February 21, 2023
I admit it. I have a tendency to get interested in most of the latest biohacks, cool new gadget, or fringe treatments that promise better body and brain optimization.
I've always been keyed into such trends, and always been a curious student of the human body and brain. It's most of what I've studied up on for the past twenty years, starting from reading nutrition and exercise journals in high school, getting a Master's degree in exercise science and biomechanics from University of Idaho and continuing on ever since.
However, what I want to make clear is that biohacking is not, despite common advice, about “overclocking the body” with oodles of different technology, devices, and data. So you'll never find me claiming that there is any sort of gear that is mandatory when establishing a daily routine that optimizes your health and prevents disease.
Biohacking is, at its core, about giving your body what it needs to operate as it should, but often accelerating or modifying that process for the better using smart science, cool tools, and self-quantification to measure and manage. Nature provides the fundamentals of what you need, and biohacking is the icing on the cake, so to speak. In fact, when I wrote an article outlining my 12 primary principles for “perfect” health (“12 Perfect Health Fundamentals: My Primary “Principles” For Optimizing Your Lifespan & Healthspan.”, not a single principle on the list needed to be plugged in or drain your personal pocketbook. Daily practices such as walking, breathwork, getting cold, getting hot, grounding, sunlight exposure, and prayer are free, available at any time, and require no special equipment.
Cold thermogenesis is one of those health fundamentals, and as I said in that Principles article, as long as you have a shower, or a cold river or lake or ocean nearby, or a bathtub you can dump some gas station purchased or freezer harvested ice into, you can start right away at no cost. Over the past several years, I've covered cold thermogenesis in-depth, including on the following podcasts and in the following articles:
- How You Can Use Cold Thermogenesis To Perform Like Lance Armstrong And Michael Phelps.
- The Giant Cold Thermogenesis Episode: Everything You Need To Know About Ice Baths, Cold Therapy, How Cold, How Long & Much More With Morozko Forge Cold Bath Experts!
- Tips For Burning More Fat With Cold Thermogenesis (And Why Icing Really Does Work).
- A Crazy Biohacking Adventure With Luke Storey & Ben Greenfield: Smart Drugs, Sleep Hacking, Infrared Light, Cold Pools & Beyond!
- The Unfrozen Caveman Runner: How To Get A “Free” Endurance Workout & Blast Sprints On A Norepinephrine High From Cold Water Exposure.
- Conquer The Cold And Get Quantum Leaps In Performance In This Exclusive Interview With The Amazing Iceman Wim Hof.
- The Iceman Returns: Wim Hof On Climbing Frigid Mountains In Underwear, Eating Only Once A Day, Activating Hormones With Breathing & More.
So, prior to 2023, I had no shortage of information out there on cold thermogenesis, but since I continue to get many, many questions about it, and because regular cold exposure has dramatically improved my mood, recovery, and more, I decided it was time to publish a comprehensive three-part article series that lays out everything you need to know. There are many, many proven health benefits of cold exposure, including the five that I covered in the first article. In the second article, I shared my top five strategies to help you get the most out of your own cold thermogenesis practice so that you too can enjoy its beneficial effects. Plus, I gave a glimpse into what works best for me – my personal routine that I've tailored over the years. You can read those articles here:
- The Ultimate Guide To Cold Thermogenesis, Part 1: 5 “Cool” Health Benefits Of Cold Exposure.
- The Ultimate Guide To Cold Thermogenesis, Part 2: How To Do Cold Thermogenesis The Right Way, Supplements For Better Results & My Top 5 Cold Therapy Tips.
Now it's time for what may be the most fun part…home cold tub setups.
Yes, this is more involved than cracking a stack of ice trays into your tub. To receive the benefits of cold exposure, you’ll have to get the tub pretty darn cold, which requires more careful planning. The good news is that there is a range of options for home cold tubs, from DIY hacks to more sophisticated, done-for-you models. While I’ve written about my home setup in the past, as technology evolves and the benefits of cold thermogenesis are more widely known, I’ve changed my design and routine, so I wanted to bring you up to date.
