Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Add A Shower To Your Van... It's Easy And Really Slick

Yes... It's for real!  I had to do it just to prove it works.  The Stealth Van is now equipped with a real hot water shower that beats the heck out of a bug sprayer with a gallon of luke warm water.  Click on the link and check out all the details and see how I did it. 
Adding A Shower To Your Van
Photos by: Curtis Carper

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Brilliant!

Frank said...

Great job, I was looking for something like this, but i went with the largest plastic storage bin could find at Wal-Mart.

I was wondering if it was possible to do something like this with a low top van. I turned to an old photo from sportsmobile it showed the penthouse roof down on the campervan, but still showed the owner sitting down in the tub showing how you could still bathe even with the top down. she looked more relaxed sitting down.

I use a marine pump to get the water out of the tub and into a five gallon sealed lid bucket from Lowe's. It looks like a tire pump for a bike, It's a manual pump no power needed but only have to pump a few times since it's only 4-1/2 gallons of water i use. The tub is drained fast and the bucket dumped when I'm done with my bath.

I heat the water with the www.Zodi.com portable propane hot water heater first with the heater outside of course. The hot water stays inside the van and I now have no need for a public shower saves a ton of money no health club, just fast walk the malls for good health, swim, kayak, and hike all for free.

You have such great ideas, you keep putting stealth vanning back into "Stealth", van dwelling back into "Dwelling", and put camp locations back into "Camping" even when camping is in the city, or Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Hotel Lots, or both Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzerd Beach Water Parks in Florida, Cloud Nine, you get it.

Will keep reading, keep cool man, Frank.

Curtis Carper said...

Thanks Frank, I considered the Zodi in the past, but when I got wind of the Eccotemp L5 it was a no brainer for me. I had to jump on it and get one set up.

Ceasar91706 said...

I love your shower set up. I being thinking of adding a shower to my 08 Dodge Caravan.. I think I will try this on my minivan or on my next Dodge Sprinter (2012). I love the home-luxuries of cooking, showers and toilet of RV's but hate the high prices and size of them. I know class B recreasional vehicles are smaller but they are too pricey. All I really miss when camping are the hot showers :-)

-Heidi said...

Excellent!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm new to this stuff and I really love this web-site. I have one question. Where do all the stealth van dwellers get their water for bathing AND drinking?

Curtis Carper said...

Water can be gotten in many ways, public water faucets,parks, way side rests. For showers you can use water from a river. I'd stick to bottled water for drinking though.

Anonymous said...

Hi Curtis,

I read your article about the portable showers and though I’d send along my two-cents. Over the past 2 years I’ve field test both the Coleman Hot Water on Demand and the single tank Zodi.

First the Coleman unit; don’t waste your money, it’s pure junk. I returned 3 of them to the Canadian Tire store where I got them all within an 8 month period, None of them lasted more than 3 months of light duty use. The batteries are garbage and to get another one you have to order it. I only used each unit 1-2 times a week so it’s not like I was using them to wash the van. I’m surprised Canadian Tire still sells them because the manager who refunded my 3rd (and final!) one said they had many people returning the Coleman units.

Now for the Zodi; I’ve been using this one for about 15 months. It’s fairly reliable but I’ve had issues with it also.

1 – Within 3 weeks the pump failed and I could find nothing visually wrong with. I even took it apart as far as I could to inspect it. And since the Zodi is in Utah and I’m in Alberta, good luck getting a free replacement without paying shipping. Luckily the store where I bought it had some used Zodi pumps from other units that were returned for OTHER reasons. They gave me a working pump no charge since it had only been 3 weeks. By the way, I emailed Zodi directly TWICE and got no reply either time. Even the salesman at the store told me that if you send in your warranty registration then Zodi won’t even talk to. Turns out he was right. I thought I had 30 days to send it but I could be wrong.

2 – The hinges on the battery pump broke almost a year to the day I bought the unit. I managed to keep it working by wrapping an elastic Velcro strap around the lid and the case to keep enough tension on it so the batteries inside make contact.

