Ice Barrel Review: I Took The Plunge Into Cold Water Therapy

In this review I share my experience taking ice baths for cold water therapy at home, in order to speed up my post-run recovery process.

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All opinions are our own and never influenced by brands. If you buy through links, we may earn a commission.

Taking an ice bath, or cold plunge therapy, has long been popular among athletes such as runners, triathletes and members of pro sports teams, but not always that easy to do at home.

In recent years a wave of innovative new home ice bath options have become available, and the Ice Barrel, which – you guessed it – resembles a barrel, is one of the most popular due to how easy it is to use, how little space it takes up, and its competitive price point when compared to other at-home cold plunges on the market.

In this Ice Barrel review I explain the key features of the Ice Barrel, how to use it to effectively ‘cold plunge’, and the pros and cons compared to other options for cold water therapy.

If you’re curious about the benefits of immersing yourself in icy cold water, learn more about the benefits of ice baths for runners and see why the recovery benefits make having your own at-home ice bath solution, even more appealing!

For runners, this post-workout routine of taking a cold plunge provides a myriad of benefits, including reduction in muscle soreness, improved recovery, and metabolic enhancement.

But getting the right set-up for a rejuvenating ice bath can be challenging – enter the Ice Barrel, a product designed to provide an affordable, reliable solution for cold water therapy at home.

Let’s see if it lives up to its name and is a worthy recovery tool for runners and other athletes looking to recover faster after a run and improve their overall health, including increasing Heart Rate variability (that’s a good thing).


How cold water therapy in the Ice Barrel works

The Ice Barrel, available in a black or tan color, is more than just a container to hold cold water and should be looked at as a tool designed to tap into the remarkable benefits of cold water therapy by stimulating the Vagus nerve.

The Vagus nerve, part of the parasympathetic nervous system, is responsible for regulating abdominal organs and mood. Its activation can lead to stress reduction and induce relaxation.

With cold water therapy, the heart rate decreases, heart rate variability improves, and overall stress levels can decrease significantly over time.


4 features of the Ice Barrel that I really like

I have picked up on 4 noteworthy features of the Ice Barrel that make it a real contender for an effective at-home cold water therapy solution.

However, as with most of the products I review, it’s my job to find some features that just don’t work, or that could be improved, and I’ll of course be sharing these too in just a moment.

1. Effective Upright Design

The Ice Barrel 400 boasts a highly effective and unique upright design which means it takes up a small amount of floor space while still allowing for full submersion.

Unlike traditional tub-like structures, the Ice Barrel allows users to stay in a natural, comfortable, upright position, although you still need to crouch of course, as it’s not tall enough to stand up in and still be fully submerged.

The freedom to easily plunge as much of your body as you desire, even to the point of complete immersion, is a distinctive feature that’s surprisingly overlooked until you actually try different types of cold plunges for yourself.

The design of the Ice Barrel 400 helps to maximize the potential benefits of cold therapy while minimizing any possible discomfort.

The newer model Ice Barrel 300 is slightly different in that it is wider but not as tall; a couple of the benefits include a small seat to sit on inside and it’s insulated, meaning that water inside will stay colder for longer if you intend to use this product in hotter climates.

2. Ultra-Durable Material

The Ice Barrel is constructed in the USA from recycled plastic material, so it’s sustainable and very durable. The barrel’s extreme durability stems from the use of this robust material, which offers an excellent balance between strength and low weight.

Lightweight for it’s size (and compared to alternative products), yet highly resilient, the Ice Barrel is designed to withstand regular use without showing signs of wear and tear.

To further attest to its durability, it comes with a lifetime warranty, showcasing the brand’s confidence in the product’s longevity. And to be honest, you’d have to be trying really really hard to damage this thing!

3. Clean and Safe Material

Safety and hygiene are obviously of utmost importance in any wellness product, especially if you intend to reuse the water multiple times, which is how you should be using the Ice Barrel.

It would be very wasteful and time consuming to fill the barrel up every time you wanted to use it, plus, unless you’re filling it up with icy water, it takes time for the water’s temperature to drop enough after adding ice once it is filled.

The barrel itself is made from linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE), a non-toxic, BPA-free, medical-grade material.

This type of plastic is non-porous, which means it won’t absorb oils, toxins, or other potential contaminants and not only does this make the Ice Barrel safe to use, but it also makes it easy to clean.

Users can therefore enjoy their ice baths without worrying about cleanliness or contamination. It’s worth mentioning that the Ice Barrel 400 also comes with a lid and a uv and water resistant-cover to keep dirt out when you’re not using it.

I also have the Maintenance Kit that helps me keep the water and barrel clean. The kit includes the following:

  • 1 silicone cleaning brush
  • 1 stainless steel mesh net
  • 1-16oz bottle of cleaning soap
  • 1-6lb bag of eucalyptus Epsom salt
  • 1 shatter-resistant thermometer
  • 1-8oz bottle of water stabilizer

4. Compact and Portable

For any health and wellness product to seamlessly integrate into your routine, it should ideally be convenient and space-efficient, and this is especially true for many of whom do not have a whole lot of space in their backyard.

The Ice Barrel fits this bill here measuring 31 inches in diameter, and 42 inches tall, and with its compact and portable design; despite its ample capacity, the barrel only requires about 5 square feet of space and can support up to 750 pounds when filled with 80 gallons of water.

This minimal space requirement, coupled with its lightweight design, means that the Ice Barrel can be conveniently set up in nearly any suitable environment.

Whether you wish to use it indoors or outdoors, moving and positioning the Ice Barrel is an easy task, so long as it’s empty!

