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Scamper Jim 10-20-2014 07:20 PM

Portable hot water heater for showering
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There is nothing like having a nice warm shower when boondock camping. Usually I am able to use solar water heating bags to produce the hot water. However, I use a portable Zodi water heater to heat the water when the days are cold, cloudy, or I wasn't able to set out the bags early enough to get the water hot if I drove for a long period of time that day.

One significant drawback to a portable hot water heater is that when you shower, first getting wet and then turning off the water at the head while soaping up, you will get hit with very hot water when you open up the shower head again to rinse off. That is because, while stopped, the water was held in the hot coils and gets very hot as it has nowhere else to go. If that water is held on the coils for even a minute or so, you will feel like you are getting cooked for a while when you open the shower head again to rinse off. You can reduce the problem by remembering to direct the head away from you until the water is cooler again.

Stopping the water may be fine when getting hot water to wash dishes or if the water is constantly running while washing something, but not good if it will be hitting you after being allowed to heat in the coils for a while. Also, if you leave the shower run while soaping up to avoid that problem, you will use up more of your water supply and also fill your gray water tank sooner.

I solved the problem by making a system that heats the water in the solar bag, and then I use the water from the bag to shower, not using it directly from the heater.

Photos of the setup show the solar bag hanging from a bracket, the side access door, the 12v water pump mounted on the side of the water tank, and the Zodi heater hanging from the camper. The white water line at the bottom of the bag goes to the 12v water pump, a black line leads from the other side of the pump to the heater, then another black line leads from the heater to the top of the solar bag to return the heated water.

There is a little red switch to turn on the pump to get water to the heater before it is lit. That is very important otherwise, if the coils are heated before water is flowing through them, they will produce flash steam when water does reach the hot coils and you could seriously get burned.

Once the water is circulating the Zodi is lit and the pump left for the water to continue heating and circulating until it reaches the desired temperature. Then the heater is disconnected, the bag is sloshed side to side a couple of times to evenly distribute the temperature of the water in the bag and it is then ready to shower with. The water is at a consistent temperature throughout the shower, no hot or cold interludes to be surprised by.

To hang the Zodi from the camper, I removed the handle and used the same type of bracket used to hold the top of the rock shield on the front window. I put spacers on the top and bottom to hold it out from the camper.

The second-to-the-last photo shows the heater and propane tank stored in the space. The propane tank has to be removed when stored, otherwise it can vibrate loose and loose all the gas in it.

I used a small pump from ebay that has the orange label on it. It’s about $26.00. There are other cheaper ones, but they are really noisy, having found out from previous experience.

The last photo I included because I figured that someone would ask what the three plastic hangers on the side of the camper are for. It is for a wire rack table to place the Coleman stove on for cooking outside. It is about 2.5 feet square. The telescoping leg is from a monopod shooting holder that allows for the Y to be removed and be used for a camera monopod. I used some clamps with the rubber inserts so that the leg can fold flat when stored. The leg has the type of clamps used on camera tripods that release by just opening them. The table has been real handy and takes very little room or added weight.

redbarron55 10-21-2014 07:35 AM

Great idea and pictures. I will take your suggestion to heart as I work on my Scamp.
I am a ways away from this point since I am in the process of repairing the frame and replacing the floor and the entire interior.
I would like to have a slightly more permanent soultion and perhaps something can be built on the extended frame I am building. I am bringing the straight frame section past the front of the trailer and then bending towards the BullDog coupler which I think is a 55 degree angle. This will give more space for the stuff up front and also reduce the hitch vertical load.
How long does the Propane bottle you are using last?

Franswa 10-21-2014 09:37 AM

solar shower....
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I've showered with a solar, "camp" shower A WHOLE LOT on sailboats...for of the advantages of that location is the mast and the ability to hoist the bag way up over your head easily using the main halyard.

to get the water temp. just right I used to put a kettle on the stove...and add a certain amount of boiling water to the bag....nothing better that a steaming hot shower when you've been cold/miserable all day:D:D:D

Eric Johnson 10-21-2014 09:53 AM

Thanks for the knowhow! BTW nice of a harbor.

Sent from my DROID RAZR using Fiberglass RV mobile app

Scamper Jim 10-21-2014 10:26 AM

Portable hot water heater
1 Attachment(s)
I use remaining warm water from the small Corel teapot for washing dishes, so a temporary type of water heater setup is fine as it gets used only occasionally for heating shower water if the weather has been poor, etc.

The solar bags are carried in the back of the pickup so the water has an ambient temperature of 70+ degrees to begin with. It usually takes less then 10 minutes to take the water up to a comfortable temp for showering, even with the Zodi set at a medium heat. Fuel use is less than for cooking a meal on the Coleman stove and I can go the full season on only one bottle, but I do have a spare one in storage if needed.

