Van Life Showering: What are your Options?
Van Life has become immensely popular in the last few years. With the onset of the pandemic, millions of people were laid off or were forced to work remotely, and as a result thousands took to the road instead of being trapped in their homes. Many of these people shortly realized that while on the road has many glorious aspects to it - many creature comforts that we take for granted when living in a house become much more complicated on the road. Perhaps the most complicated aspect of Van Life, and one that many people don’t plan for, is showering.
So it begs the question - how do most van lifers shower? Well, when you ask one, there are a few common answers you hear, let’s go over them.
Van Life Showering Options
- At Gyms - If you ask van lifers where they shower, most will tell you that they have gym memberships, and take 100% of their showers at gyms. While this may work for most, and probably is the best option overall as far as where you can take a hot, high pressure shower - the lack of privacy and the hygienic conditions can be questionable.
- At Public / Beach Showers - Many beach towns have public showers available at public beaches, and these can be a good option for many van lifers not trying to pay for a gym membership. The main downside with these is that they don’t have hot water, and many times, they are not turned on in the winter.
- Truck Stops - Some truck stops or rest stops have shower facilities, mostly made for semi-truck drivers. If you are on the road constantly these can be a good resource, but if you’re mostly parking around town they may be harder to find / access. The hygienic aspect of these types of facilities can also be questionable.
- Onboard Water Systems - Many vans have water systems installed onboard - and these can be hooked up to provide hot water and water pressure for a shower. This is a good option for many people, but this is assuming you have room in your van to fit a water system.
- Built-in Shower Systems - Some higher end vans now have shower systems built-in, or you can get a custom van builder to install them. These are really nice as you can shower inside your van, but they are very expensive to install.
- A Portable Shower - Many van lifers who don’t want to pay for a gym membership, use public facilities, or build in a water system will opt to use a portable shower. Portable showers are, as their name implies, portable, so the beauty of them is that they can be taken in and out of the van and are therefore easily stored. Some have heating options and some don’t but the beauty is that at least you don’t have to share your shower space with other people.
So you can see there are few options for van life showering, and some are better than others, depending on what you prioritize. If you want a hot, long shower, you may want to opt for the gym option. If you want privacy and don’t want to share your space, you may want to consider an onboard water system or a portable shower. If you do decide to go with a portable shower, you should know all your options before making your decision. There are a few main things to consider when you are researching a portable shower.
What to Consider When Researching a Portable Shower
- Portability - The main thing you’ll want to consider when researching a portable shower for your van is whether it is truly portable. Is it able to be easily moved in and out of a van? Is it to carry back and forth to a water source to refill? While these may seem trivial, they’re a big deal when you’re moving around constantly and having to look for water sources to refill with.
- Capacity - Portable showers come in a wide variety of capacities. Unless you want to take a 30 second “shower” you should aim for capacities of 3 gallons or above so you can at least somewhat emulate the time you’d spend in a real shower.
- Pressurization - Many portable showers are barely what you’d call a “shower”, as in, they don’t provide much pressure, and basically just provide a drizzle of water coming out of a source. When researching a portable shower, you should make sure to pay attention to the pressurization method, as battery-pressurized will serve up much more pressure than gravity fed or hand pump portable showers.
- Heating - Are you really taking a shower if you don’t have hot water? If your answer to that is ‘no’, then you will need to make sure the portable shower you choose has either a built-in heater or heater accessories available for purchase. There are different types of heating options available based on the portable shower you choose, but when making your decision, you should consider how hot you need the water to be, and how fast you need it to heat up.
- Ease of Use - The last thing you want to deal with when getting ready for a shower is having to configure a complicated amalgamation of disparate pieces and elements. Worse yet, having to do manual labor like pumping, can really make taking a shower seem daunting. That’s why when doing your research on portable showers, you’ll want to make sure that the one you choose is easy to use, so you don’t have to think or do any work when you’re ready to shower.
So you can see there’s alot to consider when it comes to picking a portable shower. Depending on your van setup, the climate you’re in, the resources you have access to and your budget - some portable showers may suit your van lifestyle better than others. So now you know what to look for, let’s look at the types of portable showers out there so you can know the strengths and weaknesses of each.
