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What Showering in an RV Is REALLY Like

What Showering in an RV Is REALLY Like

There’s nothing like a long, hot shower after an epic hike or other exciting adventure. You can rinse off the mud, gunk, and other bits of nature you collected during your trip. However, showering in an RV can be a completely different experience than a typical residential shower. You’ll likely need to make some adjustments no matter how luxurious your RV might be.

So what is showering in an RV really like? Let’s look and see!


Yes, Some RVs Have Showers!

If you’ve never stepped inside an RV, it might surprise you to learn that many RVs have showers. Some RVs even have showers that are nicer than some residential ones.

This means avoiding that sketchy campground shower house and showering anywhere you park your RV. However, there’s a good chance you’ll have to make a few adjustments to your shower routine.

Aerial view of small RV bathroom from RV shower.
RV showers may not be as nice as residential ones, but they are better than public campground showers.

How Long Can You Take a Shower in an RV?

How long you can take a shower in an RV primarily depends on your water heater. Some modern RVs come with tankless water heaters that use propane to provide an almost infinite amount of hot water. In these rigs, running out of hot water typically isn’t your biggest worry.

However, other RVs use water heater tanks to store hot water, ranging from 6 gallons to 12 gallons. Once you use up your hot water supply, you’ll have to wait for it to reheat.

No matter what type of water heater you have, you’ll likely need to consider how much water you use when showering. If you’re not connected to a water source and using water from your fresh water tank, you’ll want to keep your showers as short as possible. On the other hand, if you have a connection to a water source, you won’t have to worry about running out of water nearly as much.

Even if you have a tankless water heater and have your RV connected to a water source, you still can’t always take as long of a shower as you want. Unlike most residential showers, when the water goes down the drain in an RV, it goes into a storage tank. 

Once these tanks get full, you’ll need to dump them. Full hook-up campsites can allow you to quickly and easily dump your tanks when they’re full. However, you won’t always be camping on these types of campsites. You must consider how much water is in your tanks when taking showers if you can’t easily dump them.

How many people need to shower, how much water you have, and your tank levels will all be factors you’ll need to consider. As we said, it’s not nearly as simple as showering in a residential shower.

Pro Tip: Don’t want to shower in your RV? This is How to Find Public Showers While Traveling.

Interior of an RV with shower next to bed.
How long you can enjoy your RV shower will depend on the size of your water tanks and hot water heater.

Where Does the Water Go When You Shower in an RV?

RV water systems use various storage tanks for fresh and wastewater. Any water that goes down your shower drain will go into the gray water tank. These will vary in size depending on the rig, but you typically see them anywhere from 30 gallons to 100 gallons.

It’s a good idea to check your tank levels before hopping in the shower. You don’t want to find water bubbling up through the drain because you’ve overfilled your gray water tank. If you have an RV connection to a sewer, you can quickly dump your tanks before getting in the shower.

Can You Shower in an RV Without Full Hookups?

While showering in an RV with full hookups is often easier, it’s still possible to shower in your RV without full hookups. You’ll need to be more mindful of your tank levels to avoid running out of water or overfilling your tanks. For your waste tanks, it’s a good idea to start planning to empty them once they are half to three-quarters of the way full.

Many RVers shower in their RV without hookups all the time, including families. Will it be easy? Absolutely not. However, you can still keep everyone smelling fresh and looking clean without having full hookups.

Small RV shower over toilet
Be prepared to shower in minimal space when using an RV shower.

What Showering in an RV Is REALLY Like

Whether it’s a weekend trip to your favorite campground or hitting the road for a cross-country RV trip, you’ll likely need to shower at some point. Having the right expectations regarding showering in an RV is important.

So let’s look at what showering in an RV is really like so you can set your expectations accordingly.

Minimal Amounts of Space

One of the first things you’ll quickly notice when you step into an RV shower is its size. Most RVs have showers that are substantially smaller than a standard residential one.

Remember when phone booths were common? Imagine showering in one. You may not have room to move around much or lather up with soap.

Some RVers who don’t like the amount of shower space may opt to even shower in a campground’s shower house. This will allow you to spread your arms as you lather and rinse your hair.

However, some campground showers are desperately in need of updates. The minimal amount of space in your RV shower will be worth the sacrifice to avoid showering in a sketchy shower house.

Wet Bath vs. Dry Bath

In campers, you have two types of bathrooms. You have wet and dry baths, named for whether the whole room get wet or not when you shower.

