How to Make a Camping Shower for Overlanding

All that time on the dusty trails might lead to some impressive sights, but it could also lead to some equally as unimpressive smells—especially if you don’t have a shower handy! The only thing that would really top off a day of overlanding is a nice, relaxing shower before climbing into your rooftop tent for the night.

Unfortunately, there’s not much room in the average overland rig for a full-blown shower. After all, even 40-foot RVs have limited shower space! But just because you’re way off the beaten path in a smaller overland rig doesn’t mean you have to be smelly for the entire trip. Wash that dust off your face; here’s how to make a camping shower for overlanding adventures.

Camping Shower for Overlanding

Basic DIY Garden Hose Camping Shower

If there aren’t any waterfalls or streams nearby, what’s the best way to get clean out on the trail? One of the most popular camping showers for overland trips is the simple, cost-effective garden hose shower.

The best part? It’s pressurized! You don’t have to worry about gravity and can still get a nice, relaxing shower with decent water pressure.

  • To make a garden hose camping shower, all you need is a few easy-to-find parts:
  • Nozzle – This will be your shower head. You can go for the budget garden hose nozzle, but a nozzle with a larger head that can give you a more comfortable shower and that extra coverage you need on the dusty trail.
  • Garden sprayer – This is your water tank and pressurizer all in one. Garden sprayers come in all shapes and sizes, so find one that has the capacity and size that will fit your overlanding needs. Also, don’t just grab the one from your garage. Make sure the sprayer is new, so you’re not spraying garden chemicals all over yourself. Otherwise, you’ll need another shower after your overland shower.
  • Barbed hose adapter – To merge garden hose nozzle and garden sprayer, you’ll need a hose barb and adapter. Make sure you grab the right adapter to fit your sprayer of choice.
  • Garden hose fitting – This attaches to the barbed hose adapter, so you can screw your nozzle right on the end. Again, make sure your garden hose fitting fits all the other components you choose. Luckily, most garden hose nozzles are the same size, so they’re basically universal.
  • Small hose clamp – Don’t want all that shower water pressure blowing off your nozzle! Grab a few small hose clamps to keep all the hoses together.

Once you have all the parts, it’s time for some construction! Here are the steps to assemble your DIY garden hose camping shower:

  1. Cut off the pre-attached nozzle from your new garden sprayer. I know, it hurts to cut something you just bought, but it’ll be worth it when you’re squeaky clean out on the trail!
  2. Slip the hose clamp over the hose.
  3. Put the hose barb into the hose. It might take some wiggling to get it all the way in. If it absolutely won’t go in, try heating the hose a bit to make it expand.
  4. Tighten the clamp around the barb. This will keep the hose in place and prevent leaks.
  5. Attach the hose-to-pipe adapter to the threads on the end of the barb. This will change the thread pattern, so it fits your nozzle of choice.
  6. Screw on your garden hose nozzle.

For visual learners, check out this helpful video detailing the build process.

Now that all the parts are assembled, just give your garden sprayer a few pumps, pull the handle on your nozzle, and enjoy a pressurized shower no matter where your travels take you!

While this shower option is inexpensive, easy, portable, and provides pressurized water (which sounds like a lot), it does have one downside: It won’t give you warm water. There might be some shivering involved if you’re not overlanding in warm climates.

The best options to warm up your tank water is to leave it in the sun or paint the tank black to help soak in some extra sunlight. Or, you could always look into heated camping shower options…

How to Take a Warm Shower Outdoors

Is the cold-shower life not for you? That’s okay! There are plenty of camping shower options for overlanders looking to stay warm.

The two most popular are the propane camping shower and the solar water bag. There are pros and cons to both, so it’s up to you to choose the one that best fits your overlanding style:

Propane Camping Shower

Overlanders already use propane to heat their food and tents, so why not use it to heat shower water too!?

Propane camping showers might be a bit more expensive than the DIY garden hose shower, but you don’t have to do any assembly (aside from screwing on the 1lb propane tank) and you get piping hot water in a moment’s notice.

Most propane camping showers also have built-in water pumps, so you don’t have to worry about taking a shower under a lackluster drip. While it might be the closest thing you can get to your shower at home while out on the trail, it does require propane and electricity to work properly. Make sure you have enough supplies for enough warm showers to last throughout your entire trip.

These showers come in all shapes, sizes, features, and capacities. Do some shopping and see which one works best for your overlanding style. One of our favorites is the Coleman H2Oasis.

Solar Water Bag

For those who refuse to compromise on price or shower temperature (and who can blame them), there’s the solar water bag. A solar water bag is basically a big Capri-Sun pouch (bag of water) that heats the contents using solar energy. When you’re ready to shower, simply hang the bag up high and use the valve to shower yourself with warm, cozy water—no propane or electricity required.

While solar water bags are inexpensive and provide heated water, they’re not pressurized. All your water pressure comes from gravity, so make sure you have somewhere to hang it. Most campers choose a tree or the roof rack on their rig (as long as it’s tall enough).

