The 8 Best Camp Showers
8. Coleman 5-Gallon Solar
- simple on-off valve
- handle breaks easily
- difficult to fully drain
|Rating||4.1 / 5.0|
7. Texsport Instant Portable
- 5-gallon water reservoir
- ripstop polyethylene floor
- can be hard to use in gusty winds
|Rating||4.2 / 5.0|
6. Zodi Outback Gear Battery Powered
- works with any water source
- quietly operating motor
- does not warm water
|Rating||4.0 / 5.0|
5. Stearns Sun Portable
- uses passive solar power to warm
- good for fall hunting
- water pressure is a little weak
|Rating||4.7 / 5.0|
4. Ivation Portable Handheld
- includes suction cup and s-hook
- charges via usb from car or home
- ideal for cool showers on hot days
|Rating||4.0 / 5.0|
3. Zodi Outback Gear Extreme SC
- 1-piece pressurizing hand pump
- heats to 100 degrees f
- burner doubles as cooking stove
|Rating||4.7 / 5.0|
2. Advanced Elements 5 Gallon
- side pocket for soap and shampoo
- weighs just over a pound
- rolls up for compact storage
|Rating||4.9 / 5.0|
1. Nemo Helio Pressure System
- comes in grey or blue
- best gear award in men's journal
- also good for washing dishes
|Model||NEMO Equipment Inc.|
|Rating||4.7 / 5.0|
How Clean Can It Get You?
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.
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.
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.