All joking aside, it never hurts to be prepared with a good shower bag. You never know when you might need one. Here are my tips on how to choose a good one. When we first began using a shower bag, I thought that all of them were made the same. We automatically reached for Coleman bags because they are the quintessential camping name. Believe me when I tell you that you can do a lot better than a Coleman bag.
These are the bags that I am reviewing and they are from four companies: Advanced Elements, Seattle Sports (three different versions), Stearns, and Stansport. There are others on the market, but they all seem to be very similar to the Seattle Sports Original bag. They are also very similar in price. The Stansport is one of those bags, but I am including it in my list because it currently hangs in my shower. It is the cheapest bag on my list, but it has currently seen a few months of daily use and is still going strong.
How is the bag filled?
This is pretty important to me because I like to be able to fill my bag while it is hanging. Without running water, it takes some talent to fill the bag without a helper. I leave my bag permanently hanging on a hook in our shower. I fill it with a funnel without needing to hoist it up and down. It’s so much easier this way and I can easily pour tea kettles of boiling water into the bag (already filled with cold water) to bring it to the right temperature. This is not an important factor is you plan on using your bag sporadically for camping and always heat it with the sun. But if you are purchasing a bag for prepping reasons, keep in mind that it would be very difficult to draw water from a well or creek, or pump water with a hand pump into the bag. You would definitely need a helper to hold a bag upright. The best method I have found is to fill sturdy containers (we use old juice bottles) and use them to fill the bag with a funnel. For all these reasons, I don’t recommend purchasing a bag that you have to take down to fill.
- Seattle Sports Original
- Seattle Sports PVC Free, Old Version
- Advanced Elements Summer Shower
- Stearns Sun Shower
Is the construction sturdy?
A sturdy bag is more important than any other feature! My family’s first bag (Seattle Sports Original) only started to leak after over a year of daily use. I think that’s pretty good for a piece of plastic holding more than 30 pounds of water daily! On the other hand, a Coleman bag we purchased leaked the first time it was used and a second wouldn’t hold water after a month of use. Construction is also very important with the handle. After all, it supports all the weight of the bag when it is hanging. Some bags are supported only by a very short bar. The better bags have a bar that extends across the entire top of the bag. With a short bar, the bag handle can easily rip in two making it impossible to carry or hang. None of the bags I am reviewing have a short bar. The one bag in this article that does not have a good hanging system is the Seattle Sports, New Version bag. Its hanger acts as a clamp to close the top of the bag. Several reviewers describe the clamp slipping off with the weight of the bag.
- Advanced Elements: The most durable bag, having 4-layer construction.
- Stearns: Better than most bags with double welded seams.
How is the sprayer turned on and off?
There are three different ways that a sprayer turns on and off. Many bags have a screw in and out shower head. Some have one that pushes in and out. And some have a lever that moves back and forth at the end of the nozzle. Personally, I prefer the lever. It is so easy to turn off with soapy hands and I don’t need to fumble with the screw type while wasting precious hot water getting it turned off. The nozzle that pushes in and out is easy to turn off, but many have a problem staying pushed in and can leak over time. Both Seattle Sports PVC Free versions have that type of nozzle and I wouldn’t recommend them for that reason.
- Seattle Sports Original: easy to operate lever
- Stansport: easy to operate lever
- Stearns: screw, but easier to operate than others of its type
How much water does the bag hold?
This is completely your personal preference. As you learn to use a shower bag, you will be surprised with how little water you can use to get clean. My family’s regular shower bag holds a total of 5 gallons, but we never fill it completely full. For our family of 4, I usually only need to fill the bag once. Granted my children are young and more water will be necessary as they grow. It is also important to keep in mind that the bigger the bag, the heavier it will be. Five gallons of water weighs over 40 pounds. Are you ready to carry that and hoist it up on a hook? If not, get a smaller bag. If you want a larger one, fill it after you hoist it. Of course, when you use that option you cannot use the solar feature. To get around that, I often sit bottles of water in the sun during the summer and fill our bag in the evening.
How can I tell if the water is the right temperature?
As I mentioned above, our family has used our shower bag for so long that we just know how much cold and boiling water to combine for the right temperature. Alternatively, I can feel the outside of the bag to check the temperature. Bags with a temperature gauge are not necessary, but they are a nice feature. Keep in mind that they are only available on the more expensive bags.
- Advanced Elements: temperature gauge
- Stearns: temperature gauge
My Top Three Picks
- Advanced Elements: I am sold on this bag because of its superior construction.
- Stearns: I would only purchase this bag if I couldn’t find an Advanced Elements. The 5 gallon version is more expensive than the more highly rated Advanced Elements.
- Seattle Sports Original Bag: I’ll stay away from the newer versions. While they look more fancy than the original, I don’t think Seattle Sports made any improvements to its function.
If and when my family needs to purchase another shower bag, I will definitely purchase the Advanced Elements. Its durability far exceeds all other bags and it consistently gets the best reviews of any bag I have seen. The only feature that I don’t like is the nozzle, but I could easily switch it out for one that I do like from one of my older bags. The bag is more expensive than others that we have previously used, but the price will be worth it if it lasts through our heavy use.