How to make an easy DIY outdoor shower for camping

by | Feb 17, 2023 | Camp hygiene

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Ah, there’s nothing quite like stepping into the refreshing spray of a hot shower.

If you’re frontcountry camping at a campground, you may have access to public shower facilities.

But if you don’t, or you’re backcountry camping, you may have to try a DIY solution to get the same experience.

A woman showering outside.

Fortunately, making a DIY outdoor shower is pretty easy if you’re willing to invest in a couple of inexpensive items.

Don’t worry—you don’t have to spend hours of your time sawing, cutting, drilling, or hammering anything.

Here at Gone Camping Again, we like to keep our DIY projects as simple as possible.

That’s why we’re going to give you two DIY outdoor shower options:

  1. Gravity camp shower
  2. Bucket and pump shower

DIY option #1: Gravity camp shower

I’ll admit it’s a bit of a stretch to call this a DIY project mainly because you’re not really making anything.

The gravity camp shower is an all-in-one solution that you simply have to fill with water, hang in a tree, and use.

A gravity camp shower.

If you’re familiar with gravity filters for drinking water, they work exactly the same way.

There are tons of them out there, and you can get them for as cheap as $12.

Most, however, cost around $25 and up.

One of the best things about these types of DIY outdoor showers is that most of they are designed to be solar-heated, meaning they constructed with special materials like—like reflector panels—to heat the water as it’s exposed to the sun’s rays.

If you like warm water for showering, then this is a big plus.

Here are a few of our favourite gravity camp shower options:

Coghlan’s solar heated camp shower

This is one of your cheapest options at just $11.99 USD!

It holds 5 gallons of water, is super compact, and keeps showering as simple as possible.

Keep in mind that because this one is so inexpensive, there aren’t any extra features that allow you to control water flow—it’s either on or off.

It’s not exactly fancy, but hey, it gets the job done!

Wild Republic canvas camping shower

The design of this gravity camp shower is different than most others, but that’s what makes it awesome!

The shower bag is made of thick canvas material and includes a brass shower head that provides a steady stream of water.

It holds 4.5 gallons of water and includes an on/off valve that can be adjusted to your preferred flow rate.

Although it’s not meant to be solar-heated, that’s a small price to pay for a beautiful, environmentally-friendly design—and a tree planted for every purchase!

For just $29.99 USD, it’s a steal.

Advanced Elements solar shower

Last but not least, we have one last option for campers who really love a warm shower.

This 5-gallon solar shower is made to optimize heat retention and even includes a temperature gauge so that you know exactly when your water has finished heating up.

The manufacturer claims that the water can heat up to 110°F in under three hours when exposed to direct sunlight.

It even comes with a convenient mesh pouch to store toiletries while you’re showering.

Not bad for just about $36 USD.

Tips for showering with a gravity camp shower

A gravity camp shower head with running water.

Gravity camp showers are a great idea, but they can still be tricky to set up and use.

Here are some tips we have for you to keep in mind if this is the DIY outdoor shower you want to take:

  • Find a sturdy tree branch and test it first. Before filling the bag with water, make sure the branch you plan to hang it from is high enough for you to shower and can support the weight.
  • Don’t fill the bag all the way if you don’t need to. The more water you put in, the heavier it will be, and most people can get a fill shower in less than half the typical 5-gallon capacity.
  • Get someone to help you lift and hang the bag. Water is heavy—even if you don’t fill it all the way.
  • Turn the valve off when you’re lathering up. To save on water, it can help to turn the valve off when you’re lathering up and only turn it back on when you need to rinse off.
  • Don’t drink the water. Given that the water hasn’t been filtered and many gravity camp showers are constructed with PVC, it’s best to avoid drinking any of the water or using it for cooking.

DIY option #2: Bucket and shower pump

Another option you have is similar to the gravity camp shower, but it doesn’t necessarily require you to hang the shower head from the tree.

It’s more of a handheld kind of DIY outdoor shower.

A woman showering outdoors in the summer.

This one is also a better option if you’d rather heat your own water over a campfire.

You really only need two things:

Item #1: A battery-powered shower head pump

This is basically a shower head attached to a long hose and a pump at the other hand, which you place in a bucket of water.

Just turn it on and enjoy a continuous stream of water from the shower head.

These are great if you prefer a handheld shower, but many like this one from Ivation also include hanging features such as suction cups or hooks.

You could also easily attach it to a tree or branch with something as simple as a bungee cord.

Item #2: A bucket

Any bucket will do, but if weight and space are an issue, we recommend getting one of these collapsible buckets for the most convenvience.

This one from Esthesia holds 5 gallons, which is more than enough for showering.

When you’re done, just collapse it and store it away for your next shower.

Easy as pie!

Optional item #3: A big campfire pot to heat your water

If you want warm/hot water to shower with, you’re going to need to heat it over the campfire in a pot before pouring it into your bucket.

Remember that you don’t have to bring the water to a boil—just to a warm enough temperature to shower with.

The bigger the pot, the more water you can heat, so we recommend a big one like this 8-gallon Camp Chef aluminum hot water pot.

This one is a great option because it has a convenient spigot valve at the bottom to easily pour water into your bucket.

Bonus DIY option: Shower enclosure

An orange curtain.

Some people are fine showering in their bathing suits and don’t need any privacy.

Others prefer a more private experience, and that’s where a DIY shower enclosure comes in handy.

This is basically a curtain that you hang from a tree or branch that provides enough privacy for you to shower without having to worry about anyone seeing you.

If you don’t want to bother making one yourself out of a few simple supplies, you can buy one online, like the Textsport portable outdoor privacy camp shower.

It works well with the gravity-style camp shower, but you could also use it with a shower pump and bucket.

If you’d rather try your hand at making your own, you can easily do so with a few basic items like:

A DIY outdoor shower enclosure.
  • A large hula hoop to create the upper frame of your shower enclosure
  • A basic shower curtain with ring hooks to hang it on the hula hoop
  • Some cordage like paracord or rope to tie to the hula hoop and hang from a tree
  • An optional large hook or clothing hanger to tie the cordage to, for easier and convenient hanging

And there you have it!

A privacy enclosure for showering.

Extra tips for showering while camping

We always encourage campers to follow the “leave no trace” rule, so we have a few extra recommendations for you to consider to help minimize your environmental impact as much as possible.

Set up your DIY camp shower at least 200 feet (about 70 steps) away from water sources like lakes and rivers to avoid contaminating them.

We recommend the same rule when going to the bathroom in the woods and disposing of dirty dishwater.

Choose biodegradable soaps, shampoos, and conditioners whenever possible.

Campsuds all-purpose cleaner.

We’re a big fan of Campsuds all-purpose liquid soap because it can be used to clean both hair and body.

Rinse the surrounding shower area by pouring water over any leftover soap suds.

This will help spread out any residue and encourage it to break down quicker.

With these tips in mind, you’re ready to hit the trails and enjoy a proper shower while camping!

Have fun, stay safe, and don’t forget to leave no trace. 🙂

Next up: How to pack clothes for camping

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About Us

Elise & Ross

We’re Elise and Ross, avid backcountry campers and outdoor adventurers! We started Gone Camping Again as a way to share our knowledge and experience about wilderness living and travel. Our hope is that we inspire you to get outside and enjoy all that nature has to offer!

Read more about our story.