Last summer, I spent a lot of time and money to stay clean. (Maybe I should say “cleanish” since I was only showering once a week.) I drove a minimum of thirteen miles (and sometimes as many as 73 miles) to shower. I paid a minimum of $10 (but usually $12) to shower, plus all the gas it took me to get to a place where I could clean up. I decided I had to find a better (or at least cheaper, closer) way to get clean this summer.
[amazon template=image&asin=B000X4IAMS]I looked into a Zodi shower system after meeting a man last summer who told me how much he liked his. The Zodi has two components: a heating coil powered by propane (specifically, one of those small, green canisters) and a pump powered by D batteries. Cold water passes over the heating element and becomes hot (or at least warm) and the pump squirts water out, if not with as much force as a conventional shower head, at least in a gentle stream.
The Zodi seemed like a good way to go, but the $150 price tag was more than I could afford when it came time to buy supplies for the summer. On top of the cost of the Zodi, I also needed a privacy tent, the cost of which would increase my investment. I started researching other methods.
I knew I wanted something more complex than baby wipes. I used wipes last summer for in-between cleanup (and I use them for the same purpose now), but wipes just aren’t enough. I get dirty as a camp host (especially my legs, even though I wear long pants), and swipes with wipes don’t get me nearly clean enough.
I didn’t think one of those solar shower bags was going to work for me either. Most of them hold five gallons of water, which is 40 pounds. Too heavy. How am I going to carry that, much less hang it? I know I could buy a smaller one or fill a large one only partially full, but I was also concerned the plastic would suffer a puncture or come apart at the seams. Also, a shower bag needs to hang, and none of the trees on my campsite have branches at an appropriate height. I wasn’t convinced a solar shower bag would work, and I didn’t want to pay to experiment with one.
In a Facebook group I was in, a woman mentioned using a garden sprayer as a shower. When questioned, she admitted she used hers while wearing a bathing suit, out in the open, just to rinse off after hiking. But I thought I could use a similar sprayer to take a soap and water shower.
I went to Wal-Mart and poked around in the garden department. There were several sprayers to chose from. While these sprayers are intended to be used to spray a variety of pesticides, they’re sold empty, not contaminated with killer chemicals. (I don’t recommend using a sprayer that’s had killer chemicals in it.)
The sprayers I saw held either one or two gallons of water. I chose a larger one because I was concerned one gallon of water would not be enough for my cleaning need, although one gallon has proven to be plenty. I wish I had gotten the smaller one. The water in the container doesn’t get nearly as warm as does the water in one gallon plastic water jugs. Also, the less full the container is, the more pumping it takes to pressurize it.
In any case, the sprayer I bought (according to http://www.walmart.com/ip/13376325?wmlspartner=wlpa&selectedSellerId=0&adid=22222222227008776090&wl0=&wl1=g&wl2=c&wl3=41079622592&wl4=pla-60819427766&wl5=9031687&wl6=&wl7=&wl8=&wl9=pla&wl10=8175035&wl11=online&wl12=13376325&wl13=&veh=sem, it’s the RL Flo-Master Sprayer) cost under $15. (The aforementioned website lists the price as $13.86.) There may have been a one-gallon size that cost slightly less.
Since the sprayer works through pressurization, the handle also serves as a pump. After 30 to 40 pumps, the water comes out of the nozzle in a pretty good stream, not nearly as strong as water coming out of a shower head, but strong enough to rinse soap from my body.
The second piece of equipment I wanted to buy was a privacy tent. I wanted to take full-on, soapy, naked showers, not just rinse around a bathing suit. Since I figured neither my campers nor the company I work for would want me frolicking au naturel in public, I decided I needed a privacy tent.
I researched a lot of privacy tents and read many online reviews before I settled on something. The cheap ones seemed to be poorly made. (No surprise there.) I certainly didn’t want something that ripped the first time I zipped it, even if I hadn’t paid much for it. A ripped tent is a worthless tent, even if it didn’t involve much out-of-pocket expense.
I bought a Field and Stream brand privacy tent, partially because it got good reviews and partially because I was able to buy it at a chain sporting goods store in the city where I picked up the last of my supplies before I went into the forest. I paid $64.49 for it (including tax). As of mid August (after setting it up in early June), the tent is doing great, with no rips or broken zipper.
(Note: Nearly every review I read mentioned that while this sort of tent is super easy to set up, getting it back into a flat circle in order to return it to its carry bag is usually an ordeal. I’m not eager for the day I have to take down the tent.)
I also purchased a cheap bathmat to stand on when I’m showering, since the privacy tent doesn’t have a floor. I wear shower shoes while I’m cleaning up, so I could do without the bathmat.
My shower system isn’t complicated. In the morning of the day I want to take a shower, I carry the sprayer ( with whatever water is left in it from my last shower) and two or three plastic jugs filled with water out to the meadow. I set the water containers in a spot that will get sun for the next several hours.
After I finish my work for the day, I carry the containers of water back to my campsite. I’ve found it works best if I add one gallon of the warm water to the
sprayer reservoir, since the water in there stays cooler than the water in the other jugs. I place all my wash water in the privacy tent. I also place soap, shampoo, the wonderful microfiber towel my host family gave me, and a house dress in the pockets in the tent.
I get into the tent and zip the door mostly closed. As I take my clothes off, I toss them out of the tent, onto a chair I’v placed nearby for this purpose. Then I zip the door completely.
I start from my top and wash down. First I pour water from a gallon jug over my head to wet my hair. (Depending on how hot the day’s been, sometimes the water is as warm as what comes from a hot water tap.) Then I lather my hair with shampoo and use more water from the jug to rinse.
Washing my hair leaves the rest of me adequately wet. I wet a washcloth with water from one of the plastic jugs, then pour some Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap onto the cloth. When I finish scrubbing one area of my body, I use the sprayer to rinse off the soap, pumping as necessary to build up pressure so I get a strong, steady stream of water. If I find a body part is no longer wet enough, I use the sprayer to squirt some water on myself.
My system would work best for someone who can set up a privacy tent where it won’t be blown away by heavy winds. It may not work very well for someone who’s changing locations a lot, although folding the privacy tent may get easier with practice. Also, one review I read indicated the owner of the privacy tent had been told s/he couldn’t shower on his her campsite because it was going to leave a soggy mess for the next campers; different locations will have different rules. I don’t think it would be a problem while boondocking on BLM land in the Southwest.
While I am happy with my shower system, I think I could have gotten along without the sprayer and just used a couple of gallons of water in jugs to clean with. In any case, it’s nice to be clean more than once a week. Of course, it’s also great not to have to spend a bunch of money to get that way.