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Having a Shower in Your Van

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Your van came with a shower, and you didn't even know it!

Your van came with a shower, and you didn’t even know it!

Whenever I tell someone I live in a van a few questions come up right away, the obvious one is “How can you live in that small a space?” The next most common question is, “How do you go the bathroom and take showers?” The bathroom is pretty easy to explain, but showering is a little more complicated. In today’s post I want to show you a simple and elegant method of showering I learned from my good friend Dan.
If you have a van, it came with a built in shower and I bet you didn’t even know it!
Before you hit the delete button because I’ve obviously lost my mind, let me tell you it’s really very simple. Walk around back and open your back doors and if you use a little imagination you can see that it is already three sides of an outdoor shower—all you need to add is a fourth wall and hot water–and they’re both easy!
The shower from inside with total privacy and a shower head in the middle

The shower from inside with total privacy and a shower head in the middle

The hot water comes from a solar shower bag that you leave on the roof of the van just above the back doors. I’ve been using solar showers for years and they work very well!  The one I highly recommend is made by Seattle Sports. Get it from Amazon here: Seattle Sports Solar Shower (5-Gallon)
Next, you need a fourth wall which comes from:

  • a 48 inch dowel or shower rod that you can get from any hardware store,
  • a bungee cord and
  • a tarp or a shower curtain.

That’s all you need to turn your back doors into an outdoor shower.

It's the push-pull tension of the dowel and the bungee that keeps the two doors locked together and keeps them from coming apart.

It’s the push-pull tension of the dowel and the bungee that keeps the two doors locked together and keeps them from coming apart. Notice this van has security bars over the rear door, that makes it much easier!

For most vans you’ll need about a 48 inch dowel to put between the doors to keep them from closing. It’s easier with a cargo van but a passenger van will work as well. Just look for a place where you can sit the dowel across between the doors at the top. The simplest thing to do is put a shower curtain with rings through the dowel and use it for the door to the shower.
But keeping the doors from closing isn’t good enough, you also have to keep them from opening and allowing the dowel, which is holding the shower curtain, from falling and leaving you exposed. But even that is surprisingly easy; all you need to do is put a bungee cord between the doors to keep them from coming open.
With everything in place it makes a great shower stall.

With everything in place it makes a great shower stall.

The shower head is centered above your head and yo can reach up to turn the water on-off at the shower bag.

The shower head is centered above your head and you can reach up to turn the water on-off at the shower bag.

By putting the dowel between the doors you keep the doors from closing and the bungee cord keeps it from opening so they are in tension to hold the doors rock solid in place. The one problem you may have is what to hook the bungee cords to? If you have a cargo van you can screw-in an “i” screw to give you something to hook the bungees to. With a passenger van you could screw through the plastic and into the metal underneath or use 3M VHB tape to tape a 1×3 to the doors and put an “i” screw into the wood. If worse comes to worse, you could get enough bungee cords so that you could go across the doors and down to the bumper or wheel wells. For either one you could get a metal window guard that adds extra security to the van and gives you plenty of places to hook the bungees to. Amazon sells window security bars for Ford here: Van Window Safety Screens set of 4 – Ford Econoline 1996-2014 And for Chevy here: Van Window Safety Screens set of 4 GMC Savana, Chevy Express
You'll need a tarp to cover the inside of the van to keep it dry from splashing.

You’ll need a tarp to cover the inside of the van to keep it dry from splashing.

Another option for a cover over the door is to use a tarp instead of a shower curtain. A tarp has the advantage that it’s multi-use so you can use it for other things such as for shade from the sun, as an awning from the rain, or something to lay on while working on the van. The simplest way to attach it is with spring clamps to the rain gutter on top of the van and to the doors themselves so it won’t flip up in the wind. Get tarps from Amazon here: 9′ X 12′ Poly Tarp Get springs clamps from Amazon here: Heavy DutySpring Clamps 4 1/2 inch–6 Pack
So now you have your solar shower on the roof getting hot in the sun and a cover over the doors so you are totally private. What I do next is ….

