How to Shower While Camping [3 Options] – Supplies & Set Up Explained

For some campers, figuring out how to shower while camping is extra important. And although your overall level of hygiene might decrease when camping, showering can help keep you feeling clean and refreshed.

But, how do you actually shower while camping? What kind of supplies and set up do you need? And, should you worry about attracting animals with your bad body odor?!?

Well, if you’re camping and sweating all day, chances are you’ll need to bathe sooner or later…

So, below is a breakdown of everything you need to know about how to shower while camping!

Article Contents:

Importance of Hygiene While Camping

Showering while camping, although not absolutely critical, is a great way to enhance your overall experience while outdoors.

For me, there are 2 key reasons why showering while camping is important.

1. Showering Prevents Excessive Odours (Obviously!)

Camping, especially in the summer, can be a hot and sweaty endeavor. Even during cooling seasons, you can easily work up a sweat while outdoors.

And, for some folks, excessive perspiration can become very… how can I say this gently… problematic?

After several days, your body odour may become unbearable to fellow campers. Perhaps you’ll be exiled to the spare tent to keep everyone else happy, hahaha!

But all jokes aside, excessive body odor can be quite embarrassing, so a shower can be very liberating.

2. Showering Helps Prevent Infections (e.g. UTI)

Camping can expose us to a lot more pathogens most of us are used to. And, although our body does an incredible job protecting us, these pathogens can wreck havoc on our health.

Cuts and scrapes can be an open door for infections, and ingestion or exposure to bacteria can also lead to nasty micro-organisms giving us grief from the inside out.

Well, showering can help shed your body of these pathogens, simultaneously cleaning and perhaps disinfecting areas that have been exposed.

Case-in-point, my wife developed a urinary tract infection (UTI) while backpacking. Needless to say, it was extremely uncomfortable for her. And, it would have been entirely preventable if she were able to shower and dry off properly properly.

Portable Camping Shower Options

Your camp shower options can vary depending on the type of camping you do. If you happen to camp at an established campground, chances are they have shower facilities.

But, if you camp at a more “basic” campground, car camp, or back country camp, you’ll need to bring your own shower supplies.

Thankfully, there are many portable camp shower options. Some are more suited for car camping, whereas others are more minimalistic for light-weight camping.

Car Camping Shower Options

If you’re car camping, you can afford to bring a more robust shower system since your car is doing the heavy lifting and storage. Here are are a couple of great shower options for car camping:

The Invation Portable Outdoor Shower is a battery powered handheld shower and super easy to use.

Simply place the pump portion in a bucket of water, hang the shower head up high, and turn on the pump!

And it’s rechargeable, so you’ll be able to plug it into any of the 4 Types of Charging Options for Camping.

Portable Camping Shower

Invation Portable Outdoor Shower

  • USB chargeable
  • 1 hour run time
  • Weighs 821 grams
  • Fits in a backpack

For a more luxurious shower experience while car camping, you’ll want the BaseCamp Battery Operated Shower System (B.O.S.S.) by Mr. Heater.

This compact unit utilizes a battery operated pump and propane to heat up and pump water at 22 liters per minute.

The batteries can last for 8 x 5 minute showers and one propane cylinder can last over 100 minutes! For cold weather car camping, this shower is a game changer…

Car camping heated shower

BaseCamp B.O.S.S.

  • Raises water temperature by 20oC
  • Powered by 4 D-cell batteries and 1-lb propane cylinder
  • Weighs 3.2 kg

Backcountry Camping Shower Options

Shower options for backcountry and backpacking camping trips need to be light-weight and compact. Here are two excellent options for camping trips where space and weight might be limited:

The Coleman Solar Shower is a passive shower perfect for small packs. To use it, simply fill the bladder with water and let is sit in the sun to heat up.

The black bag absorbs sun light and warms up the water. Then, hang it up and enjoy a warm shower anywhere! When you’re done, the bag folds flat for easy storage.

Coleman Camping Solar Shower

Coleman Solar Shower

  • 5 gallon / 19 litre capacity
  • Shower on/off valve
  • 250 gram weight
The Sea to Summit Pocket Shower is an ultra-lightweight option for light-weight camping trips. Basically, it’s a dry bag with a built-in shower nozzle!
Sea to Summit Pocket Camping Shower

Sea to Summit Pocket Shower

  • 6 gallon / 10 litre capacity
  • Adjustable flow shower head
  • 120 gram weight

7 Tips for a Proper Camping Shower Set Up

1. Find and Use a Clean Water Source

To shower, you’ll first need to source a relatively clean water source. Obviously you don’t want to use dirty water to clean yourself with.

Now, it doesn’t need to be pure water from a natural spring or glacial run-off water. Moving or large bodies of fresh water are sufficient. Rivers, lakes, and streams that are relatively clear are perfectly fine.

However, do not source shower water from stagnant water sources, or run-off downstream of farms or industries. If that’s the case, you’re better off not showering.

The water may contain pollutants and the contamination risk is too high from those sources.

2. Set Up an Adjustable Rope for Hanging Shower Bag

Some camp showers rely on a water bladder hung up to provide pressure and flow through a nozzle.

To make things easier for yourself and others, set up a hanging rope with a carabineer attached at one end. This way you can quickly adjust the height for different campers. You can also unclip the shower to refill it with water.

This also lets you maximize the difference height between the shower head and the water bladder, giving you lots of pressure for rinsing.

3. Position Shower Away from Bodies of Water

Because you’ll most likely be using a body wash, it’s best practice to bathe or position your shower set up away from sources of water. A good distance is 10 meters.

Just like washing dishes, it’s better if the run-off seeps into the ground and not directly into lakes, rivers and streams.

Biodegradable body wash only works if it absorbs into the ground and can then be broken down by micro-organisms.

4. Heat Water Bladder on Rocks

Most portable shower bladders are darker colored to absorb heat energy from the sun to heat up the water throughout the day.

To speed up the process, place the bladder on a large boulder or rock face. The rock should also heat up throughout the day, and transfer some heat to the shower bladder.

5. Use Biodegradable Body Wash

Most house-hold body wash products are unfit for direct release to the environment. They need to be treated through a water treatment plant before it’s safe for discharge.

So, instead of using your normal body wash, consider using a biodegradable body wash. They are safe to use outdoors, and contain no dyes or fragrances.

6. Set Up a Privacy Shelter

For the most part, you can shower with a bathing suit on. But, to ensure all your bits and pieces get scrubbed clean, sometimes is good to go fully nude while showering.

So, in that case, you might want to set up a privacy tent or shower stall. This pop-up shower tent by WolfWise is a fantastic, easy-to-use option for most car camping trips.

Pop up camping shower stall

Pop-Up Tent by WolfWise

  • Dimensions: 47.2″ L x 47.2″ W x 74.8″ H
  • Weighs 4.8 lbs
  • Water repellent fabric 
  • Inner pocket for toiletries
  • Inner clothes line

Pro-tip: Another option is to utilize a tarp to make a private space. However, you’ll have to get creative with ropes and sticks to fashion a suitable shower stall.

7. Have a Dry Line for Wet Clothes

Before you shower, it’s a good idea to set up a dry line for wet clothes and towels. This way, once you’re done showering, you can toss your wet bathing suit and towel onto this line right away.

A dry line should be exposed to as much sun as possible, so finding a suitable location is key. However, keep in mind the amount of foot traffic and access around your campsite, then hang a dry line.

 

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