For many of us, getting outside is about getting away from the conveniences of the city.  We leave our cars, well-stocked kitchens, and mobile devices behind in order to focus on the simpler – and grungier – things in life.

But that doesn’t sound great to everyone. One of the most often daydreamed-about items left behind is a hot shower.

Whether it’s on a long, sweaty uphill hike, a paddle when the rain never seems to stop, or the third week of a backcountry safari, we all can relate to craving a soothing shower at the end of the day.

If you’re someone who wants or needs to take a shower regularly, or you just live somewhere where indoor showers aren’t an option, the good news is that plenty of outdoor gear companies make portable outdoor showers. Many of them will work anywhere, from the most remote backcountry sites to more developed RV parks.

To help you narrow down your options, here’s our review of the best portable camping showers out there.

Rankings

RankingShowerTypeWeightCapacity Length of ShowerReviewPrice
#1msr dromedaryMSR DromedarySolar / Gravity7-10 oz4, 6, or 104-6 minsRead Review
See Price on Amazon
#2helio pressure showerHelio Pressure ShowerSolar / Pressurized1 lb 7 oz11 liter5-7 minsRead Review
See Price on Amazon
#3advanced elements solar showerAdvanced Elements Solar ShowerSolar / Gravity11 oz - 3.3. lbs2.5, 3, 5, or 10 gallon4-30 minsRead Review
See Price on Amazon
#4simple showerSimple ShowerSolar / Gravity2 ozVariesVariesRead Review
See Price on Amazon
#5sea to summit pocket showerSea to Summit Pocket ShowerSolar / Gravity5 oz10 liter7 minsRead Review
See Price on Amazon
#6ozark trail instantOzark Trail InstantSolar / Gravity10 lbs5 gallons15-20 minsRead Review
See Price on Amazon

Finding a Portable Camping Shower that Works for You

When choosing the best camping shower, it’s helpful to first consider the how, when, and where of your backcountry bathing needs.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

Weight & Footprint

If you’re an ultralight backpacker, you clearly don’t want to lug around something that will take up space in your pack or weigh you down.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate a solar-powered shower – small comforts like a shower can make a huge difference on a long thru-hike.

If you’re a super-light traveler, or if you just have a lot to pack in your trunk on the family camping trip, it can be worth finding something that can pack down. Look for options that can serve multiple purposes, are heated by the sun, and are relatively lightweight when empty.

Environment: What resources do you have available?

Showers generally need two things to work and provide a pleasant experience: a heat source and gravity.

The products in this guide achieve those two things differently. However, your best option will still depend on the environment where you’re camping or traveling. At a minimum, you’ll need to consider:

  • How much fresh water is available – will you have to pack or drive it in?
  • Is sunlight a reliable source of heat, or will you need to heat up your shower with gas or electricity?
  • Are there trees to hang the shower bag from? If not, do you have a partner who will agree to pour water on you, or are you OK with a one-hand pouring option?

For example, in the desert, you’ll likely have plenty of sunlight to work with, but finding an available tree to hang your shower bag may be difficult. The opposite might be true of an early-spring fishing kayak trip in the Pacific Northwest.

If you know you won’t have a place to hang your shower, it may be worth looking for a shower with a “stall” or built-in suspension method. If, on the other hand, you don’t have enough reliable sunlight to heat your shower, there are still gas-powered models or models which can plug into an RV electrical system.

How private do you want your shower to be?

If you’re planning to shower regularly in a crowded campground, having a way to make the experience private can be an important consideration.

Some portable camping showers include a frame or curtains which provide concealment and a place to change before and after your shower. These options are very convenient and provide the closest experience possible to a front country shower without constructing an actual bathroom.

However, they might not be worth it if you plan to use your shower while backpacking, don’t have a ton of space to store a shower frame, or are ok with exhibitionism or a makeshift towel-curtain situation.

The rugged factor: how many times do you need to use your shower?

If you’ll only use your shower for one trip, or plan to use it in a developed campground, there are portable showers which are low-tech and less expensive, but less durable.

On the other hand, if you’re facing Acacia thorns, desert sunlight, or planning to shove your shower in a pack hundreds of times over, durability may be a top priority for you.

Choosing a tough canvas-based option on this list might help you end up with something that won’t pop, leak, or degrade in the sun and stop working halfway through your trip.

How many people need to shower and for how long?

To avoid a long shower line of unhappy campers, look for a shower with a water capacity which will match the size of your group. Even if you just like to take long showers, you’ll want to keep in mind the water capacity and how long it will take you to heat up your shower.

