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Reviews > Personal Hygiene > Showers > Handy Shower > Test Report by Jamie DeBenedetto
Product Information Back to contents
**ABS or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene is a type of thermoplastic polymer that retains its integrity and rubbery feel through a wide range of temperatures (-4 to 176 °F / ?20 to 80 °C). It can be damaged, however, by UV rays such as those found in sunlight.
**PP or Polypropylene
is also a thermoplastic polymer commonly used in food grade containers because
of its heat tolerance and it's resistance to acids, bases, and chemical solvents.
Product Description Back to contents
First and foremost Handy
Shower is a lightweight, versatile and portable hygiene-aid. The kit I received
came with several interchangeable nozzles and attachment options giving the
user a number of ways to use the bladder of water. A few uses suggested by
the manufacturer are: as a camp shower, bidet, faucet, water container, dog
bathing device and/or spritzer for plants. Of the four shower kits the company
offers, the one they sent me to test seems most like the Premium+. The Premium+
Kit comes with the following:
black carry case
The kit I received is missing the hanger with the suction cup but they gave me an extra nozzle, similar to the faucet nozzle but with only three holes instead of six.
The carry case looks to be made of some type of nylon and is slightly padded. It opens by way of zippers, one on each side. Sewn into the lid is a mesh pocket. The bladder utilizes a 1.5 in (4 cm) diameter fill port with screw on cap. The cap and holder ring are removable. Like many other hydration style bladders the bladder has a connection point at the bottom for the hose/showerhead. The hose connection point does not have a cap so the bladder can only be filled while the hose is attached. The showerhead accounts for 6 in (15 cm) of the total length of the showerhead/hose combo. They do not appear to disconnect. The hose is see-thru and quite flexible. The various nozzles each fit into a small opening at the top of the showerhead, attaching and detaching with a simple twist. To operate the Handy Shower the user need only attach the nozzle of their choice, fit the hose to the bottom port on the bladder, fill the bladder, depress the blue cap on the showerhead and out comes the water!
Arrival Condition and Informational Material Back to contents
As far as I can tell, everything I received in the kit is in proper working order with the possible exception of the hose. The hose has a kink in it near the showerhead attachment point from the way it was packaged. My initial tests of the bladder show that it does indeed hold water but I could not get it to hold a full 2 L (64 fl oz). More on both of these issues below. All of the nozzles clip into the nozzle port and allow water to run through. I have not tried any of the brackets but the suction cup and the magnet do attach to their specific material. The case is also in good shape. All seams are good, both zippers work, and the mesh is undamaged.
The shower kit arrived with a colorful brochure showcasing the company's philanthropic outreach and how the Handy Shower might be used to help communities in need. They also included another piece of paper with 18 helpful diagrams showing how to attach nozzles, brackets, and hang the water tank. It also covers how to set up and use a foot pedal for hands-free faucet operation. The foot pedal was not included in my kit, nor is this item mentioned on the website in the list of parts included in the Premium+ kit. I assume this is something sold separately or still being developed by Handy Shower. The bottom three diagrams show common uses including hair washing, as a bidet, and dog paw cleaner.
While I found this sheet
helpful, it seemed to me the only aspect of the Handy Shower that was not
immediately obvious was how to actually get the water to start flowing from
the showerhead. This is done by depressing the blue cap on the top of the
showerhead. From the website the manufacturer claims the valve they've developed
is unique in that it is " small, light, durable, reliable and cheap at
the same time". By "cheap" I'm assuming they mean inexpensive
to make, not low quality. It's also a one-way system so that water is supposed
to only come out when the cap is depressed and not otherwise.
Expectations and First Impressions Back to contents
As of this writing the Handy Shower is not available for sale. From that I gather they are still somewhat in the testing stage of development so while my expectations for this product are high, I'm open minded to the possibilities for unseen improvement. My first impression is mixed. In as much as all the bits and pieces of this kit look well constructed I have my doubts about the hose and the bladder. The material the hose is made from is soft and seems prone to kinks. I've already experienced an issue with flow because of the kink I mentioned earlier near the base of the showerhead. I attempted a fix, which I hope to report on positively in my Long Term Report in 4 months.
