the water cold for several hours to several days, depending on the ambient temperature
The Ice Barrel can keep water cold for several hours to several days, depending on the ambient temperature.

The answer to this question depends on several factors, such as the ambient air temperature, the water temperature before you add the ice, and whether or not the Ice Barrel is exposed to direct sunlight.

During my initial testing on a sunny day with an ambient air temperature of 75 degrees (24 degrees Celsius), I added seven 20-pound bags of ice. That ice was almost completely melted within 3.5 hours, and the water temperature was in the high 40s to low 50s for the rest of the day.

So if you live in an area that sees temperatures in the mid-70s from spring to fall (like we do here in Georgia), you should expect to add ice to the barrel daily during those seasons. 

I’ll continue testing and experimenting with my Ice Barrel through the winter to see how long the water stays cold when the ambient air temperature is near freezing. I suspect I’ll be able to enjoy ice baths for several days in a row or longer without having to add fresh ice.

Water Maintenance

I recommend ordering the maintenance kit to keep the water and barrel clean for longer
I recommend ordering the maintenance kit to keep the water and barrel clean for longer.

Besides adding fresh ice regularly, it’s also worth noting that you’ll have to replace the water every four weeks, depending on how often you use the barrel. That prevents potentially harmful bacteria and other microorganisms from growing in the standing water.

However, it’s important to mention that you can only get away with such infrequent water changes if you use non-toxic water treatment products, such as the ones Ice Barrel offers as part of its maintenance kit. If you don’t, you’ll need to replace the water on a much more regular basis.

The kit includes a water stabilizer, a stainless steel mesh net, a thermometer, a six-pound bag of eucalyptus Epsom salt, a silicone cleaning brush and a bottle of cleaning soap.

The mesh net is great for cleaning debris out of the Ice Barrel, and the water stabilizer helps clean, treat, balance, and condition the water. It further inhibits calcium, scale buildup and scum lines, helps control odors, inhibits biofilm attachment and softens the water.

Instead of chlorine or bromine (two chemical water conditioning agents often used in pools and plunges), Ice Barrel’s water stabilizer uses a copper/silver ion formula that doesn’t emit caustic vapors, irritate the skin or damage hair or swimwear.

Ice Barrel Pricing

The Ice Barrel retails for $1,199.97 plus $95.00 for shipping. But if you use code MKUMMER, you get $125 off your purchase.

Buy the Ice Barrel*

Alternatively, you can purchase the Ice Barrel on Amazon* for the same price, but you won’t be able to use my discount code.

The recommended maintenance kit costs $129.99. You can easily add the maintenance kit during checkout.

One thing I recommend you factor into the total cost of ownership is the ice maker you’ll need to maintain a steady supply of ice. That’ll add a few hundred dollars to the price tag of the entire setup.

My Experience With the Ice Barrel

Don't overfill the Ice Barrel (to avoid spilling half of the ice cubes when you get in).
Don’t overfill the Ice Barrel (to avoid spilling half of the ice cubes when you get in).

I’ve been testing the Ice Barrel* for four weeks and have been enjoying it for several reasons. 

For starters, I feel comfortable being upright in the barrel, knowing that I can just stand up if need be. I’m a seasoned cold plunger and I don’t freak out when my entire body (including my head) is submerged in ice-cold water for extended periods (I spent 15 minutes in the Ice Barrel while recording my upcoming video review). 

However, being upright instead of lying on my back feels more natural and calming. Plus, it offers me a better view of our backyard while enjoying the cold.

I can only imagine that someone new to cold exposure might appreciate the ability just to stand up when they can’t handle it anymore. 

The other thing I like about the Ice Barrel is that it doesn’t require a chiller or a water filtration system that runs 24/7 (as in the case with my Cold Plunge). However, this is also a disadvantage because it means you have to frequently refill the barrel with fresh ice and replace the water every few weeks.

That brings us to the main disadvantage of the Ice Barrel, which is that you need a continuous supply of ice. 

In other words, you need a commercial ice maker (such as this one from Home Depot), as the ice maker that’s built into your freezer won’t produce enough to sufficiently cool the water.

If you don’t want to invest in a good ice maker, you’ll become Walmart’s new favorite customer by spending $25-$35 on ice cubes for every plunge. That adds up quickly and I don’t think it’s worth the cost or hassle. 

The other downside to being in a barrel versus a tub is that you have to be more athletic to get in and out of the water. So if you’re severely overweight and can’t lift your body weight (even with the assistance of the water), you may have trouble getting into and out of the barrel.

Tips to Simplify Water Maintenance

The included cover protects the Ice Barrel from harsh UV light.
The included cover protects the Ice Barrel from harsh UV light.

I highly recommend filtering the water when filling the barrel to remove chlorine and other nasty contaminants that are part of most city drinking water supplies.

In our case, we have a whole-house water filter from Radiant Life that filters the water before it enters the house. While I highly recommend installing such a system to improve your water quality, you don’t have to go that far just to enjoy an ice bath.

The least-expensive option to filter the water for your barrel is to use a charcoal filter cartridge you can attach to the end of your garden hose*

Additionally, I recommend using a mesh net to remove any debris or dead insects daily or before you jump into the barrel.

