- Top 10 Health Benefits of Cold Plunges
- The Cold Plunge Review
- How Does the Cold Plunge Compare?
- How I Use Cold Therapy
- Cold Plunge Frequently Asked Questions
- Wrap-Up: Is the Cold Plunge Worth it?
The Cold Plunge is a low-maintenance cold water immersion tub I’ve been using as part of my wellness routine since November 2021.
This review will tell you everything you need to know about the health benefits of deliberate cold exposure, as well as why I chose the Cold Plunge over a DIY ice barrel or more expensive systems.
The Cold Plunge
The Cold Plunge is a reasonably priced cold water immersion tub that requires very little ongoing maintenance thanks to its advanced water filtration and sanitation system. I’ve been using the Cold Plunge for several weeks as part of my daily routine to boost my immune system, become more resilient, and improve my tolerance to cold temperatures.
Before we talk about the hardware, let me give you an overview of the health benefits associated with cold exposure. If you’d like to skip this section and go right to the review, you can use this link.
Top 10 Health Benefits of Cold Plunges
While the thought of deliberately exposing your body to freezing-cold temperatures might sound counter-intuitive, cold exposure (also known as cold therapy) has several scientifically-validated health benefits that include increasing your energy levels, boosting your immune system, and making you more resilient to cold temperatures and other stressors.
Below is a list of the top ten health benefits of exposing yourself to ice cold water on a regular basis.
- 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. Offers Neurocognitive Benefits
If you’d like to learn more about each of these benefits and the scientific rationale behind them, check out my in-depth article on the health benefits of ice baths.
The Cold Plunge Review
Now that we’ve covered the top health benefits, let’s talk about the nuts and bolts of my favorite way of cold plunging.
I took my first cold plunge at Dave Asprey’s Biohacking conference in Orlando, in the summer of 2021. After that experience, I wanted to make cold plunging a part of my wellness routine and I started doing research on how to accomplish that.
After a few weeks of going back and forth between building a cold plunge tub and buying one, I decided to purchase one because I wanted a low-maintenance system that wouldn’t require constant water changes.
Plus, I’m not the most gifted handyman and I didn’t want to risk building something I wouldn’t end up using.
The three cold plunges I considered were:
I ended up purchasing the Cold Plunge because of its combination of pricing and value: it gets plenty cold, requires very little maintenance and is reasonably priced.
To learn more about how the Cold Plunge compares to other brands (or even a cold shower), see down below.
- UV and ozone water filtration and sanitation.
- Low maintenance and operating costs.
- Reasonably priced.
- Cools down to 39 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Slick design.
- Works indoors and outdoors.
- Also available in XL to accommodate tall people.
- Doesn’t get as cold as other ice baths.
Delivery and Setup
One of the things that I learned over the past few years is to have patience when ordering devices, considering the global supply-chain situation.
I placed an order for my Cold Plunge on October 1st, and FedEx didn’t deliver it until November 24th (they called a few days before to schedule the delivery).
For what it’s worth, I knew that it could take up to eight weeks for the shipment to arrive, so I was pleasantly surprised that mine arrived a bit sooner than expected!
The other aspect of the delivery that pleasantly surprised me was that the FedEx driver didn’t just dump the pallet with the tub in my driveway, but instead wheeled it to our backyard, where I wanted the Cold Plunge to be. After he dropped the tub off the exact spot that I showed him, he took all the packaging material back, so that we didn’t have to fill our trash cans with styrofoam and cardboard boxes. All of that is part of Plunge’s shipping policy.
Once FedEx left, I finished setting up my Cold Plunge by removing all the accessories from the tub, connecting the water and drainage, and plugging in the control unit (called the chiller) to a nearby ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet — similar to the one you might have in your bathroom or other wet areas.
Then I attached the supplied water filter cartridge to my garden hose, filled up the tub and turned on the chiller, which primed the built-in pump.
After that, I dialed in the target temperature (39 degrees) and waited for the water to cool down overnight.
