Ice Barrel Review 2024: Things to Consider If You’re New to Cold Water Therapy

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Medically reviewed by:
Dr. Steve Kim, MD

About Dr. Steve Kim, MD

Physician Advisor

Dr. Kim received his BA in Human Biology at Stanford University, before receiving his M.D. degree (Primary Care Track) from UC Davis School of Medicine in 1989. Dr. Kim completed his Internship & Residency in Family Practice from Glendale Adventist Hospital and is Board-Certified in Family Medicine via the American Board of Family Medicine. He has re-certified multiple times; and is currently Board-Certified through December 2030. He has served as Sr Medical Editor for Healthline, and has held faculty appointments at Stanford & UCSF medical schools. He is also a decorated, retired Flight Surgeon from the US Air Force Reserves.

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Ice Barrel Overview

4.7/5
  • Ice Barrel offers two cold plunge tub options, both priced at $1,199.99, that can be delivered to you within 1-4 weeks.
  • The Ice Barrel 300 works best for those up to 6’2″ and up to 250 pounds.
  • The Ice Barrel 400 works best for those up to 6’6″ and up to 300 pounds.
ice barrel product pic

When I think of ice baths and cold tubs, I’m immediately transported back to college preseason when I was trying to think of every excuse possible to get out of post-3-a-day treatment and get back to my bed. Now, as a former athlete, it’s all I want after I wake up more sore than I’ve ever been from a subpar leg day or a stressful day at work.

Invented by the ancient Greeks, cold water therapy is a treatment that uses frigid water or ice to provide various health benefits for the body, which may include treating chronic autoimmune inflammation, stress reduction, and more. 

Ice Barrel offers high quality and lower-cost entry into the space of cold water immersion therapy, making it more accessible for individuals to experience the benefits of this treatment. Offering the Ice Barrel 300 and the Ice Barrel 400 for $1,199.99 each, it’s a much more affordable brand compared to its competitors.

In this Ice Barrel review, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the brand, including my personal experience using the Ice Barrel 400, which of their barrels (300 or 400) may work best for you needs, and how it stacks up against its competitors or even a homemade ice bath. In addition, we’ll discuss the benefits of cold water therapy and who it may work well for.

My Experience Using the Ice Barrel

I purchased the Ice Barrel 400 to help alleviate sore muscles post-workout and to reduce my overall stress. After using it for nearly a year now, I can safely say that cold water therapy is definitely a major part of my self-care routine, offering benefits beyond what I’d initially purchased the product for. While it does take some getting used to, the ritual of cold water therapy has become something that I look forward to doing two times a week.

In terms of aesthetics, I love that the physical setup of the Ice Barrel takes up very little space in your house or yard (or garage, in my case), yet it’s still deep enough to submerge your body effectively. There are some folks who prefer the type of ice bath that allows you to lie down and stretch your legs, but you’re sacrificing ground space if you take that route. This aspect really depends entirely on your personal preference, however, I definitely prefer a compact, sleeker product that can be moved to multiple locations, if needed.

For those who are considering the DIY route, remember three big things you’ll be giving up:

  1. Premium, durable materials
  2. A handy, snug lid that allows you to re-use water
  3. The drainage system, making water changes and cleaning a breeze

The lid keeps any dirt out of the water when not in use and has insulation, keeping the water icy for longer than a regular bin or can. This saves money because you don’t have to fill the barrel every single time. In fact, with the right cleaning chemicals, you can re-use water for up to a month, a major plus in my opinion. And, the drainage system makes washing and emptying the barrel easier, less tedious, and more hygienic, a few factors that I found really important when making this purchasing decision.

Are Ice Barrels Worth It?

Despite its relatively high price point, the Ice Barrel is definitely worth checking out for cold water therapy – especially if you’re new to the world of cold water immersion therapy. While the price is steeper than going the DIY route with a trash bin, the benefits of going with a name brand like Ice Barrel are definitely there.

When compared to a much more expensive ice bath or plunge tub, the Ice Barrel has fewer features, but offers thousands of dollars in savings. 

I’d love to see future iterations include some sort of shelf or hooks near the lid, as the Ice Barrel itself doesn’t allow for convenient access to your phone or a drink. It would also be nice if the cleaning kit was included with purchase, instead of as an add-on accessory, which costs around $130. Nonetheless, I still am very happy I went with the Ice Barrel 400 and will continue to use it regularly.

Ice Barrel 300 vs. Ice Barrel 400

While they both cost $1,199.99, there are a few key differences between the 300 and 400, including:

  • Their size: The Ice Barrel 300 is 35.5″ wide by 30.5″ tall. The Ice Barrel 400 is 31″ wide by 42″ tall.
  • How long it takes to ship: The Ice Barrel 300 ships within 3-4 weeks, while the Ice Barrel 400 ships within 7-10 days.
  • Who it works best for: The Ice Barrel 300 works best for those up to 6’2″ tall and up to 250 pounds. The Ice Barrel 400 works best for those up to 6’6″ tall and up to 300 pounds.
  • Body positioning: The Ice Barrel 300 is best for those who prefer a seated position, while the Ice Barrel 400 allows for a more upright position and full-body submersion.

