The fantasy of sitting in a wood-fired hot tub with warm water melting your problems away lives somewhere near that fantasy of moving to an A-frame cabin in Vermont. But installing a wood-fired hot tub in your non-forest backyard is still pretty good — it’s a simple way to slough off the nonsense that clogs everyday life. While electric hot tubs offer a similar soaking experience, wood-burning tubs are better suited for relaxation. A wood-fired hot tub can be satisfying for the same reason that baking bread, growing vegetables, and fixing up the house are: It indulges that instinct to tend to something, rewards practice and patience, and earns you the goodwill of everyone who gets to enjoy it. Would you rather listen to a motor rumbling or flames crackling? Would you rather smell recirculated chemicals or the smoke wafting up from a fire? That’s what we thought.
If that all sounds just a bit too romantic, there are also practical reasons to opt for a wood-fired tub. They won’t explode your electricity bill, they can operate without toxic chemicals, and they don’t break down much thanks to the lack of moving parts. Wood-fired hot tubs eschew electric heaters, pumps, and chemicals for old-fashioned wood and water you simply replace before it gets dirty. They’re available at a lot of different price points, and some are even portable. Best of all, it’s easy to have these delivered to your house (or cabin, or chalet) and install them yourself.
Not to be outdone by the Canadians, this Dutch-designed wood-burning hot tub uses an external firebox and coiled piping system to heat its 650 liters of water. The outer planks are made of Platowood Fraké, a sustainable and durable wood, and the interior shell is a simple fiberglass bowl sans built-in seats, as the gently sloped sides make it comfortable to sit on the floor of the tub. There's also an included wok, which makes it easy to use the fire pit to cook food outside sans grill.
This takes the cake as one of the best cedar hot tubs on the market. These tubs are made to order in British Columbia in two different sizes. The interior is a marine-grade aluminum container, with cedar planking lining the outside and a stainless steel stove that, because it abuts the water directly, distributes heat faster than external fireboxes. You can use fresh or saltwater in this beauty, and when it's time to change the water a quick scrub with equal parts water and vinegar will get it clean. It's also hard to beat the AlumiTub for ease of installation, as all you need to do is roll the aluminum lining onto a flat surface and install the wood slats and chimney.
If you like the idea of a wood-burning hot tub but not the wood-heavy aesthetic, this is the model for you. Modeled after the (much pricier) DutchTub, this acrylic tub is available in lots of bright colors. It's on the shallower side, at just 16 inches, so it's really best for solo soaks, but its small size and built-in handles do mean you can easily take this thing on the road. Water circulates naturally through the coil around the basket where the firewood is held, and you can raise or lower it to adjust the temperature, as a higher fire heats fewer coils. There's a built-in screen to protect bathers from ash, but you can still toast marshmallows with the ambient heat.
A series of interlocking pieces of 1½-inch-thick Canadian Red Cedar form the structure of this tub — no inner liner or outer adornment required. Adding to the simple look is stainless steel, which makes up the drain, the outer bands that hold it together like a barrel, and the stove that's built into the circular body of the tub itself. An internal stove means this tub can fit into tighter spots, but it's still big enough for three adults to enjoy comfortably.
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