When hiking, you’re out in the sun all day. You get hot, sweaty, grimy, and a bit smelly too. You probably want to get cleaned up and relax so you can do it all again tomorrow. However, there are so many options with portable camping showers, many don’t know where to begin.
The 10 best portable camping showers are:
- Nemo Helio Pressure Shower
- Advanced Elements Summer Solar Shower
- Sea To Summit Pocket Shower
- Reliance Flow Pro Portable Shower
- Ivation Portable Outdoor Shower
- Jayetec Portable Outdoor Shower Kit
- H2G0 12V Portable Shower System
- Eccotemp L5 Outdoor Tankless Water Heater
- Yakima Road Shower
- Simple Shower Portable Camping Shower
While we all desire to feel refreshed at the end of a long day outdoors, deciding on the best shower really depends on your environment and your needs. Some options will work better than others, but you have to know how they work before you can decide on the one that will be best for you.
How Does A Portable Camping Shower Work?
Portable camping showers work in a variety of ways, and there are numerous options on the market. Some are designed for being on the trail and are lightweight. Others are designed for campsites that have access to water and power. There are several other options that run differently as well.
The basic build of any camping shower is a reservoir of water attached to a shower head by a hose. The water runs from the tank through the hose and out of the shower head. The design can vary from shower to shower.
Gravity Fed/Solar Camp Showers
The most popular portable camping showers are gravity fed and solar. They are specially constructed bags designed to self-heat in the sun, then hung high for gravity to run its natural course through a hose and out of the shower head.
Mechanical Camp Showers
Rather than using gravity, some showers use mechanical energy where you create the pressure within the holding tank to force the water through the hose and out of the shower head.
Electrical Camp Showers
Others are battery operated or electricalwith the same concept in mind, a holding tank attached to a hose attached to a shower head. The only difference is that instead of gravity forcing the water through the hose, it’s done using batteries or electricity. This means the bag doesn’t need to be hung and can rest anywhere.
Portable Propane Showers For Camping
There’s also a category of portable camping showers that are heated by propane or electricity. These showers essentially operate the same way, but they use propane or electricity to heat the water instead of solar power.
Battery Operated Showers
The final category of portable camping showers are battery operated showers. They use a siphoning mechanism, powered by batteries, with a pump submerged into the holding tank. The water is then sucked from the holding tank through the hose and out through the shower head.
When using portable camping showers water is generally heated in one of three ways. Most will heat the water through solar or electrical power. Many campers, however, will heat their water over a camp stove or fire, which is then mixed with ambient water and poured into the holding tank or reservoir.
Types Of Portable Camping Showers
Portable camping showers have a variety of designs to choose from. From simple to complex, the various types of portable showers range from small, hand-held devices to large, car-mounted holding tanks. Understanding how each shower works will help you choose the best option for you.
Gravity Shower Bags
Gravity shower bags usually consist of a water bladder that you fill, and then set in the sun to warm. When ready to use, you hang it from an overhead supporting mechanism high enough to allow gravity to do all the work.
These water bladders can range from 2 pounds to 10 pounds, and are typically used by weekend campers. While these are the most common among campers, one of the disadvantages to these types of shower systems is that they have to be hung.
First, water can be substantially heavy and difficult for some people to lift. Second, your camping environment must have the natural features needed to hang the bag. Most often, this comes in the form of a tree. If you’re camping in an area without trees, then you’ll have to figure out a way to hang or elevate your bag for it to function properly.
Rack Mounted Travel Showers
Rack mounted travel showers can be gravity fed or pressurized. They’re substantially larger than shower bags so they can carry much more water. They rest on the roof-rack of your automobile and typically utilize solar heating to warm the water.
They usually consist of a long, narrow water bladder that carries up to 10 gallons of water, which weighs approximately 120 lbs. It has an attached hose and shower head, sometimes two.
Rack mounted showers are much more expensive and are typically used by overlanders or those that are off-grid for several days at a time. Aside from the price, one key disadvantage is that you must be near your vehicle to use it, which makes it not a viable option for a number of camping situations.
Manually Pressurized Showers
Manually pressurized showers are powered by hand-pumps or foot-pumps. You apply pressure to the hand or foot-pump to pressurize the holding tank, which gradually increases the psi (pounds per square inch) inside the tank. This forces the water out through the hose and shower head. It’s the same concept as airing up a bike tire with an air-pump or a pressure sprayer in your yard.
