How to Build a Sauna in 20 minutes: Introducing the StokeYard Steam Station

John Pederson
Jul 20, 2018 · 5 min read

From the Finnish Sauna to the Turkish Hammam and Native American Sweat Lodge, I’m fascinated by how cultures around the world adapt the therapeutic benefits of sweat bathing. After hosting thousands of guests at mobile saunas I’ve built with friends and fellow steam enthusiasts here in the Twin Cities, I’ve come to understand the need for making the health and wellness benefits of heat and steam more available today, especially for urbanites trying to find balance and thrive in today’s fast-paced world.

Cooling down between Sauna rounds, downtown Helsinki
After receiving a Russian banya venik treatment from Nicolai (left) and Anton (right)
Tukish Hamam I enjoyed during a trip to the Black Sea last spring.

A tradition of innovation
Sweat bathing traditions such as the Finnish Sauna thrive because practitioners continue to adapt and modify the experience.

For example, Finnish immigrants arriving on the North Shores of lake Superior used whatever materials they could find to fashion their structures and stoves. When the spruce and aspen they were used to using back home was not available, poplar became a popular alternative.

Traditional Savu (smoke) sauna photographed by Jim Brandenberg during a trip to embarrass, Minnesota in 1989.

Unlike many sauna enthusiasts today, our ancestors wasted no time or energy pitting innovation against traditional best practices—and neither do I.

I want to make the full mental, physical and social benefits of steam bathing available to the most people possible, which is why I started Sauna Society Builders with fellow steam enthusiast Rodney Buhrsmith and why we’re so excited to introduce a simpler way to enjoy the sauna lifestyle.

A simpler way to steam

The backbone of the setup is a handmade double-walled canvas expedition tent from SnowTrekker winter camping company.

The tent sets up in about 20 minutes with an extra set of helping hands.

I set up my first SnowTrekker tent 2 years ago when the company’s owners Duane and Margot Lottig sent one my way for testing.

Top secret R&D rendezvous with Snowtrekker Founder Duane Lotig (left), November 2017.

After 22 years of R&D and hardcore winter camping experience, Duane and Margot realized the structure could easily sustain sauna temps. But they wanted to know how it faired compared to those I have built, hosted and experienced around the world.

What started as a weekend testing expedition has turned into a two year obsession to create a simpler way to enjoy a perfect sweat.

Testing sauna stoves and flooring options in subzero conditions last winter.

The thing that initially intrigued me the most about this approach was the breathability of the fabric and the tent-within-a-tent design of the prototype.

Tent-within-a-tent hot room creates a steamy hot room and mold-free cool-down area.

The next thing was the steam…

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 water 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.

Here’s a quick tour of my backyard steam station...

Tour of my StokeYard Steam station setup

The tent made of a 7 oz, hi 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).

The tent-with-a-tent hot room design provides extra insulation for comfortable steaming in the coldest of Minnesota’s winters without the need to worry about mold in your walls from condensation.

But the most important feature for me right now is the portability. I can set it up anywhere. No truck, no tools, no permit. Easy steaming in less than 20 minutes—and the 8x10 foot footprint fits easily in my tiny backyard.

All you need is 8'x10' of space to enjoy a steamy happy hour in your own backyard.

It’s so simple, yet elegant enough that I’ve been excited to share it with skeptical friends.

StokeYard Steam Station at Bauhaus Brew Labs

Unlike SnowTrekker’s other winter camping models, the sauna tent isn’t on the market yet. However, we’re teaming up with Duane and Margot to make our latest and greatest prototype model available through a scholarship and rental pilot program.

Here’s how it works

We have 3 prototype tents complete with benches, decking, stove and cold plunge tub. We call the complete setup The StokeYard.

The first StokeYard unit will be available for free through a Steam Scholarship program.

Do you know someone who could use a sauna staycation but lacks access to the space or resources for a conventional sauna build? Give the gift of sauna by Nominating him or her for a StokeYard Steam Station Scholarship, and we’ll transform their backyard into an urban steam oasis.

We’ll fund the scholarship with donations and by making the second two units available for rentals.

Steam Staycation Rental Rates

A full weekend (Friday through Monday) of steaming in your Twin Cities Metro area backyard or take the Steam Station with you on your next weekend away to make sauna steam a memorable part of your next road trip adventure.
- $350 ($50/day for additional days).


  • Firewood and/or propane — $5 bundle, $30/tank
  • Sauna steam aromatherapy oils—$15/4oz bottle
  • Vihta birch wisp—$20

I believe everyone should have access to a good steam. I also believe that innovation is the key to making healing traditions like sauna available for future generations.

If you’re interested in sharing or experiencing the mental, physical and social benefits of steam bathing in your backyard or on the road, I invite you enjoy a simple way to steam. Email me ( to nominate someone for the Steam Station Sponsorship or inquire about rental unit availability.

See you on the bench!

John Pederson

    John Pederson

    Written by

    🔥❄️#thermaculture since 2013 ❄️🔥 Sauna outfitting @stokeyardoutfitters 👇 Thermaculture calendar, sauna builds & rental

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