The LUgge cove: learn more about Kōv, the mobile sauna that visited campus last term 

Kōv sauna’s interior. Photo by Copper Clover Films.

Nathan Litt ‘08 recalls his earliest memories of going to saunas at local gyms. “Enjoying the warmth and then running out and jumping right away into the pool, that’s like my earliest memories from when I was younger,” he says. More recently is a shared memory with current Lawrence students, when Litt visited campus with Kōv, his new mobile sauna business, in a collaboration with LUgge, the LU hygge experience, late last term.

Following Litt’s graduation from Lawrence in 2008 with his degrees in government and international studies, he worked for the university’s development and fundraising department for a few years before branching out into careers in marketing and branding, eventually co-founding his own digital marketing agency with a colleague before landing on the idea to start Kōv. Inspired by his childhood love for the sauna experience and a growing interest in the various sauna cultures across Europe and Asia, Litt started out by building a wood-fire sauna at his family’s cabin in northern Wisconsin. That was when he began to discover the prevalence of saunas across Wisconsin and Michigan. 

The Kōv sauna trailer in the winter. Photo by owner.

The cold-weather climate shared by the upper Midwest and northern Europe makes saunas a practical solution, as well as a cultural expression for those of European ancestry. The term “hygge”—pronounced “hoo-ga”—is itself a Danish and Norwegian import that encapsulates a feeling of warmth and coziness, both literally and figuratively, and Kōv communicates that through its name, hoping to offer a “cove” of security. Litt took advantage of his own desire to have access to that feeling through the sauna to bring the experience to the greater Appleton community. 

Seeing the sauna “renaissance,” as he puts it, in the upper Midwest through mobile saunas, Litt conceptualized his own mobile business by building a Finnish-style sauna, in which steam is produced by slowly pouring water over heated rocks, inside a trailer. This way, he can make the sauna experience accessible to more people and bring the sauna itself into different communities to encourage the crucial social connections that make the sauna experience. With his background in professional community-building and interest in international relations, Litt saw an opportunity that was made for him. 

Two guests at a private sauna session. Photo by owner.

In his three months running the business with his wife, Litt has heard stories from many clients about their own experiences with saunas, like growing up visiting family cabins with saunas or even building them in their own garages. It became evident that frequenting a sauna is a common but isolated experience in the area, and bringing people together to rekindle the communal aspect of a sauna has been rewarding in Litt’s eyes. 

“So far, all of the guests that have come through and experienced this have loved it. They loved the feeling during and after the social aspects, enjoying this newer, different experience,” Litt explains. People who had never met before ended up “sharing what they do, their hobbies, what their dreams are. It’s really amazing what gets discussed there.” 

Physically, Litt says that a sauna experience can trigger a rush of endorphins similar to a runner’s high. Many people enjoy the contrast between the heat of the sauna and the brisk air outside when they exit to cool down. Litt also mentions recent studies that suggest a sauna session requires the same cardiovascular stamina as a medium-intensity aerobic workout. He explains that sauna sessions have been linked to various physical and mental health benefits, as well as simply feeling good, aiding in relaxation and being a reprieve from the cold. 

Being the first business of its kind in Appleton, Kōv currently operates similarly to a food truck, according to Litt, with a permit that only allows them to be active for six months of the year. The ultimate goal, however, is to not only add more trailers so that more people can experience the sauna, but to incorporate cold showers or plunges to carry Kōv into the warmer months. 

Kōv sauna’s interior. Photo by Copper Clover Films.

Although it aims to be a highly mobile business, Kōv has a semi-permanent location behind the Moon Water Café on Lawe Street and had to obtain a special permit to come to campus last term. The experience offered on campus was very similar to what regular clients can expect, with additional options for a guided session with aromatherapy and a discussion of various sauna cultures around the world in addition to the standard public and private sessions. 

Regarding his campus visit, Litt says, “I really enjoyed being back on campus, chatting with current students and learning what Lawrence is like today, but also just sharing this different experience. I think, ultimately, that’s what it’s all about.” He was reminded of the liberal arts spirit of the school as he got to share a new experience with students while learning from them at the same time, as well as getting to speak with students, like some Russian members of the hockey team, about their personal sauna experiences.  

“I was really grateful to have the opportunity to be invited,” Litt explains. “I’ve been encouraged by people who have never really experienced sauna before, but they were willing to try new things, and that was one of the reasons we were interested in starting Kōv.” You can learn more about Kōv at