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Sauna Club brings a Nordic treat closer – even from your backyard – Evanston RoundTable

Dozens of sunrise swimmers and walkers enjoyed a pre- and post-workout warm-up Friday morning as they slipped into a mobile sauna unit parked at Lee Street Beach.

The Sauna Club mobile unit does not require electricity. It is heated with firewood and has a solar panel to power the interior lighting. Credit: ryan cohler

The event was hosted by Sauna Club, a new Evanston venture whose owner Ryan Cohler aims to bring the pleasures and health benefits of the ancient Nordic tradition to Chicago’s North Shore. Its 120 square foot traveling sauna can be rented for private parties or special events and delivered right to your door.

On October 21, the mercury outside hovered around 45 degrees, but inside the wood-fired, cedar-lined sauna, temperatures fluctuated luxuriously between 160 and 180.

A glimpse inside the traveling sauna. The heat in the sauna begins to dry out, but when the water is thrown over the rocks, a light steam is produced. Credit: ryan cohler

Cohler encouraged people to alternate between enjoying the heat and cooling off with a dip in the lake or a few minutes of fresh air.

“The in-between is where the magic happens,” he said.

Over the next six months, Cohler, who is also a painting contractor, built a sauna using wood salvaged from construction dumpsters and tiles from his own home improvement projects.

Cohler said he’s always been a fan of saunas, so much so that during the COVID-19 lockdown he was inspired to build his own backyard unit from salvaged materials.

“The Y closed,” he recalled, “and I was like I really missed the sauna and the steam room because that’s where I fell in love with the whole thing.”

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