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

Stearns Sun Shower
Stearns Sun Shower 4 Portable Shower
  • Holds 4 gallons—enough water for multiple showers
  • Uses solar energy to heat water
  • Strong handle for reliable hanging and carrying
  • Handy on/off valve connected to shower head
  • Built-in thermometer lets you see the temperature before you turn it on

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.)

Advanced Elements Summer Shower
Advanced Elements (SS761) Summer Solar Shower - 3 Gallon , Silver/Black
  • CONSTRUCTION - This solar shower boasts a durable, four-layer construction for optimal heat retention and performance that includes a reflector panel, an insulator panel, a solar panel, and a water reservoir along with diamond ripstop fabric.
  • CAPACITY - This summer shower has a large 3-gallon capacity and is designed to heat water fast in the warm sun.
  • TEMPERATURE GAUGE - Easy-to-read temperature gauge to know when your shower is warm. The shower can heat up to 110 degrees in under 3 hours in direct sunlight.
  • EASY FILL - Extra-large filling valve with twist-off cap; wide carrying handles; Velcro straps for soap and shampoo
  • STORAGE - Rolls up for easy storage; covered by a one-year manufacturer

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.

Sea to Summit Pocket Shower
Sea to Summit Lightweight Pocket Shower for Camping and Travel
  • 10-liter pocket shower provides a 7-minute shower; ideal for backpacking, camping, bike touring, and travel
  • Made from lightweight 70D nylon with fully taped seams; black fabric soaks up the sun to heat water for a warm shower
  • Roll-top closure has two ‘D’ rings attached to 20 feet of nylon cord for hanging the shower almost anywhere
  • Simple and easy-to-use twist mechanism for turning on/off and for flow adjustment; graduated apertures for equal spray dispersion
  • Outdoor shower can also be used as a regular dry sack to transport clothes or sleeping bag; includes carrying pouch; weighs 4.3 ounces

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.)

Ivation Outdoor Shower
Ivation Portable Outdoor Shower, Battery Powered - Compact Handheld Rechargeable Camping Showerhead - Pumps Water from Bucket Into Steady, Gentle Shower Stream
  • INDOOR/OUTDOOR HANDHELD SHOWER - Transforms Sink or Bucket of Water Into Instant Shower Stream; Water-Resistant Unit Includes One Touch On/Off Switch
  • PERFECTLY PLEASING PRESSURE - Showerhead Features One Simple Flow Rate for Comfortable Bathing Experience; Gentle Enough for Seniors, Babies and Pets
  • SUCTION CUP SUPPORT - Shower-Head Securely Sticks to Any Flat Surface with Provided Suction Cup; Bonus S-Style Hook Lets You Hang it Safely Overhead
  • BATTERY POWERED CONVENIENCE - Rechargeable Pump Plugs into Laptop, Car Adapter or Computer via USB; Full Charge Allows Up to 1 Hour of Continuous Use, PLEASE NOTE: May include a wall plug instead of USB
  • COMPACT AND PORTABLE - Small, Discreet System Packs Easily in Luggage, Backpack or Car Trunk; for Hiking, Camping, Kid Bathing and Pet Cleaning

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.

Nemo Helio Pressure Shower
NEMO Helio Pressure Shower (Dark Verglas)
  • A REVOLUTION IN CAMP CLEANLINESS - Unlike gravity camp showers that need to be hung overhead and produce dismal water pressure, the award-winning Helio portable pressurized shower and sprayer rests on the ground and provides the pressure you need to wash hair, do the dishes, rinse off gear, water your plants, or wash the dog.
  • PUMP IT UP - You can quickly and easily pressurize the 2.9-gallon tank with a foot pump – and with occasional pumps you can keep it fully pressurized for 5-7 minutes of strong, continuous spray. The tank cannot be over-inflated.
  • EASY COME, EASY GO - Precise folding panel design allows for lightning-fast set up and an even smaller packed size. Simply set the full tank in the sun for a warm shower at the end of the day or fill directly with hot water. Compact ventilated carrying case stows tank, hose, nozzle, and pump neatly.
  • VERSATILE - The 7-foot neoprene hose is long enough to hold it overhead for a shower, or to reach all angles of dirty gear, muddy paws, or salty wetsuits.

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.

