We had a hard time finding anything the Nemo Helio Pressure Shower wasn't good for, which is why it's taking home our Top Pick for Versatility award. With adjustable pressure from a handy foot pump and a long hose, the Nemo delivers one of the longest showers of any that we tested. Easy to pack up and bring with you anywhere, the Nemo is a game-changer in how you camp. Though it's not the easiest to fill, the amount of things you can easily clean with this shower is practically limitless.
NEMO Helio Pressure Shower Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Highly versatile, packable, good pressure, durable, water lasts a long time
Cons: Small shower head, narrow opening, must hold in ON position
Manufacturer: NEMO Equipment
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Nemo Helio is a human-powered, pressurized piece of equipment that packs down small and is inflated with a foot pump. It's constructed of polyurethane-coated polyester with a 6'8" neoprene hose and a nozzle much like a kitchen sink sprayer.
One of the most important questions about a shower is, can it get all the shampoo suds out of your hair? With the Nemo Helio Pressure Shower, getting suds out of human hair, dog hair, or even cloth is a breeze. With the simple foot pump, it's easy to get a lot of pressure for those harder jobs or use less pressure for easy rinsing. It takes a little bit to get a feel for the right pump-to-spray ratio for the job, but it's a curve worth learning, as it makes this shower incredibly versatile. The long, 6ft 8in hose facilitates easy use by even tall folks, and everyone loves not having to hang a big heavy bag of water in a tree. The showerhead works much like the sprayer on your kitchen sink at home - press to turn on and release to stop the flow of water. If you don't want to have to hold it all the time, the XL version of this shower from Nemo comes with a little rubber piece around the handle that will hold the shower in the ON position for you - and a larger capacity to extend the length of your shower.
While you could jerry-rig some sort of stand or hanger for this shower to be hands-free, it's not intuitive, and Nemo doesn't offer any sort of solution for this. Unfortunately, this means you'll be taking a lot of one-handed showers with the Helio. But if you're just using this unit to rinse gear or dishes or bathe the dog, you probably won't mind so much. The Nemo also has one of the narrowest sprays of any model we tested, at just ⅝in. One struggle we had while using this unit was that once your feet are wet, it becomes quite easy for them to slip off the foot pump, which is frustrating and tended to make quite a muddy mess. We solved this (mostly) by wearing sandals, but wearing sandals during a shower is never quite as nice as… well, as not wearing sandals in the shower. Overall, the Helio is a decently comfortable shower to use, but not our favorite of the bunch.
The Helio performs well compared to the rest of the showers we tested. It boasts pretty high pressure that pairs with a relatively small shower head to make your 2.9 gallons last longer. As a result, this was one of the longest-lasting showers we tested, at just under 6 minutes. Though Nemo doesn't advertise it as a solar shower, the black sides and clear top facilitate an easy solar option to heat up your shower. You can also easily heat water on a stove and add it that way instead.
The tiny showerhead of the Nemo helps this shower last longer than its competitors but comes at the cost of lessened efficiency in coverage during cleaning. It has one of the lowest rates of flow among models we tested, at just 2.2 L/min. Again, this translates into a longer shower time, but at a slight cost in the effectiveness of the spray. However, the amount of pressure you can build up in the Helio helps combat any loss in cleaning power - you literally can't overpressurize this shower! The Helio is a pretty smooth combination of traits, making it a pretty functional shower overall.
Ease of Set Up
The Helio is a relatively easy shower to get set up. It's pretty self-explanatory, and all the pieces stay attached at all times. Just take it out of its little bag, fill it with water, and you're ready to scrub-a-dub-dub! The biggest challenge we found is the very narrow opening on top of this shower. Not only did it beg to be filled at a faucet (which may or may not be available, depending on where you're planning to use it), but it's an incredibly difficult design to actually close without spilling water. We spilled a LOT of water in our trial and error using this shower. However, the XL version of the Helio has a much larger and wider opening with a threaded lid that makes it much easier to dunk the entire thing into a stream to fill it up.
While we love the ease of set up, because there essentially is no setup, we wish this shower could come apart for cleaning and maintenance. The shower nozzle does screw off if you want it to, but that's it! And with such a small opening, it's nearly impossible to get inside and scrub your shower - all you can do is rinse with baking soda and water. The hoses are also quite thin and kink easily, and as they attach to the bottom of the shower, it's important to pay attention that they're not pinching each other or themselves when you set the shower down. There are also two valves on the foot pump - one to open during use, and the other to open after use, so remembering to do that is an additional step. One other minor complaint we have is that it's quite easy to topple the entire shower over if it isn't set on completely flat ground. Granted, nothing bad happens when it falls over, but it needs to be upright to use.
The Helio is constructed of polyurethane-coated plastic and two neoprene tubes attached securely with metal clamps. It gives off the feel of being a reasonably durable unit capable of withstanding a good amount of abuse, and we found that to be the case. Plastic pieces are thick and feel solid, and attachment points are well-sealed and showed no signs of wear even at the end of our long summer of carting it around everywhere we could think of to clean anything that was even remotely dirty.
We are glad nothing broke while we were using the Helio, as it comes with no replacement pieces, repair directions, or even maintenance instructions. Our only real concern with durability was that sometimes when we used the foot pump, it would fail to reinflate after we stepped on it until we repeated our stomp. We couldn't find any reason why this should happen, which made us wonder what was going on in that squishy, little grey enigma and if we should be worried about it. That being said, we are quite impressed with the durability of such a relatively light shower.
Compared to some of the itty bitty options out there, the Helio looks like a bit of a monster. But considering what you get in this 1.4lb package, it's actually a pretty portable shower. We love how small it packs, squishing from 17in when full, down to just 5.5in. Even when it's full of water, 2.9 gallons weighs just under 24lbs, and no one is asking you to tie it 7ft up in a tree! The convenient handle over the top makes it pretty easy to carry as well, even for decent distances.
That being said, the Helio probably isn't making the cut for a lightweight backpacking trip. It's portable but definitely not THAT portable when you could just jump in the lake or grab a lighter, simpler shower. We also don't love how the hose and foot pump drag on the ground when you carry it. The hose you can obviously coil up and carry, but the proximity of the foot pump to the bottom of the shower prevents it from being easily grabbed and lifted off the ground, but is long enough to drag the whole thing in the dirt as you make your way from the lake back up to your campsite. But at the end of the day, for the functionality you get, the Helio is pleasantly portable.
If you're looking to get a camp shower that can be used for more than just showering - to bathe the dog, clean your surfboard, wash the dishes, rinse muddy shoes - and do it all easily, then the Helio is the shower for you. Rather than being relegated to just one specific use, the Nemo is pretty good at just about everything. And with a decent level of portability either packed or standing up in the bed of your truck, we think you'll find a lot of uses for this handy little shower, no matter how you like to get outside.
Retailing for around $100, the Helio is a far cry from the cheap gravity bag showers of old. While you can save a bunch of money by purchasing nearly any other shower, the extreme versatility and ease of use you get with the Nemo, we think is very worth it. If you've tried everything else and you know you need something more that can do it all, we think this is a great buy. If you're looking for something to toss in your backpack to clean up on your 10-day backpacking trip, this probably isn't the right choice for you.
We are big fans of the Nemo Helio, with its unique and highly versatile design, we found it easy and enjoyable to clean anything we dirty. From sandy kayaks and dirty dishes to muddy dogs and stinky campers, the Helio cleans it all and makes it look easy. Though it may not be the most comfortable shower you'll ever take, or the cheapest shower you can buy, the amount of situations you can make better and cleaner with the Nemo is nearly limitless!
— Maggie Brandenburg