Last but not least, I recommend using non-toxic water treatment options, such as hydrogen peroxide, to keep the water sanitary for longer. The colder the water is, the fewer bacteria can grow in it. So you’ll likely have to worry less about keeping the water clean in the winter than in the summer.

ICE Barrel FAQs

The first time I took an ice bath, our German shepherd wasn't sure what to make of it.
The first time I took an ice bath, our German shepherd wasn’t sure what to make of it.
Where is the Ice Barrel made?

The Ice Barrel is made in Ohio using recycled materials.

How heavy is the Ice Barrel?

The Ice Barrel weighs 55 pounds when empty and 750 pounds when filled with 80 gallons of water. That’s why it’s essential to figure out where you want to place the barrel before you fill it.

Does the Ice Barrel come with a money-back guarantee?

Yes, the Ice Barrel comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee if you don’t like it. If you decide to return the Ice Barrel, a 30% restocking fee applies. (This fee covers the return shipping.) To learn more about Ice Barrel’s return policy, check out this page.

Does the Ice Barrel have a warranty?

The Ice Barrel comes with a limited lifetime warranty. That means the company guarantees that your Ice Barrel will not crack and will remain free from material defects so long as the barrel is used for its intended purposes and is subject to reasonable maintenance. The warranty doesn’t cover cosmetic issues or fading due to UV exposure. You can learn more about the Ice Barrel’s product warranty here.

Does the Ice Barrel offer an optional chiller unit to keep the water cold?

As of this writing, the company doesn’t offer a separate chiller, but I’ve heard they’re working on one. I’ll update this review if and when the company releases additional products that can help keep the water cold and clean.

How much ice does the Ice Barrel require?

That depends on the ambient air and water temperature. As a rule of thumb, 10 pounds of ice will drop the water temperature by approximately four degrees Fahrenheit, assuming an initial water temperature of roughly 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you don’t want to do the math, I recommend starting with 100 to 140 pounds of ice if you use ice cubes. With block ice, you might need less.

Is the Ice Barrel more effective than taking cold showers?

Cold showers are an excellent way to get your feet wet with cold therapy (pun intended), but since tap water is usually much warmer than the water inside the ice barrel, its benefits are limited. I’d consider a cold shower to be a cold therapy training tool you can use before transitioning to a cold bath, and then to an ice bath.

Does the Ice Barrel help with reducing muscle soreness?

Yes, cold water immersion helps you recover faster from intense workouts and reduce muscle soreness. However, I’ve found ice baths to work best to speed up muscle recovery between back-to-back workouts.

For example, if you work out in the morning and then again in the afternoon. After my last workout of the day (or if I only work out once), I prefer sauna bathing over cold plunging because it helps my entire body relax.

I use an infrared sauna made by Sunlighten. If you’re interested in learning more, read my article on the benefits on infrared sauna bathing. Additionally, I often combine sauna bathing and ice bathing, because quickly transitioning between hot and cold environments can amplify the benefits of both therapies.

Can the Ice Barrel help treat acute injuries?

Depending on the injury type, I recommend applying heat instead of cold to help increase oxygenated blood flow to the injured tissue. Of course, you can leverage cold therapy to reduce swelling or strategically reduce blood flow (e.g., if you tore a muscle and want to prevent bruising).

Can Ice Bathing help treat mood disorders?

Yes. Studies have shown that cold therapy can effectively treat depression and other mood disorders without causing any noticeable side effects.

Can Ice Bathing help promote weight loss?

Yes! Ice bathing is an excellent way to promote weight loss because it activates brown adipose tissue (which increases fuel uptake and energy expenditure). Besides increasing the rate at which your body burns fat, it also enhances insulin sensitivity, improves glucose tolerance, and reduces circulating lipids, all of which improve metabolic health.

Of course, you also have to follow a dietary framework that is conducive to weight loss and avoid the most common weight loss mistakes.

Is there any physiological difference between ice bathing in an upright position versus in a reclined position?

I haven’t found any evidence suggesting a difference between ice bathing in an upright position vs. lying down. However, some people might find it more relaxing to be upright with the ability to stand up at any moment. 

Ice Barrel Review: Final Verdict

There is something oddly peaceful about sitting in a barrel filled with cold water and ice
There is something oddly peaceful about sitting in a barrel filled with cold water and ice.

I wasn’t sure how much I’d like the Ice Barrel* considering that it doesn’t come with a chiller and filtration system. Plus, I wasn’t sure if sitting in a barrel rather than lying in an ice bathtub would be comfortable for someone of my height and weight. 

However, during my first ice bath, I realized just how pleasant it felt to squat in cold water, covered by a layer of ice cubes. Having ice floating in the water around my neck made me feel like I could become the next Wim Hof.

Funnily enough, despite the ice in the water and the slightly colder water temperature than what I’m used to from my Cold Plunge, I didn’t feel the need to get out. Instead, I felt at peace in my barrel and I noticed how quickly my heart rate slowed down while I was watching our chickens search for food in our backyard.

The bottom line is that if you’re on a budget, the Ice Barrel is one of the best ice baths on the market. Just make sure you get a decent ice maker and a steady supply of fresh ice. That’s especially important during the warmer months of the season.

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.

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