Helio Pressure Shower Updates
To add stability, NEMO redesigned the Helio to perch on its side, with feet — the older model stood upright. The foot pump has been amended slightly, and the new port is designed for easier filling from a variety of scenarios. There is also a clear window so you can easily see the amount of water inside. Compare the two versions below. The model we tested is shown first, followed by the updated model in the second photo.
We're excited about the updates, but since we haven't actually put the latest model to the test, please be aware that the review to follow is our account of the previous model.
Hands-On Review of the Helio
The NEMO Helio is a human-powered, pressurized piece of equipment that packs down small and is inflated with a foot pump. It's constructed of polyurethane-coated polyester with a 6ft 8in neoprene hose and a nozzle much like a kitchen sink sprayer.
We love the versatility and general usefulness of the Helio.
One of the most important questions about a shower is, can it get all the shampoo suds out of your hair? With the Helio Pressure Shower, getting suds out of human hair, dog hair, or even cloth is a breeze. With the simple foot pump, it's easy to build a lot of pressure for those harder jobs or use less pressure for easy rinsing. It takes a little bit to get a feel for the right pump-to-spray ratio for the job, but it's a curve worth learning, as it makes this shower incredibly versatile. The long, 6ft 8in hose facilitates easy use, even for tall folks, and everyone loves not having to hang a big heavy bag of water in a tree. The showerhead works much like the sprayer on your kitchen sink at home — press to turn on and release to stop the flow of water. If you don't want to have to hold it all the time, the XL version comes with a little rubber piece around the handle that will hold the shower in the ON position for you — and a larger capacity to extend the length of your shower.
While you could cobble together some sort of stand or hanger for this shower to be hands-free, it's not intuitive, and Nemo doesn't offer any sort of solution for this. Unfortunately, this means you'll be taking a lot of one-handed showers. But if you're just using this unit to rinse gear or dishes or bathe the dog, you probably won't mind so much. The Nemo also has one of the narrowest sprayers of any model we tested, at just ⅝ inches. One struggle we had while using this unit was that once your feet are wet, it becomes quite easy for them to slip off the foot pump, which is frustrating and can create quite a muddy mess. We solved this (mostly) by wearing sandals, but wearing sandals during a shower is never quite as nice as NOT wearing sandals while bathing. Overall, the Helio is a decently comfortable shower to use, but not our favorite of the bunch.
One of the few showers with an adjustable flow rate, the Helio is up for the task of cleaning just about anything.
The Helio performs well compared to the rest of the showers we tested. It boasts pretty high pressure that pairs with a relatively small shower head to make your 2.9 gallons last longer. As a result, this was one of the longest-lasting showers we tested, at just under 6 minutes. Though NEMO doesn't advertise it as a solar shower, the black sides and clear top facilitate an easy solar option to heat up your water. You can also easily heat water on a stove and add it that way instead.
The tiny showerhead of the Helio helps this shower last longer than its competitors but comes at the cost of lessened efficiency in coverage during cleaning. It has one of the lowest rates of flow among models we tested, at just 2.2 L/min. Again, this translates into a longer shower time, but at a slight cost in the effectiveness of the spray. However, the amount of pressure you can build up in the Helio helps combat any loss in cleaning power — you literally can't overpressurize this shower! Overall, the Helio has a pretty smooth combination of traits, making it a nicely functional shower overall.
The foot pump is filled with thick squishy foam.
Ease of Set Up
The Helio is a relatively easy shower to get set up. It's pretty self-explanatory, and all the pieces stay securely attached. Just take it out of its little bag, fill it with water, and you're ready to scrub-a-dub-dub! The biggest challenge we found is the very narrow opening on the top. Not only did it beg to be filled at a faucet (which may or may not be available, depending on where you're planning to use it), but it's an incredibly difficult design to close without spilling water. We spilled a LOT of water in our trial and error using this shower. However, the XL version of the Helio has a much larger and wider opening with a threaded lid that makes it much easier to dunk the entire thing into a stream to fill it up. This may have also been improved upon with the latest update, which we haven't had a chance to test just yet.
While we mostly love the ease of set up of the Helio, (because there's almost nothing to it), we wish this shower could come apart for cleaning and maintenance. The shower nozzle does screw off if you want it to, but that's it! And with such a small opening, it's nearly impossible to get inside and scrub the interior — all you can do is rinse with baking soda and water. The hoses are also quite thin and kink easily, and as they attach to the bottom of the shower, it's important to pay attention that they're not pinching each other or themselves when you set the shower down. There are also two valves on the foot pump — one to open during use, and the other to open after use, so remembering to do that is an additional step.
A very small opening makes the Helio challenging to fill with anything larger than a faucet.
The Helio is constructed of polyurethane-coated plastic and two neoprene tubes attached securely with metal clamps. It gives off the feel of being a reasonably durable unit capable of withstanding a good amount of abuse, and we found that to be the case. Plastic pieces are thick and feel solid, and attachment points are well-sealed and showed no signs of wear even at the end of our long summer of carting it around everywhere we could think of to clean anything that was even remotely dirty.
We are glad nothing broke while we were using the Helio, as it comes with no replacement pieces, repair directions, or even maintenance instructions. Our only real concern with durability was that sometimes when we used the foot pump, it would fail to reinflate after we stepped on it until we repeated our stomp. We couldn't find any reason why this should happen and aren't sure if it's cause for concern. That being said, we are quite impressed with the durability of such a relatively light shower.
Metal clamps hold the neoprene hoses to the bottom of the Helio.
Compared to some of the itty bitty options out there, the Helio looks like a bit of a monster. But considering what you get in this 1.4lb package, it's actually a pretty portable shower. We love how small it packs, squishing from 17in when full, down to just 5.5in. Even when it's full of water, 2.9 gallons weighs just under 24lbs, and no one is asking you to tie it 7ft up in a tree! The convenient handle over the top makes it easy to carry as well, even for longer distances.
That said, the Helio probably isn't making the cut for a lightweight backpacking trip. It's portable but definitely not THAT portable when you could just jump in the lake or grab a lighter, simpler shower. We also don't love how the hose and foot pump drag on the ground when you carry it. The hose you can obviously coil up and carry, but the proximity of the foot pump to the bottom of the shower prevents it from being easily grabbed and lifted off the ground. But at the end of the day, for the functionality you get, the Helio is pleasantly portable.
The Nemo packs up impressively small for all the functionality it brings to the table.
The Helio is a far cry from the cheap gravity bag showers of old. While there are certainly cheaper options, the versatility and ease of use you get with this one really up its value. If you know you need something that can do it all, we think this is a great buy. If you're looking for something to toss in your backpack to clean up on your 10-day backpacking trip, this probably isn't the right choice for you.
The kitchen sprayer style of shower head isn't our favorite for showering but it sure does make it easy to clean everything else.
We are big fans of the NEMO Helio. With its unique and highly versatile design, we found it easy and enjoyable to clean anything we dirtied. From sandy kayaks and dirty dishes to muddy dogs and stinky campers, the Helio cleans it all and makes it look easy. Though it may not be the most comfortable shower you'll ever take, or the cheapest shower you can buy, the amount of situations you can make better and cleaner with the Helio is nearly limitless, which is why this is our Top Pick for Versatility!
The Helio is easily the most versatile shower we tested - an easy choice for our Top Pick for Versatility!