Are you ready to turn camping into glamping by adding a camp shower to your kit? We scoured the internet and researched scores of showers before purchasing the 7 best to test side-by-side over an entire summer's worth of living outside. No, we are not kidding! We lived in the outdoors in trailers, tents, and under the stars and used these showers all the while to bring you the best and worst parts of each. We washed ourselves, our dogs, our boats, and our dishes to find which showers are the most comfortable and easy to use, which can stand up to abuse, and functionally how they stack up to each other. Whatever you want to wash, we've found the right camping shower for you.
The Best Camping Showers
New to the site as of October 2018, camping showers make their grand appearance. We've selected seven of the best contenders, putting them head to head while living in the great outdoors. The Zodi Extreme is our Editors' Choice winner, while the AngLink Portable takes the Best Buy Award. We've also included a few for specialty categories, such as the NEMO Helio Pressure Shower for versatility and the Advanced Elements 5-Gallon for backpacking.
Best Overall Camping Shower
Zodi Extreme S/C
The Zodi Extreme is an impressive camping shower that wowed our testers in just about every category. Though not a conventional design, the Zodi brings together a pressure we're not used to seeing in a camping shower with an easy-to-use design that's built to last. The Zodi is the only camping shower in this review with a completely adjustable range of pressure controlled by the hand pump and a variable on/off lever. Its kink-proof hose is long enough for even the tallest folks to use it comfortably.
The Zodi is shockingly easy to heat to the right temperature, as it can be set directly on top of a sturdy stove until the outside temperature gauge reads a glorious 104 degrees. Though it's the heaviest shower in this review and doesn't compact even slightly, the Zodi delivers an incredible experience from personal showers to gear cleaning to bathing the dog.
Read review: Zodi Extreme S/C
Best Bang for the Buck
For a shower experience that's almost comfortable enough to match the shower in your bathroom at home, the AngLink Portable will make you forget your surroundings. This battery-powered shower delivers a consistent stream of water at just the right pressure through one of the widest shower heads of any model we tested. The hanger and suction cup attachments allow for a hands-free experience to easily take an efficient and pleasant shower.
Limited by the size of your bucket, the AngLink outcompetes the army of identically-appearing showers with a significantly longer battery life and replacement pieces to extend the lifespan of your shower. Though keeping the battery dry can be a bit of a challenge, the AngLink is a pretty handy all-around shower with a pretty darn reasonable price tag. Good for all kinds of uses, the AngLink is a great addition to your camping get-up.
Read review: AngLink Portable
Top Pick for Versatility
NEMO Helio Pressure Shower
With a unique combination of function 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 shower head, even the 2.9-gallon capacity lasts a surprisingly long time. With a nozzle not unlike a kitchen sink sprayer, the Nemo can easily be used to clean all kinds of things from dogs to dishes. Packing down to a fraction of its assembled size and constructed of lightweight yet durable materials, the Helio is surprisingly portable.
Though it was challenging to fill and close, with its narrow top opening, once we got it set up, we were stoked with the performance of the Helio and had a hard time coming up with a situation in which is isn't dead useful.
Read review: Nemo Helio Pressure Shower
Top Pick for Backpacking
Advanced Elements 5-Gallon
The Advanced Elements takes the age-old design of a classic gravity shower and modernizes it with little features that add up to a pretty big difference. With a pocket for soap and a mirror attached to the bag as well as two velcro loops to attach a washcloth and keep your towel nearby, this gravity shower is a step up from similar designs in the past. The Advanced Elements summer shower has a thick, sturdy handle with a convenient clip to easily attach the whole thing to a nearby tree for use. With an easy-to-read temperature gauge, it's a cinch to harness the power of the sun to heat your water to a comfortable temperature in a matter of a few hours.
Though at the end of the day, it's still a gravity shower with relatively low pressure, the Advanced Elements brings added durability and handy features that make it a step above traditional and a great option for short backpacking trips.
