The Ultimate Relaxation that is the Alaskan Sauna

This summer, ManMade is organizing a Alaskan adventure for our community, where we'll gather for DIY workshops and day trips to some of the most beautiful places in North America. In homage of the trip, each of our team members will be reflecting on their own impressions of Alaska.  

The sauna, correctly pronounced “sow – nah,” is a Finnish word that means “bath” or “bathhouse.” They are believed to have been around for over 2000 years. (!) The process is quite simple, you build a fire to heat the Sauna room to 165-190° F and then sit in the room for approximately 20 minutes.  Then you cool down by taking a cold plunge in a lake.  Then repeat, at least two-four times.  Of course, that is over simplifying the process, but there are hundreds of articles and videos out there how to properly prepare and enjoy the Sauna.  So this article is geared more towards the Alaskan experience of the Sauna.

Panorama shot

Last summer, I had the opportunity to spend a week in Seward, Alaska for a friend’s wedding.  We stayed in cabins just outside of Seward and we took advantage of the Sauna almost every night.  If you’re lucky enough to travel up to Alaska with ManMade, you have to take a Sauna while you’re there.

Sauna - inside

Here is the simple process that we followed after talking with the cabin owner.

  1. Start the fire at least an hour before you want to take your Sauna.  There are plenty of places that have electric or infrared Saunas, but the wood fire Sauna is the real deal and really incorporates all your senses.  You can smell and almost taste the smoke and wood burning, you get the visual of the bright glow of the fire, you can feel the warmth in the room and you can hear the fire crackling.  You want your Sauna to be approximately 165-190 degrees Fahrenheit.  It’s always easier to cool it down than heat it up so make sure you have the temperature where you want it before you start your Sauna.
  2. Sit in the Sauna for 20 +/- minutes.  This will clearly be based on your tolerance. For many beginners, you may want to start at a lower temperature or a shorter period of time.  The first round is considered your “dry round” and you shouldn’t add any water to the heated stones in the Sauna.  It’s good advice to stay well hydrated while you Sauna because of the extreme heat and sweat loss (remember that you’re in Alaska and beer is 95% water – just be smart about it).
  3. Jump in the lake and completely submerge yourself into the water.  Our Sauna was a short walk to Kenai Lake.  The water is between 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer time so it will be a big shock to your system. Power through that and make sure you get your whole body in the water.
  4. Get out of the lake, sit on the porch and rehydrate.  Again, this is a beverage of your choice!  Continue rehydrating until you get goosebumps.  When the cabin owner first told me about this, I thought it would happen almost immediately after getting out of the water.  The water was extremely cold and the air temperature was only around 50 degrees Fahrenheit.  However, it took several minutes before I got goosebumps.
  5. Start the process back over again.  The next time in the Sauna will be a “wet round” since everyone participating just came back from the lake.  There might be a bit more steam in the Sauna from the moisture and the fire will be going for that additional time so it’s possible that it could be even hotter the during the wet rounds.
  6. Repeat the process for a total of three times.  The later rounds are usually when the best conversations with friends are had. I promise you won’t regret it! 

Alaska 2

Alaska is so exquisitely beautiful.  If it’s your first time there, you will be in awe of the natural landscape and breathtaking views. Taking a Sauna isn’t exclusive to Alaska, but if you have a chance to go on the ManMade trip, I highly recommend giving it a shot.  Enjoy!

Ready to take on Alaska with ManMade? There's a spot for you, and the trip is ON SALE now. Join us.