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Ice Barrel Review: Is This the Most Convenient Way to Try Cold Therapy?

Disclosure: We received courtesy product from Ice Barrel in exchange for our honest review only. If you click on a link and make a purchase, we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. Learn more.

Joe Niehaus
Expertise:

Style, Skincare, EDC, Fitness, Shoes

Joe is world traveler and brand fanatic. He's been writing about physical goods and the founders behind them for over four years. Beyond his work for The Adult Man, he's contributed to The Quality Edit, Business Insider, Men's Health, Travel + Leisure, and more. He's been around the block, taking his goods across the world to countries like China, Spain, Italy, Thailand, Dubai, France, and Mexico. Read full bio.


Last Updated: Apr 3, 2024
15 min read
Ice Barrel Review Man Doing Cold Therapy in Ice Barrel 400

Those aches and pains you feel in your muscles and joints don’t seem to go away, even when you take things a little slower at the gym. You need a better way to recover. And it has to be better than those sugary protein shakes.

Cold therapy is a growingly popular solution. And it’s backed by science that suggests that taking regular dips in an ice bath can help ease the aches. The Ice Barrel claims to be a portable, effective, and inexpensive version. In this teeth-chattering review, I put those claims to the test while figuring out if ice baths are all they’re cracked up to be.

An elevated ice bath
The Adult Man Image/Icon
Ice Barrel

Bottom line: I like the sturdy, space-saving design of the Ice Barrel. The insulation was effective at keeping water cold for days, and the included stool made it easy to use for people of different heights. At over $1,000, the pricing is a little tough to justify given simple features such as a thermometer are a paid extra and it lacks the convenience of built-in refrigeration.

Ratings: The Adult Man Image/Icon  Design The Adult Man Image/Icon  Quality of Materials The Adult Man Image/Icon  Value for Money The Adult Man Image/Icon  Craftsmanship The Adult Man Image/Icon  Customer Service
Pros:
  • Comes with handy additional gear such as a step stool, stand, and lid
  • Creates a dedicated cold plunge space
  • Big enough for most body types
  • Easy to move around when empty
  • Insulation is effective at maintaining cold temperatures
Cons:
  • You need to keep buying ice if you want to get proper use out of it
  • There’s no electronic chilling unit to keep your water cold
  • Broad users may find it a tight squeeze
  • Price seems high for a product with less features than competing ice baths at similar price points

Have you ever heard the urban myth about Walt Disney?

The rumor goes that Walt came up with a clever way to bring himself back from the dead.

He supposedly put himself on ice in a cryogenic metal cylinder, ready for the day when he could be revived.

If old Walt sought a deep freeze to preserve his body, there must be restorative effects for a living person, right? 

Today, cryonics remain science-fiction, but the concept of using the cold to heal is real. If you’ve combatted sore muscles with a cold shower, the soothing shock and subsequent euphoria might come to mind.

According to a literature review published in Frontiers in Physiology, cryotherapy relieves inflammatory muscle and joint issues in athletes.

That was enough for me to give ice baths a try. But if you’re like me and you’re tired of dragging ice bags up to the bathroom, you’ll need a better solution.

Could the Ice Barrel be the hassle-free, portable solution for cold plunges? I put my willpower to the test so you don’t have to.

What Is Ice Barrel?

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The minds behind Ice Barrel make their intentions clear: make cold therapy accessible to all.

The story starts in 2011 with amateur athlete Wyatt Ewing. Having fallen in love with cold exposure and its regenerative effects, he found himself tired of taking cold showers or filling his bathtub with ice.

He wanted something more convenient. Something portable, easy to use, and convenient.

Ewing put his thinking cap on and started working on what is now the Ice Barrel.

Ewing’s marketing positions the Ice Barrel as an “adventurous” choice designed for people who want to explore. But here’s the thing, anyone can benefit from cold exposure, so I’ll be focusing on the features and benefits to save you time and money.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Cold Therapy Recovery Tool from Ice Barrel

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The most important thing to consider before taking the plunge into the Ice Barrel is whether ice baths are right for you and whether you can afford to invest in them.

