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The Ultimate Guide to Campervan Showers [2023]

One of the most important parts to 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 wild camping 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, go deep on the installation of an indoor campervan shower unit. Finally we will learn all about campervan water heaters.


I'm Shane, I've been teaching people to convert campervans for many years, I'm the van conversion instructor at Udemy, author of The Van Conversion Newsletter, and the proud owner of a beautiful self-build campervan called Beans. Now, without any further delay, let's explore some campervan shower options.

The ultimate guide to campervan showers

Items linked in this guide are affiliate links. By using these links, you are helping me to continue writing free educational van conversion content!

You can find the full list of van conversion supplies here.


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Campervan shower diagram

Before we hop into the main article and look at some campervan shower ideas, here is a shower installation diagram!

Campervan shower installation diagram

Do you need a campervan shower?

Do you need to shower? Yes!


Do you need a permanent shower inside you campervan? 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 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 >80L fresh water tank and similar sized 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 - it can be expensive! The main appliances a campervan shower installation will require are:

  • Diaphragm pump

  • Accumulator

  • Campervan water heater

  • Shower mixing valve

  • Shower head

  • On top of the above, there is piping, lumber, fittings, PVC sheeting, etc.

After a wet, cold, and muddy hike, a campervan shower is an incredible luxury! But in most cases, an indoor campervan shower is more of a nice-to-have rather than necessity.


Luckily, there are many alternative campervan shower ideas. We will explore many of them in this guide. We will also look at how to install an indoor campervan shower for those of you interested!


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 nippy dip and many also have public toilets. But be warned, they are not heated showers.


A chilly shower in freezing wind after a sea swim in Irish winter is bone chilling and not for the faint hearted! Trust me.


My recommendation, if you are in a cold climate, is to consider having an indoor shower in your van. It will make you a happier human and your life on the road will be more sustainable long term!

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.


Gym showers

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 globe.


Campsites

A campersite 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

Baby wipes can be a life saver 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 Camping Shower

The 12v portable camping shower is a shower head attached to a submersible pump.

12v portable campervan shower

It is predominantly an outdoor shower, suited mostly to warmer climates (though I have used it in Irish winter!)


  1. Hang up the shower head somewhere on the van (I installed a hook on the backdoor and some shower curtains).

  2. Boil up a kettle of water & pour it into a bucket (with some cold water!)

  3. Stick the pump in the bucket.

  4. Enjoy your 2 minute shower! (You'll need about 5 litres for 2 minutes.)


Using an immersion rod to heat up the shower water

Instead of having to boil water in a kettle to get hot water for the shower (I've done that and it's not fun), 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 to heat up water for a shower with an immersion rod?

This is maths heavy, so feel free to skip! :)


I worked out (based on an 800W aquarium heater) that: if we wanted to heat 10L of water to shower temp (34 degrees) It would take 26 mins.

If you want to work it out yourself, this is the formula we used:


(4.2 × L × T ) ÷ 3600 = Pt


Which looks complicated, but its not! It means:

PT = Power used to heat the water in kilowatt hours

L = litres of water you are heating - in our case 10L

T = The temperature difference you are going to eg. from 4 degrees C to 34 degrees C = 30degrees


Ex: (4.2 x 10 x 30) ÷ 3600 = 0.35


Take the result of this equation and divide by the wattage of the heating element you are using - we are using a 800W heater so divide by 0.8:

0.35 ÷ 0.8 = 0.43 (which is 0.43 of an hour)


So 0.43 x 60mins = 26mins to heat the water for your shower given an 800w heater. Most immersion heaters are twice this size though!


Shower bag

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!

campervan solar shower

Rinsekit - Top Pick

Aside from building a full-blown campervan shower, RinseKit is as good as it gets! I'm a really big fan. It's my top pick.


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. Rinsekit also sell a shower tent which is pretty cool.

Rinsekit campervan shower

How to Install a Campervan Shower Unit

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 in a CAD software.


