Staying clean while on an RV vacation may be challenging, especially if your camper doesn’t have a shower.
Luckily, there are bathhouses to wash up at most RV parks and campgrounds, but you do need to plan, so you’re always ready with alternative showering options when facilities are closed.
To learn what to expect at campground bathhouses, get tips for what to bring, stay safe, and hear ideas on how to clean up on travel or boondocking days, I put together this guide from years of personal experience full-time RVing.
RV camping is so much fun, but running around outdoors most of the day leaves you sweaty and dirty. So please stay here to learn everything you need to know about showering and the RV lifestyle!
Where to Shower on RV Trips
Where do you shower when RVing?
The answer is that there are lots of places you can shower when you travel in your RV, whether or not your camper comes with a full bathroom that includes a shower or bathtub.
Keeping clean has never been an issue during my years of full-timing. Still, certain aspects of showering have become a “luxury,” such as having hot water, having space to maneuver without banging into walls, and not having to shoo away spiders or bugs before stepping into a campground shower stall.
Let’s go over all the places you can take a shower during RV vacations, and I’ll provide details and helpful tips on how to make the most of each location.
Showering Inside Your RV
WHAT TO EXPECT:
If you’re lucky to have a shower in your RV, it will eliminate many hassles of using a public facility at a campground or other location.
What many RVers won’t tell you is that RV showers are tiny, and most water heaters hold six gallons.
What this means for you, especially larger or taller people, are elbows and knees bumping into walls or pushing out the shower curtain, causing water to run out over the floor.
For ladies, trying to bend down to shave legs can be nearly impossible. Even getting through a shampoo and conditioning session before the hot water runs out is a challenge.
Most RVers learn to conserve the hot water by shutting off the water between showering stages, but that gets old fast.
#1 – The best advice I can tell anyone who plans to shower in their camper (when you can hook up to outside water) is to invest in a tankless water heater so you can take a real shower, not a condensed three-minute version.
An RV on-demand water heater also allows other guests to shower up immediately after the last person, instead of waiting up to an hour for the traditional tank to fill and reheat.
#2 – For shaving, I’ve heard from many women that it’s much easier to do outside the shower before getting in to wash fully. Doing this means you can take your time, avoid knicks, and reach every area.
Fill a cup with warm water, lay out a towel, and sit on the floor or toilet so you can stretch out your legs. Splash some water and soap over your legs and shave away, dipping the shaver in the cup of water to remove hair build-up.
#3 – If you don’t have to worry about small kids, take a look at your water heater temperature setting and turn it up if it’s in the mid-range. You can gain an extra couple of minutes by mixing more cold water with the hotter water to extend showering time.
#4 – Check your grey waste tank level before jumping in the shower, as you can quickly fill it and not notice it backing up into the shower pan and overflowing into your camper.
If the tank is half full, I suggest dumping it first to avoid problems, as the average RV shower will use up 8-12 gallons of water per session.
If you’re at a full hookup campsite and have sewer hoses already in place, leave the grey water drain valve open during showers. This tip will keep the holding tank from filling, especially if you have an on-demand water heater, so you don’t have to limit shower time.
Showering At RV Parks
WHAT TO EXPECT:
Most RV parks will have a restroom and shower house for men and women, and many will also have a separate “family” option with more privacy and room for parents to wash up and dress little kids.
In terms of amenities and cleanliness inside RV park bathhouses, it can range dramatically!
I have seen some horrible conditions, with broken faucets, missing shower heads, and non-existent doors or curtains for privacy.
I have seen RV shower houses nicer than four-star hotel rooms, with roomy stalls, a dispenser with complimentary shampoo, beautiful tile work, and a separate dressing area.
But, the majority of the time, you’ll find a basic shower stall with a small dressing/changing area. There will be a solid door with a lock to feel a bit safer, but you will encounter some that only have a curtain.
Most RV parks clean the bathhouse once a day by park staff, and how clean it gets depends on the worker.
Some parks only clean the bathrooms when guests complain of an issue. Some do it once every other day or even once a week.
The rare RV park will have staff deep clean and disinfect twice a day and have staff monitor and refresh the shower houses throughout the day. When you find a park with pristine bathrooms, you are lucky!
I have done housekeeping as a workamper, and I suggest you take a look at the small details to see how “clean” that shower really is, such as:
- Run a paper towel over the upper edge of the stall to check for dirt and dust
- Check out the caulking or grout for black mildew growth
- Pull shut the shower curtain and look for dried up blobs of shampoo, conditioner, or “mystery” fluids
The best RV parks will not allow any of these things to accumulate day after day.
The use of bleach or disinfecting chemicals will prevent mold and mildew from growing, which is a good sign someone is washing the floors and walls and shower curtain daily.
#1 – Always have a shower caddy or bag with all the essentials so you can grab and go to the shower which includes:
- Shampoo/conditioner/soap/body wash
- Brush and comb
- Shavers and gel
- Small baggies for wet soap or garbage
- Solution and case for contact lenses
- Bug killer
- Pepper spray (for safety)
- Over-the-door hook from the dollar store
- Bag of quarters (in case you encounter a pay shower)
- Disinfecting wipes or spray
- Foot protection
- Several rags
Keep a tub or baggie of disinfecting wipes or spray in your stash so you can quickly wipe down countertops, door handles, shelves, shower walls, and curtains if you see a mess.
Of course, always wear non-slip footwear in any public shower.
Flip-flops are not the best choice, as the rubber soles slip easily on soapy surfaces. I find water shoes like you’d wear to the beach or river to be a much better choice.
