Living On The Road: Showering Outside

Something we recently discovered was showering outside our rig. Like most RVs, ours came with an outside shower. But we never used it except to wash the dogs or rinse something off. We kept waiting for the right combination of circumstances to be able to shower outside: weather and privacy. It wasn’t until we arrived in Hurricane, UT that the stars aligned. The weather warmed up and our boondocking site positioned the outside shower side of the Toaster away from traffic. Our slide also acts like a wall and sheltered us from curious eyes and chilly wind.

Our "shower curtain".

Why Shower Outside?

I love standing outside in the sunlight showering. Showering indoors is a chore, but when I shower outside it’s freeing and invigorating. And the views are usually amazing! It also happens to be more practical to shower outside because our hot water heater tank in the kitchen (which supplies the outside shower water) is a 3 gallon tank and heating that up takes around 20 minutes rather than our 7 gallon tank in the bathroom that takes around 40 minutes to heat. As I mentioned in my previous shower post, we don’t use anywhere close to 7 gallons to shower. So, from an electricity usage standpoint it makes more sense to heat up the smaller hot water heater to shower with. Any hot water that’s left will then be used to wash dishes.

Did I mention that the views are nicer than inside our shower stall?

Did I mention that the views are nicer than inside our shower stall?

What’s Our Outside Shower Setup?

Jerud and I are still debating if we want to get a folding table so in the meantime we’re using what we’ve got for our outside shower setup. In place of a table to put our soap and shampoo, we use the blue bins that we have in the back of the truck that hold tools, recycling, and whatnot. We stack two up so it’s high enough to reach our shower stuff. Sure it’s not pretty, and yes I’d love to have a pretty setup, but it gets the job done. We place our camp chair next to our “table” to hold our towels and clothes. The most important question is what do we stand on? We didn’t want to stand directly on the ground because our feet would get muddy/sandy and the water would splash back up covering our legs with dirt. We also didn’t want to buy something to stand on but rather use what we already have. A tarp was the best solution we came up with (for now). We place one of our tarps on the ground to stand on while we shower. The tarp collects the water and after we’ve showered we pick it up by the corners and scatter the water across the ground away from the Toaster.

Our outside shower setup.

Leave No Trace

One of the things we keep in mind when it comes to showering outside is minimizing our impact on the public lands that we stay on. We practice Leave No Trace all the time, whether it’s boondocking with the Toaster, hiking, or cycling - and showering outside is no exception. In general we like to use shampoos and soaps that are made of natural ingredients. Between the two of us we use: Dr. Bonners (soap); diluted vinegar (conditioner); baking soda and water (shampoo); C & Co. All Natural Body Goods (soap); and Lush (shampoo bar). But keep in mind that just because it’s a natural ingredient and biodegradable, it doesn’t automatically mean it’s safe to be discarded straight onto the dirt ground. For example, soaps or shampoos that contain a lot of salt aren’t good for soil, especially in arid areas where the salt level is already high. Also, a big misconception is that biodegradable soaps/shampoos are safe to use in lakes, rivers, creeks, etc. NOT TRUE. Biodegradable ingredients need soil to properly break down and some of those ingredients are harmful to the water, aquatic plants and animals (check out the links below for more info). 

Jerud showering outside.

We don’t shower outside if we’re less than 200 ft. from a body of water (creek, river, lake, etc.) – luckily in this case it’s rare that we park the Toaster anywhere near that close to water. We scatter our shower water on hard ground vs. on plants. And we don’t shower outside regularly, because having anything but plain water dumped onto the soil can be harmful when done too frequently. We also never toss any of our kitchen gray water outside because of the food particles and grease that is in the water.

Do you shower outside? If not, what do you use your outside shower for?

Here are some interesting links for additional reading:


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