Staying clean while camping is tricky.
Of course, staying at a campground with showers is one option. RV camping in a rig with a built-in shower is another (check out our RV rental tool for RV rentals in your local area).
But, for those tent camping or backpacking, staying clean isn’t quite as easy.
While this might not be a huge deal on a short weekend camping trip, it pays to stay clean on extended camping and backpacking trips (for yours and everyone else’s sake).
Today, we’re going to look at the best portable camping showers, including solar showers, lightweight models, and DIY camp showers you can easily make yourself.
Here’s exactly how to set up the perfect camping shower for every situation.
Why Do You Need a Camping Shower?
Naturally, the main benefit of a camping shower is that it helps you stay clean while camping.
Compared to other outdoor bathing alternatives (like a baby-wipe rubdown), a portable shower makes it far easier to scrub off dirt and grime.
Most portable camping showers are more than just a holding tank with a nozzle. They often include a heating method, usually a solar-heating component, but sometimes a portable hot water heater. You can even pair yours with a pop-up privacy tent shelter.
Simply put, who doesn’t like a hot shower in the morning or after a long day of hiking?
Camping Shower Buyer’s Guide
Not all camping showers are created equal. Just as important as buying a top-rated model is selecting the shower that’s best for your personal needs. Here are the most important factors to consider:
- Type – Choose from solar showers, portable showers, gravity showers, and even showers with portable hot water heaters.
- Size & Weight – A lightweight camping shower is much more portable and versatile. However, they tend to have a smaller water capacity so showers won’t last as long.
- Materials & Construction – Like all camping gear, your camp shower must be able to stand up to the abuse of the outdoors. Both plastic and fabric models are available. Plastic is more common (and transparent so you can see how much water is left), but fabric is usually slightly more durable.
- Fixtures – The shower head dictates the flow rate of your camp shower. An adjustable shower head enables you to adjust the flow rate. For models with a portable hot water heater (usually heated with a propane tank), the heat adjustability is another fixture to consider.
- Brand Reputation – It’s often better to buy from a company with a strong reputation among past customers thanks to a higher quality product, better customer service, and excellent warranties.
Best Camping Showers for 2020
Here are 7 of the best camping showers available in 2020:
1. Ivation Portable Camping Shower
Ivation Portable Outdoor Shower
5 used from $34.99
The Ivation Portable Camping Shower is lightweight and extremely portable.
This outdoor shower system includes a 10-liter tank which provides roughly a 4-minute shower. Or, you can use your own water receptacle, such as a bucket, to take an even longer camp shower.
This device actually contains a battery-powered pump for a stronger flow. This means you don’t have to hang the device from a tree like most portable showers. The batteries are completely rechargeable. Just plug the device into a USB port and you’ll get roughly 45 minutes of use from about 3 or 4 hours of charging.
Another notable feature is the long hose and convenient shower head. The 6-foot hose makes it easy to completely wash off with the water tank sitting on the ground.
2. Advanced Elements Summer Shower
Advanced Elements Solar Shower
Another one of the best camping showers, the Advanced Elements Summer Shower combines solar heating with a 5-gallon capacity.
The water storage bag is built with a 4-ply construction with a reflector panel to more quickly heat the water up. The bag is also insulated to keep the water warm for longer.
5 gallons certainly isn’t the largest capacity we’ve seen, but it’s more than enough for one person to shower with on a camping trip. A built-in temperature gauge lets you know when the water is ready. A handy side pocket and Velcro straps give you a place to store your camp soap/shampoo and washcloth.
Unfortunately, the built-in hose is pretty short. It gets the job done, but at around 15 inches it doesn’t provide much versatility.
3. Rinse Kit Pressurized Portable Shower
Rinse Kit Portable Sprayer with Hot Water
The Rinse Kit Pressurized Portable Shower is more expensive than most of its competitors – but you certainly get what you pay for.
