One of the most important parts of living on the road is figuring out how and where you are going to wash yourself - especially if you have someone else with you in your van! Whether it be just a quick nip in a lake or a full blown power shower, it's something you definitely need to consider for life on the road. In this article we will look at a variety of simple campervan shower ideas. We will examine a campervan shower diagram, and go deep on the installation of an indoor campervan shower cubicle.
I'm Shane, I've been teaching people to convert campervans for years; I'm the author of Roaming Home; The Comprehensive Guide for Converting Your Van Into a Campervan,writer of The Van Conversion Newsletter, instructor of The Van Conversion Course over at Udemy. And full-time vanlifer for 4 years!
Now, without any further delay, let's explore some campervan shower ideas.
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Campervan shower diagram
Before we hop into the main article and look at some campervan shower ideas, here is a campervan shower diagram!
Do you need a campervan shower?
In the Roaming Home 2023 study, we found that 69% of people have a shower of some sort installed in their van conversion. Of those, the slight majority have an indoor shower.
So... Do you need to shower? Yes!
Do you need a permanent campervan shower cubicle inside your van? For most people the answer is probably no. However, there are a few scenarios where it could be very useful.
You should consider installing a permanent campervan shower cubicle if you meet one or more of these criteria:
You live for extended periods of time very off-grid
You have at minimum a high roof, long wheel base van
You can commit to having a >70L fresh water tank and large grey water tank - it takes up a lot of space! The average person uses 70L of water per shower in a house
You spend a lot of time in cold, wet climates
You have the cash available - all the plumbing supplies can be expensive!
After a wet, cold, and muddy hike, a campervan shower is an incredible luxury! But in most cases, an indoor campervan shower cubicle is more of a nice-to-have rather than necessity.
Luckily, there are many alternative campervan shower ideas; let’s explore some of them…
Showering away from your campervan
Sea / lake swim
By far the cheapest and also the most courageous form of shower is to simply go for a dip in the closest body of water, be it sea, lake or river.
Many beaches have public showers that you can use at any time of the day or night after your dip and many also have public toilets. But be warned, they are rarely heated showers. A cold shower in the freezing wind after a sea swim in Irish winter is bone chilling and not for the faint hearted! Trust me.
Petrol station showers
Ah yes, glamorous van life... But seriously, it's a life saver. It is one of the best ways to get a free/low cost warm wash.
If you are staying in one place with your van for a while, it might be worth considering joining a gym to get access to their showers (and gym facilities). Unlimited hot showers!
Some gyms have multiple locations (eg. Anytime Fitness), so you can use them wherever you travel. There are also apps like Hussle which give you access to many different gyms around the globe.
A campsite is one of the better options to go with if you are travelling around with your van. Not only do you get to meet people and have a cosy lot for the night, but you get to shower too! (And often a washing machine).
Park4Night is a fantastic free app for finding campsites in your vicinity.
Campervan shower ideas
There's more than one way to skin a cat... Here are some campervan shower ideas!
Baby wipes can be a lifesaver when you need a wash but out of reach of a shower. But you better make absolutely sure you get the biodegradable ones as regular baby wipes are truly terrible polluters. Dry shampoo can also be a good shout!
12V portable shower
The 12V portable shower is a shower head attached to a submersible pump.
It is predominantly an outdoor shower, suited mostly to warmer climates (though I have used it in Irish winter!)
Here’s how to use one;
Hang up the shower head somewhere on the van (I installed a hook on the backdoor and some shower curtains).
Boil up a kettle of water & pour it into a bucket (with some cold water!).
Stick the pump in the bucket.
Enjoy your 2 minute shower! (You'll need about 5 litres for 2 minutes).
Using an immersion rod to heat up the water
Instead of having to boil water in a kettle to get hot water for the shower (I've done that and it takes a long time), I recommend adding an immersion rod to your campervan shower kit!
Simply stick the immersion rod in the bucket of water and in just a few minutes you'll have warm water!
Note: Some immersion rods take a high wattage, so ensure your inverter can handle it!
How long does it take with an immersion rod?
I worked out (based on an 1.5kW aquarium heater) that: if we wanted to heat 10L of water to shower temp (34 degrees) It would take 9 mins.