Do you want to submerge yourself in icy water and the discomfort that comes from it?

Assuming you do, location is your next consideration. The Ice Barrel may be smaller than some of its competitors, but it still needs a dedicated space.

There are also ongoing costs.

Ice Barrel doesn’t come with built-in cooling. There are no electronics at play here, so you’ll be spending money on ice and filling the barrel with water. Whether those ongoing costs are worth it is up to you.

Ice Barrel has a fairly standard return policy, accepting barrel returns within 30 days of delivery. Though they also charge a 30% restocking fee. International customers have even tougher terms, as they don’t accept international returns at the time of writing.

Defective barrels are a different story. You get a limited lifetime warranty to cover manufacturing defects.

Ice Barrel 400

I like the sturdy, space-saving design of the Ice Barrel. The insulation was effective at keeping water cold for days, and the included stool made it easy to use for people of different heights. At over $1,000, the pricing is a little tough to justify given simple features such as a thermometer are a paid extra and it lacks the convenience of built-in refrigeration.

Check Price

Ice Barrel Review

Unboxing

Ice Barrel in its white packaging at doorstep

The box the Ice Barrel arrives in isn’t particularly impressive. It’s white with the company’s branding on the side, so there’s nothing flashy going on.

I like that.

It suggests function over flash, which is what I’m looking for in cold therapy.

After cutting through some tape, I saw that there’s not much packing material to shield the barrel in transit. Mine arrived with no issues, and I feel that the barrel is tough enough to take a few minor knocks. But seeing some extra care taken would be nice.

One minor thing that happened is that a little water got trapped in the lid. I’m not sure if this was during transit or during a rain, but I would’ve thought that it was fully waterproof. It doesn’t affect performance, just a slight annoyance.

Apart from that, I found unboxing to be simple. The lid came out first, with the rest of the barrel and accessories following.

Ice Barrel with accessories staged in backyard

Its 55-pound weight feels sturdy, so I could lift it out using two hands without issue. If swinging around 55 pounds sounds cumbersome, you might need a helping hand.

You may appreciate the included stepping stool. It’s nothing extraordinary, just a molded plastic step made of the same material as the barrel. I like that it fits inside of the Ice Barrel for compact storage.

Image of Ice Barrel drawstring backpack

All told, unboxing was simple for an item this large, but I’d like to see a little more protection inside the package. The added cover, drawstring bag, and instructions were helpful as well.

Ice Barrel owners guide on table

Ease of Setup

There’s nothing complicated going on with the Ice Barrel when it comes to using it. 

Once it’s set up on its stand, you fill it with cold water, add some ice, and it’s ready to go. It’s just like any other ice bath with one key difference—the size.

Male model filling black Ice Barrel with hose

The Ice Barrel is 42 inches tall (about 3.5 feet) and 31 inches wide. It’s also shaped like a barrel (surprise!), which means the top opening is narrower than the midpoint. The opening is 25 inches wide, potentially making it tight for athletic body types.

Male model filling Ice Barrel up with ice

I’m about 20 inches wide from shoulder to shoulder, and fairly lean, so it’s fine for me. Though my brother in law (pictured) had a tighter fit. 

Its compact surface area means you don’t need a lot of dedicated space for it, which is great if you’re tight on room but still want a dedicated plunge zone.

Everything’s manual with the Ice Barrel, and that’s a drawback for me. 

Filling it required about 80 gallons of water, not including ice. Once the ice melted, I had to go through the whole process again. There aren’t any electrical components to keep the water cold. Whether that’s a good or bad thing depends on whether you value the simplicity of the setup.

Male model in ice bath

I found that with two 20-pound bags of ice, the Ice Barrel maintained a cold temperature for almost three days. The temperature in my area has hung around 80 degrees, so I was pleased with these results.

