So, this is probably one of the most frequently asked question: how can you travel without having your B.O. your announcing your arrival?
Well, let me start by saying one thing: if you are an hygiene freak that showers twice a day using dozens of beauty products, van life might not be for you. Things get dirty fast in a van, especially if you are travelling with your furry companion.
Society, media and ads keeps bombarding us with beauty and hygiene products and I guess we all feel the pressure in keeping squeaky clean all the time. We find normal to take several showers and wash our hair with harsh chemicals every day.
The reality is, our body is pretty damn perfect and it can be self-cleaning if we allow it to. In fact, in the long term the less you shower and wash your hair, the less you will find you will need to do so. We are used in using all kind of harsh soaps, shampoo, conditioners etc. while really, one can keep clean by just using that old plain thing called water. Finding ways to clean our body naturally is a great way to live a healthier, sustainable life, whether you are living in a van or in the comfort of a house.
Also, the food you eat impacts enormously on how you smell. The saying “you are what you eat” couldn’t be more true. By following a plant based diet, with an abundance of fresh organic fruits and veggies, I find that my body can cope pretty well with a couple of days without showering. I know that this would’t be the case if I was to eat Big Macs, aged cheese and sugary sweets!
This said, I do enjoy having a nice hot shower, smooth untangled hair and smell free armpits so here is how I keep clean.
WHERE TO SHOWER
Finding spots to shower is not that hard especially in warmer months. If you are showering in the wild, remember to ONLY use biodegradable and chemical free body washes. Even better, avoid using soap altogether!
- Solar showers. This is basically a black bag filled with water. You leave the bag under the sun for 30mn/1h depending on how hot it is, place it as high as possible (a tree will do) and then take a shower. Easy and cheap. Decathlon also sells a decently priced solar shower that doesn’t need to be hung up high, as the water is pressured.
- Lakes, rivers and and streams. My favorite one. Nothing better than just immersing yourself in the fresh water, it’s free and makes you feel very much alive.
- Public swimming pools and saunas. Another great solutions especially in colder months. Yes you do have to pay a couple of pounds/euros but you get to swim, to have a nice shower and if you are lucky a hair dryer. Bingo!
- Gyms. Some gyms offer day passes. As for the swimming pools, you get the double benefit of moving your body and having a hot shower.
- Truck drivers showers. I haven’t tried those yet but I guess they are a great solution if you are travelling in a motorway. They cost about 4/5euros and can be found in most service stations. Just remember to wear your flip flops!
- Camp sites. The most obvious solution I guess, and pretty self explanatory. Again, I haven’t had the need for stopping at a campsite to just take a shower (for now).
- Couchsurfing. If you are not familiar with this site, it’s basically a place were travelers can meet locals by having a beer going to events together or most commonly staying at their place. I would not hesitate contacting couchsurfers to ask to have a shower at their place especially when staying in urban areas.
WHEN YOU CANNOT SHOWER
There will be days were you won’t be able to do any of the above and that’s totally fine. On those days you can:
- Use wet wipes/baby wipes. Just wipe the areas of your body that you feel need cleaning. You will feel fresh as a rose I guarantee you.
- Damp towels. If you are like me, and are trying to reduce your waste, you can simply use a towel dampened with water and soap (but yes, you will then need to find a way to rinse the towel afterwards).
- A bottle of water and a sponge. Pretty self explanatory i guess!
- Dry shampoo. Just spray it and rub on your hair scalp. Not the same of washing the hair, but it will fix the hair situation till the next shower. If you don’t have any dry shampoo with you, you can try by just sparkling some cornstarch, baby powder or dry clay (more here).
- Public toilets. Sometimes, particularly in hot days, you will feel so scruffy that you will want to use a Starbuck’s bathroom sink to splash some fresh water on your face and armpits. Nothing wrong with this, I would do it even if I had a nice hot shower waiting for me at home!
-A ridiculous amount of coffee has been sacrificed to write this blog post so if you are feeling particularly generous, you can buy me one HERE –
– You can also support Pamthevan’s adventures by visiting my Etsy shop HERE –
16 thoughts on “How to: shower while travelling in a van”
Hi Pam, nice blog. Very jealous. What soaps and shampoos do you use? I know there are several available, but which ones work best?
You have a lovely blog too! I’m now your follower 🙂 If i want to use soap I use a drop of dr. Bronner castile soap. If I can, I try to do without 😀
Indeed, rivers and streams makes you feel very much alive, but doing that in Mongolia made me feel very, very much alive! So f***ing cold that was……, but you’re absolutly right, it’s the nicest way!
Hhaha! This made me laugh hard! 😀
Without you this world would be mundane. Take me on your journey.
How durable would you say the solar shower is? Thanks. Stu.
I used a similar one in the military, but lay it flat on a vehicle to heat up, then popped it into a canvas bag with handles to hang it up as the rubber is very soft when warm. Lasted years, but they’re very cheap to replace if you do break it.
Hi Stu, the shower bag in itself is quite sturdy. The showerhead that came with it was quite fiddly to use so I prefer to use it without it. The only thing to pay attention is that in the long term mould might develop inside the bag as there is always some water left in it.
Thanks for the feedback.
Hi, any idea of visiting India?
Hi, Pam! Thank you for telling about your daily life, it is very motivating 🙂 shower is not the most important rutine, what about the toilet? 😀
When travelling light you have several options: you could simply take your shovel for a stroll in the woods but something like a big in a bag works well where you don’t have space to carry a camper van loo.
One can take a very good shower with water heated on a one burner propane stove and poured into a gallon pump up sprayer that can also be used for multiple cleaning chores. I have done it all over the US, Canada and Mexico. One learns to bathe very efficiently with that method but staying clean is not a problem with some planning. A couple of 2 liter soda bottles on the dash with holes in the caps works well too. I spent 27 months living out of a Econoline 250 with an Army cot, kayak, and gear in bins. Had a great time. Now have a 170″ wheelbase Sprinter that i can stand up in at 6’1″ with room to spare.
now that you are restructuring your van, are you planning to use a solar shower or an outdoorshower with gas. I am looking for an outdoorshower and found some, but they all work with propane. In the campingazbottles there is butane. Maybe you have an idea. 🙂
Greetings from Hanover, Germany,
HI Anni, I will just use a 30 lt tank with a 12v portable shower on it, I used it last summer and found it great. You can always heat up some water on your gas stove and then mix it in the tank. I haven’t looked into outdoor water heaters yet, let me know if you find any cool gatdets 🙂