Van Life Showers: Feeling Refreshed While on the Road

Starting your life on the road is never an easy step. You would have to consider a lot of factors before starting your journey. The number one concern of a person who is thinking of starting their life on the road is how they are going to take a shower. Showering is also one of the reasons why some people choose not to go through with van living.

Take a shower in public and private campgrounds, gyms, community pools or aquatic centers, gyms, outdoor van showers, nature showers, and baths are just some of your options. You can even have the option of installing a bathroom in your van.

Always feeling fresh and clean is one of the essentials that a person needs to meet. In this article, I will talk about the different places where you can take a shower when you are living the van life. I will also talk about the different disadvantages and advantages of each place as well as some tips that you can use.

Public and Private Campgrounds: Your First Option

When you are parked at campgrounds, especially in parks and KOAs, there is a good chance that you will find a shower. There are also some state parks and private campgrounds that allow non-campers to buy shower time. The cost would depend on the campground you will be staying at; usually, it is between $20 to $80.

The campground showers are fairly clean, and the best part is it’s not weather-dependent. If you encounter a campground that pays for a nightly fee stay, you might as well take advantage of their other amenities, such as Wi-Fi.

If you choose this route and have your own portable shower in your van, it is the best time you can dump your gray water tanks and fill the fresh water tank at the same time. This way, you won’t have to worry about reducing your water storage for that day or night since you’ve taken a shower in the campgrounds.

Now, to save money, make sure to plan your route ahead. Search online on how much it would cost to take a shower in a certain campground. You should also know what campgrounds are near your current location. This way, you can save money on the fees that you would need to pay for taking showers on campgrounds.

Now, in my opinion, I would rather rent a motel or hotel for the night when the price for the shower and overnight stay in the campground is $80. However, if it’s the closest place that you can go, campgrounds are still one of the best choices.

Gyms: Perfect for Hygiene and Health

Gyms are the best of both worlds because you can have a fresh shower and hit your health goal by working out. It is not weather dependent and very convenient. This is probably one of the most popular choices of van lifers. There are a couple of tricks to find the perfect gym where you can shower and work out in.

You can look for gyms that offer free trials, which usually run for seven days. Also, look for gyms that have cheap day passes. However, don’t be too hard on yourself and treat yourself once in a while. Opt to go to fancy gyms with fancy showers now and again.

Planet Fitness is one of the most popular gyms that van lifers use. They have a $10 monthly fee plus various taxes and fees for you to use their facilities. With the $10 membership, you can only go to one club location, which is a hassle. You can’t be in just one location because you have to hit the road and see different places!

This is where the Black Card membership comes in. With this membership, you can go to any Planet Fitness location (they have 1,800+ locations in all 50 US States, Canada, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Panama). I can’t tell you a specific price because the price varies in each location and season.

With the Black Card membership, you will also get unlimited guest privileges. This is great because you can have a gym buddy every time. Aside from the gym and shower usage, you can also use their tanning and massage chairs. You can also take advantage of the discounts that each location has to offer.

Now, if you are planning to bring guests, they can only take advantage of the gym and shower privileges with the Black Card membership. So, if you are a couple and just looking for a place to take a shower, it will bring the cost down to $11.50 per person. A price that is not bad when you are looking to be refreshed and keep your body in shape.

Aside from the wellness privileges you can get when it comes to the Black Card membership, you will also have one day of access to their lockers. All you need to do is bring your own lock or buy one from the front desk. Also, they do not provide towels, so it is best to bring your own or also buy one from the front desk.

There are also some disadvantages when it comes to taking a shower in gyms. Now, not all gyms have the same cleanliness. There are those who are very clean and ones that may not pass your standards. Also, membership and other fees can be quite high.

Building a Bathroom in Your Van Pad

Now, if you have the budget and space in your van, it is best to build your bathroom. You will get the privacy that you need, which you can’t get in private showers. Aside from this, you can also guarantee the cleanliness of your bathroom. Also, you can shower whenever and wherever you want.

This is the best way to make sure that you can shower whenever you want. However, if you’re going to do it yourself, it would require some know-how to install the shower properly inside a van. You would need to know how to seal everything correctly to avoid leaks in the future. 

Also, knowing how to successfully plumb the shower from your water tank through your water heater to the showerhead and then to the grey water tank is important. This also won’t work for those who are tall. You will end up with a short shower stall unless you have a high roof or raised roof van, such as Sprinter vans. Some people who choose to install a bathroom in their van go for a flexible hose to fix this problem.

Another thing that you will need when installing a bathroom is a propane tank. This would help heat the water in your shower. With all of this in mind, it will eat a whole lot of space in your van. Lastly, you would need a lot of greywaters and freshwater storage space. You might also be looking at potential leaks that can lead to mold when you have your own bathroom installed in your van.

