It’s true you’ll shower less often in a van than you would in a house/apartment (hopefully every day), but getting creative with your options can help you stay comfortable in your van, especially while traveling in the summer.
The most obvious choice for showers would be at the campground facilities. Not all will have showers, and the ones that do may cost more. On top of that, a number of places we stayed charged a dollar or so (in quarters) for a 5-10 minute shower.
This isn’t our go-to choice since we like to do free camping as often as we can. But the occasional campground with facilities is a nice treat, especially in gorgeous locations like national parks, where free camping isn’t allowed. Staying at a campground is also a good opportunity to fill up your water tanks and dump your grey water tanks!
Figure out the company with the most locations in the areas you will be traveling. Planet Fitness gyms are all over the US, so we got a ‘black card’ membership for $20/month. This allows the card holder and a guest to go to any PF location! The normal, and slightly cheaper, membership only applies to your “home location gym”, so it’s not a good option while traveling.
This was our preferred method of showering! The water temperature and pressure did vary depending on the location, but generally were pretty good. They are cleaned regularly as well, but as always, I’d recommend shower slippers. Shower at the gym means you have some motivation to get a workout and shower 2-in-1. But even on those nights where we were too exhausted for a shower, we had no shame in walking in, showering, and walking straight out.
Pro-tip: Planet Fitness does not charge you a cancellation fee, if at the of your travels, you return home and there is no gym within 25 miles of you! So don’t be put off if you have to commit to a certain length of contract.
3. Rec Centers
Look up local YMCAs! The policies may vary based on location, but we visited several that give your first visit free after you fill out a basic form. We moved around often so we never ended up visiting the same YMCA again, but subsequent visits would be around $10.
4. Beach showers
Tons of State Parks/Beaches have public showers you can use (just wear your swimsuit). It’s not an uncommon sight for people to be washing their hair after taking a dip in the ocean, so you don’t stand out either. They’re usually tepid or cold water so you may need to mentally prepare depending on the weather outside.
5. Pressure shower/Shower bag/Solar shower
We use a portable pressure shower for days where we are a little more remote, with no planet fitness close by and no plans to stay at a campground. It has a small shower head and a foot pump, and actually last us about four showers each fill (two per person). Often, we’ll pull up to a spot with grass and shower next to the van. It’s also a great option for rinsing off immediately after a sweaty hike, or after a dip in a natural hot spring. We prefer the flexibility of having our shower be portable, especially since a grassy spot may be a little further from the van, or if we need to rinse off our kayaks.
An inexpensive option would be using a shower bag. They work best when you are camped up in one spot for multiple days, that way you can hang it up, and allow the sun to warm the water throughout the day.
More permanent installations include a roof solar shower. More expensive than the option above, but you don’t have to worry about taking it down when you drive, and it warms throughout the day.
If you know someone in the area, ask to shower at their house (and maybe buy them beer).
While we haven’t used this option, we’ve considered it. It may work better if you know what dates you’ll be in what areas, which for us hasn’t happened so far. Talk to the host to see if they’d be open to you using their shower, and possibly parking in their driveway, if they have one. This means you both have your own privacy since you won’t technically be on their couch, and you’ll only be in the house for a short period!
8. Truck stops
Places like Pilot Travel Center/Flying J’s will have pay-to-use showers. Check the reviews to see if these are available to anyone, or just Truckers though.
9. Wet wipes
This would be the ultimate last option in a desperate situation. If you’re out of water and don’t have access to the previous options, you can always resort to baby wipes. While this isn’t anywhere near a replacement for a shower, it can hold you over until you find some running water!