Just because you’re headed off on a backpacking trip doesn’t mean you have to slack off on your personal hygiene. In fact, it’s more than possible to stay squeaky clean when you’re outdoors, so long as you have a camping shower on hand.
With so many different portable shower options available, though, it can be tricky to choose the right model for your next adventure. So, here are our reviews of the top five best camping showers on the market today, complete with top tips for finding the perfect one for your needs.
What Are Portable Camping Showers?
A camping shower is a device that you can use to stay clean while enjoying yourself in the outdoors. While you could just jump in a lake to rinse off, lathering up with soap and shampoo in bodies of water can be harmful to fish and other wildlife.
That’s where shower tents and portable showers come into the picture. These devices allow you to bathe with soap far away from a body of water. This helps to minimize any potential negative effects of soap and shampoo on the natural environment and allows you to stay clean in the process.
Types Of Camping Showers
There are many different kinds of camping showers, each with their own unique advantages and disadvantages. Every type will have some system that creates water pressure, similar to what you’d find at home in your own bathroom.
Additionally, some kinds of portable showers will also heat up water for you, allowing you to lather, rinse, and repeat with a steady flow of hot water. Here’s what you need to know about the different models available to you:
Solar camping showers are simple and ingenious. They harness the power of the sun to heat up water without the need to open flames or fuel. Additionally, most solar-powered models will come with some sort of hanging system that allows you to prop them up to create water pressure.
The main advantage of solar portable showers is that they don’t require fuel. Additionally, they tend to be the lightest and most compact option.
However, the main drawback of a solar shower is the amount of time it takes for the water to heat up. On average, you can expect to wait at least 3-4 hours to get some decently warm water with these devices.
But, it’s unlikely that a solar shower will be able to create water that’s as hot as what you’d find at home, even after hours in the sun.
Battery-powered camping showers are popular because they can create a surprising amount of water pressure without the need for big, bulky equipment. These devices are quite simple as they have three basic parts: a showerhead, a pump, and a battery.
To operate a battery-powered model, you place the pump in a container of water, such as a bucket or water bladder. Then, you either hold onto the showerhead or prop it up on a tree branch. As soon as you turn on the battery, it will start to pump water through the showerhead so you can bathe.
Battery-powered camping showers are popular because they are highly portable. They often weigh less than 2lbs (0.9kg) and are fairly compact in size. Plus, the pumps on these models often have built-in filters you so you only have to bathe in clean water.
The disadvantage of this type of shower is that they don’t provide you with hot water. So, if you want warm water to bathe with, you’ll need to heat some up on your stove or leave a black water reservoir in the sun for a few hours.
Finally, if you really want hot water, a propane-powered shower might be your best bet. These models use propane fuel to heat up water. Also, they often have a battery-powered pump to create adequate water pressure.
But, propane showers are generally quite heavy and bulky, so, they’re not ideal for backpackers. They’re also fairly expensive and require quite a bit of fuel to operate, which means they require a lot of maintenance to stay in working condition for years on end.
OUR TOP PICKS
BEST OVERALL – NEMO HELIO SHOWER
BEST PORTABLE – SEA TO SUMMIT SHOWER
BEST PROPANE – HIKE CREW SHOWER
BEST BUDGET – PYLE PORTABLE SHOWER
The Nemo Helio puts a new, modern twist on the original solar shower design by making them easier to pressurize and operate.
Unlike most gravity-fed portable showers, the Helio has a unique integrated foot pump system that lets you pressurize the water chamber for a better showering experience.
The 11L model can provide up to 7 minutes of continuous water pressure. It has a 7-foot neoprene sprayer hose that can be slung over a tree for showering. Or, you can use the hose to rinse off dirty gear after a long day outside.
You can leave the Helio outside in the sun to warm it up naturally. Alternatively, it’s durable enough to be filled directly with hot water if you’re short on time.
It also comes with a ventilated carrying case for easier transport to and from camp.
Overall, I’ve found that it’s a bit more practical for extended outdoor use than some of the battery-powered options because it doesn’t need to be charged and as mentioned, it can hold/heat up water. Other campers that I’ve talked to also rave on about it.
- Can provide a lot of water pressure with foot pump system
- Long hose provides added versatility
- Can be filled with hot water or left to warm in the sun
- Expensive for a solar shower
- Bulkier than other solar options
The Sea To Summit Pocket Shower is a lightweight option for staying clean while backpacking or canoe camping. It is made of 70D nylon, which is the same durable fabric you’d find in a lot of waterproof dry sacks.
The whole thing packs down into a small stuff sack that weighs just 4.3 ounces (121g). To use this shower, you simply need to fill it up with water and place it in the sun for a few hours to allow it to heat up naturally.
