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Saunas are believed to have originated around 2,000 B.C. in northern Europe, where they first were first used as shelters against the cold, and practical spaces like kitchens and even hospitals. Through the years, going to the sauna has evolved into a wellness practice, and for some, a daily ritual.
Today's sauna culture embraces both public and private, from the original Finnish-style sauna where water is tossed on rocks to produce steam, the Russian Banya, Turkish-style Hammam, and the infrared sauna, which generally runs at lower temperatures sans water or steam. Traditionally, wood was (and still is) used to generate heat in saunas, but today electric heaters are popular, as they warm up faster and are capable of reaching a more precise temperature.
While sitting sauna is a popular communal pastime around the globe, here in the US, sauna-goers prefer to take a steam at home, and today it's easier than ever to build, buy, and install your own indoor and outdoor sauna. But whatever your preferred method, there's a handful of sauna accessories that make the experience that much more relaxing and benefical
From hand-made backrests to a wood-splitting axe, use these essentials to elevate all parts of your sauna experience. And if you're new to sauna-ing, as it involves high temperatures, cold temperatures, and your body, make sure you take things slow and do the necessary research to stay safe.
The 11 Best Sauna Accessories
A sauna ladle and bucket are used to periodically pour water over sauna rocks for a puff of steam, a phenomenon called löyly in Finland. Not only does this produce the hot and humid atmosphere crucial for a relaxing experience, the vapor helps to clear the lungs, cleanse the skin, and lower blood pressure, among other health benefits. A wooden pail is traditionally used, as it's capable of handling high temperatures, but modern products like this Finn Style Rento Pisara Amber Sauna Bucket is also a solid choice.
Price: $270 SHOP NOW
While wearing a hat in a hot sauna room seems counterintuitive, sauna hats have long been used to regulate the body's temperature while sitting sauna. Wool or felt is most commonly used as its an excellent insulator and keeps the air around your head at a cooler temperature. Plus, it protects the hair from overdrying. There are endless designs from small-scale makers, so this is really where you can let some personal style shine. But you can't go wrong with a neutral earth-tone either.
Price: $65 SHOP NOW
For some pre and post-sauna rituals, a robe is ideal for lounging. Whether you have a home sauna, or frequent the public bathhouse, a robe will keep you warm and comfortable in between sessions. Onsen's Bath Robe features a relaxed fit, is made of breathable 100% cotton in a timeless waffle pattern, and comes in a variety of earth-tone colors. And if you're in colder climate, check out OFFHOURS Housecoat for an extra-cozy option.
Price: $195 SHOP NOW
Turkish cotton makes a light and absorbent textile, making it a popular choice for sauna-goers. A Turkish cotton towel is capable of soaking up steam (and sweat), but will also dry out quickly. Whether you're using it as a towel wrap, or a seat cover, the Cosmic Rainbow Towel from Bathing Culture is sure to bring a little color to the whole experience–plus it's made out of dead stock Turkish cotton for an earth-friendly twist. For a more classic, neutral colorway look to Quince Organic Turkish Waffle Towel.
Price: $75 SHOP NOW
If your back just can't take the hard wooden bench of a sauna, for some lumbar support, look no further than an ergonomic backrest. This particular one is handmade by Uncle Savola in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan out of pinewood, but backrests are found in a variety of wood and shapes. For maximum comfort, wooden headrests are also popular additions.
Price: $69 SHOP NOW
If you're the type that likes to keep track of time–or loses it–a sand timer may be for you. While many seasoned sauna-goers know just how long their body can take the heat, if you're still figuring out how long before your next cold plunge, a timer can help keep you on track. While a clock works here just as well, an old-school hourglass is a little less distracting from the meditative vibe of a sauna room.
Price: $32 SHOP NOW
For trekking back and forth from the aforementioned sauna, an indoor/outdoor slipper might be ideal. The Slip-On Rubber Slipper from Glerups comes with a natural rubber sole for a protective grip, while the upper is made entirely of wool, a winning combo for sauna-related activities—just be sure not to wear them inside!
Price: $135 SHOP NOW
Essential oil is an extra special addition to both infrared steam sauna, although some would say the benefits of its aromatherapy is necessary. An oil of your choice can be distilled in water and then set out in a small bowl to diffuse, or added directly to sauna rocks on the sauna heater. Eucalyptus is a traditional choice, and its uplifting scent is known to help alleviate a cough and brighten the mood, amoung other benefits.
Price: $7 SHOP NOW
Some believe preparing the sauna is just as meditative as a steam itself. For a wood-burning sauna, that means chopping wood, ya'll. The Goodland Wood Splitting Axe brings some style to your wood-chopping game with hand-forged 1050 carbon steel, a 28-inch hickory handle, and a leather sheath embossed with both the year it was made and its maker.
Price: $300 SHOP NOW
If you're in the market for a literal sauna, Backcountry Hut System recently released their System S. Lined with cedar and clad in painted steel, the sauna comfortably sits six adults, and with a covert sauna door off to the side, a large picture window gives everyone a good view. The modern cedar sauna arrives on site fully constructed and ready to hook up, but if you'd prefer to DIY, Den has you covered with their Sauna Kit.
Price: $33,150 SHOP NOW
Last but not least, nothing pairs better with heat than cold. Hence, beyond stepping outside in your skivvies, a cold plunge pool is the ultimate pairing with any sauna, whether it's a traditional sauna, barrel sauna, or steam room. A quick cold plunge after a sauna is known to increase circulation, benefit the heart, and most importantly, give the body and body quite the wake-up.
Price: $1,950 SHOP NOW