Get ready to dive in, pun intended…
5 Compelling & Helpful Home Cold Tub Setup Examples
So, are you convinced yet that the health benefits of cold exposure are well worth the brief discomfort?
If the answer is yes, you can certainly start by incorporating an icy blast at the end of your shower. If you really want to “jump in,” though, I highly recommend considering a cold tub setup at home.
A daily dip into a cold tub is one of the quickest, most effective ways to improve your health. You only need to submerge yourself for 10-20 minutes (don’t worry, you can work up to that) to improve your mood, lower your risk of disease, strengthen your immunity, and plenty more.
As I continue to study and technology improves, my own cold tub setup has changed significantly. In fact, the primary cold tub that I use now (the Morozko Forge, which I talk about later) was not even on the market when I released my first “ultimate guide” to cold thermogenesis.
In this article, I’ll go through four different cold tub setups, from lower-cost DIY tubs to fancier models. If you do decide to get yourself a home cold tub, keep in mind that as long as the water is cold enough, the rest of the details are up to you. There are plenty of “cool” options out there to accommodate your budget and preferences.
1. The Budget Freezer Hack
Let's begin with my friend Luke Storey (I first appeared on his website in the podcast Biohacking The Ultimate Home,) and we've done several podcasts since, including:
- Battle Of Biohacks: The Ben Greenfield Home Invasion #249
- A Crazy Biohacking Adventure With Luke Storey & Ben Greenfield: Smart Drugs, Sleep Hacking, Infrared Light, Cold Pools & Beyond!
- Two Nerdy Biohackers Reveal Their Secrets To Spiritual Health, Life Optimization, Plant Medicines, Rites Of Passage, Mental Models & Much More!
Luke is a fellow biohacker, fashion guru, fringe wellness enthusiast, and curious and knowledgeable guy. When I wrote my book Boundless, Luke was kind enough to give me the low-down on his entire budget-friendly (less than $1,000) ice bath setup that uses a department store freezer.
For a ton of folks, this will be far more affordable compared to spending $5,000-$35,000 for a professional sport or spa version of a fancy cold tub or cryotherapy chamber. Please know that Luke now, like me, has the handy and super chilly Morozko Forge cold tub, which I’ll fill you in on next. Still, the following setup is a great alternative if you’re a DIYer on a limited budget.
Step 1: Buy a 19.8 cubic feet Ice Bath Freezer. This size is big enough for two normal-sized humans to sit in at once (barely), or plenty of room for one person with legs extended. The minimum size for me to extend my legs fully is 17.5 cubic feet (I’m 6’2”). You can always go to Sears and jump in a few different-size freezers to find the one you want (prepare to get some curious glances). I like the Frigidaire unit because it comes with casters, which makes it mobile, and that can be very handy when it comes to emptying the water to change it. You might want to consider throwing down an extra $150 for an extended warranty, especially since you’re not using the equipment as it was designed. That said, mine’s been going strong for over a year, with zero issues.
Step 2: Fill the freezer up to around 5-8 inches from the top with water, using a garden hose chlorine filter. Next, plug the freezer in and turn it up to the max cold. Depending on your outside temperature, and the desired water temperature, it will take 36-72 hours for the water inside the freezer to become cold.
Step 3: Pour 1/2 cup of 35% food-grade hydrogen peroxide into the water. This will prevent or at least slow bacterial growth. Use as often and as much as needed, preferably each time you bathe. Do not use salt, as it will promote rust.
Step 4: Once the water has reached the desired temperature (mine is 39° Fahrenheit), plug the power cable of the freezer into a grounded 24-hour plug-in mechanical timer so that the freezer turns on approximately 2-4 hours per night when it is not being used. You’ll have to find a sweet spot right where the water stays cold but doesn’t freeze over. You can monitor your water temp to find the correct timer setting using a laser thermometer.
Step 5: Plug a breaker-safe grounding stake into any nearby ground (preferably wet), and drop the opposite end alligator clip into the tub. This will keep the water grounded, which confers additional health benefits. Furthermore, natural bodies of water are never ungrounded, and I find ice baths to be much more calming when grounded. To prevent lightning strike electricity surges, make sure you use a grounding cable with a breaker.
