After two years of living in our yurt, two years of cold showers and lengthy considerations for a hot water off-grid shower solution, we finally decided to pull the trigger and build an outdoor shower, off the grid and powered by a propane on-demand water heater.
TL;DR: For several years we used the Camplux 1.32 GPM propane water heater, with water coming from our spring-fed hose. Our review? We loved it. Note, though, you shouldn’t try to use a propane water heater like this when temperatures are dropping below freezing—only shoulder seasons and summer—because the water can freeze in the lines.
Another option is portable showers with pumps. These also require no power, you can fill it with hot water that was warmed on the woodstove inside, and you can pressurize it with a hand pump.
We considered solar-heated shower designs—either one of those five-gallon camping showers or a more DIY, sun-on-tubing design. These would work fine in the summer, but that’s when we just hop in the creek or bathe in the spring water. It’s summer, after all, and cold water is refreshing.
When we really want a hot shower is when it’s cold outside. And as much as we would like to rely only on solar power, the reality is that we get very little sun exposure in the winter months and the outside temperature would prevent water from getting very high above freezing. In other words, a solar powered shower in Vermont winter would be less a shower and more a hypothermia closet.
We also considered a fire-powered, heat exchanger design. Our friends built one using an old residential water heater. But, a bit shamelessly, we wanted to find a design for an outdoor shower that was a bit simpler, more convenient.
So, propane power it is, and we couldn’t be happier. There are numerous options out there, for what is, essentially, an on-demand water heater (which every home, on- or off-grid, should have, by the way, but I digress). You can read the reviews, determine your water pressure capabilities, and make your selection based on your individual needs. We chose the Camplux 1.32 GPM heater because we’re relying solely on the natural water pressure of our spring to power it—1.32 gallons per minute is remarkably low, and we love that the heater is able to work with such low pressure needs. Note, though, that when it’s freezing outside you need to completely drain the tank so water doesn’t freeze inside it. That’s the one downside to this approach, and why we have since started using the Advanced Elements camp shower.
If you don’t have a running water source, you could also build an elevated reservoir to create pressure. We got a 3/4″ adapter to attach a standard garden hose to our spring hose—the Camplux is designed to fit a standard garden hose thread. (You can see the white garden hose in the photo below.)
The shower stall we built for it is 4’x4′ with a pressure-treated frame and cedar boards for the floor and walls.
An off-grid, outdoor shower with hot water, tucked away in our little neck of the woods. It’s magical. We couldn’t ask for more. Be sure to get in touch if you have questions!