It’s Outdoor Shower Season

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A love letter to freshening up al fresco.

Welcome to Beach Week, a celebration of the best place on earth.

The act of taking a shower is quotidian enough to be remarkably unmemorable, which is, I think, by design. A shower’s primary function is to clean the body and occasionally the mind, washing away the detritus of the day. But when that same perfunctory experience happens in or around nature, the whole vibe shifts. Taking a shower outside feels illicit but also luxurious—in other words, a perfect experience.

The best kind of outdoor spaces mimic the comforts of the indoors while also taking into consideration what the outside has to offer. A comfortable outdoor living room works because there is no greater luxury than sitting on a plush couch outside, preferably in front of a fireplace, and ideally, with a wine in hand. Outdoor kitchens are fun because if you’ve done it right, it feels like Tuscany, or the idea of it at least. But the beauty of an outdoor shower is that you don’t need the other bathroom accouterments like a tub or a toilet, because the shower is the whole point. 

Traditionally (or at least in my mind), an outdoor shower is intrinsically tied to the beach; showering off the sand, the oily traces of sunscreen and stray globs of salad dressing before coming into the house is not only polite, but necessary. Other, lesser versions of the outdoor shower exist; public outdoor showers at beaches are utilitarian only, and while they may be visually interesting, the experience is brisk and business-like. The same thought applies to the ingenious contraption I first experienced at a large hotel in Miami some years ago: a high-powered foot shower positioned directly outside the hotel’s gate that led to the boardwalk, meant for power-rinsing sandy feet before entering the pool area. These are technically outdoor showers, but the real deal is the private outdoor shower, where you can really feel at home in your surroundings.  

The best outdoor shower should be a little rustic, kitted out with only the basics: a hook or two for a towel and a wet bathing suit, a bench that holds a battered bottle of Dr. Bronner’s and some mediocre shampoo, and water pressure that ranges from incredible to just okay. Maybe you’ll get a splinter when you push hard on the door, because it always sticks, but most likely, you won’t. (Even if you do, it’s part of the journey). While there are certainly outdoor showers that are as glamorous and well-appointed as any shower in an interior bathroom, the beauty of the best kinds of outdoor showers are in the simplicity. You’re not in the shower to marvel at the masterful tilework or to relish the feeling of multiple rainfall showerheads: you’re here to clean yourself, and also to take a moment alone and just be.

There’s silence in an outdoor shower that feels different from the chatter and hum of whatever’s going on inside the house. A shower beer, a time-honored tradition that feels appropriate only in summer, works better outside, too: No longer fearful of dropping and breaking the Miller High Life you brought, the beverage can be consumed slowly, as you rinse the day away. Stay there as long as you want. No one’s knocking on the door to use the bathroom or to get their glasses out of the medicine cabinet. You are in your own private Idaho, a moment of pause. 

Top photo by Tim Van de Velde.

Related Reading:

Getting to the Beach Is Half the Fun

The Reason to Love Lakes Is the House Peeping

Dwell Picks: Beach Reads for Your Next Summer Outing

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