Best Camping Shower of 2021
|Price||$399.00 at REI||$99.95 at REI||$380 List||$34.99 at Amazon||$189.99 at Amazon|
|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||Durable design, roof rail mounting system, easy to use, great nozzle modes||Great coverage, comfortable and consistent pressure, decent battery life, easy to use||Instant hot water, very comfortable spray, extremely adjustable|
|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||Slower to heat, roof rack mount is extra, bulkier and more components, expensive||Short hose, can't empty its container, durability concerns||Complicated set up, not very portable, lots of extras required|
|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||A large capacity system that's roof rail ready and easy to use on the road||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|
|Rating Categories||Yakima RoadShower||NEMO Helio Pressure...||WaterPort Weekender||Ivation Portable||Camplux Pro Series 6L|
|Ease Of Set Up (20%)|
|Specs||Yakima RoadShower||NEMO Helio Pressure...||WaterPort Weekender||Ivation Portable||Camplux Pro Series 6L|
|Heating Method||Solar||Manual or Solar||Manual or Solar||Manual||Propane|
|Shower Head Usable Width (inches)||0.2"||0.6"||1.75"||2.1"||2.2"|
|Weight (shower only, ounces)||310 oz
|Packed Size (L x W in inches)||57" x 6.5"||5.5" x 8.5"||50" x 9" x 6"||72" x 3.25"||21" x 12" x 5.5"|
|Filled Size (inches)||Same||17" x 9.5"||Same||Same plus a bucket||Same|
|Hose Length (feet/inches)||4' 6"||6' 10"||18'||5' 9.5"||5'|
|Shower Head Diameter (inches)||0.5"||1.0"||2.25"||2.5"||3.1"|
|Capacity||4 gal||2.9 gal||8 gal||(bucket)||(hose)|
|Rate of Flow (gallons per minute)||Extremely variable||1 gal/min||Extremely variable||1.2 gal/min||Variable based on hose pressue|
|Construction||Powder coated aluminum tube, food grade hose, standard brass hose fitting||Polyurethne-coated polyester, neoprene hose||Food grade plastic||2200 mAh lithium battery||Stainless steel burner, tinning copper heat exchanger|
Best Shower for Road Tripping
For the ultimate car camping, weekend warrior, and adventure accessory, the Yakima RoadShower takes center stage. This impressive powder-coated aluminum tube mounts on your roof rack, not only following you wherever you roam but also heating your water just by sitting on top of your car. It delivers pressure as intense as a typical garden hose, and as the tank empties and the pressure lessens, you can quickly and easily "top up" with a regular air pump (like the one you brought for your bike). Once it's on your car, there's no setup required — simply unhook the hose from the side of the tank and spray liberally. Filling up with a hose is easy, but if you don't have access to one, it can be opened on top and filled by hand, then pressurized with an air pump. No pump? Leave the cap open, and you'll still be able to use it, though the trickle you'll get is better for rinsing dishes and splashing your face than cleaning your sandy kayak.
The included nozzle works just like a standard hose head. This may be all you need for cleaning gear, rinsing feet, or de-muddying the dog, but it isn't great for an actual shower. For that, you'll probably want the Yakima RoadShower FlexHead, which we also tested, giving you an efficient if messily close-to-the-car shower. Also, if you fill at home and leave the pump behind, you'll find the pressure drops precipitously as the tank empties, and refilling that pressure with a short-hosed bike pump is a challenge. These things aside, this is a fabulous option for those who are constantly on the go, and if the 4-gallon version isn't big enough for you, 7 and 10-gallon versions are also available.
Read review: Yakima RoadShower
Best Shower for Camping
NEMO Helio Pressure Shower
With a unique combination of functionality and portability, the NEMO Helio Pressure Shower is a surprisingly versatile camping shower that's great for so much more than just camping. The foot pump delivers good pressure without taking your hands away from whatever you're cleaning. With a narrow showerhead, the 2.9-gallon capacity lasts a surprisingly long time. Its nozzle is not unlike a kitchen sink sprayer, helping the Helio easily clean all kinds of things from dogs to dishes. Its long, low shape with four small feet keeps it stable and helps it heat up quite quickly in the sun. Packing down to a fraction of its assembled size and constructed of lightweight yet durable materials, the Helio is also highly portable.
The latest version of this shower has fixed many of the nitpicky issues we had with previous versions. The opening is still narrow but now located in a slot that works like a funnel. Filling and sealing the cap takes some getting used to, but it quickly becomes easy after a few practices. The sprayer nozzle is narrower than many more traditional-shaped showerheads yet provides a soft, steady stream that's comfortable and easy to use. Between its packability and versatility, we have a hard time coming up with a situation in which this shower isn't useful.
