12 Jul Tips on Using a Solar Shower
Dave and I have literally never showered below decks on either of the two cruising boats we’ve owned. Basically, it’s for three reasons. First, without a separate shower stall, water would get all over everything in the head. A pain to move it all. Second is that we just don’t need any more humidity below deck. And third is that the showers on both our boats did nothing to conserve water.
Instead, we’ve used various brands of solar showers bought from Amazon. To be honest, our first one had been left by the prior owner of our first boat and we figured we’d never use it . . . until we discovered that the boat didn’t have a hot water heater (somehow that slipped by us in reading the specs . . .).
We were frankly surprised at how well it worked and how little water we used with it. And so we used a solar shower the whole time we owned the boat . . . and bought another one with the first batch of things for Barefoot Gal. With 10+ years of using one now, we’ve learned a few things:
- The water can get hot enough to scald you in the tropics! ALWAYS check the water temp with your hand or if the bag has a thermometer, check it. If it feels too hot to your hand, or the temp shows it’s over 110 F (I prefer it about 105), put a towel over the bag or put it in the shade to cool a bit and then check again.
- The water doesn’t stay hot very long after sunset, though . . . timing is everything!
- Close nearby hatches before showering. Particularly open ports just below where you shower. Want to guess how I know how easy it is to miss these?
- If you’re going to shower on deck and don’t want to be seen naked, hang on to an old stretched out swim suit. It’s now your bathing suit – literally. A stretched out suit is easy to wash your body under, so you don’t need to rig a privacy curtain. We’ve learned that even when we think we’re the only people for miles around, a boat will come into the anchorage just as we soap up our hair!
- If you’re sailing, watch where the bag is lying in relation to where sheets and rigging will go not just on the current tack, but after a tack/jibe and also as the sails come down. Lines chafe holes in these bags very quickly! We also learned to clip the bag to the boat underway . . . after we lost one.
- A 4 to 5 gallon bag works well for two people to both have “nice” showers – maybe not luxurious, but both with hair washed and conditioned, etc. as long as you turn the water off while you soap up. Actually, we both get a shower and have water left over with a four gallon bag.
- With everyday use, bags will typically last 6 to 9 months in the tropical sun. Do not expect it to last forever . . . and you may have to make a few “field repairs” on it towards the end of its life. If this is your only hot shower, keep a spare on hand!
- A bag with a screw cap for the fill port is much easier to use and less likely to leak than one with a “press to close” fitting. They’re generally a little more expensive, too.
- We’ve had bags with both screw nozzles and push-pull ones. They’ve worked equally well, it’s just a matter of personal preference . . . or not (we don’t care).
- Lay the bag down to heat the water and only hang the bag when showering. If it’s lying on non-skid, put a towel under it as the non-skid can chafe a hole in it in a surprisingly short amount of time.
- If you have a hard bimini, you can probably lay the bag on the bimini to shower and run the hose into the cockpit. This is what we do on our current boat.
- On a sailboat, you can use a halyard to hoist the bag in the air – we used a carabiner from the bag strap to a sidestay to keep the bag from swinging in the air on our previous boat. Keeping it from swinging is really important . . . as what appear to be dead flat anchorages usually aren’t and that heavy bag swinging around your head can be unnerving, not to mention potentially dangerous.
- If the hose for the nozzle is too long, cut it and reattach the nozzle. You’ll be happier if you can stand to shower instead of having to sit or kneel. Should you need a longer hose, you can buy clear tubing at almost any hardware or home improvement store that’s the same diameter and just swap it out.
- We’ve used a number of different brands of bags, and it usually does not pay to buy the cheapest one. Since specs constantly change, we go by the features a bag has rather than just by brand.
- Toughest and thickest material
- Large fill port with screw cap
- Strong attachment for the hanging handle – a bar that spreads the stress out over the whole top is better than a single point.
- Strong handle itself – the bag is heavy when full and hanging!