Tag Archives: showering

Elephant Butte Lake State Park

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One day when I was in the computer lab, The Man and Jerico walked over to Wal-Mart. Once they got there, The Man needed a place to leave Jerico while he went inside to do his shopping. He attached Jerico’s leash to a tree and told the fellow in the RV parked nearby that he’d be back for the dog shortly. That’s how The Man met Mike.

I met Mike a few days later when The Man and I returned to the Wal-Mart. Mike seemed like a nice guy, but he was one of those talkers who seldom quiets long enough for anyone else to squeeze in a word or two. He was in his late 50s, maybe early 60s, and chain smoked while he talked. As far as we could tell, he stayed in the driver’s seat of his old, battered motorhome all day and watched the world of the Wal-Mart parking lot unfold.

On a subsequent visit, Mike told The Man he was waiting to be able to go back to Elephant Butte Lake State Park. The park allows campers to stay for 14 days, after which they must leave for at least a week. Mike was waiting out the time he couldn’t be at the park.

Mike had a New Mexico State Parks annual camping pass. For $180 a year, New Mexico residents can buy this pass allowing them free developed (non-electric/no sewer) camping at any New Mexico state park. (The cost of the pass for residents of other states is $225.) The pass is good for 12 months from the month of purchase.

Pass holders can stay at any New Mexico state park for up to two weeks before they have to leave, but they can go directly from one state park to another. I asked Mike if he ever went to nearby Caballo Lake State Park (15 miles from the Wal-Mart) or Percha Dam State Park (23 miles from the Wal-Mart). He said because of his motorhome’s poor gas mileage, he couldn’t afford to drive to these parks. Instead, he sat at Wal-Mart in the days between his weeks at Elephant Butte Lake.

A couple days before he was to go to Elephant Butte Lake, Mike invited us to visit him there. He actually had two pass cards, one for his motorhome and one for a passenger vehicle. The second pass would go to his buddy who shared the campsite with him, but the buddy wouldn’t be in town for a few more weeks. In the meantime, we could use it to get into the park.

Mike really wanted us to camp on his site with him for two weeks. We considered the option, but ultimately decided not to take him up on his offer. The Man really didn’t want to pack up his entire camp, nor did he want to leave all his belongings unattended on BLM land for one night, much less for two weeks. I know Mike was disappointed when we showed up and said we were only going to stay a few hours. We could tell he was a really lonely guy. We hoped he thought our short visit was better than no visit at all.

According to Wikipedia,

Elephant Butte Reservoir is a reservoir on the Rio Grande in the U.S. state of New Mexico, 5 miles (8.0 km) north of Truth or Consequences. This reservoir is the 84th largest man-made lake in the United States and the largest in New Mexico by total surface area…The reservoir is also part of the largest state park in New Mexico, Elephant Butte Lake State Park.[1]

The name “Elephant Butte” refers to a volcanic core similar to Devils Tower in Wyoming. It is now an island in the lake. The butte was said to have the shape of an elephant lying on its side.

Elephant Butte Lake State Park offers primitive (dry) camping on the shores of the lake, as well as developed camping with and without electric and sewer hookups. The sites in developed areas include a covered picnic table, and drinkable water is available throughout the park.

There are multiple restrooms in the park, some with pit toilets, some with traditional flush toilets. In addition to restrooms, there are shower houses throughout the park. The way things are set up, I don’t think anyone would notice (or care) if someone from the primitive camping area used the facilities when necessary.

After visiting with Mike and some other Elephant Butte Lake campers for a couple of hours, I drove the van over to the nearest open shower house. (Our visit was in February 2017, before all the shower houses were open for the busy summer season.) The Man went to the men’s side of the building, and I went to the women’s.

It was a standard New Mexico state park shower. I had to push a button on the wall to make the water flow. After a few minutes, the water stopped flowing, and I had to push the button again. The water was warm but never got hot. I was chilly the entire time I was in there.

It wasn’t a great shower, but it was a free shower, and to this van dweller, a free shower means a lot.

Panoramic view of Elephant Butte Lake

I took the photos in this post.

Brantley Lake State Park

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After a long, hot day in the city of Carlsbad, NM, The Man said he really needed a shower.

