I’ve always envied people who own hot tubs. There are the obvious reasons—warm water relieves aches and pains after epic days in the backcountry, and soaking with friends and family is a companionable way to pass time (even the most avid texters/selfie takers soon tire of holding their phones above water). But there’s also that iconic mental image I have of lounging in a bubbly outdoor spa, surrounded by 104 degree F water, a cold après ski beer in hand, and the sky turning scarlet and burnt orange as the sun drops below the horizon.
But hot tubs are surprisingly expensive—you can easily drop $3,000 to $5,000 on a basic Jacuzzi, and that doesn’t include the installation and additional deck work. And there’s the unfortunate fact that hot tubs don’t last forever. How many people do you know who have a leaky, non-functioning one in their back yard? There were enough roadblocks that I’d almost given up on my dream. But then I heard about the Coleman Lay-Z-Spa. This inflatable hot tub costs less than $400 (depending on where you buy it), and can be set up in less than a half hour. The tub comes in a big box (the weight is about 75 pounds) that includes the motor (that let’s you inflate the tub and then provides heat and circulation for the water), a spare set of filters, hoses, and a buckle-down lid.
In contrast to the new-fangled molded plastic hot tubs with more seats than a State Dinner, the Lay-Z-Spa is fairly simple. There are no seats—just a padded floor that is soft and comfortable. The space is plenty big for two adults; you can fit four people in it, but leg room starts getting tight. And, because it is inflatable, you can leave it up for long periods of time, and then store it when you don’t want it taking up room on your deck. It’s ideal if you are renting, and nice in that since it is portable, you can drain it and easily move it to a different location.
I’ve had the tub set up on my deck for six months, with no signs of wear and tear; plus the heating mechanism and bubbles work perfectly. The tub’s material is a 3-layer polyester mesh core that’s sandwiched with two layers of laminated PVC. Our curious cat likes to hop up on the sides to swat at the bubbles, and so far, there’s no sign of abrasion or puncture. Tiny holes in the plastic act as little jets—there are about 120 of these that provide a bit of back and foot massage while you sit. A two-foot tall egg-shaped motor let’s you set the temperature, turn on the jets, and even has a timer so you can power up the heat just in time for that après ski sunset.
You can set the tub on a wood deck, concrete slab, or even bare dirt or grass. It can be used indoors or outdoors, and because it’s so easy to set up and take down, the tub is ideal to bring along on a camping or ski vacation. You just need a 120 volt/12 amp current to run it. The tub holds about 220 gallons of water—it took about 4 hours to fill it with the hose and another 20 hours to heat it to 104 degrees F. I generally let the temperature fall to the mid 90’s during the day when the kids are splashing around and then crank up the heater for adult swim in the evening. The water is about 2 feet deep—perfect for sitting adults or kids who are splashing around. Like all hot tubs, you need to do some maintenance to keep the water clean. Included in the package is a spaceship-shaped floating container for bromide or chlorine. Then you need to buy the standard chemicals, as well as a test kit to ensure safe levels. Maintenance takes a few minutes a day—not much of a penalty when you consider the hours of relaxation you’ll get each week.
The only drawback? Coleman recommends that you don’t use the tub in temperatures under 40 degrees F as the cold can damage the material. Stay tuned as we will test the tub in cold weather this winter and will report back in the spring.
The Coleman Lay-Z-Spa retails for $379.99 and is available now.