A camping shower is a must-have if you are heading off-grid for more than a few days, and this post will explore the best camping shower for you in your situation.
Though you won’t bathe in the same way you would at home, or with the same level of comfort, there are many ways to generate a stream of hot water for cleaning yourself and any other household members.
When we are away overnight, we find it adequate to just heat up some hot water for a quick wipe down of ourselves and the kids.
But when you are away for two or more nights, the need for a more serious shower setup tends to grow.
Choosing the Best Camping Shower For You
There are three main types of camping showers (Solar Shower, 12V Camping Shower, and Portable Hot Water Systems), and they vary in whether they heat the water directly, how they heat the water, and what type of power they use to push the water out of the showerhead.
The best camping shower for you will depend on a variety of factors, including your budget, available power source, and how much space you have to carry additional gear.
Each of the different types of camping showers will be discussed in more detail, along with some product recommendations.
There is a product table that gives a quick overview of all the different types of showers available, followed by more in-depth coverage of each type, and the models associate with each type, and you read through the article.
Benefits of a Camping Shower
Aside from the obvious benefit of keeping clean, camping showers have a range of other benefits.
Not only do you always feel great after a warm shower, but they open up many doors to where and how far you might be able to travel.
If you don’t need to stay close to caravan parks, you open up your options for places to go and stay. You could also save a lot of money as you can start utilizing a lot more of the free camping places available, and rely less on paid locations.
Your Shower Needs
Before you start learning about the different shower types, it helps to get clear on what your shower needs are.
Access to Water
One of the biggest influences on the shower options you will have will be the ready supply of water.
Are you going to have to carry all your water with you? Or will you have access to rivers and streams that you can pump into your campsite?
Where Are You Going
For example, if you regularly stay in caravan parks, then they usually have shower amenities included, and you don’t need to bring your own. But if you are going bush or desert, then you will need to be self-sufficient.
Powering a Camping Shower
Think through the power source you will have available.
Will you have ample power to run the pump? Will you have gas to fuel a burner? If not, are you able to adapt your setup to include these things?
Who Will Be Camping and How Often
How many people are at your traveling party? How often would each person like or need to shower?
Lastly, are you wanting to invest in something substantial, or just spend as little as possible to be able to keep clean in between more substantial shower facilities?
There is no right or wrong answer to any of these questions. They are just designed to help you get a clearer idea of what your requirements are and will help you find the best option that will meet your needs.
Solar Camping Showers
If you are looking for a simple, cheap, and space-saving camp shower option, then a solar-powered portable shower may be just what you need.
While many other cheap camping showers simply pump water that needs to be preheated in some other way, a solar shower can actually heat the water as well (if the weather conditions are right!).
How To Use a Solar Shower?
Solar camping showers work by being filled with water in the morning, and then placing them somewhere they will receive maximum sunlight throughout the day.
This exposure to sunlight heats the surface area of the shower bag and this heat transfers to the water.
At the end of the day, before the sun goes down, the water will be at its peak temperature, so it is good to shower in the late afternoon to get the warmest shower.
A solar camping shower relies on gravity to get the water out of the shower rose, so you will need to find where to hang the shower that is high enough that the water will come out at the desired height.
Most solar showers include either a strong or hanging handle on the top of the shower bag to help with this.
Once the solar shower bag is raised at an appropriate height, the water should flow through the hose and associated shower head.
Different portable camping showers differ in how you control the flow of water, but for most solar shows, you twist the rose head in one direction to open the water flow, and then twist the shower back in the opposite direction, to stop the water from flowing.
How long does it take to heat a solar shower?
The length of time it takes to heat a solar shower varies significantly based on a number of factors. Things that can influence the heating of a solar shower include the temperature of the water, to begin with, air temperature, and level of direct sunlight.
In general, the warmer all these three ingredients are, the quicker your solar shower will be at a warm temperature.
As a general rule of thumb, you should get your shower out in the sun as quickly as possible.
If you are travelling, this means as soon as you stop, this should be one of your first tasks. If you are stationary, this should be one of your morning tasks.
If it is mid-summer, and temperatures are quite high, then it will be quite easy to heat the water, and it could get to a reasonable temperature within a few hours.
However, in colder conditions, you will need every minute of sun you can get. If the temperature is less than 20 degrees, you are likely to struggle to get your water to a pleasant temperature.
Do They Work?