My other concern is the
bladder. When filling it to verify the fluid ounces/liters I was only able
to get about 95% of the full 2 L / 68 fl oz in. And even more of that spilled
out when I tried to screw on the cap. I even had a massive leak on one fill
when I didn't have the cap threaded correctly. I'm hoping it's just a matter
of me getting the hang of filling and not a design issue. I'll do my best
to work out all the kinks, literally and figuratively and report back in four
Collective Use and Field Conditions Back to contents
Three day camping trip in the pines of the Coconino Nation Forest, Arizona (AZ). Elevation 7,000ft (2,100 m). Temperatures ranged between 71 and 40 F (22 to 4 C). We had rain on two of the three days, mostly clear on the third. Primarily used as our camp washing station (hand, face, teeth, etc.) using the 6 hole faucet attachment. (Pictured on the right)
Day hike near New River, AZ. Elevation 2,000 ft (610 m). The temperature was around 97 F (36 C), partly cloudy. Once again the 8 hole nozzle was used to wet my head, hat and shirt before starting off and cleaning up upon return to the trailhead.
Day hike along the Verde River, Tonto National Forest, AZ. Elevation average 1,500ft (500 m). Weather was clear and sunny with a high of 103 F (40 C). I tried the single hole (focused) showerhead this time to wash up after the hike and clean off my sandals.
As you can tell from my field use, the Handy Shower has been employed most of the time for wetting down or cleaning humans before and after hikes and while camping. In this capacity the shower has worked well with some exceptions.
Heating Water in the Bladder
One of my first tests for the Handy Shower back in June was to see how well the dark blue bladder heated its contents when set in direct sunlight. I filled the Handy Shower with water, set it out in my yard in full sun and allowed it to heat up for 2 hrs in upper 90 F (37 C) degree temperatures. When I checked the internal water temperature it maxed out my thermometer at 108 F (42 C) but I'm sure it was much hotter.
The material used for the bladder and the hose were noticeably softer after heating up for that length of time. I tried to use this opportunity to reverse the kink in the hose by clipping it in the opposite direction while the hose was soft, then allowing it to cool in the "fixed" position. This was unsuccessful which meant the majority of my field use took place with the hose kinked. I did eventual find a more permanent solution that I cover below.
By far, filling the bladder has been the most problematic aspect of the Handy Shower. For me, there are two main issues: the plastic threaded port, and holding the bladder while filling it. The problem with the fill port is that the plastic is too pliable which allows the port to change shapes ever so slightly. This malformation creates a misalignment with the threads in the cap and their counterparts on the port, resulting in an ineffective seal and water loss. (Pictured on the left) The port problem is exacerbated by a lack of a handle or easy way to hold the bladder while it's being filled. In order to hold the port open at an angle necessary to fill it, the user has to hold on to the port. No matter how I held it, around the outside, with one finger inside like a hook, etc. the pressure caused the port to change shapes just enough to create the problem described above. As my mother used to say, "You have to hold your mouth just right" to get the lid to thread on correctly. In some cases it took me several tries and lots of water loss before my mouth was just right!
Taking the Handy Shower along for our outings was fairly convenient. For camping and day hikes I didn't have a space issue so I just filled the bladder at home, connected the showerhead I thought I would want and then brought all the rest of the supplies in the carry case. In that way I could change out the head if needed and I'd have the full complement of brackets at my disposal. I didn't have any problems with leakage or hose detachment while transporting in my vehicle.
Using it backpacking was a different story. Originally I thought I would fill the bladder at home and carry it in my pack full so that I'd have an extra 1.5 L or so for emergency drinking water. I changed my mind, however, because I kept having problems getting the lid to tighten and given the fact that the showerhead hose has to be attached at the bottom port I worried about one or the other leaking during transit and wetting all my gear. I settled on carrying the Handy Shower dry, rolled up with the showerhead and hose stuffed in a top pocket.
Since I did not receive the factory hanger with my kit I've improvised by using either a short piece of cordage or the showerhead bracket in conjunction with either the magnet or the suction cup (obviously not their intended purpose but it worked okay). Thankfully, I haven't had any fabric tears along any of the holes at the top of the bladder.
The Handy Shower seemed best suited in places where modern materials like metal and glass were available, which is why I used my SUV so often. At trailheads and in our car camping spot it was easy enough to hang the shower off my roof rack then attach the showerhead bracket to either the window or the side of the SUV giving me a place to set the showerhead as well. In the woods, miles away from my vehicle, this was not possible. Hanging the bladder was no problem. Any low branch worked fine with the cordage or even just through the middle hole, but then I didn't have the option of setting the showerhead in a bracket unless I wanted to screw the wood screw into the tree. Something I did not want to do.
I think it would be very helpful to have a holder for the showerhead attached to the bottom of the bladder. That way no additional components are needed beyond being able to hang the bladder initially, and it would still allow for the head to work via gravity. Or, if that's not possible, maybe a more tree friendly bracket that doesn't need to be screwed into the wood?
