The 10 Best Camp Showers
This wiki has been updated 25 times since it was first published in September of 2015. What's the worst part about camping? Well, yes, the bugs. But next to that, it's coming back to your site perspiring after a long hike and not being able to get clean. But enjoying the great outdoors does not mean you have to forego creature comforts or personal hygiene. Try one of these portable camp showers on your next adventure. They run the gamut from basic to relatively sophisticated. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
April 22, 2021:
There were only a couple of updates to make here, but they're both somewhat notable. At the #1 spot, we upgraded to the latest version of the Nemo Helio, which is further refined overall than the last iteration, and now comes in a 22-liter version as well as the original 11-liter size.
We also scrapped the Yakima RoadShower because it's no longer readily available and it was always more of a luxury item than a cost-effective one. In its place is the Hike Crew Portable, which consists of a pump with a water inlet and faucet, as well as a heating element driven by an external propane tank. This one's a little unconventional, but it's also one of the most functional. If you're in the wilderness and want a hot shower reminiscent of the ones at home, it's definitely worth a look.
February 14, 2020:
There are plenty of different choices for keeping clean outdoors. We'll start with the most straightforward, the Rainburst Simple Shower, which screws onto a standard 1- or 2-liter bottle and uses gravity, with the aid of a small air vent, to provide a mild flow of water. There's not much to it, but it costs next to nothing and it gets the job done. The Sea to Summit Pocket is only a bit more complicated, as it includes its own reservoir and is basically a minimalist version of the classic solar shower. Speaking of solar showers, the Stearns SunShower and Advanced Elements Summer are both somewhat improved versions of the traditional 5-gallon bladder design. Again, they're not incredibly high-tech, but they do work -- though they'll need quite a bit of time in direct sunlight to actually get hot. The Texsport Instant is another enhanced solar shower, this time improved by a thorough, 4-wall privacy enclosure, ripstop nylon floor, and hanging bag for toiletries.
Moving on to slightly more advanced options, the Yakima RoadShower is a fixed tank designed to mount to the top rail on a 4-by-4 vehicle. It could easily be considered overpriced, but it is, nonetheless, very well made, and if you have an air compressor (and most 4-by-4 aficionados will), it provides high-pressure flow until the last drop. The Ivation Handheld is a battery-powered hose that sucks water out of a bucket (not included) or stream (also not included), filters it, and sprays it out of the adjustable nozzle. As far as powered sprayers go, it's actually pretty simple. The Oyooko Outdoor is a bit like it although it does come with a tank; unfortunately, that tank doesn't seal well enough to transport water to and from camp in the back of your vehicle, but they do include 5 gallons worth of water storage bags to make up for it.
There are two that don't quite fit in with the rest, and they're actually two of the best. The Nemo Helio consists of a reservoir and foot pump, and while it's on the simpler side of things, it's made with great care and functions very well. The Foruee F5B, on the other hand, is meant for a different kind of camping; it's intended for use near running water and with a propane tank, but if you have those, you can have piping-hot water whenever you want.
Zodi Extreme S/C This is a self-contained heated shower system that excels in almost every way. It's easy to heat, offers adjustable pressure levels, and should withstand the general rigors of a fun camping trip. It's not cheap, but it's highly effective, and should last for quite a while. zodi.com
How Clean Can It Get You?
I've been in some of those grimy showers, and no matter how long you stay under that water or how much soap you use, you never feel quite clean.
If you're at a camp site and you're not getting dirty, chances are you're doing something wrong. Like eating chicken wings, camping is–at least in part–about letting your hair down and getting some dirt in it. That said, just because camping ought to get you dirty, it doesn't mean you have to stay dirty, especially not with a good camping shower on your side.
The biggest challenge presented to campers looking to get clean is not just the access to large quantities of water, it's the access to large quantities of clean, hot water. A few generations ago, you could have just hopped into whatever body of water was conveniently near to your campsite. It wouldn't have been very warm, but it would have been clean. Nowadays, it seems like the majority of natural water sources is either polluted with industrial waste or home to some pretty gnarly microbes bent on turning you intestines into Studio 54.
Some of the more built up campsites out there have their own bathrooms and even showers, but these present two distinct problems. The first is that they take you one step further out of nature and back toward the world you visit nature specifically to leave behind. The second thing is that these showers are usually pretty filthy. Dirt is one thing; filth is another. I've been in some of those grimy showers, and no matter how long you stay under that water or how much soap you use, you never feel quite clean.
With a portable camping shower, on the other hand, you can pick and choose your bathing place. A lot of these systems are designed to hang from a tree with a very easy setup, though not all of them can create hot water. The ones that do give you hot water either utilize an actual water tank that sits on top of a propane canister and works much the way your water heater at home does, or they utilize passive solar power to slowly, but surely, hear the water inside of a durable plastic bag.
In any case, your water supply is limited, so the flow won't quite resemble the kind of water pressure or quantity you're used to at home. For example, the bags on our list hold four or five gallons of water, whereas the average shower in America burns through about 20 gallons in just 10 minutes.
Your Kind Of Camping
Picking a camping shower from among the options on our list comes down to your style of camping more than anything else. There are options here that would be absolutely perfect for one type of camper, but that would become absolute nightmares for another.
I know I'm not too shy about my body, particularly when there's no one around for miles, but you very well may prefer a shower with a little privacy.
If you're the type of camper who packs light and travels far, hiking many miles per day, consuming only the calories you need to keep moving, etc., you want a camping shower that will take up the least space and weight in your pack. The bag showers on our list are probably your best bet.
I know I'm not too shy about my body, particularly when there's no one around for miles, but you very well may prefer a shower with a little privacy. Some of the options on are list pack down as easily as the bags mentioned above, but also have simple, pop-up or drop-down enclosures that can provide a bit of a barrier between your body and your fellow campers.
If you end up falling in love with a tank-based shower on our list, you'd better be camping at a designated site with a truck, trailer, or RV at your disposal. There's no way anyone in their right mind would hike into the wilderness lugging that 12 lb. monster with them, along with however much gas you'd need to divert from your camping stove to heat up your shower water.
Next to a camper or a trailer, though, such a shower is ideal, since you can bring a few extra gas tanks with you, and since your vehicle will do all the heavy lifting and transporting. All you have to do is set it up, turn it on, and wait for the water to get hot.
If The Water Falls...
The first camping shower dates way back to a time long before humans roamed the Earth–probably even before the dinosaurs had their day, and maybe (likely) even before life existed on the blue planet. These, of course, were waterfalls, and once humans did show up, they–along with gushing streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds–were the primary bathing grounds for most of mankind.
Servants in ancient Egypt often emptied jugs of clean water over their masters' bodies to clean them.
The first method by which men had water run from above and down over their bodies, before the invention of the shower, was by having slaves to pour it for them. Servants in ancient Egypt often emptied jugs of clean water over their masters' bodies to clean them. The Greeks and Romans later developed communal shower rooms in their bath houses at the heights of their respective empires' water systems.
Eventually, in 1767, a stove maker in London named William Feetham (not the best last name to associate with cleanliness) patented the first shower that we might call such today. These were pumped by hand and didn't gain much popularity until advances in indoor plumbing made them more economical and efficient, leading to an adaptation of shower stalls by military and prison infrastructures, and eventually to their dominance in homes and campsites across the world.