The rigors of a day in the outdoors may want you looking for a hot, refreshing shower. But in order to heat water, you may have to burn fuel such as propane or wood. Enter the solar camp showers, sometimes also referred as sun showers, to the scene! Though energy from the sun has been at the center stage of energy supply for centuries, gravity-based solar camp showers were first conceived only in 1985.
In this article, we look at some of the best solar showers for camping and outdoors. We will focus on the gravity based solar camp showers which can be elevated on a tree, pole or car under the sun to heat water and use gravity to maintain flow, rather than relying on any sort of pump. These showers are compact enough to carry when not in use and cheaper than most other options
While solar camp showers come in different sizes, we will focus specifically on 5-gallon capacity showers (20 liters), as such showers can easily provide a light bath to 2-3 people and are portable enough to carry along.
Best solar shower for camping listSome of the best solar showers for camping and other outdoor activities are listed below:
|Advanced Elements 5 Gallon Solar Camp Shower||6" x 20" x 2"|
|- This top of the line premium solar shower boasts of 4-ply PVC container with reflector and insulator, ensuring quick heating. Best outdoor solar shower.|
- Features an easy-to-use on/off shower head, a water temperature gauge, an extra-large filling valve, with a convenient twist-off cap
- Comes in different capacities, with the 5-gallon shower featuring a gravity flow of about 7 min when full.
- Backed by one-year manufacturer warranty.
- A smaller 3-gallon version and a larger 10-gallon version are also available.
|Sportneer Solar Camping Shower Bag||6" x 12" x 3"|
|- A well-designed, sturdy and durable gravity solar camp shower with a PVC shower bag.|
- Features a convenient shower nozzle and reasonably long hose with a shower head.
- The 5-gallon shower has a flow rate of 6.5 min for 5-gallon s.
- Comes with a mesh carrying bag for easy portability and space-saving storage.
|KingCamp Outdoor Solar Shower||6" x 14" x 2"|
|- High-end, lighter yet smartly-built solar shower bag that features polyester + nontoxic PVC three layer construction.|
- Comes with easy on/off shower head and a temperature gauge for safe operation.
- Has large valve with twist-off cap for easy filling.
- Unlike other showers, has a separate 2 meter long sturdy hanging cord that can be adjusted as desired.
|Green Elephant 2-in-1 Solar Shower & Dry Bag||10" dia. x 20"|
|- Unique, 5-gallon solar shower that can double up a an air-tight dry bag when not in use. Made with eco-friendly and non-toxic Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) instead of PVC.|
- Features polycarbonate straps, buckles, and reinforced D-rings for better durability.
- High flow rate through a hose with a 5 min flow time through a silicone hose and plastic shower head.
- A 5m. heavy-duty hanging rope is also included when purchased directly from manufacturer.
|Stearns Portable Solar Shower||6" x 20" x 2"|
|- One of the fore-runners for solar showers (now bought off by Coleman), this solar shower features a sturdy water bladder and a built-in temperature gauge.|
- Has an on/off shower head and an in-body hanging handle, though the filling hole is smaller than other showers.
- Has a mesh pocket for storing toiletries.
|Coleman Solar Shower||7" x 9" x 3"|
|- An economical, hugely popular, standard solar shower that is well built with PVA and designed to last multiple times.|
- Has a decent on/off valve, shower head, medium sized value for filling.
- Comes in a higher capacity of 10 gallons as well.
|RISEPRO Solar Shower Bag||6" x 12" x 3"|
|-A 3-ply solar shower from the popular manufacturer in the field.|
- Comes with a well-designed on/off nozzle and a removable shower head and a twist lock valve.
-A color-changing temperature indicator gauge is also included.
- Also features a handy carrying handle and case is also included.
|Coghlans Solar Camp Shower||5" x 10" x 2"|
|- A slightly smaller and lighter standard solar camp shower made with not toxic PVC.|
- Includes standard shower head with hose and hanging cord.