Isn’t there a state park around here? he asked.

I got on FreeCampsites.net and had a look. Although staying at state parks isn’t free, it’s often cheap, so parks with campgrounds are sometimes listed on the Free Campsites website. The closest state park that showed up in the search engine was at Brantley Lake.

I don’t remember why we didn’t look for a community or rec center with a swimming pool, as those are often good places to shower for a couple of bucks. In any case, we were soon making the 20-mile drive to the state park.

When we pulled up to the entrance to the park, I read the information board, trying to figure out where we should go. It looked like the price for primitive camping was $8 and the price for developed camping was $14. I was sure the Free Campsites page said the cost of camping in the developed area was $10 Where was the $10 option?

While I was trying to figure things out, a truck pulled over behind us. The Man backed out of its way, but it didn’t go around us and into the park as we’d expected. The truck had some sort of official looking emblem on the door, and the driver looked at me expectantly.

Go talk to him, The Man urged.

Turns out, the man in the truck was the camp host at Limestone Campground, the park’s developed area.

I confirmed that the primitive camping area had no showers. There aren’t even porta-potties down there, the camp host said. I realized later I should have asked if we were allowed to camp in the primitive area but take showers in the developed campground, but it didn’t cross my mind at the time.

At other New Mexico state parks I’ve been to (Caballo Lake, Elephant Butte Lake), primitive camping costs $8, a developed campsite with no electricity costs $10, and a campsite with electricity costs $14. I was confused when I got to Limestone Campground in Brantley Lake State Park because I couldn’t find the $10 non-electric campsites. It finally dawned on me that there was no $10 option there because all sites offered electricity. As I thought more about New Mexico state parks where I’ve stayed before, I remembered Percha Dam campground offered no primitive camping. All sites at that campground were considered “developed,” and I had to pay $10 per night when I stayed there. I learned a lesson at Brantley Lake: Every state park in New Mexico is different, and I need to do a bit more research than FreeCampsites.net to find out if a particular park offers the kind of camping I want.

Brantley Lake is beautiful and large. According to http://www.emnrd.state.nm.us/spd/brantleylakestatepark.html, it is the southernmost lake in New Mexico. Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brantley_Lake_State_Park) says the lake is

a man-made reservoir created when Brantley Dam was built across the Pecos River in the 1980s… It has a surface area of approximately 4,000 acres (16 km2), but that varies due to the inconsistent flow of the Pecos River and the arid climate in which the lake is located.

Brantley Lake is beautiful and large. This photo shows only a small portion of it.

The Limestone Campground is divided into two sections: one has sites that can be reserved and the other has sites that are nonreservable. We pulled into the section for folks without reservations and found several empty sites to choose from. We were visiting on a Thursday in early May, and there was plenty of room. However, if I wanted to stay at Limestone Campground on a summer weekend and I hadn’t reserved a spot, I would be sure to arrive early in the day to secure a site.

Apparently, campsites have a bar-b-que grill too. I guess I didn’t notice the one on our site.

Each site in the nonreserveable part of the campground has a flat area for parking a camper and/or a vehicle and a covered picnic table. Each site has an electrical box too, but since we didn’t need to plug in anything, we didn’t even look at the box. We took a spot next to a trail leading to the lake, but we were too tired to walk down there.

Like the rest of the campground, the women’s restroom/shower house was very clean. A woman was leaving the shower house as I arrived, and no one else came in, so I had the place to myself. I had a couple beefs about the shower, complaints I’ve also had at the other two state parks in New Mexico (Percha Dam and Elephant Butte Lake) where I’ve showered.

First, I had to press a button to start the water flow. The water ran a few minutes (3? 5?) then shut off automatically. I understand managers of state parks wanting showers to shut off automatically to cut down on pranksters or just plain forgetful people leaving the water running and flooding the place or wasting resources. However, having the water shut off during my shower harshes my mellow. Certainly, it’s not a huge problem, as I can simply reach out and push the button again, but I’d prefer a continuous water flow while I’m washing up.

The trail leading to the lake,

The second complaint is more difficult for me to shrug off. The water in New Mexico state park showers never gets hot. Yes, the water is warm. Yes, a warm shower is better (to me) than a cold one. Yes, hot water uses precious resources and opens the park to a lawsuit if someone scalds him or herself. I understand all these factors, but I love me a hot hot shower, and I can’t seem to get one at a New Mexico state park.