  • Drape a smaller tarp over the floor of the van so the water that splashes off me as I shower doesn’t make a mess inside the van.
  • To minimize water splashing into the van I want to keep the shower head from being right above the floor, so I put another bungee cord between the doors and drape the shower head from the solar shower across it.
  • To keep my feet out of the mud the shower creates I put down an outdoor mat that I stand on and wear flip-flops.
  • To keep the shower-curtain or tarp from blowing in the wind, I use some spring clamps to hold the tarp to the door.

And there you have it, a simple but very pleasant shower that came built into your van, all you have to do is add a few things that total less than $50 and enjoy!

Thanks for supporting this site by using these links to Amazon. I’ll make a small percentage on your purchase and it won’t cost you anything, even if you buy something different.

Seattle Sports Solar Shower: Seattle Sports Solar Shower (5-Gallon)
Spring Clamps: Heavy DutySpring Clamps 4 1/2 inch–6 Pack
Security Bars for Ford: Van Window Safety Screens set of 4 – Ford Econoline 1996-2014
9 x 12 Blue Tarp: 9′ X 12′ Poly Tarp
Security Bars for Chevy: Van Window Safety Screens set of 4 GMC Savana, Chevy Express


  1. tommy helms


    • Bob

      Thanks Tommy!

  2. Debra

    Nice van! & gams. Ha! Living proof it works like a charm. Thank you for showing me how to set it up. I agree, Brilliant!

    • Bob

      Those are some great legs Debra!! And the van is not bad either!
      P.S. It’s Debra’s van and her legs as well!!!!

  3. jeff

    You are bbb; back to basics Bob. A far cry from the multi jet luxury sit down or stand up showers Ive seen in expensive homes. Hats off to your creativity!

    • Bob

      bbb, that’s me!! I like my modern conveniences, but I look for the old-timey ways whenever I can!

  4. Marshall

    Showering out in the wilderness is no problem with the solar five gallon shower. It is a staple in our van. You can get a pretty good shower with two or three gallons of water from one of those.
    Streams and waterfalls are another great source for body washes.
    We also carry a coil hose and sprayer end to hook up to hose bibs in parks and shower like that. Discretion is advised. So we shower quickly when nobody is around.
    When we are city sight seeing, dwelling or travelling through we use or nation-wide Planet Fitness membership and stop by for showers. $21.00/mo. and well worth its price in gold. On the first Monday of each month Planet Fitness also serves up free pizza! An added bonus!
    Showering on the road is extremely easy. It demands that you take advantage of all the local resources. Its so easy it is not even an issue for us at all.

    • Bob

      Thanks for those great ideas Marshall! I agree, it’s really not the problem many people think it would be.

    • Shaun Fausz

      Was thinking exactly this when I get back to America ?

    • Samm

      Another gym you could use is Crunch Fitness. Like Planet Fitness, it’s a franchise, so likely to be in many places. Its $19.95 for the multi-gym option, and like PF, it’s $9.95 for the single-gym option. If you’re going to be stationary for awhile, you can switch to the $9.95 option, then change back when you’re on the road.

      • Bob

        Thanks Samm, great advice!!

        • dale

          I have been searching for a post on how to dispose of potty waste, eg. portta potty

          • whisperingsage

            Look up there are many videos and there are two older versions of the book free PDF. I have been living humanure style since 1988. I’m not in a vaniving constantly though, but i compost for trees and garden . This version of manure is very practical and since there is always a cellulose material surrounding it, it will break down over time without being smelly.

  5. jim

    Another great idea mr Bob thinks for sharing it,I hope your rtr this year is the best ever and you get to really enjoy yourself and I wish you the best health for years to come so you can enjoy your life you have been a blessing to me getting to tag along on your travels even if it’s on the computer you are the high light of my day to see what you are doing or have come up with next I watch your with out bound video at least twice a week can’t wait to see the next one take care and think you

    • Bob

      Thank yo Jim, I appreciate your very kind words!

  6. Lightfoot

    Nicely done! I think the two best things about this shower are 1) Your water is heated by the sun at no cost to you, and 2) when you’re finished you don’t have to worry about cleaning the shower floor. 🙂

    • Bob

      Lightfoot, I like anything that cuts down on what I have to clean!

