First off, a better question is should you have a shower. Of course you can have a shower in your camper van. Hell, you could have a Jacuzzi tub if you wanted! The reality is, showers take up already limited space, add complexity and cost to a conversion. Don’t get us wrong, it’s awesome to be able to take a hot off-grid shower in the middle of nowhere. There are just some important considerations when deciding whether or not to add a shower to your camper van conversion.
Let’s get the basics out of the way. Here’s exactly what it takes to put a shower in a camper van.
- ~6 square feet of dedicated shower space
- Shower fixtures, floor pan, drain, water proof walls
- Plumbing and water pump
- Hot water heater
- At least a 25 gallon fresh water tank(Ideally 30)
- Grey water tank
Unless you’re going with a very basic build you’ll already have some of these components in your build plan. However, adding a shower will complicate your plumbing a bit. A water system for just a sink is simple. You have one line running from the water tank to the faucet and one line running to a grey water tank. With a shower you now have multiple lines splitting and converging. You also add in an additional line for hot water. The hot water heater also needs a fuel source feeding it. This usually means a propane line unless you have a serious electrical system. Very quickly your plumbing system can approach the same complexity as your electrical system.
Along with the plumbing complexity comes added build complexity. Showers take up space and space is precious. Having a shower will absolutely limit layout options. Building a shower from scratch is also a little complex in itself. You’ll have to raise up the floor in the shower area to allow for a drain and ensure that the entire area is waterproof and water tight to prevent leaks and mold.
Increased water consumption
It should be no surprise that adding a shower will lead to running through your freshwater tank much faster. The average American consumes 17 gallons of water when they shower. That means if you take a normal shower, each one will drain over half of your available water supply. Sure you can be more efficient by turning the water off and on between each step. But is that an enjoyable shower? Not really.
Public shower alternatives
There are plenty of ways to get a shower without installing one in your van. Most campgrounds, recreation centers and rest stops have options to pay for a shower that are normally less than $10. I’m sure you’re thinking “That will get expensive.” It can but the biggest benefit is that these are unlimited showers. You can take as long as you want and use as much water as you want. If you only need a shower once a week, this is definitely the way to go.
If getting clean is a must and public showers aren’t easily available or just aren’t for you, installing an outdoor shower can be a great option. The plumbing is slightly less complex, you don’t have to sacrifice interior space, there are no waterproofing steps and you don’t have to have a large grey water tank. Outdoor showers do still increase water usage but are generally used more for rinsing off then taking full blown showers anyway. The one main drawback is that outdoor showers can only be used in the warmer months.
Like nearly everything with building out a camper van, it ultimately comes down to what is important to you and how you will be using your van. If you won’t be full time and won’t be doing a lot of extended winter camping, a shower really doesn’t make sense. Winter presents it’s own set of challenges when it comes to public shower options and a nice warm shower can be a game changer.
Having a shower in your camper van definitely falls in the nice to have category. Remember, camper vans are for getting out there and exploring. You don’t have to be sparkly clean all the time and we believe you shouldn’t be. So get out there, get dirty and have fun! You can shower later.