#2 – Don’t hog the shower, especially when other campers are waiting. As much as you’re enjoying limitless hot water, do keep your shower as brief as possible unless you’re certain no one is waiting.
#3 – Leave it nicer than you found it.
Most shower stalls will not have a garbage can. Because of this, many people have no problem leaving tags pulled from new clothing, empty shampoo bottles, shards of soap, wads of hair, and other items behind in RV park showers.
Please don’t be that person! Instead, pick up any scraps or wipe up hair before leaving the shower stall and put it in the main waste receptacle.
Showering at State or National Parks
WHAT TO EXPECT:
Most state and national parks will have a restroom with a separate area inside that has two or three shower stalls.
The conditions of these showers, for the most part, are pretty rustic. Cleaning is sporadic, but water is typically hot and abundant at parks near major populations.
More remote parks may have fewer water heaters or systems to allow for more than a trickle of lukewarm water.
Most will have openings around the walls near the ceiling for fresh airflow. Sometimes these have screens, and sometimes they do not.
Always expect to find bugs or spiders in the nooks and corners as there isn’t a good way to keep them out, and you are camping out in the middle of the woods.
I find most shower stalls and dressing areas within state and national parks to be quite roomy.
#1 – Include some bug-killing spray into your RV shower caddy if you fear the chance of encountering crawling bugs when you go to take a shower.
#2 – Do follow general protocol by wearing foot protection, quickly showering if people are waiting, and cleaning up after yourself.
#3 – Try to use the buddy system, especially whenever camping at remote locations or when taking showers after dark. I always follow this rule every time I shower at a public facility, as you never know when a creeper is around.
How does the RV shower buddy system work?
If you’re a couple or family and can’t shower together, have one person sit outside the bathhouse door while the other is showering (having a hidden weapon/pepper spray on hand is up to you).
If you can’t hear the person inside (I prefer to sing so my partner can hear me), pop open the door every couple of minutes and ask a question. Don’t worry if others are in there; nobody will care.
Keep in vocal contact during the shower and then trade-off so the other person can clean up.
For the most part, you’ll never have safety issues as camping enthusiasts are good people. Still, with the influx of RVers and many down-on-their-luck people finding state and national park campgrounds an affordable housing option, things can get sketchy here and there, so always stay vigilant about your surroundings.
I also use the buddy system at any RV park campground that gives me an uneasy feeling, especially after dark.
Showering at Truck Stops
WHAT TO EXPECT:
Most truck stop showers are clean and spacious, which is a nice break from the ups and downs of campground bathhouses.
To set up a shower, you need to:
- Go to the front counter to tell them you want to shower and pay (most range in price from $5-$12)
- Hold onto your ticket that has a number they’ll call when your shower stall is ready
- Head back to counter (or designated shower area) when number is called
- Go to your stall and open the door with the code on your ticket
- Pick up after yourself when you’re done and leave the room
#1 – Bring your shower caddy and wear protective shoes, but do be aware that most truck stops provide towels (and often complimentary shampoo and soap) with the purchase.
While most major truck stops use a linen service to ensure clean towels for each guest, you can bring your own if it makes you feel more comfortable.
#2 – Don’t linger as professional truckers are on a tight schedule and have regulations that dictate rest and road hours. Show drivers respect, as you are on their turf.
#3 – You can use the shower with more than one person, so a couple or family doesn’t have to pay separate fees for showering.
#4 – You can get discounts on the cost of a truck stop shower by purchasing fuel. Some places offer a free shower if you buy over $50 worth of gas, which is very easy when you’re driving or towing a recreational vehicle.
Showering at Gyms or Fitness Centers
WHAT TO EXPECT:
Many full-time RVers join chain fitness centers like 24-Hour Fitness so they have access to a shower when necessary. In addition, if you have a local membership, you can use the facilities while traveling if there’s one nearby.
Most gyms or workout facilities have a standard locker room with toilet stalls and showers. Nothing fancy, but nearly always clean and safe.
#1 – Do consider taking this opportunity to get in a short workout before you shower, as RV travel can derail fitness routines.
#2 – Try to avoid busy times, such as 6-8 in the morning or 5-8 at night when regular customers hit the gym before or after work.
#3 – Carry a hairdryer if you use one, as some places have them while others do not.
Showering at the Beach
WHAT TO EXPECT:
Most large public beach areas have indoor shower stalls in the bathrooms or changing rooms and open-air outdoor showers.
Some locations charge a fee to enter the beach, while others are free or very low-cost.
Depending on the location of the outdoor showers, you can use these to quickly rinse and wash off with eco-friendly cleansing products if you don’t mind doing so in your bathing suit.
Indoor showers give you more privacy and a chance to change clothes, but don’t expect to find a big countertop with electrical outlets to fix hair or get ready.
Beach showers are great in a pinch and a place many RVers fail to think of when hunting for a place to shower.
#1 – Very often, public beach locations are National Parks. If you plan to do some beaching while on RV trips, it’s worth buying an annual National Park pass so you can enjoy beaches across the US while having a place to shower before you head back out on the road.
Worst Case Scenario Shower Option
No shower anywhere in sight? Pull out your portable camp shower bag and hose.
You can hook this up anywhere around your RV and let the sun warm the water, or pour in hot water you heat on your camp stove. Gravity will drop the water to the showerhead, and you can wash off the day’s dirt!
Not every motorhome or travel trailer has a shower, but that doesn’t mean you need to go without for days on end. RV showering has its rules and hints that make the process much easier and safer no matter where you plan to clean up.
Now you know what an RV park or campground shower house will have and other ways to grab a shower when you’re traveling between destinations.
I hope you use the tips in the guide above to make the most of your RVing experiences, including shower time!