It features a hard-sided water container, a 6-foot hose, and a pressurized nozzle that generates a surprising amount of water pressure. This camp shower is very easy to use. It’s also extremely portable thanks to its built-in handle and hard-sided design.
Unfortunately, the camp shower only has a 2-gallon capacity. There’s also no way to heat your water up with the device.
Despite these shortcomings, this is still one of the portable outdoor showers with the best overall water pressure and flow rate.
4. Nemo Equipment Helio Pressure Shower
The Nemo Equipment Helio Pressure Shower is a lightweight, portable, and versatile outdoor shower that’s perfect for camping.
It boasts an 11-liter water tank and solar heating technology. Because of the fantastic insulation, your hot water will stay warm for hours.
Perhaps the most unique feature of this camp shower is the foot pump. Step on the pump to control the flow rate and water pressure. It also makes conserving water easy. Best of all is the 7-foot hose. In my opinion, the longer the hose on a portable shower, the easier it is to shower with as well as to clean other things like dishes, pets, etc.
This device is designed from the ground up with a focus as a backpacking shower. It packs down to less than 5.5 inches by 8.5 inches for the ultimate in portability.
5. Camplux Outdoor Portable Propane Water Heater
Camplux Portable Outdoor Tankless Propane Water Heater
3 used from $119.04
Those that prefer something a little more luxurious should check out the Camplux Outdoor Portable Shower.
It comes with a built-in tankless hot water heater that utilizes propane power. Just hook it up to a propane tank and you’ll get water up to 115 degrees Fahrenheit.
Unfortunately, this device doesn’t include a built-in water tank. You must hook it up to a water source that has at least 2.5 psi of pressure. This means that the water source must be a faucet of some sort. The camping shower won’t work with just a tank of water.
Despite these shortcomings, this propane tank outdoor shower is one of the best ways to heat water and provide high water pressure while camping. It’s also very effective if you plan to build an outdoor shower at home.
6. Simple Shower Portable Camping Shower
Simple Shower Portable Camping Shower
Fans of minimalism will love the Simple Shower Portable Camping Shower.
It’s high among the most best camping showers for portability that I’ve come across. The simple design not only ensures that it’s easy to use but also increases its portability and versatility, especially as a backpacking shower.
You simply attach the end of the device to a 1-liter or 2-liter water bottle and turn it upside down for a smooth and refreshing stream of water. Because it’s so basic, it doesn’t feature an option for heating the water. You’ll have to take a cold shower or heat the water separately yourself.
For just over $20, it’s a barebones option that all campers and backpackers should look into.
7. Sea to Summit Pocket Shower
Sea to Summit Pocket Shower
The Sea to Summit Pocket Shower might not look like much, especially compared to the other best camping showers on this list, but its small package packs a big punch.
Boasting an extremely compact and lightweight design, this pocket shower is perfect for backpacking trips and other camping outings where space is at a premium. Despite its small size, the shower provides up to 8 minutes of showering with the device fully opened up.
A twist mechanism makes it simple to open and close the water valve as well as to adjust the flow rate and water pressure during your shower.
Though it’s not technically a solar shower, this model does include a black water storage bag that will heat up and get warm if left in the sun.
How to Use a Camping Shower
Luckily, most camping showers are relatively easy to use. Not only that, but most models come with step-by-step instructions from the manufacturer. That said, here’s the down-low on how to use a camping shower to make it even easier:
- Fill – Fill the nylon or plastic water bag up with water. You don’t have to fill the bag all the way up if water access if limited.
- Heat – Place your solar shower in direct sunlight with the clear side facing up. A built-in thermometer should let you know when the water is warm enough for use.
- Hang – Hold gravity-fed showers above your head or hang from a tree branch. Leave powered models on the ground and hold the nozzle in your hand.
- Rinse, Lather, Repeat – Most portable showers have roughly 5 gallons of water capacity. To conserve water, quickly rinse yourself, turn off the water to soap and shampoo, then turn the water back on to rinse off.
