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Old 09-06-2012   #1
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2004
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 3,097
Makeshift Riverside Hot Tub???

Hey all you McGyvers, welders, raft gear builders, etc...

Anybody got any thoughts on building a makeshift riverside hot tub on the cheap? I've done some research, but I'm wondering if anyone has any experience here.

I've got an idea for a large makeshift hot tub. I want it to be big. I had a rough concept of building a square box out of trees (think 3 ft high log cabin type logs... maybe 10'X15' or something like that). Would maybe use a rubber pond liner to make a water holding container that sits on the ground and over the sides of the trees. I found a bunch of videos on you tube of people who made steel drum wood burning water heaters... build a fire in the bottom of the drum and have copper tubing coilded in the drum to heat up the water. Some folks used natural convection to push water through... better solution would probably be a water pump to circulate water through the tubes. I'm thinking for a big tub, you probably need 2 or more of these water heaters.

So my half baked thought was... lay out the challenge to mountainbuzz. Can we collectively design, source, and build a McGyver hot tub for Bailey Fest next year? I'm looking for ideas on how to make this type of set up work. I'm also looking to see if anyone out there who has welding experience, any materials (steel drum, copper tubing), or similar expertise to help build this thing.

My loose thought was that amongst the folks here, we collectively probably have enough equipment to put this thing together. I had an idealistic thought that if everyone who was interesting in putting something like this together chipped in a little, that we could get a kick ass hot tub, fill it with river water, crank it up, and dismantle it when the fest is done, all while doing it on the cheap with mostly stuff people already have and are willing to donate (time, materials etc).

There is a log house lumber yard just up the hill from the fest site I could likely get some nice logs from.

Crazy or doable? Anyone interested in something like this?

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Old 09-06-2012   #2
kayakfreakus's Avatar
Steamboat, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 887
We had a very good attempt on the middle fork, but our system would have needed a layover day to get to hot tub temps. It was a blow up pool, filled, then used a drill pump to run the water through a fire pan. Was a lot of fun and we were convinced in theory it would work, but we ran out of time. So bigger fire or bigger drill pump? Since yours is more permanent and does not need to be packed up and on a raft the next day you should be able to pull it off...
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Old 09-06-2012   #3
Avatard's Avatar
portland, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: Apr 2011
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Was that cave camp? Why not just set it up at hospital bar?
Hey, if you want me to take a dump in a box and mark it "guaranteed", I will. I got spare time.
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Old 09-06-2012   #4
kayakfreakus's Avatar
Steamboat, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 887
Originally Posted by Avatard View Post
Was that cave camp? Why not just set it up at hospital bar?
Yeah I mixed trips up, the hot tub was Gates of Lodore...
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Old 09-06-2012   #5
oarframe's Avatar
Gardnerville, Nevada
Paddling Since: 00
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 447
Interesting concept - here are some potential solutions

Portable Hot Tubs | Bullfrog Spas Blog

i like the "ideal" tub, could combine a soak with dinner prep
more snow = more water
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Old 09-06-2012   #6
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2004
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 3,097
Awesome set up freakus. My first thought was to do something basic with a firepan, but when I saw the steel drum set up, I thought that would get extra heat. Nice use of the drill pump! I haven't used one, but love the concept.

At the bailey fest camp site, I have electrical power, so running a small pump or two won't be an issue.

Also, my plan was that I would set the tub up early friday AM, crank up the heat and hopefully get it ready for friday PM or worst case, sat PM.

Got a laugh out of the makeshift tubs on teh bullfrog page too. I guess what I was thinking was probably more in line with the college kids / tarp / box set up...
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Old 09-06-2012   #7
Dave Frank's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,727
I got close with a small kiddie pool and a 12v bilge pump. I used a 1/4 barrel on the blaster as a heat exchanger, but by midnight it had only reached the mid eighties for temps.

With power and the superman showdown pump it should be preset easy. It's just a question of how gig you can go.

