What’s better than a relaxing, steamy, hot shower after a long day of hiking and exploring the world’s beauty?
As RV owners and full-time RVers, one of the biggest perks of traveling North America in our fifth wheel is having all of the comforts of home with us at all times. Recreational vehicles, commonly known as RVs, are popular among camping enthusiasts, road trippers, and those who enjoy the freedom of traveling with their home on wheels. RVs are equipped with several amenities to make the travel experience comfortable and convenient.
One of the most important amenities in an RV is the shower, which allows you to freshen up and clean yourself while on the road. In this article, we will discuss RV showers, how they work, and the various types of showers available in RVs. We will also explore the different aspects of RV plumbing, including water pumps, water heaters, and water hookups, and how they impact your showering experience while camping.
Do Campers Have Showers?
Short answer: It depends. They certainly can, but not all of them do.
Larger RVs can have full showers, similar to the ones you would find in a traditional house, while smaller RVs or vans may not have a bathroom or shower at all, only a portable toilet, or a combination “wet bath” where the shower and toilet all exist in one small space together.
One of the best things about RVs today is that there is a wide range of options available for purchase so that you can find the model and layout that fits your needs. Whether you are looking for a luxury glamping experience that feels like a home away from home, or a minimalist lightweight design that protects you from the elements and gets you further out into remote areas of nature, there is most likely a rig for you.
Many people also find joy in building out their own custom camper, whether that be a school bus “skoolie,” camper van, or small teardrop design.
Think about your next camping trip or road trip, what would help you have the best experience? Is being able to take a warm shower in your own space a priority for you?
If stepping into a private shower or washing your face in the morning with warm water sounds great – read on to learn more about RV showers and RV shower use to help you plan your next adventure (whether you will be purchasing a camper, renting an RV, or renovating your RV bathroom).
RV Showers: Types and Examples
RV showers come in various shapes and sizes, and their quality and features vary depending on the type and model of the RV. Some RVs have full bathrooms, complete with a shower, toilet, and sink, while others have wet baths or outdoor showers.
Here are some examples of RVs and potential shower configurations:
Class A Motorhomes: These are the largest and depending on the model, most luxurious of all RVs. They typically have a full bathroom, including a shower, toilet, and sink. The showers in Class A motorhomes are spacious and offer all the amenities of a traditional home shower. Due to their ability to carry more weight, you can also find more residential features in Class A’s, such as real tile showers.
Class B Motorhomes: These are the smallest and most compact of all RVs. They are built on a van chassis and offer a more basic living experience. Class B motorhomes may have a wet bath or a shower/toilet combo, or no bathroom or shower at all. Some people do build out custom vans with full showers, but this can take up a lot of valuable space.
Class C Motorhomes: These are mid-sized RVs that offer more space and amenities than Class B motorhomes but are smaller than Class A motorhomes. Class C motorhomes usually have a full bathroom with a shower, toilet, and sink.
Travel Trailers: These are towable RVs that come in a variety of sizes and styles. Many travel trailers have full bathrooms with a shower, toilet, and sink, while others have wet baths or outdoor showers. With smaller fiberglass trailers in particular, it is common to see a wet bath set up or the option for no bathroom at all with bunk beds instead.
Fifth Wheels: These are large towable RVs that attach to a truck bed. Fifth wheels offer more living space than travel trailers and often come with a full bathroom with a shower, toilet, and sink.
While some RVs come equipped with showers, others do not. Pop-up campers, for example, typically do not have showers, but they may have an outdoor shower or owners may opt for a portable shower that can be set up outside the camper.
How RV Showers Work
RV showers work similarly to traditional home showers but with some differences due to the unique plumbing and space constraints of an RV.
One way a camper shower works is that the shower is connected to the RV’s fresh water tank, which supplies water to the showerhead via a water pump. When you turn on the shower faucet, the water pump pressurizes the water and sends it to the showerhead, where it comes out of the nozzle and onto you.
Another way that an RV shower can work is by being connected to water hookups through a city water inlet. Here, water is moved through the RV plumbing to the shower without needing to use the water pump for pressurizing.
