Portable Hot Tubs Will Turn your Backyard into a High-End Spa
...In the time it takes you to say "blow up hot tub."
1. The Coleman SaluSpa is a great value choice.
2. The Intex PureSpa is my overall favorite.
Nothing can rival the sheer WONDER of being neck-deep in the warm waters of a Jacuzzi.
At night. In the dead of winter. When the only thing you can hear is the soft gurgling of the bubbles and the air feels crisp and clean against your face and the rest of your body is warm and loose and relaxed.
And do you know what is even better than a hot tub?
An inflatable, portable, hot tub. One you can take anywhere and set-up in virtually no time.
If that is not comfort right there, I don’t know what is.
Portable Hot Tubs & the Purpose of This Article
The thing about purchasing an inflatable hot tub is that the process can become a bit daunting.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of products available on the market and all their features and specifications.
I’ve written this article to make that process easy.
Because, if you’re like me, we’re simple people: we just want the best product at the best price.
The Ultimate Benefits of a Blow Up Hot Tub
If you’re reading this article, it is, most likely, because you are deciding whether you should buy an inflatable hot tub.
If that is indeed the case, I’m not going to insult your intelligence.
I’m sure you already know, at least intuitively, its main two benefits. I’m referring to:
- Saving money;
- Saving space.
1. Saving Money
It’s a fact that portable hot tubs tend to be cheaper than their regular counterparts.
If you want to buy a permanent hot tub, you’re looking at the thousands price range. Meanwhile, a good inflatable hot tub like the Coleman Lay Z Spa will cost you, at the time of this article, less than $350.
The difference, as you can see, is massive.
2. Saving Space
The main benefit of an inflatable hot tub is that you don’t need a huge backyard to enjoy a nice soak.
Actually, you don’t need a backyard at all! You can set them up almost anywhere.
- Planning a little backyard party? Set up your hot tub!
- Renting a cabin for the summer? Bring your hot tub!
- Around the world in 80 days in a camper van? Definitely bring your hot tub!
They’re known as “portable” Jacuzzis for a reason.
Just make sure that wherever you choose to set them up (patio, garage, terrace…) can hold their weight.
With a portable, inflatable, hot tub, you’ll be saving money and space.
But you probably knew that already. So, maybe, what you’re really trying to elucidate is if a portable hot tub is worth the money.
In that case, just let me change something real quick…
Are Inflatable Hot Tubs Worth the $350 Price Tag?
Now, we were saying that, in general, inflatable hot tubs are way cheaper than permanent ones.
Still, $400 or $350 are not negligible quantities. Being uncertain before spending that kind of money is completely understandable.
Usually, people’s doubts on this subject tend to revolve around quality and durability. At the end of the day, they’re called inflatable hot tubs for a reason.
If you’re like me, we read the word “inflatable” and automatically think about children’s floaties.
If that’s the case, don’t worry– that mental image can’t be further from the truth.
Make no mistake, inflatable hot tubs are sturdy beasts.
They’re commonly made out of PVC and reinforced with layers of other materials like nylon or polyester.
The combination of materials is usually unique to each manufacturer.
For example, Lay-Z-Spas inflatable hot tubs use what they call “Tritech” technology, which consists of a 3-ply reinforced material with a polyester mesh core that’s encased in 2 layers of laminated PVC.
In general, portable hot tubs are quite difficult to puncture.
However, they’re not 100% puncture-proof– “will it puncture if I take a hot knife to it?” Yes, most likely (don’t do that).
But if you treat them properly and follow the manufacturer’s instructions, it really shouldn’t be a problem.
Same as with the materials, the construction of inflatable Jacuzzi hot tubs is unique to each manufacturer.
One of the better-known structures is the one called “I-beam”; you might have heard about it.
In I-beam structures, the walls of the blow up spa are separated into chambers by “beams.” These beams help reinforce the walls of the hot tub, allowing you to lean and even sit on its walls without damaging the tub.
Another benefit of this structure? The whole spa won’t deflate if one segment gets punctured. (Which also makes patching it easier.)
Yes, plug and play hot tubs are very much worth the money.
The Parts of an Inflatable Hot Tub
Of course, each manufacturer is different (and you should always check the product description before purchasing it), but the parts of an inflatable hot tub are generally consistent with the following:
1. The inflatable tub
This is the pool that will be filled with water. It must be set up on a flat, level, and smooth surface. This is the reason why some manufacturers also include a…
2. Ground cloth
…With their product; it provides added protection for the floor and the bottom of your tub.
