Camper Van Shower Plumbing Diagrams & Installation Guide

For many, installing a hot water shower is critical to van life. Not only would you be able to clean off after a long day of exploring, but having your own shower means you wouldn’t depend on staying at paid campsites or using public facilities.

When we converted our camper van, we built a convenient and functional outdoor shower system. However, installing the shower plumbing system was challenging because we had to sort through hundreds of tiny fittings to find which pieces would work for our system.

That’s why we created this post: to help you quickly build your own shower system based on our experience.

This camper van shower installation guide gives step-by-step instructions and valuable diagrams to help you along the way. And when you’re finished, you should have a shower plumbing system that resembles the diagram below.

Shower plumbing diagram for camper vans that includes connection to an electric hot water heater.
Complete shower plumbing diagram

So, if you’re ready, let’s get to it.

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Step 1: Select Fixed Water Tank Size

The first step is to decide what size water tank to feed to your shower. Typical RV water tanks range from 5-65 gallons. Whichever tank size you choose, we recommend getting Class A Custom’s ‘spouted’ water tanks. These RV tanks are made from food-grade polyethylene (PE), and the unique spouted inlet port simplifies the installation process.

Recommended Fixed Tank
Class A Customs Spouted 20 Gallon Water Tank

We also use a water tank from Class A Customs and love the strong, rigid plastic build. We recommend getting a 'spouted' water tank, which simplifies the water inlet installation process.

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Shower Water Usage Rate

A typical conservative shower uses about 3.5 gallons per person. So a 20-gallon water tank would last ~6 showers.

For more specific information, read our camper van water tanks post.

Step 2: Set Up Fixed Water Tank

Once you have your selected tank, you’ll notice up to four ports on one end of the tank. Each of these four ports has a different function:

  1. Water Inlet: Where the tank gets filled with water.
  2. Water Outlet: Where the water exits to the water pump and shower.
  3. Air Vent: Where air enters and exits the tank as water fills and drains.
  4. Drain: Where water can drain out during maintenance.
Fresh Water Tank Ports/Openings
The four ports/openings of a fixed water tank

In the diagram below, we show you how to connect the correct components to every port EXCEPT the water outlet port. The outlet port will eventually lead to the water pump and shower, but we will take care of the outlet port in Step 3.

Note: For the water inlet port, we show two different methods. One is a traditional RV water fill method with a ‘water inlet dish.’ And the other is with a ‘fill tube.’ You must decide which version to use.

Connecting various plumbing components to a fixed water tank
Setting up the water inlet, air vent, and drain port

Materials List

Installation Instructions

Air Vent Port

  1. Attach the 1/2″ Male NPT to 1/2″ hose barb to the air vent port.
  2. Fix the 1/2″ braided hose over the hose barb.
  3. Use a hose clamp to tighten the hose over the barb.

Water Inlet Port

Option 1: No connections necessary.

  1. To fill the water, insert the tank filler tube into the water tank and fill it with a hose.
  2. When finished, remove the filler tube and insert the plug.

Option 2:

  1. Attach the 1.25″ ID Hose Tubing over the water tank spout.
  2. Use the 1.5″ hose clamp to tighten the hose over the spout.
  3. Fix the other end of the hose tubing over the hose barb of the water inlet dish.

Water Drain Port

  1. Attach the drain valve into the drain port.

Step 3: Connect the Water Tank to the Water Pump

This section connects the fourth port, the water outlet, to the 12V water pump. The Blue Colored Pipes you see in the diagram below are PEX pipes and are the recommended plumbing material in camper vans & RVs. They’re lightweight, easy to cut & attach, and affordable. We use them in our van and highly recommend them for your own build.

PEX Pipe Kit (1/2")

Convenient all-in-one plumbing kit. Includes blue & red 1/2" PEX pipe, ring clasps, brass fittings, and assembly tools. Everything you need to get started ASAP.

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Below is the 1st half of the plumbing diagram from the fixed water tank to the pump. We will connect the pump to the shower later in the next step.

Connecting the fixed water tank to the 12V water pump.
Connecting fixed water tank to pump

Good to know: A pump silencer muffles the noise emitted from the pump by reducing the vibration intensity. Two silencer tubes are provided in the kit. One tube is installed before the filter, and the second is installed after the pump.

Materials List

Installation Instructions

  1. Attach 1/2″ Male NPT to 1/2″ PEX to the water outlet port.
  2. Crimp PEX pipe onto 1/2″ PEX fitting.
  3. Crimp PEX pipe onto 1/2″ PEX to 1/2′ Male NPT.
  4. Attach 1/2″ Male NPT to the pump silencer tube.
  5. Fix the pump silencer tube to the pump filter.
  6. Attach pump filter to the water pump.

Step 4: Pump to Water Heater & Shower Head

In the final section, we connect the pump to an electric water heater and the shower head. In the middle, we will connect to a simple water mixer so that you can adjust the shower water temperature. We will follow the plumbing diagram below. Notice how cold water (with Blue PEX) enters the heater and hot water (with Red PEX) exits the heater.

Note: For this electric heater to work, you must have an electrical system with sufficient battery size and a 3000W inverter.

Connecting the 12V water pump to an electric water heater and a shower head.
Connecting pump to heater and shower head

What is an ‘accumulator’? An accumulator helps to sustain the water pressure in the system so that a more even flow of water exits to the shower & faucet. The accumulator also reduces the pump’s workload, helping prolong its life.

Materials List

Installation Instructions

To Water Heater

  1. Fix female-female adapter to the pump’s water outlet.
  2. Attach the adapter to the accumulator.
  3. Attach 2nd silencer tube to the accumulator.
  4. Fix 1/2″ Male NPT to 1/2″ PEX to silencer tube
  5. Split the PEX pipe with a 3-way PEX Tee.
  6. Attach PEX pipe to 1/2″ Female NPT swivel adapter and connect to water heater inlet.

To Shower Head

  1. Connect a swivel 1/2″ Female NPT to 1/2″ PEX to the water heater’s outlet port. Use Red PEX for hot water indication.
  2. Connect the Blue PEX and the Red PEX to the water mixing valve with more female swivel adapters.
  3. Connect the shower head hose to the mixing valve.

Step 5: Connecting 12V Water Pump to Batteries

If you use a 12V electric water pump, like what we use in our diagrams, you must connect the pump to your leisure batteries to function. The diagram below shows how to wire the pump to a 12V fuse panel, which is then connected to the batteries. You’ll see that we also wired in a simple 12V switch so that you can control when the pump is on.

Our 12V electrical post shows you how to connect this fuse panel to the leisure batteries to complete the circuit.

Wiring 12V water pump to switch and fuse panel
Wiring water pump to switch and fuse panel

Materials List

Final Thoughts: A Van Life Hot Water Shower Isn’t Fantasy

With proper planning, an outdoor camper van shower is possible. And we hope this shower installation guide simplifies the process for you.

Plumbing was our least favorite part of the van build because it was difficult to locate all the components needed to assemble the system. That’s why we created this guide: to help you quickly source all the tiny parts and fittings.

If you have any questions regarding this simple outdoor shower guide, please comment below.

Happy building!

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