How to Use Lake Water for a Camp Shower

How to Use Lake Water for a Camp Shower
Purification of lake water is the primary concern when using it for a camp shower because the water can enter your body in a variety of ways during the course of washing or rinsing, and avoiding serious illness, caused by water-borne bacteria or microbes, on the trail is paramount.
If you already have a boil setup for drinking water, you can use the same equipment, if you take precautions in order to not cross contaminate your drinking water apparatus.


Difficulty: Moderate

Heat and Treat

Things You’ll Need:
  • Bucket
  • Shower bag or other shower system
  • Pan sized for the water volume you require
  • Firewood
  • Matches
  • Coils of dark hose (optional)
Step 1
Collect lake water already filtered for large detritus. Use your hands to dig a hole in the sand a few inches away from the water line. Allow the hole to fill with water: It will seep through the sand, which acts as a natural filter. Gather the water from the hole.
Step 2
Boil the water (1 to 3 minutes at a roiling boil) before use to kill Giardia and other waterborne microbes. While filtering can remove some impurities and microbes, boiling is considered the best method for purification. It may take time or repetition to boil the one to three gallons of water needed for a shower (depending on your size and preference).
Step 3
Allow the boiled water to cool enough so it will not melt your shower bag before filling it.
Step 4
Hoist the shower bag into a tree, just above head level. The bags, which are are lightweight and compact, use gravity to drain the water. Shower while the water is warm and use the bag to store any remaining water.
Step 5
Use the sun to passively heat cooled, treated water (if you prepare more than you need) by placing it in a dark container in direct sunlight. A filled, coiled dark hose may heat more rapidly and thoroughly than a single large container.

Tips & Warnings

Use a mini shower system to reheat small batches of lake water. Draw water from the treated supply, using the hand pump on top of the metal container. Heat the water on a camp stove, right in the bottle. This takes only a few minutes: The bottle is made to fit small stoves. Use the spray handle to shower without the need to lift the unit.
To use a battery powered shower system, insert the pump into your reservoir of treated water, not the lake itself. While the system may filter debris from untreated water, they do not filter microorganisms and do not heat the water. The submersible pump draws water and an on/off shower head regulates the flow.

Article Written By Alice Moon

Alice Moon is a freelance writer with more than 10 years of experience. She was chosen as a Smithsonian Institute intern, working for the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and has traveled throughout Asia. Moon holds a Bachelor of Science in political science from Ball State University.

Don't Miss a Thing!

All our latest outdoor content delivered to your inbox once a week.



We promise to keep your email address safe and secure.