Spending time off-grid typically means leaving the majority of the comforts and amenities of home behind, and after spending a long day in the woods or on the trail, one resource you might quickly find yourself missing is a nice hot shower. Having the ability to wash away the day’s dirt, sweat, and grime can be invaluable, especially during the warmer, summer months. And, though the idea of utilizing an off-grid shower may sound like an involved task, the reality is today’s market is brimming with a host of easily-transportable, easy-to-operate off-grid showers.
Over the years, the solar-heated, gravity-fed systems have given way to increasingly capable–and often increasingly-compact—mobile shower units. But in order to figure out which type is most conducive to your needs, it helps to have a solid understanding of the product space. So, with this in mind, we’ve put together this exhaustive guide on today’s best portable camp showers. In addition to taking you through our favorite offerings on the market, we’ll also be delving into the various types of camp showers that exist, what to look for when shopping, and some additional uses that make adding a camp shower to your kit all the more worthwhile.
The Main Categories Of Camp Showers
Though every type of portable camp shower performs the same basic function, the way they go about doing it varies pretty drastically. To help get you better acquainted with the product space, below we’ve generated a condensed explanation of the main types of camp showers. There are variations of these different classes, as well as a few unique outlier products, though the overwhelming majority of the time, a portable camp shower will fall into one of these four groups.
Gravity: This is the original type of camp shower and started out as what was essentially a water-filled bag that you can hang, in order to allow gravity to dispense water at a steady rate. These are the most minimalist type of camp showers available, though they’re also the cheapest, and often the most compact.
Pump: Rather than relying on gravity, this style of portable camp shower utilizes a foot or hand pump that is used to pressurize a water chamber. This affords a portable shower to operate with a decent amount of pressure, letting the nozzle spray, rather than merely pour at gravity’s rate. These showers are also available in both soft and hard constructions.
Electric: Instead of using a gravity- or pressure-fed reservoir, this type of camp shower consists of an electronically-powered pump that can be placed into a bottle or body of water. From there, water is run through the powered system, making for a highly-mobile and compact, yet still surprisingly efficient off-grid shower option.
The Three Main Mobile Shower Heating Methods
There are mobile camp showers that don’t heat water, though the lion’s share of products in this space do. There are three primary ways this is achieved, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.
Solar: Harnessing the power of the sun, solar-powered showers must be placed in direct sunlight in order to be warmed. Thanks to the use of reflective elements and/or special insulation, many modern solar-powered camp showers can easily reach temperatures of over 90-degrees. One major selling point for this category is there’s no need to ring any fuel for your heat source, though the downside to this is that it can only be used during the day (or within an hour or two after dusk). Solar-powered showers also take markedly longer to heat up.
Gas: Instead of waiting on the sun to do its thing, some of the more high-end systems utilize a gas-powered setup, not too different from your average camp stove. These usually take propane tanks that can also power grills, heaters, and other camp gear, and is the fastest option for heating up water. Furthermore, these systems can typically be used to boil water for cooking or sterilization, giving them a bit of added utility.
Electricity: Electronically-powered camp showers work similarly to gas-powered items, though instead of relying on propane-generated BTUs, this style uses electricity. This means carrying around a battery that tends to be on the heavier side, though it also allows for the possibility of solar-charging.
The Finer Points Of Off-Grid Hygiene
What To Look For When Shopping For A Portable Camp Shower
Now that you’ve gotten acquainted with the various types that exist, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of what aspects to consider when in the market for an off-grid shower.
Intended Use: This first one is probably the single most crucial aspect, as it should dictate many of the following elements. You’ll want to ask yourself where you plan on using the shower, how long you plan on being off-grid, how many people will be using the shower, and what type of climate you’re in.
Size: Going hand-in-hand with intended use is size (aka weight and compactness). These mobile units can range from small handheld items to massive units comparable in dimensions to a full-size cooler. Consider your intended use and then plan accordingly, for example, should you be hiking into camp on foot, you’ll want to opt for a smaller more pocketable shower system, versus if you’re driving into camp, size and weight is far less a concern.
Tank Capacity: Thinking about how long you plan on being off-grid and how many people will be using the show should help you to better hone in on the size of the reservoir (or water tank) on a respective portable shower. This can range from massive, multi-gallon tanks, to handheld units that don’t boast a tank at all.
Heating Capabilities: Not all heated camp showers are created equal, with their respective ability to warm up water hugely varying. This area will mainly come down to the climate (or season) you plan on camping in, as well as whether or not you plan on utilizing a portable shower for boiling water. For uses in warmer, more tropical climates, this aspect is less important.
Construction: Just like with any piece of outdoor gear, it’s overall quality and durability will largely boil down to its construction. The type of material being used will depend on whether the shower is a soft or rigid, hard-sided unit, though manufacturers that use quality materials will very seldom fail to advertise such. A general rule of thumb is the bigger, and more robust the shower, the more hardwearing and robust the materials should be.
Supplementary Uses: In addition to heating and boiling up water, some camp showers offer other amenities to bolster their overall utility. Some pressurized units can operate at such high PSIs that they can double as (underpowered) pressure washers for cleaning off boots or gear at the end of the day.
Simple Shower Portable Camping Shower
The aptly-named “Simple Shower” is unequivocally the most basic and compact portable shower option on the market. Unheated, unpressurized, and unpowered, the system simply consists of a garden hose-like spout and a pair of rods that transform the vast majority of one or two-liter water bottles into a highly-mobile shower. Weighing in at only 2oz and measuring just 2.5” x 2.5”, the Simple Shower is also made in America, entirely from recycled materials.
