Buying a solar camp shower: How to choose one?

There is nothing worse than wanting to have a refreshing shower after a long day of activities and realising that the shower you have is useless.

Understanding the water capacity, flow rate, and power source is essential as they will determine the type of portable shower to buy for basic camping.

Types of portable camping showers

  • Solar – Gravity-fed showers
  • Pressurised – Hand or foot pump portable shower
  • USB Rechargeable – Pump-operated, separate water source
  • 12v – Electrical run shower pump, separate water source

What to consider when buying a portable shower?

There are many types of camping showers available, so it is important to consider the following:-

Location, power source and design

Understanding how you will use your portable shower, how you will heat the water, whether there is an electrical supply available, and easy access to water will determine the type of portable shower you will buy.

If you are wild camping and do not have access to electricity and carrying all of your items in a rucksack, you will not want a rechargeable or a 12v pump shower. The simplest design that is compact light and can be heated using daylight is the solar shower.

However, if you are camping as a family, have access to electricity, freshwater, and remain in one location, a rechargeable or 12v pump would be more effective due to quick usage, flow rate and using a bucket or water carrier with preheated water.


Budget is an important factor, as there is no point in spending a fortune if you only use it a couple of times a year.

  • Gravity solar bags – 5 gallon – 10 gallons – £5.99 – £16.99
  • Pressurized foot pump – 4 gallons – £32.99 – £46.99 – Dr Prepare available as a manual foot pump or combined with a rechargeable pump
  • Rechargeable pump – £22.99 – £49.63
  • 12V pump – £12.19 – £44.99

Also, consider the cost of a shower tent. An ideal shower tent should be blackout privacy material, hang a showerhead, light, and wash items. Plus an additional cost of a mat or some form of protection for you to stand on that can dry easily. These costs can range from £20.99 to £124.99.

Water capacity

On average, 20 gallons of water is used for a 10-minute shower per person. Unless we use onsite facilities, showers take 2 – 3 minutes for a quick wash during camping trips. The water is switched on and off between getting yourself wet, lathering and rinsing. Expect to use approximately 5-6 gallons of water per shower.

The higher flow rate will use more water, and you will need to heat more water.

Weight and size

Weight and size are important factors, whether off-grid or family camping. Portable showers are all compact and lightweight to carry. However, consider how different the weight and size will be once filled with water, especially gravity solar showers.

Hard case showers such as the hand-pressurised portable shower are bulky, so you would not use this for wild or backpacking. Nor would you consider for family camping, as space is valuable. We buy more and more camping gear every year.


Some camping showers can be multi-purpose and easily used in other areas of your life. This can include watering the garden, cleaning dirty garden boots, and washing your dog or bike. The ideal camping shower is the pressurised free-standing solar shower.

It is easy to store when not in use, adjusts the nozzle for different water flows, and repressurises when needed.

What are the different types of camping showers?

PowerCapacityWeightAv. Dimensions packedHow long do they last?
Solar10 Gallons / 40 Ltrs
5 Gallons / 20 Ltrs
4 Gallons / 15 Ltrs
Empty – 0.25 Kg

Filled with water

10 G – 37.78 Kg
5 G – 18.92 Kg
4 G – 15.14 Kg
22.1 x 16.51 x 5.59 cmAv – 3 gallons per minute

10 gallons – 3.33 Minutes
5 gallons – 1.66 Minutes
4 gallons – 1.33 Minutes
Pressurized5 Gallons / 20 Ltrs
4 Gallons / 15 Ltrs
3 Gallons / 11 Ltrs
Empty – 1.39 Kg‎25.6 x 24.8 x 15.4 cmVaries depending on the pressure

On average, the flow will last for 3 minutes
USB RechargeableMains rechargeable
Gallons depend on bucket or water container size
Pump, shower head – 0.72 Kg23.7 x 21.1 x 7.4 cmVaries depending on bucket size

Av 3 gallons per minute
12v power pump12v mains supply (car charge)

Gallons depend on bucket or water container size
Pump, shower head – 0.81 Kg ‎20.9 x 20.7 x 6.9 cmVaries depending on bucket size