Step 6: Depending on the frequency of use, how sweaty you are, and how many users are getting into the water regularly, you will need to change the water in the tub every 1-2 weeks. You’ll know when it’s time to change it by the swampy smell once bacteria starts to grow. To change the water, simply pull the drain plug out on the bottom corner of the unit, empty all the water, clean the tub, then refill it with filtered water. If you shower off sweat from workouts or saunas before getting into the bath, your water will last longer.
Step 7 (important!): Always unplug the power from the unit when you’re using it. It’s extremely unlikely that there is any danger in using the unit plugged in, but it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to mixing water and electricity. Trust me, you do not want to create a “toaster oven in the bathtub” effect.
- If you ever see rust forming inside the tub on the seams, empty and dry the inside of the tub and apply clear silicone sealant to the affected seams to prevent future oxidation.
- To extend clean water life, keep a doormat next to the tub so that users can wipe their feet before entering.
- If you want a less ugly tub, consider building a wood encasement around the freezer. Alternatively, you could have the tub professionally painted at an auto body shop to blend into the color palette of the setting. Please note that if you do elect to build an encasement, your water will likely freeze much faster, and this will, of course, affect the settings of your outlet timer.
Here's a pic of the complete setup:
2. Morozko Forge
When my friend Adrienne Jezick was in her early 30s, her entire body started to malfunction. Foods she had eaten for her entire life gave her allergic reactions, her inflammation went through the roof, and she rapidly gained 50 pounds.
The diagnoses were several autoimmune conditions, but the story didn’t sit right with Adrienne or her partner Jason Stauffer.
This health crisis led Adrienne and Jason to start to investigate alternative methods of healing, during which time they discovered the book Antifragile. In it, author Nassim Taleb talks about hormetic stress response – basically, the beneficial effects of mild stress, such as cold exposure, to the body – as a means to antifragility. This led to Jason hopping into his first ice bath in 2017. That dip was uncomfortable and stressful but felt like it reset his body, and Jason and Adrienne started to research and play around with cold tub setups.
They started with an outdoor freezer that Jason would spend an hour and a half each night filling up with ice made in big empty containers. That effort would only get them one ice bath a week. Still, it was enough to turn Adrienne’s health around, relieving her symptoms and, as a result changing her mindset. They started to look online for a setup that would allow them to cold plunge daily once they were hooked. Like Luke Storey, what they found was marketed to more commercial organizations, such as sports teams and physical rehab centers. They were also prohibitively costly.
So Jason and Adrienne teamed up with their business partner, Tom Seager, a research scientist and engineering professor at ASU. They built a prototype, tweaked it, and Morozko Forge was born. (For even more detail about their fascinating story, you can listen to my podcast with Adrienne and Jason.)
The Morozko Forge is the first ice bath in the world to make its own ice and to maintain incredibly effective and potent cold temperatures even when it's 100+°F outside. Equipped with a stainless steel tub designed for indoor or outdoor use, the Morozko Forge also uses ozone and microfiltration to maintain crystal-clear waters without harsh chemicals. Ozone is more powerful than chlorine and bromine, and safer because it consists only of pure oxygen. It’s terrific for cleaning cold water (and in fact is used in the most advanced drinking water treatment plants in the world). The Morozko Forge allows you to maintain your desired temperature, so you can start at 55°F and work your way down to 33°F (or not). While the Morozko Forge is not cheap, running around $12,000, it's an investment that will pay dividends with your health, and it also includes a two- and up to five-year warranty.
If you are interested in getting yourself a Morozko Forge, Jason and Adrienne have extended a pretty sweet discount. You can use the code BENFORGE for $150 off the retail price of the COLD and FILTERED Forge, and the code BOUNDLESS to receive a $500 discount on the PRISM Forge. Click here to learn more.
3. Ice Barrel
Earlier last year, I got hooked up with an Ice Barrel, which is now on my back patio.