Absolutely. There are hundreds of thousands of solar showers in existence because they are such a simple and effective solution.
Weather conditions and the quality of your shower will play a big part in how effective they are, and how warm the water gets. But the overall concept and design are solid.
- Space Efficient
- Cold If No Sun
- Slow Water Flow
12v Camp Showers
12V Showers are an affordable and convenient way to wash yourself and your family while camping. Whether you need a quick clean of the hand’s faces of your kids or plan a full body wash yourself, a 12V camping shower is a great way to do that.
The 12v showers do not heat the water. They only pump the water from your water container, out of the showerhead.
As a result, you will need to have another way to heat your water (warm it on your fire or stove), or be happy to have a cold shower!
Most 12V portable showers can be used as a handheld shower, but also include fittings that you can use to hold it up with a suction cap (on your car or other shiny surfaces), or hook onto an overhead branch.
These items usually draw about 1.5 Amps of power, and given most car cigarette lighters can handle at least 5 Amps, you should definitely be able to use it with your car.
Though most units have the same core characteristics, they can differ in the rate of flow of water, whether you can adjust the flow, the different accessories they include for hanging the shower, type of carrying bag, and length and quality of hoses.
If you have a 12V power source, and a way to heat your water, a 12V shower is a great, space-friendly option for consideration.
Just make sure you have a way to be close enough to both your 12V power source and your water source at the same time. Entry-level 12V showers are priced from $20, and other ‘high flow’ options can be priced at close to $80.
We always recommend starting with the cheapest possible product, then use it. If you like it and use it a lot, then consider investing in a more expensive one.
Companion 12V Camping Shower
- Adjustable Flow
- 1.5A Draw
- Suction Cap
- Standard/High Volume Models
- Only 2m Hose
Portable Hot Water System
Of all the options discussed in this article, Portable Hot Water Systems give you the best hot shower, for the longest time, at the highest pressure.
They are bigger units, and much more expensive, but they can provide a very high-quality shower experience with a water flow of up to six liters per minute, and they can heat water up to 30 degrees from its original temperature.
In terms of power, they tend to use a combination of gas and electricity to work. Most require 12v power to power the unit and water pump, and then some form of gas to heat fuel the heating element.
Some of the smaller units (though not that small!) use propane gas bottles to do the heating, while others require an LPG gas bottle.
The advantage of these is the quality and quantity of warm water they can produce, and many can be used to provide general-purpose hot water for washing dishes as well.
But the downside is the price and equipment required to make them work. A really cheap entry-level unit will be between $300-$400 dollars, and the prices go up from there.
Similar to 12V showers, portable camp showers do not hold any water, and just pump it from your water source through the unit as required.
Joolca Hottap Portable Hot Water System
- Funky Design
- Multiple Optional Accessories
- Water Pump Costs Extra
- Negative Customer Feedback
The Joolca Hottap V2 portable hot water system has just recently been released, superseding the original (and very popular!) Joolca Hottap.
The Hottap has quickly become one of the most popular portable hot water systems in Australia, even though it’s only been around for a few years.
It prides itself on its heating performance and ease of use and has been designed with the user in mind every step of the way.
The Joolca Hottap is a no tank water heater, meaning the water needs to be pumped into the unit in some other way.
If you are connecting to mains water (i.e. Garden hose), this is easy, but if you are camping off-grid, then you will need an external pump.
Joolca provides an optional submersible pump accessory you can purchase if this is needed.
The Joolca Hottap is very safe and includes multiple failsafe mechanisms. Firstly the temperature is barred from going higher than 50 degrees, so you cant burn yourself, and the pilot light only comes on when upright.
The Hottap unit is powered by D-cell batteries, which control the pilot light and LCD display. The water is heating using LPG gas, so you need a gas bottle nearby to connect it to.
A 9 kg gas bottle should give you about 15 hours of hot water. If you need the external pump, then this will need additional 12v power, from a cigarette lighter or battery bor or similar.
Smarttek Black Portable Hot Water System
- High Pressure
- Hot Temperature
- Multi-Purpose (Washing/Kitchen)
- Requires Gas and Power
The Smarttek Black is the larger of two portable hot water systems sold by Smarttek. Retailing at around $349, these systems provide a high-quality shower experience no matter where you are, or how far you are from modern conveniences.
Smarttrek is passionate about providing quality and has its products tested to successfully complete over 12,000 sets up/use/pack up cycles.
