Coleman Camp Shower – review

If you’ve read my other entries, you’ll remember that I’ve written quite a bit about water, and about “test driving” our various preparation plans. As part of one of those test drives, where we were pretending to be without natural gas for a few days (our water heater runs on natural gas), and we decided to pick up a Coleman Camp Shower to see how it would do.


This is a picture of the Coleman Camp Shower. It’s a heavy duty, black vinyl bag that you’re supposed to hang in the sun. The idea is that the sun heats up the black bag leaving you with 5 gallons of toasty hot water with which to shower. For under $10 (we got ours at Walmart), we thought it’d be worth a try.

We’d done these test drives previously with limited water, so we were already proficient in getting ourselves clean with a limited amount of water, so the 5 gallon capacity didn’t seem like it would be a problem.

I unpacked the Camp Shower from its cardboard box. I removed the red plug and recoiled a little at the strong plastic smell emanating from the inside of the bag. Whew, I thought. That’s strong. Better wash this puppy out.

So I did. I washed it with dish washing liquid… and it still smelled. I washed it again with laundry detergent… and it still smelled. I rinsed it vigorously, this time with baking soda and vinegar and hung it upside down and open to dry out. After it dried, the plastic smell almost wasn’t noticeable. Excellent, I thought. On with the test drive.

I volunteered to go first. On a warm day, I hung the bag outside on a 6′ tall plant hanger, where it spent most of the day in full sun. When I got home from work, I hauled the bag inside. Like a eager little kid, I stripped off my clothes and wrangled the bag into the shower.

The first thing I’ll tell you: 5 gallons of water weighs about 40 pounds. The weight might be a consideration if there are members of your party who would have trouble hefting 40 pounds of water weight over their heads. For a camp shower, or a backyard clean-up station, this would probably be no problem. You’d have a rope, or a pulley, or big hook on a tree or the side of your vehicle and you’d be fine.

Second thing: that nozzle. Wow… what’s a nice way to say sub-optimal? Even with 40 pounds of hot water behind it, the flow was little more than a soft sprinkling of really warm water. There’d be no scrubbing down with this. No high pressure rinse. If we kept it around, we’d surely be looking for a way to increase water pressure at the nozzle. Plus, without a valve on the nozzle, the water flows ceaselessly unless you hold it up. Sub-optimal.

Third. After a day in the sun… that plastic smell came back. The inside of the bag smelled again. With a vengeance. The water coming out of the bag was plenty hot, but it smelled like plastic. I tried washing just my hands and arms… and I thought it made my skin smell like plastic. Not to be deterred, I washed the bag out again, and again… and once more for good measure… each time I used the vinegar and soda trick. I filled it and hung it outside the next day — it would soon be my better half’s turn with the thing.

The next day dawned bright and hot. Throughout the day, the bag hung in the sun. When we got home from work, we hauled the bag inside and into the shower.  My better half went into the bathroom to give the Camp Shower a whirl while I waited outside. And then I heard her squeal through the door, “This water STINKS!!!!”  There was a pause of maybe 30 seconds, then another cry, “Nope. I’m not doing this.”

And there you have it.  It took me a few minutes to stop chuckling. We haven’t used the thing since. I’m not sure exactly what compounds are leaching out of that vinyl and into the water to make it smell so bad…  not sure how safe that might ultimately be. Either way, it stunk. At least the water was hot… maybe other people have had better luck. Not us, though.

The Coleman Camp Shower gets 1 star out of a possible 5.

If you want to construct a backyard clean-up area, or an outdoor shower for your camper, there are numerous other options you’d do well to consider.

Thanks for reading! My readers are the best!  ~L. 


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