Portable Camp Showers are a Vanlife game changer
Whether you’re out for the long haul, or just a few days, campervan showers can be your saving grace.
Aside from social acceptance and just wanting your partner or kids to get within 10 feet, there can be health concerns…
So it’s not just about comfort, it’s crucial to stay clean.
Table of Contents
Can you take a shower in a Campervan?
Well of course there are several factors that contribute to the answer to this question, including
- Do you have a high roof van (Sprinter, Promaster, other)?
- Do you have warm water on board?
- How much water do you have on board and do you have a water heater?
We answer these and many more question on The Campervan Podcast, episode #119.
Please listen or read the transcript, below
The Campervan Podcast is a daily audio program featuring ideas for design and building, cooking, organization, gear and more for a better overall Vanlife experience.
Can you take a shower in a camper van?
This is a question that people often ask Google, on Forums, on Reddit, Facebook, and other places on the internet.
It's a question that is asked by people who are thinking about getting a camper van or renting one. And so I thought I'd just talk about it for a minute, from that perspective.
Now, obviously, if you. If you have an onboard shower or experience with this I'll include some tips for those who have an onboard shower at the end of the episode.
A shower is a very high value feature, obviously. Yet it's one of those things that's easily overlooked in the lead up to a trip.
So the question, how do you shower in a campervan, is a high value question because it's a high need issue.
And I thought I would just talk about it because it's worth the effort of working through how it is that you plan on showering while out and about in the van.
So my first suggestion is to decide on a few methods and then commit to them and, and do that before you go anywhere.
It doesn't matter if you're renting or owning. If you're building, if you're throwing together a bag of gear to throw in the back of an empty van and head out with your air mattress and your sleeping bag and your Coleman stove and your cooler. And that's it. Now I'm van life. That's great!
Nonetheless, before you do that, stop and think about how you're going to shower, because you're gonna wish you had.
Why you need to be able to shower while traveling in a campervan:
Van life pictures of the guy laying, on top of all of his pile of stuff in his van, reading a novel with his filthy feet sticking out the back… Well, people walk by and get grossed out.
But there are more reasons…
- You’re going to feel better when you’re clean.
- You’ll feel better going to sleep when you’re clean
- It saves your clothes
- it saves your bedding.
- It’s better for your social life
- it’s better for your interactions with whomever you’re traveling with
So yeah, humans used to shower and bathe less. But this idea that things used to be better a long time ago, that's just not true, and it doesn't make any sense at all.
We have better healthcare now. We have better equipment, better gear, everything, including how to keep clean and why we should keep clean.
So, so yeah, that's not an argument, in my opinion. I like to should shower at least once every two days, preferably every day. Or at least a washcloth cleanup in between showers every other day.
Let's talk about the types of showers available. Obviously there's the built-in shower such as the shower toilet combo or the dedicated shower inside high roof vans such as a Sprinter or Ram Promaster campervan shower. Awesome. That's the best thing in the world, but it's not absolutely necessary and obviously not available to everyone.
I, I am actually designing a sprinter, 1 44 chassis and my shower is going to be in the floor. And you'll remove a grate, and then lift up a shower ring, attach it to the ceiling and then pull the water supply over from the sink or some other source and shower inside that shower curtain under the ring and it'll drain through the floor.
That's because in a 1 44, everything has to be tucked away, Swiss army style. So that's what I'm designing right now.
I also have other options for showering in my current campervan. The main being the the shower bag, the hanging solar shower bag. I can use that because I'm not a snow sports person, so I avoid cold outdoor temperatures.
So I typically have access to sunlight, so a solar shower bag works for me.
If you want to go ahead and build a quick and dirty shower system, you can just get a 12 volt submersible pump, shower head.
With this option, you get into the issue of of warm water. There are a variety of ways to have warm water on board. There are water tubes that Mount to the roof of your van and including a, how to video on it.
And I'm making a note here to include the link or a link or two to YouTube channels show how to build those. And it's not the easiest thing in the world, but it's also not the toughest thing. If you've got tools and a little bit of a tool working know-how you'll be able to build your own rooftop shower tube.