Showerhead and Attachments
The only showerhead nozzle I did not use was the bidet. All the others worked well for their intended purpose. I didn't have any problems changing out the various attachments or having them fall off or loosen while in use. Additionally, the patented one-way valve unique to Handy Shower worked flawlessly. Not a drop snuck out unless the blue cap was depressed. The flow of water is of course different for each nozzle and I found some worked better than others depending on the job. For example I preferred the 3 hole faucet over the 6 hole faucet for cleaning off dishes, because it had a bit more power. While the 6 hole faucet worked just fine in a stationary (the showerhead hanging in a bracket) position for hand, face, and general hygiene needs. The 8 hole dispersed was the most utilitarian and the nozzle I used most often. Whereas I found the single hole worked best when I needed a bit more pressure like when blasting mud off the bottom of my boots. Lastly, if I had to pick, I'd prefer all nozzles were white or a brighter color over black. I can't imagine how frustrating it would be to try to find those little black ones if one were dropped in the forest duff.
Unfortunately, a fair test for the hose was doomed from the start because it arrived kinked right under the showerhead handle. On several occasions the flow of water was drastically disrupted because of the kink. As mentioned above I tried a few fixes: the first was to clamp it in the opposite direction to see if that would normalize the tubing. This did not work. The second attempt was to tape around the hose, that too failed. Although I think a thicker tape, like electrical might have worked. My third attempt involved repurposing a plastic cap from a marker and sliding it up the hose to create a kind of splint for the kinked section so it can't bend anymore. This has been an improvement but the hose is so soft it tries to kink below the plastic section as well. I own three different brands of hydration bladders and all of these use a slightly more ridged tubing. I'm wondering if that would solve the problem.
As far as hose length goes, on most outings I was glad for the longer hose. It allowed for great flexibility in where and how high I hung the bladder. It was also helpful when wetting the dogs because I could reach all the way down and get to their bellies and legs. For backpacking I would rather have had a shorter hose simply for the weight and space savings. I think if Handy Shower is serious about marketing this to hikers that needs to be a consideration.
Beyond cleaning myself
and my family I also put the Handy Shower to work as a water filtration aid
and as a doggie shower before our summer walks. In both jobs it met my needs
to about 95%. The nearly 2 L water capacity of the bladder combined with the
black shower nozzle worked sufficiently to wet the bellies and chests of three
large size dogs, one time. While backpacking the water capacity was perfect
for my son and I to clean up before and after dinner and do our normal hygiene
routine the next morning. In fact, I wouldn't have wanted anything bigger
since I had to carry it. As a water filtration aid the bladder was also very
helpful. (Pictured on the right) We weren't too far from our water source
so it was easy to fill the bladder at the spring, walk it back up to camp,
hang it from the tree (with the cap open since I didn't want to fiddle with
it and loose water), then let my inline gravity filter do its thing. The extra
bit of hose I generally use to attach the filter to my other bladder wasn't
compatible with the exit port of the Handy Shower so I had to sacrifice a
small section of the shower's hose to take its place. This worked great and
overall the Handy Shower hose was no worse for the wear.The 5% I docked the
shower is because it has to be connected to the hose/showerhead in order to
be filled with water. This made non-traditional uses a little harder to execute.
I would love to see Handy Shower integrate a cap for the hose port to give
the user a few more options.
Final Thoughts Back to contents
The Handy Shower was indeed handy! Its array of showerhead nozzles gave me plenty of options for cleaning humans and dogs. The attachments are easy to change-out and the handle is simple and effective to use one-handed. The nearly 2 L bladder size was just right for wetting three big dogs, or cleaning my family of four around camp, or as a water carrying /filtration bag. The 74 in (1.8 m) hose, provided ample length for my needs but I felt a shorter option would be better for backpacking. In my opinion the manufacturer should also consider a redesign where the hose meets the showerhead handle. The soft plastic hose material in this area created flow problems due to a permanent kink in the line. Hanging the bladder was no problem although filling it was. I think the fill port/lid needs some further thought as well and I'd like to see a cap or shut-off valve added to the hose port. The assortment of hose bracket options were more suited for in-town or car camping locations, which worked find for my needs most of the time. I'd rather have something more germane to wilderness use and maybe attached to the bladder, however, for backpacking use. With some tweaks I think Handy Shower has a winner here and I look forward to seeing how they grow into the backpacking world.
My thanks to Handy Shower for giving us a chance to evaluate their product and to BackpackGearTest.org for choosing me to be part of this test series.
Read more reviews of Handy Shower gear
Read more gear reviews by Jamie DeBenedetto
Reviews > Personal Hygiene > Showers > Handy Shower > Test Report by Jamie DeBenedetto