Let’s be honest—some travelers value a regular shower more than others. We have met those who must shower daily and others who are content with a regular swim in the sea or a river. You may also have a partner who is prepared to “rough it” and explore the outdoors with you, but who draws the line at not having a private toilet or shower. Our needs dictate our preparations.
The climate in which you travel influences how often you may need to wash. A regular shower is desirable—if not necessary—when crossing the Amazon, as you are usually hot, sweaty, and covered in mud. In contrast, exploring across a desert in the winter months, you may find that you do not need to bathe regularly.
When it comes to portable showers, like most outdoor product lines, there are many levels of price, complexity, and use cases. There are entry-level bottle and hose showers, higher-end filtered, pressurized, heated showers, and everything in between. What works for me (a Quick Pitch shower cubicle and a gallon of unheated water dispensed from a plastic bottle, no matter the climate) may not work for you. When it comes to road showers, one size does not fit all, and a shower is only one part of a larger water system.
What all showers have in common is reliance on a water supply, and on the road, water used for washing bodies must also be preserved for the washing of dishes, high-use clothing items, and human consumption. In this regard, the shower, as pleasant as it may be, is the lowest priority. The shower/water supply and storage/privacy matrix, which suits you best, must therefore be suited to your needs and vehicle, or your vehicle will need to be suited to the shower, depending on your priorities. For instance, a MAN truck camper will usually be fitted with a bathroom with a shower and toilet, while a Toyota 4Runner would be equipped with an outdoor shower cubicle and handheld shower system.
The average American showers for eight minutes daily, and the average showerhead delivers 2.5 gallons per minute for a grand total of 20 gallons per shower. Obviously, that level of consumption is not sustainable on the road unless you spend most of your time in organized campsites hooked up to the mains, in which case you would likely use the public, paid-for shower. Pro tip: To save water when showering, wet yourself, turn off the water, suds up and scrub, and then rinse yourself. This may seem obvious, but not everyone has a lot of backcountry showering experience.
The following products run the gamut from advanced options to the most basic DIY water and shower systems available today.
Joolca Hottap Portable Water Heating System
This portable water heating system reminds us of the shower systems installed in remote campsites across Southern Africa, and Joolca has managed to condense the unit for off-grid purposes successfully. This system makes the most sense if it is paired to a rig outfitted with a propane tank.
The Joolca can easily be attached to a vehicle’s rear door or any flat standing surface, making it accessible indoors and outdoors. The modular shower head allows use as a handheld, attached to the side of your rig on magnetic surfaces (sorry, Land Rover owners), or as an attachment to an outdoor shower cubicle. With the quick connects for the propane and water, the system should be ready, hot, and primed to take a shower in less than five minutes.
Three models are available, namely the Nomad, Outing, and Essentials kits. The best option would be the Nomad, which includes a convenient carry case that converts into a kitchen sink. The Outing and the Nomad both have a 12-volt river pump that allows you to pump water directly from a water source. The water intake hose features a weighted two-stage water filter that will remove most large particles, and according to Joolca, the waterproof river pump can push water up an incline of up to 100 feet.
The Hottap water unit measures 17.7 (h) x 11.4 (w) x 6.6 inches deep, and the pilot light is ignited by two D-cell batteries that should last approximately three to six months. The Hottap temperature reaches 125°F with an automatic limiter and an adjustable flow rate of between half a gallon to 1.5 gallons per minute. If purchasing the Essentials kit, bear in mind that you would need to source a pressurized water source, as the Hottap does not have a built-in pump.
A Hottap can be permanently installed in your vehicle or stored individually, which is likely undesirable as all three kits are quite bulky.
From $300-$550 | joolca.com
See their promotional video here youtube.com/watch?v=zuAPGVx9vhs
Camplux Propane Off-Grid Portable Water Heater
If you’re interested in a very similar setup to the Joolca Portable Water Heating System but on a smaller scale and with a generic Camplux branded water pump that is included in the purchase price, have a look at the Camplux Propane Off-Grid Portable Water Heater.
From $220 | camplux.com
RinseKit Portable Shower Systems
RinseKit is a company that specializes in portable, pressurized shower solutions and believes so strongly in their products that they offer an easy try-before-you-buy system. They allow you to test one of their portable shower kits for three days for a small fee, and if you are unsatisfied with the product, you can return it for a full refund.
4.5 Gallon RinseKit Pro Pak Portable Shower
This durable, waterproof, EVA foam molded portable shower looks like a duffel bag but is, in fact, a well-constructed, battery-pressurized water system that does not require an external power source. Just pour in the water, press the power button, and voilà, you are ready to go. The Pro Pak features MOLLE webbing so you can attach small gear items to it, while the portable shower can also be carried as a backpack. The AGM 12-volt, rechargeable, 5-amp hour battery should last three to six months when fully charged. With all these specs and the ruggedness of this portable shower, this may be a great alternative when installing water tanks in your rig is not an option.