Then, when you’re ready to bathe, you hang it up in a tree or sling it over a boulder for maximum water pressure. I’ve found that it’s very practical if you want to pack light.
Furthermore, it has an easy to operate on/off switch for controlling the flow of water and can provide 8 minutes of shower time at its highest flow rate.
- Very light and compact
- Durable fabrics can also be used as a fully-functioning dry sack
- Stores 10L of water and provides up to 8 minutes of shower time
- Takes a while to heat up water
With the ability to bring hot water and lots of water pressure to any campground, the Hike Crew Portable Propane Shower is a solid choice for car campers.
This shower uses a propane gas tank to heat up water quickly for bathing, washing dishes, and other camp tasks.
It has a temperature control system and an LED screen that shows you precisely how hot your water is before you shower.
Additionally, it has a safety shutoff system that prevents water from heating up past 125ºF (51.6ºC). You can even mix and match multiple attachment options for either a showerhead, faucet, or spigot.
The shower needs to be attached to a 12V or AC/DC outlet to operate the pump, so it’s best for frontcountry camping. But, it’s compact enough to pack into your car or RV and it also has a convenient carry bag for transport.
- Compact and portable for a propane shower
- Easy to use temperature control and safety shutoff systems
- Multiple attachments for showering, handwashing, and doing dishes
- Needs electricity hook-ups
The Pyle Portable Camping Shower offers solid all-around performance and good water pressure with minimal bulk. It has a 100% waterproof casing, which protects its fully rechargeable battery from damage in the backcountry.
The main advantage of this model is that its pump can be fully submerged in water, unlike many of the other battery-powered options out there today.
Its battery can provide about 30 minutes of showering time without needing to be recharged, which is enough for a short camping trip in the mountains.
Plus, the pump on this shower has a built-in filter, which is helpful when you’re far from a treated water source.
It goes through about 1 gallon (3.7L) of water a minute, so it has a fairly high flow rate compared to other options. But, this means that it offers a lot of water pressure for a more comfortable shower experience.
- High water pressure
- Fully waterproof battery casing
- Pump also filters water
- Battery will only last for a few showers
- Uses a lot of water
- Doesn’t heat or store water for you
What You Should Look For In A Portable Camping Shower
Buying a camping shower can be tricky because there are so many different options available. Here are some of the most important features to keep in mind as you shop:
As with any piece of gear, the functionality of a portable shower is important. You’ll want to look for a model that works well in the environment you plan to use it in.
For example, if you’re going car camping, a propane shower will be able to create the hottest water and the most water pressure. This means that they provide a showering experience similar to what you’d get at home.
When it comes to backpacking trips, however, carrying a propane shower around is probably out of the question. In these situations, functionality is all about finding gear that can work for extended periods of time in harsh environments, such as solar and battery-powered showers.
Cost is a concern for any piece of gear, and portable showers are no exception. For the most part, propane models are going to be the most expensive option because they have more moving parts. Meanwhile, solar showers generally tend to be the most affordable.
The last thing you want is to buy a brand new portable shower, only for it to break and fall apart after your first camping trip. So, durability is key when shopping for new gear.
The main concern for battery-powered showers is whether or not the battery casing is waterproof. If not, the device could easily be damaged while you’re outside.
For solar showers, the strength and robustness of the water container are critical. If the water container fabric is too thin, it could easily puncture while you’re outside.
Finally, for propane showers, you’ll want to look for models made out of strong, solid metals and hard-plastic fittings. Of course, these extra-robust materials generally make for a heavier piece of equipment, but that added durability might be worth it to you if you’re a frequent camper.
Ease Of Set-Up
Solar showers tend to be the least complex option when it comes to set up. This is because you just need to find a place to hang them up in order to create the water pressure you need to bathe.
Likewise, battery showers are often fairly simple. They usually come with some sort of attachment system that allows you to suspend the showerhead off of a tree branch or boulder.
But, you will need to find a large container to hold your showering water, which can be a bit tricky to accomplish in the backcountry.
Propane showers have quite a few moving parts, so they’re perhaps the most difficult to set-up. To operate one of these models, you’ll need propane, an electric hookup (for the shower pump), as well as a large container of water.
Additionally, you’ll need to find a way to prop up the showerhead on a propane shower, unless you’re okay with holding it in your hand as you rinse off.
Weight And Compactness
The weight and compactness of a portable shower are two of the most important factors for backpackers since they have to carry all of their gear. But, car campers also have limited space in their vehicles, so having a smaller shower is also very helpful in these situations.
Solar and battery-powered models are going to be the most compact options available. The downside to these models is that they’re not as powerful as propane showers when it comes to creating hot water.
So, if hot water is your priority, then the added weight and bulk of a propane shower might be worth it. Otherwise, backpackers will find that the other available options are simply more practical.
