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How to Choose the Best Camping Shower

Clean anything with your new camping shower!
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Review Editor
Monday October 29, 2018

Camping is great. We all can agree since we're here on a website reading about camping showers, we probably also like camping. We like camping, but we also like coming home to a nice hot shower to clean off all that grit on our skin and gunk stuck under our fingernails. Maybe you've heard about or even seen some of these "camping showers," and you're wondering what they're all about and if they're really worth it. Well, let's talk about it!

From cleaning yourself to cleaning your dishes  finding the right camping shower can change your whole camping experience.
From cleaning yourself to cleaning your dishes, finding the right camping shower can change your whole camping experience.

Why Should You Get a Camping Shower?


We've all felt it - the amount of exhilaration and relief you feel when you're completely clean after a long day of getting really dirty. And let's face it - you're likely to get really dirty while camping. Depending on where, when and how you camp, you might get really really dirty. Before crawling into your sleeping bag with seven layers of dust on your feet or trying to eat a big messy sandwich with dirty in the creases of your hand, wouldn't it be nice to get ruly clean? If this sounds even a little bit appealing (and we're betting it sounds a lot more than a little appealing!) then you could benefit from a camp shower.

And a camping shower isn't just for you to clean yourself! Depending on the shower you decide to get, they can make your life easier in a whole lot of ways, from cleaning dishes to washing the dog after she rolls in a dead fish or horse poop. You can use your camp shower to keep your gear clean while you're out, which not only will extend the lifespan of your gear but also makes clean up back at home that much quicker and easier! Yes, you can turn camping into glamping just by adding a little camp shower to your adventure kit.

Keep your gear and your car clean with the right camping shower.
Keep your gear and your car clean with the right camping shower.

So What Shower Suits You?


As you may have already discovered, there are a LOT of different types of camping showers out there and a lot of different options you might buy of all those types. So how do you know which camp shower will bring you the right combination of how much you care to have an extra piece of gear and how useful that extra piece of gear is to your camping style? Well, we think you should consider the following questions to help point you in the right direction.

The Advanced Elements 5-Gallon won our Top Pick for Backpacking award for it's surprisingly comfortable features and portable design.
The Advanced Elements 5-Gallon won our Top Pick for Backpacking award for it's surprisingly comfortable features and portable design.

What do you want to clean?


Are you going old school and just looking to keep yourself from becoming too rank to join the dregs of society? Try a gravity shower like the Coghlan's 5-Gallon or Advanced Elements 5-Gallon. Are you hoping to maximize your cleaning prowess by getting an incredibly versatile shower that can clean it all from A to Z? Check out a pump-powered shower like the Nemo Helio or Zodi Extreme. Are you mostly concerned about the dogs playing in the mud at the dog park and then getting into the back of your Lexus? The Simple Shower might be calling your name. Are you hoping to make doing dishes during the family reunion less of a chore? The Nemo Helio might be right for you. Do you want to take a shower but only if it's almost as impressive as your home shower? Perhaps you'd like the AngLink Portable or Pure Clean Battery-Powered shower. Different types of camp showers can help you with all your cleaning needs. Though if you're really after a camp shower that can do everything, check out our Top Pick for Versatility, the Nemo Helio.

Not just for bodies  the right camping shower can help you keep all kinds of things clean!
Not just for bodies, the right camping shower can help you keep all kinds of things clean!

Where do you want to use it?


Are you hoping to take this shower with you on your next backpacking trip or for zero days as you hike the PCT? Then weight and packability are things you should consider. The Simple Shower is by far the lightest shower in this review, weighing just under an ounce! Though that doesn't include the plastic 2-liter bottle, you'll need to use it. Or you could check out our Top Pick for Backpacking, the Advanced Elements for just 11oz of additional weight and a decent performance.

Instead, are you hoping to use this shower just with car camping, but maybe for everything around camp? We think it would be hard to go wrong with the Zodi Extreme, our Editors' Choice award winner. What it lacks (or rather, has too much of) in size and weight, it makes up for with stellar performance and incredible durability. The Nemo Helio is another excellent option for all things camping, though, with its lighter weight and packability, you might even justify taking it farther than just the car! Do you want a truly luxurious shower while you're out? Check out one of the battery powered models like the AngLink, which boasts one of the widest shower head usable area of all the showers in this review, at a full two inches of water jetting out at a steady, even, and extremely comfortable pressure.

Are you looking instead for a shower that you can easily stick in the back of your car for cleaning gear, dogs, feet, and anything else that may be a bit grubby from an adventure? The Simple Shower is a tiny attachment that you can simply slip onto the top of any 1 or 2-liter bottle hiding in the trunk of your vehicle. Also the Nemo Helio is versatile enough to be a hatchback solution, dishes cleaning tool, and self-scrubbing apparatus.

Travel farther with the Nemo Helio  our Top Pick for Versatility.
Travel farther with the Nemo Helio, our Top Pick for Versatility.

What intensity of cleaning are you taking on?