Read review: NEMO Helio Pressure Shower
Best Budget Pick for the Backyard
All you need is a bucket and a fully charged battery, and you can bring the comforts of your home shower into the outdoors with the Ivation Portable. It's not only one of the most comfortable, consistently pressured showers we tested; it's also among the least expensive. It's impressively easy to use, with an uncomplicated design that makes you wonder why you didn't buy one years ago. The battery is housed within the pump, easily recharging with a USB cord in a few hours to give you a relaxing run time of around 50 minutes. The wide shower head and flexible hose make it pleasant to rinse with and painless to bathe squirming dogs or children.
Of course, not all required materials are included — you'll need your own USB adapter and a bucket to hold water. And with an impressively high rate of flow (1.2 gallons per minute), you're more likely to run out of water before battery power. But if you don't mind repurposing a cooler or empty bucket, setting this shower up in the backyard is a cinch. We do have some worries about the charging port, which is located under a plastic cap on the pump housing. Fully submerging this seems like tempting fate if you forget to secure that cap even just once — or if you break it. We also would love to see a bit longer hose, as this one is just shy of 6 feet. Yet even as it is, we love how satisfying this shower is to use, and we don't mind saving a few bucks for this convenient backyard rinse station.
Read review: Ivation Portable
Best Bang for Your Backpacking Buck
Sea to Summit Pocket Shower
This tiny little shower looks like next to nothing, stowed away in its little sub-6-inch case. But it unrolls into a 2.6-gallon dry bag-style shower and weighs just a few ounces in your pack. Its large open top makes scooping water straight out of a lake super simple, and with a few rolls and a clip, everything is ready to go. The black exterior does a good job soaking up the midday sun to provide a warm evening shower. A simple twisting nozzle right on the bottom of the bag — with helpful directions printed next to it — make bathtime a cinch. It also comes with a long length of parachute cord for hanging in a tree, though learning some key knots (like a trucker's hitch, for example) will make this process easier. And yes, the weight of that cord is included in this model's 4.7-ounce statistic, as is the storage bag.
As hard as we tried, we weren't able to stop ours from leaking ever so slightly from the top roll as it laid on its side, heating in the sun. It didn't seem to make a dent in how much water it held, though, so we tried not to worry about it too much. Once this thing is full of water, it weighs around 22 pounds, which is less than fun to hoist over your head, but still lighter than most larger competitors. All in all, the performance of this simple gravity shower in an itty bitty, ultralight package makes this a great way to level up your next backpacking trip.
Read review: Sea to Summit Pocket Shower
Great for Semi-Permanent Luxury
Camplux Pro Series 6L
The Camplux Pro Series is a reasonably-priced solution for anyone who's always wanted an outdoor shower. This semi-portable unit requires a semi-permanent outdoor setup that includes a secure mount, a large propane tank, a garden hose water inlet line, and two D batteries. Though the initial installation takes time, once ready, this handy little unit instantly converts cold hose water into a range of warm to hot shower temperatures, available at easily adjustable pressures — all finely tuned with two simple knobs. It has a wide shower head that rivals the ones in our bathrooms, three modes that make it just as easy to clean the kids as the dog, and a simple on/off switch right by your hand.
Because it requires such a secure mount, a giant propane tank, and a constant supply of fresh water via the hose, this isn't an off-grid camping shower. It's better suited to permanent or semi-permanent mounting outside by your pool or perhaps rigged up next to your RV in a campground with hookups. Some of its attachments aren't the most leakproof, and it's best used with certain extras that don't come standard — like on/off valves for the cold water input and hot water output lines. But if you've wanted an outdoor shower that won't cost thousands to install, the Camplux Pro is a great option for a truly luxurious outdoor bathing experience.
Read review: Camplux Pro Series 6L
Why You Should Trust Us
Maggie Brandenburg and her extended team of outdoor bathers get outside a lot and get dirty in the process. As a seasoned and committed nature explorer, Maggie has guided paddling and backpacking trips in the backcountry for over 15 years. Aside from guiding, she explores Caribbean islands, kayaks crystal blue lakes, and meanders along alpine trails. She has spent extended periods living entirely outdoors and knows how nice it is to get cleaned up in these conditions. With this wealth of experience to draw from, she understands what makes a great outdoor shower. Maggie has been testing all kinds of gear for GearLab since 2017.
We began this study by thinking about what the most important aspects of an outdoor shower are. Each year, we carefully select the best we can find and use them for subsequent summers, paying close attention to how well they perform in these key areas. We measured the widths of the showerhead streams and the lengths of the hoses to assess functionality. We took them apart and cleaned them (if we were able) to examine ease of use, and we dropped them, full of water, from a height of over 6 feet to get a sense of their durability. We bathed ourselves, muddy dogs, and numerous filthy trail building crews. In the end, the best models revealed themselves and are highlighted below.
