Van Life Showering | Every Possible Option You Have

Keeping up with hygiene can be a challenge when you’re living on the road. Showering in particular is something you have to plan for. We’ve written this article to give our readers extensive advice on how to shower while living on the road.

We’ll go in depth to explore the pros, cons and concerns about using ALL the different types of showering options available to a nomad. This includes portable, public and built-in showers, all ways to help you stay clean while living on the road.

There are a lot of different options for showering on the road and we’ve broken them down into 4 main categories to keep things organized:

  • Portable showers
  • Public Showers
  • Built-in showers
  • and what to do when you can’t find a shower

If you have any other questions, concerns, or suggestions please head over to our Forum

Please refer to the table of contents for a better overview of all the topics covered

Portable Showers

A Portable shower is a small versatile, efficient, and effective solution for showering while on the road. Most people even consider it as the best option, when compared to other non-dependent and costly alternatives (which we will also be going over).

by @__advanture__

The good thing about these is that they don’t act as a complete washroom inside your home. Saving you a ton of space and money, while also being able to effectively get the job done. In addition, they also make very efficient use of water, allowing you to get as clean as possible, with the least amount of water consumption.

Whether or not you will be fully dependent on them, a Portable showering device is something all nomads and road trippers should take advantage of. They allow you to quickly shower anywhere you are while saving tons of water.

Now obviously you can’t expect to be taking 5-star luxury showers with these, but they do just enough to get the job done

Here are some things you should consider when picking a portable shower

  • Do you want to shower with hot water?
  • How long do you want to be able to shower for?
  • How many gallons of water do you need?
  • Your budget
  • Storage space – have a suitable location to store your portable shower
  • How many people will be using the shower – you can always divide up the consumption of water
by @we_van

Now let’s get into the different types portable showers. There are many on the market, but here are the ones we recommend.

Camp Shower Bag

Camp shower bags come in many different shapes and sizes. They offer a long-lasting shower up to 8 minutes long with a capacity of 5 gallons (20 liters).

You can get a shower with 3 simple steps:

  1. Fill the bag with water
  2. Hang the bag somewhere
  3. Turn on the shower head

To give you an even better showering experience, these bags even include a shower head which you can turn ON/OFF and adjust the flow from Low to High.

Our camp shower bags are made with a strong strap for the handle and strengthened plastic tubes, while the shower bag is made with durable PVC material which is non-toxic and eco-friendly.

The feature that stands out the most with this bag is portability. It’s extremely easy store away when it’s empty, all it takes is a couple folds.

DIY Weed Sprayer Shower

This idea was inspired by a member on our community forum. It’s a pretty effective, inexpensive, portable, and ideal solution for those who love making things on their own.

The shower could last you up to 10 minutes and costs less then $x, if you purchase the items from amazon using the links mentioned below, or you can find everything in your local hardware store.

Here’s what you need:

  1. Weed Sprayer
  2. Sink Nozzle
  3. Sink hose
  4. Brass hose fitting adapter
  5. Scissors

All of which are available on Amazon via the links provided above.

Video Tutorial:

Big Kahuna

These compact showering units come in many different capacities to suit your showering needs. They run on 12 volt power found in all vehicles, and can easily last over 5 minutes.

Showering with the Big Kahuna is easy, just like all the other portable options. You fill it up, plug it in, and turn on the showering head.

The spray has enough power to reach 12-15 feet, which is pretty impressive considering it’s size. This gives you just enough power to even get sand out of your hair.

Shower Kit Essentials

  • Towels – Preferably a micro fiber one as they are effective, small, and fast drying
  • Flip Flops
  • Shampoo, Conditioner, and Soap
  • Soap container – prevents soap from melting and getting your things all soapy
  • Popup Privacy Tent – these tents give you the privacy you need for showering on the road. Alternatively, you can just find a private area, shower behind your van, or hang up some clothes/curtains
by @mrandmrsadventure

Finding water

Unless you can figure out a way to shower without water, this will always be a concern while living on the road. You can however, have a built-in water tank, which is what most nomads do. Although, you still need a reliable way to acquire clean water to fulfill your needs.

