Camping is great. We assume you feel the same since you're here on a website reading about camping showers! That said, while we love camping, 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.
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 dirty. And let's face it — you're likely to get really dirty while camping, especially if it's for an extended period of time. 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 dirt in the creases of your hand, wouldn't it be nice to get truly clean? If this sounds even a little bit appealing (and we're betting it does), then you could benefit from a camp shower.
And a camping shower isn't just for you to clean yourself either. 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 (ours does both). You can use your camp shower to keep your gear clean while you're out, which not only will extend the lifespan of it 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.
So What Shower Suits You?
As you may have already discovered, there are a LOT of different types of camping showers out there. So how do you know which one will bring you the right combination of features for your particular camping style? How do you know which will justify having another piece of gear to lug around? Well, we think you should consider the following questions to help point you in the right direction.
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. 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. Looking for some serious cleaning power for your excessively grubby gear? A pressurized shower might be what you're after. Are you mostly concerned about the dogs playing in the mud at the dog park and then getting into the back of your car? Something super simple might be calling your name. Are you hoping to make doing dishes during the family reunion less of a chore? The kitchen sink-style nozzle of some options 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 a cushy battery-powered shower. Different types of camp showers can help you with all your cleaning needs.
Where Do You Want to Use It?
Are you hoping to take this shower with you on your next backpacking trip or as you hike the PCT? Then weight and packability are things you should consider. Some showers are impressively small and absurdly lightweight, practically begging to be stuffed into your backpack for your next adventure.
Alternatively, are you hoping to use your shower just when car camping? And maybe for everything around the campsite? Many options exist that have excellent pressure or even adjustable pressure to clean yourself and your gear exactly as you would at home with the hose. You'll also want to consider how much water your shower can hold compared to its rate of flow, which puts a limit on how long you can use it before you have to refill it.
Do you want a truly luxurious shower while you're out? If you're looking for as close to the comforts of home as possible, consider a shower with a wide head to provide full coverage that feels just like your master bathroom shower. You'll also want to consider a shower's pressure, as too little or too much are both less pleasant — you're after that Goldilocks vibe.
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? Many options for this exist, from super simple options to extremely portable showers. Some even mount to your car's roof rack for no brainer usage.
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. 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 a luxurious, battery-powered option. Even a manual pump pressurized model will help you get squeaky clean no matter where you are. Perhaps you're the kind of adventurer who stays in a full-facility campground after a hard day of getting after it, and you need to clean your gear. There are several high-pressure options that can offer just as intense of power as your garden hose at home and are easy to take along.
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 model. Are you very efficient at taking showers (we hope that answer is yes)? Well, you'd better be — the showers in our lineup will last about 3.5 minutes to 6 minutes, so none are going to afford you that luxurious 20-minute sauna-like 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.
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 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.
Another thing to consider with water temperature is the time it takes to get that water hot. A lot of camping showers rely on the heat of the sun to warm your water, which can be incredibly variable depending on cloud cover and altitude. 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. 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, our Editors' Choice. 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.
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. While paying extra dollars doesn't necessarily guarantee you a higher quality product, we found that some of those higher-priced items have such added versatility and usefulness that it's impossible to ignore. But if you're not ready to spend a couple hundred dollars on a camping shower, we get it, and many other cheaper options can still get you cleaner than you were before — some for under $20! If you're looking for the best product and what you spend doesn't matter, 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.
Don't Forget the Extras!
Several camp showers require additional pieces to be able to use adequately, from 2-liter bottles to 5-gallon buckets, or dependence on electricity to charge them or a hose to fill them. And though some showers come with a privacy tent, most do not. So unless you plan to show everyone what exactly it is you're trying to clean, 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, a towel, and 100 big steps away from any water sources to begin your bathing experience.
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.