Review: High Sierra Shower Head
article & images by Nick Salazar
Jan 14, 2013
So the High Sierra has just 1.5 GPM to work with. Thatís exactly 40% less water than the standard shower heads you're used to. With basically half the water of your normal shower head, the High Sierra spits out big, forceful droplets that feel just right. They aren't misty, they aren't airy, and they don't sting. The spray pattern is certainly different from a standard needle-stream head, but after a couple showers with droplets, I've come to prefer the droplets over needles. It's hard to describe why it's better - perhaps it's the feeling of rainfall, or perhaps it's something else - but the effect is a more pleasing shower experience. The spray is perfectly uniform across the diameter of the spray, as far as I can tell. High Sierra recommends rotating the shower head such that the interior 'mouth' of the nozzle is horizontal. I suppose that means there is some kind of radial asymmetry in the spray pattern, but I couldn't detect it.
To be fair, the overall force of the spray does feel ever so slightly weaker than that of a full 2.5 GPM spray. And if you've ever used a higher flow head from pre-1992, you may have noticed those heads could really pump out a torrent of watter. However, despite any force differences in the High Sierra head, its ability to rinse hair is as good as any other showerhead I've ever used, including high-flow heads. Mrs. TriRig said as much, confirming that it rinsed her long hair as easily as any other head. This is an important factor; you don't want to lose a key function of your shower head just because you move to a greener technology. High Sierra is the first low-flow head I've used that is able to do that. I've been through a pretty wide variety of different shower heads, from pre-1992 high-flow heads, to 2.5 GPM heads of every shape and size, to a fairly broad spectrum of high-efficiency heads. And I can say beyond doubt that the High Sierra head is the only low-flow shower head I've ever used that is every bit as good as a standard or high-flow model. And I'll go so far as to say it's better than most of the 2.5 GPM models I've used. It's really that good.
Oh, and a consequence of the simple, minimal design of the High Sierra is that it's completely leak-free and clog-proof. When you shut off the water to your shower, the water stops instantly and completely. Not one drip. It's pretty amazing, and High Sierra says this helps reduce the buildup of mold, since there's no latent water left in the device. The advantage of this construction is primarily seen at institutional installations, where there may be hundreds or even thousands of these shower heads at a single facility, and failures will be more common. But even the home user can appreciate a well-built product. I certainly do, and I like knowing that my shower head is good for the long haul.
I think the only real complaint you could levy about the High Sierra is that the spray diameter is slightly smaller than that of the most common needle-spray heads on the market. For me, this was a non-issue. In my shower, the head is sitting pretty high up, about a foot above the top of my head. This gives the spray plenty of room to spread out, and I get ample coverage. However, if your shower head sits 3 inches from the top of your skull, and you don't have any way to increase that distance, then head diameter is a bigger issue for you, and the High Sierra might feel pretty small. But again, High Sierra has considered this scenario, and they offer a version of the shower head without the plastic focusing sleeve. This increases the total spray diameter slightly.
All-in-all, the product is amazing. It's saving us a lot of water, and therefore money. It's easing the burden on our tankless water heater, which in turn saves energy, and therefore more money. But what's even more important is that it's really improved the shower experience. I can take a steaming hot shower for as long as I want, and never run out of hot water. I don't have to adjust the hot water dial, because our tankless won't ever run out. Gone forever is that dreadful situation where the shower water suddenly goes cold, and you're forced scurry out, unfulfilled and probably still covered in soap. With the High Sierra, the pressure is great, the spray is awesome, and our tankless water heater can easily keep up with our hot water draw. It was the perfect solution to that problem.
And while my use of the High Sierra came from a particular need of my shower remodeling, it's a great candidate for ANY home shower. If you run a traditional tank, it's going to increase your maximum hot shower by a massive 80%. If you run a tankless, it'll make your system sing. This baby sells for $35, direct from the manufacturer.
And let me be really clear: I have absolutely NO financial stake in High Sierra, nor do I benefit in any way from the sale of their products. I just think everybody should own one. Honestly, I just think these are flat out incredible. When we bought our first one, it was supposed to be the final piece in the puzzle for our shower. But it actually became the beginning of a new project: retrofitting every shower in my house. Yeah, I'm a little crazy about it, but it's not often you find a gadget that really shifts the way you think about a whole product category. Not only did the High Sierra convince me that low-flow shower heads can be done well, it convinced me that they can be better than their high-flow cousins.
For some people, this might be a solution without a problem. But if you have any interest in taking longer showers, or conserving your hot water, optimizing the use of your home utilities, or you just enjoy owning a well-designed gadget, then go buy one. They're cheap, and easy to install. Personally, I went on a little shopping spree with these and snagged six of them. They're on every shower in the house now, and I imagine they're going to stay there for a long, long time.
Update: High Sierra has created a discount for TriRig readers. Enter "Nirvana" when you shop their website.
Undeniably cool, smart, and useful.