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




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I’ll be honest; when I think of ice baths and cold tubs, I’m immediately transported back to college preseason, trying to think of every excuse possible to get out of post-3-a-day treatment and get back to my bed. But, ever since then, I’ve realized that I took major advantage of their benefits. Now, as a washed-up 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 work day.

Cold water therapy is a treatment that uses frigid water or ice to bring various health benefits to the body. You’ve probably seen the regimen used by athletes (often for recovery) or on social media, where you immerse yourself in water – usually below 58 degrees Fahrenheit for three to eight minutes. Cold water can trigger the body’s natural abilities to heal chronic illness, relieve stress, and promote better health.

The Ice Barrel offers one of the highest quality, low-cost entries into the space of cold water immersion therapy. We’re gonna get into why I love it even more than I expected. 

Table of Contents

For a little historical background, cold water therapy has existed for thousands of years, helping to treat various illnesses long before modern medicine was ever a thing. Ancient civilizations such as the Romans, Greek, Chinese, and Egyptians used some form of cold water therapy. Not sure how the Egyptians got access to that much cold water, but alrighty.

Cold water immersion therapy has some serious health benefits. Some of these can include:

  • Reducing the pain and inflammation of joint and muscle aches by coating micro-tears in the muscles with ice
  • Improving blood circulation as the cold water puts your circulator system into overdrive
  • Reducing or eliminating anxiety for people who suffer from panic attacks, high blood pressure, and depression by causing a mild sensation of coldness
  • Potent in the area around the joints and muscles.

Key Takeaways

  • Cold water treatment involves using water at varying low temperatures to relieve ailments.
  • Water immersion therapy helps relieve pain, inflammation, and symptoms of depression.
  • Ice Barrel is one of the leading pieces of specialized equipment for taking ice baths.
    • Affordable, entry-level equipment for those who cannot afford top-of-the-art Cold Plunge tubs
    • Has all the basic features, can comfortably fit all body sizes, and keeps water cooler for weeks

Best cold water therapy: Ice Barrel vs Cold Plunge Tub vs homemade ice bath

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

Price1199.97$4,990-$7,490$100-200
Dimensions2’ x 2’7" x 2’1"Standard: 2’3” X 3’7” X 5’7”N/a
Customizable?2 colors: black or tanStandard or XL

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/day
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?❌ (lol, it's a barrel)
Insulated cover?✔ 55lbs empty
Money back guarantee✔ 30 days✔ 30 days + 1 year manufacturer warranty
WebsiteN/a

A little history behind Cold Water Immersion Therapy

I know, I didn’t think there would be a history involved in this, either, but if you think about it, the technology behind something with such extreme benefits is actually pretty simple!

Within the last 30 years, research on CWI has increased exponentially, primarily because of the substantial benefits. Several clinical and scientific studies have demonstrated that CWI effectively combats multiple disease conditions and improves athletic performance.

Ancient Greeks are known as the inventors of cold water immersion therapy more than three millennia ago – submerging themselves in cold water to treat various illnesses, such as wounds, skin conditions, physical injuries, and other disorders. The Romans later inherited this therapy and added modern aqueduct technology for sore muscles and to relieve inflammation. As the technology evolved, the 18th-century British treated muscle spasms, fatigue, and other health conditions using cold water immersion.

CWI continues to be extensively used as post-exercise therapy to treat muscle damage associated with eccentric exercise.

So, What Are the Health Benefits of Cold Water Therapy?

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. The blood vessels dilate to carry enough blood. Vasodilation and vasoconstriction triggered by cold water therapy 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 diseases but also to any 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

While studies on the working of cold water therapy are still ongoing, experts have a rough idea of how it works. 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.

What’s the science behind the health benefits of Cold Water Therapy?

After reading about all the health benefits of cold water therapy, you might wonder how the whole concept works. Water is just water, right? Wrong. There is more to cold water than meets the eye. 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 and improves relaxation. Also, the hormone is effective against 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 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 – everything from mental to physical!

Ice Barrel Review: 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, including:

  • Its specific design for water immersion therapy
  • Portability: at only 55lbs when empty, it can be moved indoors or outdoors and can be put into storage when not in use – wherever makes the most sense for your use at the time so you can place it anywhere
  • The black and desert tan color options can blend perfectly with your yard or most existing furniture
  • Drainage system: although you can leave water in it for 4 weeks, when you’re ready to drain, its bottom spout makes it easy for you
  • It is insulated to keep water cold for long periods & comes with a UV protecting cover for both sun and heat damage
  • Easy to maintain
  • It doesn’t need daily emptying like a bathtub ice bath
  • Cost-effective: unlike many cold water therapies on the internet, the Ice Barrel is affordable at under $2, where you can find some at double and triple that price.