- Also comes in different capacities with 5-gallon being the most popular.
What is a solar camp shower and how it works?
A portable solar shower is a gravity-based gear that consists of a water container which can be exposed to the sunlight to hear water. A typical outdoor solar shower consists of a nozzle valve to fill water, a hose with a shower head, along with the shower bag. Since it relies on gravity to manage the flow of water, a solar shower must be elevated and hoisted on a tree branch, pole, or a car. Solar showers can be used for light bath, cleaning utensils, washing clothes and even cleaning your gear such as a surfboard. Solar showers are quite handy in outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, fishing, sailing, beach fun, and kayaking.
The key component of a solar camp shower that makes all the magic happen is the shower bag. Most high-end outdoor solar camp showers have bags with a 4-layer construction, though some other shower bags also have a 3-ply construction. These solar shower bags are made up of non-toxic PVC or PVA. Each shower bag has two sides – see-through, black color coated, flexible solar panel side which is exposed to the sun and the operating side of the nozzle, shower head, and optional mesh pocket. It is important that you expose only the solar panel side to the sun.
Solar camp showers come in different capacities ranging from 2.5 gallons to 20 gallons. However, 5-gallon (20 liters) shower is most suitable for camping and other outdoor activities. The solar panel in a 5-gallon solar shower can heat water to 100o-110 o F in about 4-5 hours of exposure to sunlight. Most high-end solar showers also come with a temperature gauge to give an indicative temperature of the stored water.
In the next section, we will look at some of the major factors to consider while picking the best solar showers for camping or other outdoor activities and share our top picks. We will also share some things to remember while using such outdoor solar showers and share some tips on how to clean them.
How to pick the best solar shower for camping and outdoors?
Picking the best solar camp shower is largely about picking the best shower bag. You would want to pick a portable shower with a durable, efficient and easy-to-handle shower bag. Specifically, in order to pick the best solar shower for camping, you should consider the following factors:
- Building material of the shower bag
- Size and weight of the solar camp shower
- Nozzle, shower head and valve
- Additional features
Building material of the shower bag
The building material of the shower bag is probably the most important criterion to consider while buying a portable solar shower. While some solar shower bags are also made of non-biodegradable PVC plastic, almost all the options listed above are made of non-toxic PVC or PVA. High-end solar camp showers such as the Advanced Elements Summer Shower also have a non-PVC ripstop version also available.
High-end solar camp showers such as the Ivation Portable Outdoor Shower and Advanced Elements Summer Shower have a four-layer construction. These four layers consist of the reflector layer, the insulator layer, the solar panel layer and the water reservoir layer. This 4-ply construction makes the shower efficient and durable, though, this may also make it a little heavier to carry.
So check the building material and construction design while picking the best solar camp shower for your next trip.
Size and weight of the solar camp shower
If you are backpacking or hiking and carrying your own supplies, the weight of the empty solar shower becomes important criteria to consider. Thankfully, almost all the solar camp showers are reasonably lightweight, with a weight less than 2 pounds (24 ounces) and hence comfortable to carry along. The basic Coleman Portable Solar Shower is the lightest of all at around 0.6 pounds (it has 3-ply construction and does not include a temperature gauge).
Nozzle, shower head and filling valve design
The nozzle, shower hose, and shower head are important parts of a solar shower. Some popular solar camp showers such as the Sportneer Solar Camping Shower and Advanced Elements Summer Shower have on/off heads to regulate the water flow, while other solar showers have on/off nozzles to regulate the flow. On/off shower heads are generally more comfortable to use. Similarly, check the reviews of the solar shower you want to buy to see if there are any common issues with leaking valves.
The diameter of the filling valve is another important thing to check out. Wider the filling valve, easier it is to fill, drain and clean the solar shower. You can check out the specifications and reviews of the solar shower to determine the suitability.
