Best cold plunge 2024: top tubs for sports recovery

Find the best cold plunge for your backyard

A cold plunge tub filled with ice water
(Image credit: Getty Images / Michele Ursi)
Best cold plunge 2024: Jump Menu

A cold plunge barrel covered with snow and ice

(Image credit: Getty Images / frantic00)

Cold plunging became hugely popular during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the trend shows no sign of slowing down. The idea is that a few minutes in ice water are said to improve recovery from sports, boost the mind, and improve your immune system.

However, unless you live on a frozen lake it's not easy to reap these benefits. A good cold plunge tub, however, makes it easy to cool off at home.

I've written about outdoor water features like the best hot tubs for years, so I pored over thousands of cold plunges and whittled it down to six simple choices.

Best cold plunges 2024

Cold plunge FAQs

Do cold plunges actually work?

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It's hard to say categorically that cold plunges work. Many users will attest that they ease sore muscles, boost dopamine, and improve your immune system.

However, according to Healthline, a lot of the research into the phenomenon uses small sample sizes and and many are funded by sports equipment companies. It's hard to come up with a good control for ice baths, and much of the research is skewed because participants in sports science experiments already tend to be fit.

There are also concerns if you're older or have a heart condition. Exposure to cold water rapidly raises your heart rate, which can cause harmful arrhythmia. There's also the risk of freezer burn if you make the sides of your tub too cold. You should discuss cold plunging with a doctor before you invest to make sure that it's safe.

But while I don't think it's possible to make any bold claims about health benefits for certain, I can say first-hand that cold plunges at least feel great. I used to play a lot of student rugby and my coaches used to make us cold plunge after heavy training sessions or matches. It's very far from scientific, and I'd never claim that it does anything to your dopamine or immune system, or helps recovery long-term. However, I've found that a cold plunge after intense training is great for alleviating the sensation of muscle soreness, and feels especially good if you've trained in the heat.

Do I need a chiller?

I advise against buying a chiller. Chillers are expensive and you get the exact same result with cheap ice from the store, or homemade from an icebox. A chiller is easier to use, and you can set the temperature to the degree, but I don't think this feature is worth hundreds of dollars. You'd have to be very dedicated to cold plunging to get any benefit from a chiller.

How I chose these cold plunges

Cold plunges are actually pretty simple products, so I found cold plunges that offer the most features for the lowest price possible. I've covered yard equipment and pools for years, and used my usual technique of working my way through every option on all of the major retailers as well as more niche cold plunge specialists. I eliminated everything that was too expensive or claimed unrealistic features to make this handpicked list.

For more sports recovery help, take a look at our guide to the best hot tubs or our deep dive into hot tubs vs saunas.

Alex David
Head of eCommerce

As Head of eCommerce, Alex makes sure our readers find the right information to help them make the best purchase. After graduating from Cambridge University, Alex got his start in reviewing at the iconic Good Housekeeping Institute, testing a wide range of household products and appliances. He then moved to BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, assessing gardening tools, machinery, and wildlife products. Helping people find true quality and genuine value is a real passion.