How to Build a Wilderness Sauna

Tarp sauna on the beach. Photo courtesy Peter Mede

Tarp sauna on the beach.
Photo courtesy Peter Mede

How to Build a Wilderness Sauna

Okay, so the weather has gone bad and a kayaking day has been turned into another day in camp, waiting for better weather to come. Time on your hands. Here is what to do with that time. Build a sauna!

I am sure that there are a myriad of ways to construct an outdoor camping sauna. A simple lean-too A-frame style using poles at the center to hold up the tarps. A Tee-Pee would work as well. That I will leave up to you and the ingenuity you will use in your own camp.

What you will need for the basic sauna are:

Rocks and stones. Making sure they are not from river beds or bedrock as those rocks may contain water and when heated the water turns to steam and explode, which is hardly relaxing!

Tarps, bigger the better.


A nearby water supply.

Mark out the spot you want to build your sauna and build your frame making sure that the inside dimensions are large enough to accommodate you and anyone else and leaving room between you and the stone pile. Now bring in your stones and build a pile making sure to leave room under it for your fire. Build your fire and keep it burning for several hours or how ever long it will take to heat your stones completely. It is important to get these stones hot as when the water is poured on them the outside of the rocks will cool and the inner stones will continue to heat the pile. And DO NOT start your fire in the covered sauna. After your rocks are heated remove all the ash and coals from under the pile.

Now you can cover your frame with the tarps. Climb in, splash some water on the hot stones and enjoy.

Keep a bucket of water in the sauna and try to only pour the water on the same spot each time. Alternate chilling, I mean heating in the sauna with stepping out into the cold, or taking a dip in the ocean.


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