Camping with a Solar Water Heater

When it's time to go camping, a solar hot water heater may be among the supplies you wish to bring with you. Enjoying the great outdoors can be made more comfortable with the addition of this device, which uses the power of the sun to provide clean, non-potable water for washing dishes, gear, equipment and/or people. Solar water heaters come in various sizes and constructions, but the basic design is a refillable vinyl or plastic bag, clear on one side and black on the other. The bag is filled with water and then hung from a tree or other tall, upright object that receives direct sunlight. The time to heat the water will vary, based on the strength of the sun, the amount of water in the bag and the size of the bag, but safe to say after a few hours most solar water heaters will be full of usable, hot water. Before bringing one with you, however, there are some questions to ask yourself that will determine the size and style of heater, if any, you wish to bring along on your trip.

How Many People Will Be Camping with You?

If you're going alone, or with just one camping partner, the size and type of solar water heater you'll want will be different than if you're going with a large group. Typical capacity solar water heater bags, when opened all the way, can provide three to five minutes of fresh, hot water for a camp shower, but it takes one to three hours to heat that water. If you're camping with a half-dozen or more people, that means taking all day for everyone to shower. You may want to forgo the shower completely, take turns or pack more than one solar water heater.

Does Your Campsite Have Showers?

Many campsites offer showers in their restroom facilities. Usually, there is a small fee to use them, but they come with privacy–either a curtain or a stall door–which solar water heaters don't. Additionally, the water in a restroom shower at a campsite won't run out, unlike a solar water heater, provided you have the money to keep it going. The cost of a solar water heater, depending on how often you go camping, might be less than the cost of showering at the campsite, if that service is available. Some math is required to know for sure, but cost efficiency is an important consideration to make.

How Many Days Will You Spend Camping?

Are you willing go without a shower for a day or two? A long weekend? A week? Are your camping partners? If you're willing to smell like campfire and lichen for the duration of your trip and your campsite doesn't have a shower facility, then you might want to consider leaving the solar water heater behind. On the other hand, a solar water heater brings with it the ability to wash yourself after a long day in the wilderness.