Finding a public shower is almost like a rite of passage for van lifers. Most of us don’t have interior showers, so we rely on free and paid showers to get clean. We’ve had two vans now: a Chevy Astro and now a Sprinter, and have never had a plumbed indoor shower.
We typically take solar showers outside our van or showers in a campground. Sometimes, we go to RV resorts with mineral springs and hot showers.
If you’re always Googling, “public showers near me”, this guide has you covered. From gyms to rec centers to hot springs and beach showers, we have lots of tips and advice from our five years of living and traveling in our campervans.
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Public Shower Options for Van Lifers and Road Trippers
You may not know about the smorgasbord of shower options available for van lifers. Sure, we take solar showers every other day when camping out in nature with our Sprinter van, but there’s something wonderful about standing for a long time under a stream of endless, hot water.
Water is a precious commodity when you’re out boondocking, and you’ll have to take fast military-style showers. We each only use 1.5 gallons of water for our showers!
When we’re craving a hot shower, we’ll seek out a variety of spots to stand under that heavenly stream.
Plenty of campgrounds offer free public showers or very cheap coin-operated showers. I like using apps like The Dyrt to filter for campgrounds with showers. Campground showers are typically pretty basic, but they’ll do the trick.
We aren’t RV park people, but some of them have wonderful showers. When we spring for an RV park, we pick one with mineral tubs, like Sky Valley RV Resort in Desert Hot Springs, California. Not only does this RV park have a variety of hot and warm mineral pools, it has endless and fancy showers.
Plus, there are extra amenities like a gym and a laundromat. You can do everything in one place, which makes the price of an RV park worthwhile once in a blue moon.
Hot Spring Facilities
One of our favorite places to rinse off is to go to a hot springs facility. Some of our favorites are Harbin Hot Springs, Breitenbush Hot Springs, Sierra Hot Springs, Jackson Well Springs, etc. You can usually camp in your van at these hot springs facilities and enjoy the springs and showers.
Remember that many hot springs facilities are clothing optional, so if that freaks you out, check the website before you go.
Natural Hot Springs
Another way to enjoy a hot soak is to find a natural hot springs. Sometimes, you’ll have to hike into the hot springs, and sometimes you can park your van right there. I’m not an advocate of using a hot spring as your own personal bathtub, though. Nobody else wants to soak in your dirt and grime!
We recommend doing a quick rinse with a solar shower before you get into the springs or at least make sure your rear end is clean by using a portable bidet. Sorry to be graphic, here, but please don’t expose others to your fecal matter.
Nudist resorts might not be the first place you think of when looking for public showers, but they typically offer pools, hot tubs, showers, and both dried camping and hookups. The nudist lifestyle might not be for you, but if you really want a hot shower, maybe you’ll try it out.
Many van lifers choose a nationwide gym membership to access hot public showers. We only used a gym membership when we lived in the San Francisco Bay area on our sailboat and our van. Now, we don’t feel the need for one. However, gym memberships are a great place to shower as you can also work out, and some of them might even have a sauna, pool or hot tub.
Chains like Planet Fitness offer a “Black Card” membership, which grants you access to their facilities across the United States. Similarly, 24 Hour Fitness and Anytime Fitness provide gym memberships that often include shower access, ensuring you can find a place to freshen up anywhere.
Gym showers are typically clean, and you’ll have access to a locker.
Truck drivers have long known the secret of clean living on the road: truck stop showers. Facilities like Pilot and Flying J Travel Centers, with over 750 locations, offer fresh towels and well-maintained shower rooms. However, truck stop showers can be expensive.
Although we’ve never used one, a friend of mine says they cost about $15. You can use this truck stop guide by AllStays to see truck stops in all states.
One of my van lifer friends, Kristen Borr of the outdoor and van life blog BearfootTheory, says rec centers are her favorite place to take showers. All you need is a day pass, and you can gain access to the rec center’s facilities, which sometimes include a pool and a hot tub.
These community centers are clean and friendly places to take a shower on the go. Plus, you can get a workout in while you’re at it!