To ensure that the water in the RV tank is hot, RVs also come equipped with a water heater. The water heater is typically powered by propane, electricity, or both options and can heat the water in the tank to the desired temperature.
Many RV water heaters have a capacity of 6 to 10 gallons, which is smaller than a traditional home water heater. As a result, you may need to take shorter showers or wait for the water to heat up between showers.
RV Shower Components
Different types of RV shower heads can make a big difference in your showering experience. The most common types of RV shower heads include handheld shower heads, rain shower heads, and low-flow shower heads.
Handheld shower heads are great for washing pets (our shower becomes a doggy spa every month), or for individuals with mobility issues, while rain shower heads offer a more luxurious showering experience.
Low-flow shower heads are designed to conserve water, which is important when dry camping or boondocking. Some RV shower heads also feature adjustable spray patterns, which allow you to customize your showering experience to your preferences.
One of the most popular showerheads in the RV community is the OXYGENICS Shower Head, which helps increase water pressure while also conserving water.
Traditional Vs. Tankless Water Heater
Unless you are intentionally aiming for a cold water plunge, having a working RV water heater is another important part of the RV shower experience.
Traditional water heaters use a storage tank to heat and store hot water, which can be convenient but can also take up valuable space in your RV.
Tankless water heaters, on the other hand, heat water on demand, which means you only use energy when you need hot water. This can be more efficient and can also save space in your RV. However, tankless water heaters can be more expensive upfront and may require more maintenance than traditional water heaters.
Ultimately, the choice between traditional and tankless water heaters will depend on your personal preferences and the specific needs of your RV.
Keep in mind – tank size will play a big role in how long you can shower before running out of hot water. Our fifth wheel has a 10-gallon hot water tank and is good for about 30 minutes of running hot water. If you have a tankless hot water heater and are on water hook-ups, you could take hot water showers for as long as you would like!
Gas vs. Electric Water Heaters
Electric water heaters are typically less expensive upfront and can be more efficient than gas water heaters, particularly if you have access to shore power or a generator. However, electric water heaters may not be as effective in colder temperatures and may take longer to heat up water.
Gas water heaters, on the other hand, are typically more powerful and can heat water more quickly, making them a good choice for larger RVs or for those who need a lot of hot water. Gas water heaters also work well in colder temperatures and can be more effective overall. However, they are typically more expensive upfront and require a propane tank, which can add weight to your RV and require additional maintenance.
We prefer having both systems, to give us the option to use our propane water heater when boondocking off-grid and use our electric water heater to preserve propane when paying for electric hookups.
RV Plumbing and PEX Tubing
RV plumbing is different from traditional home plumbing, as it needs to be compact, lightweight, and able to withstand the rigors of the road. In an RV, the water system is made up of PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) tubing, which is a flexible and durable material that can handle high temperatures and pressure. PEX tubing is also resistant to freeze damage, which is important for RVs that are used in colder climates.
RVs typically have two water systems – a freshwater system and a wastewater system. The freshwater system includes the RV’s water tank, water pump, and plumbing, while the wastewater system includes the RV’s holding tanks and dump valves. The freshwater and wastewater systems are connected via the RV’s plumbing, which includes a series of pipes, fittings, and valves.
The plumbing in an RV can be complex, and it’s important to understand how it works to ensure that your RV’s water system is functioning properly. Regular maintenance of the RV’s plumbing system is also important to prevent leaks, blockages, and other issues.
Maintenance can include regular sanitizing of lines with bleach or vinegar and using a water softener system to prevent build-up from hard water.
Water Pressure Regulator
A water pressure regulator is an essential piece of equipment for RV showers and plumbing. This device regulates the water pressure that comes into your RV from external sources, such as campground hook-ups, to prevent damage to your RV’s plumbing and appliances. We’ve written a separate article all about RV essentials if you are interested.
High water pressure can cause leaks, burst pipes, and other costly damage that can be inconvenient and potentially dangerous while on the road. A water pressure regulator ensures that the water pressure remains within a safe range, typically between 40 and 60 PSI, which helps to protect your RV and keep your shower running smoothly.
Some RVs may come equipped with a built-in water pressure regulator, while others require an external regulator to be installed. Regardless of your RV’s setup, it’s important to have a water pressure regulator in place to ensure the safety and longevity of your RV’s plumbing system. In some cases, too much water pressure can also harm your hot water tank, causing your system to fail.
