Van Life Shower Ideas – How to Shower in a Van

“But where do you shower?” This is one of the most common questions I get about living full time in my van (second only to “where do you go to the bathroom?”

Luckily, showering when you live in a van is much simpler than a lot of people think! There are so many different options and different ways to shower on the road, so this guide has some van life shower ideas – some of the best options for staying clean in a home on wheels.

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Van Life Shower Ideas – Showering in Your Van

Some of the van life shower ideas in this post are ones you need to leave the van for – but first, let’s start with some that you can do in your home on wheels, or at least right next to it.

Use a Solar Shower

The simplest, cheapest option is to use a solar shower for van life. This is basically any shower where the water gets heated by the sun – it has a reservoir for the water, and a shower head where water comes out!

This is what I use to shower in my van (well, next to my van) 99% of the time! I have a gravity fed solar shower that I fill up every time I get water for my van, and when I get to my campsite, I just leave it outside in the sun. Then, when I want to shower, I crack one of my front windows open and hang the shower on the “oh shit” handle with a few carabiners.

Mine is 5 gallons, and it allows me to take two showers before I have to refill it, or three if I’m being really careful to save water! It also gets pretty hot in the sun – so as long as the weather is warm, it’s just like having a water heater, temperature-wise.

This option is amazing if you usually camp in nature (most of the time I’m able to just shower naked, but if it’s a busier area I put on a bathing suit – though you can also get a pop up tent for privacy), but of course, it wouldn’t be a good van life shower idea for people who spend a lot of time in cities. It’s also not going to be ideal for people who spend a lot of time in cold climates, since the last thing you want to do on a cold day is shower outside.

Pros of a Solar Shower:

  • inexpensive
  • easy – little to no building or installation required

Cons of a Solar Shower:

  • not good for cities
  • not good for cold climates

Gravity fed solar showers are one option, but there are pressurized options as well, which have the advantage of not having to be hung up! You can get a solar shower that’s easily pressurized by a foot pump, or even something like the Yakima RoadShower, which is mounted on top of the van similar to an awning. This way, you don’t need to leave it out in the sun – it stays on your van and is always ready to go!

Build a Shower in Your Van

Another option is to build your own van life shower, inside. I’ve never tried this, so I don’t have personal experience with it, but I think it’s a great idea for people who spend a lot of time in cities and aren’t able to shower outdoors. But otherwise, it takes up a lot of space inside (taking away from the limited storage space you already have in a van) and in my opinion, isn’t necessary for most people.

Pros of Building a Shower in a Van:

  • privacy
  • good for van lifers who spend a lot of time in cities
  • good for van lifers who spend a lot of time in the cold (if you add a water heater)

Cons of a Building a Shower in a Van:

  • takes up a lot of space

Build an Outdoor Shower

Though putting a shower in the van might not be worth the room it takes up, having a more permanent solution than a solar shower can be a great in-between! A lot of people install a shower head in the back of their van, which allows you to open up the back doors and shower outside. It’s still an outdoor shower that wouldn’t work in cities, but it takes up much less space than building an entire shower in your van! You can add a curtain that can be hung across the back for more privacy.

With this one, you can also add a water heater – a tankless water heater like this one uses propane to heat water, or get a hot water tank that stores water and uses electricity to heat it up.

Pros of an Outdoor Van Shower:

  • less expensive than one inside your van
  • easy – some building required, but not as much
  • can add a water heater

Cons of an Outdoor Van Shower:

  • not good for cities
  • not ideal for cold climates (but could be do-able with a water heater)

Van Life Shower Ideas Outside the Van

There are also a lot of ways to shower while living in a van without actually showering in your van!

Shower at Planet Fitness

One of the most popular options for showering as a van lifer is getting a membership to Planet Fitness. A Black Card costs $24.99 a month, and gives you access to any Planet Fitness gym in the country. The classic membership is only $10 a month, but only works at one location. Keep in mind that both memberships have an additional $49 annual fee.

This option is great for van lifers, as it’s pretty inexpensive and gives you access to a hot shower on the road. But, keep in mind that you’ll need to be in an area with a Planet Fitness gym – they’re common near big cities, but can be few and far between in more remote areas.

I had a Planet Fitness membership for my first few years on the road, and used it along with my solar shower, but when the pandemic happened the gyms were closed, so I cancelled my membership. After that, I never re-opened it because I felt like the solar shower, and the occasional truck stop shower was enough for me.

Pros of a Planet Fitness Van Life Shower:

  • great if you’re usually in cities
  • relatively inexpensive
  • hot showers on demand

Cons of a Planet Fitness Van Life Shower:

  • monthly fee, and you may not use it some months
  • hard to find a gym in remote areas
  • can be hit or miss with cleanliness, water pressure, and water temperature

Shower at Truck Stops

Let me let you in on a little secret – truck stop showers are so underrated. They can be found at some truck stops, and they’re made for truckers – but anyone can use them! They’re really private – you have an entire room to yourself, with a shower, sink, and toilet. They also are always really clean (in my experience, at least) and really nice.

They do tend to be a little pricey, usually ranging from $10 – $15 for a shower. But, there’s no time limit, and they usually have towels for you to use. I use my solar shower most of the time, but if I’m doing a long drive, or I need a little extra self care, I’ll treat myself to a truck stop shower.

    Pros of a Truck Stop Van Life Shower:

    • private
    • hot showers on demand
    • clean
    • usually have laundry facilities too, great for a chore day

    Cons of a Truck Stop Van Life Shower:

    • pricey, but it’s just a one-time cost
    • usually only found near big highways

Find Other Public Showers

There are also lots of other options for showering while living in a van. There are public showers in a lot of places, and I recommend using the iOverlander app (one of the best ways to find free camping, as well as places to shower) to find them near you.

Here are some other places that you can look for showers:

  • Gyms – you can often pay for a single-day pass to use a gym. Just look up gyms near you and go online or call to see if they offer this!
  • Campgrounds and State Parks – some parks and campground have a shower too. They’re usually coin operated.
  • Beach showers – some beaches have showers outside that you can use to rinse off
  • Public pools – these also often have a day pass that you can use to score a shower.

Nature’s Shower

You can also get clean by just jumping in a lake or a river! One thing that’s important to know about this is that you shouldn’t use soap or shampoo of any kind in natural bodies of water. Not even the biodegradable kind – because biodegradable items need to be in soil to actually biodegrade, and using them in the water is harmful to the ecosystem.

So, while I don’t recommend this as a permanent solution to showering in a van, it’s great in between showers or to just get the dust off after a hike! It’s also really fun.

How Do You Shower in a Van?

There are a few ways to shower while living in a van, and the best van life shower ideas for you will depend on a few things! Think about your lifestyle, and your personal preference.

Some things to consider can include:

  • Are you living in a van full time, or just taking short trips?
  • Budget
  • Lifestyle – do you plan to be in the city a lot, or spend more time in nature?
  • Comfort – are you okay with the idea of showering outside, or do you need more privacy?

If you found this post helpful, or you have your own van life shower ideas to add, let me know in a comment below!

For more van life tips, check out these posts:

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2 Comments

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