The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of gear

How We Tested Camping Showers

By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Monday June 8, 2020

There are a lot of different types of camping showers out there, so what makes one better than another? We set out to answer that question by testing these showers side-by-side with a wide range of tests to help you gain a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each product. We tested five different metrics to provide a complete picture of how each shower stands up against the competition, and here's how we did it.

Testing camping showers resulted in some of the cleanest dogs in the woods!
Testing camping showers resulted in some of the cleanest dogs in the woods!

Comfort


Let's face it, if you're not comfortable in the shower you take, it won't be a good experience, and you may as well clean yourself with a bucket or in a lake. So how comfortable is it to really use your camping shower? We spent a summer of camping and being sparkly clean to really get at this issue. We evaluated pressure — can you get all the suds out of long hair or your dog's fur? Can you wash all the debris off the bottom of a boat or clean your dusty ankles after a day of hard trail work? We cleaned all kinds of things just to see if we could and see how far we could go to find the limits of these showers.

We also considered other user comforts, like how the water comes out — is it battery or pump-pressured? Is it up to the power of gravity? We wanted to clean ourselves as well, not just the muddy dog or sandy boat. But how easy is it to strip down and actually get the job done? Do you have to hold the shower to use it, or does it come with a stand? How easy is it to get yourself totally wet and then totally rinsed of suds? Can you turn the water on and off easily, and do you get soap all over everything in the process? And how much time do you really have until the shower runs completely empty?

The Zodi's adjustable pressure added to its comfortable use.
The Zodi's adjustable pressure added to its comfortable use.

Functionality


This is the technical comparison between showers, to get at the nitty-gritty and see how the numbers and specs stack up. For this metric, we measured the rate of flow of each shower in liters per minute. For showers that advertise as being able to heat in the sun, we put them in the sun next to each other and took temperature readings of each. These were then compiled into helpful charts, showing how quickly each shower heated up compared to the others. For battery-powered showers, we turned them on and let them run until the battery died to see how long they would last between charges.

We also took a lot of measurements. How long is the hose? How wide is the showerhead? More importantly, how large is the actual functional width of the showerhead? That is, what is the diameter of the area water actually comes out, not just the showerhead itself? What is the capacity of each shower?

We periodically checked temperatures of the solar-heated showers to see how quickly they really heat up in the midday sun or on a cloudy afternoon.
We periodically checked temperatures of the solar-heated showers to see how quickly they really heat up in the midday sun or on a cloudy afternoon.

Ease of Set Up


No one likes using an overly complicated shower when you just need to get the job done. We assessed how easy — or not — each of these models were to set up and to take back down again. We considered how easy they are to fill with water. We examined how simple it is to get water into the opening or procure the appropriate water-holding vessel. We also assessed directions to see if they were adequate or helpful.

Some showers require additional materials, such as a bucket or bottle, and the availability and utility of those additional objects was also assessed. When taking each shower apart for storage, we also considered how easy each is to clean, and if that was even a possibility.

Two apparently identical orange showers being put head-to-head to see how they compare.
Two apparently identical orange showers being put head-to-head to see how they compare.

Durability


No piece of gear is worth much if it doesn't last long, and we wanted to know if these showers were up to the task of keeping us clean for the long haul. We noted the materials used in construction and apparent care given to the assembly of each shower. We inspected each unit for obvious faults and observed any areas of concern that seemed to us a higher risk for failing or breaking in the future. We considered how many connection points showers had.

To truly test the durability of these unique outdoor "appliances," we used them — a lot. We threw them in the back of the car to camp for the weekend. We crammed them in backpacks and brought them into the woods. We laid them on all kinds of rough ground surfaces to see how they did. We stuck them in rivers to fill and poured hot water in them to use. We even dropped hanging models repeatedly from about 6ft up, just to see what would happen if that were to occur, say, in the middle of a shower.

Testing durability of these showers involved tests like dropping them from 7ft up to see how they faired.
Testing durability of these showers involved tests like dropping them from 7ft up to see how they faired.

Portability


Some camping showers are obviously more amenable to being carried farther distances in a backpack, but then are they too heavy to lug around when you fill them up with water at camp? We considered the weight of each model, both empty and full. We examined their method of carrying and evaluated how easy or difficult it was to use. We also measured how small each unit could pack down to when not in use. And we considered the packability of each shower when completely full of water if you wanted to top it off before you leave home.

We backpacked into the wilderness to test some of these showers on super grubby trail crews in need of a good clean.
We backpacked into the wilderness to test some of these showers on super grubby trail crews in need of a good clean.

Each of these tests, assessments, and comparisons helped give us a distinct picture of each shower, how it performs, and what its best uses are. We hope that the insights we have gathered are helpful to you in finding the shower that best suits your needs.