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What Is a Solar Shower?

By Brendan McGuigan
Updated May 23, 2024
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A solar shower is basically a bag filled with water that is heated by the sun so that a person can take an easy, convenient outdoor shower. The solar-powered shower is a favorite among campers, as it allows for showering while backpacking or in very rural areas. They are also popular among those building a house, as they can be set up before construction is complete, allowing the builders to wash off the grime of the day without having to go home.

The simplest type of sun-powered shower consists of a small bag, generally around 5 gallons (19 liters), usually made of something like a flexible PVC coated black or dark gray. An opening hatch at the top can be put over a spigot to fill the bag, and at the bottom a flexible plastic tube comes out, which allows the user to direct the water where they want. Generally a shower of this design will also have some sort of spigot on the end of the tube, allowing the flow of water to be easily stopped.

The solar shower is filled with water, then hung in a tree, or on the side of a building, in the hot sun. It is allowed to sit for some time to heat up, generally on a relatively warm day, with 70 degree Fahrenheit (21 Celsius) temperatures, a shower will heat water up to a good shower temperature of around 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 Celsius) in three hours or less. Once heated, the user can simply stand beneath it, and use the plastic tube to direct the flow of hot water over their body.

This most basic sun-powered shower, the bag and tube variety, can be found for around $15 US Dollars (USD), making it an economical addition to a backpacking kit. Some more dynamic varieties of the shower can cost in the $40 USD to $50 USD range, depending on the materials used and the additional components. For example, there are types of solar shower that are meant for whitewater rafting campers, which act as a solar shower when filled with water, but are also built to act as a drybag when empty, so that food and valuables can be protected on the river.

A solar shower may also refer to a more ornate, permanent design, which is simply a shower that has a permanent reservoir heated by the sun. This involves placing a large solar collector with piping that can take water from a large water storage container hooked up to a cold water line. Cold water is run through the piping to be heated, then mixed with additional cold water as desired to get the temperature suitable for a shower. In this context, a solar shower functions basically the same as a normal shower, except that instead of using a propane or electric heater, the water is being heated by the sun. Often this type of shower is built outdoors, so that the heating apparatus can be right near it in the sun, but they may also be constructed indoors as a traditional shower.

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