Av 3 gallons per minute
Different types of camping showers

Pros and cons of portable camping showers

Portable showerProsCons
Easy to use
Easy to repair if leaks
Can place hot water inside
Great for quick washdown
Compact and portable
Heavy when full of water
It needs to be high to work efficiently
Requires a solid branch to hold weight
The handle can break due to weight
Not suitable for winter
Difficult to fill, and water will spill out
Not ideal for a full soapy body wash
Water leaks from water filler when placed in the sun
Not suitable for Utility tents due to weight
The shower hose is not very long and not very flexible
Showerhead is small
Pressurised bagFreestanding
Easy to fill with water
Foot pump to pressurise
Reasonably priced
Screwed water filler cap reducing leaks
Compacts easily into a carry bag
Can have showerhead hooked to utility unit or tree
Easy to move due to handle
Secure on the ground
Lightweight for transporting
Easy to use
Shower hose flexible
Suitable water pressure
You can control pressure by using the foot pump
Air leaks
Over 5 hours in the sun to heat
It may need to repump due to loss of pressure
Time-consuming to fill with water
Need to leave space for air for pressure
Pressurised hand containerLarger water fill section
Solid bottle, so easy to fill
Reasonably priced
Long hose
The showerhead has control, so easy to switch off but needs to hold down to wash.
Can add warm water
Strap and handle carry
Easier to pump using bodyweight
The showerhead can be held above the head easily or clipped to a solid structure
No air seepage through materials
has a manual pressure release – hiss when activated
Good flow rate
Water level windows
Not easy compact for transport
Small shower head
Bulky to transport and carry
Need to leave space for air for pressure
Rechargeable pumpsEasy to use
Portable and compact
Charge by USB
The pump sits in a bucket or water container
Easy to charge by USB
On/Off switch separately to pump
Great pressure for washing up, cleaning muddy shoes
ideal for watering the garden, not just camping
Can top with warm water
Electrical so can break easily.
It needs to be fully charged to work efficiently
Not as powerful as a 12v shower pump
Need additional water holder
Need access to electricity to charge
Must not let the pump run dry as it can overheat
USB charge point to pump not standard, so must keep it safe
Need to clean filters
Electrical 12v shower pumpsStrong water flow
Do not need to recharge
Can top with warm water
Suction pad to hold showerhead, for placing on van or car window
Different flow settings – average 3 Ltrs per person
Not ideal for off-grid camping
need 12 v electrical supply
External water bucket or container
Do not let the pump run down
Breakable due to electrical connection
Make sure the power supply is not near the water
Need to clean filters
Lots of cables that can easily tangle
Pros and cons of portable camping showers

How does solar shower bags work?

Colemans gravity solar shower

Solar bags are made of a unique heat-absorbent material that absorbs sun rays when placed in direct sunlight. Water is placed inside the bag to heat. The longer it is left in daylight, the warmer the water will be. They are typically placed clear side up but check the instructions first.

When the water is heated, it must hang at its highest point. Gravity forces the water through the hose to the showerhead. Cheaper solar gravity bags have a switch on the bag to control the on/off and water flow. However, the Colemans and other well-known brands have water control on the showerhead, a pull, push, off and on.

We were very surprised whilst using the Colemans shower compared to other makes such as Risepro, Advance and Dr Prepare that it leaked whilst heating. Considering the cost of buying, you would expect this issue not to occur. Other problems with using a solar bag are the weight and the inability to fill it completely.

Read our findings in our buyers’ guide on solar bags. We tested different solar shower designs and were very surprised by the result. The Coleman solar shower was poorly designed and leaked, whereas we found the hanging facility was not very strong and would not support it if fully filled.

What temperature is suitable to heat a solar shower bag

Solar showers rely on external ambient temperatures to warm water stored in the bag. They require direct sunlight for at least 5 hours to heat lukewarm water and are more suitable for warm weather over 100 °F / 37 °C. However, they can be used from a minimum temperature of 68 °F / 20 °C but can take up to 7 hours to provide a comfortable, quick shower at a water temperature of 98.6 °F / 37 °C.

In warmer climates, they are ideal and can be used during the winter months, as it is not as cold as in the UK. However, solar shower bags are not suitable in the UK from autumn.

I have cheated and placed preheated water instead of cold tap water inside our solar bag. Especially if it is not very warm, it does not cool quickly, but it does help to warm the water faster in daylight and provides a comfortable shower. Plus, you do not need to worry about leaving it in direct sunlight all day.

What is the difference between gravity and a pressurised solar shower bag?

Pressurised solar camping shower

There are two types of solar showers, gravity-fed and pressurised portable shower bags. A gravity bag uses gravity to push the water to the showerhead, but it does depend on how high the bag is placed. The higher the bag, the greater the gravity pull. The showerhead should not be held above the hose connections to the bag.

Pressurised solar bags rely on pressure buildup within the bag to push the water through the showerhead. There are two types of pressurised showers.