While it is, at a basic level, a fancy barrel for icy water without any extra tech or gadgets, this is a well-built, durable, and decently insulated tool for cold plunging at home, and is also much more affordable than most of the fancier setups, while more aesthetically pleasing than just buying a cattle trough from your local feed store and filling it with ice.
Created with a lightweight design and durable features, the Ice Barrel is compact and portable; what's more, it comes with a lid and a stand to ensure an effortless setup. With the capability of holding a whopping 105 gallons of water and an ingeniously designed drainage system, the Ice Barrel allows for an upright position even at my height.
The product of years of research and development, the Ice Barrel is designed for endurance. Using advanced rotomolding technology, it provides an incredibly strong construction that ensures the barrel lasts for many years. The process used also gives each individual edge a smooth finish, further boosting durability so you don't have to worry about breakdowns or damage due to its use over time. It's crafted from high-quality recycled materials and reinforced with LLDPE – a lightweight non-toxic plastic commonly found in food and medical-grade applications. In addition, the sleek exterior of the barrel is further bolstered by its resilient UV cover.
Environment plays a major role in the amount of ice needed to maintain the water temperature in the barrel. For areas with more temperate climates, like Texas, Arizona, and Florida, changing seasons bring an influx of heat that often requires adding more ice. If you live up north, you won't need as much due to colder temperatures even during the summer months. Many people won't need ice at all in the winter.
The low upkeep of the Ice Barrel is a major benefit – all you need to do is change out its water every month or so for optimal function. You can enhance water cleanliness by using a stabilizer or treatment such as hydrogen peroxide, chlorine, or UV purifier. Moreover, you just use soap and detergent to give it a light cleaning every now and then. If you think Ice Barrel could be a good fit for you, you can get $125 off with code BEN at this link.
4. Northern Lights Cold Plunge
Although perhaps more well-known for his celebrity status in the music industry, producer Rick Rubin who I interviewed in this podcast is quite the health enthusiast and biohacker himself.
After lounging in Rick’s beautiful, highly effective luxury chiller system in the backyard of his Kauai beach house, I can attest to the fact that this is indeed the “Cadillac” of cold thermogenesis setups (although admittedly, this was before some of the “done-for-you” sexy setups had yet to be designed).
Rick's system was custom-built with components from a Belgium-based company called Northern Lights Hot Tubs & Saunas. Founded in 1999, the company has earned a strong reputation worldwide for top-of-the-line tubs and outstanding customer service.
One of the features that sets Northern Lights apart from other companies is their focus on using only the highest quality materials and components in their products. The hot tubs, cold tubs, and saunas are handcrafted using the finest Western Red Cedar wood to ensure durability and reliability for many years (and it's gorgeous). What also sets Northern Lights apart is its extensive range of customization options. You can work directly with a representative from the company to design a cold tub that fits your location, desired size, chilling system, and more.
Unlike Luke Storey's budget freezer hack, you’ll need the services of a professional contractor or builder to tackle this project – and a fairly hefty budget – but the end result is a beautiful, premium-grade cold plunge personalized to your preferences. I'd contact Northern Lights if you want the setup similar to Rick's, and you should also know that in my book Boundless I have the full specs for Rick's exact design.
5. Aquatic Fitness Endless Pool
After foregoing the painstaking process of swimming through ice chunks in the Spokane river, I took the admittedly elaborate and expensive step of hiring a crane to drop a 19-foot “Aquatic Fitness” endless swimming pool in my water-void backyard forest, then I just completely disabled the heater in the pool, which gives me a big swimming pool year round that averages about 40-50 degrees in the fall and winter and 50-60 degrees in the spring and summer.
In the cool, shady conditions of the Inland Northwest, the pool remains at a chilly enough temperature year-round, although in the more warm seasons, I do occasionally swing by the convenience store for a few big bags of ice to toss in.