Related: How We Tested Camping Showers
Analysis and Test Results
Over the course of several summers, we got dirty and then got clean repeatedly. We spent months recreating, playing, and existing outside and spent more time cleaning up in the great outdoors than we would have dreamed. We cleaned dirty kayak bottoms, bathed dogs, and rinsed grubby feet. We set up a shower station for multiple weekends of trail work crews in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We lived outside for weeks on end with only these showers to keep us keep clean enough to blend in with all the folks with indoor plumbing. We tested everything about these showers and collected what we learned to compare each one to the others across five different metrics for a complete picture of what each is best suited for.
Related: Buying Advice for Camping Showers
Each metric uses a myriad of tests, collective experiences, and a wide variety of user feedback to influence our evaluation. For example, the comfort metric is comprised of the performance of each shower in regards to pressure and ease of use while also combining feedback from users of many sizes and for different use cases.
Camping showers can be attached to a shockingly wide variety of prices. While reviewing this range, we found that price doesn't necessarily correspond with performance. And though we don't include price into any of our product performance calculations, we recognize that it can make a big difference in what model you ultimately decide to purchase.
Showers with exceptional value (defined by a stellar balance of price and performance) are the Ivation Portable, Sea to Summit Pocket, and the Advanced Elements Summer. In some cases, the upgraded experience is worth investing a bit more into your gear. The NEMO Helio Pressure Shower offers a seriously upgraded showering experience without paying top dollar, making it a solid value for those who need versatility and a little extra comfort and usability. If you're willing to invest in a truly great shower, the Yakima RoadShower costs a bit more but is well worth the investment for serious road trippers and weekend warriors.
To test this category, we asked many people to take a lot of showers and tell us about their experiences. We asked questions like how easy it is to shampoo your hair, how efficiently does it get suds off the skin, and does it accomplish the task of truly making you feel clean. We also considered other questions, such as how easy it is to operate the shower by yourself, if the water could easily be turned on and off, if the rate of flow could be adjusted, and if a stand or fixture to hold the showerhead is included or needed. We used each shower to clean more than just ourselves, as well. We scrubbed dishes, rinsed gear, and bathed dogs, testing the usability and versatility of every model.
Taking the cake in this category is the Camplux Pro Series. This semi-permanent tankless shower uses propane to instantly convert cold hose water coming into the unit into fully adjustable warm and hot water for showering. It has one of the widest, most comfortable shower heads to use. The battery-powered Ivation is also incredibly comfortable to use. It features a wide head and an excellent amount of pressure and comes with two mounting options as well, allowing you to free both your hands for proper scrubbing.
The WaterPort Weekender offers solid comfort for a hose-headed model. With five different spray modes and the ability to repressurize this cartop tank, cleaning yourself and your gear is a cinch. Another roof rack model we tested, the Yakima Road Shower, is also not bad for showering. Its hose-like nozzle is narrower but can be adjusted slightly wider for better cleaning. We also tested the optional FlexHead attachment for this unit that turns it into an efficient car-side shower. While it wasn't a perfect system, we did appreciate having a more "shower-like" experience available from the side of our car. The NEMO Helio and RinseKit POD both have sprayers that offer reasonable comfort for bathing, though they also both require one hand to hold them while you clean.
This category is all about technical comparisons. We measured, weighed, and tested each shower to see how they stack up against each other. We evaluated manufacturer claims and specifications to see what these showers were capable of; putting these measurements and tests together gives a better overall picture of the aptitude of each shower. We tested the rate of flow, took temperature readings to see how quickly water heating mechanisms worked, and ran batteries down to nothing. We measured the length of shower hoses, the width of showerheads, and even their functional width — that is, the diameter of the actual flowing water.
The RoadShower stands out again in this metric with its impressive high pressure, intensified through a narrow, concentrated nozzle for cleaning the dirtiest gear. Its metal, black tank quickly and easily heats up the water within, while an external temperature indicator lets you know if/when that water is too cold, too hot, or just right. The Helio is another very functional unit. Its foot pump is easy to use, providing variable pressures of up to a gallon a minute. Laying long and low along the ground, this black plastic tube efficiently collects solar energy to give you a hot shower after just a few hours in the sun — faster than most other models.
The Ivation is also impressively functional, offering up 1.2 gallons per minute. This is only hampered by the size of the water-holding container you pair with it, which also will determine the length of your shower. Using a 5-gallon bucket, we found we had plenty of water for a full shower. The WaterPort Weekender is another great option, akin to having a coiled garden hose coming off the roof of your car. Just like the RoadShower, it pressurizes when filled from a hose and can be repressurized using a hand pump or air compressor.
Differently, the Camplux Pro shower is also extremely functional. Its pressure depends partly on the pressure of water coming into the unit from your outdoor hose but can also be controlled by a knob on the unit's body. As it's heating the water passing through the unit, rather than a tank of stored water, you can adjust the temperature of the water coming out with near-instant results, just like your bathroom shower.