If you want to work it out yourself, this is the formula I used:
(4.2 × L × T ) ÷ 3600 = Pt
Pt = Power used to heat the water in kilowatt hours
L = litres of water you are heating - in my case 10L
T = The temperature difference you are heating eg. from 14°C to 34°C = 20°C
For example: (4.2 x 10 x 20) ÷ 3600 = 0.23.
Take the result of this equation and divide by the Wattage of the heating element you are using - we are using a 1.5kW heater so divide by 1.5:
0.23 ÷ 1.5 = 0.15 (which is 0.15 of an hour, ie. 9 mins).
This is a pretty unique type of shower system. Though not the best for colder climates. The concept is that you hang the bag of water out during the day and it heats up in the sun. If it isn't very warm, you could always fill it with a bit of hot water like the shower pump system! Just stand underneath, open the nozzle and enjoy!
Aside from building a full-blown campervan shower, RinseKit is as good as it gets! I'm a really big fan. Rinsekit is a pressurised portable shower. It has a 2 gallon container that stores pressure for up to a month. What does this mean? Hot water stays hot in the container for weeks! The RinseKit Plus even comes with an immersion rod so that you can heat the water up with the flick of a switch.
How to install a campervan shower cubicle
Step #1: Choose an appropriate location to install the campervan shower unit
Ideally, before you have even started your van conversion, you will have designed it in high fidelity on paper or with CAD software. You should already know where your shower will be installed.
Note: Before finalising the precise location of the campervan shower cubicle, you need to check what is underneath the van and on the roof.
Why? Because you need to cut a hole in the floor for the drain pipe and a hole in the roof for a small extractor fan. Triple check your measurements - don't drill into anything important.
There are three popular locations for installing an indoor shower in a campervan. A picture paints a thousand words, so here are some photos to illustrate those locations.
Step #2: Install the campervan water system
Before you install the campervan shower unit, you should already have most of the water system set up. Here is a complete guide to camper water system installation.
Notably, you need:
You will need hot and cold water PEX pipes running to the location of your campervan shower unit.
Step #3: Install the campervan shower tray and drain
Once you are sure the location you have chosen is suitable, you can go ahead and install the shower tray. Most people will buy a pre-built shower tray rather than make one - it is PVC shaped quite specifically.
There are two types of campervan shower trays …
If you are going to be installing a toilet anyway, then the campervan shower and toilet tray is probably a good idea!
Campervan shower tray preparation: First drill a hole through the shower tray. This hole allows us to run our drain pipe to the underslung grey water tank.
Note: Some campervan shower trays may require wood support struts to even out the height (see following photo). You can attach the wood to the PVC shower tray with SikaFlex sanitary sealant.
Drain installation: Next install the drain assembly into the shower tray. Run some Sikaflex sanitary sealant on the top and bottom of the shower tray drainage hole, then tighten the drain assembly into the hole. You may also want to use plumber’s putty for a super watertight connection.
A drain assembly usually has a rubber o-ring grommet on each side of the drain to help get a seal. Hand-tight will do.
HepVo valve: You should install a HepVo valve between the shower drain and the grey water tank. This prevents bad odours and water from coming back up the drain.
If you choose to install the HepVo valve inside the van, you must raise the campervan shower tray off the ground by a few inches - like the image shown below.
The other option is to run the shower drain assembly straight through the floor of the van and install the HepVo valve on the underside of the vehicle.
Drill the drainage hole: Next we need to drill a hole through the bottom of the van. This allows us to run the drain pipe to the underslung grey water tank.
When you are sure of the location, drill a small pilot hole first to ensure you won't affect the structural integrity of the van. Then use a bi-metal holesaw to cut the full-sized hole. Don't forget to apply metal paint afterwards to prevent rusting!
Mount the shower tray: Put some large beads of sanitary sealant/adhesive on the floor and stick the campervan shower tray to the floor!
Step #4: Install the extractor fan
An extractor fan is absolutely essential if you are installing a campervan shower. Moisture control is vanlife priority #1!
The 12V extractor fan is installed inside the campervan shower unit. It is normally installed on the roof or on the side of the van depending which type of extractor fan you buy.