RV Shower Design
Depending on your RV and how much weight it can safely carry, you might find a variety of materials used for the shower walls and shower doors. Camper showers are a luxury, but they can also be a place where weight adds up quickly if you were to use traditional materials found in home showers, like stone or porcelain tiles.
When it comes to shower doors, there are two main types: sliding doors and bi-fold doors. Sliding doors are more common in RVs and take up less space, while bi-fold doors can be more difficult to install but offer more privacy. Many RV owners choose to replace glass doors with shower curtains to remove weight, and due to ease of maintenance. The shower doors and especially the tracks themselves require more cleaning.
As for shower materials, fiberglass is the most common choice for RV showers due to its durability and affordability. Acrylic and ceramic tile are also options but may be more expensive and require more maintenance. When it comes to an RV shower pan, there are a variety of materials available, including fiberglass, plastic, and aluminum. Fiberglass is again the most common choice due to its affordability and durability, but plastic and aluminum pans may be better suited for those who want a lighter-weight option or who are concerned about water damage.
Ultimately, the choice of shower design and materials will depend on your personal preferences and the specific needs of your RV.
Examples of RV Shower Setups
- Glass Sliding Doors (will require a small squeegee and additional cleaning and maintenance)
- Glass bi-fold doors with walk-in shower
- Shower curtain (easier to clean and lighter)
- Shower with tub (a rig with an RV tub is rarer due to added weight of holding water in the tub)
Our DRV mobile suites fifth wheel bathroom & shower setup:
- Full bathroom with large shower
- One-piece fiberglass shower with seat
- Sliding glass doors (which have to be carefully locked for travel days to prevent damage)
- Porcelain toilet (gravity-fed toilet, although some models do come with flush toilets using a macerator system)
- Porcelain sink and solid surface countertop
Wet Bath vs. Full Bathroom vs. Outdoor Shower
When it comes to RV showers, there are several options to choose from. The most common types of RV showers are wet baths, full bathrooms with separate showers, and outdoor showers.
Small, all-in-one bathroom units that typically include a shower, toilet, and sink in one compact space. Wet baths are commonly found in Class B motorhomes and smaller travel trailers, such as fiberglass travel trailers. The main advantage of a wet bath is that it takes up less space than a full bathroom, making it a good option for smaller RVs. The downside is that once you shower, everything in that wet bathroom is well, wet.
Larger and more spacious than a wet bath and typically includes a separate shower, toilet, and sink. Full bathrooms are commonly found in Class A and Class C motorhomes, as well as larger travel trailers and fifth wheels. The main advantage of a full bathroom is that it offers more space and amenities than a wet bath, making it a more comfortable option for those who prioritize comfort and convenience.
Showering al fresco! Another option for RVers who want to clean up while on the road. Outdoor showers typically consist of a handheld shower head located outside the RV and may be connected to the RV’s water system or may be used from a separate water source, like a solar shower bag (such as the one below).
Outdoor showers are commonly found on RVs that do not have an indoor shower, such as pop-up campers, but can also be found as an additional add-on feature for campers that do have indoor showers. An RV outdoor shower may have the ability to run hot water, or it may only put out cold water, depending on the design of the system.
Showering While Camping: Full Hook-Ups vs. Dry Camping
When it comes to showering while camping in an RV, the type of camping you’re doing can impact your showering experience. Full hook-up campsites typically offer the most convenient showering experience, as they provide access to a city water inlet, which allows you to connect your RV’s water system directly to the campground’s water supply. This means you can take longer showers and don’t have to worry about running out of water.
Additionally, full hook-up campsites also typically have a sewer hookup, which allows you to empty your RV’s wastewater tanks without having to visit a dump station. This means you can take as many showers as you like without having to worry about emptying your gray water tank.
On the other hand, dry camping or boondocking can be more challenging when it comes to showering and most likely will require a quick shower. Dry camping means camping without access to water hookups, like a city water inlet, or sewer hookup, which means you need to rely on your RV’s freshwater tank and holding tanks.
