I Tested Stock Tank Pool Company Cowboy Pools During All Four Seasons

It’s not exactly large enough for doing laps, but for me, it’s (much) better than nothing at all.
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Being a swimmer means that you are always searching for bodies of water. It also means that your ultimate dream is to have one of your own, accessible whenever your heart desires a dip.

Growing up in the city, I never actually thought such a thing would happen to me; after all, the only people with pools in New York are very rich or very lucky. So a few years ago, when I bought a home with my sister and my partner, of course the first thing I thought was… wow…maybe one day I can get my pool.

Realistically, unless I come into $80,000 or so, that is a dream deferred. (Especially because I’m holding out hope for a real lap pool.) But then, last summer, I learned something exciting: Cowboy Pools, which was founded by an Austin-based husband and wife team in 2020 and has quickly become a popular stock tank pool company in the U.S., had started shipping their pool "The Honcho" nationwide, and I would be able to test one out.

The Honcho by Cowboy Pools
The Honcho by Cowboy Pools
Here you have it, folks! Introducing the most brilliant stock tank pool ever created, the big guy in charge, The Honcho — now available nationwide! Featuring our patent-pending design, The Honcho is a hybrid creation of galvanized steel tank and thick poly liner offering a chic and affordable, long...

There are a bevy of stock tank pool companies out there now; their popularity has grown I’m sure in part with the popularity of the Joshua Tree aesthetic. But until recently, many of them were fairly bare-bones, and were only able to be used year-round in warm-weather climes. Until last year, for example, the only pool available for shipping by Cowboy was their DIY Kit, which wasn’t even an actual pool, but the parts that run it; you were responsible for getting your own stock tank (with their guidance). A pool that was larger, insulated and—a key detail—lined, which helps with longevity, was offered only to those in Austin, San Antonio, and Houston.

But thankfully, times have changed. The main things to know before considering a Cowboy Pool is whether you have the required electrical hookup and a level space (or a space close enough to level that it could become so) near it to make your pool work. If you’re in a house on a small lot, both are probably feasible, but as the company outlines, you may need an electrician to adjust your offerings and/or someone to fix your yard. (In Texas, the company offers suggestions of companies who are local who can take this on for you.) Luckily, the spot I was thinking of ended up being level enough I could even it out myself, and had formerly housed a hot tub, so we already had power available for the pump and the heater. This was something I liked about The Honcho—it could be both a plunge pool and hot tub, depending on the weather. Could my dreams of a pool experience be closer than I’d realized?

Getting the Pool

After emailing the Cowboy team about the possibility of having The Honcho sent, I expected some lead time—but as they coincidentally had another one being shipped to my area already, a 6’ pool was at my door (with their least powerful 110v heater, the package typically costs $3,950) within a week. When it arrived, we weren’t close to ready for it, but had plenty of space for it, so the delivery guy put it down on the lawn where it slowly killed a large circle of grass before I carved out time to go in and level the area and get the electrical squared away. The actual delivery itself isn’t complex: everything you need comes in a box, and the pool itself is literally rolled onto your property. (It now costs $500 flat to deliver anywhere nationwide; Austin, Houston and San Antonio are free.)

Meanwhile, my partner set about adding a couple of extra outlets to our outdoor electrical set up, as the pool pump and the heater each need one. While electrical is not my bag, he’s gotten quite handy at it recently, and I was impressed with how quickly that install worked out. If electrical is also not your bag, obviously hire someone to do this kind of work; Cowboy notes that if your outlet isn’t close to where your pool will go, you will definitely need to hire someone to trench out the power. As he did that, I tackled leveling the pool area, following Cowboy’s video instructions they send along when you buy, which are very clear, and required just a few bags of sand easily picked up from the hardware store. That whole process only took an hour or so.

The spot where my pool would go, grass removed, ready for leveling.

The spot where my pool would go, grass removed, ready for leveling.

My circle, filled with sand and leveled.

My circle, filled with sand and leveled.

Then, we rolled the pool onto our designated surface—on top of the cover straps, if you’re using them, which you likely are—and began to fill it. Ours took less than an hour to fill, and, once that was done, we hooked things up. This is all fairly plug-and-play, and doesn’t require purchasing any extra stuff: all the heavy lifting is the work done ahead of time to make sure that you have the set up to even buy the pool in the first place.

Cowboy has a number of detailed instructions on their website that answer essentially any question you might have. I watched the videos they sent along about installation several times, and again as I did the install, pausing as I completed each step. I also found their email responses any time I had a question super helpful; everyone’s space is a different arrangement of peculiarities, so it’s great to have someone to answer specific questions about yours. If you’re not buying local, and relying only on their website’s FAQs, you may find the way the information is presented a little haphazard; all of the advice is lumped together, when the needs of someone installing in New York are definitely different than someone in a warmer climate. I’d probably reorganize some of it; occasionally, it would take reading through a few different pages to find the answer to my specific question. But given that every customer gets a real live person to answer their questions, this is more relevant if you’re really trying to fly solo, or just need to look something up quickly.

