I used to love the sauna. My roommates and I would sneak into our housing complex’s communal steam room late at night, blast music from a crappy JBL speaker, and get really high. As we sweated out our woes, we’d pass around the aux cord to take turns picking songs, and occasionally break our stupefied silence to talk about the nature of consciousness or, like, how dope DJ Shadow was or something. I have never felt more at peace.
Smash cut to whatever the hell is going on these days, when I’m eager to ameliorate the crushing, hopeless dread of pandemic stress and once again experience that sense of calm. So when a PR rep for the Australian company MiHigh reached out about something called a sauna blanket, I said I was interested. After all, saunas are said to reduce stress, boost cardiovascular health, and potentially reduce blood pressure. My acute aversion to Covid-19 has kept me from clamoring into any unfamiliar saunas. My apartment is too dinky to allow space for even a pop-up steam nook. Something with a smaller footprint sounded just right.
MiHigh’s sauna blanket is exactly what it sounds like: a blanket that is also a sauna. Imagine slipping into a giant Hot Pocket. You wrap it around your body, smoosh shut the velcro flaps, and lie cocooned in the warm embrace of a sweltering sleeping bag. Afterward, it folds up like a blanket for easy stashing. It’s designed to be used on any flat surface that can handle the heat, but is most comfortable splayed across a bed. The interior is a polyurethane material with a waterproof liner that prevents your sweat from soaking your surroundings. When I first unzipped the bag, I noticed the inside felt and smelled like a brand new inflatable pool.
When MiHigh launched last year, it was able to ride the wave of demand for at-home wellness equipment propelled by the pandemic. Sauna blankets have been lauded by Goop and used by everyone from TikTok influencers to rugby players. MiHigh’s blanket is not the only product in its particular niche, but it is perhaps the most refined.
The blanket is electric, so it has a power cord that plugs into a regular wall socket. You operate it by booping the buttons on a roundish control box that’s attached in-line to the cord. The box is roughly two smartphones wide and three deep. It feels a bit thick when you’re fiddling with it, but it’s nothing compared to the great big blocks that house the controls on some comparable products. In fact, the whole MiHigh unit is quite compact. Folded up, you could stuff it into a carry-on suitcase if you shoved in there just right. It weighs 17.6 pounds.
Testing a zip-up portable sauna raises some operational concerns. I mean, people tend to go nude in saunas, don’t they? Am I supposed to wear a towel around my waist? Do I just climb in there buck naked? Are the heating elements going to bake my beans?
Fortunately, MiHigh answers most of those questions. Immediately upon opening the box, I found a prominently placed notecard with functional tips and a warning that stated, “Do not use the blanket without wearing clothing.” It recommends “long-sleeved exercise gear and socks.” Following this instruction meant that I actually wound up putting on extra clothing to climb into the sauna.