Do you love heading out of town and need a companion for your gritty adventures? The Yakima RoadShower has got your back, retaining our Editors' Choice award yet again. This metal car-top tube mounts in just minutes to help keep you and your gear clean, wherever you may drive. It provides powerful pressure, is re-pressurized with an air pump, and can be filled sans hose if needed. Though the included nozzle is a bit narrow for a perfect shower, it can easily be swapped out for a showerhead (sold separately). You can't completely empty the tank on the RoadShower without removing it from your car, but we still love this portable cleaning station for all our weekend adventures.Editor's Note: This review was revised on March 1, 2022, with info on the updated version of the Yakima RoadShower.
Yakima RoadShower Review
Cons: Precipitous drop-off in pressure, included nozzle not a great shower, can't fully empty, expensive, requires a roof rack
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|Pros||Easy to use, can re-pressurize, don't need a hose, durable, intense pressure||Highly versatile, packable, good pressure, durable, water lasts a long time||Great coverage, comfortable and consistent pressure, decent battery life, easy to use||Instant hot water, very comfortable spray, extremely adjustable||Lightweight and packable, easy to use, heats up well, comes with everything you need|
|Cons||Precipitous drop-off in pressure, included nozzle not a great shower, can't fully empty, expensive, requires a roof rack||Small shower head, filling is a learning curve, must hold in ON position while using||Short hose, can't empty its container, durability concerns||Complicated set up, not very portable, lots of extras required||Low pressure, can be difficult to hang high enough, roll-top is leaky|
|Bottom Line||A no-nonsense car-top solar shower and rinse station that will last you a lifetime||A truly versatile, all-around useful shower that you’ll want to take with you everywhere||By adding a bucket and a battery, this shower brings you all the comforts of home in the outdoors||A semi-permanent, easy to use solution for anyone who's always wanted an outdoor shower||An affordable, easy to use, and super packable shower that can come with you anywhere|
|Rating Categories||Yakima RoadShower||NEMO Helio Pressure...||Ivation Portable||Camplux Pro Series 6L||Sea to Summit Pocke...|
|Ease of Set Up (20%)|
|Specs||Yakima RoadShower||NEMO Helio Pressure...||Ivation Portable||Camplux Pro Series 6L||Sea to Summit Pocke...|
|Heating Method||Solar||Manual or Solar||Manual||Propane||Manual or Solar|
|Shower Head Usable Width (inches)||0.2"||0.6"||2.1"||2.2"||1"|
|Weight (shower only, ounces)||310 oz
|Packed Size (L x W in inches)||57" x 6.5"||5.5" x 8.5"||72" x 3.25"||21" x 12" x 5.5"||5.5" x 3.25"|
|Filled Size (inches)||Same||17" x 9.5"||Same plus a bucket||Same||20" x 8.5"|
|Hose Length (feet/inches)||4' 6"||6' 10"||5' 9.5"||5'||N/A|
|Shower Head Diameter (inches)||0.5"||1.0"||2.5"||3.1"||1.4"|
|Capacity||4 gal||2.9 gal||(bucket)||(hose)||2.6 gal|
|Rate of Flow (gallons per minute)||Extremely variable||1 gal/min||1.2 gal/min||Variable based on hose pressue||Extremely variable|
|Construction||Powder coated aluminum tube, food grade hose, standard brass hose fitting||Polyurethne-coated polyester, neoprene hose||2200 mAh lithium battery||Stainless steel burner, tinning copper heat exchanger||70D nylon dry sack, plastic components|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Since our test cycle ended, RoadShower has been acquired by Yakima, who added their branding onto the body of the shower. Above, the photos show the previous model on the left and the updated Yakima model on the right. Yakima shared with us that they also reworked the fill cap and that the instructions for the shower have changed to reflect the shower's actual PSI, which is around 50-52 instead of 60.
The RoadShower is a powder-coated, aluminum car-top shower and rinse station that provides pressurized spray through a thin, hose-like nozzle — though we also tested the Yakima RoadShower FlexHead showerhead attachment. The version we tested holds 4 gallons of water (other versions hold 7 or 10 gallons) and comes with a 4.5-foot foot hose, all mounting securely on top of your roof rack.
Fully pressurized to 65psi, the RoadShower can spray an impressive 30 feet! This is a great asset for cleaning your gear but doesn't feel quite as nice on your skin or scalp. However, the more water you use, the less pressure is left in the tank, until by the end it sprays a single stream of water just 4 feet.
If you need pressure the whole time, you can re-pressurize the tank with an air pump or bicycle pump using the nozzle on top of the tank — assuming your pump hose is long enough to reach the top of your car. You'll run out of water faster, but the pressure might be worth it to get that excess mud off your bike or the bottoms of your shoes. A simple on/off switch at the base of the hose keeps the water from leaking out or spraying on your fellow travelers as you speed down the highway.
By twisting the end of the nozzle, you can easily adjust the spray radius to something a little more comfortable and usable as a shower. We also bought and tested the FlexHead 30" showerhead sold to accompany this metal tank. Its spray pattern is akin to your high school locker room shower, which isn't nearly as regular and comfortable as your shower at home but is a usable, efficient solution for a hands-free shower next to your car. The only real struggle we had using this showerhead is that its connection point to the tank is too loose, allowing the whole thing to sag. On our short Subaru, this, combined with our roof rack configuration that forces the tank to be mounted farther from the edge of the vehicle, makes it very difficult to use without having to duck and practically hug the side of the car. On a taller vehicle (FJ Cruiser) with a roof rack system that allows the unit to sit close to the edge, the showerhead sag is within reason and quite usable. So, if your RoadShower is mounted on a short vehicle or not right on the edge of your car, the showerhead is too short and too sagging to be of much use. It's best paired with a much larger weekend adventure mobile.
