Last Updated on December 31, 2020
If you spend more time on the road in your van than you do in your home, or you’ve converted your van into your own portable home, then you might be thinking how you can bring all your mod cons out on the road with you.
Washing and showering is just a part of basic everyday life, up there with cooking and cleaning. If you go for long periods of the road without washing, you can expect your hygiene, health and social levels to dwindle pretty quickly.
Spending a week in a van without showering will soon result in you smelling pretty funky.
A lot of van dwellers have installed their own portable shower in the housing of their van. Usually mounted on the roof, you can rig these portable devices to have exactly the pressure and water capacity of an indoor shower.
All you need to construct one of these showers is just a few basic tools, some raw materials and a little DIY knowledge and patience.
But how hard is it to make one of these DIY showers? How much time and how many materials do you need for a portable van shower? What things should you avoid doing when installing your own PVC pipe shower?
Well, don’t worry van-lifers, because we’ve got an easy-to-follow guide for building your very own shower unit, with some helpful do’s and don’ts that will hopefully steer you in the right direction and avoid any mistakes that could result in your shower leaking or malfunctioning.
How To Build Your DIY Shower
Okay, so we’re going to give you a step-by-step guide on how to construct your own mobile shower using a length of PVC pipe, some adapters and some tools.
What You’ll Need
The list of materials that you’ll need for your shower is not extensive, most of the following items you can get from your local hardware store.
- Back PVC pipe – ideally this should be as thick as possible, essentially a length of sewer pipe. The length should be about 10-feet x 4-inches.
- 2 Y adapters – these should come with 4-inch to 2-inch converters.
- 2 4-inch screw thread adapters – these should have rubber gaskets on the end.
- 2 end caps – these can be screwed or fixed, it depends on how you want to fit your shower pipe.
- A 2-inch threaded end-cap with a rubber gasket.
- A 2-inch standard thread cap
- A standard hose tap
- A pot of quick-drying PVC cement (non-toxic)
- A PTFE tape for tap thread
- A quick-release system for the hose
- A flexible hose
- A multi-spray pattern nose end with a plastic thread
- A water jug lid – you’ll only need the plastic end of this for pressure relief.
- 4 heavy-duty jubilee clips for mounting – you can also use U clamps for mounting to the roof rack.
- A Schrader valve for pressurizing the water.
- Epoxy glue to affix the Schrader valve if necessary.
- 2 foam canoe blocks.
- Flathead screwdriver
- Rubber mallet
- Drill for pressure release valve – this is optional
- PVC end cap tool
Once you have acquired these tools and materials, you can begin putting together your shower system.
How To Assemble Your Shower
Okay, we’ll try and break this down for you as simply as possible, as building a portable shower unit on your van is not easy, especially if you aren’t accustomed to a lot of DIY tasks.
First, you’ll have to determine how much water you’ll need. The bare minimum length you’ll need from your pipe will be able 6-feet long, which will hold around 4.5 gallons of water.
This will depend on how long you want the shower time to be, although this will vary because of the power of your pressure pump.
Secondly, you’ll need to cut your length of PVC pipe using your hacksaw. Mark off your pipe at around the 5-foot 6-inch mark. Saw through this, taking care not to injure yourself.
Taking the foam blocks from your canoe, position one at the end of your 5-inch pipe and use it to affix the pipe to your roof rack.
Keep the bottom of the pipe as close to the middle of the foam blocks as possible, using the hacksaw to cut out a semicircle of foam that comfortably houses the block.
Repeat this with the other block.
How To Pressurize Your Shower
If you leave some excess air in your pipe, then the heat from the sun will cause the air inside to expand, building up the necessary pressure that will cause the water to be pushed out with the air.
Add the Schrader valve into your shower with the epoxy glue on the nut so that you can screw the epoxy glue directly into your shower pipe, making sure it’s done on a flat surface to ensure that it is fixed securely.
You can also add additional air through a tire compressor or with a bicycle pump. You can carry this hand pump in your gear with you.
Mounting A Shower On The Roof Rack
Be sure that you mount your shower pipe firmly to your roof rack, otherwise, it could come loose from your van while you’re driving, which could be a catastrophe for both yourself and a lot of other people.
Take care to ensure that the weight of your shower unit is very low to the surface and centered on your roof. You must be able to ensure that your roof unit can handle the extra weight of not just your pipe but the water contained within.
There are two different types of mounting for your shower that each has its own hazards and benefits.
Driver side mounting – this is good as it will keep the access area at the back of your camper van free from moisture, however, it might restrict you if you plan on using your driver door. It might also lead to excess water getting into the car.
Passenger side mounting – this is probably much better if you expect to be using the driver’s entrance a lot.