If you live in the northern hemisphere, you can expect the Ice Barrel to keep things chilly for even longer once fall and winter arrive.

I’ve heard claims that you can keep water in the barrel for up to a month before refilling, and Ice Barrel themselves say you can keep the water for between three and four weeks. That may be the case, but you’ll have to switch the ice out every few days.

Setting up the Ice Barrel was easy thanks to its simplicity. Even though I’d like the convenience of built-in refrigeration, the minimalist design means long-term maintenance will be painless. 

Using the Ice Barrel

As a six-foot tall man, I felt wary about fitting in the Ice Barrel. It all seems so compact. 

Besides a couple of near-scrapes with the rim as I climbed in, I found it comfortable enough. I had to pop a squat thanks to the tapered bottom. However, with the recommended maximum time to spend in an ice bath being 10 to 15 minutes, that wasn’t a problem for me. 

Either way, the freezing temperatures will make you forget about any other discomfort.

The stepping stool was a different story.

It’s fine for climbing into the Ice Barrel. Climbing out is more of an issue, though, and I found myself stepping onto the floor after unsuccessfully searching for the step with my foot.

Male model positioning step for Ice Barrel

That’s not a problem for me given that the barrel is half my size. Shorter users may have to practice a little (or find a bigger step) to climb out safely.

Be wary of cold-water shock. Get out of the Ice Barrel if you start breathing rapidly and don’t slow down after a minute or so.

My first few uses were only five minutes. Ice baths are extremely uncomfortable, so you’ll probably need to work your way up.

I was surprised at the mental clarity using the Ice Barrel gave me. You need to experience the post-dip high for yourself to really understand it.

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After each exposure, I felt on top of the world. My mind felt alert and exhilarated, ready to tackle anything the day would throw at me.

If you’re a fitness enthusiast, you know that proper recovery is a no-brainer.

I’ve been targeting my triceps and back in the gym—two muscle groups that are hard to target when stretching. The low temperatures provided whole-body relief to any fatigue that followed a tough workout.

Even after ten plunges, I stare at my Ice Barrel before each plunge. Every time I ask: Am I really about to do this?

Coercing myself into discomfort makes common chores I dread seem puny.

If ease of entry is a must, you might find the upright design of the Ice Barrel to be awkward, especially if you’re a shorter stature. If that doesn’t apply to you, the upright design is great if you’re looking for something that saves on space.

Portability

Portability is a major part of Ice Barrel’s marketing.

If it’s hard to move, it’s hard to use. At 55 pounds when empty, it’s light enough for most people to carry without issue. You could drag it, but that left scuff marks on the bottom after I tried. 

Obviously, it’s a different story when full of water.

The Ice Barrel weighs up to 750 pounds when full of water and ice. I couldn’t move it with water inside, so make sure you’re content with where you fill it.

The spout made it easy to drain during my first water change, but you can’t just release it anywhere.

Ice Barrel draining system in grass

80 gallons of water isn’t a measly puddle. Make sure you drain it somewhere that allows the water to run off, or else you’ll have a mud bath in your back yard. I’d stick with the day spa.

If you live in an apartment, you’re better off filling your bathtub with ice. Draining this amount of water is best done on lawns or driveways.

Up close photo of Ice Barrel draining opening

It’s as portable as a large chair. Yes, you can move it around by yourself once empty. But if you’re looking to take this with you on camping trips or weekends by the lake, you’ll need something larger than a sedan to transport it. 

Materials and Construction

If sustainable practices are part of your buying criteria, you’ll be thrilled that the Ice Barrel is made of recycled polyethylene. 

Polyethylene is a polymer, which can break down when exposed to UV rays directly. That degradation process releases free radicals. These unstable atoms can enter the body and damage cells, causing issues ranging from faster aging to illness.

Smartly, Ice Barrel applies a UV-resistant coating. If you plan on leaving it outside for extended periods of time, you can worry less about long-term breakdown. 

