Where do you shower when you live in a van?

Nate Murphy
Amanda and zach 2006 mercedes sprinter van conversion outdoor shower

But, where do you shower? It’s the question that everyone asks people living in a van. It’s true that long, hot showers are rare in van life. But there are still plenty of options for keeping clean on the road. It’s possible to have a permanent shower inside or outside of your van, powered by solar or gas. But this is a luxury! If you don’t have a built in shower, you will have to get more creative when you need to wash.

Amanda and zach 2006 mercedes sprinter van conversion outdoor shower

Do I need a shower in my van?

When you move from living in a house to a van, you will probably need to get used to showering less often. Without an unlimited water supply, you won’t be able to jump in the shower every morning. Depending on your lifestyle, you might decide that it’s worth installing a shower in your van. That way, you can spend more time in remote places and still hose yourself down after a long hike. 

Full time van dwellers who choose to have a shower in their van will have to choose between an indoor or outdoor setup. There are benefits of each option, so it depends what you value most. 

Outdoor van showers

  • Save space inside your van
  • Cheaper to install 
  • Powered by solar or gas
  • Not ideal in cold weather
  • Awkward in public places

Indoor van showers

  • Completely privacy
  • Can be used anywhere and in any weather
  • Takes up valuable space in your van
  • More expensive to install
Amanda and zach 2006 mercedes sprinter shower

No Shower

If you don’t have a fixed shower, then there are other places you can wash. If you are in urban areas, you can use gyms, leisure centers and public bathrooms. Some van dwellers even take out a low cost national gym membership so that they can use the facilities as they travel! 

If you are spending time in nature, then there is water everywhere! Lakes, rivers, waterfalls and hot springs can all serve as a natural bath if necessary! It’s important to use biodegradable and non-toxic shampoo so that you don’t damage any of your surroundings, or harm any wildlife. 

You also have the good old fashioned option of washing yourself with a flannel or sponge. Showers didn’t become common in homes until the 1940s, so for centuries people have found other ways to wash. Giving yourself a good scrub uses much less water than showering, and can be done anywhere. Dry shampoo is also a modern lifesaver if you are used to washing your hair regularly. 

Check out this video to see 5 van life shower systems

Do conversion vans have toilets?

Including a toilet in your van is a dividing topic in self build van conversions. It’s an important discussion for responsible van life and one that we shouldn’t shy away from. 

thetford portapotty van conversion

When deciding whether you will have a toilet on board, think about where you will spend most of your time. In cities, there are usually public toilets, or at least the option to go into a bar or cafe. If you are parked in a busy area, having a toilet in your van can save you from embarrassment at night time! 

Some countries have more public toilets available than others. In the US you can find public restrooms pretty much anywhere, but in Europe it varies. In Norway for example, you will find clean facilities at most free picnic stops and viewpoints. However in Italy, free public toilets are much more rare and you can only really find them at gas stations and supermarkets. 

If you mostly use your van to visit remote places in nature, then you might decide that you can go without a toilet in your van. All you need to do is dig a hole, away from any water sources or footpaths and then take your toilet paper away with you. Using the toilet in nature without following these rules is irresponsible. It gives van dwellers a bad reputation and is really unpleasant for the next person that comes along!

If you plan to visit a lot of popular tourist or van life spots, you should definitely have a toilet on board. To put it plainly - a load of van dwellers leaving human waste behind will upset the local community. The impact of this is unsustainable and they will end up banning overnight camping.

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