One of those ways includes paying for it.

But here are some ways to get FREE water on the road:

  • Friends and family
  • Asking a friendly neighbor to use their hose
  • Lots of parks have faucets which can be accessed only by a special key
  • Washrooms
  • Splash pads
  • Rain water collection systems (lots of tutorials online for this)
  • Gas stations sometimes have taps located near the air pumps
  • Highway stops
  • Water fountains
  • Laundromats
  • Camp grounds sometimes allow you to fill up for free if you are staying there

Public Showers

Public showers are those that are pretty easily accessible to the public. Some places will charge you a small fee to access such facilities, while others are open and free to use.

A post shared by Vanlife | Nomad | Travel ???? (@project.vanlife) on Aug 11, 2018 at 9:52am PDT

The most commonly available public showers are found in community centers, gyms, pools, parks, and truck stops.

They’re periodically found in public parks (known as ‘splashpad’s’), but this is not a guarantee. We’ll address each type in detail.

Community Centers

Community centers often have showers to accommodate those who are working out in and around the
facility. For example, they may have changing rooms and locker rooms to accommodate team sports on the surrounding fields, and they’ll have a shower tucked away in the back

One benefit of a community center is that they’re generally open to the public. You may be able to use their showers without having to pay a fee to enter, though others will limit access to only members of the community

Pro tip: make use of slippers when entering pubic shower areas, to prevent dieses – yes it actually happens!

In addition, most community centers usually have a bunch of other amenities available as well. Such as gyms, classes, different types of sports, area for kids, access to free internet, etc…

So, make sure you take full advantage of these luxuries once you’re in.

Conversely, if you buy an annual pass to the YMCA (or any other community center), you can use their showers, all the facilities mentioned above, and a lot more.

Community centers stand out for the showers that they have open to the public in areas with many transients.


  • Well maintained (kept clean, good service)
  • Many locations
  • Suitable for everyone! (kids, families, seniors)
  • Offer parking
  • Offer comfort to make you feel at home
  • Most community centers will allow you in for free if it’s your first time
  • Day passes or sometimes free access available
  • Access to multiple amenities throughout your visit
  • Some include saunas and steam rooms
  • Won’t be crowded or busy (as long as you don’t go in peak hours)


  • Showers mostly include only soap and shampoo
  • Bring your own towels, and shaving supplies
  • You may have to go out of your way to find one
  • You may have to purchase a day pass


Gyms typically have showers in addition to all the other workout facilities. Gyms are often open early in the morning and late at night (some even 24/7) to accommodate those who want to work up a sweat before or after work.

This makes gyms an excellent way to get a shower in before work or before going to bed. If you buy a membership to a gym, you will be able to use the showers, saunas and workout facilities at any of the locations (assuming the gym has multiple locations).

The downside for most gyms is the high annual cost unless you plan on using their other facilities. You may be able to save money by begging friends for guest passes or buying a day pass to the gym. Do your research, and you may be able to find one that lets you try it out for free for a day in exchange for your personal information

Recommended Gyms (include many locations in Canada, and some in US)

  • Fit4Less – $10/month
  • Planet Fitness – $22/month
  • Snap Fitness – 8.95/month


  • Well maintained
  • Parking included
  • Offer free trials and guest passes
  • Multiple locations
  • Won’t be crowded or busy (as long as you don’t go in peak hours)
  • Walk-in and ask for a free trial


  • Monthly/annual fee burden
  • Could be costly depending on which gym you sign up for
  • You may have to go out of your way to find one
  • For most gyms you have to bring your own showering supplies (some offer shampoo, and soap if they have a swimming pool)


Pools often have showers available to the public. If the public pool has bathrooms and showers inside those facilities, you can take a shower in privacy with soap and, often, hot water.

The potential issue with using these showers is that the facilities tend to limit use of the showers to people who’ve paid for entry.

One word of warning here — do not sneak into hotel pools to wash yourself. You could be arrested for trespassing.

