Deep Breath: Taking Pause to Reflect on a Healthy Future

Deep Breath: Taking Pause to Reflect on a Healthy Future

Good morning, Thermaculture Enthusiasts – 

This has been a difficult and strange week across the globe, and we here at Stokeyard Outfitters are actively looking forward to the other side, while also looking deeply at what we can do right now to maintain maximum health – mental and physical.

It’s unfortunate that this week was slated as my first guest blog. CoFounder John Pederson was on his way to Maui, and I was going to write something fun and funny to fill up his absence. Instead, his trip was cancelled and we can’t get silly because there is some serious stuff to consider, and real information we need to share.

Earlier this week we halted Sauna Village and Hewing Hotel programming to align with the global efforts to slow the spread of COVID19. During this cessation, we are focused on gathering the best information, and improving the facilities.

Our friends Hannah Hamalainen & Justin Juntunen (at Little Red Sauna and Cedar & Stone respectively) put together an incredible report on what we know, and what we don’t know, about the safety of public saunas. 

We ask that you please read, and leave any questions, comments, or clarifications in the comments section – or write to us directly. We want this information to be dynamic – a community discussion – so that our collective understanding and safety is primary.

We are firmly in the camp that maintaining a regular Sauna practice is a best defense against all forms of illness. To that end, we will be offering private rentals of our mobile pods, and private takeovers of Sauna Village. And stay tuned for our re-opening – this spring and summer will be extraordinary, and we can’t wait to have you be a part of it all.


Peace & Wellness,

Teke O’Reilly

Birkie 2020 Winter Hack –  a van, a sauna and a mountain bike

Birkie 2020 Winter Hack – a van, a sauna and a mountain bike

The road trip, stars and frozen majesty of upper central Wisconsin.
The sauna heat in the midst of a subzero morning.  
The people, including some special Estonians.  

These are the elements that characterized this year’s Stokeyard Outfitters excursion to the iconic American Birkebeiner.

First – road trip. To go off for 48 hours and be immersed in such an event with all the comforts of home – espresso, a comfortable bed, a fat tire mountain bike and the capacity to be alone – is a sublime privilege.

Second – nature. When away from light pollution and in the clear coolness of a Winter night, the sky becomes as entertaining as anything the urban corridor can conjure.  The mountain bike trail at the Fish Hatchery in Hayward at sunrise glimmered.  I heard anecdotally that this year’s Birkie was as beautiful as it gets.  Blue skies and the crisp, groomed trail resulted in many personal records. Nature was on display for the many thousands gathered on this beautiful Birkie morning.

Third – Sauna! Stokeyard Outfitters was invited by the Birkie organizers to provide their event participants with a Recovery Zone experience. The sauna was hot (220 degrees) when the first participants crossed the finish line in just over 2 hours. 

Racers showing perfect form and Sauna etiquette.

And then the Estonians showed up. All eleven that were entered in the race! They heat their hamstrings on the bench and melted into the sauna. Later they brought me a gift – a bottle of Vana Tallinn Estonian Spiced Rum.

From direct observation, the Europeans made a bee line to the sauna, shedding layers as they approached.  The Americans were more reserved and wanted to know what was happening, what was allowed. It was a small anecdotal view into how sauna is second nature for the Finns, Estonians, and Russians. They knew exactly what to do and asked for no permission.

Sunny Estonian squints outside Sauna

Finally, the solo nature of the road trip with a sauna in tow makes such things as mountain biking in the frigid pre-dawn even more amazing; for me it was a profound joy. I rode twice while on this excursion and took sauna immediately after one ride as the stove was heating up for the Estonians, as it turns out! Turns out you don’t need to ski, to Win, Win, Win!

230 degrees of pure rejuvenation
Finding Thermaculture? Or it finds you?

Finding Thermaculture? Or it finds you?

From the Finnish Sauna to the Turkish Hammam, Native American Sweat Lodge and Japanese Onsen, I’m fascinated by how cultures around the world adapt the therapeutic benefits of hot/cold conditioning. A local dose of fire and ice is usually the first thing on the menu for me whenever I travel. 

After receiving a Russian banya venik treatment from Nicolai (left) and Anton (right)
Silvia and I enjoying rotations between hot mineral hot springs and cold dips in a nearby river at Hobo Hot Springs in Saratoga, Wyoming.   
Tukish Hamam I enjoyed during a trip to the Black Sea last spring.
Cooling down between Sauna rounds, downtown Helsinki

Have you traveled recently and experienced thermaculture in any of its various forms? What stood out to you? What would you keep the same and what would you change to make the experience and benefits available in your community?


Sauna Tent Exploration

Sauna Tent Exploration

Our Sauna Village now features a Sauna Tent from Snowtrekker winter camping. I’ve been collaborating with the company on this product since 2017. It’s been a slow burn but we’re finally ready with great heat!

I set up my first SnowTrekker tent 3 years ago when the company’s owners Duane and Margot Lottig sent one my way for testing.

After 22 years of R&D and hardcore winter camping experience, Duane and Margot realized the structure could actually acheive and sustain sauna temps. But they wanted to know how it fared compared to the saunas I’ve built, hosted, and experienced around the world.

