Things we like dirty: Clint Eastwood, dancing, and playing in the Great Outdoors—to a point. After a few days of schlepping into the surf and getting doused in climbing chalk, even the most hardcore outdoor enthusiasts among us start pining for a shower. But the choices are few and far between: either buy a gallon of water for dousing or shell out a few bucks for a 5-minute rec center shower. Enter NEMO's Helio Pressure Shower—the best investment a long-term camper can make for the health and happiness of you and your mates (and pretty much anyone around you when you waltz into town for a beer after a week marinating outdoors). It’s a fool-proof welded fabric water tank that packs up small and fills up easily, seals quickly, and is heated completely by the sun—when you’re ready to shower, water pressure is created via foot pump, meaning you don’t even need to scout out a tree to hang it from.
The gear: NEMO's Helio Pressure Shower
The breakdown: An 11-liter welded fabric multi-use solar shower with a foot pump.
What I loved:
The size: The shower tank packs up small in its own carrying case and weighs just 22 ounces. Even when it's full of water, it can sit on the dashboard or in the trunk to heat up. When filled and pressurized, the shower stands about 17 inches tall.
Heating capabilities: In steady, direct sun, the shower gets hot enough to feel incredible even on cold evenings. When packed in the trunk, it still warms up in under an hour (keep in mind this may vary depending on when and where you're heating your shower).
Durability: The welded fabric water tank is sturdy and flexible and doesn't rip or tear with rough handling or when subjected to poking twigs and sharp rocks.
Double handle: When the water tank is pressurized, an intelligent double handle design gives you a loop to hold and another strap that fits snugly against the top seal, keeping it tightly in place.
The foot pump and water pressure: To get water pressure you no longer have to hang your shower—all you have to do is step on the foot pump a few times to create water pressure up through the hose. You do need to pump a few times over the course of a 5-minute shower, but the convenience far outweighs any annoyance here. The pressurized shower also stands up straight, so you can leave it on any flat surface and it'll stay upright on its own.
The multitude of uses: I can't stop thinking of ways I'm going to use this shower: washing the dog, a fresh water rinse after surfing or diving, clean water for doing dishes or cooking at camp, washing off dirty feet, rinsing mud off a mountain bike, and, of course, showering. As one of my fellow campers said, "It's going to revolutionize dirtbagging." Scratch that—it already has. No longer do I need to scout out friendly recreation centers and pay $4 to shower after a long, hot day of hiking—as long as I remember to fill up my shower and place it in the sun, I always have a way to get clean.
What I missed:
Security from leakage: The first time we filled up the shower, we secured the top seal and placed it on the inner doorstep of our van only to open the door and—whoosh—be shocked by a flood of water rushing from the car. The neoprene and plastic fitting connecting the foot pump to the shower somehow wiggled loose and drained the tank. Customer service has never heard of the plastic fitting coming loose before, and other users we talked to said they couldn’t pull the fitting loose if they tried. Most likely it was user error, but just in case, we secured it with a zip tie.
Longer foot pump hose option: We’d love to see the shower come with a longer foot pump hose option so that if hanging the shower is preferred, it could still be pressurized by foot.
Water level reader: We were constantly guessing how much water we had left, so our first few showers were rushed. Though you can see the water from the top of the tank through a clear plastic window, it’s difficult to determine exactly how much water you have left. I'd love to see a gauge or a clear window on the side of the tank so users can monitor water levels.
The verdict: If you're a serious camper or surfer, get this shower. It's going to revolutionize not only how independent you can be, but also how you accomplish everything from washing your hair to rinsing off your surfboard.
Buy it: MSRP $99.95, nemoequipment.com.
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