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Camping Shower Review - Solutions for Hot water at camp

Updated on November 10, 2010

Getting in touch with nature and the outdoors doesn’t mean that you have to give up on showering. In fact having hot running water available at your campsite will transform your camping experience making it not only more pleasant but enable you to stay out longer doing the things that you love.

This article will guide you through some on the main types of outdoor camping showers there are available in the market and go through some of the pros and cons of each. Now with the range of products on the market there really is no excuse why you shouldn’t be able to wash up properly and lay down in your camp beds clean even when you are in the middle of nowhere.

Solar Shower
Solar Shower

Solar camping shower

As the name suggests this shower heats the water solely through the power of the sun’s rays. The solar shower is essentially a container with a hose attached to one end, because if it’s simple design, the solar shower is the cheapest and most portable camp shower option. The shower is easily stored and will fold up in your backpack to weigh around a pound or 500g. An average 3 gallon solar shower will take 2-3 hours to heat the water to the desired temperature and will have enough water for 2-3 short showers.

These camp showers are popular because they don’t require any effort or extra equipment to heat the water. Campers will typically fill the shower then leave it in the sun or on top of their car to heat while they are out enjoying themselves then come back to a hot shower that’s both quick and easy to set up. The unit can also function as an emergency water storage container or be used as part of your camp cooking supplies to provide hot water when you do the dishes.

The price for a solar shower will be anywhere from $10 to $50 dollars. The more you pay you will begin to see features including a temperature strip, pockets for soap, mirror, reinforced seams, insulated hoses and even 2 hoses for multiple showers.

Campfire Shower
Campfire Shower

Campfire and Stovetop Camping showers

For a little more control over your water temperature, campers and hikers now have the option of choosing a water heater which uses the campfire for its heat. These camp showers can be either a large aluminium or stainless steel container which can be heated directly or a metal coil which can be placed over the fire. The coil system will feed water from one storage container through the heated coil then into another container ready to be used for a shower. For small fires and stoves the water may need to be re-circulated to get it up to temperature.

These units are made to withstand the heat given from high pressure gas stoves so are less dependent on the weather conditions than a solar shower. Making the experience more pleasant are features in some models like a hand pump allowing the users to pressurise their water. In addition other models feature a small water pump so that water from a lake or steam can be drawn into the system.

For a campfire shower you can expect to pay $100 to $150 dollars. These units are most ideal for small groups and are not too bulky to carry. Because they can heat water by any fire the units are incredibly versatile.

Tank-less Water Heater
Tank-less Water Heater

Outdoor Tankless Water Heating Systems

This type of camping shower is ideal if you system needs to support a lot of people and if you are looking for a more long term camp shower solution.  A water heating system is the smaller version of the water heater that you would find in your homes with the exception of a large water tank. The unit does require a conventional propane bottle for its fuel source and some models may also use small batteries just for the ignition so that no gas is wasted with a pilot light.

These units are able to provide a continuous stream of hot water by pumping water from a river or lake or even faucet if you are at a campsite and run it through the system quickly to provide instant hot water. This is a common fixture in caravans and RV’s and more established campsites and base camps in fact some have them installed pool side or by the garage for washing their pets .  The units can be completely self-contained or attached to any solid structure.

Tankless water heaters start from around $150. Of course if you are buying one of these you need to carefully consider how much you indent to use the unit and if you need to replenish your gas supply. The adaptability of the self-contained unit makes it popular with not only campers but for emergency relief camps and crews. It is important that the unit be placed outdoors and not mounted on plastic or vinyl to ensure that the gas can vent properly and the unit doesn’t melt its support.

Car Shower System
Car Shower System

Vehicle Mounted Shower

For those of you who love to four wheel drive or don’t want to carry too many propane bottles you can make use of your cars coolant system to provide you with a hot shower. This system consists of a heat exchanging device that is permanently mounted to your engine. The hot water from your engines cooling system will be diverted into the heat exchanger before being recirculated. The heat exchanger will simultaneously pass water from an outside source to be heated then used for your shower.

The power for the units pump is taken directly from the car battery hence the only thing that you need to consider aside from your water source is how much fuel you have in your car. The vehicle mounted shower will provide immediate hot water as soon as your engine heats up and for as long as you have fuel and water. It is effective in all climates where your car can operate and doesn’t require much equipment. That said they are the dearest option for a camp shower retailing for around $400 not including any installation costs.

At the end of a long day of activities the thought of a nice hot shower is one of life’s little luxuries. You may even find that some of the options above will provide you with a better experience than your own bathroom shower. Be sure to match both your camping location and the type of activities that you intend to do with the right unit so that you don’t pay for more than you need to.


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      Virginie Leroy 2 years ago

      Bonjour, est il possible d'avoir un devis pour la France???

      Merci, cordialement.

      Virginie Leroy,, 06/70/52/84/95