Some features that could be improved

1. No built-in temperature control

Despite its many pros, the Ice Barrel 400 lacks a built-in temperature control system, meaning you can’t connect a chiller to it to and keep it ice cold ready for use at a moment’s notice.

The newer Ice Barrel 300, however, is constructed with an inlet and outlet port in the back of it with the purpose of connecting a chiller.

With that in mind you do need to manually monitor the water’s temperature to ensure that it’s at the right level for cold therapy.

A built-in thermometer or cooling system could greatly simplify the process of achieving the desired water temperature but alas you will need to by the floating thermometer, which is sold as an additional accessory for $14, this is something that really should be included when you’re paying so much for the Ice Barrel itself.

2. Some may find it a challenge to get out of

Although I don’t personally have an issue getting out of the Ice Barrel, because I have abs of steel (joke), I can see how it could be a bit of a challenge to get out of due to the height of the barrel that you need to step, or hop over.

It would make a lot of sense for there to be a small built-in step on the inside as well as the outside step (which is included in the package).

This however is another thing that the Ice Barrel 300 fixes because it’s not as tall, making it much easier to step in and out of.


My experience using the Ice Barrel to cold plunge

Embarking on the journey of cold water immersion, I welcomed the Ice Barrel 400 into my daily routine with open arms – or should I say, an open mind.

I have read so much about the importance of breathing (the Breathe book By James Nestor is a real mind opener by the way), and cold plunge therapy like the Wim Hof Method (which also incorporates breathing), that I was so excited to finally start my journey into this somewhat underground world.

First Impressions of stepping into the Ice Barrel

When first using the Ice Barrel, I was struck by its robustness considering its upright design, I guess the steady stand and all the weight of the water inside really helps keep it grounded.

One thing to note is that you won’t need to fill it up all the way with water as you’ll displace a lot of it due to your body’s volume when submerged, and you’ll end up losing all that precious ice you put in to help cool the water down.

The cold plunge experience

The first plunge was a shock to the system – a good shock, though, especially seeing as there was a heatwave that week in California.

The water was bone-chillingly cold, and it took a moment to acclimatize to this unfamiliar sensation. I could have made the water a lot colder for my first session however, the external heat was melting the ice I had so quickly that it became a real challenge to get it super cold.

If you’re wondering how much ice to add, that really depends on how cold you want to make the water, and how quickly you want to get it there. It also helps maintain a cold temperature for longer.

The recommended temperature for an ice bath is 40-55F, and the barrel can keep water cold for up to 3 days depending on the external air temperature.

The barrel was spacious enough for me to comfortably submerge myself up to my shoulders, allowing maximum skin exposure to the icy water, which is a key factor in achieving optimal benefits from cold therapy.

The upright design allowed me to stay in a natural position and It’s even possible to fully submerge.

The physical experience

After the initial shock subsided, a feeling of calmness eventually washed over me. It’s amazing how cold water can end up not feeling cold with the right mind game engaged.

There was a sense of relief in my muscles, especially those that had been particularly sore from my run earlier in the day. I could feel the icy water working its magic, constricting the blood vessels and reducing inflammation.

My first plunge lasted about 5 minutes, and have since been steadily increasing that number to improve my resilience.

It’s recommended to stay in an ice bath for 2-10 minutes, and it is best to build resistance over time. Staying in too long than is comfortable for you personally can expose you to risk of an overly low body temperature and hypothermia – so please be careful and sensible when cold plunging.

As I stepped out of the Ice Barrel, I felt a rush of endorphins, a commonly reported sensation post-cold water immersion, and it’s easy to understand why cold therapy has been credited with mood enhancement and improved mental clarity if you’re willing to open your mind and give it a try.

The mental journey

Incorporating the Ice Barrel into my routine hasn’t just present physical benefits; the mental journey is just as impactful – and by the way I am by no means an expert yet; I’m still very much at the beginning of my Ice Bath training, ad loving every minute of it.

The initial resistance I felt each time I prepared to plunge into the freezing water was eventually replaced by anticipation and a kind of serenity.

The process of submerging myself in the cold water also became a lesson in mindfulness, and It compelled me to be fully present in the moment, focusing on my breath and my body’s responses.

I found this to be a particularly effective form of meditation, adding to the mental health benefits of cold water immersion.

Over time, I noticed improvements in my muscle recovery times and a marked decrease in the muscle soreness I usually experienced after intense workouts.

These improvements suggest that regular cold water immersion is enhancing my body’s natural healing process.

It’s no surprise then that many studies, such as the one conducted by Bleakley et al, have pointed out cold water immersion’s effectiveness in reducing delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS.

Summary and where to buy the Ice Barrel

Despite the mentioned drawbacks, such as the need for manual filling and draining and the absence of a built-in temperature control, the Ice Barrel 400 still makes a compelling case for itself as a practical, efficient, relatively affordable, and enjoyable tool for cold water therapy.

For me, the Ice Barrel experience continues to be transformative, bringing both physical benefits and valuable mental resilience. It’s a practice I’ll continue, exploring further the icy depths of this intriguing wellness practice.

The Ice Barrel’s unique combination of simplicity and efficiency makes it a worthy choice for anyone interested in introducing the power of cold therapy into their daily routine, without breaking the bank (too much).

Oh yes, I almost forgot to mention it costs whopping $1199.99 but time will tell just how beneficial it becomes to my run recovery and training routine.


Review Summary

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Ice Barrel 400 Photo Gallery

Alastair
Alastairhttps://www.trailandkale.com
As the founder of Trail & Kale, and seasoned marathoner & ultrarunner, Alastair loves bringing our readers independent running shoe reviews and gear insights to help you run your best. Learn more about Trail & Kale here.

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