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Ice Bath Barrel vs. Portable Ice Bath. What’s the Difference?

ice bath barrel ice lake swim

The Ice Bath Barrel can often be confused with a Portable Ice Bath. The Barrel is not so portable, as it tends to be made out of hardened plastic, or oak and the hardened PVC portable ice baths are, lighter, offering options to move it from one location to another.

Both, essentially offer the same benefits of cold water therapy, so it comes down to personal preference, aesthetics and how serious you are with plunging.

Ice Bath Barrels

Ice Barrels are generally sold in the US and are effective at keeping the water cool. There are a variety of options on the market to choose from, so shop around and find one that suits your style.

You could consider contacting your local vineyard and seeing if they have any wine barrels that they don’t use anymore. It might be cheap enough to give ice bathing a try. If you don’t like it, chop it in half and you have two planters you can put in the garden.

We’ve seen some cool oak wine barrels get set up as an ice bath though so it could be a nice addition to the outside deck area and a good talking point when friends come over. If you make a plywood lid, it can double up as a tall drinks table. You may also get a nice hint of Pinot Noir seeping out of the wood.

Pros and Cons of Ice Bath Barrels.


  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Can come in a variety of colours (if plastic)
  • Generally comes with matching steps and lids
  • Comes with taps at the bottom to drain dirty water.
  • Could be adapted to accommodate chillers


  • Not overly portable
  • Hard to clean given the size and shape
  • Could be a challenge to get in and out of
  • Expensive, if you lose interest
  • Hard to resell given the shipping costs

The Ice Barrels can have a narrower entry point at the top, given their natural pear-shaped structure so at times, if you are not so flexible, or that strong, you may have a challenge entering and getting out of the barrel.

Portable Ice Baths

Ice Baths NZ

These types of ice baths offer a low-cost entry point into cold water therapy.

Be mindful though, if it’s anything like a New Year’s resolution gym membership, it may sit in the corner and be better used to keep your beer cold for the Summer BBQs. But with the low entry cost, it’s not too much of a shock to the wallet when you pack up and chuck in the bin.

One of the known benefits of Portable ice baths is they are generally easier to move around (when empty of course) this is because of the lightweight material that is used to manufacture them. The support legs can be removed and packed into a bag.

We’ve found that athletes, in particular, like to take their cold therapy routine to track meets and events to soak afterwards which helps with decreasing inflammation and improving muscle recovery.

Other ice bath enthusiasts tend to take their ice baths with them on holiday, they can pack up and get put in a carry bag and store in the car easily.

How Heavy Are Ice Bath Barrels?

One of the reasons you can find Ice bath barrels in New Zealand or Australia is they are produced in the US and weigh over 60kg, the shipping is expensive. The wooden oak barrels can weigh more than 90kg.

It generally costs more to ship the barrel down from the US than it costs to buy so opting for the Oak wine barrel at your local vineyard, may be a better solution.

Don’t expect to be able to roll them around either, they are hard to maneuver and often quite dangerous.

Bear in mind, that if you choose the Wooden Oak Barrel, you will have a lot of modifications to consider if you were to purchase one.

Once you fill the wine barrel up with water and you’ve had a month of plunging, you will need to drain, clean and replace it with new water.

If you have not modified the ice bath barrel to include a tap at the bottom, then you have to bucket the water out as it’ll be nearly impossible to tip over, given the weight. Trust me, you’ll only do this once.

But they can look a sharp, attractive addition to your outdoor space.

oak barrel

Weigh up to odds when you’re purchasing an ice bath, they can be a great hack to improving mood, recovering from sport, and being able to sleep better. Plus, there is supporting evidence to suggest up to 3 times increase in dopamine levels that last up to 6 hours.

So whether it’s a cold shower, ice bath barrel, or the inexpensive portable options. It’s worthwhile checking out what all the hoo-hah is about.


  • Dale Folland

    Dale is a seasoned Nutritionist with over two decades of experience in the health and wellness industry. His expertise has been sought after by elite groups such as NZ SAS Soldiers and NZ Fire Service, where he has contributed to optimising their performance and well-being. Dale is also a renowned speaker and educator and his work has been recognised in publications like the Daily Mail and various US media outlets.

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