Are you considering an RV outdoor shower but not sure it’s worth it? Keep reading our complete guide to help decide if an outside shower is suitable for your camper. Spoiler alert – it probably will be.
We’re all familiar with the scenario. We’ve been hiking all day, muddy and sweaty, and the dog is up to his knees in mud. The last thing we want is to climb into the RV, stink it up and get all that muck all over the place.
Not only is it unpleasant to have mud or sand in your clean camper, but you’ll be sitting around waiting for each other to use the indoor shower.
An outdoor RV shower is a perfect solution. They’re easy to set up, don’t need extra water or power, and can be used in any weather. Plus, they come in various styles so you can find the perfect one for your needs.
So, if you’re considering adding an outside shower to your RV, this article is for you. We’ll review the pros and cons of having an outside shower and the necessary equipment.
Plus, we have a few ideas for creating an outdoor shower enclosure for privacy.
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What Is An RV Outdoor Shower?
Simply put, an outside shower is a shower outside of your RV. Yep, the clue is most certainly in the name.
The most common type you’ll see is an RV outdoor shower head along with a water faucet, often found near the water hookup. To keep the system safe from weather, it’s typically hidden in a small enclosure embedded in the side of the RV.
The water used for an RV outside shower can come from your fresh water tank or a city water connection if you’re staying at a campground. If you want hot water while showering, you will need a water heater and an appropriate power source.
An alternative to installing your shower on the side of the RV is installing it on the rear. Opting to fit a shower head just inside the van’s back doors allows you to use it outside when you have the rear doors opened.
Some alternatives can give you more flexibility if you don’t want to go to the trouble of a permanent installation. For example, portable showers can be easily packed away even if their water pressure isn’t the best.
They can either use a limited water capacity or draw directly from a water source with a pump.
You’ll often see these portable options in smaller camper vans or Class B RVs, which don’t have as much space as larger motorhomes like Class A and C RVs.
Read more: A Complete Guide To Motorhome Classes
If you’re concerned about privacy, there are options for an RV outdoor shower enclosure that you can easily set up whenever you want to bathe.
Opting for a shower on the rear side may also give you some added peace of mind if you have double doors that can shield you on the sides.
Do I Need An Outdoor Shower For My RV?
If you don’t have a shower in your RV, installing an outdoor shower is an attractive prospect. However, the decision is much more complicated if you already have an indoor shower or are considering buying a new RV.
You might assume that you don’t need an outdoor shower if you have a full bathroom with an indoor shower, but you can still benefit from it.
For example, if you love bringing your pets along on your trips, an outdoor shower is a convenient way to bathe them. That’s especially helpful whenever they decide to roll around in the dirt.
If you’re planning a trip to the beach, an outdoor shower is a great place to wash off sand instead of traipsing it all over your camper’s interior.
On the other hand, an outside shower might be impossible without the risk of hypothermia if you’re primarily camping in colder areas. However, if you frequently visit campgrounds, you won’t be far from a shower, even if you don’t have one installed.
In the end, it comes down to your situation, your lifestyle, and your needs.
If you’re having trouble deciding, just think about your past trips. Or consider your future camping trips. Would you be more comfortable if you had an outside shower? Will installation and maintenance cost be worth how often you’ll use it?
Questions like these are a great tool to help you make your decision.
Advantages Of Outdoor Showers For RV Campers
Traveling with kids, pets, or bulky sports equipment is much easier.
While a cramped indoor shower may be adequate for a full-grown adult, young kids and pets need a helping hand.
Since most indoor showers are built into tiny bathrooms, it can be challenging to help your kids or pets bathe.
Outdoor showers allow you to use as much space as you want, so it’s easier to get everybody squeaky clean.
This also applies when you need to rinse off dirty sports equipment — like bikes — before bringing it into your van.
You can prevent moisture inside your camper.
An indoor shower inevitably leads to increased moisture and condensation inside your camper.
Excessive moisture can encourage mold and mildew growth. That may need extensive fumigation to resolve, something we all want to avoid.
Moisture can also lead to the rotting or rusting of wood and metal components in your RV, which will require repair and reconstruction.
Using the outdoor facilities wherever possible gives you a head start in minimizing condensation.
Read more: How To Stop Condensation In A Campervan
You have an easy washing area for outdoor activities.
