Hot Water Systems For Camping With Your Van

Man taking a hot shower in his campervan

There’s nothing quite like having a hot shower after a long day on the road. While you might think of getting hot water in your van as being a luxury, it’s much easier than you think. There are different ways of heating water on the road, whether you opt for a solar shower or install a proper water heater. 

Either way, adding some more home comforts to your van is not as difficult as it sounds. While you’re setting up your bathroom or kitchen in your van, this guide will help you understand what you need for a hot water system and the options that are available.

Components of a Hot Water System

If you’re interested in setting up a hot water system in your van, here are the components you’ll need to look at getting for your plumbing system.

Water Tank

You’ll need to be able to hold or store water for your van plumbing system. There are a couple of different ways of storing water in vans, depending on your budget and van layout. 

You’ll first want to think about how much water you think you want to be able to hold in your van. You might not need too much if it’s just for drinking and cooking, but you’ll want to hold much more if you plan on having showers as well.

Different styles of water tanks:

  • Portable tanks/compartments: A basic and easier to fit style of water tank is a Jerry can which fits inside your van. Many vanlifers on a tight budget use a couple of 20L Jerry Cans as their water storage and then store them under the sink or in a cupboard inside the van. This way they are portable, and you can easily remove them to refill at water taps. (Portable Jerry Cans are also handy to use to store your dirty water!)
  • Plastic freshwater tank: A neater and more advanced option is having a large plastic tank fitted underneath the van (or other convenient location) with a water filler usually cut into the side of the external van wall. These tanks come in different shapes and sizes, but 45L and 60L are popular standard sizes. This requires a bit more work to install, but can mean a greater capacity and easier refilling while on the road.

Water Pump/Pressure Pump

Your water pump is a vital aspect of your hot water system in your van. The pump’s job is to pressurise and push the water from your tank to the tap or shower head, so you can enjoy flowing water on demand.

Different types of water pumps:

  • Manual water pumps: These don’t require any electricity and instead rely on you pumping the water with your hand or foot. Installing these kinds of pumps is easy and budget friendly, however, they don’t work too well if you want to pump lots of water for a shower or full sink.
  • Electric pressure pump: This is the most common water pump used in vans. They are usually powered by your 12 volt battery and start automatically when you open the tap or shower head. It provides on demand water just like you get at home, so it’s very convenient.

Water Heater

If you’re excited about the thought of getting hot water onboard your home on wheels, then you’ll need to go out and get a water heater. There are a few different types of hot water systems for camping, and it will all depend on what kind of set-up you’re going for.

Different types of water heaters:

  • Solar showers: Solar heated water is one of the most basic forms of water heating for your van and is popular in budget friendly set-ups. These are affordable but separate to your van’s water system. They are generally black bags which you leave outside in direct sunlight until the water has heated to your liking. They’re an easy way of having an outdoor camp shower while on the road.
  • Gas powered hot water system: If you want something more sophisticated, you can have a gas-powered hot water system in your van. These LPG gas hot water system units use LPG gas cylinders to heat the water via coils and burners. This means you don’t have to rely on electricity or battery power for your hot water, but you may need a professional to install the gas lines.
  • Electric/12v powered hot water system: If you prefer to run on battery power or mains power when you’re plugged in, you can opt for an electric water heater for your van. These 12V hot water system units can be dual voltage with the ability to switch between 240v and 12v for hot water wherever you are.

Other Plumping System Accessories

Once you’ve worked out your hot water system for your van, you can start to plan for other important accessories such as a kitchen sink and shower head.

Sink and Tap

A kitchen sink and tap are essential components for any van kitchen. This will help you wash the dishes, hand wash clothes or refill drink bottles in your home on wheels. 

Once you have a water tank and water pump installed, you can connect them to your sink and tap in your kitchen. This means you’ll be able to get flowing water through your kitchen tap on-demand.

While you can opt for a range of sinks, stainless-steel is one of the most durable and food safe materials you can get for a sink. Check out this stainless steel kitchen sink for your van.

Shower Head

Now that you have your hot water system figured out, you’ll be able to install your shower! One of the most challenging parts of vanlife is having to go without a hot shower for some time, especially if you enjoy getting off the beaten track or free camping. But with a hot water system, you’ll be able to enjoy a shower anywhere, after a long day on the road.

There are a variety of different shower heads and shower systems that you can purchase for your van. It all depends on whether you’re planning on having a shower and bathroom inside your van or opting to save space with an outdoor shower.

Different types of showers

  • Indoor shower: If you want to go big and install an indoor shower in your van, you’ll have to get creative with how it will fit, the layout and the technical aspects such as waterproofing and tiling. However, it can be an absolute luxury to have onboard and it goes perfectly with any hot water system.
  • Outdoor shower: For saving space, you can easily install an outdoor camp shower for your van. An exterior shower outlet will work with any hot water system and plumping set-up to provide water to the outside. This outdoor shower head is secured with suction clamps when needed to the external wall of your van with continuous water flow on-demand.

Wastewater Storage

One component many vanlifers don’t think about is their wastewater. All water waste such as dirty water from washing dishes, is called grey water and it should be collected and disposed of correctly.

There are grey water tanks similar to clean water tanks where you can collect your wastewater separately and then dispose of it at dump points or caravan parks. 

Note: This is different to black water which refers to your sewerage system.

Buying Hot Water Systems

If you want to get started on installing your hot water system in your van, then there are some helpful packages that you can purchase which provide key components you’ll need together. 

Check out these water heater and water pump combinations:

RedRock Portable 6L Gas Water Heater + 70PSI Pressure Pump

RedRock Portable 6 L Gas Water Heater + 70PSI Pressure Pump

If you want to easily install a hot shower on your van, this RedRock package comes with everything that you need. The 6L water heater will deliver enough hot water for a shower or to wash your dishes. It can run off both LPG and battery power with a 12v water pump so you’ll be able to have a shower off grid.

The package includes a 12v water pump, 6L water heater and premium shower head with a 1500mm hose, as well as the washers, gas connector, and Teflon tape which you’ll need to install it.

Premium Kit – Duoetto MK2 Water Heater + SEAFLO 42 Series

Premium Kit - Duoetto MK2 Water Heater + SEAFLO 42 Series

On the upper end of the price spectrum, this Dual Voltage Water Heater and Water Pump package is perfect if you’re looking for high quality and long-lasting hot water. The 10L water heater can run off either 12v or 240v, so you can power it from your battery while off grid and enjoy plenty of hot water for your shower.

It also comes with a high quality water pump (11.3L 55PSI), so you can pump the water into your shower and kitchen sink on-demand.

Getting Hot Water Isn’t As Difficult As You Think

We hope this article has convinced you that having a hot shower in your van is easier than you think. Whether you opt for an easier solar shower option or install a fully functioning outdoor shower with a water heater, you’ll be able to enjoy a hot shower no matter where you are on the road.

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