Of course, I was happy to get clean, even if I got a little chilly in the process. To this van dweller, a shower is always a luxury. However, I’d rather take a hot shower for $3 at a rec center instead of my paying my half of $14 or even $10 to take a warm shower at a state park.

You can also read about our experiences with primitive camping at Brantley Lake State Park.

I took all the photos in this post.

Simple Shower

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 If you click on the box below, you will go to the Amazon.com page for the Simple Shower. If you then add items to your cart and purchase them,  I will receive a commission from your purchases.

Simple Shower Portable Camping Shower
As a camp host at a remote campground with no running water, keeping my body clean has been a challenge. (To read about my showers during my first season as a camp host, type “cleanliness” in the search bar.)

In response to my August 2016 post about my shower system, one of my readers left a comment with a link to a video of the Simple Shower. I watched the video and decided the Simple Shower might work for me.

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This photo shows the funnel screwed onto the 2.5 liter bottle. The cap with the holes is not on it.

The Simple Shower consists of three pieces of plastic: an airtube, a funnel, and a cap. The funnel screws onto the bottle. The cap is the part with all the little holes from which the water flows; it screws onto the funnel. The airtube displaces the water in the bottle with air. (The setup comes with two airtubes, one for a one-liter bottle, the other for a two-liter bottle. The instruction sheet says,

[s]elect one tube for use, as continued switching will lead to damage to the cap.)

I contacted Rainburst, the company that makes the Simple Shower and requested a free one for review purposes. I was told the company no longer offers the product free for review, but I was offered a 50% refund of the purchase price once my review ran on my blog. Score!

Yes, I am receiving a consideration in exchange for my opinion, but I promise, I will write down exactly what I think!

At the end of the Simple Shower informational video, the announcer says, The one thing we absolutely guarantee about using the Simple Shower is you will get wet! I can vouch for that. I got wet using the Simple Shower. Success! But there’s more to the story than just getting wet. img_7420

First, I’ll tell you the things I don’t like about the Simple Shower.

My main problem with the device is that it didn’t fit on any of the jugs I already owned and was using in my shower system The video clearly states it works with one and two liter bottles, but I thought maybe it would fit something I already had. No. No it didn’t.

The Rainburst’s FAQ page suggests

[s]imply cut the neck of the milk jug in a spiral manner until the opening is wide enough to insert the Simple Shower, and then jam the Simple Shower into the cut opening…The Simple Shower will remain in place during use.

But I didn’t really want to cut plastic jugs. I don’t want even one janky, cut-up plastic jug with sharp edges floating around in my van, sure to get smashed by some falling something. Besides, I use the jugs I have to hold water. I want all of my jugs to hold water. A jug not holding water is a wasted jug, IMHO.

Rainburst seems to think it’s really easy to pick up a two liter water bottle. The aforementioned FAQ says,

Currently, Rainburst does not provide the bottle.  We want you to be like us, thrifty and environmental minded.  Use a bottle you have lying around (or ask for a free one from somewhere).  Be sure to clean the bottle out prior to use.

Unfortunately, I did not have a two-liter bottle lying around since I don’t usually drink soda. I didn’t find any two-liter bottles in my campground’s trash, and I didn’t see any campers with two-liter bottles, so there was no one I could ask for two-liter leftovers. Granted, this problem would be easier to solve in civilization. The moral of this part of the story? If you plan to get a Simple Shower and you don’t regularly drink soda, start working to line up your two-liter bottle NOW!

I ended up buying a 2.5 liter bottle of grape soda at the Dollar Tree. I forgot I’d have to pay a deposit because I was in California, so my $1 bottle cost me $1.19, and I poured the soda down the toilet. Sigh. If my Simple Shower fit on a gallon jug, I could have drunk the water, then reused the bottle.

Another reason for wanting to use a gallon jug is the handle. Handles make jugs easy to hang onto. The lack of handle on a two-liter bottle worried me. Would I be able to hold a two-liter bottle (or in my case a 2.5 liter bottle) of water without a handle?

