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Garrett Conover’s ‘Sauna Magic’ – Book Review & Preview

Garrett Conover’s ‘Sauna Magic’ – Book Review & Preview

This week for Stokeyard Outfitters’ blog, guest contributor Teke O’Reilly gives us a review of Garrett’s book Sauna Magic.

The book includes a chapter chronicling the early days of the mobile sauna movement that started in Minneapolis over a decade ago and is now spreading throughout North America. Garrett has been making regular trips to Minnesota while working on the book. It’s been such a pleasure to get to know him and an honor to have the work documented in such beautiful detail! But don’t take my word for it! I’ll let Teke tell ya more👇

– John  

Full disclosure: I get a couple of very kind mentions in this book, so my bias is a foregone conclusion. But truly, objectively speaking, this is an important work, and belongs in any Sauna lover’s library. I had the honor of meeting the author on a couple of occasions, as Garrett was traveling around the country collecting anecdotes and photographs for this book. I also had the privilege of giving some feedback on the text as it was developing. The finished product is nothing short of a mesmerizing magic spell. 

The first bit you feel in reading this book: Garrett’s passion for the subject. This is a book that, for him, needed to happen, because he clearly needed to testify in a substantial way to how much the experience of Sauna means – to his life, to general health, towards building communities and friendships, and to a shared connection by all enthusiasts who come under this spell around the world. 

 

The most impressive, and obvious, features of the book are its lavish photographs and high design. It’s a finely crafted book that opens easily on the lap, and invites the reader to share in a rich set of stories, all punctuated by photos that speak to the magic Garrett and all Sauna lovers are after. 

 

And it’s refreshing to see human bodies in their natural, relaxed state. So often here in the States, there is a shyness and disconnection from being comfortable in the buff. Garrett’s photography is moving in that it’s not sensational nor erotic in any way, just a matter of fact journal of a quiet, healthy place – where you can connect with your inner self – or your social circles – through the simple tradition of magical Sauna. 

 

Whenever I find myself unable to get access to Sauna here in Minneapolis, Minnesota – I take comfort in the pages of this fine book. You should too.

– Teke O’Reilly. 

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

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?