  7. Almost There

    And for those of us who simply cannot lift a full water bag on to the top of the van, there’s always the pump up spray container with a coat of black paint on it.

    • Bob

      Thanks Almost There, those do work well also!

    • Marshall

      Hang it from a tree.

      • Bob

        Marhall, I assume you mean hang the shower bag from a tree–which is a good idea. But you have to be careful that it isn’t in the trees shade or it will never get warm. I’m also not sure that if a person can’t lift the bag onto the roof that they would be able to get it up a tree.
        But for most people it is a good idea.

        • Marshall

          What we do is lay the water filled solar shower on the ground to get warm. Then, when it is warm, we tie a rope through it and loop it over a branch and pull it up and tie it off where it is up high enough to shower under. Like I said, we can get a good shower with two gallons each.

          • Bob

            That’s a good plan Marshall! I just throw it on the roof.

  8. Ming

    how clever! I use the open front and back doors of the truck’s access cab as a changing room and was thinking to add a top tarp for the rainy season so the inside of my doors don’t get soaked. It’s good to see that it could be used as a shower stall too, with suitable tarping.
    The feature that I would add is a plastic sheet to stand on that would somehow divert the mud puddle away from the side of the truck as I go there all the time to get things in and out.

    • Bob

      That’s a good idea Ming, let me know how it works out if you do it.

  9. Al Christensen

    I’ve been doing middle-of-the-night outdoor bathing. When it’s totally dark and anyone within view is asleep, I just strip down and step outside for a sponge bath. No set-up and take down necessary, plenty of room to move around, great view of the stars. I have erratic sleep patterns anyway, and a history as a nudist, so it’s no problem for me.

    • Bob

      That’s a good plan Al!

    • Lucy

      Cool to bathe in the dark & at night, but….. don’t you get your buns frozen? LOL.

      • Al Christensen

        Winter days in a shower like the one above might be chilly, too.

        • Bob


      • Bob

        Lucy, frozen buns are NOT good!

    • Patricia Kimbrell

      I like the way you think Al!!!

  10. Openspaceman

    Lots of good and timely info for me…I’m in the process of figuring out my
    shower. I bought a 26″ round water heater drip pan at Homedepot for $11 and after researching the battery bug sprayer that Sameer showed you when you interviewed him…I bought a 4 gallon 12v spray shower called “The Big Kahuna”. There’s a few videos on Youtube if anyone’s curious.
    I plan on using it indoors and out.

    • Openspaceman

      I’d prefer just to hose off at night real quick like Al. I’ve gotten pretty spoiled taking as long as I want at the health club.

      • Bob

        Everybody has a different method and all that matters is if it works for you!

  11. tommy helms

    You look like you’ve lost some weight Bob…that yoga must be working

    • Bob

      Thanks Tommy, I have lost some weight, but it’s been over a long period of time.

  12. fr33dom

    Your blog showered useful tips all the time. Great!

    • Bob

      Thanks fr33dom, I’m glad to help!

  13. Calvin R

    Wouldn’t this go well with the solar water heater on a roof rack? Just put a hose connection rear center and use that setup. Also, this would work with a minivan hatch. Just use a tarp pole or whatever’s handy to prop up the hatch.

    • Bob

      Calvin, those are both good suggestions and would work well.

  14. Rcb

    Bob I have a funny story for you. Years ago I had a neighbor that would chop a in the ice of the
    river near his home to take a bath. He was a heavy set , short man who was very hair, all of it gray. One day a woman driving over the bridge saw him, she thought she had seen a new some kind of animal. She stopped at a country store . She was pretty shook up and was telling everyone that she had seen a Sasquatch in the river. Everyone in the store had a good laugh and explained the it was ok. That was just John a local hermit and he takes his bath about this time of the year! The moral of the story is ” if your going to watch some one bathe you deserve what you get”

    • Bob

      Thanks for that story Rcb, that’s a good one. I’m afraid other than the ice part (brrrrrrrrrrrrr) that could describe me!

