When planning a campervan conversion, you may start off wanting a van shower as one of your build’s must-haves. However, once you start to plan your campervan’s layout, calculate your van conversion budget, and really reflect on how and when and for how long you will be living in your Sprinter campervan, you may change your mind and decide that you don’t need a campervan shower at all… or at least not one inside the van.
If you are in the process of planning your build and working out what layout would work best for you and your conversion’s budget, here are the key questions you should ask yourself when deciding if you should have a van shower in your campervan:
- Are you comfortable with washing outside?
- How often do you intend to use your Sprinter van’s shower?
- Where do you plan to camp? Mostly off-grid or in established campgrounds with facilities?
- If you’ll be camping mostly off-grid, how happy are you to wait for a proper shower until you get to a campground or gym to have one?
- How big is your Sprinter campervan (or what size Sprinter van do you plan to buy)?
- How much water do you plan to you carry in your Sprinter campervan and where will you install the water tank(s)?
- How will you get hot water for your van shower? Have you budgeted for the electrical system or gas upgrades needed to power a water heater?
The pros and cons of having a van shower in a campervan conversion
When you are planning a van build, it is immediately apparent that space is at a premium, and so it pays to make the best use of that space to be the most useful to you in the way that you intend to use your campervan. Therefore, you need to make the decision early on regarding whether or not to install a van shower in your build. Budget may also be a big consideration for you (for more information on how much a Sprinter van conversion costs, read this post).
To get an idea of what some of the specific components of a van build can cost, have a look at our curated list of recommended gear, materials and tools:
Here are the main pros and cons for and against having a van with a shower. Let’s start off with the pros and reasons you may feel you need a campervan with a shower, before diving into the cons, and therefore the reasons why many people conclude that you actually don’t need a shower inside your van.
Reasons to have a van shower in your campervan
Probably the number one reason many people feel they need a campervan with a shower is privacy. That includes the ability to wash in the privacy of your van, as opposed to a campground.
2. No waiting or planning around bathroom access
You can shower any time you want if you have one installed in your van, assuming you have enough water on board to do so. No need to wait until you’re camping somewhere with facilities!
3. Your van can be deemed fully self-contained
Assuming you install the means to store the waste-water generated by your van shower and meet other requirements (such as having cooking facilities, a bed and a toilet onboard) you should be able to register your van as being self-contained.
A potential advantage of being able to demonstrate your van is self-contained is that it may help you to re-register it from being a cargo or passenger van to an RV/camper classification, which can benefit you in terms of lower registration and insurance costs. The prerequisites for, and ease of re-registering a Sprinter van as an RV can vary significantly between countries and states, so it’s worth researching how this would apply to you and your van.
4. You can use your internal van shower in any weather
If you plan to spend significant time camping in colder temperatures then perhaps an outdoor shower off the back of the van is not going to work for you, unless you love a brisk freezing shower!
That said, if you plan to camp in ski resorts and places with cold climates give some consideration to where you will store all the fresh and gray water for your showers – it may freeze if you have water tanks underneath, rather than inside your van.
5. You have the space to hang wet gear in your van
Not very exciting, but a practical consideration if you’re going to wash clothes while on the road, is how and where you’re going to dry them. At least with a purpose-built van shower area, you have a wet-room where you can hang your gear out to dry. The same could apply if you need to travel with other wet gear, such as wetsuits. It’s probably more aerodynamic than hanging your wet clothing out the window!
Reasons why you don’t need a van shower in your Sprinter conversion
1. To preserve space
Probably the biggest reason many people choose not to build or buy a Sprinter van with a shower (or at least decide not to put in a fixed shower-sized cubicle) is the sacrifice of space that is needed. Between the cubicle, water tanks, and any other items such as an electric water heater, for many people, it’s just not worth losing that much space that could be used for other things such as additional storage or seating.
If you think having a campervan shower is still worth the space, then it’s probably worth getting a longer-wheelbase Sprinter van that can more readily accommodate it. For an overview of the different length of Sprinter vans and which may be best for your conversion, read this post).
2. Weight and space of transporting water in or under your campervan
Water is HEAVY and takes up a lot of space! Plus, depending on how you intend to shower, you could use a lot of water in just one shower – especially if you are not traveling in your van alone. It may simply be impractical to carry enough water in your van to meet your needs, especially if you plan to shower in it every day – or you’ll need to frequently stop to refill your tanks during your road trips.
3. Condensation and ventilation
An internal van shower will naturally create moisture in the air, which, if not removed adequately, can lead to problems such as mold and rust. This is a big reason why many people choose not to build or buy a campervan with a shower. If you do, it is important to ensure you plan to install suitable fans and vents as well, to help remove moisture and ensure this doesn’t cause issues further down the line.
4. Additional cost of a van shower setup
For some people, the cost of installing a shower in their campervan does not justify the benefits. The additional costs include having a larger freshwater tank than you would otherwise need, as well as a gray/black water tank, electricity to power a hot water heater (if you want to have a warm shower), and the additional ventilation provisions.
5. Possible smells
Many people may not experience issues with smells coming from their campervan’s shower, however, it is a fact that if you’re going to have a wastewater drain and carry a grey/black water tank around with you in your van, that smells may emanate from it. This can be managed in the same way many RV and boat owners do but it does typically require some extra care, chemicals, and maintenance.
So… do you really need a van shower in your campervan?
Having considered these cons, by now you may be rethinking your preference for installing a shower in your campervan conversion – and that’s ok! For every person who decides that they still need a van shower and it’s worth installing, there are others who start out adamant that they want one in their camper and then decide it’s not worth the cost / space sacrifice / weight of installing it, especially when there are some reasonable compromises that work for many Sprinter campervan owners.
If you’re prepared to get a bit creative and have an open mindset then you can have a shower in your van without having a designated cubicle… or perhaps not having one inside the van itself.
We’ve seen some really innovative indoor shower solutions being shared on Instagram (have a look at the van interiors featured on our Instagram feed and you’ll see what we mean).
However, interior showers – even those that have a tray and curtain that stow away – can still take up quite a bit of space, especially if you need them to dry out before putting them away after use. So, many campervan owners opt for an exterior van shower and having a large enough internal kitchen sink that does a good job for quick washes. This helps to conserve water, as well as the space, condensation, and gray-water tank considerations mentioned above.
A popular way to install an exterior van shower is to have one at the back of your van, that can be used with the double doors open – you can even install a shower curtain across the back for some privacy while you wash.
At the end of the day, whether or not you decide to go about installing a shower in your Sprinter van comes down to the big two: use of space and budget, as well as your personal preferences regarding how you intend to use your campervan.