Coghlan's 5-Gallon Review
Cons: Clamp leaks easily, not durable materials or construction, hard to hang
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
— Maggie Brandenburg