Everything You Need to Know About Showering in an RV

Everything You Need to Know About Showering in an RV
Answers to the common questions about the various types of RV showers!
By: Noel Fleming and Chris Miller

“Do you have a shower in there?” is a common question that we receive from non-RVers who are curious about our rolling home (2022 Winnebago EKKO). Their inquiry is fundamental to envisioning the realities of life on the road. They are politely trying to calculate the stink factor of living in a compact space. And gauge whether the sacrifices are ones they would be willing to take. 

Let’s dive into a lesson on RV showers. Don’t worry; there won’t be any actual use photos!

Types of RV Showers

Dry or Wet (or Dry/Wet!)

There are generally two types of shower setups inside an RV. One is called a dry bath. Like a residential bathroom, the toilet and shower are completely separate from each other, ensuring that the toilet area stays dry when the shower is in use. 

On the other hand, in a wet bath, the toilet and shower occupy a shared space. The entire space, including the toilet, is designed to get wet when the shower is in use. 

When we owned our 2019 Winnebago Travato GL, a 21’ camper van, we had a wet bath. Many larger Class C and Class A RVs have dry baths simply because they have space to do so. 

The EKKO’s dry/wet flexible shower design.

Our EKKO has a hybrid-style bathroom, referred to as a dry/wet bath. Fundamental to the design is a pivoting wall that transforms the space. When pivoted to one side, the wall provides access to the sink and toilet which make up the dry area. When the wall is swiveled to the other side, both the sink and toilet are hidden behind the wall providing a large wet area for just the shower. While the bathroom floor does get wet, the sink and toilet stay dry.

Inside or Outside

Now we should touch on the fact that showering may not always occur inside the RV, but rather outside the RV as well. Those of you who are happiest in the great outdoors may even favor an outdoor shower. 

RVs may come equipped with a hot and cold water supply for both indoor and outdoor showers. Many Winnebago camper vans also include a rear annex rod and curtain. When attached between the open rear cargo doors, a temporary outdoor shower stall is created. 

In some cases, such as the Winnebago Solis Pocket, an outdoor shower is the only available option, in order to provide a more compact travel experience. This has a cold-water option which is located near the rear cargo doors. 

Nick Riebe’s outdoor shower setup in the Solis Pocket.

Our friend Nick Riebe added a portable Camplux tankless hot water heater to his Solis Pocket which allows him to use the van’s water system and propane to enjoy a hot outdoor shower. The entire shower system packs nicely into one of his Zarges aluminum cases for easy storage. 

Vanlifers are famous for mod-ing their RVs to get the most out of their compact rigs while keeping a minimalist lifestyle for both themselves and the planet.

RV Shower Usage Considerations 

Conserve or Lavish: How Much Water to Use?

Do you know anyone who doesn’t love a long, hot shower? Us either! However, when you own an RV, you no longer have endless resources (unless connected to unlimited full hookups). You quickly learn to become a systems manager. Knowing your RV’s systems enables you to be an efficient consumer, conserving both water and energy. 

And speaking of efficient, no one quite does it like the military. You’ve likely heard the term “Navy shower” or “military shower.” This refers to a method of showering that allows for significant conservation of water by turning the water flow off between lathering and rinsing. This method of showering is quite popular among RVers for a couple of reasons. It conserves your fresh water and the energy required to heat it. We have become pros at swift but enjoyable showers with a few key tips we’ll share later. 

Additionally, many Winnebago compact coaches now provide an Eco Hot system that flushes the cold water from the hot water lines and routes it back into the freshwater tank. Brilliant! This just majorly upped the RV showering game!

 

Damp or Dry: How Do You Minimize Moisture?

Picture a glorious sauna where the temps are high, the air is filled with moisture, and you can wipe the steam with your hand. Now picture that in your RV. No thanks! 

Curtailing moisture is paramount to maintaining a safe and mold-free rig. So how do you do that? Most RVs come with a vent fan either in the bathroom itself or somewhere else in the ceiling of the rig. Some bathrooms, like ours, come with a window. 

