Sure, camping is all about roughing it and becoming one with the earth, but sometimes on a longer trip, you just want to freshen up. After all, personal hygiene is important for avoiding pesky rashes and it helps keep your limited supply of clothing fresher for longer, too. If you’ve taken a look at our guide to how to shower while camping, you may have discounted options like jumping in a lake (too cold) or using the showers at the campsite (too scary) and might be considering investing in one of the best camping showers instead. With a camping shower, you can wash dishes and gear like muddy hiking boots as well as yourself. There are lots of different types of camping shower out there, however, so we guide you through three of the main types of camping showers on the market right now to help you choose the best one to rinse away the grime of the day and make your next trip more enjoyable.
Solar/gravity camping shower
Solar camping showers rely on natural resources to offer you a good rinse and are definitely the most affordable and portable option out there. A solar camping shower basically looks like a sturdy black trash bag with hooks or straps to string it up and a spout for the water and usually hold between 10 and 20 liters of water.
Before you set off for a day of hiking, fill the bag with water and leave it out in the sun. The black surface absorbs the sunlight and at the end of the day when you get back to camp, you’ve got a bag full of warm or hot water. Hang the bag up on a tree or your van roof rack then gravity allows the water to flow out while you take a shower – you can usually get a good five to 10 minutes of washing time. Usually, the water just comes out of a spout which feels less like a real shower but leaves both hands free for washing.
Of course, if it’s a warm shower you’re looking for, you’ll need a sunny day which isn’t guaranteed everywhere, and when these bags are full, they can be too heavy for a typical shower tent so you’ll need to own a vehicle or find a sturdy tree limb, but they pack away easily and don’t weigh much.
- Heats water
- Low maintenance
- Both hands free for washing
- Relies on sunlight
- Can be difficult to hang
- May be too heavy for tent showers when full
Pressure camping shower
Pressure camping showers come with a pump that you use to build pressure inside the chamber so that it can spray the water out. These can look a bit like a dry bag, or a more solid plastic chamber that you set on the ground. The pump is either operated by foot or by hand, and they come with a hose and shower nozzle. Basically you just fill it with water, pump it up and take a shower.
Due to the pressure, this type of camping shower will feel more like a shower at home, except for the fact that it won’t heat the water. For a hot shower, you’ll need to heat the water first, however since these are usually a bit bulkier than solar showers you’re definitely going to be using it while you’re car camping, so you can bring along a pot. That said, it definitely involves a bit more work on your part.
Another downside is that you typically have to hold the nozzle in one hand, meaning you only have one hand free for washing, but you might be able to get creative and hang it up with some duct tape. These ones come in a little more pricey than a solar shower, but are still in the affordable range.
- Pressure feels like a real shower
- No need to hang it
- Doesn’t heat water
- Only leaves one hand free for washing
- Bulkier than solar showers
Electric camping shower
Electric camping showers cover a range of different showers that are often battery powered but may be charged via USB or even by connecting to your car’s cigarette lighter, known as a 12v portable shower. Again, these will feature a chamber to hold water, a shower head and a pump, however the pump is operated by battery meaning no extra work for you.
The nozzle sometimes has a handy suction cup which means you can stick it to your van window and have both hands free, however unless you fork out for an affair that comes with a propane heater, you’ll either be having a cold shower or need to heat the water first. Another downside of these is that some may lose power as the battery loses its charge, and there’s arguably more that can go wrong with an electrical item. Unless you’re springing for one with a water heater, these are priced only slightly more than a pressure camping shower.
- Easy to use
- Moderately priced
- Good water pressure
- May be hands-free
- Can be pricey
- Reliant on batteries or power sources
- Electricals be more prone to breaking and harder to fix
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Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.