Hardware and Accessories
The Cold Plunge consists of a long-lasting acrylic tub with an ergonomic shape, plumbing attached to the back of the tub (which is hidden by a plastic cover) and a chiller with a circulation pump and water sanitation feature.
The entire system weighs approximately 150 pounds empty and 1,000 pounds when filled with water. So if you’re thinking about placing the tub on a deck or raised structure, make sure that it can handle the extra weight.
Besides the main hardware, the Cold Plunge comes with a couple of accessories, including a wrench to replace the water filter, a spare five-micron filter, a charcoal filter you can attach to your garden hose to fill the tub, a skimmer net to scoop up any floating debris, a cell phone holder and an insulated cover to prevent insects from getting into the water.
It’s worth noting that the insulated vinyl cover comes with keys to keep your kids (or smart pets) from removing the cover and getting into the water.
One of the most important aspects of cold water therapy is the water temperature. The lowest temperature you can set the Cold Plunge to is 39 degrees Fahrenheit (3.89 Celsius). While that’s plenty cold for most people, it’s not as cold as a classic ice tub or the system from Morozko Forge (which cools down to 33 degrees).
The million-dollar question is whether there’s any measurable difference between plunging at 33 and 39 degrees Fahrenheit, as far as health benefits are concerned.
Unfortunately, I have not found any scientific studies comparing the health benefits of different water temperatures. However, you could argue that the colder the water, the higher the perceived stress for your body, which could potentially lead to greater benefits as your body adapts.
I’ve taken plunges in 33 and 39-degree water and both were a shock to my system, but I can’t say that my plunge into the colder water was noticeably worse (as far as I remember) than the one a few degrees warmer. I’m sure I could feel the difference in temperature if I had stuck my hands in both tubs at the same time, but looking back, it’s difficult for me to recall the difference.
The bottom line is that unless your name is Wim Hof (a.k.a. the Iceman), you’ll be plenty cold in 39-degree water. As you get used to being submerged in uncomfortably cold water, you can simply prolong your sessions until you start shivering. That’s usually a good indication that you’ve reached your limit and should get out of the water to avoid hypothermia.
If the optics of sitting in a real ice bath are appealing to you, you can also dump a bag of ice into the tub a few minutes before you take your plunge.
One of the main reasons why I decided to purchase the Cold Plunge was the relatively low maintenance level involved.
The Cold Plunge has a built-in, three-tier filtration and water treatment system that consists of the following:
- Five-micron water filtration.
- Ozone sanitation.
- Ultraviolet (UV) sanitation.
The combination of the filter, sanitation features and the cold water ensures that neither bacteria, mold or viruses can grow in the water.
As a result, you don’t have to replace the water as you do with most other cold plunge pools, tubs or ice barrels.
Additionally, you can purchase a water maintenance set directly from Plunge that contains six replacement filters and three chlorine and bromine-free treatment solutions to prevent waterline deposits, to keep your water clear (by oxidizing organic compounds), and to add another layer of effective bacteria control.
The sanitizer is probably unnecessary considering that the Cold Plunge already sanitizes the water using UV and ozone. Still, you can use the waterline control and oxidizer to keep the tub and water sparkly and clear for aesthetic reasons.
Cold Plunge vs. Cold Plunge Pro and Hot & Cold Plunge
If you’ve looked into the Cold Plunge already, you’ve probably noticed that the company sells different models, including one that can also heat the water.
In a nutshell, the Pro models are meant for commercial/high-use settings (over five plunges an hour), or for those who live in very hot climates that require additional cooling power.
In other words, the Pro models can reduce the temperature of the water by nine degrees per hour, whereas the non-Pro models’ cooling speed is limited to 2.5 degrees per hour.
Additionally, you can get a Hot & Cold model that can transform the plunge into a hot tub with water temperatures of up to 103 degrees Fahrenheit. Just keep in mind that it takes the Hot & Cold plunge about 12 hours to go from 50 degrees to 103 degrees.