Smarttek put a lot of work into the design process to make the Smartek Black is as easy to set up. In five simple steps, from hanging the unit to connecting the hoses and shower head, the Smarttek is ready to provide you with high-temperature hot water.
Though the Smarttek kit provides everything you need to get your unit operational, the unit itself is not an ‘all-in-one’ unit.
The primary job of the Smarttek unit is to control how the water comes out of the shower (in terms of how hot, and how fast), but the unit has no pumping capacity.
It does not have the ability to draw water into the unit and push it out through the shower handle. The external pump is included in the package to provide this function.
I like it when products are designed to focus on a core task, and do that well, as opposed to trying to do everything, so for me, this is a positive.
Water flow is controlled by a switch on the shower handle. When you turn the switch on, the pump senses that the water pressure has decreased and switches on immediately to push water up into the unit.
Likewise, when the Smarttek unit senses water moving inside, it ignites the pilot light to start heating the water.
All these processes are fully automatic and do not require any intervention from you when operating the unit. You just need to select the desired temperate and water flow and turn the handle on.
An additional setting on the unit is the Summer/Winter setting. When the ‘Summer’ setting is selected, the unit will use less gas to heat the water.
The presumption is that the water temperature may not be as cold, to begin with thus, requiring less gas to get it to the required temperature.
For those living and travelling in northern Australia, you may find that you can leave your unit in the Summer setting all year round.
By using the Summer setting, you should be able to get 50 hours of continuous hot water from your gas bottle, whereas when using the Winter setting, you should only expect to get around 16 hours of hot water.
The Smarttek is not a standalone unit, so you will need some way to hang it, or set it up.
Smarttek sells an optional tripod accessory which is perfect for this, but it also includes a handle on the top of the unit you can use to hang it off of your car, or a tree, or some other structure.
How Hot Does The Water Get?
The Smarttek Black can heat water up to 55 degrees Celcius and cuts off at that temperature for safety reasons.
If your water source is close to zero, it will not be able to reach the maximum temperature. The unit has the capacity to raise the temperature of ambient water by 42 degrees.
What Is The Water Flow Rate?
The Smartek Black has a water flow of up to 6 liters per minute, depending on your pump size.
The default package includes a pump that provides up to 4.3 liters per minute, but you can purchase a larger pump as an additional accessory. Some retailers even offer it off the shelf with the larger pump.
How Do You Power A Smarttek Black?
The Smarttek unit itself is powered by two D-size batteries which power the interface and gas ignition.
To power the heating process, you need to connect an LPG gas bottle, the same type you would use for a BBQ or outdoor gas heater.
The 12v pump requires some form of 12v power to operate, and this can be provided in multiple forms.
By default, the kit includes two alligator clips that could be connected to your car battery or other heavy-duty battery, but Smarttek also sells other power adapters so you could connect to a 12v cigarette lighter plug, for example.
Smarttek Customer Support and Warranty
Smarttek has one of the best guarantees available for a portable hot water system and offers a three-year manufacturing warranty.
Where a valid claim is established, they will pay for any required parts and repairs to get your unit operational for the first 12 months.
For the remaining 24 months, they will still provide parts, but not the labor cost of repairs.
A cost that you may incur, regardless of how long you have had your unit are freight costs for your unit to and from an authorized repair center.
More detail on their warranty and return policy can be found on the Smarttek website.
Overall, the Smarttek Black is one of the premium portable water systems on the market. Designed to be super simple to use, you can set these up and have a shower running in a couple of minutes.
The generous warranty and range of handy accessories make this unit a strong candidate for anyone looking for a high-quality portable shower experience.
Companion Aquaheat Lithium Gas Shower
- Battery Powered
- Easy To Carry
- Less Water Pressure
The Companion Acquaheat is a new product to the camping shower market, and it has become very popular very quickly.
The high-quality onboard lithium battery means you aren’t dependent on a 12v power source for your hot water/ As long as you have access to a water source (tank/river/lake etc.), just put the hoses on, and you are good to go.
The new Companion range of camping products with lithium batteries onboard has become really popular due to the minimization of extra gear needed (battery box etc.).
The Companion Acquaheat Portable Shower should definitely be on your shortlist for a new camping shower.
Gasmate WaterTech Portable Hot Water System
- Rigid Carry Handle
- Simple Set Up
- Temperature/Flow Is Average
The Gasmate WaterTech has an inbuilt handle you can use to carry it around and then hang for use. Gasmate also has a custom tripod stand for the Gasmate available, which can be purchased separately.