By the time I learned about, ordered, and received my Simple Shower, it was late in the camping season and too cold for me to want to be naked and wet in my privacy tent. I didn’t get to try the device until almost two weeks after left I the forest. I tried it in a shower stall, in a bathroom, in a house, not in a privacy tent in the woods.

As I feared, it was difficult to hang onto that wet and slippery 2.5 liter bottle.  Two and a half liters of water weighs five and a half pounds, which was lot for me to handle when I couldn’t get a good grip.

Perhaps a two-liter bottle would be easier to use. I’m going to keep my eyes open for a free one I can snag so I can give it a try.

On my maiden Simple Shower voyage, I washed my hair and did a full body soap and rinse. My hair hangs above my shoulders, but it took nearly all of water in the bottle to wet my hair then rinse after using shampoo sparingly. Still, the Simple Shower got the job done.

My most challenging moments of my first use of the Simple Shower came when it was time for me to wash my lower private areas. The front wasn’t so difficult; I used a sort of pour and splash method. Washing my back-lower-private-area was quite tricky. I wasn’t sure how to hold the bottle in one hand while twisting my arm behind my back and bending over enough to get the water down in there. Perhaps I need to do some arm stretches to increase my flexibility and reach.

Now, onto all the things I like about the Simple Shower.

The Simple Shower doesn’t take up much room. Since there’s no cover over the holes in the cap, I don’t want to leave it on my bottle while traveling, but the whole setup can go back into the small box it was mailed in. The box will be easy to tuck away somewhere in my van. I’ll fill the 2.5 liter shower bottle before I hit the road, and it will travel with the rest of the water bottles. These two items take up significantly less room than the garden sprayer I used as a shower during my second camping season.

Along with being small, Simple Shower is light. The company FAQ says,

The Simple Shower weighs less than an ounce (it’s been weighed at .9 ounces).

This photo shows the funnel with the cap on it. Water flows out of the holes in the cap.

This photo shows the funnel with the cap on it. Water flows out of the holes in the cap.

The Simple Shower provides quite strong water pressure. The water doesn’t just dribble out of the holes, it really flows.  According to the company FAQ,

The Simple Shower has a 1.8 gallon per minute flow rate, slightly less than a water saving shower head. Unlike one of those shower heads, though, the Simple Shower feels like being under a real shower, due to its unique design.

This means a 1 liter bottle will last 18 seconds, a 1.5 liter bottle will last 27 seconds, and a 2 liter bottle will last 36 seconds. While that may not sound like a lot of time, remember that the guarantee of the Simple Shower is “we will get you wet.” As such, you’ll get wet fast and be able to rinse off fast (unlike solar showers, which have a completely wimpy spray).

I’m also pleased by where and how the Simple Shower is made. Again, the FAQ:

We manufacture and assemble [the Simple Shower] in Washington State, using recycled materials. It’s assembled by a non-profit organization that employs the developmentally disabled and disadvantaged. We also have all of our packaging made in Washington State.

We make the Simple Shower out of recycled high density polyethylene (HDPE). It’s BPA free..

Our packaging is also made from recycled cardboard.

Overall, I am pleased with the Simple Shower. I definitely plan to use it in my shower system next summer. I’ll be on the lookout for a two-liter bottle in hopes something smaller will be easier to handle, and I bet with practice, washing my private areas will get easier.

To order the Simple Shower, you can click on the box at the top of this post, which is connected to my Amazon affiliate link. If folks shop through my Amazon affiliate link, I receive a commission.  I took all of the other photos in the post.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a 50% refund of the purchase price of my Simple Shower from Rainburst after this blog post ran. Regardless, I only review/recommend products or services I use personally. This review reflects how I honestly feel about the product. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

My Shower System

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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.

Zodi Outback Gear Hot Tap Travel Shower
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.

This is my shower sprayer. The handle doubles as the pump.

This photo shows my shower sprayer. The handle doubles as the pump.

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.

This photo shows my Field and Stream brand privacy tent.

This photo shows my Field and Stream brand privacy tent.

(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

This photo shows my jugs of water sitting in the meadow, warming in the sun.

This photo shows my jugs of water sitting in the meadow, warming in the sun.

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.