Water pressure can also affect your shower’s capacity: even if you have a large bag, pressurized showers feel more like a normal shower, but tend to go through more water faster.

Keep in mind that most portable showers will provide shorter showers than you may be used to – think 5-10 minutes of water.

This is partly because it’s difficult to heat a lot of water quickly in the backcountry, but also because water is very heavy – having a long shower might sound nice, but lifting a 70-pound unwieldly bag of hot water onto a tree branch can be quite difficult. So, if you don’t need the extra water, you may want to go for a smaller bag.

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Criteria for Choosing the Best Shower – How We Ranked Our List

Your specific trip plans will determine what’s best for you. A summer-long mountaineering expedition has different constraints than a casual family pop-up camping trip at the lake; the features which might be deal-breakers for you might be selling points for someone else.

With that in mind, and considering the specific concerns detailed above, we’ve designed our list to include options to fit multiple uses and included as many detailed specifics as possible.

Here are the criteria we used:

Weight

We’ve included the weight of each model when empty to help you get a picture of how much heft each of these showers would add to your pack, or just how hard they are to transport to your campsite.

Water capacity/shower length

The options on this list vary widely in terms of how much water they hold; we included this in the ranking to help you pick options which hold as much water as possible without sacrificing heating speed or functionality.

Value

Even if you’re willing to invest a sizeable chunk of change for a good shower, the options out there vary in terms of what you get for the price. We evaluated the options on the list both in terms of absolute cost and value for the dollar.

Durability

We also ranked our options based on how ruggedly constructed they are and how likely they are to stand up to various outdoor environments. Things like occasional leaks may be a big deal or not a concern for you depending on where and how you plan to use your shower.

Versatility & Ease of Setup

Finally, we considered how each shower would likely perform in different terrains and for different uses. We wanted to find versatile options which could be easily set up in a campground, RV park, or near a backpacking tent.

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How hot do portable showers actually get?

Pretty warm, but this depends on the shower and what “hot” means to you.

Solar-powered showers generally provide a less reliable water temperature, but they can still get surprisingly hot when fully warmed up.

If you have time to leave your solar shower out in direct sunlight all day, it’ll get warmer. If the ambient air temperature is hot, your shower will be also get a bit warmer. However, with solar shower, you’re probably looking at a pleasantly warm, but not “hot” shower.

Electric and gas-powered showers can get warmer. They can also be used 24/7 and in cloudy weather, though they’re constrained by the availability of those heat sources and might not be an option everywhere.

Some options do provide a hybrid option – you can leave the bag out in the sun, but also heat up some water to add separately to increase the temperature of your shower.

I am new to camping and I am purchasing gear for my first trip.  Do I need a camping shower in order to get out there?

It depends.  If you are comfortable getting out on the trail and being “dirty” for a few weeks, then you might not actually need a backcountry shower. As some say, “Don’t punk about the funk!  Layered sweat is the best hair grease product out there!”

However, many people are turned off from outdoor activities and extended expeditions for the simple reason that they will not have access to a shower. For these people, outdoor showers are an easy way to make the outdoors more fun and accessible. If you’re traveling or staying somewhere for an extended time, having an outdoor way to get clean can also be important.

These products are kind of expensive.  Are there ways to build a camping shower without all of the bells and whistles?

In short, yes; there are many ways to get clean out in the backcountry.  Some include using some of mother nature’s tools and others involve re-purposing classic outdoor gear.  Keep scrolling in order to see some do-it-yourself options.

Also, portable showers are one gear category in which it may not benefit you to go with the name brand. Many of the lesser-known options provide just as much functionality without the hefty price tag.

Is outdoor showering “Leave No Trace?”

Many soaps/shampoos/conditioners do have a significant impact on the animal and plant life where you’re camping.

If you’re staying in a developed campground with established drains, this may not be an issue. However, if you’re in the back country or other sensitive areas, it is important to consider the impact of your shower.

One way to limit this footprint is to use biodegradable soaps.  However, even biodegradable soaps can be harmful to natural ecosystems.  To minimize your impact, shower at least a few hundred yards away from lakes and rivers.

Can I use river/lake water in my portable shower?

Again, this depends on your shower and the lake in question. As a general rule, if you can swim in the water, it’s OK to bathe in it.

So, in many areas, you should be fine using natural water sources to shower, as long as you don’t mind a little “lake water aroma.” However, be careful with polluted water, and make sure to flush the shower with clean or purified water as soon as possible when you get back.

How should I clean/store my portable shower?

Showers will typically come with specific cleaning instructions. Some more complicated set-ups may have specific cleaning or purifying procedures.