The PROS and CONS of Different Portable Showers for Van Life
1. Gravity-fed portable showers: These types of portable showers rely on gravity for water pressure. Basically, they are hung up or held up above the user, and gravity pulls the water out of a bag or tank through a hose, and that flow creates the pressure. These are often called solar showers or bag showers, and as they are mostly a bag shape and can be laid out in the Sun to heat the water inside.
- Easy to use
- Able to be heat the water by being laid in the Sun
- You don’t have to pump it
- Very low pressure
- Relies on Sun for heat
- Only functional for showering
- Must have something to hang it on
2. Hand pump Portable Showers: Manual or hand pump portable showers work by either a manual foot or hand pump pressurizing the air inside the water tank. When the air in the tank is compressed, using the hose nozzle lets the air release from the tank which pushes the water out with pressure.
- Do not have to be mounted or rely on gravity to work
- Work for activities besides showering
- Inconsistent pressure
- Have to be repressurized
- Small capacity
- Alot of work to pressurize
3. Propane Heated Portable Showers: The way these work is that they are basically a portable water heater, not technically a portable shower. This is because they require an external water source, either in the form of a bucket of water, a river, a lake etc. They use an electric pump to pump water from that source and then cycle the water through the heater using propane flame. The result is usually hot, but low pressure water coming out of the nozzle.
- Quick and efficient heating
- No onboard water source
- Typically low pressure
- Complicated setup
- Often complicated and difficult to use
- Require the purchase of propane
- Lots of moving parts
4. Electric Portable Showers - By far the most advanced form of a portable shower is battery powered or electric portable showers. The battery or power source powers a water pump, like one you’d find in a pool. That creates consistent, powerful pressure that doesn’t decrease as water flows out of the tank. They are also the easiest portable showers to use as a result. They don’t require pumping, and typically, all you have to do for it to function is press a power button.
- Strong, consistent pressure that doesn’t decrease
- Easy as pressing a button
- No pumping required
- Most are self contained and have onboard water tanks
- Heating accessories available
- Less prone to malfunction from overpressurizing
- More expensive
- No built in heater
So you can see that, depending on your budget and your needs, some portable showers are better for some situations than others. Ultimately, if you have the budget, electric portable showers are the most powerful, reliable, and easiest to use. They also have heating accessories they can be paired with so you can have a hot shower.
So then this leaves us with the question: what is the best portable shower for van life? Well, call us biased, but we believe it’s the RinseKit PRO. Let us explain why.
The RinseKit PRO for Van Life
The RinseKit PRO is perfectly suited for Van Life. It’s got everything that you van lifers need to take a hot, high pressure shower anywhere. Here are 5 reasons why:
- It’s Super Portable: With the RinseKit PRO, everything is built-in to a conveniently shaped box that’s about the size of a small cooler. It also has a large handle that makes it easy to carry around - so it’s super easy to pull in and out of our van when you need to refill it or set it up to shower.
- It’s High-Pressure: The RinseKit PRO is battery-pressurized, meaning that it boasts a high-pressure spray at 50PSI. That means it’s got enough pressure to knock off the toughest dirt and grime, and the pressure will stay consistent to the last drop.
- It’s Easy To Use: Due to that battery-powered pressurization, the RinseKit is super easy to use - you simply fill it up via the top cap, press the power button, and you’ve got super powerful pressure at your fingertips.
- It’s Dynamic: Due to its battery-pressurization and all-in-one build, the PRO is super dynamic, able to be used not only as a shower, but as a hose, a handwashing station or a van washer.
- Heating Options Available: There are both electric and propane based heating options available for the PRO, so you can either hook it up to an electric source to heat the water in the tank in an hour, or heat it with propane to heat it up in around 30 seconds.
So as you can see, there are many options for showering in van life. Depending on your situation, some options like gyms and public showers can work - but if you’re on the road, and want to be fully independent, you probably should have a portable shower on hand. As we’ve demonstrated, some portable showers are better than others, but if you want one that’s powerful, easy to use and reliable the RinseKit PRO is the way to go.