We love camping and the occasional off-grid trip.
But here’s the thing. We also like being clean. Don’t get us wrong, we don’t need to shower every single day, but if it’s super humid and you’re starting to smell a little funky, being able to shower comes in handy.
And if you’d prefer to shower with hot water out in the wild, then you should check out these solar showers. All they need is some sunlight, and you’ll be able to have a nice hot shower pretty much anywhere.
To make it onto this list of the best solar showers of 2021, the candidates had to pass a few eye tests. They had to be reasonably easy to fill up with water, for one, and they also had to be able to heat water up to at least 112 degrees Fahrenheit. We’ll get into the reason for this a bit later.
Now, let’s look at the four best solar showers.
What are the 4 best solar showers?
- Capacity: 2.4 gallons / 9 litres
- Weight: 5 pounds / 2.45 kg
- Packed size: 18 x 13.5 x 2 inches (sink closed)
- Unpacked dimensions: 18 x 13.5 x 7 inches (sink open) + 14 inch faucet
- Solar case: Nylon, EVA
- Filter: Polycarbonate, ABS, activated carbon, NanoAlumina, polypropylene
- Sink: ABS, Silicone
- Clamp: Stainless steel, cast aluminium
- Faucet: Acetal, nylon
Our favorite of the group isn’t just a solar shower. It’s a water filter, sink, and heater too (so you won’t need a separate water heater).
Not only does it use solar power to filter out an incredible 99.99% of pathogens from water to make it safe to drink and wash your hands with, it also heats the water to give you nice hot water to shower with.
Here’s a quick look at how it works:
The USB-powered pump saves you from having to manually pump water, and it pumps over 100 gallons of water—on a single charge. (Thanks, sunlight!)
It’s also important to note that even though the weight is technically five pounds—making it heavier than other solar showers on the list—the actual shower head is quite light and you can clamp it to almost any structure that’s higher up than you.
This is different from most other solar showers, which make you attach the entire bag of water to a tree or sturdy structure. (If it’s a five-gallon bag, that’s about 40 pounds.)
Even with all that, the GoSun Flow is small enough to fit into a backpack, and even comes with a built-in solar panel on the carrying case. (Learn more about portable solar panels.)
- Capacity: 5 gallons / 18.9 litres
- Weight: 1.3 pounds / 600 g
- Material: PVC-free 2-layer construction
The Advanced Elements 5 Gallon solar camp shower is another great option for folks who like camping and going on extended trips—but still want the option of taking a hot shower.
The nice thing about the Advanced Elements solar shower is it comes in a few different sizes depending on how long of a shower you like to take.
This five-gallon shower takes about two to three hours to heat up if you put it in direct sunlight, and gets up to a temperature range of 100 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit (or 38 to 88 degrees Celsius).
|🚿 Pro-tip: While this temperature range might sound impressive, hotter isn’t always better. Doctors actually recommend not taking showers hotter than 120 degrees Fahrenheit because it might injure your skin.|
Advanced Elements has also thought of neat little bonus features like the helpful Velcro straps that you can use to hold soap and shampoo, razors, and loofahs. We usually have to pack this stuff in a separate toiletries bag, so this is very handy!
If you don’t think you’ll need five gallons of water at a time, there’s a three and 2.5-gallon solar shower too. Oh, and make sure you choose the PVC-free option because Advanced Elements makes two different five-gallon solar showers (and the other one is not PVC-free).
|🚿 Pro-tip: When you’re thinking of what size solar shower you want, remember that showers with a bigger capacity take a longer time to heat up the water—but also retain that heat better.|
So our tip would be: if you take quick showers and are just “in and out,” then here, you might find the 2.5 gallon option more convenient than the five-gallon option. (2.5 gallons is also typically how much water one person uses per shower, so if you’re travelling with a partner or family, then you’ll also probably want at least a five-gallon solar shower.
This bag has been designed with a durable two-layer construction that includes a reflector panel, insulator panel, solar panel, a temperature gauge that shows you how hot the water is, a water reservoir, and a clear window.
- Capacity: 5 gallons / 18.9 litres
- Weight: 0.44 pounds / 200 g
- Material: According to Coleman’s website, it’s some type of heat locking material
If you’ve ever bought camping gear before, then you probably recognize the Coleman brand. (Just off the top of our heads, we used a Coleman tent and a Coleman cooler last. Seriously, their products are everywhere.)
And yep, Coleman makes solar showers too. This one is a five-gallon that holds enough water at a time for two people to take a shower.
It takes about three hours under direct sunlight to heat your shower water up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, or 49 degrees Celsius. That’s pretty comparable to the Advanced Elements Solar Shower in terms of time needed to heat the water, but this one doesn’t get nearly as hot.
To be honest though, we don’t really take showers hotter than 49 degrees Celsius / 120 degrees Fahrenheit anyway, and again, dermatologists recommend a shower temperature of 112 degrees Fahrenheit.
Camping solar showers like the Coleman product are designed with a heat-locking material that heats the water using solar energy and allows you to take a nice warm shower.
