How to Make an Outdoor Shower

What with our RV water pump not working so well, showering has been an issue (though the daily creek swim is working just fine for the kids). See, I usually shower twice a day. I know, I know. It’s overkill and it wastes water. But ever since my Peace Corps days of taking cold bucket showers, I’ve savored my hot showers. So one of the priorities has been getting a decent shower up and running. We did that this weekend, and it’s glorious, don’tcha think?


Here’s how we did it, adapting ideas from around the internet.

First, we located a relaxing, private site behind the RV and under a tree. Too much water can rot out the roots of a Coast Live Oak, so we had made sure it wasn’t too close and had good drainage on a slope that would take water away from the tree.


We wanted our shower space to have a round, organic shape, so we plotted out the site by hammering in a pole and marking a radius with a rope.


With a pick ax, we started digging. Because we were on a slope, we had to dig into the hill to make a level place. Easier said than done.


Most of the ground was rock, which immediately got us working up a good sweat and, thus, a need for that good shower. We took turns hacking away, with moral support from the peanut gallery.


Once the level told us we had a nice flat spot, we tamped down the ground to make it firm and even.


We added garden border to contain the space. We did think twice about using plastic in the ground, but opted to use it in spite of our plastic aversion, since the site is on a slope and we wanted to keep everything neatly contained.


We lined the space with weed cover (yeah, more plastic) to prevent weeds from growing up through the rock.


For drainage, we added a layer of gravel and spread it around with a little help.


Then for some sand (the fun part).


After the sand was smoothed out and leveled (checking again with the level), we used retaining wall bricks to create a bench for leg shaving (yes, I still do that, unlike in the Peace Corps) that would also contain the higher part of the slope. We put in the outdoor shower that I’d found online and had assembled earlier. For accents, we put in some large boulders that we found on the land. We added river rock on top of the sand, paver rocks to create a little path leading up to the shower, and then put up a rattan screen. With a few over-the-door hooks, we had a place to hang our towels.


We hooked it up to the garden hose, which is attached to pipes that come down from our spring-fed holding tanks up the hill. Believe it or not, the gravity-fed water gave us more pressure than the lame pump in the RV. The portable propane tankless water heater arrives tomorrow. But in the mean time, the dark hose sitting out in the sun gave Mauricio the first hot, albeit short, shower, which not only beat the RV shower, but pretty much any other shower we’ve ever had.


Now on to figuring out a better toilet sitch. RV toilet—not my thing, either.