Are you just rinsing suds off dishes or dirt off your kayak? Then the weak pressure of a gravity shower will likely be enough. The Advanced Elements could be right up your alley or, if you'd like a little more maneuverability, the Simple Shower will do the trick. Are you planning to give the dog a proper bath or shampoo and condition your long hair while out in the woods? Then you'll likely want something with a bit more pressure like the battery powered AngLink or foot pump-powered Nemo Helio. If you want some really serious pressure, the Zodi Extreme can deliver that. Though the Zodi has such an easily adjustable rate of flow, you could just as easily use it to bathe a sensitive baby as shampoo the family collie.

Enjoy the exceptional cleaning power of the high-pressured Zodi Extreme.
Enjoy the exceptional cleaning power of the high-pressured Zodi Extreme.

How often do you want to refill?


Are you just looking to use your shower for short rinses? Wet and wipe the dirt off, swipe the dishes clean, get your feet 10% less grubby? Then perhaps capacity isn't much of an issue for you and you can get away with the very small capacity Simple Shower. Are you very efficient at taking showers? Well, you'd better be with any of these camping showers! They range from lasting 3.5 minutes to 6 minutes, so none are going to afford you that luxurious 20-minute sauna experience you may get at home. Even the largest showers are limited in capacity by what you can carry and how big their containers are. The largest potential capacity is, of course, the battery-powered showers, which can be slipped into any container of water. A 5-gallon bucket works well for an average camp shower length of time. But if you can use a GIANT bucket or refill that 5-gallon bucket over and over, the AngLink will last you a whopping 45 straight minutes of shower time!

The length of your shower is limited only by the size of your bucket with the battery pump showers  the AngLink and Pure Clean.
The length of your shower is limited only by the size of your bucket with the battery pump showers, the AngLink and Pure Clean.

How hot do you want your water?


If you're taking a full-on shower, you'll probably want to heat your water. Even in a warm climate, taking a really cold shower has its pleasurable limits. Finding just the right temperature for your ideal shower can be a bit of a gamble with some camping showers. However, some, like the Advanced Elements and Zodi have temperature gauges on the side so you can see exactly how warm your shower water is. Others are much more of a guess by touching the side or sticking your hand in to judge the water temperature. Or perhaps you're just rinsing the dog or some gear, and temperature doesn't matter at all. In that case, you can skip this section!

Another thing to consider with water temperature is the time it takes to get that water hot. Typical camping showers rely on the heat of the sun to warm your water, which can be incredibly variable! If you filled your shower from a cold mountain stream, it may take six or more hours to warm up to a balmy 102 degrees - or it may never reach that at all if it's cloudy or the day is brisk! Some showers you can boil water and add that to the water container. This is certainly faster than waiting for the sun to do all the work but involves a lot of additional work on your part to boil X number of pots of water and mix them with the right amount of cold water to get that perfect temperature. One shower that we absolutely love to heat is the Zodi Extreme. As a stainless steel water canister, you can simply set the entire unit on top of a sturdy stove. It's not going to work with your little JetBoil or backpacking stove, but a solid tabletop propane stove will do the trick. Or you can buy the heating stand specifically for the stove from Zodi. Using this, we were able to go from ice cold to 104 in under 20 minutes!

Make things simpler by picking up the burner stand to heat your Zodi Extreme.
Make things simpler by picking up the burner stand to heat your Zodi Extreme.

How much are you willing to spend?


The value of any article of gear you purchase is always an important thing to consider. And when it comes to camping showers, there's a shockingly wide range of possible amounts you might pay for your new cleaning helper. And while paying extra dollars doesn't necessarily guarantee you a higher quality product, in this category, we found that some of those higher priced items had such added versatility and usefulness that they are impossible to ignore (cough cough, we're looking at you, Zodi, and you, Nemo Helio). But if you're not ready to spend $100 or more on a camping shower, we get it, and many other cheaper options can still get you cleaner than you were before - some for under $10!! If you're looking for the best product and what you spend matters not, then we've identified several promising options for you too! Take some time to peruse the models of camping shower we reviewed to see which has the right combination of features, performance, usability, and price to suit your needs.

The cheapest shower in this review  the Coghlan's  didn't wow us with performance  only price.
The cheapest shower in this review, the Coghlan's, didn't wow us with performance, only price.

Don't Forget the Extras!


Several camp showers require additional pieces to be able to use fully, from 2-liter bottles to 5-gallon buckets, or even just plain old electricity. And though some showers come with a privacy tent, it's not a guarantee. So unless you plan to show everyone what exactly it is you're trying to clean (which we do not recommend), or are bathing in your swimsuit, you'll want to snag one of those as well. If you want to add extra hot water to your shower, you'll also need a way to heat that up unless you're willing to rely solely on the power of the sun. And of course, don't forget the eco-friendly soap and a towel to complete the ensemble!

The Simple Shower doesn't come with a bottle  but fortunately those are easy to come by!
The Simple Shower doesn't come with a bottle, but fortunately those are easy to come by!

Conclusion


Bringing along a camping shower just might be the piece you need to take your weekend of camping with the in-laws and kids from doable to enjoyable! The power to keep yourself and your surroundings clean is, for many, hard to overestimate. And if you're the one bringing the shower to the weekend, you'll likely be the hero of the trip AND get first dibs on hot water!

Clean anything with your new camping shower!
Clean anything with your new camping shower!


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