Yakima RoadShower Review
Cons: Precipitous drop-off in pressure, included nozzle not a great shower, can't fully empty, expensive, requires a roof rack
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
The RoadShower is a powder-coated, aluminum, car-top shower and rinse station that provides pressurized spray through a thin, hose-like nozzle. The version we tested holds 4 gallons of water and comes with a 4.5-foot foot hose, and it all mounts semi-permanently on top of your roof rack.
Fully pressurized to 65 psi, 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. 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. However, 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. 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 neighbors as you speed down the highway.
Though you could use a hand pump to maintain a medium pressure that's easier on your skin, the narrowness of the nozzle makes the stream little wider than a drinking fountain, which isn't ideal for washing your hair. If you're after more of a real body shower and less of a gear powerwash, Yakima does sell a shower head attachment with a flexible neck that turns this metal bin into a car side personal bathing apparatus — though it's not a cheap upgrade. It's available in both 19 and 30-inches.
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. But as soon as we thought about cleaning ourselves, we were in want of a much wider jet. As mentioned above, you can purchase a 19 or 30-inch flexible hose shower head to upgrade your rig if you don't mind dropping more money on this already expensive setup.
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 breezy. 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 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 55-75 psi. The manufacturer stresses testing this to avoid over-pressurizing a faulty unit that could then explode. While we had no problems using this, we were 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 to your car 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 pieces that attach to the tank 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. There were a couple of reports of the RoadShower losing pressure over several days of sitting, but we never experienced that. 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.
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 it 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 only real con of transporting this shower around is that you need your car to do it. Unlike some showers that are ready for a backpacking trip, the RoadShower must be attached to your roof rack. This limits you to being with your car to use it. But if you're the typical weekend warrior, cruising around to all kinds of adventures in your Subaru or Jeep, this won't hold you back a bit.
As the most expensive shower we tested, the RoadShower is an investment, and it's 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 is to keep you and your gear from tracking all the mud and gunk home, it's easy to see why the RoadShower is our Top Pick for Weekend Warriors. Now go get dirty!
— Maggie Brandenburg