Ice Barrel Specs and Features: Why Not Just Use a Large Plastic Bin from Home Depot?

You might be wondering what makes the ice barrel so special. Why not buy a large plastic container and use it instead? Well, first, any old large plastic bin is not made with ice bathing in mind. An ice barrel is considered specialized training equipment because of the following features:

  • Drainage system: spout at the bottom makes drainage and refill very easy as opposed to a chest freezer or bin
  • 42″ x 31″ x 25″ is large enough to accommodate all body sizes (comfortably up to 6’6”) but small enough to take up a small footprint in your home or yard
  • It comes with accessories like a step stool and stand
  • Protective UV cover
  • Insulated lid to maintain the cold temperature
  • Black and desert tan colors perfectly blend with the outside environment
  • Durable, portable, and compact

Let’s face it, sitting in a large bin outside your yard isn’t the best thing, especially in full sight of your neighbors.

Is There Any Setup for 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

How Much Does the Ice Barrel Cost?

The Ice Barrel costs $1,199.97. They also sell other accessories, like cleaning chemicals and tools.

And as with most purchases, you’ll get a nice 30-day money-back guarantee. I didn’t need it, though. 🙂

Pros and Cons of Ice Barrel

Pros

  • More affordable than most cold water therapy systems, like the Cold Plunge
  • Surprisingly light & portable when empty
  • SUPER durable
  • Camouflage colors
  • Spacious and comfortable for most 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
  • Features low tech, AKA its value doesn’t depreciate over time

Cons

  • Higher price than just a trash bin or something of the like
  • Lacks a recirculating system
  • Requires the purchase of ice for every us

Is There Any Room for Improvement in Ice Barrel?

For the simple technology that it includes, the Ice Barrel is almost complete, except for a few things.

  • I’d love to see future iterations include some sort of shelf of hooks near the lid. The Ice Barrel itself doesn’t allow for convenient access to your phone or a drink.
  • I’d love to see Ice Barrel include a cleaning kit with a purchase. Instead, it’ll run you about $150. 
  • If you’re looking for a full-on filtration system, you’ll need to look at picking one up elsewhere: like Penguin Chillers.

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 suffer from anxiety, people looking for help with pain management, and the general public who want to reap the health benefits of cold water immersion. 

Ice Barrel is an entry-level ice bath for those who cannot afford top-of-the-art Cold Plunge but are willing to spend upwards of $1500.

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 issues. The initial shock when entering or diving inside cold water can worsen heart-related conditions such as hypertension.

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes patients shouldn’t take cold water therapy because their bodies cannot keep warm during extreme shifts in temperature. Additionally, the cold triggers hyperventilation which may trigger a fatal response for people with chronic respiratory conditions.

Those who live in a warm climate that plan on storing this outside may struggle with keeping the barrel warm, especially when trying to preserve the cold temperature between uses. We recommend that if you live in a warm climate, try to keep it indoors between uses.

Ice Barrel Reviews: What Are Other Ice Barrel Customers Across the Internet and Social Media Saying?

There are lots of reviews from people using the Ice Barrel for various reasons – be that for anxiety, muscle recovery, decompression, or any of the numerous health benefits that we’ve mentioned throughout this review.

The most common theme that we noticed was people explicitly recognizing the fact that, yes, this is a simple product with a price tag on it. At the same time, many reviewers and users were extremely pleased with the ease at which they could now take ice baths. While any of us could go to a home improvement store and get the equipment needed to make this ourselves, we’d be missing some of the greatest features that the Ice Barrel incorporates, and we’d be lacking the convenience of a product where the company has done all the work and thinking for us.

Is the Ice Barrel for Cold Water Therapy 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.

I love that the physical setup of the Ice Barrel takes up very little space in your house or yard (or garage, in my preference), 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.

For those who are still leaning the DIY route, remember three big things you’ll be sacrificing: (1) premium, durable materials, (2) a handy, snug lid that allows you to re-use water, and (3) the drainage system. Again, this thing really is convenient.

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. And the drainage system makes washing and emptying the barrel easier, less tedious, and more hygienic.

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

Give it a shot and let me know what you think. 🙂