Public Beach Showers
If you don’t mind a cold rinse, public beaches are a great option for a free shower. Most people use these to rinse off their feet, surfboards, or wetsuits, but you can do a full-body shower on a hot day. Just don’t forget your bathing suit! Also, enjoy the beachfront view.
State and National Parks
We’ve discovered that some state and national parks have showers, and you don’t have to camp for the night. We’ve showered at Yosemite National Park, plus various other state parks in California and Washington State.
Hotel Day Passes
Some hotels offer a paid day pass to people who want to drop in and use the pool, hot tub, and showers. We’ve done this before after visiting Joshua Tree National Park. Nearby Desert Hot Springs has many hotels with mineral springs, and its a wonderful place to enjoy the hot tubs after days of hiking amongst the jumbo rocks.
If you need a break from van life for a few days, plenty of affordable Airbnbs are around. You can enjoy a hot shower, do your laundry, and possibly get lucky enough to take a hot bath. Some Airbnbs are as cheap as $100 per night, depending on the city and time of year. I just booked an Airbnb in Phoenix that has a shower, bath, and hot tub. All three for the win!
Many cities have a community pool where you can purchase a day pass. Enjoy swimming beneath the hot sun, then finish your day with a hot shower. We haven’t used this method before, but it’s a great method if there are no other options.
Hostels are a cost-effective lodging option that typically offers shower facilities. These communal bathrooms may vary in quality, but they provide an easy way to take a shower. We enjoy sleeping in our van better than staying in a hostel, so we haven’t used this option yet.
We are both sailors and van lifers, so we know about the hidden secret of using boat marina showers. These often require a code, though, so you may have to ask a friendly sailor to let you in. Or, you can wait for someone to leave the bathroom and rush in before the door closes. We’ve showered at boat marinas several times in a variety of states. They also make a great place to stealth camp!
Boutique Gyms and Yoga Studios
Boutique gyms and yoga studios are not just places for exercise; they also provide an opportunity to cleanse and rejuvenate. These upscale facilities often pride themselves on offering high-quality showers and amenities.
Many yoga studios and gyms offer the first visit for free, or offer an “introductory promotion” so that you can take classes for even cheaper. Just make sure the facility has showers before you pay! I have done this many times when doing yoga, pilates, barre, etc. ClassPass is also a great way to find workout classes in your area.
Take a Petsitting Job
When we lived in our van in San Francisco, I would try to get as many pet sitting jobs as possible. I’d end up in these large, luxurious mansions with beautiful showers and baths. Plus, I’d get paid! This felt like a win-win situation. You can use a website like Trusted Petsitters to find a pet sitting opportunity. But this isn’t a paid service. It’s more of a housing and pet sitting swap.
Other Shower Options for Van Lifers
If you don’t want to rely on public shower facilities to stay clean, many portable shower options are affordable and easy to use. As I said, we use this Sea to Summit solar shower for 90% of our showers when living in our van. Here are some alternatives to public showers you might want to consider:
A Solar Shower
Solar shower bags are a compact, cheap option for getting clean on the road. We don’t set our solar shower in the sun to warm it up; instead, we boil water on the stove and then dump it into the shower bag. You can even shower in a public place by wearing a bathing suit, or using a Shower Toga. We like to take solar showers in parking lots after a strenuous hike! We hide behind the van, and nobody is the wiser.
When we can’t take a solar shower or find a public shower, a sponge bath is a last resort. We don’t use sponges, though. We opt for a clean washcloth, which we dip into hot water to wash the sweat and dirt away. These are great for staying in a Walmart parking lot, Cracker Barrel, or stealth camping in a city for the night. We don’t use soap during our sponge baths as its too hard to rinse off.
Body Wipes and Dry Shampoo
For those moments when you need a quick clean-up, body wipes, especially biodegradable wipes, are a convenient solution. They are perfect for outdoor activities, long travel days, or any situation where water is scarce. Plus, they’re easy to pack and environmentally friendly, making them an excellent choice for the eco-conscious traveler. I’ve used body wipes on my feet and lower legs after a hike when a shower wasn’t an immediate option. Here are some biodegradable body wipes from Sea to Summit.
Dry shampoo can help keep your hair clean. Just spray it in your hair, let it sit for a few minutes, and brush it out. Dry shampoo works very well and removes grease and dirt.