3. The spa cover
This cover (sometimes inflatable and usually made out of strong vinyl), will help preserve the surface of your tub and protect the water from dirt and the Sun. Keeping your spa covered while it’s not being used is an easy way of saving time and money.
4. The control unit
This is one of the most important parts of your new hot tub. Without it, an inflatable spa would just be a fancy pool.
The control base is the part responsible for pumping the water and warming it to the temperature of your choosing. This includes controlling the massage jets and the bubbles.
The control unit has a control panel to easily set up and program every function.
5. Filter Cartridges
The base also controls the filtering of the water through the filter cartridges.
These filters need to be cleaned periodically and replaced when they remain soiled and discolored.
Check the manufacturer’s instructions for further instructions.
6. The chemical floater
Keeping the filter cartridge clean is not enough for proper maintenance. Manufacturers usually recommend using pool chemicals to maintain water chemistry.
To make that task easier, a chemical floater (check on Amazon) is usually included with inflatable hot tubs.
As their name indicates, they work as a floating chemical dispenser.
Choosing the Right Hot Tub
OK, the moment of truth.
There might be a lot of inflatable hot tub models out there, but here’s where I give you my trusty go-to formula for choosing the perfect one. It begins with…
1. Choosing the right size for your tub
That should be easy, right? You just have to keep in mind two criteria:
- First of all, the diameter of the pool: Where do you want to set up your new spa? How much space is there for it?
- If you want a portable hot tub to keep in your van and set up in a valley under the blue blue sky, then you’re set–your future tub can be as big as you want. However, if you want to install it on your yard, or your terrace, or your garage, then you need to measure the space and incorporate that info into your buying decision.
- The second one is people, as in “how many people will be able to use the pool at the same time?”
- For example, a 2 person inflatable hot tub, like the SaluSpa Siena, will obviously be bigger than an 8 person inflatable hot tub like the Lay-Z-Spa Monaco.
2. Choosing the Massage System
Once we know the approximate dimensions of our hot tub, the next step is choosing a massage system. Aka: The Bubbles.
Luckily, both brands have very similar massage concepts, so it should be easy to explain.
Basically, each SaluSpa, Lay-Z-Spa, or Intex pool has one of three different systems:
- “AirJet” (SaluSpa, Lay-Z-Spa) or “Bubble Massage” (Intex)
- Here the bubbles come from high-pressure air being pushed through a tube with tiny holes that encircles the floor perimeter of the spa. The sensation is said to be “soothing and effervescent”.
- “HydroJet” (SaluSpa, Lay-Z-Spa) or “Jet Massage” (Intex)
- In this system, a combination of water and air is released through the jet nozzles integrated within the walls of the spa. The direction and pressure of the jets can be adjusted and the effect is similar to the one found in regular hot tubs.
- “HydroJet Pro” (SaluSpa, Lay-Z-Spa) or “Jet and Bubble Massage” (Intex)
- This one combines both the AirJet and the HydroJet systems.
3. The Price
Finally, the ultimate classic of all buying decisions: price range.
Obviously, there’s a direct correlation between the size and type of massage system and the final price of the tub.
Thus, an 8-person Jet and Bubble Massage spa will be generally more expensive than a 6 person Jet Massage spa, and so on.
Best Inflatable Hot Tubs Reviews
Instead of superficially glossing over a laundry list of portable hot tub brands, let’s just go in deep on two of the most popular (and best-selling) brands on the market:
Bestway (of SaluSpa and Lay-Z-Spa fame) and Intex.
Bestway, SaluSpa Inflatable Hot Tubs
Bestway is one of the most trusted hot tub brands in the world.
The name in itself might not ring a bell, but I’m sure you’ve heard of their products: SaluSpa? Lay-Z-Spa? Yep, that’s them.
The thing with Bestway is that, sometimes, going through their catalog might feel a bit daunting due to the (at first glance) overwhelming number of options available.
However, the moment you realize that most of these are basically the same spa, just under different brand names, that choice will look much simpler.
1. Construction, materials, and durability
SaluSpa and “Lazy Spa” inflatable hot tubs use what they call “Tritech™ Technology”, which consists of a 3-ply reinforced material with a polyester mesh core that’s encased in 2 layers of laminated PVC.