Like other camping shower options, solar water bags come in different sizes. You can usually find them in five and ten-gallon capacities. Of course, carrying a ten-gallon bag of water isn’t the easiest task, so many overlanders opt for the more portable five-gallon option.

Check out the Advanced Elements Summer Shower to get a better idea of how a solar water bag works and all its lovely features.

Outdoor Shower Accessories

Just like all overlanding equipment, camping showers come with their fair share of accessories to help make your shower experience a little more comfortable. Of course, you can choose the various shower heads, hoses, and heating elements, but the most common outdoor shower accessory is the pop-up shower tent.

Pop-Up Shower Tents

Shower tent by lake

If you’re not a fan of showering out in the open (although that breeze does feel nice…), a pop-up shower tent is a must-have. They’re portable, easy-to-assemble tents that are tall enough for you to stand in. They have a closable door for all the privacy you could ever need and no floor for easy drainage and cleanup.

Most pop-up shower tents can be set up in a matter of seconds and fold down to super-compact sizes. Many even come with hooks at the top for easy use with solar water bags.

Again, pop-up shower tents come in all shapes and sizes and with varying features. You can choose a simple, inexpensive tent or a more sturdy pop-up tent with all the pockets and features you could ever hope for.

Pop-up shower tents are also great for going to the bathroom while overlanding. Just set up your portable toilet inside the tent and enjoy some privacy when nature calls.

Camping Shower FAQ

Choosing a camping shower for overlanding isn’t an easy decision. Which style should you use, what capacity do you need, and how often will you have to refill your tank? To alleviate all your concerns, here are some of the most common camping shower frequently asked questions.

Where Do You Shower on Road Trips?

There are plenty of places to shower while you’re out on the road:

  • Gyms – If you have a membership to a nation-wide gym chain, just pop into the nearest location and take a shower. They’re clean, comfortable, and easy to find (depending on which gym you choose).
  • Public pools – There’s always a shower at the public pool. If you happen to be near a community with a pool, it might be an easy place to grab a quick shower. Plus, it’s a good spot to cool off!
  • Gas stations – You can also find showers at many gas stations—especially truck-friendly stations like Pilots. After all, you have to get gas for your rig eventually anyway! Showering in a gas station might cost you between $7-15, but at least you’ll be clean.
  • Campgrounds – If you’re staying in a designated campground or state or national park, there’s a good chance they have shower facilities available at no extra charge beyond the site fee.
  • Anywhere you want – If you get a portable camping shower for overlanding, you can shower pretty much wherever you want. Just make sure you follow all Leave No Trace Principles, so you don’t hurt the environment with soapy water. Otherwise, you can shower wherever the trail takes you.  

How Many Gallons Do You Need for a Camping Shower?

Most camping showers for overlanding hold around five gallons of water. You can find a few models that come with a ten-gallon capacity, but at a certain point, that much water just becomes unwieldy—especially if you choose a solar water bag.

How many gallons you need in a camping shower depends on a few different variables:

  • The length of your trip
  • Your shower nozzle
  • How many people need to shower
  • Your showering habits

Obviously, if you’re someone who loves a good, long shower, you’re going to need a lot more water. More people in your party or a longer trip will also add to your water consumption.

The showerhead will also have a big impact on your water consumption. When shopping for a shower nozzle, look at how many gallons per minute (GPM) it’s rated for. That’ll tell you how many gallons can flow through it each minute of constant use. The higher the GPM, the more water you’ll use when the nozzle is on.

If you’re careful with water consumption and use a low-flow nozzle, it’s possible to have a decent camping shower with about five gallons of water. Multiply that by the number of people in your camping party and the number of days you’ll need a shower, and you can find about how much water you’ll need for your adventure.

Remember, one shower every other or third day is perfectly acceptable on an overland expedition.

How Long Does a 5-Gallon Shower Last?

So, you can shower with five gallons, but how long will that actually last?

Again, this will depend on your showering habits and the nozzle you use.

Most camping shower nozzles are rated for around 2.5 gallons per minute. So at full volume, it can run through five gallons in two minutes of continuous flow. That might not sound like a lot, but if you turn the water on and off as needed (a “camping shower”), you can stretch the five-gallon capacity into a decent five-minute shower.

Camping showers aren’t supposed to be like a shower at home, where you have time to relax and sing a song or two. They’re just a quick rinse to wash the dust and sweat off before you climb into your tent for the night. It’s short, but it gets the job done.

Stay Clean on the Trail!

No matter where your travels take you, it’s not hard to stay nice and clean. Learning how to make a camping shower can help you build out your overland rig for even longer trips (minus the stank). If DIY isn’t really your thing, there are plenty of propane-powered camping showers and solar water bags to provide you with hot showers throughout your entire journey.

Just because your rig is nice and dirty on the trail doesn’t mean you have to be. Keep yourself clean out there and enjoy the journey!

James with daughter on the trails

About James...

Hi, I’m James. If I’m not working on this site, you can often find me outdoors roaming the trails. I’m an avid hiker, mountain biker, and overlander. I’m excited to share my passion for the outdoors with you.