Why I Chose NOT to Have a Sprinter Van with a Bathroom

Check out the reasons why some van lifers chose on whether or NOT to have a Sprinter Van with a bathroom.

A man and a woman standing with their black dog near the entry door to a camper van.

When my husband, Tom, and I started shopping for our dream Sprinter van conversion, we had to decide on must-haves in the layout. One of those decisions was whether or not we wanted to have a Sprinter van with a bathroom (interior shower and toilet).

After debating and exploring various layout options, we came up with multiple reasons not to have a bathroom in our Sprinter van. Although we have an exterior spray station, we do not have a shower or a toilet.

In this article, I’ll explain the reasons behind our decision and include quotes from other van lifers on whether or not they chose to have a bathroom in their rig. I’ll also dive into the pros of having a Sprinter van with a bathroom to help you decide if it’s right for your ideal layout and travel style. 

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Cons of a Bathroom in Your Sprinter Van

After careful consideration, we ultimately decided we did not want a Sprinter van with a bathroom. These cons are the main reasons behind our choice.

1. Less living space

sprinter van interior showing the bathroom with shower
Photo Credit: Elly Summers @summers_on_the_road

We decided not to have a bathroom in our Sprinter van due to the space an interior shower and toilet take up within the build.

Tom and I live full-time in a Sprinter 144” wheelbase with our dog, so we already don’t have much room to spread out. Since Tom is 6’5”, we had to get a bed in our van that is oriented lengthwise rather than across the width (he’s so tall that he couldn’t fit side-to-side in a Sprinter van even with flares).

Because our bed takes up more space than most, this limited what we could do with the rest of our layout. Besides the garage space under the bed, we only have room for overhead storage on one side of our bed, a kitchen galley, and one bench seat with storage underneath. 

If we had chosen to have a shower, our kitchen galley would be half the size. I’m unsure where we would have fit our pots and pans, plates and bowls, refrigerator, grey water tank, trash can, and food for our pantry. We would also have no counter space since we have a sink and induction stove.

My friend Isabella Janssen (@thelonesol), a solo female van lifer, feels the same about her decision not to put a bathroom in her Sprinter van DIY build. “There is not enough space in my 144”, and I didn’t want to have that space taken up when I knew I wouldn’t use it. An outdoor shower was the move!”

If you’re a solo van lifer with a longer wheelbase Sprinter van, you may have extra space for a toilet and interior shower. It just doesn’t make sense to sacrifice the limited space on a shower in a 144” Sprinter van.

2. Requires more water

woman taking a shower showing her hand

When you have a Sprinter van with a bathroom, you use more water from your water tank and have to refill the tank more often.

The water tank in our Sprinter van holds 20 gallons. We use this water primarily for dishes, washing hands, brushing teeth, and cooking meals.

We also carry a separate 5-gallon portable tank for drinking water and coffee. Between two people trying to use water conservatively, these 25 gallons usually last about 5-7 days before we need to refill.

If we had an interior shower and flushable toilet that we used frequently, we’d need to refill our water every 2-3 days. We prefer dispersed campsites and stay off-grid for as long as possible before returning to town, so it wouldn’t work for us to refill our water that often.

Sam and Whitney (@back2naturevan) are a van life couple with a toilet in their Sprinter van but no shower. “We chose not to go for the shower as they take up a ton of space inside the van, plus the excess moisture, and amount of water you’d need to carry.”

If you’re the kind of traveler who likes to stay at campgrounds with easy access to water fill-ups, this may not be as big of an issue. 

3. Build is more expensive

sprinter van interior showing the bathroom area with shower
Photo Credit: Elly Summers @summers_on_the_road

Van conversions that include a full bath (shower and toilet) tend to cost significantly more than those without a bath. As first-time van buyers, we realized how quickly costs add up and didn’t want to add one more thing to our bill. 

We also heard stories of many van lifers regretting their decision to get a bathroom in their van because they hardly ever used it. These stories made us reluctant to spend the extra money on something we may not even need or use often. 

Depending on the toilet, those can be more affordable to purchase independently. We figured we could always get a cassette or composting toilet later if we decided to have a toilet in our van.

4. Unnecessary due to other options

sprinter van showing a closet with a bathroom
Photo Credit: Sydney @sydneysjourney_

Although we don’t have a bathroom in our Sprinter van, that doesn’t mean we don’t prefer to use toilets and showers instead of relying on a hole in the ground or body wipes. When we started researching van life, we felt relieved to learn about the plethora of options for showers and toilets on the road, including public facilities and exterior shower heads.

We learned that we could use toilets at gas stations and public parks (where we work most of the time). For showers, iOverlander has a feature where you can apply a filter to the map and see nearby showers in an area. Before we got a Planet Fitness membership, we used this to look for recreation centers and campgrounds where we could pay to shower.

When we spent the winter months in Arizona, we decided to sign up for a Planet Fitness membership for a few months. At $20/month for a membership with a guest pass, it’s a no-brainer when traveling in states or areas with Planet Fitness locations.

Sydney (@sydneysjourney_) is a solo female van lifer who has a shower in her Sprinter van but regrets her decision because it is easy to find showers while traveling: “I wish I didn’t have a shower—it takes up too much space, and I have been able to find cheap or free hot showers along the road. I’d much rather have the space!”

Sam and Whitney (@back2naturevan) also use public shower facilities and their exterior shower: ”We utilize Planet Fitness, as well as community centers for our showers. Our sink faucet also swings out of the sliding door for a quick rinse if we need it.”

We have a similar feature in our van – a shower head that attaches to our water tank out the back of our van. We have used this exterior spray station a couple of times when we’ve needed a quick rinse, but it is tricky in places where others are camping nearby. And since we don’t have a water heater, it’s pretty cold! 