Upclose image of Ice Barrel logo

In terms of build, the barrel feels rock-solid, even with its light weight. Despite its premium price, I didn’t feel like I had to give this black tub a white glove treatment. 

Between the anti-UV treatment and sturdy construction, I’ll be telling my aches to “chill out” for many years to come.

Pricing

The Ice Barrel costs over $1,000, and you can tack an extra $100 on top for delivery. You get the barrel, lid, stand, step, and UV cover.

Frankly, I feel like the cost is quite high for what you’re getting. Let me remind you that the Ice Barrell contains no electronic components. It’s mostly plastic and insulating foam.

If you’ve explored the world of cold plunging on social media, you’ve noticed that many people get creative. I’ve seen feed troughs, garbage bins, and inflatable pools to create the same effect.

Ice Barrel with cover on in backyard

The maintenance kit, which costs over $120, covers most of the extras. You get soap, water stabilizers, Epsom salts, and a brush and net for cleaning. Each component of the maintenance kit is also sold separately.

I was a little frustrated to find Ice Barrel sells a thermometer separately. That feels like something that should be built into the barrel.

Apart from that, you’ll face ongoing costs with water and ice. Statista says that an average family of four using 100 gallons of water each spent $72.93 per month on water in 2019, which comes out to $.006 cents per gallon. At just under $.50 per refill and the cost of ice (a 10-pound bag costs $2 at Walmart), you have some ongoing “fees.”

Of course, that’ll be true for most cryotherapy products. Ice Barrel’s small stature also means you’ll pay less for refilling than you might with larger basins.

Tall male model filling Ice Barrel with hose in summer

Given that the Ice Barrel uses inexpensive materials with no complex technology, I think it’s pretty pricey for what it is. But if you’re looking for a specialized cold-therapy product, you may be able to justify the price.

What Do Other Reviewers Say About Ice Barrel?

Ice Barrel in backyard

Many verified buyers love the Ice Barrel for its simple setup and contribution to daily routines, highlighting its use for mental discipline and recovery benefits. The vertical design stands out as a space-saving feature

Keep in mind, Ice Barrel only shows 5-star reviews, so these positive remarks are only the tip of the iceberg. I sifted through reviews outside of their website to see what users didn’t like. 

On the flip side, some reviewers complained about the price, frequent need to change water, and lack of advanced insulation technology.

Others believe that there are more affordable DIY options that offer similar benefits, questioning the overall value of the product.

Ice Barrel Alternatives

Ice Barrel vs Cold Plunge

commercial Plunge next to Sauna

Compared to the Cold Plunge, the Ice Barrel is the more convenient option. It’s lighter, easier to move, and takes up far less space. 

But that convenience comes at a cost. The Cold Plunge’s traditional bath-like design makes laying and sitting possible, which is ideal for people who don’t want to stand and plunge.

Ice Barrel is less expensive. Costing several thousands of dollars, the Cold Plunge might as well come with its own penguin to keep you company. Ice Barrel also weighs less when full (750 pounds versus the Cold Plunge’s 1,000 pounds) and arrives at your doorstep quicker.

Cold Plunge makes up for that with built-in temperature controls, though it takes a long time to cool before use. Plus, it’s simply more comfortable for larger people than the Ice Barrel.

We’re always covering the latest recovery methods for guys. Check out our in-depth review of Cold Plunge.

Plunge

If you have the space to house it, Plunge is a worthy purchase for any level of athlete who takes their recovery as seriously as their training. The set-up is effortless, maintenance is minimal, and the mental and physical benefits are numerous. 

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Ice Barrel vs A Plain Old Rain Barrel

Ice beside Ice Barrel

The Ice Barrel gets straight to the point, but believe it or not, it gets simpler.

Like I said before, some shiver seekers have gotten crafty with their vessel of choice. Among their solutions are plain old rain barrels.

A trip to your local home improvement store will reveal that they’re inexpensive. If a grand is too much to get your chill on, a rain barrel will save you big bucks. 

