You want to grab a hot shower in your RV after a day out adventuring. But instead of a warm spa, you get a chilly or downright cold shower. This isn’t the perfect ending you were expecting.
Unfortunately, you’ve just uncovered the truth about RV showers. Let’s dive into why most RVers hate taking showers in their RVs.
Wait…RVs Have Showers?
If you’re new to RVing, you may have thought RVs are merely sleeping accommodations that might have a couple of kitchen appliances. Although this is true for some RVs, most travel trailers, fifth wheels, and motorhomes do indeed have bathrooms.
However, these facilities vary from one rig to the other and from one class to the other. For example, smaller travel trailers or pop-up campers are more likely to have a wet bath or outdoor shower.
Many RVs include plumbing to accommodate washing hands, bathing, flushing the toilet, and other needs. There are tanks underneath the RV to hold the wastewater. Once full, RVers must empty the tanks themselves.
Hot Tip: Some RVers prefer rigs without a bathroom, and here’s why you might, too!
RV Shower Types
Not all RV showers are the same. The most important factor here is the size of the RV. Smaller RVs just don’t have the space for a traditional bathroom. They usually don’t have room underneath the RV for the necessary plumbing either.
Let’s take a look at the three different RV shower types.
Wet Bath RV Shower
A wet bath is most common in pop-up campers and Class B vans. Here, space and portability are the key factors. A pop-up camper can’t accommodate traditional shower walls because it folds down on travel days. A Class B van just doesn’t have the space for a conventional bathroom set-up.
A wet bath includes the toilet, sink, and shower all together in one small space. When it’s time to take a shower, everything gets drenched. The entire space gets wet, hence the name wet bath. Wet baths are space-savers and help maximize the RV’s available space for other uses.
Dry Bath RV Shower
A dry bath is your traditional bathroom space with a separate shower, toilet, and sink area. Although different from a wet bath in that the shower is separated and the entire bathroom doesn’t get wet, some dry bath RV showers are smaller than wet bath RV showers. The overall bathroom space varies depending on the size of the RV.
Most motorhomes, fifth wheels, and larger travel trailers have dry bath showers. They have room for the additional space and plumbing underneath the RV.
Some of these RVs can accommodate a residential bathroom with double vanities, a linen closet, a seated vanity with a mirror, and more. But that’s not typical of most RVs.
Outdoor RV Shower
The third type of RV shower is an outdoor shower. Many RVs have outdoor showers, which are convenient when returning from a long hike or a day at the beach.
They’re also great for washing dogs or rinsing off your rig. The hook-up is just a simple hose that you can access from the outside of the RV, although you can easily add accessories like a showerhead.
Some RVs have cold and hot water, while others only have cold water. Some people will create an actual enclosed shower space with PVC pipe and curtains that they can set up and take down. This is a good option, especially if the RV doesn’t have an indoor shower.
Why Most RVers Hate RV Showers
Now that you know about the three types of RV showers let’s look at why most RVers hate them. Many travelers will choose to use campground bathhouses instead.
For those RVers who choose to stick with their own showers, they know to get in and out in a hurry. Let’s see why.
Hot Water Doesn’t Last Long
Often, you have to wait a few minutes after turning on the water heater for the water to heat up. Then, once you jump in the shower, the hot water doesn’t last very long.
Some people call showering in an RV shower as taking a “Navy shower.” They’re constantly turning on and off the water to conserve hot water for the duration of the shower.
This dilemma is even more frustrating if you have multiple people who need to take a shower. This is why you’ll often see families using bathhouses at campgrounds. There just isn’t enough hot water for everyone.
Low Water Pressure
Even if you’re lucky enough to get long-lasting hot water, you can still freeze because of the low water pressure. Sometimes, you can fix this with a simple upgrade to a new shower head. But other times, you’re just in a location that doesn’t have strong water pressure. There are certainly benefits to traveling, but when you do, you’re at the mercy of the water pressure at that campground.