However, here some general rules to keep your shower clean and functional over time:

  • Always fully rinse your shower and flush all component parts with clean water to prevent mold and algae growth.
  • Hang shower to drain and dry out of direct sunlight
  • Store bone dry in a place with adequate ventilation

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Rankings and Reviews

So, after all of that information and food for thought, what are the top outdoor and portable camping showers?

Here’s a list of our top 6 picks, along with some info on each product’s weight, capacity, and what the experts have to say.

  1. MSR Dromedary
  2. Helio Pressure Shower
  3. Advanced Elements Solar Shower
  4. Simple Shower
  5. Sea to Summit Pocket Shower
  6. Ozark Trail Instant
  7. (BONUS) Lake

Our # 1 Pick: MSR Dromedary

msr dromedary
  • Type: Solar
  • Weight: 7 – 10 ounces
  • Water Capacity: 4, 6, or 10 liters
  • Length of shower: 3-7 mins

High points:
Lightweight, versatile (multi-functional) and highly durable.
Low points:
Relatively low water capacity and doesn’t come with a shower nozzle.

Why it’s our #1 pick:

The dromedary was not originally designed to be a camping shower. In fact, it was actually designed as a water transport system for backpackers. You can use it for hand-washing, filling water bottles, brushing your teeth, washing dishes, or putting out a fire.

However, if you leave it in the sun for a while and then hang it by one of its straps from a branch, it’s also a surprisingly effective shower. It’s very lightweight and made out of tough 1000-Denier material.

It will last for years if maintained well. Since it packs flat and folds easily, it’s easy to take pretty much anywhere you go. It can withstand any temperature from freezing to boiling.

It requires significant direct sunlight to get hot, but if you’re a backpacker, it’s great to have in your pack anyway. It’s our number one choice due to this multi-purpose function, as well as how light it is.

What reviewers say:

The “drom” has been around for a long time, and has something of a cult following among backpackers, though not necessarily for its shower-related functions.

It has few component parts to break, is puncture resistant no matter what terrain you travel through, and is a relatively easy way to tote water around when you need to. When you’re not using it as a shower, it’s widely known as a highly durable and convenient way to carry water.

Features & considerations:

The standard model comes with a 3-in-1 detachable nozzle that lets you adjust the speed of the water. The biggest bag, when full, will last a while.

However, the slowest water speed isn’t enough to feel like you’re under a shower. But the middle nozzle will last more than long enough to provide a quick rinse.

If you have the space, or plan to use it in the front country, MSR and several other retailers make a separate shower nozzle which screws on to the dromedary’s opening. These nozzles come in gravity-fed and battery-powered options which create a more shower-like spray.

The only downside of this option is that it doesn’t hold a ton of water. Even the biggest bag, when completely full, is probably only enough to provide one or two people a satisfying shower. The water pressure also won’t feel exactly like a city shower.

However, its lightweight profile, extreme durability, and versatility still make it an excellent gear choice.

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The Next-Best: Helio Pressure Shower

helio pressure shower
  • Type: Solar
  • Weight: 1lb 7 oz
  • Water Capacity: 11 liters
  • Length of shower: 5-7 mins

High points:
Great water pressure and durability; can handle any water temperature.
Low points:
Requires a continuous foot pump to operate and set-up can be cumbersome.

Why it’s our #2 pick:

This is a great shower-like option for more stationary camps. It’s a bit heavier than the dromedary, but designed specifically for showering.

The bag can hold any temperature water. If it’s not hot enough for you after you leave it in the sun, you can always heat water and add it to meet your desired temperature.

The real selling point, however, is the water pressure. The foot pump and gravity together provide a satisfying, steady stream for 5-7 minutes. It also includes a seven-foot long neoprene hose to help you clean your entire body or different parts of gear you might be cleaning.

What reviewers say:

This model is a bit pricier, and functions primarily as a shower. You won’t have much success using it to pack water anywhere or storing drinking water.

However, it’s also a highly durable and functional model that heats up well. It provides what reviewers say is an excellent and satisfying shower experience. It’s the real deal when it comes to backcountry showers.

Features & considerations:

This model collapses down to a package about the size of a standard water bottle and is easy to clean and use.

It’s fairly straightforward to operate, but can be annoying to set up in a campground if there aren’t many options for suspension. It offers a decently long shower-time for one person, but might not have enough water capacity to let multiple people shower at once. It can be annoying to operate the foot pump constantly to keep water going, but it’s worth it for the water pressure.

