If you want to rinse off after a longer day, you’re probably glad to know that a dip in a freezing cold river isn’t your only option. The best camping showers make it easy to get clean in the great outdoors by dispensing water via gravity or automatic pump, and some even use solar panels or portable water heaters to warm up water.
The three main features to consider when shopping for the best portable camping showers are water pressure, whether or not the water can be heated, and how bulky it is in your camping gear. Lightweight pouch-style showers can be rolled up, requiring minimal space in your camping gear, and can be filled at any water source. These showers can be positioned overhead (from a tree branch, for example) so that gravity naturally dispenses water through the hose and nozzle. Some pouch-style options feature solar panels that heat the water, making for a more pleasant shower (just be sure it’s in a good spot for capturing the sun’s rays during the day).
If you want more pressure than gravity can offer, look for an option with an automatic pump. These pumps can be powered by a variety of sources, including a rechargeable battery, a 12-volt outlet, an AC adapter, or even propane. Automatic pump showers don’t have solar panels, so if you’re concerned about water temperature, consider making an investment in a portable shower with a heating tank. While the external heating tank makes this option bulkier and heavier, it definitely provides the closest thing to a hot shower at home (you can even adjust the temperature to your liking). One more thing to keep in mind: Automatic pumps need a bucket to provide a water source (since there’s no pouch), which may or may not be included in your purchase.
With all that in mind, here are three of the best camping showers for comfortable bathing al fresco.
1. A Solar-Heated Gravity Shower
This best solar shower is a 5-gallon pouch that uses the power of gravity to dispense water — just hang it from a branch or other elevated position before sudsing up. The insulated pouch features a reflector and solar panels to catch the sun’s rays during the day, so you can have a heated shower without having to rely on any electric or battery power source. The wide, leakproof cap can be removed for easy filling, and when it’s time to shower, a nozzle at the end of the soft hose can be pulled out to dispense water, preventing drips and waste. A window on the side of the pouch lets you check water levels, and a gauge gives you a quick view of the water temperature (although the temperature can’t be adjusted).
Bonus features like a small mirror and a mesh pocket for toiletries make showering even more convenient. The flexible pouch is made from durable plastic that rolls up, and weighs just 1.25 pounds when empty, making this a super portable option.
According to a camper: “Filled it up in the morning, left in the sun all day. Water was at a comfortable warm temperature better than the freezing water in the river. My fiancé and I were able to take a quick shower and there was a bit of water left.”
2. A Rechargeable Pump-Operated Shower
The pump of this KEDSUM shower is powered by a reusable battery that can be charged using a power bank, AC adapter, or 12-volt car outlet. When fully charged, it can operate for up to 60 minutes of continued use, so you can shower and wash dishes (with the included pressurized sprayer) before needing to plug in again. The pump comes with a collapsible 3.96-gallon bucket that can be filled from a water source and carried to your campsite, and when you’re ready to shower, simply submerge the pump into the bucket and press the power button.
While this shower doesn’t have the capability to heat water, it is temperature-resistant up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, so if you like, you can use water that’s been warmed by an alternate heating source. If you want to free up your hands, the handheld showerhead features a hook for hanging, as well as a suction cup if you want to attach it to a smooth surface, like your car. The whole setup is compact and portable and weighs just under 3 pounds.
This shower uses a single battery to operate, but is also available in a two-battery option that offers up to 120 minutes of use (but note that this model does not come with a bucket).
According to a camper: “This little pump and shower is AMAZING! We like the handheld nozzle because it's got a switch so we can ration our water. We've used it camping and at the beach and it's worked fantastic. I'm buying a 2nd one so we have backup if the first ever fails, and so we can keep one with beach gear and one with camp gear!”
3. A Portable Water Heater & Shower
This portable heated shower doesn’t just dispense water, it also warms it up to 125 degrees Fahrenheit and has an LCD display and temperature dial so you can adjust the heat to your liking. Besides the water heater, the kit includes a pump hose, showerhead attachment with three spray patterns, and AC/DC and 12-volt adapters for powering via electricity or a car cigarette lighter. And if you’d rather not use an electrical power source at all, you can attach a portable propane tank (not included) to the back of the heater instead. Once powered, the pump hose draws water into the heater from a bucket or water source (also not included), where it’s warmed by coils to a hot but safe temperature. For even more functionality, there’s a built-in swinging faucet that allows this unit to function as a station for washing hands and dishes.
Features like an exhaust vent, automatic maximum temperature shut-off, and tilt protection help make it safe to operate. The downsides? This is the most expensive option on the list, and the bulkiest too — it weighs 13.2 pounds and measures just under 1 cubic foot — but it does come with a convenient carrying bag.
According to a camper: “Powering the unit is simple, with both DC and AC options included, starting the unit is a dream, and the water temperature remains stable for the duration of a shower. The hose quick-connect and on/off shower head feels like our shower at home. The travel bag is the icing on the cake, and makes this a 'must have' for any camper.”
Also Nice To Have: A Foldable Camp Shower Enclosure
If you want some coverage while you use your new portable shower, this camp shower enclosure offers privacy in a packable, lightweight design. The foldable enclosure is made with waterproof polyester on a sturdy steel frame that collapses for easy storage in the included carrying case. Once unfolded and upright, the corners of the enclosure can be secured using the provided stakes or sand bags, and it offers adequate space for showering comfortably, measuring 6 feet 10 inches tall and 3 feet 11 inches square.
The top of the enclosure has an opening for positioning your portable showerhead, so you can use both hands to bathe. Additionally, exterior hooks on the outside of the tent give easy access to towels or washcloths, while an interior pocket gives you a clean place off the ground to store toiletries. The tent weighs just 5.5 pounds, making it perfect for camping or backpacking excursions.
According to a camper: “I love this for privacy [...] It is very sturdy and well sewn. The zippers are very tough and hold up well in frequent use and trust me this gets used a lot. It is very light, so make sure you keep it out of the wind or do what I do, use camping tent spikes and spike it in the sand or dirt. A simple yet effective trick.”