3.5 Gallon RinseKit Pro Portable Shower
If you’re looking for a smaller and more rigid option, then the RinseKit Pro may be it. The RinseKit is a constant pressure camp shower with a flow rate of 50 psi. The high-pressure spray nozzle has five different settings, from a jet shower to a light misting (the misting feature could serve a useful dual purpose for keeping cool in hot climates). Much like the Pro Pak, operation is straightforward—pour water into the fill cap and press the power button.
If you’re looking into a hands-free option for both the Pro and Pro Pak, a portable faucet that works by motion sensor can be purchased, thus allowing water flow on demand.
The RinseKit immersion heater, essentially an adapted hot-rod water heater, which can be bundled with the RinseKit Pro and Pro Pak, turns your showers from tepid to steaming. It can be powered by your trailer hitch or a 12-volt power supply and will heat your water by 24°F every hour to a maximum of 110°F.
Alternatively, the RinseKit HyperHeater, which is propane powered, can be paired with your RinseKit Pro or Pro Pak. The latter option, unfortunately, equates to a lot more equipment but can heat your water to 110°F in less than 30 seconds.
Research reveals that the two concerns buyers have are that there is no precise meter to reflect the state of battery charge, and the touchless nozzle system may drip when the system is switched on but not in use.
$450, RinseKit Pro Pak, 4.5 gallons
$280, RinseKit Pro Portable Shower, 3.5 gallons
$185 (limited-time price), RinseKit Pro, 2 gallons (with pressure booster pump and heater)
Coleman Hot Water On Demand H2Oasis Portable Water Heater
Coleman is an American outdoor recreational retailer known across the globe for dependable and cost-effective products. Coleman’s H2Oasis portable water heater looks much like a compact generator and is effective in its iconic and uncomplicated design, which suits me just fine.
This propane-powered tankless water heater is powered by a built-in lithium-ion battery, ensuring up to 40 minutes of constant water flow. Once the silicone water hose and showerhead have been connected, a click of the switch allows you to have free-flowing water. If you require hot water, turn the knob to ignite the pilot light (which is in clear view), and once lit, adjust the temperature accordingly. Due to the water being heated via a 16.4-ounce propane cylinder, the adjustable temperature can reach up to 125°F very quickly. There is an automatic safety shutoff to avoid burnout if sufficient water is not circulated into the unit via the water pump.
The 12-volt charger cable is stored away in a nifty storage area within the unit’s handle, and a mesh bag is provided to keep all the accessories, which ensures a quick and easy pack-up. The package includes a showerhead, a 6-foot non-kink silicone hose, a water pump, and a 5-gallon collapsible water carrier. The only drawback of this unit is that you have to carry the dreaded green butane cans that cannot be refilled (legally), which contributes to environmental waste. Flame King does sell refillable 16.4-ounce propane tanks at flameking.com/product/flmkng164lp/.
Some consumers have advised that the lithium-ion battery life may differ from what is advertised by the company.
Coleman OneSource Rechargeable Built-In Pump Camp Shower Sprayer
Coleman has developed an interchangeable, rechargeable battery system that allows you to power all your OneSource products with one battery, much like the Makita Outdoor range (insert a link to the article).
The Coleman OneSource Rechargeable Built-In Pump Camp Shower Sprayer is one of those products, and it consists of a 3-gallon collapsible bucket/basin with a port for the OneSource rechargeable battery that provides the user with a shower that is well-pressurized by means of the built-in pump in the base of the basin. Four settings are available to regulate the water flow, and pressure is not lost even with the 6-foot-long hose. This is a nifty alternative to chucking a bucket of water over your loved one’s head.
$155 | coleman.com
Mr. Heater Battery Operated Shower System
Mr. Heater has been supplying the camping market with heating solutions since 1957, and their shower system has been on the market since 2014. The BaseCamp BOSS-XCW20 shower system is similar to the Coleman H2Oasis system. The only difference is a built-in hand-washing spout on the Coleman unit.
$400 | mrheater.com
The Geyser System
This Colorado company has taken the market by storm over the past year. After spending five days without a shower in the Australian Outback, Geyser System Founder Jonathan Ballesteros created the Geyser. We think it’s ingenious.
The Geyser features two-tiered tubes: one holds the pump and the other the water. It’s uncomplicated to use and set up. Connect the Geyser to a 12-volt DC power source, connect your water hose, attach your removable sponge (through which the water flows and with which you wash yourself), and you’re ready to take a quick shower. I love that the capacity is limited to less than a gallon of water, thus restricting your teenage daughter from using your week’s supply in one go. Fortunately, there is a low-water-level sensor on the Geyser to alert you when you need to rinse off, and an adjustable control valve determines the flow rate. The built-in heater operates at about +1°F per minute, or 60°F per hour to a maximum of 100°F and automatically switch off if it exceeds this. If you buy the standard Geyser system and you don’t have a large-capacity power station, Geyser advises filling the bottle with pre-boiled water to a maximum temperature of up to 130°F to reduce the time it takes to sufficiently heat the water.
The product reviews are fantastic; ironically, most people feel “as if they have had a shower” when using the Geyser System.
You can use the Geyser for washing your dishes, washing yourself and your pet, and rinsing your gear. Individuals with long hair will utilize more than a gallon to wash and rinse their hair—I speak from experience.
