The ‘Cold’ Plunge review – an ice bath that needs no ice!

Cold Plunge Review

I spent over six weeks testing out The Plunge, an always-on cold plunge ice bath. During this time, I worked my way down from 50° to 39°F cold baths, experimented with both morning and nighttime routines, and tracked various biometrics every step of the way.

The results were far and above my expectations.

The Plunge in-depth video review

Why cold water therapy?

Cold water therapy (aka ice baths) are experiencing a huge growth in popularity, and for good reason. It seems like more and more is being found out every day about all the benefits, short and long term, of cold plunges. So much so, it’s hard to ignore.

You have a laundry list of people singing cold water therapy’s praises: recovery experts like Dr. Kelly Starrett, Dr. Andrew Huberman, Dr. Rhonda Patrick, and Wim Hof; self-help gurus like Tim Ferris, Tony Robbins, and Rich Roll; and many of the world’s fittest athletes like Rich Froning, Noah Olsen, and Justin Medeiros.

Benefits of cold plunging, or ice baths, include increased recovery, improved immune function, better sleep, lower stress, lower cortisol levels, improved heart rate variability (or HRV), increased fat loss, higher metabolism, and the list goes on and on…

I’m no stranger to cold therapy. I have been taking occasional ice baths for the past 12 years and have utilized cryotherapy many times. But never have I done either on a daily basis. And never have I taken ice baths at temperatures as low as the cold plunge can go.

But the Cold Plunge, with its convenient ability to stay at the exact temperature you set just waiting for you to jump in, has changed that.

It has taken away all the hassles of having to get ice or drive to a cryotherapy location… making it possible to incorporate cold plunging into my daily routine, for the first time.

Overview of The Plunge

The Cold Plunge offers six different options. I’ll go over thew variety in a minute, but first, features shared by all Plunge baths:

  • Temperature can be adjusted down to as low as 39°F
  • Built for both indoor and outdoor use (GFCI outlet required, an adapter will work)
  • Utilize circular filtration, Ozone Sanitation, and a Micron Filter (no harsh chemicals like chlorine or bromine)
  • Feature underwater light for use at night, or in areas with low light
  • Includes an insulated cover that secures via clips, an attachable cell phone holder, hose filter, skimmer net, and 1-year factory warranty.

The Plunge options

The different Cold Plunge options break down as:

  • Cold or Hot & Cold Plunge
    The original Cold Plunge (what I have) costs $4,990, provides 1/4 HP (horsepower) of cooling power, and is 67” long by 24” wide. The Hot & Cold Plunge costs $5,490, provides an additional 1KW of heating power, and can turn the Plunge into a mini hot tub going up to 103°F.
  • upgrade to Pro
    Both Cold and Hot & Cold Plunges can be upgraded to a Pro version, at an additional cost of $1,000. The Pro version has a full 1 HP compared to the regular 1/4, for faster and improved cooling. Ex. indoors the original Cold Plunge can drop the tempaturare by around 2.5°F per hour, while the Pro can drop it by 8-10°F per hour.

    Pro is probably best for those who live where it’s really hot, to more easily stay at your ideal temperature. It’s important to know that the Pro is louder, thus suggested for mostly outdoor use (61 decibels vs 53 decibels). 
  • upgrade to XL Pro
    For an additional $1,000, you can upgrade the pro to an XL Pro. The XL Pro Plunge baths increase the tub size from 67” in length to 73,” and from a 24” width to “27 inch width.

The Plunge design

As far as design, I think the Plunge looks fantastic; the white tub with the crystal clear water, especially lit up at night, looks nice and inviting. The importance of that can’t be overstated because jumping into icy cold water isn’t the most enjoyable thing at first, so it helps that it at least looks nice and inviting.

The cooler itself (black box unit next to the tub) is easy to use and simple to understand. There is a display of the current temperature and arrow buttons you hold to adjust it cooler or warmer. There is a nice looking cover where the cooler meets the tub to hide some of the less attractive parts of the Cold Plunge.

The only part of the design I don’t like is the location of a small filter on the side of the cooling unit. If you have your Plunge against a wall, like I originally did and how I see many people do, you can’t really access that filter to clean it. I ended up moving the entire tub a little further from the wall than I would like, to make cleaning that little filter easier. 

Set-up and maintenance of your Cold Plunge

Setting up and performing maintenance on the Plunge is extremely easy. The company has a few videos you can follow along for instruction, but honestly, it doesn’t take very long or require any expertise to get your Plunge up and running.

There’s no guess work for maintenance when using the available test strips. They will tell you exactly which solutions to keep your water looking as good as day one; you change the tub filter monthly, and even that takes only a minute.