That’s right, with a wet bath, you will be standing in the same space as your toilet, vanity, all your toiletries, and anything else in your bathroom. This may be a new and unpleasant experience for some, but for others it is either that or no shower on board at all.

Find out all about RV Wet Baths vs. Dry Baths.

Must Conserve Water

Whether it’s to make the water in your freshwater tank last longer or to avoid filling up your gray water tank, conserving water is almost always essential.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average showerhead uses two gallons of water per minute, and the average shower is just over eight minutes long. That means it requires nearly 16 gallons of water. If multiple people are showering, that’s a lot of water for an RV to handle.

Fortunately, RV shower heads are usually designed to restrict flow and conserve water. They also usually have stopper valves so you can easily stop and restart the water in between soaping and rinsing. On the downside, this can mean more skimpy showers in general.

If you’re not connecting to a water or sewer connection, you’ll need a plan for replacing and dumping your water. Even if you have a large RV tank, you’ll need to conserve water. It’ll only take a few hot showers before you empty one tank and fill another.

As a result, you’ll want to take short showers and use as little water as possible.

Limited Hot Water (Usually)

As we said earlier, hot water can be a hot commodity for showering in an RV. If the RV has a water heater with a tank, you’re only going to get so much hot water before it needs to regenerate. You’ll quickly finish your shower once the ice-cold water hits your skin if you use up all your hot water.

Some modern RVs come with tankless water heaters that deliver hot water on demand. However, these can typically only heat so much water at one time. If you’re showering and someone turns on the hot water faucet, you may experience a drop in temperature. Most tankless water heaters can’t keep up with the demand for hot water. 

➡ Find out why we love our Truma AquaGo Water Heater for long, luxurious showers!

Man holding shower head in RV shower
Upgrading your showerhead can make your RV showering experience more enjoyable and help you save water!

Tips for Showering in an RV

Here are a few tips for showering in an RV. It’ll help you make the most out of your shower and make the entire experience as smooth as possible.

Upgrade Your Showerhead

Most RV manufacturers put cheap shower heads that waste a tremendous amount of water. By upgrading your showerhead, you can use less water and increase the water pressure.

ETL Oxygenics 92489 Fury RV Handheld Shower -...
  • 5 Spray Settings Are Powered By Cutting-Edge Technology To...
  • Rubber Finger Grips Prevents Any Slippage Or Dropping
  • Flow Control Lever Quickly Adjusts Shower Pressure For A More...

Not only will you use less water, but with the increased pressure, you can rinse your hair and body quicker. Many RVers rave about the Oxygenics showerheads and how they’ve radically improved showering in their RV.

Pro Tip: Improve your RV shower experience with these tips on How to Upgrade Your RV Shower Head.

Give Water Heater Time to Warm Up the Water

If you have a water heater with a tank, give it time to warm up. There’s no use in heating water when you don’t need it, especially if you’re paying for electricity or trying to be mindful of your propane usage. However, it’ll take some time to warm up the water in your water heater tank. You can’t expect to flip on a tanked water heater and get hot water instantly.

If you want to ensure you have plenty of hot water for your shower, flip on the water heater 15 to 20 minutes before you take a shower. If someone was showering before you, give it a few minutes before using it, especially if they took a long shower. You want to give the water heater time to do its job.

Take Military Showers

One of the best ways to conserve water while showering is to take “military showers.” These are quick showers where you’re as efficient as possible with your time and water.

You hop in the shower and wet your entire body before turning off the water. You then lather up your body with soap and shampoo. Once complete, turn the water back on to rinse off the soap.

A typical military shower will only last a couple of minutes. This means that instead of using 12 gallons to 15 gallons of water, you’ll use two or three. Once you get used to these showers, it will surprise you how long you can make your freshwater tank last.

Make your RV shower a luxurious experience with one of these 6 Best RV Water Softeners for Your Camper (And Do You Even Need One?).

RV Wet Baths What You Should Know

Showering in an RV Isn’t Easy

Showering in an RV isn’t easy, but it’s a small sacrifice for the many benefits RVing can provide.

Considering the average family uses more than 300 gallons per day in a home, it’s clear you’ll have to adjust your water usage in an RV. You either choose to make some adjustments, only camp with full hookups, or get comfortable constantly filling and dumping your RV water tanks.

Either way, it’s hard to beat having the ability to take a warm shower practically anywhere you roam! After a long day of hiking and adventure, there’s nothing better.

What are your RV shower tips and trick? Tell us in the comments!

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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