Water Wednesdays: Camp Showers

Rain by Pure Nitro

Showering at a Campsite

I think universalĀ kindness is as close as humanity can come to being any sort of celestial wonder. However, cleanliness is a close second.

Even when camping, or living in a tent, out in the middle of nowhere, getting and staying clean can help you feel better, like yourself (and others) more, and cause less offense to any neighbors you may have.

It helps you stay healthier, and provides opportunities for various parts of your skin to breathe.

Even if you have your camp shower on a pulley under a tree that’s in full view, and you clean strategically and sectionally, it gives your body and mind the chance to reset and both metaphorically and physically wash away any troubles.

When you’re out there, you can even still sing! The very best of ‘Showering to the Oldies!’ šŸ™‚


What Does a Camp Shower Look Like?

Great question! It looks like this:

Not complicated. Not complicated at all.

A capped hole for the water to go in. A hose for the water to come out (don’t leave the nozzle open, or you won’t have any water once you get to it). A handle that doubles as the pulley anchor.

Hang it where the sun will be on it most often. The more sun it is exposed to, the warmer your shower water will be.

Even in the summer, it’s amazing (and shocking) how cold water can get even if it’s occasionally being hit by sunlight.


Pulley System

Paracord is usually a good choice for this – or any strong, thick twine.

Tie one end of the rope to the (filled) camp shower, and toss the other end over a relatively high, and living, tree branch.

It’s important to make sure the tree and particular branch are healthy, to not have the weight of the bag and water bring down the limb. A crashing tree limb can cause damage. Sometimes a branch won’t snap off immediately, so it can happen over any amount of time.

You may need to tie the end you’re throwing to a stick to help guide the toss over the limb. You want to get the cord as close to the notch of the tree as you functionally can (while still having space to fit underneath). Too far out, and the force can damage the tree.

If you’ve ever done the “lifeguard toss” of throwing a ring out to someone: think of that toss but UP. Alley-oop it up there. It can take several tries to finally get it over the correct branch, but if you have teenagers or older kids with you, they can make it a fun game and let you do other prep work.

Once you have the correct general positioning of your rope, simply pull the camp shower to the desired height (not too high or the spray is quite wide-spread, not too low to make it difficult to use). While no one is underneath the branch, angle yourself around to create different forces and give the rope a good tug. If the branch only gives a small bounce, you’re good. If you hear or see a crack or groan: let go of the rope, unwind everything from the bag end (Bag End heeheeĀ – Hobbiton joke, I’m a geek) and start over.

Also to remember: make sure that the run-off of the shower won’t be getting into any independent water sources or your belongings. Don’t put it uphill of your site (or anyone else’s) or anythings’ homes.Ā 

Once you’re good, and the bag is at the desired height, take your end of the rope and start wrapping it around the tree, at least 4 times. If you are also looking for a clothesline, wrap it around that tree once, and then finish it off around a nearby tree. Tie it with a looped slipknot or noose. Remember: you need to bring it down regularly to refill it.



I discuss camp soap here, but there is an additional bit of information I want to pass on.

Some people add the soap directly to the camp shower. You can, but it’s not the greatest choice.

Why isn’t it the better choice? Well:

  • Even camp soap can leave behind a residue. Since the bag can never truly be fully opened and cleaned, you leave yourself at risk for things growing in it.
  • You can’t put as much water into the bag. Transport, wind, animals: things are going to move the bag around, causing it to slosh. What do water and soap make? Foam. Suds. Pressure in an enclosed container. Just like you shouldn’t try to pour carbonated drinks into a bottle that doesn’t have a gasket, don’t put soap in a bag that isn’t designed for the extra pressure.
  • Don’t use harsh chemicals (or even pure vinegar) in your bag, even if you did put soap or anything else in there. Again, it can never truly be fully cleaned out, so be careful of what you let go in and you’ll always get the best results out. If something ends up inside, clean it repeatedly and use proper vinegar mixtures to help flush it completely.

You can put some soap in, especially if you’re making sure the kids actually get clean as they fool around. However, use very little, and don’t close the cap all the way at first. Get used to the difference in pressure, and how much soap is the best ratio for the water and how hot the bag will get. It’s a crapshoot every time, but some people (few, but some) can make it work.


Do you have other methods of showering you prefer?

What are your solutions during winter? (I’ve showered like this in snow, and gave in and got a Planet Fitness membership – good countrywide)

Do you find the handles on these to be as annoying as I do? (but still far better than the old clear square containers with the hard plastic handles that snapped)

Share in the comments!



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I'm (now) an Affiliate, who blogs about the materials, gear and supplies needed for living in a tent and long term camping: http://longtermcamping.siterubix.com I also enjoy reading and sci-fi in all its many forms.

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