Tuesday, September 27, 2011

staying clean.. Zodi Review

Living mostly full time in a van is great.......for the most part. Staying clean can be a challenge especially since I am in a river all day who's cleanliness is questionable. last summer I made a great purchase, a Zodi hot water shower. The unit heats cold water up to a bearable level and has a built in shower head. It stores in it's own bag (in a multi-use 5 gallon bucket) and runs off of propane. The water is heated as it is pushed through a copper tube which is heated by a "camp-stove" type heating element. A submersible 6v pump supplies the pressure which is just enough to wash down with. It runs on 1lb green propane bottles but I bought a bulk propane hose to run it off my 5lb tank. I keep a couple of green bottles around just in case. There are two problems with the Zodi. First, the piezo igniter is garbage. It broke on my first Zodi which I returned and then broke on the replacement. I use a stick lighter now and it works just fine. The second problem is the power for the pump. It runs on 4 2.5v D cell batteries which wear down too quickly. I never tested it but I would guess the batteries are good for a dozen showers. I have been thinking of hacking a 6v power supply or a different pump but you want the water pressure to stay the same because it heats as it goes through the copper tube. If the water goes too fast it won't heat and you will have to cycle the water in the bucket to get it pre-warmed. Speaking of the bucket. I store the Zodi in it's bag in a 5 gallon bucket which I use to hold my wash water. I have found that I can get clean and have a nice shower on half a bucket of water (2.5 gallons). If I have to pre-heat really cold water it helps to have the bucket only half full.
To use the shower you simply fill your 5 gallon bucket up with the water you intend to use. Drop the 12v pump and shower head into the bucket, push the on button on the battery pack making sure the water is flowing, turn the gas on and light. Depending on the temp of your source water the shower could be warm enough or you may have to cycle the water in the bucket for a minute to pre-warm. don't pre warm too much though. The water coming out of the shower head is going to be much hotter than the water in the bucket since it goes through a heating cycle as it comes to the shower head. It is also important to shut the burner off before you shut the water pump off so you don't melt anything.
My shower process is simple. Get wet with luke warm water and put the shower head back in the bucket. Soap up and rinse off. The rinse water will be warmer since it has been cycling while I lathered up. I carry bio degradable peppermint bar soap (Dr Bronners)and use that to wash my hair as well. I use bio degradable conditioner as well. My soap stays in a zip-lock bag and I always hang my towel up inside the van to dry.
Since I live in a secluded parking lot I usually strip down and shower right out in the open which is not practical if you are urban camping. If you are trying to be stealthy you will need an alternate method of staying clean. This is where baby wipes become your best friend. These things are great for staying clean, can be flushed, take up little space and are usable in confined spaces. I have a sink in my van so I can wash my face but getting to the undercarriage can be tough in a van. I keep the baby wipes in a zip lock and I buy them in bulk when I can. I have often thought of a way to use the shower in the van but it is just not practical.

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