And those are solar heated because the tubes are black plastic. You can also purchase a rooftop shower tube that is pressurized and solar heated and all that stuff. And it's a great way to go. And now you've got a shower typically that will be outside the van.
But I'm going to also link to our blog post about, about camper van showers, because there's a lot of information in there that you will find useful. So let's see what else…
Portable shower units that both heat the water and pressurize it and have a sprayer. Those can also be used for cleaning animals or humans or bicycles, mountain bikes or whatever.
Those are nice. They get a little expensive, they take up a lot of room and a lot of power. So you'll need to figure that out with regard to your particular building circumstances.
Typically a low roof van doesn't have an indoor shower. And so I will talk about some non van options. I like to have two or three shower methods.
If I have my, my shower bag and my 12 volt submersible pump shower head, and these things are beautiful. It's just a it's powered by 12 volts. Obviously it's a shower head on one end and that shower head is attached to a tube that goes into a small submersible pump.
And you just dunk that in your five gallon bucket of warm water and it pumps water out. They work great. You can plug them into your auxiliary power, and they're cheap. They're under $40 and here's the link to our article on Campervan showers.
So let's see here, moving on to non van shower options…
A lot of people just get a 24 hour fitness membership or a Gold's gym membership or an LA fitness membership. And then they keep that in mind. Traveling, you know, am I going to be within a few miles of a town that has one of those gyms?
And then you go get your workout and you use the showers there. You can shave, you can do whatever you need to in the gym locker room. It's a beautiful thing.
Also, most cities have community centers that have showers.
And because so many community centers have gyms, either gymnasiums for basketball and volleyball and or weight rooms, and those are cheap. I mean, most community centers, for five bucks, you can go use all the workout facilities and the gym, and it's just a great option.
So, Now, I'm wondering if there's a resource to community centers around the country.
That sounds like a lot. Doesn't it, there are a lot of cities, but I'll, I'll look into it and maybe we'll, we'll put a link in show notes. So yeah, take a look for that.
Truck stops. A lot of truck stops have showers that you can purchase use in. I'm not a big fan, you know truckers are filthy nasty creatures. I'm mostly joking when I say that. Love you truck drivers.
I just prefer not to use truck stops for anything. Actually, if I go to a truck stop, I will pay with my debit card outside and not go inside. I'm not a fan of mini marts or and convenience stores and, and the stores inside of gas stations. I just avoid them.
I got into that in another episode, number 78 ”van life, personal safety and security”.
I talk about just staying safe and one of the things I mentioned is avoid convenience stores. You can go listen to that episode for more details.
Let's see spas. There are a lot of towns that have spas where you can go and get pampered or not.
You can use the the saunas or the hot tubs and oftentimes they're not too expensive. That's, that's a great option.
So let's see motels and hotels. You know, being a minivan owner, I actually really love motels and hotels, both.
If I'm traveling, let's say I'm going to go four states, five states, you know, across the country, I'm doing three days of driving or more five, seven days.
When there is not a lot of camping and fun to be had in between I will rely on motels about every third night just to sleep in a real bed and use a shower and be indoors, that's a great place to get out of the weather.
It's a great place to just take a break from van life, you know, for 60 or 80 bucks, you can, you can have a little break.
Get a good shower at the same time. So, and sometimes you get lucky and find a place with a kitchenette. You can cook a fancy meal you wouldn't normally be able to do.
So then of course, there's friends and family. You can plan your route around your friends and family's homes.
What else… Lakes and rivers.
Well, you gotta be careful with the lakes and rivers. You know, I mean, there are things growing that you want to be sure to get rinsed off, et cetera. But man, if you're boondocking at higher elevations where, where the air is cooler and the water is cleaner and safer, it's a good option to go bathe in a lake or a river.
I've done it many times. Of course it doesn't work in the ocean. You don't want to leave that salt water on your skin. You want to rinse that off.
Again, we have a great article on camper van showers and it's right there in show notes. So you can just go to van sage.com and search for showers in the search function.
How do you stay clean in the van? Shoot me a, an firstname.lastname@example.org. And we'll talk about it.
Most of all, few things are as satisfying as a good shower after a day of hiking, playing on the beach, or a long drive.
This guide is designed to help you choose the best campervan shower for you and your family.