These spas are constructed using an I-beam structure, in which the walls of the hot tub are separated into chambers by “beams.”
These beams help reinforce the walls of the tub, allowing you to lean and even sit on them without causing any damage.
As you can see, SaluSpa tubs are built to endure.
If they’re cared for and well-maintained following the manufacturer’s indications, there’s no reason they can’t last for many years to come.
2. Massage Systems
As we covered in this section, Bestway models offer 3 different kinds of hydro massage:
- Bubbles = “Air Jet”
- Jets = “Hydro Jet”
- Bubbles + Jets = “Hydro Jet Pro”
3. Popular SaluSpa (and Lay-Z-Spa) Hot Tub Models
Currently, three of the most popular SaluSpa models are the Paris AirJet,and the Palm Springs AirJet.
I’ll also add in there the uber-popular Coleman SaluSpa Inflatable Hot Tub (aka the Coleman Lay Z Spa inflatable hot tub), and the Coleman 71 x 26 Inches Inflatable Spa. Both include the “SaluSpa” brand and look very similar to the Miami and Palm Springs pools.
|🔎 Budget Choice||⭐ Value choice|
|Miami AirJet||Coleman SaluSpa||Paris AirJet|
|Capacity||2-4 adults||4-6 adults||4-6 adults|
|Size inflated||71 x 26in / 180 x 66cm||77 x 28in / 196 x 71cm||77 x 26in / 196 x 66cm|
|Massage System||Bubble Massage||Bubble Massage||Bubble Massage|
|No. of air jets||81||120||87|
|Material||Coated rayon||TriTech™||Leather texture|
|Water capacity (80%)||211 gal. / 800 L||254 gal. / 963 L||242 gal. / 916 L|
|Water treatment||Includes filter cartridges, a chemical floater, and a setup and maintenance DVD.||Includes filter cartridges, a chemical floater, and a setup and maintenance DVD.||Includes filter cartridges, a chemical floater, and a setup and maintenance DVD.|
|Price||See on Amazon||See on Amazon||See on Amazon|
|Package weight||68.0 lbs / 30.9 kg||85.9 lbs / 39kg||81.1 lbs / 36.8 kg|
4. SaluSpa Approximate Price Range
At the time of writing this article, lots of SaluSpa portable hot tub models, like the Miami AirJet or the Paris AirJet, go from $300 to $600.
Check your favorite spa retailers for a more accurate quote.
Intex, PureSpa Inflatable Hot Tubs
If you’ve read anything at all about portable spas, you must have seen the names “Intex” and “PureSpa” mentioned time and time again.
Intex is one of the world’s leading hot tub brands, with more than 40 years of experience distributing above-ground pools, airbeds, and spas.
They pride themselves in their innovation and customer service, as well as their commitment to reduce the carbon footprint of their products.
1. Construction, materials, and durability
Intex pools, like their absolute rockstar, the 77-inch PureSpa, are constructed using their patented fiber technology. Meaning, the inside of the pool is made out of thousands of highly resistant polyester fibers.
SaluSpa tubs combine that Fiber-Tech construction with a puncture-resistant 3-ply laminated material.
The result is a super strong and durable product that you’ll get to sit on without barely any deformation.
2. Massage Systems
You’ll get three different kinds of hydro massage from SaluSpa blow up tubs:
- Bubble Massage
- Jet Massage
- Jet and Bubble Massage
It’s all pretty straightforward, but if you want to read a bit more about them, you can jump back to the “Choosing the Right Hot Tub” section. I’ll wait.
3. Popular Intex Spa Models
Here, the Intex 77in PureSpa Portable Bubble Massage hot tub is the absolute king. It’s a fantastic value choice that will give you a lot of bang for your buck.
Other popular models also include the PureSpa 6-Person Inflatable Bubble Hot Tub and the PureSpa 4-Person Bubble Jet Spa.
|⭐ Value choice|
|PureSpa 6-Person Inflatable Bubble Hot Tub||77in PureSpa Portable Bubble Massage|
|Capacity||6 adults||4 adults|
|Size inflated||85 x 28in / 216 x 71cm||77 x 28in / 196cm x 71cm|
|Massage System||Bubble Massage||Bubble Massage|
|No. tiny holes for massage bubbles||140||120|
|Material||Fiber-Tech, 3-ply laminated material||Fiber-Tech, 3-ply laminated material|
|Water capacity (80%)||290 gal / 1098 L||210 gal / 795 L|
|Water treatment||Includes a built-in hard water treatment filter, filter cartridges, floating chlorine dispenser.||Includes a built-in hard water treatment filter, filter cartridges, floating chlorine dispenser.|
|Price||See on Amazon||See on Amazon|
|Package weight||114 lbs / 51.7 kg||104.2 lbs / 47.3 kg|
4. PureSpa Approximate Price Range
At the time of writing this article, PureSpa portable hot tub models go from $300 to $500.