  15. bill r

    hi Bob, I have something similar set up. but instead of a rug on the ground to stand on I built a slatted wood platform(like a small shipping pallet) to stand on.i also use it as a side door entry step with a door mat on top. keeps things cleaner and dryer. as my experience with door mats on the ground was they became muddy messes. I have a receiver hitch cargo box that carries my small generator, when I’m back on the road I strap the wood standing platform on it so it never comes inside van. just another way. thanks for your great site. I am also a member of vandwellers forum and refer friends to both. Bill

    • Bob

      bill, thanks for the great tip, I’ll remember that.

  16. Joanna Fridley

    Hey Bob, I am making plans to be living in something besides a house. Probably be my generator on wheels and the teardrop…but sometimes I will want a real shower..what about truck stops and the showers and towels the offer for last one I saw was buckfifty..haven’t been truck stop for yrs..but at 66 that is where I get gas when traveling for safety ..

    • Bob

      Joanna, truck stops have great showers and almost all give you the towel to use. But they are expensive! Usually $10-$12.

  17. Gene Wells

    Cousin Bob, I haven’t heard of anyone saying they sometimes get too hot of water out of their set up. Is that – could that be – a problem? Since I am going to be forced to install a RV style pumped water system in my E350 I was thinking of running a line up high in the back and then have a “Y” attachment coming off the PVC pipes on the roof and from the cold input from the cold pipe from the pump. Do you think that is overkill? I’m going to look for a mat made from the rubber strips held together with wire, I’m not familiar with the mats you mention, but think the rubber “welcome’ mats might dry quicker. I also like Ming’s suggestion of a “run off’ tarp on the ground. Gene

    • Bob

      Gene, which kid of system, solar hot water on the roof? Yes, in the summer it can be too hot and then in the winter it can be too cold–not enough sun to heat it. I had a friend who combined solar hot water on the roof in PVC tubes with his RV plumbing system, but I’m not a plumber and can’t help you with that. But it only worked half the year.
      Sorry, I don’t remember our conversation about mats, remind me. Bob

  18. AZClaimjumper

    At the RTR-Flagstaff, someone demo’d a B&G Sprayer that had been modified with a shower Head. I now have the same set up, the sprayer is metal so I can easily put it on my Coleman Stove burner to heat the water so it is HOT, not just luke warm. My sprayer holds 1 gallon water, easy to heat & more than enough for real shower & rinse.
    I stand on a small plastic crate that gets me about 4″ off the ground.
    However I’d not figured out a way to create a shower stall. Thanks to your photos/article; I, too, will now be using the two back doors of my Ford E250 as the basics for my shower stall.

    • Bob

      That’s great AZClaimjumper–all the pieces fit together perfectly! Bob

  19. Valerie

    Thank you for such GREAT info..I an not in a rv or van but wished I were…Things can change…Anyways you have become my hobbie for the moment.My.nature has been why were people in alternative housing anyways?

    • Bob

      Valerie, the reason we don’t live in alternative housing is because happy contented people are bad for the economy. We all need to have an insatiable hunger for MORE and be constantly buying more and more stuff for the economy to work. We are the fortunate few who have tried to rise above that. Bob

  20. kamc

    awesome article Bob

    • Bob


  21. dem gia re

    If you have a van, it came with a built in shower and I bet you didn’t even know it!

    • Bob

      Tell me about it!

  22. dem bong ep

    Drape a smaller tarp over the floor of the van so the water that splashes off me as I shower doesn’t make a mess inside the van

    • Bob

      Great idea, thanks!

  23. SundaraLife

    Wanted to mention that I quick-showered at a car wash today in Yuma, Az, and it worked fairly well. There are obviously some limitations to this option:
    – warm temp required (I did it at about 70 degrees, Fahrenheit, with the sun shining)
    – tolerance for cold water
    – ability to shower very fast
    – a car wash that is in an isolated area, or a time-of-day where others are not around.
    – ability to deal with the high pressure of the car wash squirter.
    I wore bathing trunks and sandals, opening my trunks discreetly to wash those parts quickly.
    To reduce the high pressure, I held my thumb over the nozzle, so that only some of the water hit me.
    It wasn’t perfect, but it did the job, and I got a quick rinse of the van as well – all for 75 cents!