The key to removing moisture is twofold - good ventilation and eliminating water. We’ve experimented with various methods for both. 

  • Good ventilation requires another window in the RV to be cracked open while the exhaust fan is running. This provides an air flow through the bathroom and out of the RV. 
  • We have also learned that a good squeegee and a small microfiber towel work wonders in getting the residual water from the shower into the drain. In our case, whoever showers second is responsible for this. Afterward, the bathroom door is left open if we’re not traveling right away. 
  • Damp towels are hung on the outside of the bathroom door, allowing them to dry without contributing to the moisture in the shower.

 

Bliss or Blues: Planning for Positivity!

So, when it’s time to shower, you have the power to make it a blissful experience or one that gives you the blues just thinking about it. We absolutely love our shower! But before you can love an RV shower, you need to plan ahead. 

Example of a larger bathroom and shower in a Winnebago Forza.

Know your water system: 

  • How do you turn on the hot water heater? 
  • How much time is required for the water to heat up? 
  • What temperature setting options are available? 

That may sound elementary, but understanding your system is fundamental to a positive experience. You will most likely learn all of this quickly, as one cold shower is one too many! 

Next, having your items where you need them makes the experience more efficient and enjoyable. Consider the products you’ll use while showering; figure out where they’re going to go before getting in the shower. This may include shampoo, soap, razor, washcloth, and towel. Definitely remember to place the towel within reach! 

Our shower has a teak bath mat which we actually remove before showering. This handy little trick allows us to put the mat back in place after showering in order to have a dry place to stand when re-entering the bathroom. 

When finished showering, also remember to turn off your hot water heater.

 

Alternative RV Shower Uses and Solutions

Shower or Stall: Using this Space as Storage

You may be surprised to learn that not all RVers actually use their showers as a shower. Some owners use it as a permanent storage closet. They shower elsewhere (i.e. gyms, campgrounds, truck stops) and reserve the shower area solely for storage. 

The shower space can also serve as a drying rack for wetsuits, swimwear, hand-washed clothes, or rain-drenched gear. An RV shower is named as such, but it does not limit other uses for the space.

Our traditional shower stall usage on the left, the Holcombes’ Revel shower used as storage on the right.

Manmade or Natural: Alternative Shower Options

Despite all of the knowledge, prep, and feasibility, some RVers still prefer to shower elsewhere. In addition to the public facilities of gyms, campgrounds, and truck stops mentioned above, RVers may have opportunities to shower in the homes of family and friends. 

Even an RVer who enjoys showering in their own rig will occasionally enjoy a shower elsewhere. Ask us how we know this after many years on the road. ;-) There are also RVers who take full advantage of outdoor options and prefer to do their personal clean-up in lakes or streams using environmentally friendly products.

 

To Go or To Stay: What to Bring Along?

When choosing to shower away from your RV, having certain items offers practical convenience. A collapsible bag is a great way to transport your clean clothes, towel, and toiletry bag to your shower destination. Products that include hooks or loops that can be hung will help keep belongings off the floor. 

It’s a good idea to also keep a few extra hooks in a toiletry bag in case there are not enough provided by the facility. 

We dig our REI Multi Towel Lite towels as they are super light, compact, absorb well, and dry quickly. Additionally, we each have a pair of Showaflops that are antimicrobial and slip-resistant. 

Whether we shower in our rig or elsewhere, I’m a big fan of Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap; it’s an all-in-one product that can be used for shampoo, soap, and even laundry detergent. We have a dispenser full of it attached to the wall of our EKKO bathroom, conveniently located when using either the sink or the shower.

Final Thoughts on the RV Shower

Was the RV shower a factor for us when deciding which RV we wanted to purchase? Yes. We agreed that we wanted a rig that offered an indoor hot shower. We were open to different styles of bathrooms— a wet bath, a dry bath, or a hybrid with a swiveling wall. 

There are 8,760 hours in a year. Very little of it is spent in a shower. We have learned that we can appreciate and enjoy any kind of shower that affords us an adventurous lifestyle with the comforts of home.

What do you look for in your ideal RV shower?

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