Check your favorite spa retailers for a more accurate quote.
Hot Tub Accessories
Did you know you can equip your new hot tub with all kinds of bells and whistles?
There’s a whole world of accessories out there to max up your tub’s comfy-ness.
Spa like a king or queen with these add-ons:
1. Spa seats and booster cushions
If you’re not super tall, you will most likely want to purchase one of these.
Sitting while inside the tub is, obviously, the norm and a pre-requisite for comfort and relaxation. However, a lot of people are surprised when they enter a portable hot tub and discover there’s nowhere to sit but on the “floor”.
This is fine for some people, but if the walls of your spa are tall and you are not, a spa seat or booster cushion will be a great, great, investment.
2. Cup holders
OK, so picture this: you’re soaking away in your portable hot tub while sipping a nice cold beer (or a nice glass of wine, or whiskey, or soda–we don’t discriminate here), all warm and toasty after a long day at work.
Sounds nice, right?
Thing is, after a while, holding a glass full of liquid above the water or over the tub’s walls can get a little awkward.
The solution? buy a cup holder for your spa and regain full use of your hands forever.
3. LED lights
Let’s be honest, LED lights for a hot tub is not something one needs.
Still, they’re veeery cool and great for adding a little something-something to your nightly soaks (great for parties, too!).
In a similar fashion to spa seats, some people might be fine with just resting their heads against the wall of the spa.
However, if you want your neck to be as relaxed and comfy as the rest of your body, buying a couple headrests might make all the difference.
(The one in the picture is an Intex PureSpa headrest.)
5. Solar cover
Most inflatable hot tub brands include a couple of covers with their spas, so you should be… covered in that regard.
Solar covers do an important job of protecting the tub and keeping the water clean longer.
Thus, if your portable spa didn’t include one, or the one you did get is broken or damaged, purchasing a new cover would be a wise decision.
6. Spa steps with storage
Spa steps are probably one of the most useful add-ons for portable hot tubs.
Especially if you prefer to have your spa set up semi-permanently.
Not only will this accessory help you get in and out of your tub way more easily and safely, it will also work as a little storage space for whatever you need to keep close to your spa, like covers or sanitation kits.
A+ for usefulness.
What Can I Expect If I Buy an Inflatable Hot Tub? (AKA, “I Bought a Blow Up Hot Tub, Now What?”)
Congratulations! You’re now the lucky owner of an amazing portable spa.
Here are some of the things you’ll need to look out for to keep it in pristine condition:
- Location Safety
1. Location Safety
You need to be mindful about the location of your hot tub. The place you choose to set it up must…
- …be able to support the combined weight of the hot tub, the water, and the users.
- …be level, smooth and flat. Most manufacturers include a ground cloth with their products to make this part easier.
- …be near a drain. Water may flow out of the spa at any time (e.g., when users get in or out of it), so an adequate drainage system needs to be in place to deal with the water.
- …be in a well-ventilated area. Humidity is nearly inevitable.
As you can imagine, inflatable hot tubs are very similar to regular hot tubs and pools in the way that they accumulate dirt.
Grime, detergent residues, or other dissolved solids from bathing suits and chemicals will sooner or later build up on your portable spa’s walls.
To clean them, use soap and water and rinse thoroughly.
Keep in mind that the use of hard brushes or abrasive cleaners is not recommended.
2.1. Water sanitation
When it comes to water sanitation, it’s vital to always follow the manufacturer’s directions and the health and hazard warnings.
The maintenance of a proper water balance is the single most important factor in maximizing the life of your hot tub as well as ensuring clean, healthy and safe water.
Regular maintenance is a must.
You must regularly check and keep the spa water sanitized. Some manufacturers even include test-strips with their product so you can test the water’s chemistry before each use. Adding sanitizer and other chemicals will control the bacteria present in the spa water.
