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Coghlan's 5-Gallon Review

Not a stellar performer, but it is cheap
Coghlan's 5-Gallon
Photo: Amazon
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Price:  $15 List | $9.50 at Amazon
Pros:  Inexpensive, efficient solar heating, portable
Cons:  Clamp leaks easily, not durable materials or construction, hard to hang
Manufacturer:   Coghlan's
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 8, 2020
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43
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 8
  • Comfort - 30% 4
  • Functionality - 25% 4
  • Ease of Set Up - 20% 4
  • Durability - 15% 3
  • Portability - 10% 8

Our Verdict

This classic style gravity shower from Coghlan's does exactly as advertised for a very low cost. Its two biggest selling points are its portability and shockingly low price tag. In all other aspects, we found it to be mediocre to slightly below average. The clamp has a tendency to leak, and it's a challenge to hang high enough to be truly useful. It's safe to say we weren't blown away by the performance of this gravity shower.

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Coghlan's 5-Gallon
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Coghlan's 5-Gallon
Awards  Best Buy Award Best Buy Award   
Price $9.50 at Amazon$34.99 at Amazon$34.95 at Backcountry
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$24.99 at Amazon$13 List
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Pros Inexpensive, efficient solar heating, portableGreat coverage, comfortable and consistent pressure, decent battery life, easy to useLightweight and packable, easy to use, heats up well, comes with everything you needEfficient solar heating, easy to use temperature gauge, quality construction, lightweightHigh rate of flow, lightweight, inexpensive
Cons Clamp leaks easily, not durable materials or construction, hard to hangShort hose, can't empty its container, durability concernsLow pressure, can be difficult to hang high enough, roll-top is leakyLow pressure, heavy when full, doesn't fold up intuitivelyVery small capacity, easy to lose pieces
Bottom Line Not a stellar performer, but it is cheapBy adding a bucket and a battery, this shower brings you all the comforts of home in the outdoorsAn affordable, easy to use, and super packable shower that can come with you anywhereA durable take on an old design, this is a gravity shower you can take just about anywhereFor a quick rinse, this small, inexpensive shower will do the trick
Rating Categories Coghlan's 5-Gallon Ivation Portable Sea to Summit Pocke... Advanced Elements S... Simple Shower
Comfort (30%)
4.0
9.0
5.0
5.0
3.0
Functionality (25%)
4.0
7.0
6.0
6.0
4.0
Ease Of Set Up (20%)
4.0
6.0
7.0
5.0
8.0
Durability (15%)
3.0
5.0
6.0
7.0
6.0
Portability (10%)
8.0
5.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
Specs Coghlan's 5-Gallon Ivation Portable Sea to Summit Pocke... Advanced Elements S... Simple Shower
Heating Method Solar Manual Manual or Solar Manual or Solar Manual or Solar
Shower Head Usable Width (inches) 0.9" 2.1" 1" 1" 1.5"
Time Until Empty 4 min 20 sec 52 min
(battery life)
9 min 47 sec 3 min 33 sec 30 sec
Weight (shower only, ounces) 10 oz
(0.6 lb)
21 oz
(1 lb 5 oz)
4.7 oz
(0.3 lb)
13 oz
(0.8 lb)
.9 oz
(0.05 lb)
Packed Size (L x W in inches) 19.5" x 3" 72" x 3.25" 5.5" x 3.25" 14.5" x 4.5" 13" x 2"
Filled Size (inches) 19.5" x 15" x 6" Same plus a bucket 20" x 8.5" 19" x 14.5" Same plus a 2 liter bottle
Hose Length (feet/inches) 1' 10.5" 5' 9.5" N/A 1' 3.5" N/A
Shower Head Diameter (inches) 1.25" 2.5" 1.4" 1.4" 2.0"
Capacity 5 gal (bucket) 2.6 gal 3 gal 1 or 2 L
Rate of Flow (gallons per minute) 07. gal/min 1.2 gal/min Extremely variable 0.6 gal/min 2 gal/min
Construction Lead and cancer causing chemicals warning 2200 mAh lithium battery 70D nylon dry sack, plastic components 4-layer construction Recycled material

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Coghlan's 5-Gallon is a basic gravity shower with very few frills. It's made of some sort of black plastic, with a 22-inch hose, 1-inch showerhead, and a simple on/off clamp.

