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Reviews > Personal Hygiene > Showers > NEMO Helio Pressure Shower > Owner Review by Richard Lyon

 NEMO Helio Pressure Shower
Owner Review by Richard Lyon
September 6, 2013


Personal Details and Backpacking Background
Male, 67 years old
Height: 6' 4" (1.93 m)
Weight: 200 lb (91 kg)
Email address: Montana DOT angler AT gmail DOT com
Home: Bozeman, Montana USA

I'm in my fifth decade of backpacking, undertaken mostly in the Northern Rockies, where I now live.  I do a weeklong trip every summer, and often take three-day trips.  I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 13000 ft (1500-4000 m).  I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp.  I’m always seeking ways to reduce my pack load, but still usually choose a bit more weight over foregoing camp conveniences I've come to expect.

Product Description and Details

Helio extended The Helio Pressure Shower is portable freestanding system that greatly simplifies taking a shower in the backcountry by replacing gravity with pumped-in air to provide water pressure. The Helios has four principal components: foot pump, rubber hose, spray nozzle, and water container. Fill the container with water and set it upright, add pressure by opening a valve and then stepping on the pump, extend the hose, and squeeze the handle on the nozzle for a backcountry or trailhead dousing. The working pieces compact down into a small cylindrical carrying case with neon green sidewalls. There’s a handle atop the water container for carriage, with a warning not to use the handle for hanging a water-filled container.

Manufacturer: NEMO Equipment, Inc.
Website: http://www.nemoequipment.com I highly recommend the short video on the Helio’s product page (under Camp Tools) as an illustration of how the product works.
Weight: listed 22 oz / 650 g, measured 23 oz / 652 g
Packed weight: listed: 25 oz / 710 g, measured 26 oz /737 g
Height: listed 17 in / 43 cm extended, 5.5 in / 17 cm packed; verified accurate
Diameter: listed 8.5 in / 22 cm; verified accurate
Capacity: listed 11 liters (2.9 gallons), verified accurate.
MSRP: $99 US
Warranty: The Helio has a lifetime warranty against defects in manufacturing or materials, as do all NEMO products.

Field Conditions

I’ve used the Helio on three weekend car camping trips in Montana and Wyoming and, most recently, on a weeklong backpack service trip in the Scapegoat Wilderness in Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front.  Temperature at time of usage, almost always late afternoon or early evening, varied from 45-85 F (7-30 C).  All use has been in dry weather, sometimes overcast but usually sunny.  Altitudes were between 5000 and 6000 feet (1500-1800 m). The service trip consisted of a thirteen-mile (20 km) hike to base camp, daily hikes to worksites along the trail, and a return to the trailhead at the end of the week.

I’ve also used the Helio after several day hikes in Montana and Wyoming this spring and summer, at temperatures similar to those on the service trip.

Observations

Helio packed The Helio represents breakthrough technology in its (admittedly narrow) niche. With this product it’s easy to take a shower almost anywhere water is available. None of the other products or methods I’ve tried can approach that result.

Readers of my Owner Reviews and Test Reports know that every summer I perform at least one week of backcountry trail maintenance. Almost all such work occurs in designated Wilderness areas, a consequence of which is a strictly enforced ban on power tools. A working day is seven or eight hours of hiking (in work clothes, carrying tools) and manual labor. Back in camp at the end of the day I’m hot, dusty, dirty, and tired. A shower gives both physical and psychological relief. That’s why I try to include the means to take one in my kit.

Until I found the Helio every system I had used depended on gravity. Free and reliable gravity may be, but to make an effective shower it requires finding a way to suspend the water six or seven feet (≈ 2 m) above the ground, not always an easy task.  Water is heavy.  The weight of a solar shower filled with three gallons (11-12 L) of water, the Helio’s capacity, has broken off many a tree branch. And hanging requires that I find a branch in a convenient location, convenience being dictated by proximity to the water source, privacy requirements, and a politically correct Leave-No-Trace distance from a stream or lake. With the Helio, on the other hand, I can set up the shower at any suitably private location.

The recent service trip sharply illustrated this. We set up our base camp at the confluence of Telephone and Cave Creeks, in a large meadow near our target trails and with terrific views – but the only trees suitable for hanging a shower were either half a mile (1 km) away or right along one of the creeks. But a nearby clump of shrubs, perhaps head high, made an ideal shower stall.  

But I think this product’s real edge over other shower units is the reliable water pressure. A few foot pumps and it’s ready to go, and the pressure exceeds by plenty that provided by the gravity drip on any other system that I have used. It’s rather like the spray from a hose attached to a kitchen sink, more than enough to allow me quickly and completely to lather up or rinse off. The squeeze trigger makes for easy on and off, another major advance over a gravity system, and equally easy directing the spray exactly where it’s needed or wanted.  That makes the Helio a big water saver. A full container, eleven liters (just under three gallons), easily supplied enough shower water for three dirty workers.

I can maintain the pressure with a few pumps whenever it begins to wane. NEMO’s instructions state that the system cannot be over-pressurized. In my brief experience I've found that NEMO's claim that a fully-pressurized tank yields 5-7 minutes of pressure to be conservative.

The 6.5-foot (2 m) hose is long enough so that this tall guy can spray anywhere with only minimal bending over, conquering yet another drawback of a gravity system. (The only strong branch within reach always seems to be only three or four feet above ground. Try taking a shower when crouching or kneeling to appreciate how much the hose helps.)   

The Helio aids other backcountry chores. It’s handy for washing dishes or cleaning gear. This can be particularly useful when car camping.  On one of my car camping trips it really helped with a post-s’mores clean up of two small children.  I have used the Helio at home for bathing my dog, a 100-pound (45 kg) creature who refuses to climb into a shower or tub.

The only significant drawback I can report is the obvious one – the Helio is a heavy and bulky item, difficult to fit into a pack and another slug of pack weight. Actually the unit doesn’t weigh much more than my solar shower but I can’t always find a place in my backpack for a hatbox. To be fair, NEMO doesn’t claim otherwise; in its marketing the company emphasizes trailhead and similar uses (such as after surfing). On a base camp backcountry trip though I firmly believe it’s worth the effort to pack it in. Certainly on my recent service trip it was a big hit with this crusty old veteran backpacker and my volunteers, five college coeds none of whom had ever previously backpacked.

A minor complaint is the small fill port, only one inch (2.5 cm) in diameter. This generally means I must fill the water container from another vessel such as a water bottle or coffee pot.

I cleaned the Helio after returning home from the service trip by rinsing with water laced with a few drops of bleach. It’s difficult to expel every drop of water when emptying the water container, so if I break camp early the unit will be packed wet. The case has aeration holes that help drying, but I’ll likely add an anti-mildew product to its clean-up bath occasionally.

NEMO’s only other care caution is to store the unit away from direct sunlight. That complicated our service trip experiment of duplicating a solar shower’s ability to provide hot water. We tried wrapping it, full of water, in a black garbage bag. The result was lukewarm water, better than the icy stream from which the water came but nowhere near hot. [See Addendum below on this.]

Summary

I think the Helio is an ideal product for car camping, base camp backpacking, or trip when support (stock or boat) is available. My compliments to NEMO Equipment, Inc. for an ingenious and truly useful addition to my gear closet.

Addendum - November 10, 2013

Shortly after posting this Review NEMO's public relations representative contacted me. She said that NEMO intended the precaution about storing out of direct sunlight was intended to refer to storage at home, and the company encouraged placing the Helio steep in bright sunlight when full of water. They like hot showers as much as I do!



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Reviews > Personal Hygiene > Showers > NEMO Helio Pressure Shower > Owner Review by Richard Lyon



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