We live in Georgia, and while it can get hot in the summer, temperatures usually don’t exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, between my wife and I (and the occasional guest who wants to try it), we usually don’t take more than two plunges per day. That’s why we got the regular (non-Pro) model.
Also, I was considering the Hot & Cold model but decided against it because I don’t think we’d use it much, considering that we would have to plan at least 12 hours ahead.
The Cold Plunge vs. The Cold Plunge Pro XL
Until recently, one downside of the regular Cold Plunge was its compact size. In other words, some people (specifically, those who are six feet or taller) had a hard time submerging their entire body (including their knees) in the water.
The company realized the problem and recently released the Cold Plunge Pro XL, which is 3 inches taller, 6 inches longer and 1.5 inches wider than the standard Cold Plunge. Besides the difference in size, the Cold Plunge Pro XL also comes with the Pro chiller, which cools down the water inside of the tub at a rate of 2.5 degrees per hour.
High-quality cold plunges aren’t exactly cheap, which is why so many people try to build one themselves out of old chest freezers, trash cans or plastic barrels.
I considered doing that as well, but ultimately decided to purchase a plug-and-play system for safety (bacteria, electrical shock hazard) and maintainability reasons.
The standard model of the Cold Plunge (the one I got) retails for $4,790, but the company offers the ability to pay via monthly installments (if you qualify).
The good news is that shipping is already included in that price, and if you use promo code MK, you get $150 off your purchase.
For reference, the Cold Plunge Pro costs $5,990, the Hot & Cold Plunge costs $5,290, the Hot & Cold Plunge Pro costs $6,490, the Cold Plunge Pro XL costs $6,990, and the Hot and Cold Plunge Pro XL tops out at $7,490.
Each non-Pro plunge used in a residential setting comes with a one-year limited warranty that you can extend by purchasing a protection plan (see below). Note that using a non-Pro plunge in a commercial setting voids your warranty.
The Pro plunges also come with a one-year warranty, but you can use them in a commercial setting. Much like the non-Pro model, you can extend the initial warranty by purchasing an optional protection plan.
Depending on the model you choose, you can also purchase an extended warranty to protect your plunge for an additional three or five years. I didn’t get the protection plan with our plunge.
How Does the Cold Plunge Compare?
While I’ve outlined the thought process that led me to purchase the Cold Plunge over some of the alternatives I considered, below is more information about how the Cold Plunge compares to other types of cold therapy I’ve tried.
If you’d like to take a deeper diver into how it stacks up against the competition, check out my list of the best cold plunge tubs for a full comparison on the pros and cons of different models.
Cold Plunge vs. Morozko Forge
As mentioned above, I took my first cold plunge in a tub made by Morozko Forge at a Biohacking conference. In retrospect, I’m glad I bumped into the nice folks of Morozko because they helped me mentally prepare for the experience and walked me through it step-by-step.
If not for that guided experience, it might not have turned out to be so positive and I might not own the Cold Plunge now.
Aside from that, I consider the stainless steel tubs made by Morozko to be of high quality, and I appreciate that Morozko’s chillers can cool the water down to 33 degrees Fahrenheit. When I took my plunge, I was literally sitting on a block of ice that had formed on the bottom of the tub.
Unfortunately, Morozko’s plunges have a couple of disadvantages, including their starting price.
The cheapest unit (the Filtered Forge) starts at $9,400, and the commercial model will set you back $17,900. That’s a lot of money! However, the residential model comes with a two-year warranty and the commercial model comes with a five-year warranty. That’s double what Plunge offers (unless you get the optional protection plan).
Additionally, neither model fits through 24-inch doorways (which are sometimes present in older houses). While that’s usually not an issue in commercial settings or outdoors, if you want to use your plunge indoors, you should check the width of your doorway first.
Another potentially minor issue with the Filtered Forge is that it doesn’t have an angled backrest. As a result, it’s slightly less ergonomic and comfortable to use. Of course, since you only spend a few minutes in the tub, that might not be a big deal.
