Last Update: 3/10/2019

10 Ways to Shower if You Live in a Van

Man who lives in a van down by the river grimaces in cold shower.
"Cold Shower" by sethdickens (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Lotta wannabe vandwellers worry 'bout how they're gonna wash the stink off. No problem. Easy really. Showers ain't hard to come by down by the river. Here's some options off the top of my head.

10 Vanlife Shower Options

1. Gyms / Fitness Centers

This is a popular option for your urban vandwellers and OTR types frequenting cities. Get you a cheap membership to one of the national gym chains. Then shower as needed. Get a workout, too!

Vanholio don't hang around cities much, so this option's kinda useless for me. But don't let that stop you!

2. Truck Stops

Your big truck stops – T&A, Pilot, Flying J, etc. – usually have showers for the truckers. They're pricey at about $10-12 per shower. Most a the chains got deals for free showers if ya buy a lotta gas from them, so look into it.

Pilot's the only chain Vanholio's used, and only twice. But I can report that the showers were clean, fancy even, and Pilot provided soap and towels. At one place, a trucker gave me one a his free showers. I don't know whether he just thought Pilot are fucking shysters at $12 a pop or if I looked desperate. Free is free, so I just said, Thank you!

Makes me wonder if you couldn't buy showers at a discount from the truckers direct, say offer $5 for the credit. Most of them got more free showers than they can use anyway. Buddy a mine used ta be homeless, and said he'd hang around'n trucker's'd give him tokens for nothin'!

3. Campgrounds and RV Parks

Ya don't need to pay for a site. While it ain't exactly kosher, hardly no one'll notice if ya use a state, city, or county park campground's shower. This is a great deal if ya got an annual pass to cover the daily entrance. Plus some a your National Forest and BLM campgrounds got showers, though this ain't typical.

Small, private RV parks will often let travelers buy just a shower. The going rate seems to be $5. The laundry facilities is usually more-reasonably priced than a laundromat, too.

Some campgrounds and RV parks got coin-operated showers, which usually run a $1.00 to $1.50 for 4-6 minutes.

4. Swimming

Many a time Vanholio's taken a dip in a lake, river, or creek to clean off. I carry a bathing suit for the purpose, but I suppose ya could go like Adam and Eve. Don't pollute with soap, though. I just use sand and clay ta scrub off.

Sometimes public beaches got free rinse showers. Use them after your dip, or alone if it's too cold to swim.

5. Public Bathrooms

You can always get yourself a sponge / washcloth bath in a public bathroom anywhere. For privacy and stealth, a one-user bathroom is probably best. Don't be an asshole: Wipe up any mess you make.

6. Deodorizing Rinses

Vanholio uses this No-Rinse Body Wash he read about on some vandwelling forum. Works good. It's a deodorizing, moisturizing lotion ya just spread on and let dry. I think they come up with it for invalids. It's really good when it's cold out 'cause I can just apply in the van. Seen another brand sold at Walgreens.

I heard some vanlifers do a similar thing homemade. One gal uses a spray bottle filled with vinegar solution. And there are always cleansing wipes.

7. Friends and Family

Visitin' folks for dinner? Ask if they don't mind if you grab a quick shower. Most a your better people will oblige. But don't keep hittin' up the same folks too often. You'll wear out your welcome.

8. Portable Showers

Lots a vandwellers have worked out one kind of shower or other. There're commercial products, like camp showers, and even fancier gadgets. One of the most clever ideas I ever heard was using one of those pressure canisters ,usually used for fertilizer, pesticides, and bug spray. You could even poke holes in the bottom of a plastic bucket, fill it up, and hang it from a tree branch.

9. Garden Hose

If ya find a hose or can add a hose and spray nozzle to an outdoor tap somewhere, you got it made. Put on your swimsuit, hose down, soap up, hose down again, and towel down. You're done. For your nethers, just shoot water down into your swimsuit.

10. Car Wash

I never tried this nor ever even heard it being done... But why not go to a self-serve car wash!? I'm talking about the kind where you drive into a bay and use a powerwash gun. Maybe the gun's too long or two high-pressure? Still think it could work in a pinch. Vanholio'd just use the water rinse – no car soap. I'd also probably go at night or sometime there wouldn't be many around.

Between Showers

Also, consider that with daily deodorant; washing your face, pits, and nethers; and changing your clothes regular, you won't need to bathe all that often. Good hygeine is good for you, helps relations, and hides you in plain site from the LEOs.

Get mail on the road – Traveling Mailbox! (review)

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  1. Some others:

    - I've encountered the laundromats that also had showers.
    - Municipal rec centers/pools will often sell showers or day passes that let you use the showers
    - There's this stuff called no-rinse peri-wash that hospitals use to sponge bathe bedridden patients. Use it like soap on a washcloth, but, as the name implies, you don't need to rinse afterward. It's not loaded with alcohol like hand sanitizer is. I've gone through a gallon of it.
    - Use the shower in a buddy's RV
    - Hot springs. The hot spring at Slab City, for example, is pretty much the community bathtub. There are natural, un-commercialized, free hot springs scattered all over the West on public land
    - Massage parlors. Get a table shower, massage and happy ending
    - Mom & pop motels between a guest checking out and housekeeping doing up the room. It will take some fancy talking and probably a few bucks to cover the cost of water

    1. Why, I think we got a start to "10 More Ways to Shower if You Live in a Van"! :-)

  2. add this technique to your list. use a 1 gallon water jug, just heat about 1/3 gallon water on your little stove, mix with remaining water in jug to achieve a nice warm temp. stand next to or behind van for privacy and wash. I use minimal amount to get wet, soap up then use the rest to rinse. 1 gallon is plenty for me. I have short hair so if your sporting long hair it will obviously take more water for that. I then step back into my van to dry off. this makes for a quick and thorough shower.
    Annapolis Md U.S.A

    1. Good one! I really gotta expand this post. ...

  3. As for the self-serve carwash, since the pressure is probably too high, you can spray into the wind or up at the ceiling and have it delivered back to you. Then you can go over yourself with the foaming brush and repeat the spray technique. :)