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NEMO Helio Pressure Shower Review

A truly versatile, all-around useful shower that you’ll want to take with you everywhere
NEMO Helio Pressure Shower
Photo: NEMO
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $100 List | $99.95 at REI
Pros:  Highly versatile, packable, good pressure, durable, water lasts a long time
Cons:  Small shower head, filling is a learning curve, must hold in ON position while using
Manufacturer:   NEMO Equipment
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 11, 2021
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74
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 12
  • Comfort - 30% 7
  • Functionality - 25% 8
  • Ease of Set Up - 20% 7
  • Durability - 15% 8
  • Portability - 10% 7

Our Verdict

We had a hard time finding anything the NEMO Helio wasn't good for, making it our favorite all-around shower for camping. Its newest design improves upon the foot pump and long hose we already loved from the last version. It's easy to pack up and lightweight enough to bring anywhere. Laying horizontally on four small legs, the Helio is stable and warms up impressively quickly in the sun. It takes a bit to figure out the cap, which is hidden in a funnel-like slot on the top, but you can fill and use this shower anywhere — no electricity, batteries, or hose required. From washing dishes and cleaning gear to bathing the dog and yourself, this shower can do it all.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award   
Price $99.95 at REI$34.99 at Amazon$34.95 at REI$33.44 at Amazon$14.99 at Amazon
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Pros Highly versatile, packable, good pressure, durable, water lasts a long timeGreat 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 Small shower head, filling is a learning curve, must hold in ON position while usingShort 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 A truly versatile, all-around useful shower that you’ll want to take with you everywhereBy 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 NEMO Helio Pressure... Ivation Portable Sea to Summit Pocke... Advanced Elements S... Simple Shower
Comfort (30%)
7.0
9.0
5.0
5.0
3.0
Functionality (25%)
8.0
7.0
6.0
6.0
4.0
Ease Of Set Up (20%)
7.0
6.0
7.0
5.0
8.0
Durability (15%)
8.0
5.0
6.0
7.0
5.0
Portability (10%)
7.0
5.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
Specs NEMO Helio Pressure... Ivation Portable Sea to Summit Pocke... Advanced Elements S... Simple Shower
Heating Method Manual or Solar Manual Manual or Solar Manual or Solar Manual or Solar
Shower Head Usable Width (inches) 0.6" 2.1" 1" 1" 1.5"
Weight (shower only, ounces) 20 oz
(1.25 lb)
21 oz
(1.3 lb)
4.7 oz
(0.3 lb)
13 oz
(0.8 lb)
.9 oz
(0.05 lb)
Packed Size (L x W in inches) 5.5" x 8.5" 72" x 3.25" 5.5" x 3.25" 14.5" x 4.5" 13" x 2"
Filled Size (inches) 17" x 9.5" Same plus a bucket 20" x 8.5" 19" x 14.5" Same plus a 2 liter bottle
Hose Length (feet/inches) 6' 10" 5' 9.5" N/A 1' 3.5" N/A
Shower Head Diameter (inches) 1.0" 2.5" 1.4" 1.4" 2.0"
Capacity 2.9 gal (bucket) 2.6 gal 3 gal 1 or 2 L
Rate of Flow (gallons per minute) 1 gal/min 1.2 gal/min Extremely variable 0.6 gal/min 2 gal/min
Construction Polyurethne-coated polyester, neoprene hose 2200 mAh lithium battery 70D nylon dry sack, plastic components 4-layer construction Recycled material

Our Analysis and Test Results

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 6' 10" neoprene hose and a nozzle much like a kitchen sink sprayer.

Performance Comparison


We're impressed by the usefulness and versatility of this shower.
We're impressed by the usefulness and versatility of this shower.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Comfort


One of the most important questions about a shower is, can it get all the shampoo suds out of your hair? With the Helio, 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, almost 7' 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. NEMO makes a shower tent that they claim takes care of this issue, but we haven't tested it yet to see how well it works. In the meantime, you'll be taking a lot of one-handed showers with the Helio. Yet if you're just using this unit to rinse gear or dishes or bathe the dog, you probably won't mind so much. The Helio has one of the narrowest sprayers of any model we tested, at just ⅝ inches. One struggle we had 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 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 its strengths are in its versatility, not in its ability to replicate your home shower.