A nice benefit of the endless pool is that it's roomy enough to fit several people, so I can host plunge parties with friends. Another advantage of my setup? The ability to simultaneously freeze your butt off and swim laps – the ultimate calorie-burning and metabolism-boosting adventure. For us bone-chilling masochists, that's a match made in heaven. Here are a few photos of this setup:
Cold Showerhead Adapters
I'll give a quick head nod to the fact that there have, at various times in the past, been showerhead adapters that can be outfitted to most showers for decreasing the temperature of the water below what your normal house water temperature would be.
One such example is the Glacial Showerhead, which had what appears to be a decent Kickstarter campaign here, but in my own research, it now appears to be defunct and unavailable. Feel free to comment in the comment section of this article if you know where to get one, or if you know of a decent alternative that's actually available.
Alternatively, there is this:
This video demonstrates how to create a system that delivers 45F (7C) water to a shower. It involves a dorm refrigerator, plate chiller, utility submersible pump, pond liner, air switch, and plumbing fittings. This video, in particular, is helpful as it includes mistakes made so you know what to avoid when making your own. The total cost of this project is estimated to be between $270 to $350.
I've always thought that it could also be possible to just use a stainless steel bucket, fill it with ice, and hang it on your showerhead pipe or fitting so that the water pours through the ice before it goes over your head, but I haven't experimented with that too much. But feel free to jump into the discussion below and comment if you have, or if you have your own cold shower modification MacGyverin' tips to add.
Regular exposure to cold temperatures has a plethora of health benefits, five of which I covered in Part 1.
Then, in Part 2, I delivered my time-tested recommendations as to how you can incorporate thermogenesis into your routine.
Now, here's my last standalone guidance that may be particularly useful if you live in a colder climate. When the temperatures drop, strip down to less clothing than you'd normally wear and go out and take a walk. Just be sure to keep your vital regions warm – meaning your hands, feet, and genitals – and you'll get the benefits of a cryotherapy chamber with air rather than water. (Don't worry about the neighbors; they've probably seen worse.)
So, if you’re ready to take it beyond cold showers and half-naked winter walks, there are plenty of options for home cold tubs that you can dip into daily. Here’s a quick recap of the five I outlined earlier:
- Luke Storey’s Budget Freezer Hack. This budget-friendly ice bath setup involves an ice bath freezer, food-grade hydrogen peroxide, and water to your desired temperature, along with a breaker-safe grounding stake.
- Morozko Forge. The Morozko Forge is a steel tub that uses ozone and microfiltration to maintain crystal-clear waters without harsh chemicals. It’s also the first ice bath in the world to make its own ice and maintain the water temperature even when it’s hot out. Luke Storey and I both have a Forge. (You can use the code BENFORGE for $150 off the retail price of the COLD and FILTERED Forge, and the code BOUNDLESS to receive a $500 discount on the PRISM Forge.)
- Ice Barrel. The Ice Barrel's cutting-edge design features a lightweight construction and sturdy durability for convenient portability at an affordable price (use code BEN for $125 off).
- Northern Lights Cold Plunge (Rick Rubin's setup). A professional contractor is necessary, along with a significant budget, but the final outcome is a stunning, top-of-the-line cold plunge customized to meet your specific preferences.
- Aquatic Fitness Endless Pool. I have this pool in addition to the Forge and the Ice Barrel. The 19-foot Aquatic Fitness pool stays a cool 40-55° Fahrenheit year-round, and I’ll usually throw a few bags of ice in there in the warmer seasons.
As an alternative to cold tubs, at various times in the past, there have been cold showerhead adapters that can be outfitted to most showers, such as the now-defunct Glacial Showerhead. However, despite this, there are ways to build your own.
I want to end this series with two final notes. The first is that it is always good practice to check with your doctor before beginning a new routine like cold plunging. You should avoid it, for instance, if you have a pacemaker.
Then, secondly, remember that it’s not uncommon to feel anxious before exposing yourself to freezing temperatures. If you find that to be the case, try meditating first, and breathing exercises before and during a dip or icy shower can help immensely. I also try to adopt a mindset of stoicism and grace before I plunge – into a cold tub or any other daunting life endeavor!
I hope this series has been helpful. Feel free to leave links and/or descriptions of your own cold tub setup in the comments section below, along with any questions or comments. I read them all!