If you won’t go the DIY route, it would also cost a fortune to have a professional do it for you. However, it would only be a one-time cost, unlike going to the gym or campgrounds, where you would need to pay to use the showers. 

It is certainly possible to add a full-functioning shower in your van, but you would really need to think about the different factors that go into building one.

Install an Outdoor Van Shower: When You Have No Space Inside

Another option is you can install an outdoor van shower. The best thing about this is it will save you a lot of space, especially when your van is a bit small. It won’t take as much space as building an entire shower inside your van. It also doesn’t require any plumbing to the grey water tank. Great for hot weather, a trip to the beach, etc.

Having an outdoor van shower will also lessen the chance of you experiencing leaks or molds inside your van. If you have a water heater in your van, this would also be an option you can look into. However, there is a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to this method of showering.

First, it’s not very private. One thing that you can do is take a shower with your swimsuits on or set up a curtain around the space where you will be taking a shower. This way, no one can see you. You can also look for quiet, isolated spots so that you can go all out. With this said, there are some instances where you won’t find any isolated areas along the way.

Second, it is not advisable if it’s windy outside. Even if you have your water heater on, you can still get cold when taking a shower. It is best to use in weather that is 70°F or higher. Even if you feel warm during the shower when you’re done, with just a small breeze, you’ll be freezing instantly.

Third, if you are camping in nearby cities, streets, or parking lots, it is not practical to use this type of shower. Also, you need to think of the environment when doing this type of shower method. Remember, the water runs straight to the ground and not through a grey water tank.

You need to be responsible. Use biodegradable soap to avoid any contamination of groundwater. If you are near any water source, make sure to be at least 200 feet away when taking a shower. This is to prevent your soap from entering the said body of water. Also, use a shampoo that will be safe for the environment. 

Take a Chance with Friends and Family

Being on the road, you might have the time to see your friends and family. Asking if you can use their shower is one of the best ways to say hello and catch up with current news and happenings. Aside from spending time with your family and friends, you might even get a free meal as well. Knowing that they extend their kindness to you when you are in their home.

Of course, this would only apply to those who are willing to open their doors to you. If the offer is provided, don’t take no for an answer!

Take Advantage of What Nature Has to Offer

Plunging into a lake or a river is something that we all love. It can wash away the sweaty, sluggish feeling that you have after a long hike in very warm climates. It is the best way to refresh yourself and wash any dirt or sweat off of you. The best thing about this option is free because this is what mother nature offers.

Now, when taking a dip in the river or lake, you have to be careful and not contaminate the water. If you have been applying sunscreen the entire day or the entire time that you are camping, there would be a huge chance that the water will be contaminated because of the chemicals that sunscreens have.

When taking a bath in the river or lakes, you cannot use soaps or shampoos because they will ruin the water. All you can do is wash the sweat or dirt off of you. Again, just like what I have mentioned before, if you want to use soap or shampoo, make sure you are 200 meters away from the water source.

If you have sensitive skin, it is best not to rash and jump in the water right away. Some people may be prone to rashes or irritation on their skin. Make sure to test the waters first before going in.

Jumping in rivers or lakes may not be the best idea when it is cold out. If this is the case, best to dip in hot springs. Also, when you have sore muscles, hot springs can do wonders. However, you might come out smelling like sulfur, and also, you might not come out feeling clean.

I had a really sore body when I had to do a four-hour hike. When I stumbled upon a hot spring nearby, it did wonders. I stayed for about an hour, and I feel like I came out of a spa. However, the sulfur smell really does stick to you. Right after that, I had to look for a place to rinse off the smell and take a good shower. Hint: it was the gym.

When No Option is Left

Now, when everything else is not working and does not seem to go your way. There are other things that you can do to feel clean, somehow. However, I wouldn’t advise the following if you have not taken a shower for a couple of days. These are just some ways you can maintain cleanliness and why you are not able to find a place where you can take a shower.

Sponge bath Refreshes the Body

Sponge baths are traditional even when you are at home. This is the closest bath that you can get when trying to get cleaned in between showers. It is cheap and easy to do. You will also have some private time to make sure that your body is cleaned. It requires very little water to use, especially when you are saving water for other things that you need to get done in your van. 

It may not be as satisfying as a shower, but it gets the job done when you are unable to find any place to take a bath. This method doesn’t include your hair, but you can combine this method with washing your hair in the sink, which I will talk about in the next section.

All you need to do is take a wet washcloth or paper towel and wipe down your whole body. You can start with your face and neck, then if necessary, re-wet your washcloth or paper towel. You can use water with this method so that you can feel an extent of cleanliness.

This method is pretty standard because even when I haven’t been living in a van, it has been my hobby before going to bed to take a sponge bath. It doesn’t take a scientist to get this done. Rest assured that you will be refreshed, even though you have taken a real shower.