Best Camping Shower Accessories
Whether you opt for a portable camp shower or decide to just clean off in a lake or with a water bottle, there are several camping shower accessories that will help improve the outdoor shower experience. Here are a few of the best:
- Privacy Tent – For established campgrounds, a privacy tent enables you to shower in privacy without wearing a swim suit or hiking off into the woods.
- Biodegradable Soap – A biodegradable soap, like Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Soap, is the eco-friendly option for showering while camping. Look for a brand without phosphate, surfactants, triclosan, and anti-bacterial ingredients. It’s still best to avoid using in or near lakes and streams.
- Microfiber Towel – For backpacking showers, a microfiber towel is a must as they are lightweight and dry out very quickly.
How to Make a DIY Camping Shower
There are dozens upon dozens of different ways to make your own DIY camping shower. These range from the incredibly cheap and simple to the expensive and elaborate.
For example, REI’s car-top DIY camp shower is one of the most elaborate DIY outdoor showers I’ve come across. It utilizes a length of ABS pipe and a hose with a spigot. It actually sits on top of your vehicle’s roof racks for easy showering.
Countryside Daily, on the other hand, describes a budget DIY solar shower. All that it really takes is a 5-gallon bucket, although the author goes on to build a wooden stand so that it’s a permanent DIY camp shower.
Other Ways to Stay Clean While Camping
A camping shower is arguably the best way to stay clean while camping. But there are other ways to do so if you prefer to travel light or don’t want to buy a portable solar shower of your own. Here are a few other ways to stay clean while camping:
- Lake or Stream – Hop in a lake or stream to rinse off in fresh water. Just a quick dip will remove most dirt, grime, sweat, and excess oil. Personally, I never use soap – even biodegradable eco-friendly soap – in a natural body of water.
- Water Bottle – Fill your water bottle up for a quick water bottle shower. Somewhat similar to a sponge bath, just pour a small amount of water on your body at a time. You can even shampoo your hair this way although a full body wash down is tricky.
- Baby Wipes – A few baby wipes is my go-to camp hygiene method for backpacking. It’s a great way to clean off your hands and face on nights when it doesn’t make sense to rinse off further.
- Public Sink – Find a public sink – whether at a gas station, rest area, or campground – to quickly rinse off your face, upper body, and hair. Single-occupancy bathrooms with locking doors are best.
- Dry Shampoo – Here’s how to use dry shampoo to wash your hair without water to minimize the greasy, dirty feeling after a few days in the woods!
How to Find Showers on the Road
Honestly, even the best camping shower can’t beat a real hot shower. On extended camping road trips or for full-time RV living, it’s often easy to find free or cheap showers on the road with minimal effort. Here’s how:
- Public Swimming Pools – Many public swimming pools, both indoor and outdoor, have changing facilities with hot showers. Pay a few bucks to use the pool and take a shower instead.
- 24-Hour Gym – Full-time campers, RVers, and vandwellers often invest in a 24-hour gym membership at a nationwide chain. This enables you to access hot showers around the country. Planet Fitness, Anytime Fitness, and 24-Hour Fitness are all good options.
- Campground with Showers – Although free camping is my preferred way to camp, it’s worth it to spend a little extra money every now and then to stay at a campground with hot showers. Many national park campgrounds and state park campgrounds have hot showers as do many RV parks and KOAs.
- City Parks – Although this method is hit or mess if you don’t know where to look, many city parks in small towns (often in the Midwest) have shower facilities. Most are fairly rustic and are typically located at city parks that also maintain small campgrounds.
- Public Beaches – Some public beaches and outdoor swimming areas have free public showers, although these are often outdoors and use cold water only.
- Truck Stops – Showering at truck stops is a good way to take a paid shower in a pinch. Quality definitely varies from chain to chain, although I’ve had mostly good experiences at Pilot Flying J.
What’s your favorite way to shower while camping?
Do you have a portable solar shower or a DIY outdoor shower? Or do you prefer to just stay at a campground you know maintains shower facilities?
We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!