One of the most common questions people have about vanlife is “where do you shower?”. No, living in a van does not necessarily make you a dirty hippie and yes, we do shower regularly (most of the time). This post is going to shed some light on van hygiene and discuss ways you can stay clean and comfortable on the road.
The Shower Situation:
There are several options for showering and they range from having a shower in your van to using the shower at a local gym. When making the decision on what is best for you, consider how often you will need to shower and if you will be in an area where you have access to a gym. Let’s get into the most popular shower options:
- Include a shower in your build:
- Indoor shower: Some people choose to install a shower when they build out their van. It does require extra planning since you have to create a separate section for the shower and ensure that nothing else in your home will get wet, but it would certainly be an advantage to have this luxury if you have the time and ability. A built in shower would be a huge advantage when there are no gyms or campgrounds in the area… or in recent news, a pandemic.
- Outdoor shower: If you choose to opt out of a built in shower room but want to have access to running water, an outdoor shower that pulls out from the back or side of the van is another option. This is perfect if you are not in the city and are comfortable showering outside.
- Gyms: This is our shower style of choice and seems to be the most popular option amongst van dwellers. We went with the Planet Fitness black card membership for a couple of reasons. First, it only costs twenty dollars a month and you can bring a guest (this covers the fee for both of us). You can use any gym in the country which is perfect while you are traveling. There are thousands of locations across the U.S. so you rarely have difficulty finding a shower nearby. The facilities are clean and have hot water. Along with Planet Fitness, there are several other gyms that have locations nationwide, it just depends on what is the best fit for you and what is in your area.
- Campgrounds/ Truck Stops: If you are ever in an location where there are a limited number of gyms and you need a shower you could always stop at a nearby campground. Even if you are not staying for the night you can usually pay a small fee to use the campground shower. The same goes for truck stops. Most truck stops offer showers and laundry facilities that can be used for a small price.
- Solar Shower: Solar showers are another great option especially if you are off grid. You simply leave the shower out during the day for a few hours and then have hot water when you return to your camp. You can check out our solar shower on Amazon. Even if a solar shower is not your number one shower choice, this is a good item to keep on hand for times that you are off grid for several days and aren’t near any gyms.
- Roughing it: There are going to be times when you just don’t feel like going to the gym to shower or may not be in a location with one nearby and that’s okay. For those days, we rely heavily on dry shampoo and body wipes to stay fresh. Our favorite dry shampoo is Batiste and Ty swears by these Dude wipes.
Toilet or no toilet? That is the question. We are extremely happy with our decision to have a toilet in our van. It is convenient when we need to use the restroom in the middle of the night, when we are on long road trips, or when we are staying in the city for work and don’t want to use a public restroom. While we enjoy our toilet, it is not a priority for some van dwellers and they choose to forego a toilet altogether.
Lets get into the options:
- Cassette toilet: Cassette toilets are a great choice if you want something that feels like a regular toilet and don’t want to deal with setting up plumbing in your van. There is a separate compartment for the holding tank (waste) that you remove and dump as needed. We have the Porti Potti Thetford toilet and have loved it so far. As far as portable toilets go it is not super expensive, it is small enough to store in a cabinet out of sight, and it is simple to use.
- Composting toilet: Natures head is probably the most popular choice for the composting toilet. Although these are a bit of an investment, we have heard from several people that these toilets are worth the money and great to have in a van. This toilet has a ventilation hose that runs to the outside of the van and breaks down your waste so that you don’t have to worry about smell or dumping it as frequently.
- Portable Folding Travel Toilet: If you want something that does not take up a lot of space in the van and can be set up when you need to do your business, a portable folding toilet is another option. One of these would be ideal for emergency situations or if you don’t need to use your van toilet daily.
- Leave no Trace: There are many van dwellers who do not have a toilet in their van and do their business outside or use public restrooms. This could become a problem if you spend a lot of time in the city stealth camping. However, if you are always on BLM or off the grid it would be ideal. There are some perks of not having a toilet in your van. For instance, you don’t have to worry about dumping it every so often and taking up valuable space in your van.
If you do choose to have a cassette toilet or some type of toilet that requires you to get rid of waste, occasionally you will need to find a dump station. To find the nearest dump station, we use the iOverlander app. You can typically find one for free or pay a small fee at a campground, RV park, or truck stop.
We do our laundry about once a week at a laundromat. Going to a laundromat while living in a van is amazing because you are able to clean or relax in your home while you wait for it to be done. This is a great time to give your space a deep cleaning and start the week fresh.
Choosing how you will shower or use the bathroom all comes down to what works for you personally. It is important to consider how often you will be in the city and have access to public restrooms and gyms, how often you would use your toilet, and what will make you feel the best. This is definitely something to put a good bit of thought into when planning your build or starting vanlife. Hygeine and comfort can play a big part in mental health and how enjoyable life on the road is for you.