Coleman Solar Shower
From one of America’s oldest and most trusted outdoor gear brands, this camp shower is a simple bag-style, sun-heated, gravity-fed unit that can be rolled up into an incredibly tiny form. Big enough to house five gallons of water, this product features a reservoir design that aims to maximize surface area in order to make the most of its solar-powering. A reinforced handle provides an easy means of carrying or hanging when it comes time to shower, and a simple twist valve makes for an incredibly easy-to-use shower.
Sea To Summit Pocket Shower
Sea To Summit’s Pocket Shower is a more refined take on traditional solar gravity showers. Made from the same 70D nylon as the company’s Lightweight Dry Sacks, the Pocket Shower features fully-taped seams and a roll-top closure. Operated via a twist mechanism valve, the bag holds enough water to allow for approximately eight-minute showers, though when broken down can fit into a 3” x 6” pouch. The Pocket Shower is also sold with an included 20’ cord and Bar-tack attached Delrin D-rings.
Advanced Elements Summer Solar Shower
A solar shower built for the modern age, Advanced Elements Summer Solar Shower makes the most of the sun’s rays with a four-layer construction designed for optimal heat retention while still being rugged enough to withstand the rigors of camping and other off-grid applications. A convenient reinforced handle, an extended hose with a switchable shower head, and a large-diameter fill valve collectively make this one of the easiest and most efficient camp showers to use. This same 3-gallon version is also available in 2.5 and 5-gallon variants.
Ivation Portable Outdoor Shower
Ivation’s Portable Outdoor Shower can best be described as an electric pump connected to a showerhead via a 6.5’ hose. Instead of carrying around a reservoir, you simply drop the pump into water, turn it on, and you’ve got a pressurized shower that can be used just about anywhere. And, instead of running off of disposable AA batteries, this system draws energy from a rechargeable 2,200mAh Lithium-ion battery pack that can afford a full hour of run-time. This item is also incredibly versatile and is great for cleaning gear or hosing down a dog after a day at the beach.
NEMO Helio LX Pressure Shower
NEMO’s Helio Pressure Shower offers the convenience and utility of a powered mobile shower without requiring a power source. Instead, a foot-pump is used to pressurize its 11-liter (2.9 gallons) reservoir and send water through its 7’ neoprene hose. Made from a combination of polyurethane-coated polyester and thermoplastic urethane, the product’s blacked-out color scheme helps it to better harness the heat of the sun. Backed by a lifetime warranty, the Helio Pressure Shower is also able to break down into a compact form that neatly stows away in its included carrying case.
Overland Vehicle Systems Wild Land Portable Privacy Room with Shower
It really is hard to go wrong with any of the exceedingly durable products from Overland Vehicle Systems, and the off-roading outfit’s portable shower is by no means an exception. The system contains a regular solar-powered gravity shower, as well as a 5′ W x 5′ D x 6.75′ H privacy shelter that includes a hanging system and floor. Every element of this shower is made from decidedly rugged materials with a PU-coated 190T polyester rated at 800mm. Weighing 16lbs in total, the entire system fits into an included carrying sling.
Leiter Waterport Shower Kit
Leitner’s Watersport Shower Kit was engineered specifically for overland applications, with a hard construction intended to sit in an off-roader’s rack or bed. The system’s 3.85 gallon Day Tank absorbs water pressure as it fills, eliminating the need for manual pumping, while still affording high-pressure washing capabilities. This system is also sold with an extended 8’ hose and nozzle holder, male and female connectors, and a universal quick-detach mounting plate.
HOTTAP V2 Essentials Kit
For those looking for the comfort of a home shower while off-grid, look no further than the HOTTAP V2. Powered by propane, the system can heat water to temperatures of 122ºF and can run for 15 hours on a single tank. Offering an unparalleled flow rate of 1.6 gallons a minute, this cutting-edge mobile shower also boasts an LED display, a simple and intuitive control setup, and a myriad of nozzles, hoses, and attachments. It’s definitely heavier than most other showers on the market, but it offers a level of luxury that other showers can’t come close to matching.
Geyser Systems Portable Shower with Heater
Geyser Systems’ Portable Shower with Heater is another thoroughly modern offering that manages to offer a prolonged hot shower, while hugely lessening water consumption via water being delivered through a scrub sponge. This battery-powered product can also heat water to 95°F in between 15 and 45 minutes, plus will automatically turn itself off after optimal temperature ha been achieved. Made in America, this shower also features a 16’ power cord, a 3-liter reservoir, an inutile LED dashboard, and an adjustable water flow rate valve.
Mr. Heater BOSS-XCW20 Basecamp Shower System
Though its tips the scales at over 20lbs, this Mr. Heater portable shower packs an enormous amount of utility and functionality. Built around a stainless steel cabinet, the system’s pump runs off of D cell batteries (and has a 40-minute run time) while the water is heated by a propane tank. The shower’s 18,000 BTUs can increase water temperatures by an impressive 45 degrees F. Other noteworthy elements on the shower include electronic ignition, a supplementary stainless steel tap for making hot beverages, and heat exchange drain plugs for cold weather use.
The Yakima RoadShower is another highly utilitarian mobile shower unit that lends itself to a wide variety of off-grid uses. Mounting to the roof of a car via integrated lock loops, the shower is constructed from powder-coated, welded aluminum and can be pressurized via an electric pump, or manually by hand—though either can afford the shower water pressure as high as 65 PSI. Protected by a one-year warranty, the system also sports brass water connection fittings, a trio of included hose lengths, a pair of outlet water ports, a garden hose adaptor for spraying off gear, and a stick-on thermometer strip for taking temperature readings.
The 15 Best Camping Chairs
Looking to bring some more of home’s comforts with you when headed off-the-grid? Then be sure to check out our guide to the best camping chairs for a look at some of the most comfortable options for kicking for feet up after a long day on the trail.