In addition to the factors listed above, there are some additional features that can make a solar camp shower purchase more attractive.
One of the most important such features is the built-in temperature gauge. A temperature gauge can help in indicating the temperature of stored water and also act as a level indicator. Try to pick a shower which has such a temperature gauge, preferably on the lower side of the shower bag.
Long hose pipes, Velcro straps and mesh pockets with mirrors are also good accessories to have. Moreover, some outdoor solar showers, such as the Sportneer Solar Camping Shower comes with a mesh carrying bag, making them an extremely attractive buy. For other solar showers, this is an additional accessory to purchase separately
Look out for such additional features to determine if a particular solar shower would best suit your needs.
Which are the best solar showers for camping and outdoors and what our picks are?
The Advanced Elements Summer Shower is a top-of-the-line, premium gravity-based outdoor solar shower and an ideal product for camping, fishing, beaches, sailing and even your backyard. It boasts a sturdy and durable 4-ply non-toxic PVC construction with a reflector, insulator and solar panel along with the reservoir. This sturdy design helps in warming water faster and more efficiently. It can heat water up to 110o F in about 3.5 hours of clear sunlight.
The Advanced Elements shower comes with an easy-to-use on/off shower head with about 1.5 feet long hose and a steady flow for up to 7 minutes when fully filled. It has a built-in temperature gauge to indicate the temperature of water in the shower container. It also has extra-large screw cap valve that makes filling the container easy. Also included in the shower is a mesh pocket with an attached mirror to store soaps and shampoos. You may, however, find the mesh pocket difficult to use when the reservoir is fully filled.
The Advanced Elements shower comes in different capacities, though we found the 5-gallon capacity (20 liters) ideal for camping and backpacking. The 5-gallon shower weighs standard 1.3 pounds, and when not filled is compact enough to carry. There is also a costlier, yet lighter PVC-free version available in the market.
The only drawback you can feel with this solar shower is the cost. It is about 30% costlier than other such products but is much more durable and efficient than other showers in the market.
The Sportneer Solar Camping Shower (evidently “neer” in the Hindi language means “water”) is an economical, lightweight, sturdy and reasonably durable gravity solar shower bag build with PVC. The material used in making the bag is non-toxic and eco-friendly so you need not worry about the safety and environment with this decent quality shower bag.
The Sportneer solar camp shower is equipped with a conveniently designed shower head and hose, which together stand at about 1.5 feet long, and a sturdy flow-regulator shower head. It has a slightly faster flow rate of 6.5 min for 5-gallons. The shower comes with two cable ties which can be used to tie the ends of the connections to prevent any water leakage.
The shower bag also features a see-through back and a temperature gauge attached to the bag to help with water level and temperature monitoring.
The Sportneer Solar Shower weighs 1.2 pounds when empty and has a packing dimensions of 11.8″ x 5.9″ x 2.8″, which is quite compact for a 5-gallon solar shower.
An added advantage with this portable shower is that it comes with a mesh carrying bag for easy portability and space-saving storage.
General Usage guidelines
Please keep the following things in mind while using the portable solar showers:
- Never fill the shower bag beyond the maximum advertised capacity. Since the shower bags are made from lightweight PVC/PVA material, they are not super-durable. You can use the see-through side or temperature gauge to determine the water level in the bag.
- Since the shower bags are made from PVC or PVA, they should not be used to carry drinking/potable water, even though the PVC used is marked non-toxic. Because of heating, there may be scaling in the shower bag. It is, however, fine to use the shower to wash clothes, utensils or gear.
- Always ensure that only the prescribed see-through side is exposed directly to the sunlight. Exposing the wrong side can damage the shower bag. The side with texture, hose, Velcro straps etc. is the wrong side.
- Always monitor the reading in the temperature gauge before using the water in the shower. Though these gauges may not be 100% accurate, the readings give a decent idea about the stored water. If your shower does not have a temperature gauge, run a little water through the hose and feel it to determine its suitability for use.