Last but not least, Morozko uses only microfiltration and ozone to keep the water free of debris and germs, whereas the Cold Plunge also uses UV light. I don’t think that’s a huge deal because ozone is a very powerful disinfectant (especially in cold water), but I wanted to bring it up.
Ultimately, you have to decide if spending twice the money on the Morozko tub is worth the few degrees colder it gets. For me, it wasn’t.
Cold Plunge vs. Cold Shower
Taking a cold shower is an excellent and inexpensive way to get your feet wet (pun intended) with cold therapy.
The good news is that if you’re not used to cold water, even tap water can be cold enough to offer some of the benefits of a cold plunge.
The tap water at our home is about 62 degrees in the summer, which is cold enough to make you gasp for air for a moment when you step into the shower. So there’s definitely an opportunity to improve your mental strength while you get used to it.
Additionally, the cold water causes some of your blood vessels (at least those right below the skin) to constrict. That causes an increase in blood flow when you step out of the shower or turn it back to hot water.
If you’re new to cold therapy, I recommend starting with cold showers because it’s something you can do immediately and it doesn’t cost a dime. To make it easier to get used to the feeling of cold water on your skin, you can start with hot water and then switch to cold and leave that on for 10 to 15 seconds. From there, try to increase your cold water exposure by a few seconds until you can endure it for two or three minutes.
The next step is to start with cold water from the get-go. That takes a bit of mental strength, but it’s totally worth it.
After my experience at the Biohacking conference, and before I decided to order the Cold Plunge, I took cold showers every day. And I like to think that experience helped prepare me for cold plunging.
The downside to cold tap water, at least where I live, is that it usually doesn’t get anywhere near the temperatures of a cold plunge — and you get used to it relatively quickly, thus diminishing its benefits over time.
Cold Plunge vs. DIY Ice Bath or Chest Freezer
If the initial investment required to purchase the Cold Plunge is out of your budget, building your own ice bath using an old wine barrel or chest freezer may be a viable option.
The number one benefit of a DIY solution is the comparatively low initial investment. You can pick up an old wine barrel and clean it out for less than $200 at Lowe’s (that’s what I did when I built a plastic-free and maintenance-free watering solution for our chickens) and you probably won’t spend much more for a used chest freezer.
The problem with a DIY barrel-based ice bath is that you have to pour in fresh ice before every plunge, because it melts quickly. So you need a good supply of ice if you intend to take regular plunges.
I use my Cold Plunge on an almost daily basis and it would be incredibly inconvenient to run to the store and get more ice every day.
Commercial solutions like the Ice Barrel can maintain their water temperature for one to three days, depending on the ambient temperature. So you might be able to get away with adding ice only every other day or so.
That’s why many people convert an old chest freezer into a cold plunge: because the freezer can keep the water cold and you don’t have to worry about adding ice all the time.
The downside to using a chest freezer is that it’s a potential safety hazard (if you forget to unplug it before jumping in). Additionally, you’ll probably have to seal the inside first to prevent water from leaking out.
The problem with both solutions is that you have to replace the water regularly (unless you’re chemically treating it) and scrub the inside of the container. This extra maintenance effort is what made me decide to invest in the Cold Plunge instead.
Update: A few months after publishing this review, I decided to purchase the Ice Barrel to see if it could serve as a lower-cost alternative for people who want to leverage cold therapy but who don’t have the budget to get the Cold Plunge. You can learn more about how the two products compare in my hands-on Ice Barrel review.
How I Use Cold Therapy
My goal with cold therapy is to expose myself to less-than-comfortable temperatures several times a week. I do that by combining cold plunging with cold showers.
During the week, I often jump into my Cold Plunge in the morning and right before working out. Combined with a quick hot shower afterward, it prepares me for the upcoming workout by significantly increasing my blood flow. The rapid constriction, followed by dilation, also gives my blood vessels a great workout.
