THE Coleman Hot Water On Demand (HWOD) unit is the second generation portable hot water heater from this highly respected outdoor equipment company.

There are two models in the range and we have been using the Elite version for the past few months, which will cost you a hundred bucks or so more than the standard model. While the RRP for the Elite is $549, you’ll get it considerably cheaper if you shop around – we’ve seen it as low as $379.

The unit weighs 8.5kg and packs a big punch in its 42x25x53cm package.

While the heater core is made from copper and the water connections are quick-connect brass fittings, the rest of the unit is made from lightweight aluminium and ABS plastic.

A digital display on the front of the Elite shows the battery status of the on-board lithium-ion battery, pilot light activation, water flow, output temperature, and a number of warnings such as low battery and low water flow.

Two USB charging points are included and are a handy addition for all those items that seem to rely on USB power these days. The battery can be charged or the unit can run on 12V DC or 240V AC power with the cable adaptors supplied (and which are housed in the heater’s handle).

Two hoses – an inlet hose with pump, which connects to the supplied collapsible water container, and the 2.4-metre-long shower hose, which connects to an adjustable shower head – are included. A mesh bag to hold the shower hose and a bracket to hold the shower head completes the kit.

Once you have charged the internal battery, connected the hoses and gas bottle, and filled the water container, the unit is ready for use. Turn on both the master switch and the power button and ensure water is flowing through the unit. Ignition is automatic once you turn the knob to ‘Pilot’. Then simply adjust the knob to the water temperature required – at ‘Max’ it’s very hot.

Coleman says a normal 438g disposable gas canister will give 150 litres of hot water, but that depends on how cold the water is to start with and how hot you want it. With the price of

Coleman canisters often more than $10 per cartridge, it makes a lot of sense to buy a Coleman gas hose that connects to a 9kg gas cylinder. You’ll save money if using the water heater frequently. Plus, the hose will fit more Coleman products than just the water heater.

Due to safety reasons there is no tap or switch to pause the water flow when having a shower, which is a little annoying, as bush camping where water can be difficult to obtain means trying to conserve as much water as possible.

The bush-washing technique – water on, wet yourself down; water off, soap yourself up; water on, rinse yourself off – means you need to have ready access to the heater and the controls.

The flow rate at 2.3L/min (as stated in the spec sheet) means you go through the water in the standard water container fairly quickly. We often used a bucket and simply dropped the pump assembly into the water and it worked fine. You can also connect a garden hose to the unit, if you can find one in the bush, but make sure the water pressure isn’t too high.

An option that could be worth considering is the Coleman carry bag ($80). It not only helps protect the unit, but it keeps all the hoses, associated equipment and Coleman canisters in the one place.

It makes a lot of sense to buy a Coleman gas hose that connects to a 9kg gas cylinder. You’ll save money if using the water heater frequently