Winter is the perfect time to enjoy a hot tubbing session. The combination of crisp, cool air and warm, bubbling water make it an exhilarating outdoor activity (whether you live in an area with mild winters, or you get lots of snow).
The colder it gets, the nicer it is to take refuge in a warm and cozy spa to soak in the heat—and relax during the cold winter months. You just need to take a few extra precautions to ensure your hot tub works well in cold weather, and you have everything you need to enjoy the experience.
Here are some useful things to know if you want to get the most out of your winter hot tub sessions, plus one thing at the end to definitely avoid (yes, I did make this mistake personally!).
- What is the best temperature for a hot tub in winter?
- Can you use a hot tub in the snow?
- What do you wear in a hot tub in the winter?
- How do you keep your hot tub towels & robe warm during winter?
- What's the best way to stay hydrated when winter hot tubbing?
- How do you keep the hot tub water warm in winter?
- How do you maintain a hot tub in winter?
- What to avoid when winter hot tubbing
What is the best temperature for a hot tub in winter?
The best temperature for a hot tub is typically between 97 and 104 degrees, with the ideal temperature for most people around 100 degrees.
The same applies in winter as at any other time, but you might find yourself wanting the water a few degrees warmer than usual to compensate for the colder air temperature outside. The colder it gets, the bigger the difference your body will feel between sitting in warm water and being outside in freezing cold air.
Just be careful not to heat the water too much—remember that even if you want to set the temperature high to stay warm, never let it get above 104 degrees to avoid the risk of heatstroke.
Today's UL-listed hot tubs limit the temperature to a maximum of 104 degrees, but hot tub thermostats can be off by a few degrees. To be certain, you can always check with a hot tub thermometer like this handy floating one on Amazon.
Can you use a hot tub in the snow?
Absolutely! Sitting in bubbling hot water watching the snow fall around you is a magical experience everyone should definitely try.
It might be uncomfortable to have the snow fall directly on you though, plus it will cool your water which will make your spa work harder to stay up to temperature.
A great way to avoid this is to use an umbrella. I have another article with my recommendations for the best cantilever umbrellas for hot tubs—although most people use these for sun shade, they also work very well for winter hot tubbing in the snow.
The best thing about an umbrella (instead of a more permanent roof) is that you can simply fold it down when you're done with it. You get shelter from the weather, without having to give up your views of the stars on a clear night. An umbrella gives you the best of both!
What do you wear in a hot tub in the winter?
There are several rules to follow about what to wear in a hot tub in general, but in winter, when it's colder outside, there are a few extra things to consider.
If you want to use your hot tub in winter, then the same rules apply as usual: use a clean, dedicated hot tub suit. By having a hot tub-specific suit, you can keep both the tub and your suit clean.
While your body might be warm under the water, you can still lose a lot of heat from your head. To stay warm all over, keep your hair dry to prevent accidental freezing, and wear a nice warm hat to keep your head and ears warm.
It's unlikely your ears will suffer too much if your body is warm, but a hat can help prevent any discomfort from exposure to the icy wind and snow.
Lip balm and moisturizer
It's quite easy to chap your lips or face while hot-tubbing in winter. These are going to be exposed to the cold air, so you'll want to make sure they stay moisturized.
Bring a Chapstick with you when using your hot tub in wintertime. This way, at least your lips will stay comfortable and chap-free so you can relax.
Additionally, you might want to use a moisturizer on your face before climbing into the tub in winter. Between the steam and chemicals from the hot tub, cold air, and wind, using a moisturizer can help to protect your skin from drying out.
Robe and slippers
Okay, these things are not to wear while you're actually in the hot tub. But they are a lifesaver to have on hand for when you get out.
Leaving the hot water to immediately snuggle up in a soft, thick robe is SO much better than just wrapping yourself in a towel.
I wrote an article a few weeks ago about the best robes for hot tubbing (including a special extra-warm pick for winter), so be sure to check it out if you want to know what I recommend.
To avoid any accidents on your way back inside, consider some footwear with a bit more grip in winter. Something thick, warm and non-slip like these winter indoor/outdoor slippers will be just perfect:
How do you keep your hot tub towels & robe warm during winter?
