Being able to have portable hot water showers while camping is a true luxury, especially if you have youngsters. While some of us can grin and bear the cold water, some of the family members are always going to regret leaving the comfort of a hot shower at home behind.
To be honest, the little effort it takes to make hot water outdoors, I say why not. It’s just another camping expense that will continuously give and give. It’s not often you can use a $100 item over and over like a hot shower. That’s why I love camping so much. Once you get past the initial investments of buying a tent, beds etc it’s the cheapest family holiday you can have. Once you have all the gear, all that’s missing is you.
My Top Rated Camping Hot Water Shower Heater
So if having a hot shower while out in nature is what it takes to make the family happy, I’m all for it. Which is the reason for this research. Next camping season we WILL be taking the Mr Heater Basecamp Boss water heater (Outdoor Systems) with us . Not only will we have hot water for showers, but also for washing the dishes and so forth.
After all my thorough research I ended up on the Mr Heater model. I think it’s the best water heater for camp showers on the current market. Below you can see why in my review and also find out which other portable camp water heaters I considered. While you can set this device up to run the hose through a shower camping tent, I would prefer to hang the Camp Triton model below in this instance.
The Types Of Camping Water Heaters
It’s easy to get confused when searching for outdoor water heaters to take camping. This is because tankless on demand heaters for the home often get thrown into the mix. But this is not what you want. As a camper you need something that is portable and doesn’t necessarily rely on access to a hose and or electricity from the mains.
This is not always an option when camping. Which is why I will be sharing the following 2 types of portable hot water systems. Of course there is the option for DIY hot water, but as a parent to 3 young children this is not ideal for me. So I won’t be showing any DIY systems.
- Propane gas water heater that doesn’t need access to a hose. Ideal when camping far away from civilization and quite remote.
- Propane gas water heating systems which include hose nozzles for connecting to a tap provided by the camping site. A great option for car camping but still want to have your own shower and not in a shower block with other people.
- Solar powered water heating system. Cost effective, but least effective for a family due to limited hot water.
The Best Way To Have Hot Shower When Camping
As mentioned above, I ended up with the Mr Heater (Also known as Outdoor Systems) BaseCamp Boss water heater as my go to heating device when camping. But I may be slightly biased as I think the Mr Heater also makes the best and safest tent heater for camping in colder conditions.
You have probably heard of these BaseCamp Boss water heaters while going through online reviews. One thing you may have not come across is that there are 3 models of the BaseCamp Boss heaters. All with different price points and with different features which I will get to in a minute.
Why I Went For The Cheapest Mr Heater BaseCamp Boss Water Heater
The 3 models of the Outdoor Systems BaseCamp Boss water heaters are the XB-13, XW-18 and the XCW-20. With the BOSS XB-13 being the cheapest and the XCW-20 being much more expensive.
The reason I went with the XB-13 is not because I’m a cheapskate, but because it offers the greatest opportunity for remote camping with no access to Ac or Dc power. The XB13 also has a lower BTU rating which means a 1lb portable gas cylinder will last longer.
While the water may not be as hot as the other two more expensive models I can deal with that. A warm shower is better than a cold shower right. As there will be 5 of us using this hot water heater, a lower BTU rate means we can all have showers without running out of gas in the middle of nowhere.
Plus the PB13 uses .6 gallons of water per minute compared to the XCW20 which can run at 1.18 gallons per minute. Having a lower gallon per minute is good when camping if you have limited access to water. If you’re filling up a tub with water, you don’t want the water to run out too quickly.
But on the other hand if you want a shower that’s more powerful, then you will need either the Mr Heater Boss XW18 or XCW20 to keep you satisfied. By for me, I can get by with lower pressure shower provided the water is warm. Which is why I choose the XB-13.
Compare Mr Heater BaseCamp Boss Xb13, XW18, XCW20
Compare the range of Mr Heater hot water water heaters with other water heaters that don’t require a hose on amazon.
Which Mr Heater Hot Water Heater Is Best For Camping
Elaborating a little more on why I choose the XB13 vs the XW18, XCW20. Battery power is camping power to me. The XB13 runs off 6 x D size batteries which can be recharged via the sun using a portable solar powered battery charger. Provided the sun shines and you have rechargeable D batteries, you will never need access to AC/DC while camping.
Whereas the next model up, the Mr Heater XW 18 requires AC power to recharge the internal battery. The top of the line model XCW20 has both Ac and Dc (car charging) capabilities. So if you don’t like the idea of recharging D size batteries and want hotter water at the sacrifice of more gas, then the Mr Heater BaseCamp XCW 20 would be my next option. But it’s an expensive route to take.
How The BTU’s Affect What Hot Water Heating System You Use For Camping
Having the ability to charge the XCW20 via the car charger is a nice incentive, but the price tag is a little over my head. I can deal with using the sun to recharge D batteries at a lower BTU rate. But what are these BTU’s?.
If you’re unsure on what BTU’s are it’s basically just a guide that tells you how much propane gas the product uses per hour. So the XB13 uses 12,000 BTU’s and will give us a good hour and a half of hot water showers per 1lb cylinder of gas. Compared to the more gas hungry 18,000 BTU’s which will last you almost an hour.
But whichever model of Mr Heater BaseCamp hot water heater you choose, you can rely on it being high quality, safe and do what it’s intended to do. Provide hot water and fast.