However, before finalising the precise location of the campervan shower, 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.


Here are some instagram-vans to give you inspiration on where you could put your campervan shower:


2. Install the campervan water system

Before you install the campervan shower unit, you should already have the water system mostly setup. That means most things in this diagram:

Campervan water system

Notably, you need:

You should have your hot and cold water PEX pipes running to where you shower unit will be.


You can learn how to install the above campervan water system here.


3. Install the campervan shower tray

Once you are sure the location you have chosen is suitable, you can go ahead and install the campervan shower tray. Most people will buy a 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 in a toilet anyway, then the campervan shower and toilet tray is probably a good idea!


To install a campervan shower tray, the first step is to drill a hole through the bottom of the van. First drill a small pilot hole to ensure you won't affect the structural integrity of the van. Then use a bi-metal holesaw to cut the full-sized hole (Should be the same diameter as the drain assembly). Don't forget to use metal paint to prevent future rusting!

Installing drain in campervan shower tray

Some campervan shower trays may require wood support struts to even out the height (see photo below). You can attach the wood to the PVC shower tray with SikaFlex sanitary sealant.

Campervan shower tray support

Next install the drain assembly into the shower tray. Run some Sikaflex sanitary sealant on the top and bottom of the campervan shower tray, then tighten the drain assembly into the hole.

Installing drain in campervan shower kit

It has a rubber o-ring grommet on each side of the drain to help get a watertight seal. Hand-tight will do.

Campervan shower drain

Put some large beads of Sikaflex sanitary sealant on the floor and stick the campervan shower tray to the floor! The drain assembly should fit perfectly through the hole in the floor.

Sticking campervan shower tray to floor

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.

Campervan shower extractor fan

The extractor fan is installed in much the same way as the primary campervan fan (eg. Maxxair Maxxfan Deluxe) is installed. To give you a recap:

  1. Cut hole in the roof (bi-metal holesaw)

  2. Drill pilot holes where the fan screws will go

  3. Add mastic/butyl tape or Sikaflex to the top of the van

  4. Bolt the fan to the roof

  5. Read a bead of sealant on the inside of the van - all around the fan

  6. Attach the backing flange

  7. Wire up the fan to 12v power


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 shower unit. You can do this with 1X1 treated timber.

Campervan shower frame
@vandogtraveller

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.

Campervan shower unit
@vandogtraveller

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!

Woodwork scribe

Here is a video on how to use a scribe (though they are pretty self explanatory!)


Next you need to line the interior of the shower with PVC sheeting. The PVC sheeting is our waterproof material that lines the campervan shower unit.


First you will need to cut the PVC 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. Instead, use metal shears to cut the plastic by hand.


Cover the ply with beads of some sealant adhesive (Sikaflex High Tack will do the job).

Installing PVC campervan shower

Then stick the PVC sheeting to the walls and roof.


Run a good thick bead of mould-resistant waterproof sealant around every joint.

PVC lining campervan shower unit

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.

Campervan shower with tiles

6. Install LED lights

Without any lights, the campervan shower unit can be a bit dark! So go ahead and install some waterproof LED Strip lights wherever you think looks best (the ceiling is usually best).

6. Install the campervan shower door

There are many ways to create campervan shower door. Here are some of your options:


1. A shower curtain on a rail

2. A tambour shower door (My personal favourite)

Tambour shower doors are by far the most pretty! You can get them made to fit online or from physical retailers.

Campervan shower tambour

3. DIY Shower door

Or... you could build your own campervan shower door.


To do this you would cut the door from a large piece of ply, pop it on some hinges (specifically flush crank hinges), and attach it to the shower unit.

DIY campervan shower door

To keep the door from getting soggy, you will also need to stick PVC sheeting to it.


To get a really smooth connection between the PVC sheeting and the plywood, you can use a router with a flush/ball bearing bit. Greg Virgoe shows you how to this beautifully in this video.