5. Things can go wrong

sprinter van shower
Photo Credit: Elly Summers @summers_on_the_road

Depending on your plumbing system, there is always a chance for something to break. Although the chances of this happening might be slim, it could lead to expensive repairs or damage to your van.

Sydney (@sydneysjourney_) has a flush toilet in her van and dislikes it so much that she plans to swap it out for something different. “I have a flush toilet and hate it! I have had so many issues with it. I can’t stay off-grid as long as I want to because I have to go and empty. The black tank has to be really small to fit under the Sprinter van. The toilet has leaked twice, and I had to get repairs done!”

She plans to replace her flush toilet with a composting toilet because they’re “more convenient, more off-grid friendly, and have fewer issues!” Sydney says she’ll always want a toilet in her van.

Different challenges come with having a shower in your van. Natalie Minas (@natminas) has a shower in her Sprinter van and has a large water tank. 

“The large water tank for the shower makes it challenging to winterize the van. It definitely ruined my water pump from some freezing temps!”

Pros of a Bathroom in Your Sprinter Van

Although our Sprinter van doesn’t have a bathroom, we recognize the advantages. Here are some reasons why some people put a shower or toilet in their rig.

1. Convenience

sprinter van showing its interior particularly the sink and bathroom areas
Photo Credit: Keith and Hannah @keithandhannahh

Although public bathrooms have showers and toilets, they are not always clean or easy to access for off-grid van lifers who don’t want to return to town to shower.

Keith and Hannah (@keithandhannahh) have a shower in their 170” wheelbase Sprinter van, and they do not regret their decision: “We like having a shower for times when we may not be close to a gym. It’s convenient to have the option.”

Elly Summers (@summers_on_the_road) is a solo van lifer who agrees with Keith and Hannah regarding the convenience of having everything you need (including a shower and toilet) on the road.

She explains, “I have a full wet bath (shower and Nature’s Head composting toilet). I love having the ability to shower and use the facilities at any time. I still use public beach showers and washrooms when possible to save water, but it’s nice to have the option when I am more remote or socially drained.”

On the other hand, Natalie Minas (@natminas) recognizes the convenience but rarely uses her shower since it’s not as enjoyable. “I also have a shower, which I find myself using much less often, although it is really nice when you just need a quick rinse. I still very much enjoy going to other places to take longer, warm showers.”

2. Multi-use

sprinter van interior showing the bathroom area and the couch
Photo Credit: Kate and Curt Gallagher @gogogallaghers

Your bathroom can have multiple uses in your van. Not only can you use it for its primary purpose of showering and using the toilet, but it can also double as a gear closet to store outdoor items that may have gotten wet and need a place to dry.

Kate and Curt Gallagher (@gogogallaghers) said they don’t use the shower in their Sprinter van often for showering but use it in other ways to accommodate their adventurous lifestyle: “We love the extra storage our ‘bathroom’ provides especially for our ski gear like wet jackets, bibs, swimwear, robes, Camelbak, etc.”

3. Privacy and safety

sprinter van interior showing the bathroom and kitchen areas
Photo Credit: Elly Summers @summers_on_the_road

When camping on land with other people and few trees or bushes to hide behind, it’s nearly impossible to use the bathroom or shower with an exterior spray station without someone seeing.

It is also pretty hard to navigate not having a toilet when stealth camping in cities or staying at Harvest Host locations after the business closes. No one wants to hold it all night!

Having a shower and toilet in your rig allows you to use them more discreetly and feel more comfortable having privacy while traveling. Keith and Hannah (@keithandhannahh) explain, “We like having a toilet because we like going to the bathroom in our own home and not having to rely on public restrooms.”

Natalie Minas (@natminas) agrees and adds that having a toilet makes her feel safer on the road. “Although I only use my toilet for #1, I am always so grateful to have it! As a solo female traveler, I feel much more safe having a toilet in my van, so I don’t need to leave the van in the middle of the night to tinkle.”

4. Low-maintenance

sprinter van interior showing the bathroom
Photo Credit: Sydney @sydneysjourney_

If you decide to have a bathroom in your Sprinter van, you can invest in something low-maintenance, especially for the toilet. 

Kate and Curt Gallagher (@gogogallaghers) said they “agreed never to go without a toilet” but didn’t want something that would be a pain to handle. That’s why they chose a composting toilet, which they say is “extremely low maintenance.”

Sam and Whitney (@back2naturevan) also have a low-maintenance toilet. “Our toilet is a cassette toilet, and we have been happy with this as well. It is a simple, affordable option that is a little step up from a bucket with a lid.

We use biodegradable chemicals that do a good job of keeping the smell down. It’s pretty simple to empty (generally at dump stations, but you can also use public toilets or porta potties).”

You may go without a full bathroom in your van and get a toilet instead. Although a toilet takes up extra space, Sam and Whitney have found it worth it: “I don’t end up using it very often, but I’m glad we have it when I need it. Whitney uses it daily, so we definitely get our money’s worth!”

Should I put a bathroom in my Sprinter van?

There are many factors to consider when determining whether or not you should get a Sprinter van with a bathroom. We ultimately decided it was not worth it due to the investment, the amount of space it takes up, and the extra water usage when there are so many public facilities readily available to travelers.

We have been living on the road full-time for nine months in our Sprinter van without a shower or a toilet. Although we can see ourselves someday adding a small toilet in our van for those moments when we really have to go, it’s doable to go without!

There are also perks to having a bathroom in your Sprinter van, especially regarding convenience and privacy. Everyone has their own needs and comfort levels, so there is nothing wrong with having a bathroom in your van if it works best for you and your travel style.

Do you have questions about whether or not to put a bathroom in your Sprinter van? Let me know in the comments below!

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