Our Top Picks for campervan showers at a glance
|RinseKit Portable Outdoor Campervan Shower||WofWise Pop Up Changing Tent |
|Helio Portable Foot Pump Shower |
|Hike Crew Portable Propane Water Heater |
Factors to help choose campervan showers
There are many factors to consider, many brands and styles and many options.
Here are some crucial guidelines to keep in mind before purchasing a portable camping shower.
- How the water is pressurized, or what creates the flow from the nozzle?
- Is the water heated?
- If yes, how? How long will your heated portable shower deliver hot water?
- If not, are you traveling in warm climates? How tough are you, your partner, your kids?
- Durability. Road life can be tough on any equipment.
- Campervan storage space is limited (even if you have a link: cargo box, so it’s important to consider the size and portability of the shower you choose.
Many choices: Let’s get educated
Fortunately, there are many campervan showers to choose from. This list will familiarize you with the options.
This article focuses on portable, stand alone showers. Please read this post about campervan hot water heater systems for other solutions to heated campervan showers.
These showers require either hand or foot pumping. The foot pump models are leading the market in popularity right now.
This is because it’s easier to give a few foot pumps than it is to operate a hand pump with soapy hands.
The real (and perhaps obvious) beauty of these camping showers is that they do not require electricity.
Manual pump showers do require a bit of work, but they tend to be simple and easy to use and the flexible foot pump models fold down to a very small, packable size.
Portable electric campervan showers can be wonderful on a long outing.
There are many portable electric showers available to fit any need.
If you have a larger van such as a Sprinter or a high roof Ford Transit van, consider installing a permanent electric shower.
For the purposes of this article, I’ll focus on portable electric camping showers.
A wide variety of sizes, functions, power types and pressures are available in portable electric showers.
- Some heat the water as it’s being used, others just pump water.
- No pumping required, just plug in and get clean.
- Must have a source of power. There are AC, DC and combo power models available.
- If you don’t have van dwelling electricity installed, it’s important to know what power connections will be available during your trip.
Solar heated camping showers
“Solar”, in the case of heating the water in campervan showers, can be a very loose term.
Most solar showers are simply dark colored material that absorb sunlight.
So don’t get hopes up that a solar shower includes a solar powered electric pump, it doesn’t.
If you want your electric pump shower to be powered by solar power, you’ll have to choose an electric portable camp shower and plug it in to the solar power you’ve installed in your van.
But this is not to say that I’m not impressed with the available solar showers!
There are some truly cool and useful models, and there are some great advantages to carrying a solar shower…
These are the most portable camping shower setups. They fold down to a very small package and takes up the least space of all the options.
There’s a wide range of models with equally ranging pricing available.
If your solar camp shower will be rarely used, you might choose a lower priced option to test the concept.
- One downside is that their all gravity fed, and so pressure is typically not great.
- Also, since they need to be hung up to a certain height (5 feet or so), it can be a challenge to lift all that water.
- No sun, no heat. Here’s a little trick I figured out: If there’s no sun and you’ve got a heater running, keep the shower, with water, in the van over night so you’ll at least have a room temp shower in the morning.
- You can also just fill the bag with heated water…
Campervan Privacy Shower Tent
One concern that’s often not mentioned about showing in the wild is privacy.
You might consider a portable shower tent to resolve this. A shower tent can also be used with your portable camp toilet.
A campervan tent attachment can also double as privacy for showering.
Be sure to read reviews on Amazon of the various showers you’re considering.
A tip I have for this is to look at the 2 to 4 star rated reviews as they tend to have the most thoughtful comments.
You might consider getting both a lower priced solar shower and a more luxurious electric model.
That way, even if you don’t have power, you can get a solar shower and when you do have power, you’ll have a more fulfilling shower.
Recommended Campervan Showers
Campervan showers recap
- Cleanliness: It’s crucial
- Few things feel as good as a much needed shower
- Pressure, heat and shower time are big concerns
- How durable do you need your gear to be?
- Do you have room for a larger model?
- Manual pump: More work, but decent pressure and pricing
- Electric pumpand heat: Most like home, but can be bulky and require a power source
- Solar with gravity feed: Smallet packing. Wide range of prices. No sun, no heat.