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Coghlan's 5-Gallon Review

Not a stellar performer, but it is cheap!
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Price:  $9 List
Pros:  Inexpensive, efficient solar heating, portable
Cons:  Clamp leaks easily, not durable materials or construction, hard to hang
Manufacturer:   Coghlan's
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 29, 2018
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48
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 7
  • Comfort - 30% 4
  • Functionality - 25% 5
  • Ease of Set Up - 20% 4
  • Durability - 15% 4
  • Portability - 10% 9

The Skinny

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, it's a challenge to hang high enough to be useful, and the Coghlan's website has a lead and cancer-causing chemical warning to users. It's safe to say we weren't blown away by the performance of this gravity shower.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

Testing these showers side-by-side as we did showed clearly the Coghlan's at the bottom of the pack. To find out where we found it lacking, read on.

Performance Comparison


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

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 wasn't very good at wetting and shampooing long hair. The hose clamp to stop the flow of water is extremely flimsy and tends to let water continue to leak out of it. Also, it's nearly impossible to hang this shower high enough to be able to comfortably stand with the shower head 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.

Functionality


The shower nozzle is the second narrowest of all the showers we tested, at just ⅞in of usable width. The hose is also quite long for a gravity shower that you have to suspend from something over your head, at 22.5in. 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 the similarly designed Advanced Elements 5-Gallon gravity shower, with a 2.6 L/min rate of flow compared to Advanced Elements' 2.3 L/min. However this doesn't really translate into anything helpful, like hair soaping, and rather just drains the shower faster.

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.
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.

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 the shower 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 40lbs! That makes hanging it over your head by yourself a challenge based on weight alone! To add to that challenge, the suspension method is an included measure of rope with a small hook on one end. Needless to say, we found hanging this heavy, awkward shower to be quite a challenge!

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

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 fabric 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 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 completely empty. Perhaps most alarmingly, Coghlan's has a posted lead and other cancer-causing chemicals warning to users of this product printed prominently on their website. Not exactly appealing!

The closure on the Coghlan's pops open easily with little provocation.
The closure on the Coghlan's pops open easily with little provocation.

Portability


The one category in which the Coghlan's is actually a winner. This shower is incredibly light, at just 0.6lbs. Simply made, it's quite 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 to carry, as an ungainly bag of water, but empty it's a dream!

The most redeeming quality of the Coghlan's is its high level of portability.
The most redeeming quality of the Coghlan's is its high level of portability.

Best Applications


Gravity showers like this one aren't incredibly versatile and are really made to be a quick pinch shower on a backpacking or weekend camping trip. Unlike the absurdly versatile Nemo Helio Pressure Shower, what you see is what you get with the Coghlan's. If you're looking for something that's marginally better than jumping in the lake, the Coghlan's camp shower can provide you with warm water to clean yourself.

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

Value


Costing under $10, 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 that. However, if you'd like to enjoy your shower experience, we think it's much more worth spending a few extra dollars on a better shower.

Conclusion


We weren'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 than the Coghlan's camping shower, 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.


Maggie Brandenburg