Finding a swimming pool

  1. Connect to the internet
  2. Search ‘Swimming pools near me’


  • Very cheap or free to access
  • Parking included
  • Fun
  • Available in almost every city


  • Showers and washrooms aren’t well maintained
  • Crowded and busy most of the time

Truck Stops

Truck stops are designed to cater to people passing through. They recognize that many long-distance drivers, whether truck drivers or Vandwellers like us, need to take a shower once in a while.

A modest percentage of truck stops offer showers. In fact, they tend to advertise themselves as “travel plazas”

Depending on the facility, you may have to pay for the shower. You may be able to take a shower for free if you pay for a tank of gas. Consider truck stop showers the safe, legal alternative to trying to wash yourself in a restaurant sink.

Trying to use a sink in lieu of a shower could get you in trouble for violating public health regulations and even indecent exposure.

There are other benefits to stopping at truck stops. For example, a few have laundry facilities or can point you to a laundry matt.

Others will let you pay a nominal (or no) fee to refill your water tank, and you can use your own portable shower if you have one even if their showers are closed for the night or cost more than you can afford

Finding truck stops

  1. Search ‘Truck stops near me’
  2. Download the trucker path app


  • Truck stops are made for people like us
  • Some truck stops include other facilities as well


  • Not well maintained
  • Paid showers


by @kombilifeadventures

Campgrounds often have showers. They cater to people staying in tents who don’t have other means of getting clean. Park there with your home on wheels, and you can take a shower.

Note that many free or ultra-cheap campgrounds have bathrooms but not showers. You may have to pay a little more to stay at a campground that has showers.

Many of these facilities will limit access to the bathrooms and showers by requiring a key to access the bathroom. You’ll need to get the key from the groundskeeper.

But if you’re staying at the campground, you can let everyone take long showers every day without worrying about water. A few of these campgrounds, primarily those that cater to RV owners, have laundry facilities as well.

Bike Washes

A few mountain biking parks and trails have “bike washes”. Hang up a bike and hose off the mud. Pull up the ATV and give it a de facto car wash. Walk up to it and rinse yourself off. Although, you could run into problems if you try to use it as a shower while others want to rinse off their bikes.


  • Unlimited access to water
  • Free to use


  • Not what it’s intended for
  • Cold water
  • Risk getting in trouble
  • Not the best showering experience

Beach Showers

If you’re by a public beach, you could shower outside, but you could get into trouble if you’re using soap or strip down.

Yet there are business people who recognize that some people want a thorough shower after
lying on the sand. In these cases, you might be able to find a pay-by-the-minute shower complete with curtains. They sometimes sell soap for a little more change. And you won’t look odd using these facilities as long as you think is necessary.


  • An excuse for spending the day at the beach
  • Soap and shampoo included
  • Hot and cold water
  • Some are free to use


  • Not well maintained
  • Constantly used throughout the day
  • Sand all over the place
  • Some are pay by the minute

Splash Pads

Many people don’t know this, maybe because they never seen or heard about it. But some public parks have what’s called a Splash Pad or mini waterpark (you can call it). They are a fun way for cities to allow kids to experience a mini water park in their neighborhood park

Splash pads include a small play area packed with fountains, nozzles, and other devices or structures that spray water.

Although it may seem a little weird to see fully grown adults showering in a splash pad, it definitely is a very reasonable and fun option.

Splash pads are typically open from around 8am to 11pm.  It’s best that you go earlier in the mornings on weekdays to avoid having to shower while a bunch of kids are playing around you.

Finding splash pads

  • Search ‘splash pads’ near me


  • Fun way to rinse off
  • Usually located in parks


  • Cold water
  • Built for kids
  • Busy at peak hours
  • Not intended for cleaning yourself

Other Public Showers

You can find facilities like this or public showers available to those in need by doing an internet search on “where to shower in my city” or “where to shower in [city name]”.

This is where you’ll discover churches and other unexpected places that have set up showers and public bathrooms on their premises to allow those in need to get clean. Note that these are predominantly found in urban areas with a large homeless population.