Washing Hair in the Sink

Hair usually is visibly oily after three days of not washing. It is not weather dependent, and you do not need to use too much water to make sure that your hair is clean. Once you are done, you will feel refreshed and can extend the feeling of cleanliness in between showers. 

This method won’t work if you have long hair. Since space is the main issue when it comes to your van, you might only have a small sink installed in your kitchen. Having said this, you might not get all of your hair cleaned if you have thick and long hair. It can also be painful in the neck because of the position you have to be in when washing your hair.

When you plan to go out in the city, washing your hair paired with a sponge bath will be good enough to say that you are clean. It will help you look presentable, and no one will know that you haven’t showered for a couple of days. 

Wet Wipes is Your Saving Glory

You might think wet wipes will not work, but to my surprise it does. It is great for some scenarios, such as removing mud or dirt on your body. This method is easy, quick, and cheap. It is not weather dependent, and there is no water needed to get yourself cleaned. Now, one of the problems when using wet wipes is it is not good for the environment.

You can’t wash your hair with this method as well. Also, it won’t give you a satisfying feeling of being cleaned. Wet wipes are only great after a long muddy hike, and you feel sweaty and dirty. It is also the same principle as a sponge bath but more portable. 

The best-wet wipes brand to use is REI Sea to Summit Wilderness Wipes. You have a choice of sizes, which are XL and compact. Each wet wipe is thick, soft, and gentle on the skin. It removes any odor or salt on your body, so there is no need for you to rinse. The compact wet wipes cost $4.50, while XL costs $5.50.

If you want soap-free wet wipes, Surviveware Biodegradable Wet Wipes are the best choice for you. It is unscented and will give you a chance to clean yourself thoroughly. It will remove grimes and odors without leaving a cheap smelling perfume on you. The best thing about this wet wipe is it’s biodegradable. 

You can get the Surviveware Biodegradable Wet Wipes at a large size, which is one pound per bag. Maybe a bit heavy on your backpack, but it is worth it. The more wipes you use, the cleaner you will feel.

Tips and Tricks in Showering Like a Pro

The following are tips and tricks that you can use when showering in different public spaces. I follow these tips, and they helped me have a quick and efficient shower.

Things You Need When Showering in Public Spaces

You always need to have five items when you are taking a shower while you are on the road. First, make sure the towel that you bring is a micro camp towel. Don’t bring anything too big. They are quick-drying, absorbent, and small, which makes them easy to bring. The best mirror camp towel to bring is the Rainleaf Microfiber Towel.

It comes in different colors, and the medium size (20 x 40 inches) towel is perfect. The Rainleaf Microfiber Towel has a soft suede-like feel on your skin and face. It comes with a bag and a hang loop that you can strategically place anywhere when you are showering. The cost of the Rainleaf Microfiber Towel is $10.99.

Second, ensure that you have traveled-sized shampoo and conditioner containers. Leave the big bottles of shampoo and conditioner in your van. Next, when it comes to your soap, bring a soap container so that your other belongings don’t get too soapy.

Lastly, don’t forget your quarters! You may need it to get access to the public showers.

Tips on Showering in Public Places: The Need to Know

When showering in a public place, make sure that you schedule your shower during the afternoon or evening. You want to avoid the morning rush and want to use the showers when they are clean. During the afternoon and evening, it is the time when cleaners have the time to clean the bathrooms. 

Make sure to bring a bag or backpack to place your belongings that are mentioned above. You will place your clothes and a shower kit. This is great if the shower space only has hooks, a bench, or a shelf. 

Wearing flip-flops will save you from bringing too much to the shower. You don’t need to carry an extra pair of shoes, which can be a bit of a hassle. Make sure to strip down as possible. Remove any layers, socks, and glasses, then leave those items in your van. Now, if you are a married couple or don’t mind sharing a shower with someone close to you, think about splitting a shower, which can save you a lot of money in the long run. 

If you have an outdoor shower or your own shower in your van, make sure to turn off the water when you are lathering. This way, you can save water and get used to the navy shower every time. Lastly, set a timer. This is great for those worried that they will run out of time when showering in public.

Some public places have a time limit in their showers, so having a timer may come in handy. It reminded me of a time when I lost track of time because I enjoyed my shower so much. I had to pay a whole other fee for the extra time that I spent in the shower.


You may think finding a shower while you are on the road can be difficult. However, it isn’t as hard as you think it may be with all the choices you have. Taking a shower in the gym provides you with many benefits while having your shower in your van lets you take a shower whenever, wherever. With every place that you choose, there will be some pros and cons. I hope this article helped you find the perfect place for you to shower. If you want to know about some vanlife self-care tips, here is an article that I have written for you. Happy traveling!

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