This can be a very versatile option depending on the type you buy. Some of them come with collapsible tanks that make them super easy to transport for hikers, but some come with hard plastic tanks, which aren’t as portable.
Pocket showers are usually small and compact. They can use gravity or physical pressure to exert the water through the spout. One type of pocket shower includes a water-bottle shower, which is small and simple. Due to its size, however, it also has a significantly limited water capacity.
Pocket showers can utilize gravity or pressure and can attach to any water-bottle and most collapsible bottles. These are mostly useful for a quick hand rinse or sandy feet at the beach. It wouldn’t be enough to wash your hair or take a long shower. However, it is sufficient enough to help you feel clean and refreshed.
Another type of pocket shower includes a compact collapsible bag attached to a compact shower head. These are ideal for hikers, as long as you have a water source, because they are lightweight and compact.
Battery-Operated Shower Pumps
Shower pumps are small, lightweight sump pumps that operate off rechargeable batteries. They have a small base unit with a water pump that submerges under water and pumps the water through a tube to the shower head.
These are fairly inexpensive units and are easily portable, but you’ll need an external water tank. The disadvantage is that you have the hassle of recharging batteries. If your batteries die in the field, then you are out of luck.
Submersible Electrical Pumps
These are essentially the same as a battery-operated shower pump except instead of using rechargeable batteries, they operate off a 12-volt battery. So, while you don’t have to worry about recharging batteries, you must have access to a battery source.
This means you have to be near your vehicle or generator in order to use them. Therefore, unless you are a car-camper or overlander, this option won’t work well for you.
Freestanding Electrical Pumps
Freestanding electrical pumps aren’t submerged in water. Instead, they are the center piece between two hoses. On one end an open hose is submerged into your water source, and the pump siphons water through the hose and pump. Then it is forced out the of second hose on the other side.
As the name implies, you need electricity to make them work. Therefore, this type of shower is best suited for designated camping sites, generators, or base camps.
There are many DIY options for making your own portable shower. With a little creativity, you can make your own shower for a fraction of the cost. You’ll need a holding tank, a hose, and a shower head of sorts. The only other thing you’ll need to figure out is how to heat your water. From weed sprayers to PVC pipe to water cans, many campers have successfully built their own camping showers.
How Long Does A Portable Camping Shower Last?
How long a portable camping shower lasts will depend on the size of your holding tank or water supply, the type of portable shower it is, the pressure being used, and how many people are using the shower. Generally, the more water you have access to, the longer your shower will last.
Some showers come with a low pressure/high pressure switch. The more pressure being applied, the more water will be dispensed. So lower pressure systems will typically last longer than high pressure systems.
The more people using the shower, the faster the rate of consumption. The type of shower you take will also need to be considered. Are you taking a military-type shower with limited water flow, or are you taking a full-shower with continuous water flow?
If you have a pump that’s running on batteries or propane, then the amount of charge or fuel will affect how long your showers can last. If your shower has any leaks around the bag or valves, this depletes your water supply over time.
How To Choose The Best Portable Camping Shower
Choosing the best portable camping shower will depend on what kind of camping you’re doing. At the very least, you need to consider how, when, and where you plan on showering. Planning ahead will make a major difference in choosing the best shower.
Think about the length of your trip and the number of people that will be using your shower system. These factors will determine the water capacity you need to think about using.
Consider the environment you’ll be around. What kind of water will you have access to, if any? The terrain will determine whether you can hang a water-bladder. Will you have access to your vehicle? If not, then you know you will not be able to use the 12-volt batteries or car-mount options.
If you’re a hiker, obviously you will need something lightweight and compact to fit inside your backpack. The weight of the system will be an important factor. You’ll want to consider ease of use and make sure that it’s not too complex or complicated.
Also consider whether you intend to use your shower for other duties. Many campers often use portable showers to wash dishes or clothes. If you need a shower to multi-task, then make sure it has the capability to do so.
The 10 Best Portable Camping Showers
1. Nemo Helio Pressure Shower
Whether you’re showering or washing dishes, the Helio Pressure Shower is one of the most versatile of the portable shower systems. It’s made of a polyurethane-coated polyester and thermoplastic urethane so you can set it in the sun for solar warmth or you can fill it with preheated water.