Best Hose Connection Hot Water Heater For Outdoors
The reason I went with the Mr Heater above over this Camp Chef Triton system is simply because I didn’t want the hose connection type of heater. Not that there’s anything wrong with connecting a hose to heat the water, it’s just not what I wanted.
But in saying that, this Camp Chef certainly looks like one heck of a water heater. If you car camp with access to a tap on a regular basis, it makes 100% sense to buy the Triton over the Mr Heater. Here’s why.
*But first, make sure you do some price comparing as I’ve found the Camp Chef Triton varies from store to store. Even on the Camp Chef website I found it a bit high for my likings. A good place to start is on amazon and you can check the recent price on amazon here.
Benefits of This Hot Water Heater For Camping
If you like your shower hot, then there’s none better then the Camp Chef Triton. This thing could burn you with the right settings. Not that I’m insinuating that you should burn yourself. But the option for a really hot shower is possible with the Triton.
When you have the water pressure down low, and the temperature up high, the Triton can raise the temperature of water by 102°F which is insane.
So yes, you can control the water flow and the temperature of the water with this camping hot water heater. Which is good for the more pedantic shower takers and also if multiple people will be sharing the shower.
So How Does It Work?
In order to hat a hot shower by the tent while camping you will need a couple of items to get this heater going. First you need 2 x D size batteries to tun the unit on. Next you need a gas bottle. Whats good about the Triton is that you can use bigger gas bottles instead of the disposable 1lb bottles.
Which means you can get about 11 hours of shower power from your regular size bottle of propane gas. But because this shower is so powerful, it does chew through more gas than the above Mr Heater. This unit has 2 internal burners that operate at 13,500 BTU’s each with a total maximum of 34,000 BTU’s per hour. Using a small throw away propane canister would only last you half an hour on this beast. So a bigger propane canister is definitely recommended.
Once you have the batteries and the propane sorted, next it’s time for the water. From here you simply connect a garden hose to the Triton unit. Connections come with the unit so it can’t get any easier than this. Turn everything on and set your settings. Hot water is almost instantaneous.
But You Need Flowing Water
With this model you can’t just have the water intake valve sitting in a bucket of water like you can with the Mr Heater. The Triton requires a pressurized hose to flow the water in through the system to come out of the included shower head.
However the minimum water pressure required to operate the Camp Chef Triton is only 25 Psi. The average water pressure you experience at home is about 40-45 Psi. So the tap doesn’t have to be blasting out water in order to operate. However if you do set up a separate pump which uses creek/river water, make sure you test the pressure before using it on the Triton.
It Blasts Hot Water
The final thing worth noting about the Triton is it’s water output. This thing can blast through 1.5 gallons per minute on the highest setting. The average flow rate for a household shower in America is 2,1 gallons per minute. So not bad for a portable camping hot water shower I say. However with the high flow of water you do sacrifice the ability for the gas burner to keep up. So the water temperature drops to a maximum of 38°F above water temperature.
All in all, the Camp Chef Triton is a proven winner among outdoor enthusiasts. People use this portable hot water shower for RV camping, tiny homes, trailer homes, beach camping, to warm water up for kids pools and much more. It’s very versatile as it can be hung using the included brackets or stood up on the ground using the included frame. So it’s good to go right out of the box.
Tankless Camping Hot Water Heaters
Perhaps you think my recommendations are not quite what you’re looking for. Fear not, Amazon has a few more options for campers wanting a hot shower without having to rely on AC power. Below you can find four more choices to make your camping trip all that much more comfortable.
Best Solar Camping Shower Heater
If getting back to basics it more your style or you don’t like to use propane gas, then a solar heated shower is your next best bet. The best solar camping shower heater I’ve found is the Advanced Elements 5 Gallons PVC solar shower. It’s a relatively cheap item and can produce a warmish shower without the hassles of batteries and propane.
How It Works To Produce Hot Water
The Advanced Elements solar shower heater is quite simply to use. How it works is like this.
- Fill up bag with water. Can be water from home, tap, river etc. Anything you feel comfortable showering in.
- Hang the bag up in the sun. The more exposure to the sun the hotter the water gets.
- Come back to camp after a days hike and take a 7 minute shower.
- Pull down on the shower head and the bag will release water through the shower head.
- Push the shower head back up to stop the bag from releasing water.
Should You Buy A Solar Camping Shower Heater?
As simple as the process is to have a warm shower after a day camping, there are some things you need to consider before hitting the buy now button. The most obvious one is that if it’s a overcast or miserable rainy day, this thing just wont work. If the sun is hiding, the water wont heat up.
While there is a warning label on the Advanced Elements solar shower about scalding hot water, chances are you are likely to be disappointed with the temperature of the water. Truth is, these things can produce a nice warm shower. But not a hot shower.
Which is fine for some people, but for other people the above propane heaters are the better option. This one does come with a shaving mirror attached to the bag which is a very handy item. The bag lasts about 7 minutes which is good for 1-2 people. Any more people and you will need a second solar bag to accommodate.
My opinion is that yes, it’s worth getting one of these solar shower heaters. But to be used as a secondary shower option. I would always have a portable propane shower on hand and use this solar shower for times like washing sand off after a visit to the beach or for a quick shave. They are certainly handy to have, but just too risky to have as the one and only main shower in my opinion. Especially for a family of 5.