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 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.
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.
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
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!
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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