Advanced Elements 5-Gallon Review
Cons: Low pressure, heavy when full
Manufacturer: Advanced Elements
Our Analysis and Test Results
We tested these showers side-by-side for a complete summer's worth of adventuring. See where the Advanced Elements summer shower stood out from the crowd by reading through the following results…
You're unlikely to have really high expectations from a simple gravity shower, but the Advanced Elements actually is pretty nice to use, as gravity showers go. It has the longest continual flow of any shower we tested, lasting for a full six minutes of uninterrupted water flow! The shower head also sprays the water at an outward angle, effectively increasing its coverage without increasing the size of the shower head. Turning the water on and off is as simple as pushing in the nozzle when you want the flow to stop and pulling it back out to start again. This design helps keep the shower free of soap as well, as your soapy hands are touching where the water comes out anyway! Advanced Elements also included some nice additional features to aid in your shower experience, including a small mirror attached to a string (to make sure all that dirt is off your face!), an additional pocket for a small bar of soap, and two velcro loops that can hold a washcloth and your towel to keep everything handy and out of the dirt.
In fact, the only comfort complaints we have about this shower are to do with the fact that it's a basic gravity shower, not any real complaints about how it functions. You'll never get really great pressure from a gravity shower, so shampooing long and thick hair can be a real struggle. It's hard to hang the unit high enough to be able to stand under the shower head, so you can expect to have to duck to get the top of your head wet. And of course there's no adjustment for how quickly the water comes out - you get what you get. But for a gravity shower, we were actually pretty pleased with the added features that make this shower a bit more comfortable than many of its competitors.
A relatively low rate of flow (just 2.3 L/min) with a usable shower head width of just 1 inch isn't something to brag about, but the design of this shower head actually helps disperse the water over a larger area, making this shower feel better and easier to use than just numbers might have you believe. And these factors combined give a surprisingly long amount of time for you to shower, which we appreciate. The Advanced Elements camping shower also has a shorter hose then the Coghlan's (15in compared to 22.5in), which we found to be a much more functional and comfortable length to use.
That being said, it's hard to get good pressure from a gravity shower. And compared to some of the pressurized showers out there, like the versatile and portable Nemo Helio, the pressure from the Advanced Elements unit is positively weaksauce. As a solar heated shower, you'll also want to fill this bag in the morning to give it a good long time to heat up before you shower - and hope you have enough sun and warmth to do it! Helpfully, it has a temperature gauge on the outside that shows you when your shower is a perfect temperature. All in all, for a gravity shower, we found this one to be pretty functional!
Ease of Set Up
Just like the Coghlan's, the Advanced Elements summer shower has directions printed directly on the bag which makes it hard to lose them! With a relatively narrow opening, it's a challenge to fill this shower up from anything other than a faucet/spigot or pouring water in from another container. However, the handle helpfully clips, making attaching this shower to a branch or other sturdy high-placed object pretty easy. The Coghlan's just comes with a length of rope to tie into a tree!
Aside from being hard to dunk into a lake or stream to fill, this shower is pretty typical of gravity showers to set up. It takes a long time to heat up in the sun, so if you are taking this backpacking, it's likely to be a zero-day activity rather than a nightly occurrence. Also, once filled with water, it can be challenging to lift over your head by yourself to suspend from a tall branch for usage. Though if you're a really efficient showerer, you might not need to fill it completely up, which will make a big difference to the weight and ease of attaching it to that tree. Overall, the setup and clean up of this gravity shower aren't the easiest among all the showers we reviewed, but are about on par with what we expect from a solar heated gravity shower.
Another area where the Advanced Elements camping shower stands out as being better than average! Where the Coghlan's is made of cheap-feeling plastic (that also comes with a lead warning), this unit has a four-layer construction of much thicker, more durable-feeling material. The hose is thicker than the Coghlan's and much harder to kink or crimp. The handle also features a thick rubberized grip for comfort during carrying and added strength for hanging. The clip to wrap around a branch is also quite solid and we experienced no issues using it all summer on repeat.
Not like this was a surprise to us, as no shower had this, but we wish the Advanced Elements would have come with a repair kit. Considering we often had to lay it on very pokey forest debris, we sometimes worried we might accidentally pop a hole in the plastic. Though to Advanced Elements' credit, we never had any issues, even when we dropped the whole thing and threw it on the ground from 7ft up to see what would happen. The only durability issue we noticed was a slight crease forming on the output of the hose, as you have to lay the whole thing on its face in the sun to heat up. Other than that, we were pleasantly surprised by the apparent durability of this simple gravity shower.
This is one area where gravity showers in general excel! With such a simple design, it's quite easy to just roll or fold the whole thing up, stuff it in a pack pocket, at get going. Weighing just barely more than the Coghlan's camping shower, the Advanced Elements shower tips the scales at just 0.7lbs. While that may not make the cut for an ultralight backpacker, it's light enough that adding it to your pack isn't totally out of the question.
The Advanced Elements summer shower also isn't terrible to carry when it's full. Though it's quite heavy with 5 gallons - over 40lbs! - the ergonomically designed carry handle makes it less of a pain to carry. And the threaded cap keeps the whole thing closed no matter what you accidentally bash it against en route to your secret shower spot. As far as camping showers go, gravity showers like this one are kings in portability.
We think this upscale gravity shower is a worthy consideration for backpacking trips, and can certainly make your time in a "dry" campground more pleasant. It's extremely portable, weighing very little and rolling up quite small and has a lot of features to help you feel better about your showering experience. If you don't need something quite so portable and instead value comfort, check out our Editors' Choice, the Zodi Extreme, which packs quite the performance into a funky metal canister.
While you can spend less than $10 on a gravity shower, we think the $30-ish that this shower costs is well worth the extra money in comfort and performance. If you're really interested in saving money and $30 is too much, you might just be better hopping in the lake instead! But really, we think the value of this shower is pretty high for what you get.
It's easy to not be excited about a gravity shower - same old, same old, right? Not with the Advanced Elements summer shower. We were pretty impressed with the amount of comfortable features and solid performance this little shower puts forward. And as a gravity shower, it's pretty portable while still being quite affordable. If you're looking for something to stay clean and sane on your next backpacking trip, we think you'll find good use for this gravity shower from Advanced Elements.
— Maggie Brandenburg