It has a collapsible water tank making it a viable option for just about any camper. It holds 2.9 gallons and can rest directly on the ground without having to be hung. The shower system uses a foot-pump, which is easy to use. Instead of gravity, you apply pressure directly to the tank. It has a 7 foot hose, which provides plenty of length.
When pressurized, it offers 5-7 minutes of continuous water flow. It comes with a ventilated carrying case to fit the tank, hose, nozzle, and pump. It even comes with a stand for convenience.
- No electricity or batteries required
- Collapsible and lightweight at just over 1 lb
- Freestanding unit, no hanging required
- A little pricey compared to other models
- Manually operated
- Can be difficult to get inlet valve to seal correctly
2. Advanced Elements Summer Solar Shower
One of the most popular gravity-fed shower systems among campers. This is also a very versatile option at a much more affordable price. This portable shower system can be purchased in 2.5 gallon, 3 gallon, or 5 gallon capacity.
It has an extra-large filling valve, a temperature gauge, and wide carrying handles. It also rolls up for easy and lightweight storage. The Summer Solar Shower also has added amenities including a reflective mirror and side pockets for holding items such as soap or shampoo, and Velcro straps.
It has super durable construction with an insulated panel and solar panel to provide above average heat retention. The water can heat up to 110 degrees, and it has decent water pressure. It has an easy to use on/off valve and a solid hanging handle.
- Very affordable
- Variable water capacity
- Water heats up fairly quickly
- Gravity fed bag can be heavy to lift
- Reflective mirror doesn’t work too well
3. Sea To Summit Pocket Shower
Just over 2 ½ gallons of carrying capacity, the Sea to Summit Pocket Shower is another very versatile shower systems that works for all camping styles. Weighing just over 4 ounces, it’s made with 70D nylon and fully taped seams. It is heat-resistant and waterproof. It comes with 20 feet of hanging cord and a twist on/off shower head apparatus built into the base of the bag.
The black fabric absorbs warmth from the sun to heat the water, giving you over eight minutes of warm shower. This luxury backpacking item can also be used as a dry-sack for clothes or a sleeping bag. Many campers even use it to wash their dishes and clothes.
- Light enough for backpackers
- Durable and versatile
- Comes with its own hanging cord
- Nozzle can be finicky
- Shower head can leak
- Hanging rope is on the thin side
4. Reliance Flow Pro Portable Shower
Another pressure pump option for those that don’t want to mess with charging batteries. The Reliance Flow Pro is a 2 gallon tank with a 6 foot kink-resistant hose. Pump by hand to build up pressure, then use the trigger-action shower head.
It comes with a washable neoprene storage sleeve that has a carrying strap for easy transport, if needed. This is anideal portable shower for dry camps. It’s easy to set up, easy to use, and can be used by almost any style of camper. However, this is not ideal for hikers or backpackers that have to lug their gear.
Approximately twenty pumps of the handle will build up enough pressure to provide two full minutes of continuous water spray. It’s versatile enough to use for washing dishes. This is a popular design for budget conscious “do-it-yourselfers” who recreate it using a weed sprayer and modifying the hose and spigot.
- Doesn’t need to be hung
- 6-foot hose for plenty of length
- Comes with neoprene carrying case
- Spigot sometimes leaks under pressure
- A little pricey
- May need to pump while showering
5. Ivation Portable Outdoor Shower
All you need is a bucket of water and a 2200 mAh rechargeable lithium battery to make this portable shower work. Simply drop the pump in your water reservoir, turn it on, and you have an instant shower with a 6 ½ foot hose. It provides a flow rate that’s gentle enough for babies. It comes with both suction cup and S-hook for hanging the shower head.
It runs for up to 60 minutes with a flow rate of .66 gallons per minute. With 2 ½ gallons of water, that’s about 8 minutes of shower time. It can be charged by USB or wall socket with a 5V integrated USB charger. You can purchase a 12V USB car adapter for charging on the go. It takes roughly 2 hours for a full charge. Under 2 lbs, this option is very mobile and is best for car-campers and hikers.
- Easy to use
- Highly portable
- Hose is on the short side
- Can only be charged with 5V USB
- You need to heat the water beforehand
6. Jayetec Portable Outdoor Shower Kit
This is a freestanding battery-operated pump model that requires an external reservoir of water. The pump itself has a hanging hook with an intake valve and an output valve. Attach the hose to the intake valve and drop into your water reservoir.
