How to Set Up the Perfect Camping Shower in 5 Easy Steps

“Camp clean” is a phrase we use a lot when we’re camping. Are the dishes clean? Are we clean? Usually the answer is: “No, but they’re (or we’re) camp clean.” Camp clean means relatively clean and most of the time, it’s fine when you’re on a camping trip. Everything gets dirty when you spend time outdoors.

But what about the times you want to be truly clean on a camping trip? Maybe you’ve been in the backcountry for days or there aren’t any showers at your campground. Or, you’d just like a break from smelling like campfire smoke and sweat. That’s when you need a camping shower.

We’ll show you how to set up the perfect camping shower in 5 easy steps and explore the best portable shower options and accessories.

Why Do You Need a Camping Shower?

It may seem like a question with an obvious answer, but there are actually a few reasons you may want to add a portable shower to your standard camping gear. Consider some of the following uses:

  • Rinse off sand after a day at the beach
  • Clean up the kiddos without the hassle of heading to the campground shower building
  • Cool down on a hot day
  • Wash your canine camping companion
  • Rinse away the saltwater after an ocean swim or paddle
  • Stay clean even when you’re camping off the grid, in the backcountry, or in some of the more remote National Parks.

How to Set Up the Perfect Camping Shower

It’s always best to read the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific camping shower, but here are the general steps. If you want to use warm water, plan ahead so the water in the shower bag or tank has time to heat up before you use it. Most solar camping showers require at least a couple hours in the sun to reach maximum temperature.

1. Find an ideal shower spot. Figure out the best place to set up the shower by considering things like drainage (to avoid mud), privacy, and whether or not there’s a place to hang it or set it up. Some portable showers need to hang above you (a sturdy tree branch will work) while others need a level place where you can set up their tank. You should also avoid setting up a camp shower near water such as a lake or stream so the wastewater won’t drain directly into it.

2. Fill the shower’s bag or tank with water. Most portable showers have a 2 to 5 gallon capacity. The water you use for showering doesn’t have to be purified like drinking water but it should be clean.

3. Wait for the water to warm up—or don’t. If you don’t have a temperature preference or would like a cool (or cold!) shower, you can move on to the next step. If you’re using a solar-powered portable shower, place it in the direct sunlight and wait for it to reach your ideal temp.

4. Set up the shower. If your portable shower depends on gravity for its water pressure, find a place where you can hang it above you. You can use a tree branch or a roof rack. Set up a privacy tent (if you’re using one) and thread the shower hose through the top of the tent.

5. Lather up and rinse. To prevent your water supply from running out, turn off the nozzle while you’re lathering your shampoo or soaping up.

Best Camping Showers

This simple shower from Stearns has a minimalist design, is easy to use, and depends on gravity for its water pressure. Fill the 4-gallon bag with water and let it heat up in the sun for a couple of hours before using. Hang it up and it’s ready to go. (A built-in thermometer shows the water temp.)

The portable solar shower from Advanced Elements has a 3-gallon capacity and convenient extras like a pocket for shampoo and velcro straps for wash cloths. An extra-large valve makes it easy to fill. Once you’re done using it, the shower bag rolls up for easy storage.

This small portable shower seems too good to be true. But Sea to Summit’s Pocket Shower really works and is a great choice for backpackers, paddlers, or anyone else looking to lighten their load. The zippered shower pouch has a built-in nozzle and can hold up to 10 liters of water. (And it can be used as a stuff sack for the trip home.)

Since this handheld shower uses battery-power instead of gravity, it offers stronger water pressure than most of the options on this list. Unlike the previous three options, however, it doesn’t come with its own bag or tank. Instead, place the end of the shower system into a bucket (or other water source) while using.

The Nemo Helio shower is the priciest option on our list but if you’re looking for decent water pressure, this is a good portable shower to try. Before using, simply pressurize the 2.9-gallon shower tank with an easy-to-use foot pump. Additional pumps will provide 5–7 minutes total of steady water pressure. No need to hang this solar shower either, just set it on level ground and it’s ready to go.

The budget-friendly Simple Shower lives up to its name. All you need to do is attach the nozzle to a 1- or 2-liter bottle filled with water and it’s ready to go. This type of shower is best for a quick—and cool—rinse.

If you’re looking for a portable shower that’s similar to at-home showers, this system from Basecamp comes close. With reliable water pressure, this portable shower uses battery power (or liquid propane) to provide hot water—up to six 5-minute showers!

camping shower - wilderness wash

Credit: Sea to Summit

Camp Shower Accessories

For the complete shower experience, you’ll need some bonus items in addition to the portable shower itself. Here are some to consider:

Unless you’re in a remote location or plan to shower in a swimsuit, you’ll likely appreciate some privacy. This pop-up shower tent has a convenient vent near the top where you can hang the shower nozzle and hose. It also doesn’t have a floor, making it easy for the water to drain away.

This double-wide shower shelter offers the convenience of two spaces: a shower stall and a separate changing area. It also includes extra features like a towel bar and mesh pockets to store toiletries.

When showering outdoors, you should always use biodegradable soaps and shampoos. Sea to Summit’s Wilderness is an all-in-one product you can use as body wash, shampoo—and dish soap!

A slightly more luxurious biodegradable soap is this tea tree and mint shampoo/body wash combo from Joshua Tree Skin Care.

Stream2Sea is a brand known for its line of eco-friendly and biodegradable body care products. This particular product is a 3-in-1 shampoo, conditioner, and body wash.

When you don’t have a dryer, it’s best to have quick-drying towels. Standard bath or beach towels take a long time to dry when they’re hung on clotheslines (especially on humid summer days). This quick-dry microfiber towel from Wise Owl Outfitters is currently available in a variety of sizes and colors.

This microfiber towel from RainLeaf is super absorbent and folds up into a compact carrying bag. It’s also available in a range of colors and sizes.

using a portable camping shower by the lake