Bathrooms and Showering While Living in a Van

One of the ultimate questions I get asked when people find out I live in a van is “So where do you shower?” Or my other favorite: “But where do you poop??” Even though it seems like a weird thing to ask, it’s a great topic of concern for people who are thinking of making the transition into Vanlife. So let’s talk about stinky armpits and morning poops, y’all!

Where to Shower

I basically take advantage of a shower any time I can. During certain points of my travel, I’ve been lucky enough to visit or stay with friends and family every few days and they’ve all been kind enough to offer their bathroom services to me. When I’m traveling for longer periods or on stretches where I’m not seeing anyone I know, I’ve got a few other options.

  1. Truck stops. Rest areas such as Love’s and Pilot will often offer showers for $8-10 for a timed shower (usually about 10 minutes). They’re not often outwardly advertised so you may have to ask at the counter.
  2. Laundromats. This is a new one for me but many laundromats in areas that get a lot of tourists will also offer showers for $5-10.
  3. Campgrounds. Not all campgrounds offer full services, but if you are staying at a full-service campground or an RV park, you’ll have access to their showers. Other times when I don’t feel like forking over the $25-45 for a night at a campground, I’ve asked to use their showers and sometimes they don’t mind if I use them for free or they’ll charge a few dollars.
  4. National Parks. Most National Parks have their own private campgrounds inside the park but they offer showers, bathrooms, dump stations, and laundry to anyone visiting the park. I managed to get a shower at the Grand Canyon for just $1.50!
  5. Creeks and rivers. I utilize this type of bathing sparingly because I try not to mess with the local wildlife and I’m always careful to use all-natural biodegradable soap. However, when you’re in a pinch, a lovely (hidden) water source will offer a surprisingly great bath! Plus it really makes you feel like the ultimate Vanlife hippie to be “one with nature”.
  6. Hotels and motels. Sometimes you just really need a lovely private shower where you can take your time and not have to worry about shower shoes.

Where to Take Care of Business

Rule #1 you’re going to have to learn for living Vanlife is you gotta go with the flow. And lemme tell you, this applies to ALL flow. If you are the type of person who needs their own private, flushing toilet every morning for your morning poop…get over it. This is not to say that I don’t appreciate access to my own toilet because WOW what a luxury and I take advantage of it whenever I can. All I’m saying is that unless you invest in a deluxe composting toilet for your van (retail rate at $960), you’re going to have to get used to doing your business in some new places. Here are all the places I have done my business on the road:

  1. Gas stations/rest stops
  2. Starbucks/coffee shops
  3. Walmart
  4. Dive bars
  5. McDonald’s
  6. Visitor’s centers at National Parks
  7. Museums
  8. Libraries
  9. Porto-Potty’s and vault toilets
  10. Behind a tree

If there is a real, flushing toilet with a real, running sink where I can properly wash my hands afterwards, by god I will use them. For the in-between times when I’m sleeping in a parking lot and don’t want to leave my van or it’s too cold to step outside to go, I have a camping toilet that has been worth every penny.

Tips for Staying Clean and Hygienic

Frankly without access to tanks of running hot water every day, it takes some creativity to remain clean and acceptable to be seen in society.

“But you live in a van, what do you care about how you look?”

This is exactly why I care about how I present myself to the outside world: people hear that I am living in my van and they automatically assume I’ll be a dirty hippie (and proud of it). There is often a negative stigma to people living Vanlife and I take pride in breaking that stigma. It is possible to live in your van and be a student, work full-time, be a parent, contribute to society, go out dancing, live your life. These factors are not mutually exclusive. Here are some of my favorite products I use to help keep me clean, refreshed, and hygienic:

  1. Baby Wipes. Especially after a full day of driving and sitting on your tush, you gotta freshen up. For my ladies, I especially love some pH-balancing wipes.
  2. Exfoliating Face Wipes. My facial skin doesn’t feel as clean with just baby wipes so I use exfoliating wipes to get as much dirt and sweat off.
  3. Facial Moisturizer. Days of being outside or changing temperatures rapidly will do serious damage to your skin. Moisturize, baby!
  4. Dry Shampoo. Dry shampoo and I are best friends.

It can get easy to become lazy when living in your van, especially during long hauls of driving and travel. Stick to a great routine and you’ll be looking and feeling as good as hell.

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