easy camping shower

Shower Anywhere with This Easy, Cheap & Portable DIY Camping Shower

As one who showers daily (thanks, stringy blonde hair!), I used to have a rule that I wouldn’t stay at a campground unless it had hot showers.

And that meant I was missing out on some pretty incredible places to camp!

I went on the hunt to find the best camping shower, but they all seemed big, complicated, and expensive – like this one or this one. I wanted an easy, portable shower solution: a shower head with good water flow and at least a few gallons of water.

So, I bought a Sun Shower – and had the worst, coldest shower ever, after “baking” the solar shower in the sun for 12 hours, ugh! Not a great option.

Finally, I stopped searching, put on my thinking cap, and realized: it doesn’t have to be so hard. A good shower is just hot water over my head. 🙂

Here are the three things I use to make my portable shower:
  1. Collapsible bucket. This one is the perfect size and shape.
  2. Kettle
  3. Battery-operated pump with shower head. The highest-rated one on Amazon is the one I use.
  4. (optional) Privacy/shower tent. I use the cheapest one because it’s lighter and smaller.
I have showered outdoors with this portable system smack in the middle of a car show with crowds milling about; in an open field during a van rally; and a crowded campground just steps from my neighbors.

Here’s my “recipe” for making a warm outdoor shower:

Step 1 – Boil a kettle of water.

For this step, you don’t even need a kettle – you could also use a pan. You will just need to make sure you have enough hot water to make your shower warm enough.

Use a full kettle, which is six cups or 1.4 liters.

Bring the water to a roiling boil.

Step 2 – Fill your bucket halfway with cold water.

While your water is heating up, take your collapsible “folding” bucket and fill about halfway (in my video, I show you an easy way to gauge this).

My bucket is 15 liters – that’s about 4 gallons – and this combination yields a nice warm shower. If you want a warmer shower, you can use two kettles of hot water. I don’t recommend using a bigger bucket, as it will fall over more easily.

Find a flat spot to position your bucket. If you camp with dogs like me, it’s better to put your bucket out of reach.

If you are using a shower tent, I recommend putting the bucket in the tent before adding the hot water so you won’t have to move it and risk a spill.

A word on these awesome collapsible buckets: they come in different sizes and shapes, and I’ve found through experimentation that this is the best overall option. The shorter ones tip over easily, while the bigger sizes are too heavy and require more boiling water to achieve a comfortable temperature.

ProTip: This bucket has is super handy for other things too, like washing dishes, toting items to and from your camper or storage.

Step 3 – Pour the hot water from the kettle into the bucket.

Step 4 – Drop your shower pump in the bucket.

With your pump charged up, turn it on and lower it into your bucket while holding the showerhead.

Voila! You are showering.

This portable shower yields about three minutes of water flow, so you’ll want to shower military-style by getting yourself wet, turning off the pump to lather up, then turning it on again to rinse.

The one drawback with this pump is you can’t turn it off from the showerhead because the on/off button is located on the pump. I haven’t found a better option, though, so what I do to make sure I don’t lose any water when I’m ready to lather up is to pull the pump out of the bucket before turning it off (instead of turning it off in the bucket).

This shower pump is rechargeable by USB and holds a charge for a long time, but before you go camping, remember to check to make sure it has some juice. 🙂

One last note to add. In keeping with the leave-no-trace practice of responsible camping, if you’re showering outside, you’ll want to use a soap that’s completely biodegradable and doesn’t harm the environment.

I recommend Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Liquid Soap – it’s the only soap you’ll need for camping. In addition to lathering up in the shower, you can use it as a shampoo, dish detergent, and all-purpose cleaner.

Happy showering!

Want more clever camping ideas?

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This awesome toilet fits in our small camper!

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