Cooking outdoors can be a great way to immerse yourself in the camping experience. But it can be a hassle when you’re constantly darting inside your RV to wash off ingredients and utensils or get water for cooking.
An outdoor shower offers a convenient water source while you’re outside. In addition, it makes washing dishes and vegetables a breeze.
Be meticulous about removing all food scraps from your dishes before washing up outside. It will help prevent bugs, other animals, and unwanted wildlife from visiting your camp for meals.
Enjoy the nature around you.
Some people might find showering outside too awkward. But showering outside can be a new way to connect with nature if you’re in a scenic and secluded area.
Disadvantages Of Outdoor Showers For Campers
It’ll need maintenance.
Like any other part of your RV’s system, you must look after your outdoor shower.
You’ll want to inspect the seals regularly and keep them in good order. Then, when winter comes, you’ll need to winterize the pipes.
This can be a hassle when you first install your shower, but it’ll get easier over time when you’ve become used to the process.
You might need to cut holes in your van for installation.
If you want a system attached to the side of your RV, you’ll likely need to cut a few holes to get the plumbing installed.
If you’d rather avoid cutting into your camper, you can opt for portable options or an RV outdoor shower head hooked up inside your rear doors.
You may need an experienced installer.
Modifying your existing plumbing system to accommodate the new shower is tricky if you don’t have the necessary plumbing skills.
In that case, you’ll want to outsource it to someone who knows what they’re doing.
This can be expensive, but it’s much better to aim for quality instead of spending money down the line to patch up mistakes.
Feeling like you have no privacy can be a deal-breaker
An outdoor shower might make you feel exposed and awkward, but an RV outdoor shower enclosure can shield you from other campers.
A DIY enclosure can be a good project if you’re feeling particularly handy.
RV Outdoor Shower Kit | What You Need To Shower Outside Your RV
At the bare minimum, you only need a shower head attached to some kind of hose and water source to take a shower outside your van. But, if you want to enhance your comfort and convenience, these accessories can improve your outdoor shower setup:
RV Outdoor Shower Enclosure Ideas
You might want to use an RV outdoor shower enclosure when camping and showering outside for several reasons.
First of all, it provides you with privacy. If you’re boondocking or parked in a busy area, a shower cubicle can give you the privacy you need to feel comfortable.
Plus, you use it for more than just showering, including changing into your bathing suit.
Secondly, it helps to protect you from the elements. For example, if it’s windy or raining, a shower enclosure can help to shield you from the weather.
If you’ve ever tried to take a shower in blustery conditions, you’ll know what we mean!
Here are a few ideas for enclosures for your outdoor RV showers.
Pop up shower tents are the ideal way to take an outdoor shower with some privacy while camping in your RV. They’re easy to put up and take down and provide privacy so you can shower in peace.
Pop up shower tents are lightweight and portable, so they’re perfect for taking with you on your RV trips. Also, they come in various sizes, so you can choose the one that’s right for you.
Most shower tents include convenient pockets in the side walls, so you don’t need to put your toiletries on the floor or buy a separate caddy.
Plus, they’re affordable, so you can get one without breaking the bank.
A pop up tent with an inbuilt changing room is a self-contained, weatherproof enclosure. It protects you from the elements and prying eyes while you shower.
The inbuilt changing room allows you to leave your clothes, shoes, and towel in a dry space while you shower. Then you can dry off and dress without getting wet again.
It is just as easy to set up and take down as the enclosure without the changing room, although it’s a little less compact when folded.
A pop-up tent with an adjacent changing room can make your showers more comfortable. You can easily change before and after showering without exposing yourself to the outdoors.
DIY RV Outdoor Shower Enclosure
If you enjoy getting creative, you can always go the DIY route. All you need is an excellent spot to hang up a curtain rod (like the brackets at the top of your rear doors) and the shower curtains of your choice, and your enclosure is good to go.
This article also has other options for simple PVC pipe builds.
Externally fitted outdoor showers are typically installed on the side of the camper. These kits include everything you need to install the shower and plumb it into your RV’s water system:
- Locking shower box
- Shower faucets
- Shower hose
When not in use, the hose and shower head are neatly stowed inside the locking shower box. The access door protects the shower from the wear and tear of being on the road.
