This Is How I Take a Shower In Camp

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My family arrives at the best use for a camp shower. Shooting me with water.

Heading back to camp in the remote Utah desert south of Canyonlands after a long, hot, dusty day that included aimless hiking and scrambling around centuries old Pueblo ruins, one of my adventure mates sighed and goes, "I could use a beer and a shower. The beer we have." But, you see, we were out in Beef Basin and not coming back to Moab for another three days. The shower and his special one-of-a-kind stink was going to have to wait — or so he believed.

I smiled. "Yeah, I know what you mean." And I was thinking: bro, I'm totally going to do you a solid.

"How bad do you want a shower?" I probed.

"Seriously? I'm rank. It had to be a hundred degrees today. If I smell as bad as you look, we're in for a long few days."

"What do you mean if? You smell way worse." We laughed for a minute, let him settle into the idea sticking it out with that coat of dust and sticky skin for next few days. "I've got a treat for you, then. Or a treat for me."

And I told him about the 15-gallon shower system I installed on my truck precisely for moments like this one.

In 2005 my wife and I bought a pickup truck, a Nissan Frontier. It's what we dedicated to our adventure road trips, and we still have it today. Not everyone is into dropping time and money into their vehicles in the quest for the ultimate camping road trip machine, but we were. We were doing a lot of backroad trips into Mexico and all over the southwest. I replaced a lot of things from the floor mats to the bumpers, even strapped a bull skull to the grill we named Marcelo. But easily the best addition I made was the 15-gallon fresh water tank under the truck with an RV water pump, some hose and a sprayer.

I derive great satisfaction from surprising my buddies with an opportunity to shower off after a good day, as unconventional as it may be. But it's paid off in magnitudes of delight over the years. Camped on a beach outside of Puerto Vallarta, my wife and I body surfed during the day and could hose off the sandy, salty residue before climbing into the tent for the night. And it's super easy to wash certain grimy children. Even for day hikes, it's nice to come back to the trailhead, pull off the boots, spray down those steamy sudoric paws, and strap on the Chacos without submitting to a stench that even the gates of hell would reject.

One of the first articles I posted on this website was a rather lengthy look at the parts I used and how I assembled the entire system, and you can see it here

The reason I share it today — stripped down a quick gallery of the essentials — is because after all these years, the on-board water system remains one of the best additions we made to our truck. Though it's gone through some changes over the years, and I've re-worked the plumbing twice because I insisted on putting the pump in a really bad place (attached to the rear bumper on the side, if you must know), but now I came to my senses and installed it in a much more protected space. The quick connect port springs a leak once in a while. The sprayer has broken a time or two. I've burned through 2 pumps in the last 6 years. It's not a perfect system, but it's getting there. If you caught Celebrity Apprentice last Sunday, you heard ol' Gary Busey's pithism, "Art is not the final form. It's the search." As wacky as he is, that's kind of the way it is with this truck stuff, too. It's more of a quest than anything else.


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# Dave 2013-04-05 11:06
RIGHT ON!!!! I'm into the quest too with my Tacoma. I like how you think of it as art.

What did it cost you? How do you fill yours up?
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Mark Stephens
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# Mark Stephens 2013-04-08 09:08
It sort of depends where you draw the line, but I spent just over $300 and that includes every little piece of hardware I bought even for attaching the tank in place. Tank, pump, sprayer, valve, filler neck, hose/hardware, switch, wire all added up that.
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