3 – Using new batteries means the pump works a bit too fast for the heater to catch up and I end up having to let it run for about 5 minutes so the water can circulate enough through the jug to pass through the heater a few times to warm it up enough for a warm shower. Obviously it is quicker to heat the water in the summer since the water in the jug is much warmer than the winter. After about 3-4 showers the batteries wear down enough that the pump isn’t outpacing the heater.

4 – Almost every time I unpack it and set it up, I literally have to “kick start it” by pressing the pump button 3-4 times and squeezing the intake and outflow hoses to get the water flowing.

Up here in Alberta here’s what these units sell for:
Coleman - $150 ON SALE (reg. $300 if you’re dumb enough to buy it at that price).
Zodi - $240 (I could only find one store that carries it and it’s never on sale).

The Bottom Line:
I will never again buy either one of these units or anything else like them. They are overpriced and cheaply made, and they simply don’t last.

My Solution:
Once the Zodi “dies” and I can’t fix it, I’m simply going to use a single burner portable propane stove to heat some water and then funnel it into a solar shower bag (total of around $40 if you had to buy them new). I’ve already got 2 shower bags and the stove, so I figure I can get the about the same amount of showers for a small bottle of propane as I can if I were to buy 8 D-cell batteries for the Zodi. And the propane is less than HALF the price. Oh, and I can melt the icy water in the winter much easier with the propane stove & bottle combo than I ever could with either the Coleman or the Zodi. Try melting ice to a comfortable shower temperature with one of those units. It ain’t going to happen!

My shower bags & stove will take up a lot less space, weight and fuss. There are virtually no parts to break unless you attack them with a hammer and screw driver.

Cheers,

Mike in Alberta

justin said...

i have a gmc 3500 regular length van 2002 model. cargo van. 5.7 engine.

i have to work out of town sometimes and the pay doesnt justify a motel. the job requires i wear a suit and i have to be fresh and showered!

i also need to sleep in the van and eat a few snacks...or simple meals.

but the catch is..i need to also keep it a cargo van for hauling gear at my other job.

so this shower seems great!

my question is..what about the steam from the shower? how should one vent this setup? how about the fog??? a nifty vent would be handy?

also, i know the tankless water heater and propane isnt supposed to be used inside..but would most people do it anyway?
the location i am working would freak out if they knew someone was sleeping in a van all night. let alone taking a shower!! i would need to stay concealed in the van and take a shower with the door closed!

and what about having to drill holes in the van floor for stuff?

and what about battery life. would the battery that cranks my engine run down over a shower drawing power?

thanks!
nice shower!!

justin said...

i have a gmc 3500 regular length van 2002 model. cargo van. 5.7 engine.

i have to work out of town sometimes and the pay doesnt justify a motel. the job requires i wear a suit and i have to be fresh and showered!

i also need to sleep in the van and eat a few snacks...or simple meals.

but the catch is..i need to also keep it a cargo van for hauling gear at my other job.

so this shower seems great!

my question is..what about the steam from the shower? how should one vent this setup? how about the fog??? a nifty vent would be handy?

also, i know the tankless water heater and propane isnt supposed to be used inside..but would most people do it anyway?
the location i am working would freak out if they knew someone was sleeping in a van all night. let alone taking a shower!! i would need to stay concealed in the van and take a shower with the door closed!

and what about having to drill holes in the van floor for stuff?

and what about battery life. would the battery that cranks my engine run down over a shower drawing power?

thanks!
nice shower!!

Curtis Carper said...

Justin, Steam isn't that much of an issue because you take your shower by turning on the water only to wet down then turn it off while you soap up, and on again to rinse. With a roof vent what moisture there is will dissipate.
No, I wouldn't use this type of setup with the door closed. It would be both a fume hazard and a fire hazard.
Battery life running a pump for water flow wouldn't be an issue. The electrical draw would be short in duration. The spark for the water heater is provided by 2 D cell batteries, it's a stand alone item. I don't understand the question on drilling holes? Mostly I think you need to find a better place to park. You need more privacy.

Anonymous said...

i took your idea and added a little class. its not done, i still need to fiber glass the inside but here are some pics of the structure and my living space.http://www.facebook.com/album.php?id=581148815&aid=124094

Anonymous said...

hi can i use your image of the heater in teh back of the van on a english web site lease regards Ian ian@jeepcity.co.uk

Joseph said...