The shower heads on the ready-made kits are often basic, so you’ll probably end up upgrading the shower head.
Decent water pressure is one of the hardest things to get when camping. Low water pressure can make for an unsatisfying shower, making it difficult to get clean.
A decent RV outdoor shower head is a must if you’re serious about enjoying your outdoor showers. You need to balance the pressure in a way that doesn’t use too much water.
The Oxygenics shower head is a great option. Increasing the oxygen levels in the water makes the shower head feel like you’re getting much more water. That means you don’t need so much water to rinse off – a big win for boondockers.
Read more: The Complete Guide To Boondocking In An RV
We can’t figure out why some of the big names in RV accessories can’t simply construct a high-quality kit with a top drawer hose and shower head!
Most outdoor showers have relatively short hoses. That makes them hard to maneuver when showering or cleaning something off.
Nonetheless, you can easily replace it with an extended shower hose. That’ll give you a lot more flexibility — just make sure to invest in a high-quality hose to avoid leaks.
When you’re showering outside, the ground is going to get wet. Standing on wet, muddy dirt and grass while you’re taking a shower isn’t appealing. And also a tiny bit dangerous.
Let’s face it, when you’re outside in the middle of nowhere taking a shower, the last thing you want to do is slip and crack your head open.
But it’s a problem easily solved by buying a good shower floor mat. A wooden bath mat looks great and helps prevent you from slipping on a wet floor.
Bamboo and teak wood are superior to other wood at withstanding moisture, so they’re ideal materials for shower mats.
Water Heater (For Hot Showers Outdoors)
If you’ve plumbed the shower faucets into your RV’s water system, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy a hot shower outdoors. Well, assuming your RV has hot water onboard.
Tankless water heaters can give you hot showers outdoors whenever you want them! They’re a great solution for those who want hot outside showers without draining their RV batteries.
For electric-only models, the only thing you need is electricity, so there’s no wasted energy heating up water that may not even be used. Propane models are also available.
Read more: Best Electric Tankless Water Heater For RVs
When you shower outdoors, the wastewater runs off into the ground.
Regular soap and shampoo may contain synthetic ingredients. They can pollute the environment and natural water sources. That’s not great for the local wildlife and fauna!
Biodegradable soap and shampoo are much better for the environment than regular soap and shampoo. They break down into natural components, so they are environmentally friendly.
We need to protect our environment for ourselves and others. So, wherever possible, use eco-friendly products and shower well away from any natural water source.
Our Outdoor Shower Set Up
Believe it or not, we have two outdoor showers on our Sprinter van conversion.
The first uses a regular shower box kit installed just inside the back doors. We didn’t need to cut holes in the van to fit it, and it’s fully integrated with the water system.
We hang shower curtains at the back door for some privacy when needed.
The second outdoor shower is our pride and joy and a fabulous addition for anyone who boondocks remotely, as we do. We have a Bushranger engine-mounted shower.
The Bushranger consists of a water pump that allows water to be drawn from a water source (think lake, river, or bucket) and a heat exchanger.
The heat exchanger is installed into the engine’s coolant system. That means we can park beside a lake or river when the engine is hot, drop a garden hose into the water, and have instant hot water showers for as long as we want.
We don’t use electricity to power the shower or heat the water. Plus, we don’t use our precious onboard freshwater either.
We spent a one-year camping trip in Patagonia without ever using our onboard freshwater to shower. It was a game changer!
Sadly, Bushranger no longer manufactures the engine-mounted version, but if you’re lucky, you may find one on eBay.
While an RV outdoor shower isn’t a necessity, it has the potential to improve your quality of life on the road considerably.
Installing an outdoor shower before your next trip is well worth considering.
The range of options available — permanent or portable, side or rear, heated or not — allows you to design the shower that best fits your needs.
So, do you think an RV outdoor shower is worth it?
There are many advantages to having an outdoor shower. Outdoor showers also provide a great way to get clean after a day spent hiking or swimming in the great outdoors. They’re perfect for washing off all that sand before returning to the RV.
Plus, if you have a small camper, you don’t have to worry about taking up space inside your camper with a full-sized shower.
The idea of showering outside might put some people off, but with the proper setup, it can be a really enjoyable experience.
Do you have an outdoor shower on you? Do you use it often & do you think it’s worth it? Let us know in the comments below.