(Update 20080211: During an upgrade of my blogging software, I accidentally lost the photos of the shower… I’ve since taken new ones, of the portable shower, and the new in-house installation. Click any photo for a larger image.)
Those of you in this part of the world, will probably know about the massive water shortages brought on by the drought. Particularly in Brisbane, where the problem is that dire, that we’re moving to level-5 water restrictions, which means luxuries like washing cars and watering lawns are largely things of the past.
Residents have been asked to keep their showers to 4 minutes or less — but is there a better solution? Well, when camping, we often have to face working with a limited supply of water. Often we have two supplies, drinking water that we bring with us, and washing water that we collect from the campsite. Lugging buckets of water around is no fun, thus it pays for us to be efficient in our water usage.
Camping showers often are overglorified bags with shower nozzles attached to the bottom. Usually there are two types, one is usually is made of black plastic, and is designed to absorb heat from the sun. The other is a bag you just fill with heated water. They need to be suspended overhead, often quite high to be useful. They’re heavy when fully loaded, making hoisting them a challenge, and don’t offer that much pressure. You can also get showers that are powered from a 12v supply, which overcome this issue, but then one must have a car or small SLA battery nearby. None of these are all that useful when not camping either.
Kym Schluter, however, came up with a rather novel idea. Hardware stores sell pressurised weed sprayers which can carry several litres of water. By attaching a suitable hose and nozzle to these, you can build a camp shower which is portable, doesn’t need to be hoisted up high, and provides decent water pressure without electricity. He’s been using this shower for a number of years now, and over time, a number of us have made replicas of it. None of the camping stores seem to be selling these showers — but thankfully, your local hardware store will carry most, if not, all the components you’ll need to build one of your own.
The shower consists of three main parts, the pump pack itself, the hose and the nozzle. The lot connects together using standard hose fittings, allowing you to theoretically use any off-the-shelf trigger hose nozzle. The unit pictured on the left is a 6L pressure pack. A short length of clear 12.5mm tubing connects the bottle to a hose fitting. On the bottle side, plumbing tape is wrapped over the screw thread to seal the gaps. The hose was fitted by heating the end up (place it in hot water for a few secs) then pushing it over the end of the thread. It was then clamped to keep it from slipping off. You’ll find the other end of the tube will neatly fit inside the hose fitting, making a secure fit.
To make the hose, we used some 10mm clear tubing, with a screw-in adaptor fitting on one end, and a standard hose fitting on the other. The thread on the screw-in fitting is wrapped up with plumbing tape and clamped much like the pressure pack, and the other end will generally fit quite securely.
The whole assembly is completed with a standard off-the-shelf trigger nozzle. You can use almost any fitting here, bearing in mind that soaker nozzles tend to loose pressure quickly (<2 seconds). Ideally you’re looking for something with a fine spray. The nozzle pictured here has several settings, the ones that are useful are “centre” (uses a small 2cm ring in the centre of the nozzle), “jet” (produces a 2mm jet of water), “flat” (produces a 5mm×1mm rectangular jet) and “mist”. Your mileage will vary.
I haven’t produced any diagrams of the system, since it’s a pretty simple concept, but I figured I’d pass this idea on. We’re thinking of building one for one of my uncles: my cousin and his girlfriend both see nothing wrong with half-hour showers. This system, you can take as long as you like… you still won’t use any more than 6L water. I’ve found using this unit, I’m able to get everything done with water to spare. Couple this with one of the solar showers mentioned earlier, and you’ve got a green way to keep clean. 🙂
Installing an in-house trigger shower
Since posting the above entry… we’ve actually installed a similar shower arrangement in our house. Using typical washing machine adaptor fittings that you can obtain from any hardware store, you can achieve much the same thing. You don’t have the 6L limit, which is both a positive, and negative, and you don’t have to pump it. The photos here show the installation (left), and a close-up of the fittings in use (right). To use this on a mains supply, you’ll need a water hammer arrester, like the one pictured in the photo — otherwise the water hammer generated when releasing the trigger will push the hose off the end of the fitting.