This solar heated camp shower is easy to fill, easy to carry, and easy to use for any outdoor situation. Its strong handle can be reliably used for hanging and carrying. It also integrates a handy on/off valve that is connected to the showerhead and allows you to regulate the water pressure.
- Capacity: 5.8 gallons / 22 litres
- Weight: 2 pounds / 905 g
- Packed size: 6.5 x 10.5 inches diameter / 16 x 26 cm diameter
- Unpacked dimensions: 10 x 23 inches / 26 x 58 cm
- Material: PU coated polyester, TPU, Neoprene tubing
One of the first things you’ll notice about the Nemo Helio solar shower is that you don’t hang it up like most other solar showers. Those types of solar showers typically try to take advantage of gravity to make the water flow downward and allow you to, well, shower.
The problem with that solar shower design is that the water pressure isn’t always great. It might be okay if your shower bag is completely full and there’s even pressure to force the water out, but that goes away once you start using up the water.
On the other hand, the Helio solar shower has a foot pump that you can step on to pressurize the tank and create water pressure.
According to Helio, “with occasional pumps you can keep it fully pressurized for seven to 10 minutes of strong, continuous spray.”
The other cool thing about this solar shower is that you can hook it up to Helio’s Heliopolis™ privacy shelter, which comes with a thoughtfully designed fitted nozzle holder:
This lets you use the overhead shower while keeping your hands free to get the shampoo, scrub yourself down, all that good stuff.
FAQs about solar showers
1. How to choose the best solar shower for you: 3 things to look for
When you’re buying a solar shower, there are a few key features to look for.
If you really want to nerd out and learn more about the intricacies of solar showers, the Florida Solar Energy Center wrote a paper that goes into detail about how solar showers work and stuff like how quickly solar showers typically heat up.
Regardless, here are a few characteristics to look for as you’re shopping for a solar shower.
How hot the solar shower gets
This isn’t going to fluctuate too much between solar showers because to be honest, most of their temperature ranges are pretty similar.
Most solar showers should be able to reach the dermatologist-recommended shower temperature of 112 degrees Fahrenheit. So that part’s easy.
The thing you have to watch out for, though, is a solar shower that claims it can get all the way up to temperatures like 190 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. We’ve mentioned this above, but it’s worth reiterating: Hotter isn’t always better!
Water that’s hot to the point of scalding isn’t just painful as you’re showering, it makes your shower bag itself hard to handle too.
How much water it can hold
When you’re looking at solar showers, you’ll notice that most of them tell you their capacity in gallons or litres. This is basically how much water the shower’s bag or tank can hold and heat at any given time. Keep in mind that once you use up the hot water in the tank or bag, you’ll have to start the process all over again if someone else needs to take a hot shower or if you need hot water.
That means you’ll need to fill it again and wait a few hours for the water to heat up. Most standard solar showers have a capacity of about five gallons (or 20 litres).
|🚿 Pro-tip: How much water is five gallons, really? Well, in most showers, five gallons will last you from about two minutes. So, if you’re using a solar shower, efficiency is key! Don’t dawdle, do your business and get outta there.|
How easy it is to set up
Some solar showers hang, others stand on the ground. This is also a good reason to take the weight of your solar shower into consideration, and why we included it in the key specs for each solar shower on the list.
If you have a hanging solar shower that’s really heavy, it might be a lot of work finding a tree branch that’s sturdy enough to hang the shower from.
Other things to look for in a solar shower
Beyond the basics, we like thoughtful design touches that make taking a shower easier if you’re on a camping trip.
For example, some type of carrying case to make the solar shower more portable, or a clear panel on the bag so you can see how much water you have left as you’re shower… Stuff like that.
2. How does a solar shower actually work?
The actual concept of a solar shower is pretty simple. You don’t need a fancy solar panel setup or anything.
Just fill your solar shower’s bag with water, and let it sit under direct sunlight (this won’t work as well if it’s cloudy!) for a few hours and it’ll heat up to a temperature that’s high enough for a hot shower. (Typically, 112 degrees Fahrenheit, though many solar showers can go hotter than this.)
If you want to speed up this process even more, put your solar shower bag on a reflective surface or something that will help it absorb heat, like a piece of metal or a large boulder or rock.
Remember, the larger the solar shower’s bag, the more water there is to heat up—and the longer it’ll take. And while a smaller bag will heat up faster, it’ll also lose that heat faster.
Once the water is hot enough, you’ll need to find a sturdy tree with strong branches that you can hang the solar shower from. A five-gallon solar shower weighs about 40 pounds, so make sure you’re using a big enough tree!
3. How do you clean and take care of a solar shower?
Because there aren’t many (or any) complicated parts in a solar shower, it’s actually not that much work to clean and maintain.
You’ll probably have to rinse out the shower and bag once in a while. Try to avoid harsh chemicals and keep to baking soda and warm water, and that should do it!
Which solar powered shower will you choose?
Now, you should know the basics of what to look for in a solar shower. The best solar shower out of the bunch here for us is the GoSun Flow, but there are tons of great options.
Choose the best solar shower for you (or your family) based on what’s most important for you, like size, dimensions, and temperature range. Happy showering!