When you buy the WaterTech, you have everything you need to get out into nature and have a shower.
The package includes the WaterTech unit, intake pump and hose, shower head and hose, 12V power cord, and gas regulator with quick connect cord. The only optional accessory that is not included in the unit is the tripod stand mentioned previously.
The WaterTech includes control knobs that adjust the water temperature, water flow speed, and a summer/winter setting.
If you are in a warmer climate, or in one of the warmer months of the year, you can select the summer setting, and the unit will reduce the amount of gas that is supplied to the unit.
This is because during the summer, the water source you are using is likely to be at a higher temperature, so it will require less heating. Using the summer setting will help you get a longer life from your gas bottle.
The water hoses click on and click off the WaterTech using the same fittings found on garden hoses. To set up is really quick and easy.
The WaterTech is not designed to be used indoors, so please only set it up in open areas or undercover areas with significant air circulation.
This is due to the potential for gas leaks from your bottle and other emissions from the unit.
The Gasmate WaterTech has an automatic ignition. This means that when it senses the water flowing through the pipes, the pilot light automatically lights and starts heating the water. Then once the water flow stops, the gas burner turns off.
How Hot Does The Water Get?
The Gasmate WaterTech heats water to a maximum of 52 degrees. Temperature is limited at 52 degrees for safety reasons.
However, there are some external factors that will determine whether this temperature can be reached. The WaterTech has the ability to heat water up to 25 degrees above ambient temperature.
This means that the beginning temperature of your water source will determine how hot it can get.
For example, if your water source temperature is 10 degrees, then the Gasmate WaterTech will be able to provide a shower at 35 degrees celsius.
To reach the maximum temperature of 52 degrees celsius, your water source would need to be at 27 degrees to start with.
What Is The Water Flow Rate?
The Gasmate WaterTech provides heated water at 3 liters per minute. The included pump can actually push water at a faster rate (8 liters per minute).
The unit can’t heat the water that quickly, so shower head flow is at the reduced rate of 3 liters per minute.
How Do You Power the Gasmate WaterTech?
The Gasmate WaterTech has three different inputs to power three different aspects of the machine. The LED display, internal mechanisms, and pilot light are powered by two D-cell batteries (not included).
The heating process within the unit is fuelled by LPG gas. This means you can connect it to your BBQ gas bottle or similar.
The water pump is powered by 12V DC power, as discussed above, and this cord can be plugged into your car cigarette lighter.
Gasmate WaterTech Safety Features
The WaterTech is equipped with three significant safety features that will minimize potential accidents.
The ‘Over Temperature Sensor’ monitors the heat of the water and cuts out the pilot light to avoid the water reaching a temperature where it could damage the skin.
The ‘Water Flow Sensor’ prohibits the gas from igniting unless the water is flowing through the unit. This reduces exposure to naked flame and reduces associated risks.
The final safety feature is the ‘Tilt Sensor’ monitors whether the unit is upright, and if it senses the unit tip over, or leans on a significant angle, it cuts off the gas burner, to minimize potential fire spreading.
Customer Support and Warranty
The Gasmate WaterTech comes with a 12-month warranty. Keep your proof of purchase and return the item to the place of purchase if you have any technical difficulties within the first 12 months.
Overall, the Gasmate WaterTech is a solid product, but there is nothing that really sets it apart from its competitors. It’s a very simple unit that is easy to use and set up.
There is a big lack of available accessories, slow water flow, and the warranty is minimal, which leads me to lean towards other products (Smarttek Lite…) if I’m looking to spend $300 on a portable hot water system.
Portable Shower Tent
If you want some privacy when showering off-grid you might want to equip yourself with a camping shower tent.
There is a range of different shower accessories and shower tent options available from single room, the double ensuite designs.
Some people use the toilet tent-style shelters, but I think these are a bit flimsy for a camping shower, and you need something with a bit more structural support.
I particularly like the Joolca Double Ensuite shower tent, so I recommend you have a look at that to get ideas.
Best Camping Shower – Summary
There are many different camping showers available and the best one in your case will depend on many factors including the water, power, and space you will have availability. If you can support a Joolca Hottap or similar you will be camping in luxury, but if your setup suggests a 12v shower or solar shower is a better option, then they will do just fine.