The RoadShower we tested has a 4-gallon capacity that runs dry in about 4 minutes and 40 seconds (with no re-pressurization). Used without pressure, powered by just the flow of gravity (and a loosened fill cap), you can use this trickle to clean dishes or splash water on your face for about 10.5 minutes. If 4 gallons isn't going to cut it for you, the full version of the RoadShower holds 7 gallons, and the large version packs 10. With a decent length 4.5 foot hose, you have a reasonable amount of maneuverable space to wash gear or dishes. While a longer hose would certainly make this process easier, this length is exactly right to lay alongside the water tank to keep wind resistance down while you drive to your next expedition spot.
With the included nozzle only, the RoadShower puts out a concentrated 0.2-inch stream of water. For cleaning gear, this is pretty ideal. Twisting the golden end of the nozzle widens the stream gradually, all the way to a fine mist. This makes it easier to get a more comfortable stream of water and keep your cleaning far more efficient. Using the FlexHead showerhead attachment runs through water at about the same speed as the fully opened spray nozzle, but in a configuration that's more spread out while still pressurized perfectly to get a complete shower.
As a metal tube with a black exterior, this shower heats up very quickly in the sun. The temperature gauge on the outside helps indicate how hot the water inside is. This is one of the very few showers we tested that can actually get way too hot to use, so always be sure to check and test the temperature of the water before committing to a full shower or cleaning another living being.
Ease of Set Up
This package comes with everything you need to mount the RoadShower to your car right out of the box — minus the roof rack, of course. A thorough set of directions helps make the process as simple as possible. And until you decide to take it off for the winter, the shower stays up there quite well over all kinds of terrain. Having it mounted on top of your car and filling it through the attachment at the end of the hose makes refills easy. If you don't have access to a hose and instead need to open the top fill cap and use an air pump to pressurize, it's a bit more obnoxious — especially if you have a tall vehicle.
While filling your tank with a hose is easy and only takes a minute or two, the pressure it creates makes for an interesting experience when removing the hose as it tries to spray that built-up water all over you and your car. And while the RoadShower calls for a specific pressure to be reached for "optimal usage," it includes no gauge to read said pressure. A standard car tire pressure gauge won't work either, as most don't read pressures that high. However, there is a pressure release valve in the fill cap on top that releases extra pressure around 55-75psi. The manufacturer stresses testing this to avoid over-pressurizing a faulty unit that could then explode.
If you've decided your vehicle is tall enough to use the FlexHead showerhead, the quick connect attachment it comes with is a fantastically easy way to snap on your showerhead when in use and stow it in your car when you're done. The showerhead also has an on/off button, making efficient showers even easier. We were, however, a bit disappointed to find the shower is nearly impossible to drain completely without taking it off your car and physically dumping it upside down — and therefore can't be thoroughly cleaned. Also, you'll want to lock it onto your roof rack to prevent theft while you're out having adventures, as otherwise, anyone with a wrench could abscond with your wonderful kit.
Constructed of powder-coated aluminum with a food-grade hose and brass fittings, the RoadShower is built like a tank. All the attachment pieces are replaceable, and the included directions give numerous maintenance and troubleshooting tips for common things that could go wrong with your unit. We couldn't find anything related to durability to complain about with this tough shower setup beyond just the additional maintenance required of a more mechanical piece of equipment.
Scouring the internet for other user complaints, we couldn't find too many that stood out. Mostly we found others discussing the regular maintenance these showers need to stay in tip-top shape, which we don't think is so bad. There were a couple of reports of the RoadShower losing pressure over several days of sitting, which we found to happen when the top opening wasn't fully closed. As a metal-on-metal threaded opening, it can be challenging to keep it airtight. The included wrench is very helpful for cranking that wide cap down to pressurize the tank or opening it up for filling without a hose, depending on your needs.
With an oblong shape and no handles, this shower is not meant to be carried. But mounted on top of your roof rack, it's as portable as bringing your bumper with you. Though the 4-gallon version weighs 19.4 pounds empty, your car won't notice the difference — even when it's full of water. It has three open clips for the hose and two velcro straps to keep it tightly pressed against the side of the tank as you drive. From there, it easily pulls out when you're ready to use it. The FlexHead shower head attachment comes standard with a quick connect adapter, making it even easier to simply pull it off and toss it in your car when you're ready to roll out.
The only real con of transporting this shower around is that you need your car to do it. This model won't be accompanying you into the backcountry, because it's attached to your roof rack. But if you're the typical weekend warrior, cruising around to all kinds of adventures in your truck or camper van, this won't hold you back a bit.
As one of the most expensive showers we tested, the RoadShower is an investment, and its larger versions cost even more. But if you frequently find yourself returning home and forgetting to clean your gear until it's been far too long or needing to clean your car AND your hair because you've had too much fun, we think this shower is absolutely worth it. And with its durable build, it's likely to last for many years of weekend excursions. Just keep in mind that you'll also need to have a roof rack, which is another even more expensive purchase.
The Yakima RoadShower is an intensely durable car-top shower and pressurized rinse station all in one. Once mounted, it's so easy to use and provides impressive pressure that can be topped up easily with an air pump. Though its original nozzle isn't a comfortable shower, a simple upgrade fixes that issue. No hose? No problem with this tank, as you can fill it from the top and pressurize it by hand in a pinch. With how easy this unit makes keeping you and your gear from tracking all the mud and gunk home, it's easy to see why the RoadShower is a top choice. Now go get dirty!
— Maggie Brandenburg
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