The extractor fan is installed in much the same way as the primary campervan fan (eg. Maxxair Maxxfan Deluxe) is installed. To recap that process:
Cut hole in the roof (bi-metal holesaw)
Drill pilot holes where the fan screws will go
Add mastic/butyl tape or Sikaflex to the top of the van
Screw the fan to the roof
Read a bead of sealant on the inside of the van - all around the fan
Attach the backing flange
Wire up the fan to 12V power
Step #5: Build the shower walls
Once you have installed the campervan shower tray, you need to erect the wooden frame for the walls of the campervan shower cubicle. You can do this with 1X1 treated timber.
Next, screw a ply lining into the frame from the inside. Paint the ply lining with PVA paint and allow it to dry. The PVA paint seals pores in the wood and will allow the PVC sheeting to stick easier.
Cutting the plywood so that it matches up with the curve of the wall can be a bit tricky - in fact, done by eye it is nearly impossible to do perfectly. Luckily, there is a clever technique called 'scribing' that you can employ!
A scribe allows us to get the ply completely flush against the van wall! I suggest buying one as it will come in enormously useful during all the woodwork in your van!
Next you need to line the interior of the shower with PVC sheeting. The PVC sheeting is the waterproof material that lines the campervan shower unit.
First you will need to cut the PVC sheet to shape. You can use the same scribing technique above to cut the PVC to shape.
Note: Do not use power tools to cut the PVC sheet as it is normally only ~2.5mm thick and quite brittle. Instead, use metal shears to cut the plastic by hand.
Here is a video on how to use a scribe (though they are pretty self explanatory!)
Cover the ply with beads of some sealant adhesive (Sikaflex High Tack will do the job).
Then stick the PVC sheeting to the walls and roof.
Run a good thick bead of mold-resistant waterproof sealant around every joint.
A quick note on tiling:
There are many methods of making waterproof shower walls. The PVC method described above is the most 'waterproof' method (and easiest). Another popular method is to tile the inside walls of the shower. Many of the 'prettiest' campervans use this method. However I will not be describing this method in this guide. However, LostOnTheRoute has a great blog describing how to do this.
Step #6: Install LED lights
Without any lights, the campervan shower unit would be a bit dark! So go ahead and install some waterproof LED Strip lights wherever you think looks best (the ceiling is usually best).
Step #7: Install the shower door
There are many ways to create a campervan shower door. Here are some of your options…
A shower curtain on a rail: An easy way to get the job done. TheWholeWorldOrNothing chose to use a shower curtain on a rail
A tambour campervan shower door (My personal favourite): Tambour campervan shower doors are by far the most pretty! You can get them made to fit online or from physical retailers.
A DIY campervan shower door: Or... you could build your own campervan shower door.
To do this, cut the door from a large piece of high quality ply, pop it on some hinges (specifically flush crank hinges), and attach it to the campervan shower unit.
To keep the door from getting soggy, you will need to stick PVC sheeting to the inside of it. This is done in the same manner as the shower walls.
Add some ball catches or magnetic catches so that the door stays shut when closed. And add a door handle so it can open and close!
Greg Virgoe shows you how to build a DIY shower door beautifully in this video.
Ventilation: If your campervan shower door makes a really good seal, you are going to need to install a vent.
Why? Well having an extractor fan is all well and good, but the air it extracts needs to come from somewhere!
To allow for proper ventilation of the campervan shower, install a vent somewhere low in the shower (the door would be the perfect place!).
Step #8: Install the shower head and mixer
The last step is to install the shower head and mixer. A mixer mixes the hot and cold water to the desired temperature - it also controls the flow of water.
I particularly like this campervan shower kit, it's cheap, cheerful, and does the job!
The shower mixer is typically installed on a shower mounting bracket. The mounting bracket is installed on the non-PVC side of the shower wall.
The hot and cold water PEX pipes run from the campervan water heater to the mounting bracket. They are connected with 1/2" Pipe-barb fittings (brass).
To cut the hole for the hot and cold water pipes you can use a hole saw. Cut from the PVC side and mask where you are cutting with tape to prevent scratching.
Step #9. Finish the shower drainage
Nearly finished! Last step is to polish off the campervan shower drain!
Campervan drainage is primarily done with PVC piping. We need our shower drain to run to our underslung grey water tank.
An underslung tank is important as the drainage system operates by gravity.