The capacity of a portable shower refers to how much water it can store in its tank or carry bag. For the most part, this is only applicable to solar showers, which have built-in water reservoirs.
To use other types of camping showers, you’ll likely need to find your own way to store water, whether that’s in a bucket or a water storage bag. In general, the more water capacity, the better. But, larger capacity models are usually heavier and bulkier than smaller ones.
Camping Shower Tips
If you’ve never used a portable camping shower before, the whole concept can feel a bit daunting. However, there are a few things you can do to ensure that your outdoor shower experience is top-notch. Here are some top tips:
- Use Warm Water. If you have a solar or propane shower, this step is taken care of for you. But, if you’re using a battery-powered shower, you’ll have to prepare your own hot water to bathe with. While it might seem easier to just use cold water from the lake, you will probably regret that decision as soon as you start showering.
- Hang Your Shower Head. Although you could hold the showerhead in your hand, it’s much more efficient to prop it up on something. This allows you to keep both hands free so you can lather up more quickly and make the most of your limited amount of water.
- Use a Camp Towel. Unless you’re car camping, you probably won’t have space in your pack to bring a full-sized bath towel. But, there are plenty of great compact camp towels out there for you to choose from.
- Opt For Bio-Degradable Soap. Whenever possible, opt for biodegradable soap when showering outside. You’re already helping keep pollutants out of bodies of water by showering instead of bathing directly in a lake or river. So, using biodegradable soap helps protect natural environments even further and keeps them healthy for years to come.
- Bring Something To Stand On. Unless you have a nice flat rock slab to shower on, you’ll want something to stand on to stop your feet from getting caked in mud. Sandals are a good option, as are foam sit pads.
- Be Conservative With Your Water. At home, you’re probably used to letting water run as you lather up in the shower. But, when you have a limited supply of warm water, try to turn it off whenever you’re not actively rinsing your body. This will help ensure that you don’t run out of water in the middle of your shower.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are our answers to some of your most frequently asked questions about camping showers:
HOW MUCH WATER IS NEEDED FOR A CAMP SHOWER?
In general, you’ll need between 10-20 liters of water to get a 5-7 minute shower while you’re outside. This number will vary slightly depending on the gear that you use, but you will need quite a bit of water to bathe outside.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO TAKE A HOT SHOWER WHILE CAMPING?
The good news is that it’s certainly possible to take a hot shower while camping. Solar showers can provide you with decently warm water, but if you want truly hot water to bathe in, you’ll need a propane shower.
Alternatively, you can heat up water on your camp stove or over a fire to use with a battery-powered model. Just be sure that the water you use isn’t too hot, or you could accidentally burn yourself.
HOW DO YOU MAINTAIN A PORTABLE CAMPING SHOWER?
Thankfully, maintaining a portable camping shower is fairly straightforward. Here’s what you need to do:
- Always empty and dry the water container. If you have a solar shower, be sure to completely empty it out when you finish your trip. Then, when you get home, prop it open and let it dry out completely to prevent mold and mildew build-up.
- Clean The Pump Filter. For a battery-powered shower, you’ll need to frequently clean out the pump’s filter to allow for an adequate flow of water. This process is usually quite simple and just involves opening the filter casing and rinsing it out with fresh water.
- Charge the Batteries And Replace Propane Tanks. Battery-powered showers should be recharged at the end of every trip. Meanwhile, you should replace the fuel canister on your propane shower whenever it’s close to empty.
HOW MANY PEOPLE CAN USE THE SAME CAMPING SHOWER?
The number of people that can use the same camping shower comes down to two factors: flow rate and water capacity. These two factors will determine how long you can use a portable shower for and, subsequently, how many people can use the same one.
Every camping shower has what’s known as a “flow rate,” which is a measure of how much water they use per minute. Flow rates are normally expressed in gallons or liters per minute and, the higher the rate, the more water the shower uses.
High flow rates were traditionally used to help increase water pressure in older showers. But, as technology has improved, low-flow rate showers allow for ample water pressure without wasting water.
However, flow rates aren’t the only variable in this equation. In addition to how quickly your portable shower uses water, you need to know how much water your shower can hold.
For solar showers, the amount of water it can hold is quite simple – it’s the size of the water reservoir. So, to calculate how long your shower can operate, you divide the total water capacity by the flow rate. This will give you the number of minutes you can bathe for.
Therefore, a solar shower with a water capacity of 11L and a flow rate of 2.2 liters per minute gives you 5 minutes of bathing time. That’s generally only enough for one person to use, but if you’re super speedy and conservative with water, two people might be able to share the same shower.
A camping shower is a must-have piece of equipment if you want to stay hygienic while out on an outdoor adventure. Finding the right one is all about deciding what matters most to you, whether that’s portability, versatility, or overall performance.
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