Read review: Advanced Elements 5-Gallon
Analysis and Test Results
Over the course of an entire summer, we got dirty and got clean repeatedly. We spent months recreating, playing, and existing outside and spent more time cleaning up outside than we would have dreamed. We cleaned dirty kayak bottoms, we bathed dogs, we rinsed grubby feet. We set up a shower station for a weekend of trail work crews in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We lived outside for weeks on end with only these showers to keep us 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 shower to the others across five different metrics for a complete picture of what each is best suited for. Each metric was weighted by importance to give each shower an overall score from 1-100, as demonstrated in the table above.
While every shower earned a different total score, each metric is also calculated as an average of scores from a myriad of tests, a collective of experiences, and a wide variety of user feedback. For example, the Comfort metric is comprised of the performance of each shower to tests of pressure and ease of use, while also combining feedback from users of many sizes and for different uses. Read through the following information to learn what went into every metric we tested and how it went into the overall score, and gain insight into the right camping shower for your cleanliness desires.
Camping showers can be attached to a wide variety of prices, from less than $10 to well over $150! While reviewing this range, we found that price doesn't necessarily correspond with performance. And though we never include price into any of our calculations of product performance scores, we recognize that price can make a big difference as to what model you ultimately decide to purchase. Enter, the value chart, which compares each shower's price to its performance giving you a better overall idea of value.
Comfort matters a lot when it comes to a proper shower. While you wouldn't expect to have the same level of comfort out in the woods as you do in your bathroom at home, the closer the better! We assigned this metric the highest weight of any metric in this review because when you're that exposed (and outdoors!), you need that extra level of comfort to get confidently clean. You can see how each shower compares when it comes to comfort in the following chart.
To test this category, we asked a lot of people to take a lot of showers and tell us about their experiences. We asked questions like how easy was it to shampoo your hair? How good of a job do you think the shower did getting suds off your skin? Do you feel like you're clean? We also considered other questions such as how easy it is to operate this shower by yourself? Can you easily turn the water on and off when you need it? Can the rate of flow be adjusted to suit your needs? Is there a stand or fixture to hold the shower head or will you need one hand to operate it? How much time do you have to take a shower before you run out of water? How is the shower powered (battery, gravity or pump) and how convenient is that?
In addition, we used these showers for more than cleaning ourselves. We recognize that there are many other potential uses for camping showers that don't necessarily involve getting in a privacy tent and soaping up from head to foot. So we bathed dogs with these showers, we cleaned our kayaks, and we washed dishes in camp. We evaluated how easy and comfortable it was to do each of these activities with each shower. Some showers, like the battery powered Anglink Upgraded Portable Camping Shower and Pure Clean Battery Powered are incredibly comfortable to use no matter how we try them. With long hoses, wide heads and an excellent amount of pressure, cleaning just about anything is a breeze. The Zodi Extreme S/C is another very comfortable shower to use that provides a good amount of pressure and a long versatile hose attached to a large, durable tank.
What good is a shower if it doesn't work well? Not much good at all, we think, which is why this metric is the second most important metric in this review. The combination of Comfort and Functionality together paint a very rich picture of how it is to actually use any one of these showers. The tests we performed and aspects we scrutinized for this metric are complementary to the ones we carried out for Comfort tests. A summary of how all seven showers performed in these tests can be observed in this chart.
This category was all about the technical comparisons. We measured, weighed, tested, and measured each shower some more to see how they stack up to each other when it comes to sheer numerical comparisons. We evaluated manufacturer claims and specifications to see what these showers were actually 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 ratings to see how quickly water heating mechanisms worked and ran batteries down to nothing repeatedly. We measured length of shower hoses, width of shower heads, and even functional width - that is the diameter of the actual space water comes out of. In terms of actual specification functionality, the Zodi Extreme S/C reigns champion. Its long, kink-free hose, adjustable rate of flow, variable pressure options, and quick stove-heating mechanism make the Zodi an incredibly functional shower no matter what you're trying to clean. The AngLink is also an impressively functional shower, with a wide shower head, quick and efficient rate of flow and long-lasting battery.
