If you are like me, the biggest luxury you will miss when the SHTF is a nice hot shower, that and a toilet that flushes. I do a fair amount of backwoods camping and fishing in the Rocky Mountains, so going without a shower is something that I do often without complaint. But when I get home, a hot shower is the first thing that I do. When I take my wife camping with me, it is the most common complaint that I hear – “I wish we had a shower.” With that said, we recently saw a product that we felt was an improvement to the black hanging shower bag that you see at most camping stores, the Nemo Helio Pressure Shower.
The Low Down
The Helio Pressure Shower is a nice luxury to have during a pack trip, but takes up a bit of the weight and space allotment for that luxury. Consider the trade-off carefully. On the other hand if you are stuck at a forward operating post, car camping, bugging in, a hunting expedition, surfing, or doing something where a little extra piece of gear wouldn’t be a burden, then this would be a great piece of gear to have along for the trip. Packed in its case, this is about the size of a cowboy hat, without the brim.
The Helio Pressure Shower is a small ‘collapsible’ water tank with a foot operated pump, which consists of a bladder with a one way valve. This pump bladder has a disc of very open cell foam that expands after it is compressed, thus drawing in another batch of air each time. Manually fill the tank most of the way with water, seal it closed, and then pump it up to pressurize it. The more ‘empty’ the tank is of water, the more you have to pump air into that volume to achieve adequate pressure. I found that it’s nearly impossible to fill it more than approximately 80% full with water – as any water in excess of that ~80% spills out while trying to ‘close the lid’ (seal the tank). With practice and technique I imagine this percentage of water fill could increase appreciably. As the product description says, it only takes a few pumps to achieve adequate pressure, and the pressure doesn’t need to be topped off very frequently with additional pumps during use.
Filling the tank is easier with a bit of pre-planning. The opening into which you need to direct your water is an opening about 1 ½ inch in diameter at the top of the tank. If you plan to hold this in a stream, or under a small waterfall to get water into it, you may get less than the 80% I mentioned above. I always carry the cut off top portion of a one gallon plastic milk jug when I pack. With the jug’s lid screwed on it can serve as a scoop/spout when turned upside down. With the lid not on, it can serve as a funnel. This is very light, and takes up almost no space in a pack, as it can have other items stuffed into it in the pack. It’s much easier to scoop water from an appropriate water source and pour it into this tank (or my dirty water tank in my gravity water filter) than it is to hold the tank itself in the water source.
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The 7 ft hose that the shower comes with is certainly nice for holding over one’s head while showering but the other side of that coin is that trying to stow 7 ft. of neoprene tubing is a challenge when it comes time to pack this thing back up into its case. Having a shorter hose, and simply bending over to wet my head would have been perfectly acceptable to me. The shower head itself is pretty much exactly like the sprayer I’ve seen on numerous kitchen sinks. Speaking of stowing, it does take a bit of technique to collapse the tank and other bits down into a properly sized bundle to fit back into the zippered carry bag, but it’s not too difficult.
The Helio Pressure Shower heats water decently to a comfortable temperature, even for an open air shower; holds a decent capacity in the tank; pressure is nice. Having a shower can be a big morale booster during a SHTF event not to mention good hygiene can lessen the impact of disease and sickness.
The Helio Pressure Shower takes up a fair amount of space in your pack for a specialty luxury item, so it probably will not make it into your Ultimate Bug Out bag unless you wife is Kim Kardashian. Also, although the product feels very sturdy, its durability is unknown to me.
I pack with llamas, and while I like the idea of having a warm pressurized shower, I wouldn’t carry this on most pack trips due to the space and weight. When I pack in for hunting trips, I do take a hanging solar shower, and it takes less space, and weighs about ½ as much. The actual difference in pressure between a hanging shower and the pressurized tank of the Helio Pressure Shower is noticeable, but not enough to matter to me. Taking a shower in the open air of the back country can be ‘exhilarating’, and that’s the bigger issue – not the water pressure.
I did not use the Helio Pressure Shower for any other purpose than personal hygiene; no dish washing, rinsing sand off my feet, etc. Once again, I’m sure it would be quite nice for those purposes, as long as you have justified the weight and space in whatever your means of transport. I can also imagine this shower could be a good replacement for household water if there was an emergency situation where you no longer had water pressure in your house or apartment. In a tight spot this could be a very welcomed product indeed. All in all, it’s a quality product that just might fit into your preparedness or camping plans.
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