Simple Shower Portable Camping Shower
Simple Shower Portable Camping Shower
  • Turns most one or two liter bottles (including Platypus collapsible bottles and bladders) into a portable shower for taking showers anywhere running water is not available
  • Easy to use – simply hold it above the area to be washed and turn upside down for a steady stream. Feels like being under a real shower
  • Great for washing infants!
  • Weighs only 2 ounces. Makes a great camp shower
  • Made in USA from recycled material

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.

Basecamp Portable Shower System
Mr. Heater F235300 BOSS-XB13 Basecamp Battery Operated Shower System,Multi
  • Portable battery operated propane shower system
  • 12,000 BTUs increase water temperature up to 35-degrees above source (source temperature must be below 60-degrees)
  • Anti-scald protection and safety tip-over shut-off switch
  • Matchless electric ignition produces instant hot water
  • 6 D-cell batteries required - 4 for pump, 2 for igniter (sold separately)

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:

Wolfwise Pop-up Shower Tent
WolfWise Portable Pop Up Privacy Shower Tent Spacious Changing Room for Camping Hiking Beach Toilet Shower Bathroom Green
  • Spacious Space: The tent is 47.2" L x 47.2" W x 74.8" H providing a spacious interior shelter that comfortably fits a tall man without touching your head, which is much higher and roomier than our old version. (NOTE: Unlike the old tent, we improve the new one, it doesn't have mesh top. )
  • UPF 30+ & Good Ventilation: The polyester fibric with taped seams blocks 60% harmful UV rays. Zipper window with large entrance deliver 360-degree ventilation for better dissipation of body heat and odor.
  • Multi-function: The shower tent offers a private space for using the toilet and enjoying a quick shower when you go camping outside. It also provides a changing room for models to change clothes when you shoot outdoors, for dancing competition, or for clothes vending stands.
  • Structural Features: The tent is made of anti-tear 190T polyester for long-lasting performance. The frame is made of galvanized steel which is not easy to break and protects against corrosion. The tent is designed without the base to keep it clean. With 1 side bag to store your phone, tablet, or other handy items and 1 clothesline for hanging wet clothes or towels.
  • Pop Up Design & Portability: Pops up and folds down in seconds, no assembly required. Ultra-lightweight construction allows for easy transportation with included carrying bag. Weighing just 4.3 pounds; it can be folded into a compact size of 22.8" L x 22.8" W x 1.4" H.

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.

EasyGo Shower Shelter
EasyGo Product Shower Shelter – Giant Portable Outdoor Pop UP Camping Shower Tent Enclosure – Changing Room – 2 Rooms – Instant Tent – 7.5' Tall x 4' Deep x 7.5' Wide, Green
  • High Quality Material - Our portable tent is made of high quality waterproof polyester material which is lightweight and sturdy. The instant tent provides private space for camping bathroom & potty use, outdoor showers, rain shelter and more.
  • New Convenient Design - Our bathroom tent has two openings that can be used for two rooms. Windows offer easy ventilation. Includes towel bar and mesh pockets for toiletries. Sturdy Poles provide great free standing stability.
  • Lightweight and Portable Shower Tent - Ultra-lightweight construction allows for easy transportation including a carrying bag. The tent is 7.5”Tall x 4” Deep x 7.5” Wide when open, providing spacious interior and comfortable movement within.
  • Universal Usage - Our instant camp shower tent takes care of your privacy. It offers dual room feature. One room can be used for shower and the other one as a portable changing room or restroom. Both rooms can be used at the same time too.
  • Easy to Use - Our collapsible lightweight tent pops up instantly, offering you a private stall enclosure to change clothes, shower, paint, spray tan, use the restroom, and more on the beach, camping, photo shoots, sporting events, trade shows, and more. A-must-have Accessory - For outdoor activities. Large opening that offers easy access. Easily folded into a carry bag for convenience to carry anywhere you want. Easy to use by extending the legs stake to the ground for stability setup in minute

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.

Sea to Summit Wilderness Wash
Sea to Summit Wilderness Wash (3 Ounce/ 89ml)
  • Biodegradable, super thick concentrated formula
  • Tough bottle with small nozzle & secure lid so it’s safe in your pack
  • Safe for personal use, pots, pans, clothes or any outdoor gear
  • Smaller size meets airport regulations for carry on liquids (under 3 ounces)

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!

