Todd kept feeding his outdoor habit after relocating to the UK from his home state of Colorado. He gained a love for the slightly damper, but no less beautiful British countryside while he was at it.
Portable camping showers are great for keeping you clean at the campsite and will provide you with both hot and cold water. A DIY portable camping shower will ensure that you get all the features you need cost-effectively.
This guide shows you a step-by-step guide on how to make the best portable camp shower and the necessary tools and materials.
What You'll Need
First up, let’s get you everything to make your own shower: all the tools and materials you'll need to build a DIY camping shower.
You can get these tools anywhere you can find plumbing materials, including Home Depot and Lowes. Some materials can be tricky to see in the store, so you might have to order them online from other places.
Materials and Tools
Hacksaw for cutting ABS
Drill with 1/8″, 3/4″, and 3/8″ bits to drill for the pressure valve
Schrader bike pump
One 3/4″ hose spigot
Hose with nozzle
All-Purpose ABS, CPVC, PVC Cement
One 10′ length of 4″ Schedule 40 ABS pipe depending on how much water you want the shower to hold
One 4″ T-joint ABS fitting with threaded top opening
Two 4″ ABS end caps
4″ ABS cleanout cap for T-joint
One flat rubber O-ring
One 1/2″ brass locknut
One Schrader valve from an aluminum wheel (you can get at any tire/wheel shop)
Two canoe foam blocks (optional). They can go on your vehicle’s crossbars to keep the shower more secure and hold off the bars
Step by Step Instructions: How to Make a Camping Shower
Step 1: Decide on the Shower’s Capacity
First, you need to decide the shower’s capacity; how much water you want it to hold while considering the weight of the shower when it is filled.
You don’t want it to be too big because it will be cumbersome when filled with water and will become difficult to carry (for a quick and easy option if you decide not to make your own, read our reviews of the best solar showers).
You can make it about 6’ long, holding about 4.5 gallons of water. The type of nozzle you are using and the psi you pump the shower to will determine the amount of time your water capacity gives you.
Step 2: Cut the Pipe
After deciding on the capacity, the next thing is to measure the 10’ length of ABS pipe to 5’ 6” and mark with the marker. Now use the hacksaw to cut at your measurement.
Then measure and mark a 6” from the remaining ABS pipe and cut at the mark. This will give you a 5’ 6” length, a 6” length, and an extra piece.
Step 3 (Optional): Cut Foam Blocks
If you are using the canoe foam blocks, position one end of your 4” ABS pipe on the side of one of the foam blocks without the bar cutouts and keep the bottom of the pipe very close to the middle of the block without overlapping the bar cutouts.
Then mark the pipe’s outline with a marker and use your hacksaw to cut a semicircle out of the foam. Repeat the same process with the other block.
Step 4: Drill a Hole for the Spigot
Now we need to drill a hole for the spigot. So grab the brass locknut and place it inside one of the end caps close to the outside edge without touching it and mark the inside circumference with a marker.
Next, remove the locknut and mark a dot in the middle of the circle. Now drill a hole at the dot through the end cap, starting with a ⅛” bit and working up to a ¾” bit.
You want the finished hole to be ¾ across and wide enough for the spigot to fit through. You will have to ream the opening for the spigot to fit.
Step 5: Install the Schrader Valve
To install the Schrader valve, mark a directly above the spigot hole, about ¾” from the edge of the end cap, and drill a hole at the dot using the ⅜” bit.
Now run the valve through from back and front to stick out the smooth face inside and then place the flanged washer narrow first into the front of the valve stem.
Next, use one of your hands to hold the washer and valve in place, and use your other hand to apply a bead of silicone around the front opening around the stem valve.
Step 6: Install the Spigot
Place a rubber O-ring (a flat O-ring would be better, but you can also use a round one) and apply a bead of silicone around the bottom of the ring.
Next, insert the spigot into the front face of the cap. Now hold the spigot with one hand and apply another bead of silicone around the threads of the spigot on the inside face of the end of the cap so that it creates an airtight seal.
Then screw the fastener on top of the spigot hand tight and let the silicone cure according to the package directions.
Step 7: Add End Caps
For this step, you need to be in an area with good ventilation.
Grab your sandpaper and use it to rough the edges of the pipe, and then use an ABS cleaner to clean and prime the pipes for gluing.
Clean the inside edges of the T-joint and the end caps, and the outside of the 4” pipes. Apply abs cement on the inside of an end cap and to the outside of the pipe edge, one piece at a time.
Then press the pieces firmly together and assemble them in order, ensuring the end cap valve and the T-joint opening are aligned at the top of the shower, and the spigot is pointing down. Now let the cement cure according to the package directions.
Step 8: Mount and Secure the Shower on Your Car
If you are using foam blocks, slide them into your crossbars. Then place the shower on top of the foam blocks with the spigot end at the car's rear and use tie-down straps to secure the shower to the crossbars with the spigot facing down.
Alternatively, you can secure the shower directly to the bars by asking to hold the shower in place while you do so.
Step 9: Fill the Shower with Water
Now that you've successfully installed the shower on your car, the next step is to fill it with water. First off, unscrew the cleanout cap on the T-joint opening and use a hose or jug to fill it with water.
Don't fill it all the way because you will need space for the air to be pressurized, and it will also be too heavy to lift.
Next, tighten the seal and apply petroleum jelly to the threads of the cleanout cap and then screw it back on hand-tight.
Step 10: Pressurize the Shower
Use a nozzle to screw on the hose to the spigot. Then unscrew the Schrader valve cap and attach a pump (bike pump or air compressor).
Now start pumping until the desired air pressure is reached (don’t go over your pipe’s pressure rating), and then screw the valve back on. Sometimes you may need to repressurize the shower depending on how long you use it.
Step 11: Using Your DIY Portable Shower
To use your DIY camp shower, all you need to do is open up the spigot, and that’s it. To warm up the water, you will need to place the shower in the sun, and the longer it sits in the sun, the warmer your water will be.
There you go; our step-by-step guide on making a portable camping shower. This article also gives you all the materials and tools you can use to build your outdoor camping shower that can be pressurized and solar heated. For a more permanent fixture in your yard or regular camping spot, don't miss our guide to building an outdoor solar shower enclosure.