Ice Barrel Pros & Cons

Pros

  • More affordable than most cold water therapy systems, like the Cold Plunge
  • Light & portable when empty
  • Very durable
  • Sleek design, with black and tan color options
  • Spacious and comfortable for many body sizes while still not taking up much space on the ground
  • Can keep water cool for a long time; hence no need for regular emptying
  • Offers two sizes, accommodating individuals up to 300 pounds

Cons

  • Higher price than just a trash bin or something of the like
  • Lacks a recirculating system

Table of Contents

Ice Barrel vs. Alternatives

Ice Barrel logo 240x60 Plunge logo 240x60

Homemade Ice Bath Tub

Ice Barrel vs. Cold Plunge Tub vs. Homemade Ice Bath

Ice Barrel

Cold Plunge Tub

Homemade Ice Bath

Price$1,199.99$4,990-$8,990$100-$200
DimensionsIce Barrel 400: 31"W x 41" H
Ice Barrel 300: 35.5" W x 30.5" H
Standard: 67"L x 31.5"W x 24"H
Pro XL: 73"L x 32.5"W x 27"H
All-In: 77"L x 31.5"W x 29"H
N/a
Customizable?2 colors: black or tanStandard, XL, or All-In

Cold plunge or hot & cold plunge

Standard or pro cooling speed
N/a
Portability✔ 55lbs empty
Energy efficiencyDoes not use any energy except that used to make icePower usage varies, average is about 4Kw/dayN/a
How often does water need to be changed?Every 4 weeksEvery 6 monthsDepends on how you build and store the water in between
Filtration/system?❌ Clean to your own preferences with water stabilizers or other✔ Filtration system includes ozone & 20 micron filter for clean water for 6+ months
Lights included?
Insulated cover?
Money back guarantee✔ 30 days✔ 30 days + 1 year manufacturer warranty
WebsiteN/a

Ice Barrel vs. Plunge

Ice barrel offers a more affordable alternative to Plunge. While Plunge offers three sizes, even their most affordable option is significantly more expensive than both of Ice Barrel’s products, which cost $1,199.99 each. However, Plunge does allow for full reclining, while Ice Barrel’s options can only be used in an upright position.

Ice Barrel vs. Homemade Ice Bath

While a homemade ice bath is by far the most affordable option, it lacks the convenience and quality that Ice Barrel offers. A homemade tub may also not be made with non-toxic materials, which Ice Barrel prides itself on using.

Benefits: Are Ice Baths Really Good for You?

Within the last 30 years, research on cold water therapy has increased exponentially, primarily because of the substantial benefits. Several clinical and scientific studies have demonstrated that it may effectively combat multiple conditions and improve athletic performance.

1. Improves Blood Circulation

When the skin comes in contact with cold water, the brain triggers the narrowing of blood vessels, otherwise known as vasoconstriction. This action protects the body from losing excessive heat to cold water. When you get out of the cold water, your body allows increased blood flow to the cold areas to warm them up and the blood vessels dilate to carry enough blood. Vasodilation and vasoconstriction triggered by cold water therapy may help improve blood circulation.

2. Boosts the Immune System

Cold water therapy enhances the immune system through the production of cytokines, which increase the activation of white blood cells and lower the activation of various diseases. These cytokines also increase the thermal regulation of cells, causing a warmer section (autonomic nervous system) to provide more warmth to fight against diseases.

3. Improves Mood

Cold water therapy has a calming effect on the body by increasing endorphin levels in the brain. Endorphins are chemical compounds that block pain sensations in the body by activating pleasure receptors that make you feel good when you’re stressed out or depressed. They also lower cortisol levels (the stress hormone) in the blood. This type of therapy is considered a relaxation technique and can be applied not only to conditions, but also to stressful situations in life.

4. Improves Metabolic Function

Cold water therapy, as well as cold showers, increases metabolism by increasing the heat generation of the body. When heat is produced in excess, the person sweats and loses water weight (water losses about 1-2% per day). This process also leads to a building up of lactic acid in muscle tissues which burns the energy stores (glycogen) in your body and produces energy.

5. Reduces Pain and Inflammation

Cold water or ice causes vasoconstriction, which reduces blood flow to the affected area. This reduces the number of inflammatory cells coming to the affected area. Extreme cold also numbs the inflamed area, effectively reducing the pain. As the body heats back up, it brings oxygen and nutrient-rich blood back to the tissues, helping to flush out inflammation.

What’s the Science Behind Cold Water Therapy?

Cold water immersion is thought to work in two significant ways. These include:

Vasoconstriction

Your blood vessels usually constrict when it is too cold to avoid losing excessive heat. The action reduces the amount of blood flowing to the extremities. The concept works similarly to reduce inflammation.

Applying ice to an injury reduces the blood flow to that area, lessening inflammation and swelling.