  • Foot/leg pump pressurisation
  • Hand pump presurisaton

They both work the same way, but a hand pump action portable shower is a sold container that holds the water, and a handle is pushed up and down until it is no longer possible. There is a quick-release nozzle that enables you to release pressure once finished. The foot pump is a compact foldable bag with a foot pump attached to the base to pressurise.

Pressurised bags should not be filled entirely with water; space must be left for air when pumped. For a 7 ltr bag or container, leave 2 ltr free space for air. They do lose pressure, but you will need to repressurise them as the water it’s used and or left standing. Air does escape from the bags, but not massively, and I have not found this an issue.

Our buyers’ guide compares the Dr Prepare solar bag with other solar gravity bags. It is great if you cannot lift heavy loads as the pressure via the foot pump or rechargeable pumps will force the water.

Do solar showers work

Solar showers do work if you can leave them to heat in strong sunlight. The less water in the bag will heat more quickly. However, if there are several of you, do not expect to have a long refreshing shower. You need to be very quick; otherwise, you will need to reheat the water for others.

They are great for cleaning hands, feet and a quick wash, but once you are wet, turn off, use soap and turn them on to rinse off. This will save wasting water, as you do not want to wait hours for more hot water. Especially if you are unable to heat water via another power source.

The water flow is slow, so do not expect to wash and rinse your hair thoroughly.

How do rechargeable showers pump work?

Simply heat the water before usage, place it in a bucket or a water container and submerge the pump. The on/off switch is either on the pump itself or in a separate section. The showerhead is hooked inside a camping shower unit or uses a suction pad to easily attach to a car or van window. Once the pump is switched on, it draws the water up the hose to the showerhead.

Rechargeable showers have, on average, three sections: a pump, a rechargeable battery source connected to the pump, and a long hose approximately 1.5 – 2 m in length connected to the showerhead. Some have interchangeable showerheads, depending on usage.

Are 12v camping showers the same as rechargeable showers?

The only difference between the two showers is the 12v shower pump required continuous electrical connection via an in-car cigarette charger. The rechargeable needs an electrical supply to charge the pump via a USB connection point cable.

They both have pumps placed inside an external water bucket. Water is pumped through the hose to the showerhead. The rechargeable shower is more adaptable to the environment. It can be fully charged before a camping trip and potentially charged during a trip.

The water flow will be low if the shower pump is fully recharged. An average charge will last approximately 1 hour of continuous usage. However, this is irrelevant with a 12v camping shower.

I prefer the rechargeable shower as the water flow is sufficient for our usage, easily recharged. Plus, we often camp where there are campsite showers, so we use to clean our hands before meals and for washing up after meals.

Related questions

How to dry gravity solar showers to avoid mould

A solar gravity bag does not need to be dried daily during a camping trip. However, it is important to dry before storing to avoid mould buildup over time.

There are two ways to clean. Firstly, open the water filler cap and remove the shower hose pipe section if possible. Emptying all water.

  • Place a hairdryer on the lowest setting over the water filler section and gently blow it into the shower bag. This is time-consuming, so don’t be tempted to place it on full heat, as it will damage the bag.
  • Use a triangle-shaped coat hanger (suitable for shirts and trousers) and cut the lower section in half. Thread one end through the water filler section and the other through the water hose section. Hang it on a washing line or an area where it can dry easily.

How heavy are gravity solar camping showers

They are cumbersome and difficult to lift up high onto a tree branch above your head to have sufficient gravity to push the water to the showerhead. A 5-gallon bag weighs 41.64 lb / 18.89 kg, and a 10-gallon bag weighs 83.29 lbs / 37..78 kg.

In comparison, a granulated bag of sugar weighing 1kg, imagine trying to lift 19 bags in one go above your head and securing yourself with a rope or hook. It needs two people ideally, but even this can be difficult.

We do not fill our whole bag; on average, we only fill halfway; so we can lift easier.

How to take a hot shower when camping?

When camping, many of us want to have a warm shower. Several showers, such as gravity or pressurised solar showers that rely on sun rays to heat, are available. On average, it will take up to 7 hours to heat it to a temperature of 98.6 °F / 37 °C with an ambient temperature of 68 °F / 20 °C. You can place preheated water inside if necessary. Rechargeable or 12v pump showers use an external water source such as a bucket or water container. Water is preheated before use.


I'm a single parent who loves pitching a tent and exploring the countryside at any opportunity. I am working with a glamping pod company and helping them to set up a family campsite in East Riding Yorkshire.

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