Living the van life comes with many joys and challenges. One of the biggest questions for many van lifers is figuring out how to shower on the road. While some choose to install full indoor bathroom setups, this is not accessible or ideal for everyone.
Luckily, there are many creative van life shower ideas to help you stay fresh and clean, no matter how small your rig. This article explores indoor and outdoor shower options to inspire your next campervan conversion or getaway.
Build a Dedicated Wet Bath Shower Stall
Installing a permanent wet bath shower inside your van allows maximum comfort and privacy. However, a van shower requires careful planning and water system design.
Popular setups include a centered wet bath between the cab and living space or a corner shower for open floorplans. The small footprint maximizes room for other amenities.
Many vans integrate a cassette toilet inside the wet bath to use the space efficiently. Just remove the toilet before showering.
Ventilation and humidity control are critical in wet baths. Install roof vents, fans, and door vents to keep moisture at bay.
While luxurious, wet baths claim valuable real estate. Calculate your water needs before committing. An 80+ liter freshwater tank and pump system is standard.
Hide Your Shower Away Inside Cabinets
Crafty van lifers hide showers inside cabinets and drawers when space is tight. The shower components tuck away out of sight but easily assemble when needed.
An under-counter shower kit turns your sink cabinet into a shower stall. Flip up the counter, hang a curtain, and you’ve got an instant indoor shower. For more elbow room, open the exterior cabinet doors.
For maximum versatility, build a pull-out shower with wheeled walls that slide out from the van walls. Retract the waterproof walls when done to free up space for living and storage.
Get creative with your plumbing to minimize dedicated shower parts. Many RVers use their kitchen faucet and sink for their pop-up shower needs.
Enjoy Nature with an Outdoor Shower
Don’t want to sacrifice interior space for a shower? Take it outside! Outdoor showers offer privacy without cramping your layout.
Set up a circular shower curtain or pop-up cabana tent at your van’s rear doors. Use a removable shower floor or shower mat to contain splashes.
Mount your portable shower or faucet extension on the van itself. Add hooks for shower pouches and wands. You can quickly set up for shower time and break down after.
Outdoor propane water heaters provide hot water on demand without draining your electrical system. Just be sure to install them safely away from your living space.
Heat Water with a Portable Shower
Portable showers provide a flexible way to shower anywhere without a permanent bathroom setup. Choose a style that fits your climate, water, and power needs.
Solar shower bags utilize the sun’s rays to deliver hot water for free. Allow a few hours for the temperature to peak before enjoying your shower. Pro tip: drape the solar bag on your van’s hood as you drive for quicker heat.
For cold climates, opt for a rechargeable shower pump that works with any bucket of water. Use your van’s power outlets to heat up the water first before showering.
A hand pump shower pressurizes water for steady flow and adjustable pressure. The compact size takes up little storage space.
Scout Public Showers on the Road
Another handy way to shower for free or cheap is to utilize public restrooms and showers. Look for facilities at campgrounds, truck stops, gyms, pools, and beaches in your travels.
Most major gym chains offer guest passes or nationwide memberships with shower perks for travelers. Grab a hot shower after your workout.
Truck stops almost always have private showers available to the public for a small fee. Pilot, Love’s, and Flying J are reliable options with extras like towels.
Natural water sources work beautifully as well. Rinse off in a secluded river, lake, or ocean for a refreshing shower experience. Just use eco-friendly soaps.
Upgrade Your Outdoor Setup
If chilling in your swimsuit doesn’t bother you, enhance your outdoor shower with these ideas:
Construct a private bamboo shower wall to contain splashes and block views, while still allowing airflow.
Get temperature regulation with an attachable propane water heater. No sun or electricity is required!
Step up onto a portable shower platform to keep your feet clean and avoid sticks.
Pop up a shower tent for instant privacy, complete with handy pockets and shelves for toiletries.
Slip on a shower toga if you need extra coverage but don’t want soggy clothes clinging to you post-wash.
Improvise a Shower When Needed
When all else fails, get creative with impromptu shower solutions:
Use baby wipes for a refreshing wipe-down when showers aren’t accessible. Just look for biodegradable wipes.
Wash up at a sink, either in your van kitchen or a public restroom. Lather up and rinse in sections.
Apply dry shampoo to freshen up hair between real shampoos. Look for eco-friendly formulas.
Ask nicely to use a shower at a friend’s house when in need. Offer to bring a bottle of wine or a six-pack as thanks!
What are some ways to heat water for an outdoor van shower?
You have a few options for heating water outside your van:
- Use a solar shower bag and let the sun’s rays naturally warm up the water inside the bag. Hang in direct sunlight for the fastest heating.
- Attach a removable propane water heater to your outdoor shower setup. Propane provides on-demand hot water without draining your electrical system.
- Boil water on your camp stove and mix with cool water to get the perfect temp before transferring to your shower vessel.
- Consider getting a portable immersion water heater that you can place in your bucket of water to heat it electrically in just minutes.
What should I use to contain water splashes for an outdoor van shower?
There are a few effective and affordable products to help contain water when showering outside your van:
- Hang a simple circular shower curtain from your van doors or canopy. Use binder clips or magnets to attach to the metal.
- Set up a pop-up privacy tent around your showering area. They provide instant shelter.
- Place a plastic tarp or painter’s drop cloth on the ground and weigh down the corners with rocks or gear.
- Invest in a specialized portable shower floor that folds up when not in use. The raised plastic contains splashes.
- Lay down a bamboo shower mat outside your van to give your feet a clean surface.
What if I need to shower but have no access to facilities on the road?
If you are unable to access any showers, here are some useful tricks for cleaning up:
- Use cleansing wipes for a full-body wipe-down. Look for large wipes made for adults.
- Wash up sections at a time at a sink using a washcloth and soap. Start with the dirtiest areas like feet.
- Use dry shampoo between real shampoos to absorb oil and make hair look freshly washed.
- Ask politely to use a friend or family member’s shower when desperate. Offer to pay it forward someday.
- Find a secluded river or lake to rinse off in if laws allow. Use eco-friendly soap to avoid pollution.
Van lifers have plenty of options for maintaining personal hygiene while living a mobile lifestyle. With a bit of adaptability and creativity, you can enjoy convenient showers in the comfort of your van or the beauty of the great outdoors.
Mix and match solutions as needed to suit your trip duration, group size, climate, and budget restraints. The key is planning ahead for occasions when showers may not be accessible. With the right preparation, you can explore off the beaten path while keeping your van – and yourself – feeling fresh.