Maintenance and Experience

You now own a pool, and I think the size of this one can make it seem like you don’t. But you’ll need to buy chlorine pellets that you use regularly, clean it, keep the filter clear, etc. It’s not for someone who doesn’t want any work at all—if that’s more of your vibe, stick with your bathtub. (In the cities in Texas they service, the company again has recommendations of people you can hire to do all this for you.) But over a season, it’s fairly minimal, and if you’re the kind of person who gets calm just looking at the body of any kind of water, having it provokes a base level of joy.

The pool, not yet unwrapped but in its final resting spot.

The pool, not yet unwrapped but in its final resting spot.

We wondered if our pool was going to feel too small, but the 6’, which is their smallest model (the other sizes are 8’ and 10’) easily fits a few adults and certainly more children, the latter of whom went absolutely hog wild for it during our end of summer party in September; my friend’s son spent literally hours in it. The 110v heater definitely doesn’t get it up to hot hot tub levels, and like any hot tub, you’ll have to know you want to use it ahead of time and crank up the temperature. But it was always nice to get in, whether at the end of a hot day or a chilly evening. All in all, it made the end of my summer particularly special—not to mention the compliments I got for just having it at all.


But I was curious about how my new pool would fare in the Northeast, a decidedly new market and a more challenging climate for the stock tank pool. We kept it out until late November, and then reached out to the team about winterizing recommendations. At the time, the materials on their website largely suggested not draining the pool, but since temperatures in New York consistently reach below freezing, and I knew it was unlikely we’d use it much if at all over the winter, I didn’t think that seemed wise. They’ve since updated their FAQs with a very helpful set of videos, so you’ll avoid my main challenges here, which required knitting some of their written instructions together to figure out best practices. Otherwise, winterizing is fairly easy: you just reverse what you did to put it together—drain the pool, and uninstall it. You’ll need space in a non-freezing area of your home, of course, to store the pipes, pump and filter, so think ahead on where you’ll want that to go. And during the winter, if you’re using the top with holes in it, you’ll occasionally need to bail rainwater out of the pool (or use a sump pump).


Come April, of course, the better part of a year had passed since I last put this thing together, so I had to reacquaint myself with the materials. I had misplaced the lube you use to attach the pipes to the pool, so I bought some more of that online, as well as some pH strips, since I’d skipped that step last season in my maintenance tasks. I hit a few small snags along the way; one of the color-coded rubber bands that tells you which pipe to connect to which part of the pool was wearing off, and at first, I couldn’t find one of the C-rings that helps seal the pipes to the pool, so I used one of the extras Cowboy had sent along, which was actually too big, strangely, and meant that that gasket had a very small leak in it. Luckily, after I finished installation, I found the original C-ring on the driveway (classic), so I reinstalled it and the problem resolved itself. Learn from me: it’s easy to lose the small, key parts of this set up, so make sure you’re keeping them in a contained place.

When its empty, this is a good moment to scrub down the pool. Then I refilled the pool, which is my sister and I noticed a strange slurping sound coming from one of the eyeball fittings. I’d had to look at photos I’d taken during install to make sure I was putting the fittings back on the right holes, since I’d plugged them during the winter months with the respective caps they provide. Taking photos of your own set up to reference later isn’t a bad idea if you plan to do regular install/deinstall of this set up. We soon realized that the water level was just too low, and once we added more water, that resolved itself as well.

A new addition this summer was their inflatable cover, which they also sent to test, and is only supposed to be used when there’s water in the pool. I highly recommend it; not only does it not have the holes the fabric cover does, which keeps the pool considerably cleaner, it also immediately makes the water so much warmer, even without the heater on.

The only thing we’re considering for this second summer of the pool is some sort of box around the pump, to deaden the noise a bit and cover it up while still making sure it doesn’t overheat. (Yes, it’s much quieter than a lot of pool pumps, but it’s still a hum I’d like to quiet a little bit.) While so far I’m not thrilled with the options out there, based on no confirmation at all, this seems something Cowboy will come along with eventually—for those of us craving a good-looking, fairly low-cost and maintenance water experience, they have thought of everything else so far. And until I get my big pool, I’ll be floating pretty. 

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Top photo courtesy of Cowboy Pools

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Kate Dries
Kate Dries is Dwell’s Executive Editor. She previously worked at VICE, Jezebel, BuzzFeed, and WBEZ, and has written for many other publications. She's passionate about patinas. Get in touch: kate dot dries at dwell dot com


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