I also find it more mentally challenging to jump into cold water in the morning, especially when it’s already cold outside. So by exposing myself to uncomfortably cold temperatures in the morning, I can improve my mental strength while helping my body to become physically stronger and more resilient.
On days I don’t exercise, I (occasionally) cold plunge in the evening or late afternoon. At first, I avoided late plunging because I was afraid that activating my sympathetic nervous system (triggered by the fight or flight response) would negatively impact my sleep and heart rate variability at night.
However, it turned out that the better I got at managing the stress of cold exposure (primarily through deep breathing exercises while in the tub), the more relaxed I’d feel after getting out of the tub. That feeling of relaxation actually helped me to fall asleep quicker and sleep better overall.
After several weeks of regular cold plunging, I can say that I’ve become significantly less sensitive to cold temperatures. I feel mentally stronger and I sleep better.
Aside from the change in my perception of cold temperatures, my body has actually become more resilient when exposed to the cold — as I experienced first-hand during my cryotherapy sessions.
To learn more about the differences between cold plunging and cryotherapy, check out my in-depth comparison article.
Even on the coldest setting (-225 F) and the maximum time in the chamber (3 minutes), my skin temperature didn’t drop below 60 degrees. In comparison, my wife’s skin temperature dropped to 48 degrees after 2.5 minutes at -165 degrees.
As a result, I’ll continue with my regular cold plunges, especially throughout the colder months of the season, combined with sessions in our Sunlighten infrared sauna to reap the maximum benefits.
Cold Plunge Frequently Asked Questions
The Cold Plunge can cool water down to 39 degrees Fahrenheit. My cold plunge usually hovers between 39 and 40 degrees. If I have friends over and we do a couple of back-to-back plunges, the water temperature might creep up to 41 degrees before the chiller kicks in to cool it back down.
The highest temperature you can set the chiller to is 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32.22 C).
The base model starts at $4,790 but if you use code MK you can get it for $4,640, including free shipping within the continental United States.
Yes, the Cold Plunge offers more health benefits than a cold shower simply because most tap water doesn’t get cold enough to mimic an ice bath. However, as long as the tap water is cold enough to make you feel uncomfortable, you’ll get some of the same benefits, including the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, the release of stress-reducing chemicals, improved circulation and more.
Based on my research and personal experience with both cold plunging and cryotherapy, I’d argue that both methods offer similar benefits.
The advantages of the Cold Plunge are that it’s likely less expensive in the long run and submerging yourself in cold water is more challenging than exposing yourself to cold but dry air. Plus, you don’t have to deal with the time commitment of visiting a cryo facility.
So if improving mental strength and resilience are your objectives, I’d recommend cold plunging over cryotherapy.
Thanks to the Cold Plunge’s built-in water filtration and sanitation system, paired with the optional maintenance pack, you have to change the water approximately every six months. That’s one of the benefits of the Cold Plunge over DIY ice barrels or chest freezers that require more frequent water changes.
Plunge recommends initially treating the water with a chlorine and bromine-free oxidizer and sanitizer (all part of their maintenance package) and then checking regularly using test strips to make sure your water quality is good. Depending on the hardness of your water, you might also want to add a softener.
Note that using the water treatment products is optional but recommended. Without the products, depending on your water quality and usage, you might have to change the water once every one or two months.
While I haven’t found any scientific studies that discuss exact timings, most cold plunging experts recommend staying in the water for two minutes or longer to obtain the maximum benefits.
If you’re just starting out with cold plunging, I recommend using a temperature that’s colder than your tap water and that makes you feel uncomfortable. Try to stay in the cold water for at least two minutes. As you get used to the cold, either increase the time you spend in the plunge or lower the temperature gradually.
I started with two minutes at 39 degrees and gradually increased the time to 5.5 minutes. Cold plunging should feel really uncomfortable (at first), but if you start shaking uncontrollably, it’s time to get out to prevent hypothermia.