- Since the body of shower bag is flexible, nozzles and valves are not that sturdily attached. Handle them with care to ensure a long life for your portable shower. Do not twist the valves beyond their twisting capacity.
- If you find it difficult to elevate a filled shower bag on a branch, you can tie a paracord or rope to the handle/handle strap and then fill in the water, and hoist the bag using the rope/cord. Just make sure that the rope is sturdy enough to withstand the weight of a filled shower bag.
Cleaning your solar shower bag
Because of continuous reuse, you may need to clean up your solar shower after a while. This is necessary to ensure that you do not have any mildew or mold build up in the bag.
To do so simply take some common domestic bleach cleanser (or better, bleach packs or bleach crystals), add recommended amount of water and let it stand for an hour or so. You can even add a small amount of mild fabric detergent to the mixture. Then, shake the bag and let the mixture flow through the nozzle. After that, rinse the bag with plenty of water and let it flow a couple of times more. To dry the shower bag, leave it to dry in the shade.
Privacy tents for solar camp showers
In case you are looking for some privacy while bathing with your solar shower, you can opt for a pop-up privacy tent. Such tents are pretty easy to setup and have a vent that can be used to get the shower hose in. They have a roll-up door to close while bathing. Some of the popular options available in the market are listed below:
- WolfWise Large Pop-up Shower Tent: 6.5 feet high. Suitable for tall people.
- KingCamp Pop Up Shower Tent: Standard 6.25 feet high.
- GigaTent Pop Up Pod: Standard pop up tent 5.75 feet high.
Other Portable Camping Shower Options
In addition to the solar camp showers, there are some other types of portable camping showers that are quite popular, especially for car-camping and RVing. These types of portable camping showers probably warrant a separate article for themselves, but for sake of completeness, here are our favorite options to check out. Just remember that the solar camp showers still stay as the most cost-effective way of getting a hot shower during camping as the options listed below do not heat water on their own.
- Simple Shower Portable Camping Shower: Cheap portable shower with a showering rod and shower head that be attached to a standard 2 or 1 liter water bottle and turn it into a portable shower. Compact and lightweight (2 ounces). Made in the US with recycled materials.
- Sea to Summit Pocket Shower : Portable and ultralight shower bag with a 2.5-gallon capacity and contoured shower head. Weighs only 4.25 oz. and can be zippered into its pouch when not in use. Can also be used as a regular dry sack to transport clothes or sleeping bag. However, does not heat water and slightly overpriced.
- Iron Hammer Portable Camp Shower: A popular battery-powered, handheld portable camping shower that can pump out water from any reservoir – bucket, lake or other water body. Uses a built-in 5V, 4800mAh rechargeable battery to power the pump. Comes with a USB recharging cable, shower head, pump and a carrying case. Does not hear water and does not include the battery charger or water reservoir.
- NEMO Helio Portable Pressure Shower: One of the most popular portable shower option, especially for car-camping and RVing. The Helio shower features a durable 3-gallon tank and a neoprene shower pipe and is powered by a foot pump. Fully pressurized and does not require overhead dangling or any battery power.
Final Thoughts on best solar camp shower to buy in 2018
In this article, we looked at some of the best gravity-based solar camp showers for available in the market. These outdoor showers use solar power to heat water to a comfortable level and are lightweight enough to carry and relatively inexpensive to use. These portable shower bags can be used to wash clothes and clean utensils and gear. We looked at how these showers are made and how they work. We also looked at some of the factors to consider while choosing the most suitable showers for your outdoor needs. Moreover, we listed out the best in class and best value solar showers for camping, hiking, sailing, beach fun, and kayaking.
We hope that this article would help you in picking the best solar shower for your next outdoor trip. Do let us know how you found this article and if there is anything else you would look us to consider. Happy camping!!
Image credits: Amazon.com