Nervous Stimulation

Cold water triggers the brain to release norepinephrine. This reduces stress, may improve mood, and promotes relaxation. Also, it may help support reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Cold water also stimulates a part of the vagus nerve complex, which induces inflammatory responses in your whole body. The nerve also stimulates your body’s ability to heal by raising the immune responses, which helps fight against infection and diseases. This beneficial immune response reduces the symptoms of inflammatory autoimmune disorders, such as fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis.

Stimulation of the vagus nerve also lowers your heart rate and improves rate variability. The said actions have the effect of inducing relaxation and reducing stress.

People using Ice Barrels for mental health
People using Ice Barrels for physical health

Users have their Ice Barrels for different reasons – mental, physical, or both.

How to Use the Ice Barrel

There is no unique setup required before using Ice Barrel. Just place the stand on a flat surface and the barrel on top of the stand. The stepping stool should be next to it. Put water and ice inside the barrel, and you are good to go.

How to maintain your Ice Barrel

Who Is the Ice Barrel a Good Fit For?

Ice barrel is a good fit for people looking for something convenient and effective to usher them into cold water therapy. These might be athletes, those who are experiencing anxiety, people looking for help with pain management, and anyone else who wants to reap the health benefits of cold water immersion. 

Ice Barrel is an entry-level ice bath for those who want a more affordable option, but don’t want to take on a DIY project. 

Who Is the Ice Barrel Not a Good Fit For?

Some people must be cautious when swimming in icy water or ice baths because they have pre-existing medical conditions. The initial shock when entering or diving inside cold water can worsen heart-related conditions, such as hypertension.

Individuals with type 1 and type 2 diabetes shouldn’t engage in cold water therapy because it may not be safe for them to do so. Additionally, the cold can trigger hyperventilation which may cause a fatal response in people with chronic respiratory conditions.

Ice Barrel Reviews From Their Customers

Overall many people seem very happy with their Ice Barrel, noting benefits, ease of use, and sleek appearance. However, some individuals found the Ice Barrel to be overpriced for what you get.

Boom! Happy wife > Happy Life
Brendan F. Cawley
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"I took the plunge and purchased the Ice Barrel for my wife's birthday, and what a stellar decision that was! She had been eyeing cold therapy solutions for well over a year, and this product truly delivered on its promise. The quality and design of the Ice Barrel stand out, and its ease of use meant my wife was immersed in her first chilling session within mere minutes of it being dropped at our doorstep. No more makeshift solutions using oversized Tupperware bins from Home Depot! This is a genuine, purpose-built cold therapy experience. The joy and satisfaction on my wife's face after her sessions are evident. The Ice Barrel not only meets but exceeds our expectations. We wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone looking to elevate their cold therapy routine. Five stars without a doubt!"
An amazing tool in a healthy lifestyle!
Taylor Hart
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"I was a bit skeptical on the value of this thing due to the hype of ice baths, but let me say, it lives up to the hype! My husband and I like to workout and getting in this thing is a welcome release making recovery much more efficient. It's also very hot in Colorado right now (seeing 100 degrees) so even just hopping in for a few minutes cools us right down. We love to get in in the morning or in the evenings too to wake us right up and give us a burst of energy to keep up with our 6 month old. If you're struggling with inflammation, aching joints, soreness, or want to help your body recover after exercise and more, give this ice bath a try! You won't regret it! It is lightweight, an ideal size, and isn't a big eyesore in our yard. In fact I think it's pretty. The shipping was super fast as well. We just love it and cannot wait to continue using it!"
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The Verdict: Overpriced Barrel, or a Legit Entry Into Ice Baths?

Ice Barrel is a legit entry into ice baths and a better choice than the bathtub or stock tank ice bath for several reasons:

  • Its specifically designed for water immersion therapy
  • It’s portable, can be moved indoors or outdoors, and can be put into storage when not in use 
  • The black and desert tan color options can blend perfectly with your yard or most existing furniture
  • Although you can leave water in it for 4 weeks, when you’re ready to drain, its bottom spout makes it easy for you to do so
  • It is insulated to keep water cold for long periods and comes with a UV protecting cover for both sun and heat damage
  • It is very easy to maintain
  • It doesn’t need daily emptying like a bathtub ice bath
  • The Ice Barrel is a more affordable option compared to its counterparts

Overall, the Ice Barrel is a more affordable, easy to clean, and simple to maintain option for those looking to start cold water therapy from the comfort of their home.

FAQs

How long does ice last in the Ice Barrel?

Ice can last for several hours to several days in the Ice Barrel depending on the weather, if it’s exposed to sunlight, and the water temperature.

Is it hard to get out of the Ice Barrel?

Some individuals may have difficulty getting out of the Ice Barrel, however, they offer a step stool, which may make it a bit easier to get in and out of. In addition, you may want to have someone else help you get out if you feel any numbness after your cold water therapy.

Does the Ice Barrel have a seat inside?

The Ice Barrel 300 has a small seat inside, however, the 400 does not.

How often do you change water in the Ice Barrel?

The company recommends changing water every 3-4 weeks.