BONNER — A new way to build community while bettering your mental and physical health is here. Montana Sauna Company is parking their sauna on wheels and cold plunge tubs at different spots around Missoula.
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“Some things don’t take time but take a lifetime,” shared Montana Sauna Co. Founder Nick Johnson.
Luke Raddue and Johnson — childhood friends each looking for their purpose in life — sat down with MTN by a fire pit at their mobile sauna event to explain how they found it.
“We discovered this principle. It’s a Japanese concept called ‘ikigai'. It’s what you’re good at, what the world needs, what you love, and what you can be paid for. And I didn’t know how to find that answer," Johnson explained.
"But Luke called me one day and we just started talking about saunas impact on our lives and the impact that sauna culture can have and has had in other parts of the world," he continued. "And [sauna] became the thing that really struck all those [for us]."
In October, after a year without seeing each other, Nick left Salt Lake City to build the Montana Sauna Company with Luke in Missoula.
They brought the sauna to a fishing access in Bonner on February 2, 2024, so people could enjoy the scenery while they sweat.
“It is over 200º — which no gym sauna will get over 200º," Raddue said. "It’s cedar, red western cedar, so when you go in there it smells just like you’re literally inside a tree and it’s beautiful in that way.”
Eight people can fit in the mobile sauna and the number of benefits include anywhere from pain reduction to mental health to detoxification.
"I was at the peak of my pain — the worst I've ever had — which was a combination of a herniated disk and then chronic back pain that I've had since middle school. Also, the weight of just depression and anxiety just locking my body," Raddue stated that consistent sauna use has helped his body and brain. "Basically, I started going to the sauna four days a week and it all just kind of started melting away."
For Johnson the most impactful sauna moments came when he was in Salt Lake City during the last winter. "My mental health was not great at that time. I knew if I could sauna everyday I'd be okay. It was showing myself love."
Once you’re done in the heat, it’s time for another form of exposure therapy, the cold plunge.
“Oh, people do cold plunges in the river, obviously, but we started doing that and it's just terrifying. It burns you because the water's moving," Raddue explained about river cold plunging. On the tubs he shared, "Whereas that you get a thin layer of like insulation and it's a little bit easier to handle and they feel safe. It actually allows meditation. It's like a very still meditative experience.”
Tyler Warren found the event on Instagram and had never used a mobile sauna before. He decided try it and then cold plunge in a tub instead of the river.
“We would meet down at the boat ramp behind the paddle heads baseball stadium there and it cold plunge together a couple of times a week and it just energized me and helped me tackle my day better," he told MTN News.
Warren also came to make friends who like to sauna which is one of the main reasons Montana Sauna Company was invented.
“We're creating this space for people to gather and you don't have to know them going into it," said Johnson. "But, you have this bond of: I want to prioritize my mental health, I want to uplift my community and everyone leaves here chatting with each other and hugging.”
Soon you’ll see the sauna all around Missoula — like trail heads and the farmers market.
Visit Montana Sauna Co. online for event sign ups, pricing, and more information including a possible permanent downtown sauna location.