The weekly and monthly maintenance is very low effort with minimal tasks to be done, especially so if you have their six month maintenance package, meaning you don’t even have to take the steps to order what you need.

Using the Plunge

Let’s get into my experience with the Cold Plunge. I started things off (as I am sure most do), a little scared to enter sub 50°F water, so I started at 50°F. From there, I decided that every time I could handle being in the tub for five or more minutes, I would lower the temperature by 1°F for the next day. 

The first time I hopped in, my body was definitely not used to such a temp and I was shaking… a lot. I didn’t even make it five minutes that first time. But by the second and third times, I felt a lot more comfortable. I was able to stay in the water longer and get more of my body into the water. 

Honestly, I think getting your neck under the water helps make the cold more tolerable. Your thyroid has a lot to do with your body temperature regulation, so it seems to be beneficial to have it at the same temperature as the rest of your body when adjusting to the cold water. 

Over the course of a month, I slowly lowered the water to around 42-43°F, which is where I feel good for about three to five minutes.

I did try as low as 39°F, just to be able to say I’d been there, but I’m not quite ready for that. Honestly the colder the temperature doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better, but I do think there is magic at three or more minutes, while the Plunge is sub 50°F. 

Cold Plunge effect on health metrics

I tracked my results on how it effected metrics, via my WHOOP and other devices, and the difference cold plunging made was easily the most impactful thing I have ever seen to any of these numbers.

My Heart Rate Variability (HRV), for example, usually hovers around 60, and a few days into cold plunging I already had a new high HRV of 72. Then it got to 74, then 78. HRV is an excellent metric to analyze when assessing your overall recovery, so this bump in score is significant.

Cold Plunge morning vs. night

Those initial HRV high scores happened while I was taking my cold plunges first thing in the morning. The morning seemed to make the most sense for cold plunging because, let me tell you, THAT is a way to wake up.

If you have trouble getting going in the morning, jumping into 43°F water will wake you up better than any cup of coffee. I’m dead serious. The amount of energy you get from putting this into your routine is incredible. 

So I was mostly taking the cold plunges in the morning, but knowing some people do so at night, I decided my testing due diligence would have me at least give it a try.

I was pretty skeptical about cold plunging at night and didn’t really want to jump in at 10:00 p.m., just before bed. When I finally did, I immediately followed it up by a nice, warm shower.

me being skeptical before my first nighttime plunge

That protocol took my HRV all the way into the 90s, besting my recently set highest HRV by almost 20%!

The Cold Plunge’s ability to aid recovery – in part by improving sleep – cannot be overstated. Again, I have never seen or experienced anything like it. 

a personal high HRV for me!

Post workout Cold Plunge?

A lot of athletes use ice baths and cold therapy immediately after workouts to recover faster and decrease soreness. Personally, I don’t like the Cold Plunge for that use.

If you eliminate that inflammatory process that happens during and after workouts so quickly, by jumping into a cold bath, yes you’ll recover faster, but you also potentially lose a lot of the benefit from the workout.

I have used the Cold Plunge after workouts, especially long trail runs or times where I really wanted to feel as recovered as possible the next day, but for the most part, I try to Plunge in the mornings or at night, away from my workouts.

Continuing to use the Plunge

I have been using the original Cold Plunge, and that is the model I would suggest for most people under 6′ 2”. For someone as tall as 6′, this tub may seem a bit short, but if you just cross your legs at the ankle, the fit is fine.

Now that the Cold Plunge has become part of my routine, I don’t dread any discomfort of the cold and would even consider it an enjoyable process, since I know how good I feel afterwards.

When in the tub, I like to dip my whole head under a few times and lay low enough for the water to cover my ears. I find that more refreshing than just my body. This has become an incredibly beneficial habit that seems crazy, but is one of the best things I have ever implemented for my fitness and health. 

I would give it two thumbs up, but my other hand was frozen in place

Final thoughts

While you don’t need something as nice as the Cold Plunge to take part in cold water therapy, having the ability to just jump in daily, without worrying about ice or any other obstacle that would cause me to say, “Eh, maybe another day”, is just so valuable.

It costs $5,000, which I know is going to be tough for a lot of people. But the reality is, the price is about half of similar products currently out there, so in the realm of this type of product, it’s a great deal.

Rating this on a “Buy, Lease, Wait for a Sale, or Do Not Touch” scale…. I have to say the Cold Plunge is a MUST buy for anyone who can afford one. It is my favorite product reviewed this year, and it has allowed me to build a new routine and habit that has had an immensely positive effect on my overall fitness and health.

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