HOW TO BUILD A BACKCOUNTRY SAUNA
There is nothing wrong with injecting a little luxury into your backcountry camping. For some people, this is a warm cup of coffee or a tablet to watch a movie on at the end of an active day. For me, it’s a sauna to enjoy after a busy day exploring and hiking across the Australian bush. After a perfect day, a little rest and relaxation in your very own backcountry sauna is the icing on the cake. An old backcountry guide showed me how to make my very own sauna from some tarp and webbing, and since then, my camping trips have had this little nugget of luxury ever since.
GET A FIRE GOING
Get a roaring fire going at least 2 hours before you want your sauna. The next thing to do is find some stones, around the size of a volleyball each. Once you have between 6 to 12 stones, the more stones you have the longer your sauna will last, place them in the fire. Be careful not to put the fire out as you do so. Keep the fire going for the next 2 hours.
BUILD A STRUCTURE
If you have an old tent, you can cut the floor out of it and use that. If not, building a simple A-frame with a tarp and webbing will suffice. Weigh the edges of the tarp down with stones or logs so that the edges of the tarp stay on the ground. You then need make sure the tarp on one side of A-frame is completely sealed with the ground. It doesn’t really matter how you do it, with rocks, logs or dirt, so long as you have a good seal. The other side doesn’t need to be sealed or there won’t be any way to get in or out.
Once it is sealed, dig a hole in the middle of your structure. This will be for the rocks, so it needs to fit however many rocks you put in the fire. Dust the floor down to create a neat space for your seating, so your sauna can accommodate everyone around the hole in the centre.
MOVING THE STONES
Get a thick metal bucket for transporting the hot stones. Carefully, using a stick, separate the stones from the fire and manoeuvre them into the bucket for transportation. This can be tricky and exceptionally dangerous. Be careful to avoid accidents. Once you have your bucket of stones, carry it to your tent and put it in the hole you dug in the centre. Fill up a separate bucket full of cold water.
Get everyone in the tent, but be careful not to overfill it. The last thing you want is too many people balancing around a bucket of scorching hot rocks because that’s an accident waiting to happen.
Gradually pour the water, little by little, onto the hot stones. The hot steam will bellow off the rocks. You can repeat as many times as you want, until the rocks become too cool or the temperature becomes too hot to bear. For the best results, build your sauna near a lake or river because when things become too hot you can jump in straight into the water to cool off.
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