Ease of Set Up
Getting ready for an outdoor shower involves more than just setting up the unit itself — unless you're into really cold showers. To take a hot shower without the comforts of a nice big water heater means you'll be heating up the water yourself. However, there's a wide range of how these showers accomplish this and doing it manually is just one of them. We tested how quickly solar showers heat up in the sun and evaluated how easy it is to get water into each shower. We considered additional materials required to run every model, from a bucket to put a pump into, a hose to hook up to, or a stove, propane, or car to heat the water. The ease of being emptied, cleaned, dried, and stored was also considered.
The Simple Shower is impressively easy to set up; just screw it onto the nearest 2-liter bottle, and you're ready to rock. The dry bag-style Sea to Summit Pocket Shower also stands out as being easy to use — just dunk in a lake and fill its gaping maw with water to heat in the sun. It also comes with the cord to hang it from a high branch if need be.
The NEMO Helio is also rather easy to fill, with an inlet that, though a bit narrow, is hidden in a cleverly designed pocket that works like a funnel. And once you've mounted the Yakima RoadShower to the roof rack of your car, it's ready to go wherever you are.
We wish we could say car-mounted models are all the easiest to set up, but of the ones we tested, we found extreme differences in how easy they are to mount. The Yakima RoadShower mounts with two small, curved metal pieces and four bolts that attach directly to the tank, wrapping around most car racks. Two lengths of bolts are included depending on the thickness of your roof rack. In contrast, the WaterPort Weekender comes with a kit to mount it to a roof rail system. If you have a roof rack instead of a rail system, you still have to use the rail rack mounts plus purchase an additional conversion kit to retrofit those giant metal rail plates to your rack. Not only does this add expense, but the conversion kit we received was clunky, completed, and still required a trip to the hardware store. While the RoadShower mounts with one tool, two metal sections, and four bolts, the Weekender takes two giant metal plates, four additional metal sections, eight screws, eight specialty washers, and eight bolts… mounted with two socket wrenches and a hex wrench. Needless to say, we never wanted to take it off again.
One of the first things we considered when testing this metric was the materials used to construct each shower. We also evaluated the construction itself, inspecting each connection, cap, hose, and seam for integrity and any suspect areas. We noted pieces that worried us and gave those a pretty hard time to see if they would break. For example, if we were worried about the cap on a shower, we made sure to put it on and take it off repeatedly, bending and twisting it in ways that felt true to actual usage. Whatever shower you decide to bring with you needs to be able to withstand the adventures you're hoping to take it on, whether that's being jostled inside a backpack, surviving a fall from a tree while you're trying to hang it, or being able to tip over in the back of the truck in traffic.
Metal and hard plastic showers reign supreme here. The powder-coated aluminum of the RoadShower is particularly impressive, featuring brass attachments and durable hoses. Though plastic, the WaterPort Weekender is also quite durable, with components that feel solid and secure to use. The RinseKit POD is also quite durable, with few moving parts, a hard plastic body, and a fabric casing to protect the hose from damage.
The Camplux Pro Series is also fairly durable, with mostly metal components housed in a sturdy metal body meant to be safely mounted to a hard surface. And, despite having soft-bodied constructions, we are impressed with how well the Helio and AE Summer both handled all our rough treatment outdoors, from dropping them from chest height to dragging them across gravel and sand.
If you can't take your camping shower with you camping, what's the point? Not much, we think, which is why we included portability tests. The results of these tests are summarized below. The most obvious test we performed was measuring and weighing every shower to see how they compare while empty. We also considered their overall shape for transport and if they come with any carrying case to facilitate this process.
The simple gravity showers stood out most in this metric as being light and packable. The obvious winner is the Sea to Summit Pocket Shower, weighing less than 3.5 ounces without its stuff bag but including the hanging cord. The Coghlan's 5-Gallon and Advanced Elements Summer also weigh less than a pound while still having solid capacities. The Simple Shower weighs the least — about an ounce, with a 2-liter bottle — but is not quite as compact and requires a plastic bottle.
Of course, not having to carry a shower is the best way to carry a shower — the roof rack showers that mount securely to a car are some of the easiest to transport once they're attached. This includes the Yakima RoadShower and WaterPort Weekender. The NEMO Helio also stands out in this metric for being impressively compactable for its nearly three-gallon size. It accordions down into a small disc that fits into a little mesh bag for easy transport.
With so many different kinds of showers available to help keep you and your gear clean while you're outside, it can be overwhelming to figure out which one will best suit your needs. We had a blast testing these showers in order to bring you the absolute best options for whatever you want to keep clean. We hope that our research and testing have brought you insights into how to take your camping to the next level by bringing along the right camping shower.
— Maggie Brandenburg