You could also have a faulty water pressure regulator. Although that’s an easy fix, it’s not always convenient. Finding a store that sells RV water pressure regulators could be a challenge if you’re out in the middle of nowhere.
Whether it’s a wet or dry bath, the space can be very small. At least in a wet bath, there are no shower doors or curtains to make the space even more cramped.
But in either bathroom, washing long hair, shaving legs, and bending down to wash your feet can be difficult. There isn’t even enough space to turn around in some showers, much less wash your hair.
An outdoor shower at least gives you more room to move around. If you build a privacy curtain and stay in warmer locations, taking a shower outdoors will be more comfortable. For taller people, it will be much more enjoyable than taking a shower in a cramped, tiny indoor space.
Short Showers When Dry Camping
Dry camping means your RV isn’t hooked up to an outside source. You don’t receive power or water from a pedestal.
Instead, you provide your own solar power or get power from a generator. You have to fill up your freshwater tank ahead of time to have clean water for bathing and cooking. There’s no dump station, so you won’t be emptying your tanks until you leave that particular location.
The “Navy showers” mentioned above weren’t just for conserving hot water but also for conserving water in general. When dry camping, you take quick showers, so you don’t waste water.
You’re not connected to a water supply, so what you have in your tank is what you have until you go somewhere to fill it back up. These less-than-five-minute showers aren’t enjoyable and are one of the worst parts of dry camping.
Even when not dry camping, some RVers are very environmentally conscious and don’t want to waste any more water than they have to. This is certainly a personal preference, but it still means taking short showers to conserve water.
Fills Up Gray Tank
The fact that showering fills up your gray tank quickly means you have to empty that tank often. The gray tank holds the wastewater from using the sink and shower.
When dry camping, you have a limited supply of water. But you also don’t want your gray tank filling up because you don’t have anywhere to dump it.
Even with full hookups at campsites, having to go out and dump the gray tank several times a week is annoying. Yes, it’s just part of camping, but it’s also a nuisance when the entire family can’t take a shower without someone running outside to empty the gray tank.
How to Improve Your RV Shower Experience
There are a few things you can do to improve your RV shower experience. The easiest upgrade is to install a quality shower head. You can look for a shower head with an on/off switch to help conserve water.
You can also look for a showerhead that’s self-pressurizing, so even with low water pressure, you’re still getting adequate flow. Oxygenics and Ecocamel are two common brands RVers use.
Another cheap upgrade is to replace your existing curtain rod or glass doors with a rounded curtain rod. If you have space outside the shower, a curved rod will create more space inside the shower by pulling the curtain out and away from your body.
This is also a good idea for an outdoor shower. Use PVC pipe to create a round space or buy a round portable outdoor shower enclosure.
A more expensive option is to upgrade to an RV tankless water heater. These water heaters are more efficient and provide an unending supply of hot water. There’s also no waiting. You flip the switch and then get into the shower. It doesn’t take time to heat the water.
If you often travel or live in your RV, it could be worth spending the money on this improvement. However, if you’re just camping a few weekends out of the year, you’re better off using the bathhouses.
Alternatives to RV Showers When You’re on the Road
If you’re fed up with using your RV shower, there are alternatives. When staying at local and state parks, there are generally public showers or bathhouses. Many campgrounds will also offer this amenity.
If you’d rather dry camp and prefer to stay in more remote locations, stop at a truck stop along the way to grab a quick shower. You can also look into gym memberships. If you plan to stay in a location for a long time or travel to the same campsites, get a membership to a local gym and use its facilities.
RV Showers: It’s a Love-Hate Thing
Traveling in an RV is memorable for lots of reasons. You witness beautiful sunrises and feel energized after day-long hikes. You explore varied landscapes and learn about diverse cultures. But it can also be memorable for the wrong reasons, like taking a cold, cramped shower.
Where do you fall on the love-hate scale of RV showers? Are you looking for upgrades? Or have you just given up and chosen to use your shower for a laundry room instead?
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