Who doesn't like the feeling of going to sleep with clean sheets and clean body?? Despite contrary belief, there are so many ways to get clean when living in a van. You really don’t have to get that creative either because showers literally exist all over the place. But unless you’re living on the road (houseless not homeless), you probably won’t figure it out, so here’s some helpful tips and suggestions we currently use, or have used, in the past:
1. Gym Pass
Get your sexy little ass a gym pass. Its a 2 for 1: Shower and a work out! There's a ton of gyms all around the world with varying types of memberships. Check around for what gym you think will fit your needs best and check a map to see how many locations they have. Some have all the fancy saunas, hot tubs, etc and others are just work out equipment and a shower. But if you’re like us, you’ll get the gym pass for the massage bed and showers… and the Pizza Mondays (thanks Planet Fitness). I think they even have a bagel day (not AS weird as pizza, but still a head scratcher) and we only pay $20/month. This lets both of us in to any location, can use the hydro massage beds, hot showers, work out, etc. Most are open 24 hours (not that we’ve ever slept in the parking lot…) and most have really strong, fast wifi (not that we’ve ever streamed Netflix while also not staying in the parking lot…) Also, this isn’t a paid endorsement of Planet Fitness. We really just like it!
2. City Recreation/Swim Centers
Easy peasy. Another “in the city” option for showering when your gym isn’t in that particular city. Most Rec Centers have day passes for around $5. We have actually really enjoyed this one because we are now traveling with a baby and this makes it so much easier because FAMILY LOCKER ROOMS. That means one of us showers with the baby and then hand off. The other dries and dresses the baby and then jumps in the shower second. It saves a ton of time, and we can get the baby clean while we’re at it. Similar to a gym membership, this is more than just a shower. A lot of rec centers have climbing walls, saunas, steam rooms, hot tubs, swimming pools, tennis courts, yoga studios, etc all included in your “shower” price. There was one week we went to a rec center 4 days in a row just because it was fun to swim with the baby, relax in the hot tub, and still get clean afterwards.
We have this awesome option mounted to our roof rack on top of the van and it comes in handy when not in a city and you can't use one of the above two suggestions. It is essentially a 5 gallon metal tank painted black. It has a hose with shower head connected, and it is pressurized using a bicycle pump, 12v electric pump, straight from the hose or similar. We personally use a bike pump after filling it full of water. This is a nice option because its FREE (after you purchase one of course) and its solar heated. If you wait till just when the sun is setting, you’ll have a nice hot shower right before bed. Depending on how conservative you are when showering, it can be one nice shower (water flowing the entire shower), or about 3-4 “minimalist” style showers (get wet, soap and shampoo without water running, rinse). We also use it washing our dog Lotus, and for spraying down our kayaks and paddleboards before putting them back in the van. There are homemade variations of a Roadshower that may work as well, but we've never tried this as we are very happy with what we have already! You can pick one up from Roadshower.com (not a paid endorsement). We recommend you guys get some biodegradable soap, shampoo, conditioner, etc because this one and the next 2 shower tips below are done outside and it's really important that you aren’t dumping your filthy chemicals into the Earth.
4. Propane Heated Shower
We use an Eccotemp Shower and it is great for camping. We store ours under the bed, along with our propane hose, water hose, water pump, and two 6 gallon Reliance jugs of water. When its time to shower, we simply open the back door, pull out the Eccotemp and hang it on our rear door ladder. Then we pull out our propane tank (same one we use for our stove) and hook it up to the shower. Flip the switch on the water pump and you’re good to go! The water pressure ignites the flame in the shower unit and you have instant hot water. Instant. HOT. Water. It is really a dream come true. A Luxury. We swapped out the shower head it came with for a low-pressure shower head to conserve water and allow us to get multiple showers each out our 12 gallons. Use caution and check all your propane connections for leaks. And be sure to stand clear of the unit when someone else is showering. Jace singed his eyebrows off while adjusting something on the shower when Giddi flipped it on. POOF!
5. Friends and Family
This one is always greatly appreciated. The generosity is out there. People are so kind and will offer you a shower. Don’t play the whole modest game “oh no, really you don’t have to offer that. Im just fine, really.” We’ve come to find that when someone offers you something (meal, shower, etc) its usually not because they feel bad for you or because you stink terribly (or maybe it is) but because they are just being a kind human being. Let them be nice, take them up on their offer. Just pay it forward in the future and help others out, offer a shower to a van dweller if you’re ever back in a house someday! Friends rock!!
6. Public Beaches/Campground
Every one who spends time swimming at the beach has at least seen these rinse-off showers or even used them (at some beaches). They are available to the public and FREE. Bring your own shampoos and soaps (again biodegradable) and get clean! We don’t recommend baring your buns unless you REALLY want to get registered as a sex offender, so wear your swimsuit. We have only done this once and we waited until the beach was relatively quiet and most people had left for the night. Its not our first pick, and probably shouldn’t be yours, but it works if you’re real dirty and haven’t gotten clean in awhile. Maybe try the other recommendations first though. There's also usually showers at established campgrounds. We've stayed and showered at these only a handful of times as we usually prefer to camp on BLM or NF land, but if you're already paying to sleep there, might as well utilize the showers if they have them!
(these aren't quite showers, but they get the job done...kind of...)
Basically when you get stanky enough and none of the above is available you jump in a river/hot spring/lake/waterfall and let Mother Nature wash you (seriously moms rock because even as adults they are there to wash us. :) Plus hot springs, rivers, and lakes are just fun to be in regardless. Natures swimming pools!
You get the idea. Not a shower, but a decent way to at least feel like you’re “clean.” We personally don’t like this option as a substitute for a shower (and I hope nobody else does either) because we feel like its not that effective. But out on dusty desert roads we use wet wipes for a quick wipe down just to get that thin layer of dirt off until you can shower next.