When referenced in films, TV, or social media, or pop culture, it's more often a hot tub we hear about than the more sophisticated sounding spa. If athletes are captured on social media cavorting after hours, it's in a hot tub, not a spa. Remember the old sketches on Saturday Night Live with Will Ferrell and Rachel Dratch as the "hot tub luh-vahs"? They often hung out at the Welshley Arms Motel's hot tub, where they would harass other guests with their psuedo-intellectual conversations and disgusting meat snacks. And the film Hot Tub Time Machine would never have had the same appeal as Spa Time Machine. Deep stuff to ponder next time you soak in your hot tub. Or spa.
Also factor in the mechanical portion and that the parts inside serve a bigger role when in use, so are usually multi-mechanical beasts that have a lot of expensive internals. The more internal moving parts you have, the more expensive the product is, regardless of its origin. It should be noted that although most portable hot tubs end up in the medium to high price point, inflatable hot tubs are not that much cheaper than the bulk of portable hot tubs if you remove shipping costs.
Of the 3 main inflatable hot tub brands, this hot tub is the largest and has the most bubble jets (140). With an 85-inch diameter and 290 gallon capacity, this Intex model provides more personal relaxation space than any other. More room means it is easier to stretch out and easier to sink down so that bubbling water is lapping around your shoulders. That said we think 4 people is the comfortable max.
It does exactly what it says on the tin. When you want to use it, you just pump it up, fill it up with water, and add your chemicals. Once you are done it is simply a case of emptying it out, letting it dry and deflating the spa. You can then leave it in storage until its next use. Most of us will fill it and use it for months! Others will take it out only on special occasions.
This tub is made of six-layer laminated PVC material called Rhino-Tech. It has vertical interior vinyl panels to give it support and prevent sagging over time. It comes with a carrying case and only weighs 66 pounds, making it quite portable before you inflate it. The Alpine M-009LS’s combined pump and heater unit is built into the tub wall, unlike most inflatable hot tubs that have external heating systems. The digital control panel extends out from the side of the pool so it’s within easy reach. The heater raises the temperature up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, but it raises the temperature 2 to 3 degrees per hour, so you’ll have to start heating the day before use. As with other tubs, the integrated air blower doubles as an inflator and the power behind the 120 bubble jets. It comes with a pressure gauge to avoid over-inflation. It also comes with a protective ground mat that is just a little larger than the tub’s footprint, but it’s not cushioned as mats on other tubs are. This inflatable spa comes with two filter cartridges which attach to the inside of the tub. It also comes with a garden hose adapter for the drainage spout, making it easier to empty the tub. The Alpine M-009LS has a fitted top cover with a foil lining to retain heat. The cover is secured with locking straps, but instead of being integrated into the tub, as some tubs are designed, it latched to the ground mat.
Try to imagine how big that actually is. Get a tape measure out and use it to gauge the size. A better idea is to mark the inner diameter out on the ground. Use a rope or a garden hose to physically map out the size. When you have your circle on the ground, sit in it. Ideally get some others to do the same. You should be able to get a good idea of how many people you personally would feel comfortable with.
Although a inflatable spa is a lot lighter than a standard one when full it is still a considerable weight when full; ranging from 1500 lbs for some 4-seater options to 4000 lbs for larger models and then you need to add the weight of the people so if you are considering placing your hot tub on decking it is essential to make sure it is strong enough to take the weight.
If you do like to move it around regularly, which is the strongest advantage for inflatable hot tubs, you have to deal with draining, deflating, moving, inflating, and refilling your tub every time you want to move it. The deflating and inflating isn’t as big of a deal if you have an air compressor to hook up to it, or if your hot tub came with its own, but it still takes a while (and a good deal of water) to refill that hot tub every time, and longer yet to get the water hot.