If you’re living life on the road, having the best portable washing machine in your RV or camper is a must. These nifty devices help you keep your clothing clean and hygienic, even after long days of adventuring outside.
However, finding a quality camping washing machine isn’t easy because there are so many great options available. To get you started, here’s everything you need to know about portable washing machines, plus reviews of our five favorite models on the market today:
How To Choose A Portable Washing Machine
Buying a portable washing machine for camping to help you stay squeaky clean while outdoors doesn’t have to be an insurmountable challenge. Here are some of the most important things to keep in mind when shopping for your next camping washing machine:
What you plan to use your washing machine for will greatly affect the model that you buy. For example, a person that is looking for a machine to install in their RV will have different needs from someone that wants one for their small camper van or for backpacking.
Thus, determining precisely what you plan to use your machine for will help you decide on the right model for your needs.
The size of a portable washing machine will make a big difference in your ability to bring it on a camping trip. Of course, the larger the machine, the more clothing you can wash at once. But, larger machines are difficult to transport, particularly in smaller vehicles or on backcountry trips.
Maximum Load Weight
Each camp washing machine will have a maximum load weight, which gives you an idea of how much clothing you can wash at once. Most portable models will be able to accommodate between 5-10 pounds (2.3-4.5kg) of clothing at once.
Having a larger maximum load weight means you can wash more at one time. But, this added convenience comes with the drawback of a larger machine, which can be inconvenient for smaller camper vans and RVs.
Electric v. Manual Power
When buying a camping washing machine, you’ll have to decide between electric and manual power. Electric machines are more convenient because you just have to plug them in to get them started.
However, electric machines won’t work if you don’t have an outlet and can really drain your vehicle’s reserve batteries. Manual models, on the other hand, can be used anywhere you can carry them, but they do require a bit of elbow grease to operate.
Washer v. Washer/Dryer Combo
Finally, you’ll have to decide if you’re interested in just a washer or if you’d rather have a washer/dryer combo. Machines that are just washers are usually cheaper and more compact. But, using one means you’ll have to wait quite a while for your clothes to air dry before you can wear them again.
Alternatively, most portable machines that have a dryer will do a “spin dry,” which isn’t going to get your clothes to be as dry as the heat-based system you might have at home. But they do cut down substantially on the amount of time you need to spend air drying your clothing.
The Giantex Portable Compact washing machine features a twin tub design and an 8lb (3.6kg) capacity. The machine can fit easily inside an RV, where it runs off of 110v power.
It weighs just 24lbs (10.9kg) and has a 23”x14” (58.4×35.6cm) footprint, so it is small enough for use in space-limited locations. Additionally, the machine features separate timing systems for both the washer and the spin dryer so you can be more efficient as you wash your clothes on a rest day.
Plus, it takes just 15 minutes to wash a single load of laundry and another 5 minutes to spin dry them. However, you can adjust the machine to run for longer or shorter periods of time based on the size of your laundry load and the type of clothing you’re trying to clean.
This allows you more control over the washing process, unlike other machines that can only operate on predetermined settings.
- Two separate tubs – one for washing and one for spin-drying
- Can run off of 110v power
- Compact enough to fit in an RV
- Full control over settings and timing of a load
- Too large for a smaller camper van
The Costway Mini is one of the most compact portable washing machines on the market. It has a 5.5lbs (2.5kg) washing capacity, so it’s just the right size for occasionally washing your gear on a longer camping adventure.
Additionally, this machine has a single tub design, which helps reduce the amount of space it takes up in your RV. However, it still functions as both a washer and a spin dryer, eliminating the need for bulkier equipment.
The Costway Mini has a power cord that can be plugged into any of the outlets on your RV. It can wash a single load of laundry in just 10 minutes and then spin them dry in 5 minutes so you can spend less time doing your laundry each day.
- Very small compact size for use in camper vans or RVs
- Takes only 10 minutes to wash a single load
- Single tub design offers space savings
- Can only wash 4-5 t-shirts at a time
- Small drying capacity (1.5lbs/0.7kg)
For campers that are looking for an environmentally-friendly portable washing machine, the Wonder Wash might be a good option. This machine is compact and weighs just 5lbs (2.3kg), so it’s a good companion for particularly small adventure vehicles or long stays at a family campground.
What makes this machine unique is that it’s manually powered. That means there are no wires to be plugged in or any internal moving parts that can break over time. Plus, the Wonder Wash is gentle on clothes, making it a solid choice for any piece of clothing.
Although it does take a bit of manual effort to wash your clothes with this machine, it only takes 1-2 minutes to wash a single load. So it also acts as a great way to build upper body strength while you’re camping and away from the gym.
All jokes aside, though, this machine also uses a surprisingly small amount of water, which is particularly beneficial for dry campsites or long periods of boondocking in your RV.
- Very compact and lightweight
- Requires no electricity
- Uses a small amount of water
- Can clean clothes in just a few minutes
- Great for keeping your upper body in shape while camping
- Not great for people with limited mobility in the upper body
- Does require manual effort
The Giantex Portable Mini is the smaller version of the company’s Portable Compact model. It features the same great two tub design that allows for washing and spinning at the same time.
It has an easy to use control panel that allows you to adjust to different washing modes or spin times based on your washing needs.
Despite being physically smaller than the Portable Compact, the Portable mini has a washing capacity of 9lbs (4.1kg).
The entire model weighs just 16lbs (7.3kg), so it is small enough to bring along in a camper van or RV. Finally, it’s one of the more affordable two tub models on the market, which means it’s a decent choice for campers on a budget.
- Compact size and lightweight (16lbs/7.3kg)
- Affordable price for two tub washing machine
- Can wash up to 9lbs (4.1kg) at a time
- Easy to use control panel allows you to set custom wash settings
- Some durability concerns with an all-plastic construction
If you’re really trying to go off the grid and keep your clothes clean without adding a lot of bulky equipment to your gear list, the Scrubba Portable Wash Bag is a good choice. This hand washing machine weighs just 5oz (145g) and requires zero electricity to clean your clothes.
The Scrubba is essentially a high-tech dry bag with an internal washboard. To use it, you simply have to fill the bag up with your clothes, a small amount of water, and a bit of detergent. Then, you roll up the bag, clip it shut, and open the valve to remove any excess air.
As you press down and rub the clothes together for about 30 seconds to 3 minutes, the internal washboard cleans your clothes. When you’re done, you simply need to pour out the dirty water, give your clothes a quick rinse, and hang them to dry.
This makes the Scrubba a convenient choice for backpackers, RVers, travelers, or anyone that wants a small, lightweight portable washing machine for off-grid use.
- Very lightweight and highly packable
- Requires no electricity
- Uses minimal water
- Fairly affordable when compared to other portable washing machines
- Involves manual effort
- No drying option
- Can only wash a small amount of clothing at a time
A portable washing machine is an important piece of gear if you’re planning on heading out for a longer trip. They can help you cut down, or even eliminate trips to a laundromat, and make staying clean a breeze while you’re outside.
In the end, finding the right washing machine for camping is all about knowing what your needs are before you start shopping.