When dry camping, it’s important to be mindful of your water usage to avoid running out of water. This means taking shorter showers and conserving water in other areas of your RV as well. Additionally, you will need to visit a dump station to empty your wastewater tanks when they become full.
Boondocking has its own perks, including freedom, privacy, and amazing views. Still, after a few weeks or months of quick showers, we do enjoy getting back on the grid and enjoying a long shower with the convenience of full hookups.
Here is our RV’s dry camping set-up:
- 100-gallon fresh water tank
- 75-gallon grey water tank
- 50-gallon black water tank (this could be extended greatly with the purchase of a composting toilet)
- 32-gallon portable waste tank
- 60-gallon water bladder
- Remco Water Pump (we use a spare water pump for our RV to help feed water into our fresh tank when refilling while boondocking)
Here is how we approach shower time when dry camping without water hook-ups:
- Short “military” or “navy shower” where we turn the water off while soaping up, to use our water sparingly
- Only turn our gas water heater on when we plan to shower (and never use our electric water heater while off-grid)
RV water tanks come in a variety of sizes and are an important factor when determining how long you can stay in one place off-grid, without having to re-fill supplies or empty your RV holding tanks.
We chose a fifth wheel with large tanks so we could boondock for longer periods of time more comfortably, but also chose to purchase additional tools just in case we ever needed them or did not do as well with budgeting our resources.
The size of an RV’s tanks can also affect the weight of the RV, so it is important to consider carefully based on your tow vehicle and how you plan to travel or camp in our rig.
In addition, if you plan to camp in cold weather you will also want to consider an RV with an enclosed, insulated and heated underbelly or heated tanks to keep your tanks and plumbing from freezing or cracking and causing expensive damage.
What about moisture when showering in an RV?
You might be wondering how you deal with the moisture that can accumulate when showering in an RV, which can be prone to mold or mildew.
Keeping moisture at bay in an RV when showering is crucial to preventing mold, mildew, and water damage. One way to do this is by ensuring that your RV’s bathroom has proper ventilation, such as an exhaust fan or window, to help remove excess moisture from the air.
It’s also important to wipe down any surfaces that become wet when showering, such as the walls or shower curtain and door. Another consideration is the design of RV bathroom doors, which often have a large gap underneath to allow for airflow.
How do you shower while camping if you do not have a shower in your camper?
If your camper does not have a bathroom with a shower, you may need to rely on public showers or campground bathhouses while on the road. Most campgrounds and RV parks have shower facilities that are available to guests for free or for a small fee. These facilities typically have multiple stalls with showers, as well as changing areas and sometimes even laundry facilities. While using public showers may not be as convenient as having a shower in your own RV, they can still provide a comfortable and enjoyable showering experience.
Be sure to bring all of the necessary toiletries and towels with you, and be mindful of the time and water usage to ensure that you don’t run out of hot water or disturb other guests who may also be using the facilities. Overall, public showers and campground bathhouses can be a great option for those who don’t have a bathroom with a shower in their RV and can help you stay clean and comfortable while on the road.
Examples of public showers campers can use:
- Truck stops
- Recreation Centers
- Gyms (such as Planet Fitness, if you have a membership)
- Campground bathhouse
Camper Showers & RV Bathrooms Overall
RV showers are an important amenity for those who enjoy traveling with their home on wheels. Whether you’re in a Class A motorhome or a pop-up camper, there is most likely a shower option that will work for you.
Understanding how RV showers work and the various types of showers available can help you choose an RV that meets your needs. Additionally, understanding RV plumbing, including the water pump, water heater, water hookups, and plumbing materials is essential for maintaining your RV’s water system and preventing issues such as leaks and blockages.
When showering in an RV, it’s important to be mindful of your water usage, particularly when dry camping or boondocking. Taking shorter showers and conserving water in other areas of your RV can help you avoid running out of water and ensure that you have a comfortable and enjoyable trip.
Overall, RV showers are a convenient and comfortable way to clean up while on the road. Whether you’re traveling full-time or just taking a weekend trip, having access to a shower can make your RV experience much more enjoyable. With the right equipment, knowledge, and preparation, you can enjoy the comforts of home even when you’re miles away from civilization.