What started as a weekend testing expedition has turned into a three year obsession to create a simpler way to enjoy a perfect sweat, and a product that we’re proud to include in Stokeyard Outfitters’ programming. 

But it was the steam that captured my heart. The space is small and, without thermal mass of all the wood in the hot room, I rely more on steam to punctuate each hot round with soft intensity. I love steam. I use a lot of it, similar to the Russian banyas and Turkish hamam I’ve been experienced (which is why they’re often built with tile). However, I’ve always done so a bit reluctantly in my mobile saunas because I know the moisture finds all kinds of cracks in my flooring (which leads to mold, rot and all kinds of issues I’d rather not worry about while I’m enjoying a good steam). One of my favorite things about this design is how I can pour buckets of water over my head without the slightest concern about mold and drainage.
The tent is made of a 7 ounce, high thread count, tight weave canvas that’s treated with a marine grade, preshrunk Sunforger for water repellency and mildew resistance. I also love how the entire tent—not just the hot room—dries out completely between each use, eliminating the issue of mold in the transition room (between the hot room and outside ) which is where the most condensation, and thus mold, typically hides in conventional saunas.
But the most important feature for me right now is the portability. I can set it up anywhere. No truck, no tools, no permit—and the 8×10 foot footprint fits easily in my tiny backyard. It’s so simple, yet elegant enough that I’ve been excited to share it with skeptical friends.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the temps the little structure can reach and sustain. The fabric and air pocket created by the tent-within-a-tent de sign is incredibly efficient.

Have you enjoyed or built an unconventional sauna structure? What did you learn along the way?

Learn more about renting a Sauna Tent from our Rentals Page. 

The Silence of Sauna: an Ode

The Silence of Sauna: an Ode

We’ve been reserving the smallest sauna at Sauna Village for guests who want to enjoy quiet during their steam rounds. I find myself slipping in there as often as possible and remembering why I love sharing this experience. 

Now, don’t get me wrong – Sauna talks are some of the best. I’ve laughed hard, delved deep into complex and heady topics, and cherished the emotional honesty and vulnerability in the Sauna. But there is something profoundly different about sitting and sweating in silence. Without the distraction of conversation, your stress and the chatter of your mind come to the surface.

Then, the body succumbs, breath eases into peace – the silence consumes you. 

This kind of intense silence coupled with the heat forces you to observe and digest things you might otherwise not notice – and just as quickly forces you to let go, but without effort. The magic of the heat takes over – the stress, the chatter – it all dissolves, slowly and gently like the steam itself coming off the rocks. 

Most of the people I’ve met who love sauna get this, and exhibit their own kind of understanding and gratitude for this simple and profound reset button. This is the golden kind of silence that tells you things you couldn’t hear until just now—and suddenly—now is new again.

In your Sauna practice – what do you prefer? Are you a social creature? Is Sauna a silent retreat? 

Open Arms – Open Village

Open Arms – Open Village

“Stokeyard Outfitters in Minneapolis held a New Year’s Day open house at its Sauna Village to allow the public to try out its mobile sauna trailers. Clockwise from top, Sophia Pham squealed as she made a snow angel after coming out of a sauna with friend Alexandra Cooper, in the dark suit; Jason Kaasovic poured water on the back of his 6-year-old son Vuk, as they basked in the sauna; and Cooper breathed in cool air as she emerged from the steam bath.”

The closest place to pick up a paper in my neighborhood is Bobby & Steve’s Automotive on the corner. I was sitting in their waiting room with a big smile on my face from the article above when my mechanic walked by and asked what I was smiling about. He sat down next to me and I spent the next few minutes trying to explain the photos above. Just as I was starting to get self-conscious that I was rambling, and realizing that perhaps his question was less one of real curiosity and more of courtesy—a courtesy now costing him a significant portion of his lunch break—he interrupted me and said, “I have such pain in my hands from this work. Do you think sauna would help.” His eyes were serious. It was the pain speaking now. 

“You know, we don’t pay attention to our bodies here. We work so hard and we really don’t think about how we move. I’m 50 and I feel like I’m 100.”

I shared some of the recent studies about the health benefits of sauna and my own personal experience. He responded with a slow nod and I shook his hand, as I’ve done many times. He has the kind of grip you’d expect of a mechanic but with his confession I could somehow feel beyond his strength—the cost of it somehow equally present as he crushed my skinny fingers. 

Sauna and the ripples of Thermaculture that it creates has a way of humanizing us to each other—on and off the bench—and I love how these moments find me where I least expect, like reading the paper at the gas station. 

A few details that the article above left out: We’re working hard to make more consistent and affordable bench time available this year, starting with programming at both our current locations:

  • The Sauna Village will now be open ALL WEEKEND! We’re expanding our regular hours to include Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 5 – 8 p.m. and Sundays from 11am – 2pm. Reservations are now available here.


  • Join us Sunday morning January 12th at The Hewing Hotel for a new monthly wellness immersion experience, including a guided HIT workout, yoga, sauna steam recovery and light bites provided by Hewing’s award-winning kitchen. Click here to learn more.

See you on the bench—or at Bobby & Steves ; )

  • John Pederson (JP)