Though it looks and works much like a kitchen sink nozzle, the Helio...
Though it looks and works much like a kitchen sink nozzle, the Helio is easy to use for a variety of cleaning needs.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Functionality


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. Pumped up to its maximum pressure (don't worry, it's impossible to overpressurize this shower using its foot pump), we clocked this shower outputting up to a gallon per minute. At that rate, the whole thing runs dry in just about 3 minutes. However, using and pumping it at a more relaxed pace and pressure gives around 6 minutes of water flow.


With the appearance of a small black tank, the Helio has plenty of surface area to soak up the sunshine and use that energy to heat the water within. It's one of the most efficient solar-heated showers we tested. How quickly it heats to your perfect temperature, of course, depends on the original temperature of water you put in it and the strength of the sun wherever you are. In our testing, it went from about room temperature (roughly 68 degrees Fahrenheit) to over 100 degrees in just three hours of full sun. This is one of the few showers we've tested that can actually get too hot to use just from sitting in the sun, so be sure you test it carefully before spraying your pets or children. Don't have time to wait? You can always mix one part near-boiling water into three parts cold water (in that order) for a quick fix or on a cloudy day.

Powerful enough to rinse a dirty dog, yet comfortable enough to wash...
Powerful enough to rinse a dirty dog, yet comfortable enough to wash your face.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

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! That said, the water inlet is rather unique and took us a while to figure out how to best use it. Though it's a bit narrow, this flip-top lid is nestled into a pocket on top of the tank that acts as a funnel when you fill it. It could stand to be wider for faster filling, but it's not bad. Snapping the lid back into place also took some practice to find the best way to do it without spilling water, but we got used to it and felt like pros after just a few practice runs. One completely clear end makes it a snap to see exactly how much water is left in your tank.


While we mostly love the ease of setting up 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 can easily get kinked. They attach to the bottom of the shower, though with the addition of small legs on the main body of this unit, it's now easy to set it down without worrying the hoses are being clamped shut by the weight of the water. There are two clearly labeled valves on the foot pump — one to open during use and the other to open after use. Once empty, the whole thing accordions closed and fits into a small mesh bag for easy transport.

The opening to the Helio sits back in a small pocket that functions...
The opening to the Helio sits back in a small pocket that functions like a funnel to fill it.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Durability


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. The 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 are glad nothing broke while using the Helio, as it comes with no replacement pieces. We've now tested three different versions of this shower, and every new iteration continues to improve upon the last, both in durability and functionality. Issues and concerns we once had with the foot pump seem to have disappeared with this model. It performs very well, took a strong beating in our testing, and continued working without any issues.

This latest version of the Helio makes it virtually impossible to...
This latest version of the Helio makes it virtually impossible to kink hoses when setting it down.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Portability


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 1.25-pound package, it's actually a pretty portable shower. We love how small it packs, squishing from 17.5 inches when full down to just 5.5 inches. Even when it's full of water, 2.9 gallons weigh just under 24 pounds, and you don't have to tie it 7 feet up in a tree for it to work. The convenient handle 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. But for a car camping trip, quick after-work adventure, or even bathing the dog in the backyard, the ability to compress this versatile shower down into a compact package that easily tucks away in a drawer or storage bin is fantastic.

The handle makes it easy to carry even when full; it's like toting a...
The handle makes it easy to carry even when full; it's like toting a small duffel bag.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Value


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.

Conclusion


We are big fans of the NEMO Helio. With its unique and highly versatile design, we found it easy and enjoyable to clean everything we dirtied. From sandy kayaks and dirty dishes to muddy dogs and stinky campers, the Helio cleans it all and makes it look easy.

From its foot pump to its speedy solar heat-up, we love using the...
From its foot pump to its speedy solar heat-up, we love using the Helio for pretty much all our outdoor cleaning needs.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Maggie Brandenburg