DIY Backcountry Sauna | Canoeroots Magazine | Rapid Media
DIY Sauna Photo: Dave Quinn

The four steps and four rules to enjoying a canoe tripping sauna

The sauna (sow-na), or sweat, is a traditional pastime used for thousands of years. A sauna generally involves creating hot steam in a closed space by pouring water on a super-heated surface, and allowing the moist heat to relax muscles, ease the mind and renew your spirit. Whipping your friends with juniper boughs and leaping repeatedly into icy water are optional.

A sauna is an excellent way to pass a weather-bound day, while relaxing and getting clean in the bargain. After all, generations of First Nations people and Fins can’t be wrong.

Step 1: Vision

Use driftwood or fresh-cut green boughs to create the sauna structure. Note: only use living trees if they are in the process of being washed away—do not cut trees from the forest. Drive the thick ends into the sand or block them with stones. Bend in and tie the thin ends together to form a small structure. The smaller the hotter!

Step 2: Shelter

Drape a large, four-by-four-metre tarp over the structure and seal the edges with sand, rocks or driftwood.

Step 3: Rock and roll

Collect grapefruit-sized or smaller stones for the sauna. Avoid softer, lighter, weathered and odourous rock and be sure to stay away from rocks that have been soaking in water, as they are more likely to explode. Heat 10 to 20 stones for at least half an hour in a fi re away from the sauna. Then move them carefully into the centre of the sauna using a cooking pot. Add more rocks to the fi re as replacements for those cooling in the sauna.

Step 4: Bliss

Seal yourself into the sauna. Douse hot rocks with water. Ahhhhh…


Sauna Rules:

1. Stay hydrated—drink at least a cup (250mL) of water every 15 minutes.

2. Exit sauna to cool down every 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Try a cold-water dunk at least once!

4. Clothing optional. 


This article first appeared in Canoeroots and Family Camping, Late Summer 2009 issue. For more expert tips, download our free iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch App or Android App or read it here.

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