    • Bob

      Now that is an idea I have never thought of heard of before!! You are an extremely creative and out of the box thinker!!

  24. Patricia Kimbrell

    Hi Bob, i’m dissapointed that you did not adress toileting here…is there another spot where you talk about this? Thanks and happy trails!!!

  25. Madalene rhyand

    If you are 65 and have a Medicare card you can sigh up for ‘silver sneakers’ at participating gyms. It’s free! You can use them all over the country. Excersize a bit and take a shower! They have healthy snacks in the vending machine too.

  26. Terri

    You didn’t answer the toilet issue.

  27. Kim B

    Hi Bob. I’ve been researching boondocking because I will be doing it within 2 weeks. (Kind of a crazy situation but I’m actually excited to do it now!) I keep coming to your site everytime I search a topic on boondocking. Thank you for your thorough information. It’s helped a lot and given me more confidence to do this. – Kim

  28. Dixie B.

    Good article, but as a few others have said, what about toileting? It wasn’t covered in the article. You raised the question, but didn’t answer it!

  29. ms dan

    advice on emplI’m pretty pleased to find this web site. I wanted to thank you for your time for this wonderful read!! these are all great tips! thanks for this post.

  30. M.G.

    I was wondering if it ever gets too cold to shower outside, like the winter time?

    • Betty K Moore

      Yep. Then you get inside your vehicle or your van, with some hot water in a good sized container. Wash down to there, up to there, and finally wash there.

  31. Betty Moore

    Hi Bob, I started my adult life like living in a “commune” of tiny log cabins that used to be a religious retreat in the 40’s. Pumped pure Colorado water, put in a Clivus Multrum outhouse, and did fine with our woodburners in temps to 40 below. We hung a shower bag in the trees and about a dozen of us stayed clean somehow.
    My life went by and suddenly I’m 67. I’m retired from the casino industry, I made good retirement money, but half of it goes to the roof over my head, and the other half to the electric bill in the summer – a few weeks ago I started wondering if I could buy a used minivan, a good tent, and figure out how to live on my terms again. At my advanced age??!!
    Praise God, I’m still healthy and relatively strong and a few visits to your vids and blogs have made me realize that of course I can do this.I SHOULD do this! I’m miserable in this hot crowded overpriced city.
    I’m shopping for the van now, and am writing down all your recommendations for purchases; am a big Amazon fan & will credit you when I do buy.
    With my thanks, I have a tiny bit of input – as we did 45 years ago in the tiny log cabins, new boondockers please use all biodegradable, eco-friendly soaps on your bod and your dishes.

  32. Russell Evans

    Great ideas, Bob! I appreciate your blog and your videos very much indeed!
    Another option for showers, one which we use when we camp in our Aframe pop up trailer, is a portable outdoor shower stall, for $33.00 on Amazon. Works really great, without any of the drawbacks!
    Check it out, bud!
    Many thanks,

  33. Ms Sophia

    How safe is living this style for a middle age woman?

  34. Sharon

    My grandparents both grew up on an isolated island in Eastern Europe. My grandmother said a long time ago, that when she lived there she took a bath only once a month. I was like, gross! And she clarified that they took sponge baths every day. I asked her if they could get clean with a sponge bath and she said you can.
    When I travel, I use one of those pressurized plastic 1.5 gallon pesticide dispensing containers full of just water for my hair and feet. Then, I use rubbing alcohol and tissue for two special areas, and two wet paper towels and two dry paper towels for the other special areas. Then I fill up a 3/4 gal. Tupperware with the remaining water and do a sponge bath with a somewhat rough terry cloth for the rest of my body. It works great. The only drawback is that I wish there was more water pressure to wash my hair.

  35. best rv tire covers

    You need to have a spacious van and good water running to be taking a shower there. It is also important to get high quality parts that can stand water.

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