Stepping out of a warm hot tub into cold winter air can be a shock, but wrapping yourself in a frozen towel is even worse. Luckily, there's a simple fix for this (this tip is possibly my favorite).
One of the easiest ways to warm towels or robes is to heat them in the dryer before you get into the hot tub. Then you can store them inside a sealed, insulated container like a cooler.
This design is especially great because it has wheels and a handle, so you can easily roll it out to the tub with you:
For extra warmth, layer a couple of microwaveable heating pads inside:
Now your robe and towels will stay warm and dry while you're in the tub, ready for when you need them!
What's the best way to stay hydrated when winter hot tubbing?
It's important to drink enough in hot tubs. Even in winter, you should always take something with you to sip while you soak.
While cool water usually works just fine when the weather is warmer, in winter you might want to opt for something a little more warming.
Take your favorite hot drink with you in a thermal mug.
Tea, coffee, cocoa, and hot apple cider are all excellent choices—just remember that it's likely to get cold by the time you get around to drinking it unless you have a lid. This cupholder-friendly style of mug works well:
You could also use an insulated flask if it will fit inside your hot tub cup's holders.
How do you keep the hot tub water warm in winter?
If you find your hot tub struggles to stay up to temperature in the winter, one thing you can try is to use it with the cover half on.
Just open one side and fold it back over itself, then sit in the exposed area of the tub. This way, there's less surface area for the cold air to come into contact with and less space for the water to evaporate, so your tub should stay warmer for longer.
Many people find this to be an effective way to stay warmer in their hot tubs during winter. However, obviously this only works if you have less people than the tub's full capacity, as you'll only have limited seating exposed.
You can also turn down the jets or blower to have less air circulating into the water, as this contributes to lowering the temperature.
Whenever you're not using the spa, make sure the cover is well-fitted so it will do an adequate job of maintaining the water temperature. A good-quality insulated cover (especially if you add a thermal blanket beneath it directly on the surface of the water) will help to keep the heat in.
Avoid running a plug-and-play hot tub outdoors in freezing temperatures
If your hot tub runs on 110V power, chances are it isn't designed for very cold winter temperatures. This goes for most inflatable and many rotomolded spas. The pumps are simply not powerful enough to handle sustained cold weather.
If you want to winter hot tub outside, consider upgrading your power to 240V—most plug-and-play spas can be converted to run on a 240V plug by a qualified electrician.
If you can't convert your power, you could consider bringing your spa indoors when winter strikes. Even if you have a cover or use the method outlined above, these smaller spas will just lose heat too quickly (and cost you a lot of money in energy bills) if they're constantly exposed to cold temperatures.
As a final option, you might just be better off winterizing your spa and filling it back up again in the spring.
How do you maintain a hot tub in winter?
Continue your regular maintenance through the winter months to keep the water (and your hot tub) clean.
If you thoroughly clean the tub and do a complete water change before the coldest weather hits, you can usually get by with just partial water changes through the winter if things get out of balance.
If you live in an area that gets snow, do your best to keep it from accumulating on top of the cover. Snow can be surprisingly heavy, which puts a lot of strain on a hot tub cover as they are generally not designed to hold that much weight. Use a soft broom to brush off snow, and avoid anything that could tear or damage the cover.
What to avoid when winter hot tubbing
The one thing you have to be careful of when hot tubbing in freezing cold temperatures is what to do with your electronics: phone, Kindle, watch, etc.
I have an unfortunate story to tell here.
A few years ago, I was skiing near Lake Tahoe in California. There was an outdoor hot tub at the place I was staying.
After a day on the slopes, I got into the tub to soak. I wore a Fitbit watch at the time. Not wanting to get it wet, I took off my watch and left it on a ledge outside the tub. It was probably about 30 degrees Fahrenheit out. I was plenty warm in the tub, so I didn't even think about it.
When I got out of the hot tub, my watch was completely frozen. I took it back inside to warm up, but it just never worked again.
So, the moral of the story: any time you're hot tubbing outside in winter, leave all electronic devices inside, or keep them in a heated box—they won't survive if exposed to cold temperatures!