Use a Portable Bidet
If you can’t take a shower, you can get pretty cleaned up with a portable bidet. These are necessities for us, and we have one on the sailboat and in our campervan. These are very lightweight and easy to use. Nothing beats a clean bum! We like to use our portable bidet with Dr. Bonner’s biodegradable soap.
Visit a Friend or Family Member
We have lots of friends and family members scattered throughout the United States, and they always offer us a parking spot and a hot shower. Don’t be shy about asking your buddy to use their shower while you are in town. Maybe they even have a bath you can soak in for an evening.
Jump in a Natural Body of Water
If you’re near the ocean, a lake, or a stream, you can rinse the sweat and grime in cold water. This isn’t my favorite method, but it works on a hot day. Please don’t bring any soap at all into the water, though. This needs to be a “no soap” method to keep these natural bodies of water clean and free of chemicals.
Buy a Portable Shower
If a solar shower isn’t for you, there are all kinds of portable showers on the market these days. This is a more expensive way to shower on the road, but if you use it often enough, the price just might be worth it.
A couple of portable showers to check out are Rinse Kit and the Geyser shower. You can also put a road shower on your vehicle’s roof rack, which heats up in the sun and comes with a hose. Click here to read our article about The Best Showers for Van Life.
One cheap portable shower idea is to use a bug sprayer or weed sprayer from Home Depot, add hot water, and you’re good to go.
Shower Less Frequently
Sometimes I see van lifers posts on Instagram claiming, “I haven’t showered in 10 days!” This can be one method of showering when living in a van. You’ll save money on public showers and you don’t have to carry around water for your solar shower. However, this hasn’t worked for me. I need a shower every other day, and for the “off” days, I use my portable bidet.
Public Shower Etiquette and Tips
Using public showers can be a smooth experience when you follow some basic etiquette and tips. Being considerate of others, maintaining cleanliness, and ensuring you have all the necessary accessories can make the process more pleasant for everyone. With a little preparation, public showers can be a convenient solution for staying fresh on the go.
Understanding Shower Facility Rules and Regulations
Before using any public shower, it’s essential to understand the facility’s rules and regulations. This may include time limits, clothing requirements, and cleanliness standards.
Essential Shower Accessories to Bring Along
When preparing for life on the road, packing essential shower accessories is a must. Here are a few things we recommend bringing:
- Flip flops or other plastic shower shoes. We wear Crocs.
- A shower caddy or bag for your towel and toiletries
- A quick-drying Turkish towel
Privacy and Safety Considerations in Public Shower Use
Using public showers requires consideration of privacy and safety. Opt for facilities that offer individual stalls, lock your belongings securely, and be aware of your surroundings. These precautions can help you feel secure and maintain your privacy while using public showers.
Tips for Finding Public Showers
If you’re new to van life or sleeping in your vehicle, you may not know where to find a shower. Here are some resources to find the public showers we mentioned in this article.
Shower-finding Apps and Websites
Camping apps and websites make it easy to find showers, especially at campgrounds. You can set the filters to “showers” and see what comes up near you. Here are some camping apps for you to try:
- The Dyrt
Check Out the Public Showers Directory
If you’re looking for a shower on the road, the Public Showers Directory is a great place to start. This website lists affordable or free public showers, state-by-state. You’ll find everything from truck stops to non-profits and churches offering showering facilities. This list for each state isn’t extensive, but it’s a good place to start.
Ask Locals for Insider Knowledge
Sometimes, the best way to find a public shower near your location is by asking around. Locals, such as security guards, can offer invaluable insider tips on where to find hidden gems for freshening up.
Ask in Van Life Facebook Groups
You can also join van life Facebook groups to ask for tips on particular areas. Van lifers are helpful and will let you know where to take a warm shower if they have a tip!
We Hope you Find the Public Shower Options for Life on the Go
Living without your own shower can be a jarring beginning to van life, but there are so many options. I just love going to hot springs or RV mineral springs resorts to have a long soak and a shower. Baths are one of the top things I miss on the road, so these are great options to add a little luxury to my lifestyle.
Where do you like to shower?
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