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Van Life Showering: Options Best For Small Vans

When traveling a lot of people think you have to sacrifice hygiene in order to be a part of van life. Often times there is a mental image conjured up of unkept individuals driving around the country living in the back of something primitive that they just threw a bed into, and while clearly that isn’t the vast majority of van life participants, the ever circling question of how they shower always raises an eyebrow.

But for us in the van life, we all know that there are many options for keeping clean when on the road and that hygiene doesn’t have to suffer as a result of access to the open spaces we have come to love.

There are in fact a lot of different options depending on your locations some might be more accessible than others, but there is always an option for keeping fresh and clean while traveling in van life.

  • Public Showers

  • Built-In Showers

  • Portable Showers

Public Showers

Public Showers are commonly gyms, campgrounds or truck stops. Each has their advantage and disadvantage of course but these are more widely available to the masses who indulge in van life. Gyms require memberships of course and truck stops can become costly if you are using these as your sole method for showering unless you belong to their rewards programs.

I have found that with my personal travel, gyms sometimes miss the mark because I don’t stay in more regional areas and some gyms do not have branches everywhere. However if you are choosing to stay in a region you can always look into what franchises they have available on a larger scale. For example Anytime Fitness has more locations nationwide at a lower price point than LA Fitness which is much more costly. You can find memberships which allow you to freeze or cancel at any time and these could be very effective methods for you to enjoy the facilities.

Truck Stops average $10-$15 per shower but provide a pretty consistent option around the country. While many feel a bit intimidated by these, they are really easy and safe to use. I have used this as an option numerous times along my adventures and found that learning your major chains can increase your comfort level with using their shower rooms. Shower rooms at truck stops allow you your own individual space with a shower, restroom and sink. Each of these has a lock and cannot be accessed without a time stamped code you are given to provide an additional level of safety. The shower rooms are cleaned and restocked after each use and provide a great option.

Campgrounds facilities are one of my favorites personally when it comes to public showers. They are already on site to some of your favorite stops and provide a great option which is sometimes free. Usually these have less frills than other public showers however they are accessible and easy.

Something I learned about campground facilities in National and State parks also as a little tip is if you are visiting the park but are not staying the night, with your admission you still can use the facilities there as well. Typically there is parking right outside the shower house you can pull in and park take a quick shower and then back on the road you go.

Built-In Showers

This option is very common for those who have taller vans or skoolies. The ability to have a built in shower is a big bonus for a larger rig, however with that also comes a lot of extra planning in your build. You have to facilitate additional water, build a water safe structure and drain system. If you are willing to do this, this can be one of the most convenient as it is located on rig already and can be used at any time.

Having a smaller van myself, this option doesn’t really work, there simply isn’t enough space to effectively make this happen.

Portable Shower

For someone like myself, a portable shower is a much more manageable option for travel. If you have a smaller van or one you cannot stand up in a traditional shower can really be difficult to achieve, but what can easily be achieved is a portable option which allows you to manipulate the spacing your have or the outdoors you are visiting to enjoy a nice shower and keep that hygiene up no matter where you are.

For this to work you need only find a portable shower head or pump which allows you to circulate your water and a vessel to hold your water. Typically I warm the water and pour it into a basin and then use a USB water pump to move the water just like a traditional shower head.

Sheltering yourself from others being able to see you can be done in a variety of ways including a shower curtain stretching from door to door or in my case a portable shower tent which pops up and is easy to maneuver.

Having portability really has its advantages as you are searching for your perfect campsite for the night which might be a bit more off the beaten path. You no longer are limited by access to facilities and instead are able to bring them with you wherever you are. You can shower with the backdrop of some of the most beautiful places in the country as your view.

These three options are the most effective for keeping traditionally clean over the open road. We all have preferences and tips for the in-between moments which might include quick washing your hair in a sink, sponge bathing along the way to limit water consumption or even just freshening up in between shower moments with baby wipes. But the biggest thing we all want is a good hot shower at the end of a crazy day to relax us and wash away the struggles of a good hike, the dust of a fun day in the desert and the salt of the ocean after a good day at the beach.


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