Photo: Andrew Liszewski (Gizmodo)

If you live in a tiny apartment or condo, it’s doubtful you have the luxury of a walk-in shower. A cramped tub probably does double-duty for all your bath time needs, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The Aircurv is an expanding inflatable curtain that lets you move around and stretch out without rubbing up against a wall of wet plastic.

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The Aircurv was designed by Stuart McLeod, a cybersecurity consultant for the U.S. Department of Defense. It’s not easy to draw a connection between that line of work and improving something as simple as a shower curtain, but McLeod is also an avid sailor, and realized that the fiberglass inserts added to sails to make them wing-shaped and more aerodynamic could also be used to improve the experience of showering in a tub.

But sailing isn’t exactly a cheap pastime, and using the same fiberglass battens in a shower curtain would dramatically increase the price of a household item that can cost less than $20. As a cheaper alternative, McLeod engineered the Aircurv with inflatable battens instead.

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It isn’t the first product that promises to give you more room in a bathtub shower; we’ve covered products like the Curvi expanding shower curtain before. But McLeod feels his unique design offers some distinct advantages over other products, including curved shower rods. The Aircurv puts the additional space exactly where you need it: around your elbows and arms, and r, so it doesn’t overcrowd a tiny bathroom when not in use.

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Installing the Aircurv is easy enough using the same 12 curtain rings that your existing shower curtain does, although I did find that the chunkier plastic rings on my curtain rod wouldn’t squeeze through the pre-punched holes on the Aircurv. As a result, it has to hang from a thinner section where the ends of the curtain ring connect: a minor inconvenience.

The sample we tried uses of 0.25-millimeter plastic which gave the shower curtain some definite heft, but among a few changes McLeod is making to its design as he prepares it for production is a switch to a thinner, lighter, 0.20-millimeter plastic.

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Hanging the Aircurv curtain isn’t complicated, but inflating it was a little more challenging. It uses the same type of pop-out valve as you’ll find on inflatable beach toys, and while there appears to be a one-way valve inside to prevent air from escaping when you stop blowing, it didn’t work with the pre-production sample we tested. Inflating it by mouth (as most will) with enough pressure to keep the curtain rigid requires some lung force, and then trying to quickly cap the valve before all that air pressure escapes takes some trial and error. I imagine an air pump would make things a little less complicated, but I don’t keep one of those in my bathroom.

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The Aircurv promises an extra 17 inches of space inside a bathtub shower, and while that doesn’t sound like a lot, it’s enough to make it feel significantly more spacious in there. I hate the feeling of a clammy, wet, plastic shower curtain against my skin, and this all but eliminates the risk of me coming into contact with one. The unique design results in a few additional nooks and crannies around the Aircurv’s inflatable battens that make the curtain a little trickier to wipe clean after a shower, but it’s easy enough to spray down if you have a removable shower head.

The inflatable approach also makes the curtain’s bulge easy to invert after your shower. It’s a design feature that McLeod wasn’t sure was going to work until he got his hands on the first production prototype from the factory—but it’s the one feature that makes this design more practical.

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Is that a spa? Nope, just a photo of my newly upgraded bathtub shower getaway.
Photo: Andrew Liszewski (Gizmodo)

As bathroom upgrades go, it doesn’t get much easier than the Aircurv. If you’ve got the patience to blow up a beachball, then you’ve got all the skills needed to install this, and the benefits for a small bathtub far outweigh the logistical challenges of living with this in your bathroom. If there’s one caveat, it’s that the Aircurv isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing bathroom upgrade—it’s function over form all the way.

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McLeod is going the Kickstarter crowdfunding route for his first product—so the usual caveats and risks apply if you’re thinking of backing it. The earliest backers can pre-order the Aircurv for $20, but otherwise, it will be $25 for anyone who wants to pre-order it. That’s somehow still on the cheaper end of shower curtains, but the Aircurv manages to do more than keep the rest of your bathroom dry—so why wouldn’t you upgrade?

README

  • One of the easiest ways to make a cramped bathtub shower feel more spacious with no renovations required to install it.
  • When inflated, the Aircurv’s rigid structure makes it hard to slide it out the way. Climbing in and out of the bathtub isn’t impossible, but trying to bath a child in a tub with the Aircurv installed would be quite the challenge.
  • Without a reliable one-way valve to prevent air from escaping, inflating the Aircurv was the most challenging part of using it.
  • It’s not the most aesthetically pleasing bathroom upgrade; it’s function over form.
  • It will initially be available through Kickstarter, so the usual risks of backing crowdfunded products apply here.

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