Built-ln Showers

A built-in shower is exactly what the name suggests, a shower which is built into your home on wheels.

by @blackpearltravato

The biggest benefit of a built-in shower in the van or RV is the fact that it is your private facility. It is inside the vehicle. You own it, you control it, and you don’t have to worry about privacy or the quality of the facilities when you use it

One downside of a built-in shower is that it is generally small. Another is the fact that you’re reliant on the features and space of your home on wheels.

If the water tank is low, you have to choose between drinking water and a shower. The longer your shower, the sooner you have to empty the grey water tank

If your Van isn’t connected to the grid, you may not have hot water unless you use up propane. If you’re connected to utilities at your current campground stop, you still have to deal with the grey water / black water tank.

Another factor to consider is ease of use. If you’re in an RV or van, the tap may be a small shower head that sprays onto the toilet. You may not have much space. You don’t have much flexibility. And it may be hard to get entirely clean.

Then you need to worry about cleaning the bathroom, especially if you’re cleaning way a bodily mess or gunk off your skin.

Next is the perpetual risk of mold. If you’re taking showers in your own bathroom, you must make certain that it all airs out and dries out to avoid having mold growing so close to where you sleep at night.

by @bearfoottheory

Not to mention all the hard work, money, and space it takes to even acquire a decent built-in shower.


  • Your own private shower
  • Don’t have to worry about finding or paying for other shower facilities


  • Usually small areas
  • Expensive to setup
  • Take up space in your home on wheels
  • You have to worry about fresh water supply
  • Concerns about over filling the grey water tank
  • Risk of mold
  • Showering with hot water is a hassle

When You Cannot Find a Shower

These methods mentioned below, should be your last hope for when you absolutely can’t find a shower.

Wet Wipes

These are essentially baby wipes, though they can be used by adults. Get body wipes for the adult-sized pads. You can use these wipes to wipe down your skin, whether you’re looking at a single area or all over.

The benefits of wet wipes include the fact you can use them at any time and place, and many are designed with lotions or anti-bacterial agents that benefit your skin.

How effective they are depends on how dirty you are. While wet wipes could clean sweaty skin, it may not be good enough for dirty skin, and they don’t clean hairy areas very well.

A downside of body wipes is the price per use. Another potential issue is the amount of trash you generate and disposing of it. Be careful when using wet wipes designed for use in place of a shower so that you get something that doesn’t leave a sticky residue.

There are eco-friendly compostable wet wipes, but you have to search for them. Consider body wipes a good way to freshen up between showers but not a permanent alternative to them.

Dry shampoo

Dry Shampoo’s promise to lift oil and dirt out of your hair.

The biggest benefit of dry shampoo would be not requiring a lot of water to get your hair clean. Dry shampoos that take the form of mousse can be worked through a head of thick, matted hair, and this could get your hair clean in a way only matched by half an hour of scrubbing your scalp under a shower.

The downsides include their high price and the fact that many of them aggravate the scalp, especially if used repeatedly.

Damp Towels

These have been used for towel baths for ages, and their use is even more attractive when combined a with no-rinse soap solution. They’ve been a go-to solution for people with limited mobility. They are better than wet wipes at scrubbing trouble areas, removing dead skin or caked on stains.

These are a good idea for those who don’t want to hike to a camp shower or are afraid to slip in a wet public shower. If you’re bathing with damp towels, you’re adding to the volume of laundry you have to deal with at some point.

Wet, dirty towels will certainly breed mold and bacteria if left alone for very long.

Friends & Family

Then there’s the solution that so many travelers overlook.

When you’re traveling, call ahead and ask if you can use their bathroom for a while. If you’re afraid of imposing, make it clear that you’re not asking to stay overnight, only use the toilets, sink and showers. Be gracious if they allow you to use their clothes washer and dryer.

Ultimate Showering Strategy

by @_onthehorizon

What we recommend is that you get hold of a portable shower for yourself, and then use the other methods mentioned in the blog as backups or alternatives.

For example,

if you have a portable shower you can shower with convenience whenever you want. But, let’s say that one day you wanted to enjoy a day at a campground, beach, or pool. You can easily just revert to the showering methods available at those facilities.

Contribute to this blog by posting your questions, ideas and concerns on our forum

Sami Syed

Published in March


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