What I like is that it is an open system so no chance of a tank explosion; don't have to heat 6 gallons just to get 2 gallons of hot water for a shower; and no winterizing with antifreeze, just blow into the hose to clear the coils.

Yes, I know, the wheel chock is upside down. I noticed that when I took the photos. It must have had something to do with the altitude, daylight saving time, global warming or something like that.

I think this guy is not quite clear on the concept of a Porta-Potti!

Frederick L. Simson 10-21-2014 10:53 AM


Originally Posted by Scamper Jim (Post 488407)
I think this guy is not quite clear on the concept of a Porta-Potti!

Let's stay with the topic of water heaters please.

Timber Wolf 10-21-2014 10:54 AM

Hey Jim, what are the three plastic hangers on the side of the trailer for? Kidding, but yes I would have been curious had you not explained it.;) Your shower set up is very interesting, thanks for posting it. What I do want to know is, what is the story with the hatch door?

redbarron55 10-21-2014 01:51 PM

I think that although the Zodi is a heavier duty unit the snaller on demand unit has a little more control in it to vary the heat and flow to limit the high temp. The burner startss and stops with the flow.
We have electric units installed here in the plant and they work quite well. One of my guys has one set up (gas) on his sink for cooking contest and he is very well pleased with it.
I will take an opportunity to do some trial runs with one set up as a shower with pump to see how it works.
I read some reviews on the Amazon site on these units and they seem to have some pluses and minuses like everything else.
One problem is the wind blowing it out. The other id tha sensitivity of the safety controls shutting it off. Perhaps making a better mounting plate and wind guard (out od some stainless sheet metal on that mounting in the front I plan would serve.
I have some time to work it out while I am rebuilding my trailer.
However this is an interesting discussion and I am sure a lot pr Scampers etc would be interested in the pros and cons of these things.
Personally I would like to hear from others who have tried iy.

Scamper Jim 10-21-2014 09:09 PM


Did you mean why is it installed so that the door swings up instead of down when it is opened? Well, it has to do with not looking at the orientation of the louvers when buying the door. You will note the opening of the louvers face down, so if I was to rotate the door so that it was hinged at the bottom, the louvers would then be facing up. Hence, great at catching rain and directing it into the storage area.

If you meant something else, just let me know.

Timber Wolf 10-22-2014 09:59 AM

No, I wondered how you have one at all. I have not seen a Scamp before with a door there. Did you install it? If so, where did you get it?

Scamper Jim 10-22-2014 11:44 AM

Access doors
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Oh those, I installed one on each side. Since I have the bed set up permanently, they avoid having to lift and hold up the mattress while trying to sort through stuff trying to find what I want. Likewise, interior drawers would not help any either as they would be below the bed.

Having the exterior access doors makes it real easy to retrieve the scissor jacks, hose, extension cords, battery charger, etc. I found them on Craigslist. Just go to RV then type in “Parts” or “Parting out”. The other good place for me to find stuff is at an RV dealer here in Denver called Five Star RV Center. In addition to new parts, repairs, sales, etc, they have a large tent for used parts they recovered from damaged or upgraded RVs they worked on. You can find almost anything there.

That is where I got the monitoring system for $30 and the Carefree of Colorado Truck n Awn for $150. I make a trip out there about twice a year to see what goodies they have. You can see in the photo that I replaced the useless analog needle voltage gauge in the monitor with a digital one. Now it gives a precise voltage reading instead of just good or bad.

There is stuff I didn’t know I needed until I found them out there!

Before anyone notices that the little area of fiberglass at the upper left of the door will not support the canopy arm, I will clarify that I have a CNC plasma cutting table and designed a 6-inch wide plate cut from 12-gage steel that fits behind the door and extends from the bottom of the wooden rib to the floor. It has 1-inch wide bends that allow it to be screwed to the bottom of the rib and top of the floor to keep it in place. It is then also glassed in. All weight, stress and shocks are transmitted to the plate, not the fiberglass body. In fact, I made the holes in the fiberglass just a little larger than the holes in the plate so that the screws are not able to put any stress on the fiberglass.

I took the camper this summer from Denver to Canidagua, NY (1,875 each way) at 70 mph, hitting all kinds of holes, especially in Illinois around Chicago and there was absolutely no sign of a problem when I got back. It is very stable.

Timber Wolf 10-22-2014 11:53 AM

Nice, I wish there was someplace like that here. I have heard rumors of a motorhome breaker/scraper somewhere local but have not tracked it down. I like your awning too, $150, wow.

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