It’s also important not to leave the spa’s surface exposed to direct sunlight for long periods of time. Thankfully, most manufacturers will include a cover or two with their hot tubs, so that’s easily preventable.
If you have any doubts, the best course of action is to consult with a professional.
Sometimes you might not want to use your hot tub. That’s OK.
The beautiful thing about a portable hot tub is not just being able to set it up whenever you feel like a nice soak, but also being able to put it away when you don’t need it or would rather use the space for something else.
A couple tips for those times:
- Make sure the spa is completely dry before storing it. This is essential to maximize its life.
- Store it in its original package in a warm and dry place. Plastic becomes brittle and easier to break when exposed to freezing temperatures.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How much does it cost to run a hot tub?
The cost of running a hot tub depends on multiple factors:
- The price of electricity and water.
- Location & climate. Generally, the cost of running a portable spa will be higher in colder climates (given that your spa is set up outdoors, of course). This is because the water will take longer to heat and, afterward, its temperature will be harder to maintain.
- How frequently do you use it. An inflatable hot tub needs electricity to pump the water, heat it, filter it, and operate the massage jets and bubbles; amongst other functions.
The cost may vary, but you can be cost-efficient with little actions like using a ground cloth for thermal insulation or covering the spa to improve the heating process.
2. How long does it take for the water to heat?
If the spa is covered and the heater is properly set and running, the water temperature will raise an average of 2ºF per hour (the number depends on the hot tub model).
The starting temperature of the water, and the exterior temperature are also important factors.
From here it’s just basic math. Say the starting water temperature is 70º and you want to raise it to 100ºF: that’s a difference of 30 degrees. If the heater raises the temperature of the water by 2ºF every hour, that would be 30/2 = 15. It would take 15 hours to reach 100ºF.
Since there’re multiple factors at play, most blow up spas take 12-24 hours to heat up.
However, it must not exceed 104ºF, which is the maximum operating temperature for most inflatable hot tubs.
Always refer to the product’s manual for detailed information on safe use.
3. How long does it take to set up an inflatable hot tub?
Portable hot tubs are generally easy to set up. It shouldn’t take more than 10-20 minutes.
4. Do the spas have built-in seats?
No, portable spas don’t usually have built-in seats.
They’re pretty comfortable on their own, but if you want seats, they’re sold separately for a pretty affordable price.
5. Do I need a flat surface to place a blow-up hot tub?
Yes, you do need a flat, smooth, and level surface to set up your portable spa.
Some manufacturers include a ground cloth/mat with their product to help with that.
6. How much does a spa weight?
It depends on how big is the spa, how much water’s in it, how many people are using it… Check the product’s manual to get a more accurate number.
The Health Benefits of Spa Baths
There’s something inherent to hot water that has got us humans going “ahhh, yeah” for thousands of years.
Be it in the ancient Roman thermae, the Japanese onsens, or the modern-day spas, we have enjoyed the benefits of hydrotherapy throughout history.
But what exactly are those benefits? Here’s a list of the reasons behind the ahhh:
1. They can help reduce stress and insomnia
The National Sleep Foundation recommends taking a warm bath or shower prior to bed, in order to lower your body temperature and improve the quality of your sleep.
Furthermore, hydrotherapy can be a relaxing exercise that stimulates the release of endorphins, which can help reduce anxiety and stress.
2. They can help improve blood circulation and lower blood pressure
A warm bath, combined with a good jet massage, can improve blood circulation, helping reduce headaches and relieve the tension in stress-prone areas like the neck, shoulders, and lower back.
3. They can help alleviate aches and pains and rehabilitate injured muscles
As we were saying, a hot water massage improves blood circulation and helps alleviate muscle aches and joint pain.
The Arthritis Foundation also recommends hydrotherapy as a means to help people with stiff joints regain mobility and relieve discomfort.
4. They can help clean your body and eliminate toxins
You might not actually feel it, because you’re submerged in water, but hot baths help you sweat.
This, in turn, stimulates the elimination of toxins through the skin’s pores.
Hot water also helps dilate the pores, which is quite convenient since it makes the whole process easier.
5. They can help boost the immune system
A warm bath can help relax your muscles and improve blood flow.
This, in turn, promotes the circulation of a fluid called “lymph” throughout the lymphatic system.
One of the many functions of that fluid is to pick up bacteria and bring them to the lymph nodes, where they are destroyed.
This process helps strengthen your immune system and protects you from illness and infection.