The Best Camping Showers of 2020
Best Overall Camping Shower
The Zodi Extreme is an impressive camping shower that wows our testers in just about every category. Simply place the canister on a stovetop (your own or you can purchase one specific to this shower from Zodi), and heat to your liking. Though not a conventional design, this shower brings together an adjustable pressure we're not used to seeing in a camping shower with an easy-to-use design that's built to last. This is the only 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 Extreme is shockingly easy to heat to the right temperature, as it can be set directly on top of a sturdy stove until the external temperature gauge reads a glorious 104 degrees. Though it's the heaviest shower in this review and it doesn't compact even slightly, it delivers an incredible experience from personal showers to gear cleaning to bathing the dog. This is also a fairly pricey option, though the high-quality materials ensure that it will be in your camping gear arsenal for the long haul.
Read review: Zodi Extreme
Best Bang for the Buck
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 or something 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 for Weekend Warriors
For the ultimate road trip accessory, the Yakima RoadShower takes center stage. This impressive powder-coated aluminum shower tube mounts on your roof rack, not only following you wherever you roam but also heating your water as you drive. It delivers pressure as intense as a typical garden hose, but from your car. 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 set up required — simply unhook the hose from the side of the tank and spray liberally. Filling up with a hose is easy. No hose access? No problem! This thing 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 attachable shower head, which is an additional purchase. Also, if you fill at home and leave the pump behind, you'll find the pressure drops precipitously as the tank empties. 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
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 showerhead, 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 also highly portable.
Though this has a small showerhead and it is challenging to fill and close with its narrow top opening, after setting the Helio up repeatedly over months of testing, we continue to be stoked with the performance. We have a hard time coming up with a situation in which this shower isn't dead useful.
Read review: Nemo Helio Pressure Shower
Best for Backpacking
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 truckers 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 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
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.
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 did things like measure the width of the showerhead stream and length of the hose to rate functionality. We took them apart and cleaned them, if we were able, to examine the 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 shower to the others across five different metrics for a complete picture of what each is best suited for.
Related: Buying Advice for Camping Showers
While every shower earned a different total score, each metric is also calculated as an average of scores from a myriad of tests, collective experiences, and a wide variety of user feedback. 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. 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 shockingly wide variety of prices. 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 it can make a big difference as to what model you ultimately decide to purchase. Showers with exceptional value (defined by a stellar balance of price and performance) are the Ivation Portable, our Best Buy Award Winner, and the Sea to Summit Pocket, our Top Pick for Backpacking.
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 outside, you need that extra level of comfort to get confidently clean. This metric made up 30% of each product's overall score.
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 it is to shampoo your hair. How efficiently does it get suds off your skin? Does it make you feel actually 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 showerhead, 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 mountain bikes, and we washed dishes in camp. We evaluated how easy and comfortable it is to do these activities with each shower.
The internet contains many seemingly identical orange, battery-powered camping showers, and we've tested several. Recently, the Pure Clean Battery Powered that we tested has been renamed the Pyle Portable — despite the Pure Clean branding that's still prominently displayed on the side of the pump.
The battery-powered showers we tested, the Ivation and Pyle Portable, are incredibly comfortable to use no matter how we use them. With very similar construction, they both feature a wide head and an excellent amount of pressure. These super useful showers make it a breeze to bathe yourself after a dip in the backyard pool or soap and rinse the dog after a muddy adventure. Both come with two mounting options as well, allowing you to free both your hands for scrubbing yourself. And they're the closest feeling to a bathroom shower that we found.
The Zodi Extreme is another very comfortable shower to use. It provides a good amount of pressure and a long, versatile hose attached to a large, durable tank. It's one of the only showers we tested that has an easily adjustable rate of flow and an extremely simple way to keep it pressurized even mid-shower. It features a long, kink-free hose that testers over 6 feet have no complaints about using. Though its showerhead isn't as wide as the Ivation, it's adjustability is top-notch.
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 and weighted at 25%. The combination of Comfort and Functionality together paint a very rich picture of what it's like to actually use these showers. The tests we performed and the aspects we scrutinized for this metric are complementary to the ones we carried out for our Comfort tests.
This category was all about the technical comparisons. We measured, weighed, and tested each shower 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 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 the length of shower hoses, the width of showerheads, and even their functional width — that is, the diameter of the actual space water comes out of.
In terms of actual specification functionality, the Zodi Extreme reigns champion. The long, kink-free hose, adjustable rate of flow, variable pressure options, and quick stove-heating mechanism make it an incredibly functional shower no matter what you're trying to clean. It has an almost magical ability to turn just 3 gallons of perfectly heated water into a glorious several minute shower. The RoadShower also stands out in this metric with its available high pressure, intensified for cleaning the dirtiest gear through a narrow, concentrated nozzle. It's as close to a garden hose as we found, without using the actual garden hose.
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, determining the length of your shower. The Pyle Portable boasts a similar rate of flow and container restriction but isn't nearly as impressive when it comes to battery performance as the Ivation. The NEMO Helio is also a fairly impressive contender. With a narrower nozzle, this shower is able to spread out your use of pressurized water to last longer than other showers of the same size. For really making your water stretch, the Helio is hard to beat.
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, we evaluated how easy or complicated it is not only to set up but also to take it back down and put it away again.
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, and doing it manually is just one of them. We tested how quickly solar showers such as the Advanced Elements shower 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 dry bag, like the easy to use Pocket Shower, to as specific as needing a physically connected hose or faucet, like the RinseKit POD. 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 have 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, the process for drying it out and storing it away differs as well.
The Zodi Extreme is by far the easiest to set up and put away as it simply zips into its carrying bag. It's also made of stainless steel, so it needs very little cleaning and just a bit of oil every so often for upkeep. The Simple Shower is also impressively easy to set up; just screw it onto the nearest 2-liter bottle, and you're ready to rock! Even the dry bag-style Sea to Summit Pocket Shower stands out as being easy to 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. And once you've mounted the Yakima RoadShower to the roof rack of your car, it's ready to go wherever you are.
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 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 affix it, or being able to tip over in the back of the truck in traffic.
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.
Metal and hard plastic showers reign supreme here. The stainless steel construction of the Zodi Extreme and the powder-coated aluminum of the RoadShower are particularly impressive, both featuring brass attachments and durable hoses. The RinseKit POD is also quite durable, with few moving parts, a hard plastic body, and a fabric casing protecting the hose from damage.
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 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 simple gravity showers stood out most in this metric as being light and packable. The obvious winner, though, is the Sea to Summit Pocket Shower, our Top Pick for Backpacking, weighing less than 3.5 ounces without its stuff bag, but still including the hanging cord. The Coghlan's 5-Gallon and Advanced Elements 3-Gallon 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 compactable.
Additionally, we evaluated the compactness of each shower, as several can pack down quite small compared to their full size, which aids in their transportation. While we appreciate 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 keep you and your gear clean 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.
— Maggie Brandenburg