Ease of Set Up
When you want to shower at home, you simply walk into the bathroom and turn the shower on. We realize it isn't quite that easy when you want to shower out in the woods, but it doesn't have to be incredibly complicated. For each shower, evaluated how easy or complicated it is not only to set up but also to take it back down and put it away again. See how each model compared below.
Setting up a shower isn't just setting up the actual shower itself unless you're into really cold showers. To take a hot shower without the comforts of a nice big water heater in your closet means you'll be heating up the water yourself. However there's a wide range of how these showers might have their water heated up, and doing it manually is just one of them. We tested how quickly solar showers such as the Advanced Elements 5-Gallon heated up in the sun and how quickly the Zodi Extreme heats up over the stove. We also evaluated how easy it is to get water into each shower in the first place, as they range from as wide open as a bucket, like the easy to use AngLink, to as narrow as needing a faucet, like the versatile Nemo Helio. We also considered any directions that may have come with the shower as to their usefulness and effectiveness.
While all showers needed some sort of privacy barrier (or to be really truly away from anyone you aren't willing to show your birthday suit!), some of the showers we tested need additional items to make them work. From a bucket to put a pump into, to a stove to heat the water, most of these showers had some additional items necessary for their proper or comfortable functioning. And after your shower is complete and you and/or your grubby subject(s) are all squeaky clean, we wanted to know how easy it is to dry out your shower, clean it and put it away in storage. The Zodi Extreme was by far the easiest to set up and put away, as it simply zips into its carrying bag, and being made of stainless steel needs very little cleaning and just a bit of oil every so often for upkeep. The Simple Shower was also impressively easy to set up; just screw it onto the nearest 2-liter bottle and you're ready to rock!
The last thing you want is for a shower to fail mid-shower, leaving you covered in soap, or break open in the back of your car causing a mini tsunami. It's also important that whatever shower you decide to bring with you can withstand whatever 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 affix it, or being able to tip over in the back of the truck in traffic. You can see how the showers we tested stack up in this category in the following graphic.
One of the first things we considered when testing this metric was the materials used in the construction of each shower. We also evaluated the construction itself, inspecting each connection, cap, hose, and seam for integrity and 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 and give it bends and twists in ways that felt true to actual usage. The stainless steel construction of the Zodi is particularly impressive and its industrial grade brass valves withstood anything we put it up to.
We also used these showers a lot to see if they would stand up to the daily abuse of constant use for all kinds of cleaning purposes. We then went beyond that and purposely treated them roughly in ways we felt were consistent with normal usage. For showers that hang, we dropped them from 8 feet high to see if they would break. Anything handheld we dropped from a level they would normally be used to test how readily they might crack or malfunction. We also dragged them through dirt, rocks, and scraggly weeds to see what would tear. Despite having a soft construction, we were impressed with how well the Nemo Helio handled all our rough treatment.
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 as part of our overall score calculations. The results of these tests are summarized below.
The most obvious test of portability we performed was to measure and weigh every shower in this review to see how they compare while empty. We also considered their overall shape to transport and if they come with any sort of carrying case to facilitate this process. The Coghlan's 5-Gallon and Advanced Elements both stood out as weighing very little and being easy to transport, especially considering their large capacity during use.
Additionally, we evaluated the compactability of each shower, as several can pack down quite small compared to their full size which aids in their transportation. While we appreciated the ability to roll up both the gravity showers, we were most impressed with the transformation of the Nemo Helio, fitting all its components into a relatively small, lightweight package. The final thing we considered was how easy each of these is to transport when full of water. We didn't count it against a shower if it was heavy when full, as that simply means it has a larger capacity for water. What we did evaluate was the carrying mechanism itself and its relative level of comfort and ease of use.
With so many different kinds of showers available to help you keep clean and clean your gear while you're outside, it can be overwhelming to figure out which one will actually suit your needs best. We had an absolute blast testing these showers for hundreds of hours to bring you the absolute best showers for whatever you want to keep clean. We hope that our research and testing of cleanliness has brought you insights into how you can take your camping to the next level by bringing along the right camping shower. Stay clean out there!
— Maggie Brandenburg