Joshua Tree Skin Care Shampoo & Body Wash
Joshua Tree 8 oz. Body Wash, Shampoo - Biodegradable Plant Based Eco Soap with Organic Ingredients (Tea Tree + Mint)
  • Biodegradable - Safe to use indoors and out as a body wash, shampoo, even to wash your dog, for clothes or dishes at camp
  • 8 oz/236 ml size is portable with enough to last!
  • Hand crafted in Michigan with the finest organic and natural ingredients
  • Lathers up like you expect from any body wash
  • Jojoba Oil to condition skin and hair

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

Stream2Sea Conditioning Shampoo & Body Wash
STREAM 2 SEA 3 in 1 Hair Shampoo Bodywash and Conditioner For Outdoor Activities, 6 Fl oz Reef Safe, All Natural and Organic Camping Shampoo and Liquid Soap, Paraben Free All In One Skin, Hair Care
  • All Natural 3 in 1 Shampoo, Conditioner & Body Wash; Cleanse, condition and strengthen hair & skin with our multi-use wash. Made with natural & organic ingredients, this nourishing soap will keep you refreshed after shower - leaves your body smelling fresh and clean all day!
  • Protect Hair with UV Absorbent Formula; Moisturize & shield your hair from the elements - this biodegradable wash is infused with Keratin and Panthenol that targets the care and treatment of damaged and colored hair & scalp. Absorbs and and blocks harmful effects of the sun, while protecting its fibers. Great to use for ocean, beach and camping getaways!
  • Reef Safe 3 in 1 Travel Essential; Enjoy camping and swimming outdoors with this all-natural wash. Our formula is coral and reef-safe - great to use for your ocean getaways! Save space for your luggages - as this 3-in-1 product is suitable for both men and women to use. Convenient natural goodness for travelers and families on-the-go.
  • Smell Fresh & Get Moisturized with Antioxidant Blend; Refreshing scent for hair and skin with the combination of invigorating antioxidant blend of - Green Tea, Tulsi, Wakame, and Olive Leaf. The tropical smell will bring you to the beach in a matter of minutes!
  • Eco-Conscious, Biodegradable & Reef Safe Formula; Mindfully created: our tubes are made with Sugarcane Resin, bottles are also 97% post-consumer recycled content. This reinforces our pledge to protect our planet - as every single one of our products are biodegradable and tested safe for fish and coral larvae.

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.

Wise Owl Outfitters Quick Dry Camping Towel
Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Towel Ultra Soft Compact Quick Dry Microfiber - Great for Fitness, Hiking, Yoga, Travel, Sports, Backpacking & The Gym - Free Bonus Hand Towel 24x48 MB
  • Multipurpose: Whether you're backpacking through the mountains or going to yoga class, our quick dry towels for camping will keep you fresh and clean when you need them the most.
  • Compact: Lightweight and convenient, our camp towel packs down super small into the included carrying bag and makes the perfect companion for your daily adventures. Our 2 pack towels include one full size towel and a wash cloth.
  • Super Soft: Our fast-drying backpacking towel leaves an ultra-soft, suede feel on your skin after each use, wicking away sweat and water without drying out your skin.
  • Durable: Built to last, our absorbent camping towels feature interlocking stitching that's strong and durable yet delicate on the skin.
  • Colorful: With 4 vibrant colors to choose from - marine blue, royal blue, orange, and purple - you'll be sure to find a travel towel that suits your taste!

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.

RainLeaf Microfiber Towel
Rainleaf Microfiber Towel Perfect Travel & Sports &Camping Towel.Fast Drying - Super Absorbent - Ultra Compact.Suitable for Backpacking,Gym,Beach,Swimming,Yoga
  • FAST DRYING - much comfortable for next use & convenient to pack. BEAUTIFUL COLOR - much suitable for multi use daily.
  • SKIN FRIENDLY - remarkable soft suede like feel on your skin and face.SUPER ABSORBENT-will absorb water 5 times more than its' weight but dry fast
  • ULTRA COMPACT & LIGHT WEIGHT - easy to carry and space saving. HANG SNAP LOOP - practical & easy to hang anywhere and dry. CARRY BAG - reusable
  • With all the features of Rainleaf microfiber towel listed above, they can do their job well as travel towels or sports towels. Also they are ideal for beach, travel, camping, swimming, backpacking, gym.
  • Pocket:Only XXL larger towel(40*72 inches) has the poacket in one of the corner.

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