Whatever time works for you. Just keep in mind that cold plunging activates your fight or flight response. So if you’re not used to it, I’d probably avoid jumping into cold water right before bedtime.
Yes, you do. At least to a degree. It took me a couple of plunges to teach my brain that the initial shock doesn’t mean my life is in danger. Once I made that realization, the process became much more bearable. It’s still uncomfortable — especially after a few minutes in cold water — but I can do it now without having to give myself a pep talk first.
Cold plunging is generally safe but it is a stressor that your body might have trouble handling. If you suffer from severe sensitivity to cold, have a medical condition or are pregnant, I recommend consulting a knowledgeable medical professional first and not starting with the coldest setting.
I don’t think one is better than the other. In fact, both cold plunges and saunas offer similar benefits in terms of improved circulation, as well as with regard to the activation of certain proteins (heat and cold shock proteins) that boost immunity, promote hormesis and more.
However, while both methods stress the body in a positive way, they do that using different mechanisms (heat vs. cold). That’s why I recommend combining heat with cold therapy, and why I include both infrared sauna sessions and cold plunges in my wellness routine — a concept known as contrast therapy.
Yes, I’d argue that cold baths are much more effective than cold air exposure for several reasons. First of all, ambient air is usually not cold enough to cool you down in a reasonable amount of time. But even if you lived at the North Pole, you’d probably get frostbite (due to the humidity) before reaping any benefits.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t allow yourself to feel cold on occasion (by wearing only a t-shirt and shorts in winter) but I’d recommend taking regular cold showers instead of waiting for temperatures outside to drop.
If you’re over six feet tall or have very broad shoulders, I recommend considering the Cold Plunge Pro XL, which is taller, longer and wider than the regular Cold Plunge.
Yes, the Cold Plunge (including the chiller) can safely remain outside even during winter and with freezing temperatures. However, it’s important to keep the chiller running to prevent the water from freezing in the pipes.
If you you decide to unplug the chiller, make sure to properly winterize the plunge by draining the tub and the chiller, and by removing the filter housing.
When we went on vacation during the holiday season of 2022, I drained the tub and unplugged the chiller but forgot to also drain and remove the filter cartridge. Unfortunately, my filter housing cracked during a cold spell and had to be replaced. I could have avoided that repair by following the winterization instructions.
Wrap-Up: Is the Cold Plunge Worth it?
When FedEx delivered my Cold Plunge, the temperatures where I live were in the high 30s. So after the first two or three plunges, I questioned my investment for a moment because I wasn’t sure if I had the mental strength to go from really cold air to really cold water and then back to cold air.
But after I accepted the suck — which took about five plunges — I got excited and even euphoric about the prospect of jumping into cold water. The following days, the outside temperatures warmed up a bit and getting into the tub (and staying there for a couple of minutes) suddenly wasn’t a big deal anymore.
As I’m writing this, it’s 34 degrees outside with bone-chilling winds (which is unusual for Atlanta), and I know that it’s going to be a bit more challenging than usual to strip down outside and jump in. But I’m looking forward to overcoming that mental hurdle.
Overall, I’m glad that I made the decision to invest in the Cold Plunge because I know how beneficial it is. I also appreciate how much mentally stronger it has made me.
A while ago, we had friends over and their 12-year-old son decided to overcome his fear of being exposed to the cold. He stayed in the tub for two minutes while going through what appeared to be the five stages of grief. But he did it, and he was so proud of himself to have overcome something that many of us will never experience. Having been able to watch that accomplishment was worth getting the Cold Plunge.
So what are you waiting for? Next time you take a shower, turn it cold and stay there for 30 seconds or longer. I promise you, you’ll feel awesome afterward. From there, it’s only a small step to taking an ice bath.
If you have any questions about cold plunging or the Cold Plunge, just leave me a comment below or shoot me an email.
Michael is a healthy living enthusiast and CrossFit athlete whose goal is to help people achieve optimal health by bridging the gap between ancestral living and the demands of modern society.