You can purchase an accompanying collapsible tub to stand in or to wash your pet, ensuring no wet, dirty feet.
$325, with heater
We like the idea of having a shower “tube” stored outside the vehicle as it won’t take up any precious space in your rig, and there is less chance of a water leak.
The Yakima RoadShower can easily be attached to the roof rack of your sedan, SUV, or trailer via stainless steel universal mountings and Same Key System (SKS) locks for added security. This 55-inch-long welded aluminum tube is solid and durable. Although aluminum does not rust, it does corrode; the powder-coat finish of the Yakima RoadShower will ensure that this water container will stand the test of time. When filling, a water inlet on either side of the tube can be used but needs to be pressurized; this can be achieved by using your garden hose, a hand, or an electric pump. A built-in pressure valve ensures that the tube is not pressurized past the 55 psi mark.
With the 4-gallon Yakima RoadShower, shower times range between three minutes with the hose attachment and five minutes with the flexible shower head (to be purchased separately).
The sun’s power heats the water, and although this sounds optimal, it might not be an ideal solution in the dead of winter, and it is better suited to truly hot and sunny climates. A drawback is that it comes with a stick-on thermometer strip. With such a hefty price tag, I would have preferred another option than a $3 piece of sticky plastic.
The RoadShower comes in 4-, 7-, and 10-gallon sizes.
$450 | yakima.com
WaterPort Shower Systems
WaterPort offers three shower systems to suit different types of overlanders as well as budgets, and all are made from food-grade plastic and feature a high-pressure nozzle with five different settings.
The GoSpout is a 2-gallon jerry can-styled container pressurized via a built-in pump cap. The only drawback is that this spigot stands out like a sore thumb and can be prone to breakage (much like the LifeSaver).
The Day Tank 3.8-gallon water system can be easily secured to your hitch, roof mount, roll bar, or in the trunk of your vehicle. It is ideal for daytrippers or weekend campers and has a convenient carrying handle that allows it to be mobile. I love the versatility of the unit as it can be carried from your rig to your camping spot, to the beach, or on the trail.
The Weekender is comparable to the Yakima RoadShower but holds double the volume and is made with food-grade material. In addition, the Weekender has more mounting options and is the same overall length as the Yakima.
All three options now support a hands-free shower/sink kit.
$150, GoSpout $150
$240, Day Tank
NEMO Helio Pressure Shower
The Helio Pressure Shower is a portable, pressurized, 2.9-gallon, polyurethane-coated polyester tank that allows you to take a five-minute shower with a continuous water flow after a few depressions of the foot pump. The durable tank sits horizontally on a surface, ensuring it won’t topple over, and stows away compactly into a drawstring sack. I like that the Helio Pressure Shower is designed with a transparent end cap so that you can always check the water level. When left in the sun, the black tank should heat enough water for a hot shower or to wash dishes.
$130 | nemoequipment.com
Ivation Portable Camping Shower
As full-time overlanders, we tend to have little space for superfluous gadgets and gizmos, and daily showers are not essential when you are rationing your water. It stands to reason that this handheld shower with an attached pump is a good option. It’s compact, weighs less than 2 pounds, and can run up to 45 minutes on a full charge. All you need is water. The Ivation’s 12-volt rechargeable lithium-powered pump feeds water through the 6.5-foot long hose to a showerhead. The only serious possible issue is that the submersible pump holds the USB recharge port—any water ingress equals complete failure of the shower’s pump.
$50 | ivationproducts.com
Sea to Summit Pocket Shower
If you’re interested in an elementary solution to your shower needs, the Sea to Summit Pocket Shower might be exactly what you are looking for. This gravity-fed, pocket-sized shower bag heats 2.6 gallons of water via solar energy for an enjoyable six-minute shower. The black, waterproof, wear-resistant shower bag has a roll-top closure so it can double as a dry bag, and the 20-foot nylon rope allows it to be suspended or hung from almost anywhere. Old people like me, watch your back; lifting over 2 gallons overhead could hurt.
$37 | seatosummit.com
Simple Shower Portable Camping Shower
Let’s not forget the most simple shower solution. A tube and a shower head threaded onto any 1- or 2-liter bottle give you an instant shower. My only concern is that the newer soda bottles, manufactured with a slimmer head and thinner plastic, may be challenging to hold with one hand while washing with the other.
There are many DIY options available for the budget conscious; the following are the most popular:
- Purchase a long-hosed retractable shower head/faucet combo plumbed into a water pump and installed in your vehicle’s kitchen sink. A shower cubicle can be installed alongside your vehicle (with the provision that the hose is accessible from the exterior), providing privacy. Alternatively, a wet cabinet can be designed inside your camper kitchen area, allowing you to shower indoors while having the water drain outdoors.
- The recirculating shower is a straightforward system that consists of a large enough receptacle to stand in, water, a sump pump, a water pump, a water filter system, and some hoses. Connect them all, have a shower, and keep recirculating the water to shower for an hour.
- A 1-gallon garden portable pump-pressure sprayer can be used as a private shower with two different spray options.
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