Some 55 gallon drums with heat tubes in the bottom like a Snorkel wood fired tub would be pretty powerful. They could have wood legs and sit in the pool, or be poolside with a pump to circulate.

(seven two 0)-298-2242
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Old 09-06-2012   #8
Rojo's Avatar
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Paddling Since: 1985
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 184
Hot tub by Instructables

Efficient option, pending site, would be to dig a pit tub and seal with a pond liner sheet.

Interesting step-by-step for log frame tub.
Camping Hot Tub

Excellent heat source could be the old army issue M67 immersion heater, which uses a drip fuel fire chamber that is submerged into a metal trash can, then re-ciculate/pump into hot tub as needed. Use caution regarding the drip fuel control.

Immersion Heater, Unused, Complete
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Old 09-06-2012   #9
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2004
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 3,097
Rojo, that camping hot tub is exactly what I was thinking of... except bigger. Great link.

Dave, I wouldn't use the supermax showdown pump... to much flow, and they are expensive and break too easily. I do have some smaller pumps that would work perfect for this set though.

I wonder how well a tarp would hold up. Seems like it would get pinholes really easily? Might be a good cheap solution though.

I guess the main thing is getting the copper tubing and fire pan / steel drum heaters figured out, as well as the logs and the tarp for the tub. I have two pumps I could use to circulate water.
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Old 09-06-2012   #10
Wondervu, CO, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2001
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 390
Friends and I have made several portable hot tubs over the years. Anything from a low volume two person to a 20 seater. Here is what I can share from our experiance...

1. It takes a great deal of heat to bring water to tub temp. You need massive heat output and a long time. Our best versions required at least 6 hours to heat up. If you want to use it in less time go with a sauna. A sauna is MUCH less work, uses about 1/50 as much fuel and heats up in as little as 30 minutes.

2. The lower the volume the less water to heat, reduce the height of the water to a minimum and be thinking a tight 4 person tub not the 20 seater. (We built a 20 seater once, it took over 14 hours and about 1 1/2 cords of wood! Once we got it going it would coast along with just a little wood now and then.)

3. Almost any water tight structure can be made into a hot tub. Kiddie pools, 6 mil. plastic tarp and a ring of hay bales, foam sleeping pads wrapped into a ring and lined with a light plastic painters tarp. Continous liners work well, joints of any kind did not.

4. We had the best results from submersible type heaters. We found local wood or 20 lbs propane cans to be the best fuel sources. External heat exchangers were not as efficient and required a pump for circulation. A submersable wood heater can be as simple as a 35 gallon drum weighted down with rocks. An easy propane heater can be made from a U shaped piece of iron pipe and a propane weed eater like this..
Flame Weed Dragon Torch Kit — 100,000 BTU | Torch Kits| Northern Tool + Equipment}
Submerge the pipe with both ends above water and attach the burner nozzle to one end.

Note: things below the water line do not get too hot for short skin contact, however, things above the water line can get red hot. Don't let the heater have direct contact with the liner, used some kind of standoff for at least a 3/4" seperation.

5. Smaller is better, go for the lowest seating capacity and the minimum water volume to reduce fuel cost and heating time. Insulating the bottom by placing foam sleeping pads below the liner worked well, insulating the top (other than a wind cover) or sides did not have a big effect.. You can make up for poor insulation with more heat, fuel might be more portable than insulation. Increase your heater efficiancy by designing it to have a maximim wet surface. The larger the under water surface area the better, avoid large above water surfaces that just waste heat.

Wood fired heaters benifit from a flue and a fresh air vent, adding small fan to the fresh air vent can significantly increase heat output. Think of the difference between a cozy camp fire and a forge, HUGE amounts of heat can be created with a forced air wood fire. On the other hand, the propane heaters are super simple, just a nozzle and a pipe. As a result they are the most portable and require the least attention.

6. Hot water gets really skanky after a day, use some bromide tablets to go for a few days.

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