Attach the shower-head to the output valve, and press the power switch for your portable shower. The shower head comes with both an S-hook and a suction cup for hanging.
Weighing almost 2 ½ lbs, this device is powered by a 4400 mAh rechargeable battery that has more than 80 minutes of life. The low-switch outputs 3 liters per minute, and the high-switch outputs 4 liters per minute. It has an added LED light for nighttime use. The battery is charged via USB port and takes 4-5 hours to charge.
- Good outflow
- Long battery life
- Long recharge time
- No way to know when battery is fully charged
- Short hose for shower head
7. H2G0 12V Portable Shower System
This shower consists of a standard military-grade 5 gallon Wavion Jerry can, a 10 foot coil hose, a 7-position sprayer nozzle, and a 12 volt built-in water pump. This is one of the best 12 volt battery-operated shower systems available. It comes with your choice of 5 foot or 10 foot power cable with on/off switch that has a 5A fused, 12 volt cigarette plug.
The built in 2.1 mm jack is removable for safe and easy storage. You also have the option of purchasing an add-on 120 volt wall socket adapter, which comes in handy for designated camp sites that supply electricity, or if you’re operating off of a generator.
This portable shower system gives you about 20 minutes of solid shower time. If you have the electrical aptitude, this is another DIY design that’s popular among car-campers and outlanders.
- Full 5 gallons of water
- 10-foot hose for plenty of stretch
- 7-position spray nozzle
- Only ideal for car-campers or base camps
- Must be within 10 feet of electricity source
- 5-gallon jugs may be too heavy for some
8. Eccotemp L5 Outdoor Tankless Water Heater
The L5 Portable Outdoor Tankless Water Heater is ideal for camping, hunting, fishing, or any other off-grid adventure that doesn’t have electricity. Powered by 2 D-cell batteries, it’s light and compact making it easy to take on the go.
It works by attaching a 20 lb propane tank to a gas input valve, then attaching a garden hose to a water input valve. A supplied shower head with a 6 foot hose is attached to a water output valve. It has an electronic ignition and can reach temperatures up to 120 degrees. It can operate from 20 to 80 psi and reach up to 1 ½ gallons per minute.
- Proficiently heats water
- Can run on D-Cell batteries
- Easy to use
- Requires water source
9. Yakima Road Shower
If you’ve got money to spare and access to your vehicle, then the Yakima Road Shower is the cream of the crop. Mounted to your roof rack or load bars, the Yakima Road Shower comes in 4, 7, or 10 gallon capacity. Depending on your adventure needs, the Road Shower can provide not only your shower needs, but enough water to supply for cooking, cleaning, and everything in between.
It’s a pressurized shower unit that utilizes a bicycle pump or a 12v air pump. It can reach a whopping 65 psi. When fully pressurized it can send a stream of water up to 50 feet. It has an output on each end so you can completely customize your set-up with camp kitchen on one end and shower on the other.
The tank is painted black to absorb sunlight and heatthe water. There are some flaws in the design. For example, the plugs do not come wrapped in plumbing tape, so they tend to leak but this is an easy fix. There’s also no drain plug for the tank, so it needs to be dismounted from the vehicle to drain the tank completely.
With a little creativity and innovation, it wouldn’t be too difficult to create a DIY version of this design at a fraction of the cost. Blueprints are readily available on the internet.
- Provides up to 10 gallons of water storage
- No batteries or electricity needed
- Already elevated and mounted
- Super expensive
- Only viable if you have access to your vehicle
- No drain valve for the tank
10. Simple Shower Portable Camping Shower
This nifty pocket showering device is designed to attach to just about any 1L or 2L water-bottle. It can also be used with Platypus bottles and bladders. Fill the water or bladder with warm water for a simple, quick, and easy rinse off.
It’s not much, but in a pinch it will do. It’s a simple concept for backpackers who want a way to freshen up at the end of the day, especially if you already use the Platypus bottles and bladders. A DIY version that would not only be cheaper, but possibly better quality too.
- Light enough for backpackers
- Works with Platypus system
- Cheap quality
- Small capacity
Portable camping showers offer the opportunity to freshen up after a long day out in nature. Regardless of your camping style, there are plenty of options to choose from. Find one that works well for your needs, or build one yourself, and enjoy cleaning up after a hard day outside!