Solar Showers

solar-shower

Solar showers use energy from the sun to heat water for an outdoor shower.  There are three main types of solar showers and each has a different design:

The Bag Shower

The simplest solar shower design is a shower bag.  The dark-colored plastic bag should be filled with water at least three hours before showering.  The dark bag material then absorbs radiant heat from the sun and warms the water.  To shower, the bag is hung overhead and the warm water then flows through a plastic tube to an attached shower head. The advantages of this system are: it is cheap to produce; easily portable when camping; and easy to assemble and disassemble on the move.

Disadvantages of this system are that the bag takes three hours to heat the water and that the design doesn’t work well in colder climates where there isn’t as much sunlight and air temperatures are cooler.   Some brands of bag shower use a 4-ply construction design and an insulation panel to mitigate these problems.

Shower Tents

Shower tents are small tented areas where an individual camper can shower, change or go to the toilet in privacy regardless of his or her location. The design of shower tents can vary depending on the manufacturer, but in general the dimensions are about 4 ft. square at the base and about 7 ft. high.   Shower tents are generally made
from a polyethylene and polyester (or similar) mix also used in commercial camping tents.  They are usually held up by steel and fiberglass poles (or similar) with nylon guy ropes.  Shower tents often have mesh windows and storage pockets to hold shower products.  A Shower tent is assembled in the same way as a camping tent.  It can be assembled and disassembled quickly and easily wherever it is needed.

The shower unit used in a shower tent is usually a bag design, but other types of camping showers (see below) can also be used. The advantages of the shower tent are: the privacy that it offers while camping; the ease of assembly and disassembly in any location; and the fact that it can be packed up into a small space for easy storage.  In addition, some shower tents have a removable floor to allow the collection of gray water at campsites where water run-off is restricted.  However, a disadvantage of this design is that it requires more space than the bag shower alone, and can add weight to a heavy rucksack.

Camping Showers

There is also a wide range of camping showers that use energy sources such as propane gas or a copper heat exchange mechanism to warm water for a shower.

Propane Burner Camping Showers

Propane burner camping showers use bottled propane gas to heat the water required for an outdoor shower. Designs vary, but typically a 16.4oz disposable propane tank can heat a 60 gallon capacity water tank in 10-15 minutes. To operate, the propane burner is held in a stainless steel tripod, on top of which is placed the filled water tank.  The gas is then lit and heats the water.  When the water reaches the appropriate temperature (about 100ºF), it is pumped to the shower head or into a plastic storage box by a submersible battery-powered pump. The plastic shower head can be attached to the storage box using a plastic tube. If available, the shower head can be mounted on a stand. When ready to shower, the water is pumped from the storage box to the shower head.

Advantages of some designs of propane burner camping showers are that they retain the small size and portability of solar camping showers. Propane burners can be used in all climates.  They heat water more quickly than the sun alone, and to a higher temperature.  A disadvantage of this type of product is the greater weight of the propane gas canister in a rucksack. Much larger propane tanks and shower units are available, but these are a lot less portable, and are more suited to staying in a fixed position such as a campsite, rather than for use when hiking.

Heat-Exchange Camping Showers

Some types of portable camping shower use a copper heat exchange mechanism to heat the water.  The metal coil is placed in a campfire and the copper then absorbs some of the fire’s heat and transfers it to water inside the pipe in order to heat it for a shower.   A 12-volt pump can then be used to pump the water along a plastic shower hose to the shower head.  This option is almost as light and portable as a solar bag, and has the advantage of working in colder climates where sunshine is less reliable.

Another type of camping shower to use heat exchange is a vehicle-mounted shower. The heat energy from motor vehicle engines is used to warm water for an outdoor shower.  A copper heat exchange coil is mounted under the vehicle’s hood but does not interfere with the workings of the engine.  As the hot fluids move from the vehicle’s
engine to its radiator the water is heated through the heat exchanger, and a 12-volt pump pumps the heated water to the shower head.  The
main advantage of a vehicle-mounted camping shower is that, once fitted, it is available to use with little further installation. The shower produces warm water whose temperature can be varied by controlling the speed in which it passes through the copper heat exchanger.  The disadvantages of this system are that it requires a vehicle in order to function.  It is ideal for day trips to the beach and for camping or touring holidays, but it is not suitable for hiking in the wilderness.AmazonAmazon.com stocks a wide range of solar showers, shower tents and camping showers.

Reviews

Shower Bags

Reviews of solar showers tended to vary from poor reviews for cheaper, more basic designs of bag shower, to very positive reviews for the better designed bags on the market.

Tents

The shower tents that received the best reviews tended to have more features and included a well-designed solar shower bag as part of their kit.  More basic shower tents, with no floor or ceiling, tended to be reviewed poorly, as these products required the user to find somewhere from which to hang their shower head.  A full range of available products and reviews can be found here.

Gas Burner Camping Showers

Propane burner camping showers generally received very positive reviews.

Coil Camping Showers

Reviews of coil camping showers are also generally positive.

 

 

 

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