Nearly finished! Last step is to polish off the campervan shower drain!
Campervan drainage is primarily done with PVC piping. We need our shower drain to run to our underslung grey water tank. I discuss how to install a grey water tank here.
One important piece of kit you will need when doing your drainage is a Hepvo trap - it is the modern equivalent of a P-trap / U-bend. It stops bad odors from coming up the drain!
The PVC pipe will be navigated to the grey water tank using a series of PVC fittings which you can get from your local hardware store. Slip PVC fittings are attached using PVC glue.
I recommend checking out the video below by Vanlife outfitters - it gives an excellent demonstration of how to plumb the grey water.
Note: My one point of contention with this video is his addition of an dedicated vent line for the shower. Instead of installing the bulky system in the video, I recommend installing a simple air vent on the grey water tank itself.
Campervan Water heaters
You have two options for supplying hot water to your campervan shower:
Tankless water heater
Water heater with a tank
Tankless campervan water heater
Tankless campervan water heaters deliver (nearly) instant hot water whenever you turn on the shower. There is no holding tank for water and thus they take up less space than their 'with-tank' counterparts (discussed next). Tankless campervan water heaters predominantly run on propane gas.
The most popular tankless water heater by far is the Camplux 1.32GPM portable tankless water heater. It's a fantastic tankless water heater delivering 46°C at up to 110PSI (I recommend not running the shower on full blast to conserve water).
One of the many nifty things about the camplux heater is that it doesn't need to be plugged into your campervan electrical system; it is self sufficient and powered by two D cell batteries.
Let's zoom in and have a look at the Camplux tankless water heater up close...
There are three 1/2" ports on the bottom of the heater:
The gas inlet can runs out to your propane gas cylinder via a compression pipe.
The water OUT port pipes pressurized hot water to our shower. The camplux water heater comes with a shower head attached by default - since we are installing our own custom shower head, we can do away with the head they supplied. We attach 1/2" PEX pipe in the same manner we did for the water IN port.
You can learn all about campervan gas installations here.
Vented vs unvented tankless campervan water heaters
Propane-powered tankless water heaters operate by combusting propane. Carbon monoxide is produced in this process, which is very dangerous. Therefore, many propane water heaters come with vents to remove carbon monoxide from the campervan safely (through a roof flue). In contrast, the Camplux is an unvented campervan water heater.
A better and safer shower installation should instead use a vented campervan water heater instead. It pipes an exhaust pipe outside the van to get rid of that nasty carbon monoxide. While Camplux heaters are the most popular campervan heaters, vented water heaters are the most correct water heaters. Indeed, in some countries, installing a Camplux inside may be against regulations.
Diesel combi heaters: blow heater & water heater!
If you've got the cash, you could buy a diesel heater that works both as a blow heater and as a water heater. The most famous manufacturer of these types of heaters is Truma. The Truma Combi 4 is a well-renowned and very well reviewed combi heater.
Another renowned combi heater is the Webasto Hybrid 5. I love these blow heater / water heater hybrids! If you've got the cash you should definitely check them out.
Water heater with tank
A campervan water heater with a tank keeps water constantly heated inside the holding tank (when turned ON). It is fully electric and does not rely on propane gas like the tankless heater does. Once again, the most popular tank water heater is the Camplux 2.5 Gallon mini tank electric water heater.
The camplux heater is 1.5kw and thus requires an inverter sized at 2kw. It provides pressure up to 150PSI.
I have a close friend who uses one of these and he loves it. He has even wired up a sensor so that the water heater will automatically turn ON when the leisure batteries are fully charged (pretty cool!)
The campervan water heater with a tank is plumbed in the exact same as the tankless water heater (without the gas fitting). There are 1/2" fittings to which we can attach pipe.
So that's it folks. Our round-up of the best campervan shower ideas!
Don't forget to subscribe to The Van Conversion Newsletter for everything you need to get started with your own van conversion (I'll send you a free wiring diagram when you join).
If you're looking for some guidance with your van conversion, you might be interested in Roaming Home; The Comprehensive Guide for Converting Your Van Into a Campervan. In the 380-page book (or ebook), you'll learn directly from me how to convert a van into your dream home - no prior experience needed!
Until next time,