At about one and a half pounds, it’s also not as light as some of the other options, but overall, this is a long-lasting and useful piece of gear to have.

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3. Advanced Elements Solar Shower

advanced elements solar shower
  • Type: Solar
  • Weight: 11 oz – 3.3 lbs
  • Water Capacity: 2.5 gallons (9 liters), 3 gallons (11 liters), 5 gallons (19 liters), or 10 gallons (38 liters).
  • Length of shower: 4-25 mins

High points:
Velcro attachment for washcloth and soap pockets, gravity-fed nozzle.
Low points:
Not a ton of extra features to justify the price tag.

Why it’s a top pick:

As far as solar, gravity-powered showers go, the Solar Shower feels the most like a “real” shower. It also has a number of extra add-on features like a built-in temperature gauge to help you assess when it’s warm enough.

There’s a robust shower head that provides a wide and steady stream, and the extra-wide handle makes it much easier to carry water even in the biggest-capacity version of this product.

The solar-absorbing material heats up faster than other options (which are just dark-colored). The soap pockets add a lot of convenience. No more fishing around by your feet for a damp bar or bottle of soap.

What reviewers say:

This is a very popular outdoor shower model. Because it comes in a variety of sizes and capacities, it’s a great option for families and bigger groups who might need to offer multiple showers in a row.

The temperature gauge is also a helpful feature. Many people like being able to quickly gauge how warm it is without having to touch a hot container or open it to measure whether it’s hot enough.

Features and considerations:

This option is best for group campsites and extended trips in stationary locations. If you’re going to invest in a solar, gravity-fed shower, this is a great pick.

The washcloth/soap pocket feature is great. The whole thing is comparatively easy to set up and use.

However, if you just want a simple shower, or want to move campsites regularly, it’s probably not worth paying for this model over the MSR Dromedary. They are essentially the same concept, but the Advanced Elements dedicated shower is about twice as expensive.

If you do want a shower-specific set-up, the added features are important to you, or you have a bigger group than you can wash with the largest drom, it’s worth paying for the extra bells and whistles on this version.

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4. Simple Shower

simple shower
  • Type: N/A
  • Weight: 2 oz.
  • Water Capacity: Varies
  • Length of shower: Varies (generally short – 30 seconds to 1 minute)

High points:
Very inexpensive ($15), lightweight, and flexible.
Low Points:
Not self-heating, no built-in hanging mechanism

Why it’s a top pick:

With the slogan “Guaranteed to Get You Wet,” a weight of 2 oz., and a crazy low price, we had to include the Simple Shower in our review.

This is the ultimate no-frills option. It’s essentially a minimalist nozzle and short hose which attaches to any water container. You probably won’t find a cheaper nozzle option or easier set-up.

What reviewers say:

This is a flexible, nearly DIY option. At first glance, it looks like something made in a garage by an entrepreneur with a few extra garden hose attachments.

However, it’s actually a pretty unique and versatile shower option. You can attach it to any container to turn even regular water jugs into a portable shower.

If you’re a backpacker, it’s easy to throw this into your pack – it’s only 2 oz., so one of the lightest options out there. You can then heat water in a stove and fill a water bottle of any size, or you  can always find a black bottle or paint one for a solar-heated experience.

Features and Considerations:

This is not the ultimate in creature comforts. If you want a self-heating shower you can hang from a branch, this one isn’t for you.

You’ll have to provide your own water container and hold it over your head while showering, or convince someone else to do this for you.  It does fit multiple size bottles.

The inside of the connector has screw threads to fit drinking water bottles. However, the outside also has ribs which will allow you to push it into the larger mouth juice or other larger containers.

If you have a large bottle – a 2-liter soda bottle, for example – this can be a good backcountry addition to throw in your pack, even if it doesn’t provide a “full” shower experience.

In general, it’s a great option if you’re looking for an inexpensive MacGyver way to add some luxury and personal hygiene to a backcountry or overseas adventure.

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5. Sea to Summit Pocket Shower

sea to summit pocket shower
  • Type: Solar
  • Weight: 5 oz.
  • Water Capacity: 10 liters
  • Length of shower: 7 mins

Pros:
Packable and lightweight, provides a lot of shower time for its size.
Cons:
Less durable than similar options and not as many features for the price.

Why it’s a top pick

The Pocket Shower, like the MSR Dromedary and the Solar Shower, is a gravity-fed shower you’ll need to hang from a branch or other tall structure. If you don’t appreciate the hefty price tag of the MSR Dromedary, and the Solar Shower is too heavy or big for you, this is a great middle ground.