You won’t be getting any fancy accessories, maybe a lid if you’re lucky. If you’re just dipping your toes into cryotherapy, who knows if you’ll need the extras, anyway?

For around a hundred dollars, you can get a perfectly fine bin to fill with ice and water. If you find that ice baths aren’t for you, a rain barrel is great for organizing yard tools. Sounds like a risk-free investment if you ask me.

My Overall Thoughts on Ice Barrel

What I Like

  • The easy setup of the Ice Barrel allowed me to use it right out of the box.
  • At only 55 lbs empty, it is easy to store when not in use.
  • The rigid plastic felt durable, and I never had to worry about serious damage.
  • The insulation is effective at keeping the water cool, which makes one batch of ice enough for multiple days depending on the temperature.

What I Don’t Like

  • A lack of built-in refrigeration means replacing water and ice more often.
  • The barrel could be roomier and might be too compact for bigger guys.
  • Accessories like filters and thermometers are not included.

Who Is Ice Barrel For?

Ice Barrel is ideal for those looking for a specialized ice bath that is simple and easy to use. If you’re looking to cool off without any complex features, the dialed-back design makes it great for using it in places without electricity such as campgrounds or backyards.

If you’re a fitness enthusiast without disposable income, the high cost might turn you away. If you don’t mind buying ice and using more water, the Ice Barrel is a solid option if you’ve exhausted other recovery methods and need something specifically designed for ice plunges.

Just be weary if you’re overweight or extremely muscular. The Ice Barrel may not be big enough to accommodate your frame.

The Verdict

There’s a lot to love about the Ice Barrel.

Besides price, I think Ice Barrel succeeds in designing an accessible cold plunge solution. Convenience, portability, and ease of use combine to make it a great jumping-off point for people who want to experiment with cold therapy without tricky plumbing or electronics.

I love to go camping with my friends during the summer, so I’m really excited about bringing my Ice Barrel along with me to calm my sore calves after a day of hiking. Since draining the basin is so easy, I can pack it into my SUV whenever I please. 

Ice Barrel isn’t the most affordable cold therapy unit out there, though. With similar products selling for under $500, the high cost means you have to commit to the routine, especially with the 30% restocking fee. And since it’s a bit narrow, I’m unsure if my stockier campmates can let off steam comfortably. 

Ice Barrel wants to make cold therapy easy for everybody. I think they prevail, but pricing and size could be improved to widen their customer base.

Ice Barrel 400

I like the sturdy, space-saving design of the Ice Barrel. The insulation was effective at keeping water cold for days, and the included stool made it easy to use for people of different heights. At over $1,000, the pricing is a little tough to justify given simple features such as a thermometer are a paid extra and it lacks the convenience of built-in refrigeration.

Check Price

FAQs

How long will ice last in the Ice Barrel?

I found my ice started to melt after a couple of days, but I tested the Ice Barrel during the summer. I’d suggest between one and three days before you have to restock the ice.

Does Ice Barrel work?

Absolutely. Ice Barrel keeps your water cold enough to get a really cold plunge and I came out feeling refreshed every time.

Is Ice Barrel good for you?

Ice Barrel is a convenient way for you to start cold therapy from your home. As long as you respect that you’re plunging into extremely cold water, it relieves aches and pains, calms inflammation, and may even boost your immune system.

How long should you stay in Ice Barrel?

Ice Barrel recommends using the barrel for between two and 10 minutes at a time. I agree with that range, as I started out managing about three minutes through gritted teeth before slowly working my way closer to 10. Pay attention to your body, specifically your breathing, and get out if you start feeling uncomfortable.

How do you clean the Ice Barrel?

You can clean the Ice Barrel using a standard detergent or soap, along with a brush, clean rag, and some elbow grease. Ice Barrel sells a maintenance kit that includes some cleaning supplies, though you’ll probably find that store-bought products are cheaper.