I think that's a great idea. If you have a mobile home, consider installing a shower. I suggest you install water heater as well. That'll be a good idea for winter season.

reliance water heater

Soulmates said...

Justin, I have a sit down shower setup in my Toyota town ace van, which is probably the smallest van in existence. I use a hot water system that goes through a heat exchanger connected to the heater. I have a 30 liter water container with a submerged pump and turn the pump on for 10 minutes before i want a shower (either while I am driving or parked). The water is very warm and if you want it warmer just allow more time. No need for flame. I keep my doors closed and have a nice shower. With 30 liters I have enough time to wash my hair twicw and the flow is almost that of a home system (no trickle) and on all the time (not turn off after soaping up. The other fuel based heater units posted here are a waste of time and money (sorry). I will put links to the system I use at the end of the post. My pump is DC car cigarette outlet powered unit, and I use a booster power pack to run it so as not to drain my van battery (the kind used to jump start your car). The heat exchanger is underneath the van and I have ran hoses to the inside of the back of the van (drilled a couple of holes). You don't have to have your car heater on for the exchanger to heat up your shower water.This is, in my opinion, the best method of a stealth van shower. I lived in my van for three years of freedom using it. They are available in Australia, but I am sure you can get then to deliver to USA etc.

http://www.helton.com.au/page/helton_vehicle_shower.html
This is the one I use. 3 years and going strong. Just a tip. Don't leave the pump submerged after you refill the tank (i keep my tank filled), as you wil go through pumps. Or you could go for a more expensive pump and have no probs.


http://www.australiandirect.com.au/buy/in-vehicle-shower-kit-blue-heat-exchanger/BlueKit


http://www.glind.com.au/

Soulmates said...

Justin, I have a sit down shower setup in my Toyota town ace van, which is probably the smallest van in existence. I use a hot water system that goes through a heat exchanger connected to the heater. I have a 30 liter water container with a submerged pump and turn the pump on for 10 minutes before i want a shower (either while I am driving or parked). The water is very warm and if you want it warmer just allow more time. No need for flame. I keep my doors closed and have a nice shower. With 30 liters I have enough time to wash my hair twicw and the flow is almost that of a home system (no trickle) and on all the time (not turn off after soaping up. The other fuel based heater units posted here are a waste of time and money (sorry). I will put links to the system I use at the end of the post. My pump is DC car cigarette outlet powered unit, and I use a booster power pack to run it so as not to drain my van battery (the kind used to jump start your car). The heat exchanger is underneath the van and I have ran hoses to the inside of the back of the van (drilled a couple of holes). You don't have to have your car heater on for the exchanger to heat up your shower water.This is, in my opinion, the best method of a stealth van shower. I lived in my van for three years of freedom using it. They are available in Australia, but I am sure you can get then to deliver to USA etc.

http://www.helton.com.au/page/helton_vehicle_shower.html
This is the one I use. 3 years and going strong. Just a tip. Don't leave the pump submerged after you refill the tank (i keep my tank filled), as you wil go through pumps. Or you could go for a more expensive pump and have no probs.


http://www.australiandirect.com.au/buy/in-vehicle-shower-kit-blue-heat-exchanger/BlueKit


http://www.glind.com.au/

rogersteen said...

I think most of us would like to have the permanent propane shower, but I've already filled up my van with things like a full-size single bed and an inflatable kayak. So here's what I've found to be the simplest (and FASTEST) way of staying squeaky clean: Wash your body (just like your face) with a soapy microfiber cloth, using a solar shower hung up inside the van for wetting/rinsing the cloth over a plastic dishpan, plus gallon jugs refilled at a Glacier water machine. Works great. I can heat the water on my stove if I'm feeling ambitious, or just use cool water and pretend I'm Lewis and Clark (they didn't bring propane on their trip).

I've been traveling the western states for a year, living full time in a pretty well equipped Ford cargo van. I was going for “maximum freedom and minimal possessions” and I wanted to keep costs down and make everything easy to get to. I wrote an ebook about putting a road trip van together:
http://roger-steen.squarespace.com
Happy trails,
Roger