It’s also very lightweight and packs down to a very small, soft pocket which can essentially be stuffed anywhere. Like those options, this will work anywhere there’s sunlight and something to hang the bag from.

What Reviews Say

Sea to Summit is a well-known gear brand, with a reputation for providing quality products, and this one is no different. This particular model is another popular solar shower. It is particularly popular among international travelers and those who need to bring a shower to an inaccessible place.

Features and considerations:

In order to cut weight, this product was designed with a lighter-weight material. It can be prone to punctures and solar degradation over time. This is a selling point if you need to be highly mobile or want to be as lightweight or small-footprint as possible.

If you’re going to be car camping, in an RV, or another more urban location, you can likely find something more functional and durable than this option for a similar price. Overall, however, this will do the job wherever you happen to go.

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6. Ozark Trail Instant

ozark trail instant
  • Type: Solar
  • Weight: 10 lbs
  • Water Capacity: 5 gallons
  • Length of shower: 17-20 mins

High points:
The ultimate in utility/outdoor showers; has a built-in floor with a drain, has two rooms with vents and a detachable rainfly.
Low points:
Expensive, heavy, and space-intensive.

Why it’s a top pick:

If you’ve been reading the other choices and wondering if there were any real showers on the list, this is the choice for you. The Ozark Trail Instant Shower is to the other options on this list what RVs are to backpacking tents.

If dirty public toilets or campground showers are a deal breaker for you, this is a great alternative. It’s the ultimate in a luxurious shower experience. It has aluminum-coated walls for complete privacy, mesh windows for ventilation, and a sturdy frame which can hold multiple bags of water.

What Reviewers Say:

This product is, overall, known as a well-built and luxurious option.

It’s a particularly popular option among those looking for a more permanent, comfortable solution. Those who prefer “glamping” to roughing it also appreciate this shower.

Depending on your situation, this is a great equivalent to an indoor shower. It’s even been used to create a temporary shower for homelessness outreach programs and as an outdoor bathroom during home renovation.

The extra room can be used as a private changing area. It can also be a place to keep your clothes dry, or a place to put a private portable toilet.

Features and considerations:

If you need to install a temporary shower for an extended period of time, or if having a private, comfortable shower is important to you, this is about as close as you can get to constructing your own shower at the campground as you can get without actually installing plumbing.

It comes with a five-gallon, solar-heated bag, but if you want to use an electric or gas-powered stove, you can simply hang the alternative shower container in this shower stall. You can also rig up a DIY option and use it within this shower.

Everything you need for a pleasant shower is included. There are two sturdy, private rooms with built-in drainable floors, a shower bag, and places to put soap and washcloths. The top of the tent has vents to let out steam, and the construction is sturdy.

Of course, if you’re into the “roughing it” aspect of outdoor activities, this might not be the right choice for you. It’s also quite large, heavy, and expensive when compared to the other options on this list.

However, it isn’t so expensive as to make it cost-prohibitive when you consider all the added comfort and luxury. If you’re into creature comforts and always feeling freshly showered, this is a great choice.

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7. (Bonus) Lake

  • Type: Solar (kind of)
  • Weight: No need to carry it, but about 8lbs/gallon
  • Water Capacity: Limitless
  • Length of shower: Limitless

High points:
Free, unlimited water capacity. Provides an exhilarating bathing experience.
Low points:
Cold, variable quality, and may contain leeches.

Why it’s a top choice

As mentioned in the beginning of the article, camp showers are not for everybody.  Many of us would rather bathe our troubles (and stench) away in a crisp and refreshing alpine lake, or perhaps in one of the crystal-clear border lakes in the Upper Midwest.

Unlike the camp showers listed above, a lake is something that is always waiting for you in the backcountry.  You don’t have to worry about weight, durability or water capacity. There is enough water for everybody.

What reviewers say:

Reviewers report wildly inconsistent quality. Your experience may vary depending on where you try to use this product.

In some locations, the water is nice and clear. In others, it may be uncomfortably cold or too dirty to provide a satisfying bathing experience.

Features and considerations:

Lakes offer many appealing features. (Also, to be clear, a river or creek would serve the purpose of getting you clean in the same way that a lake does). They are extremely low-cost, reduce the amount of gear you need to pack, and let you experience all that nature has to offer first-hand.

The only downside to lakes is that they are sometimes swampy and/or have leeches. You’ll also need to know what your water sources are ahead of time to make sure you’ll be able to use lakes for bathing while camping.

However, if you’re an extreme minimalist, this is the perfect choice – you don’t have to bring anything but yourself.

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