Getting clean after playing in the dirt.

We've all been there.   Your vehicle 8 in a long line waiting to take your turn on the next obstacle.   The dust is crazy and although you try keeping the windows up for a while, eventually you give in an just roll them down and deal with it.   By the end of the day, between the dust and sweat you are thoroughly dirty.   Keep in mind this is not accounting for any breakdowns that may have you laying in the dirt under you or your friends rig getting even dirtier and possibly even greasy.

So are you just going to climb into your sleeping bag like this?   Why not get cleaned up first?  There's nothing like a great day on the trail with a hot shower before bed!

Enter the portable shower.   Now, we've all seen the black vinyl bag showers that you fill with water and put out in the sun to get hot.   Yes, they work, but its hard to get the water temperature just right, its normally too hot or cold and you cant take a shower when you want, as once the sun goes down your water starts getting cold again.   We're talking about propane powered, adjust the temperature just how you like take a shower at midnight after the campfire portable showers!

We tested two different models: the Coleman Hot Water on Demand and the Zodi Hot Tap High Performance Propane Hot Shower.

Both of these shower units run on the 16.4oz propane cylinders, and both make hot water, but they both are two very different units, as will cover in detail below.   First, lets get a look at both units.

The zodi shower comes in a durable plastic box.   Everything you need with the exception of the propane bottles (2) fit in the box with some room to spare.   

For all the pictures of the Zodi, click HERE.

The Coleman Hot Water on Demand is a modular setup. You can buy as much or little as you need.   This is a picture of the basic unit, you can get the carry bag, hose adapter, and shower (spray) adapter separately.

For all pictures of the Hot Water on Demand click HERE.

You can read about the setup and takedown of both the Coleman and Zodi on their respective pages.   

We took both of these units out camping for a number of trips and let me say that regardless of the "winner" of the test, it was great to be able to take a shower at the end of a long dusty day!

During our Rubicon trip in 2006, we decided to try out both of the units side by side.   We found a perfect spot on this small stream.   This water was snow run-off, and it was very cold!
We had a perfect spot on the river for the test, so we set up both units and got to work.

The pickups for both showers were placed right next to each other.

The small box is the power pack for the Zodi shower.

Here are the two shower heads running side by side.   The Zodi is the smaller red one on the left.   From this picture, it looks like the Coleman on the right is putting out more water.

Here is the same shot from the side.   The Zodi (red shower head) has smaller holes and the water comes out under more pressure.   The Coleman has more and larger holes, so you get more water flow but less pressure.

Now its time to head back home and run some numbers on these two!

After we packed things back up, here are the two units ready to go back to camp.

After we got home, I took over our brand new (still under construction) bathroom to run some tests.... the wife loved it!

The first thing I did was to do a time test to see how long you could go on one charge or set of battery's.

The Coleman ran for 1 hour and 44 minutes before it shut off with a low battery light.   I was able to turn it off and then on again and it ran again for about 5 minutes then shut off again.

The Zodi was started at 4:30pm.   I checked in on it from time to time, checking the amount of water it was pumping.   At about 9:30pm it was noticeably slowing down.   At 10:47 I called it dead, as it was not moving enough water to be useful at that point.   Total run time: 6:17

For the next test, I moved outside to see how high of a water temperature I could record.

The Coleman had a fresh charge and the Zodi got a new set of battery's.

The starting water in the garbage can was 69° F.

I started with the Coleman, and recorded a maximum temperature of 127°, for a gain of 58°.

Next I ran the Zodi.   I recorded a maximum temperature of 118°, for a gain of 49°.

When we were up at the river playing with the two showers we had noticed that when Zodi felt warmer when we held the shower head up high, vs. down load.  Why?   Water speed.   When you hold it up higher, the water pump cant pump as fast and the water spends more time over the burner.  

To confirm this, I put a set of used battery's into the shower.   With them, I noted a visible decrease in pressure and now a maximum temperature of 138°, for a gain of 69°.

Finally, I installed new battery's. into the Zodi and gave the Coleman a fresh charge and ran a time test to see how long it would take each shower to fill a one gallon jug.   I ran the test twice and then did a simple average.   The Zodi took an average of 1:55 to fill the jug, while the Coleman filled in an average of just :58.

So, now lets take a look at where we are so far:

Total Run Time
Degrees Water Temperature Increase


Ease of Setup (1-5 scale):
Size / Compactness:
Water Flow (1 Gallon):

*price for Coleman is Hot Water on Demand ($258.49) plus Shower Adapter ($12.99), other items were not required or needed for the test.

 The only test that I didn't run on these two was how long a propane cylinder lasts.   What I will say is that I know for sure that on the Coleman, the cylinder I have on there has gone through a number of trips and two battery charges and is still going.

For the people that used these two shower units during the test, the Coleman was the one that we went for time after time when we needed hot water.   While the Zodi required some setup, all you have to do with the Coleman was put the pickup into the water and turn the faucet on.   Because of this, it was easy to use it for everything from showers to dishes to hot water for food preparation.

After using the Coleman Hot Water on Demand for 2 seasons now, we still have nothing but good things to say about it.   We did finally have our first problem with it;  after using it and not recharging the battery it was put into storage.  During that time, the weather got quite cold and the battery was frozen at least a half a dozen times.   It seems that it does not like being stored with the battery attached, dead and frozen!   The instructions say you should charge it before storing and disconnect the battery, we didn't and the battery went bad.   No big deal, a new battery was about $15 delivered.

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