Performance Comparison


Nothing special to look at, the Coghlan's camping shower is a...
Nothing special to look at, the Coghlan's camping shower is a classic gravity-style shower.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Comfort


If comfort is king, then the Coghlan's 5-Gallon camping shower is the patriarch of the court jester's family. It's not the least comfortable shower we can imagine, but it leaves a lot to be desired. As a gravity-powered shower, the water pressure is fairly lame. We found it adequate for soaping and rinsing skin, but it isn't very good at wetting and shampooing long hair. The hose clamp to stop the flow of water is extremely flimsy and tends to leak. Also, it's nearly impossible to hang this shower high enough to be able to comfortably stand with the showerhead hanging directly over your head, forcing you instead to duck and crouch under the long, kinked hose to get complete water coverage.

A narrow shower head limits the coverage of this shower.
A narrow shower head limits the coverage of this shower.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Functionality


The shower nozzle sprays just an inch wide array of water, about the same as the other gravity-powered options we tested. However, its hose is rather long for a gravity shower that you have to suspend from something over your head, at 22.5 inches. With a large 5-gallon capacity, the Coghlan's comfortably provides over 4 minutes of continuous shower time. The black plastic of the pouch helps heat water relatively quickly in the sun, giving you a hot shower in a matter of a few hours. The Coghlan's does offer a bit more pressure than some of the competition, with a 2.6 L/min rate of flow.

The clamp on the Coghlan's shower was perpetually leaky and the hose...
The clamp on the Coghlan's shower was perpetually leaky and the hose was permanently kinked from the moment we took it out of the box.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Ease of Set Up


It's impossible to lose the directions for how the Coghlan's works since they're printed in large yellow letters on the bag. With a narrow opening, this shower is easiest to fill from a faucet, though you could use another container to scoop water from a lake or pond to fill it in a pinch. That narrow opening also relegates your only real cleaning option to baking soda water. Once filled with nearly 5 gallons of water, the whole unit weighs over 40 pounds! That makes hanging it over your head by yourself a challenge based on weight alone. To add to that challenge, the included suspension method is a short measure of slippery rope with a small hook on one end. Needless to say, we found hanging this heavy, awkward shower to be quite a pain.

Hanging this shower from its spindly little rope in a tree over your...
Hanging this shower from its spindly little rope in a tree over your head is not the easiest task.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Durability


Just putting your hands on this gravity shower doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in its durability. Every piece is made of some flexible, plasticky material that feels ready to break, though none of it actually did break during the summer we spent testing it. The closure cap for the water bag is also very flimsy and pops open if you happen to drop the whole thing during the hanging process, as we frequently did. The hose is permanently kinked, and the clamp barely works and opens easily as the bag shifts. On more than one occasion, the clamp opened as we shifted the bag to follow the sun, and we returned later for a hot shower only to discover it was empty.

The closure on the Coghlan's pops open easily with little provocation.
The closure on the Coghlan's pops open easily with little provocation.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Portability


The one category in which the Coghlan's performs admirably. This shower is incredibly light at just 10 ounces. Simply made, it's easy to roll or fold up and stuff into the pocket of a backpack or behind the seat in your car to move on to your next site. Once full, it's a different story, as carrying the ungainly bag of water is awkward at best — but empty it's a dream!

The most redeeming quality of the Coghlan's is its high level of...
The most redeeming quality of the Coghlan's is its high level of portability.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Value


The Coghlan's 5-Gallon shower is not an expensive purchase. If all you need is the world's simplest gravity shower, then it's hard to beat a price like this. However, if you'd like to enjoy your shower experience, we think it's a good idea to consider something else.

The black plastic helps soak up the sun's rays and heat your water -...
The black plastic helps soak up the sun's rays and heat your water - don't let it get too hot though!
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Conclusion


We aren't blown away by this basic gravity shower from Coghlan's. It does what it's advertised to do, and the cost is shockingly low. However, it's not a particularly comfortable experience, it's not overly easy to use, and it's unlikely to last you as long as many of the other models in this review. We think you can easily find much better options, though maybe not for the same price.

Testing the Coghlan's shower to see if it can withstand being dropped.
Testing the Coghlan's shower to see if it can withstand being dropped.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Maggie Brandenburg