Thinking Outside The Box

A plastic toilet and stand-up shower is better than no toilet and no shower.

The camper build has commenced. No, the cargo trailer shell hasn’t arrived yet, but our house is starting to look like a camp store. The portable toilet, refrigerator, toilet chemical, and leveling jacks are out on the porch. The A/C unit is humming along right next to me in the office, keeping it a cool 75 in here for the last week, and the couch is taking up space in the living room. The propane grill, tank and burner for outdoor cooking are out in the shed and I spent last weekend cleaning our old Weber Q100 out for a future return to service.

I thought this week I’d cover the solutions I discovered for the shower, which is quite different than the first draft of my build plan. Seriously, we were lucky they trailer we wanted wasn’t in stock. Had I started on the build right away, I would have had all these great ideas after I spent weeks trying to make the poorly conceived first draft work! Taking time to think outside the box has definitely been worthwhile.

Thinking Outside The Box

Some elements of camper layout are dictated by convention. For Instance, all of your water, cable and electric connectors are going to be on the driver’s side of your trailer. Likewise, your septic outflow similarly needs to be on the driver’s (port for you nautical types) side of the camper. That convention dictates a lot of design elements. Camper spaces are also designed to have the door to your camper on the passenger (starboard) side. That way you’re not going in and out on the same side as your septic and electric lines.

As much as I pride myself on thinking outside the box, I got sucked into an early design by what I know. I was limiting myself by the products available at the local RV and mobile home supply shops. Nothing illustrates the evolution of that thinking like the shower.

Shower Out Of The Box

One of the first design challenges was the shower. From previous articles you already know that was one of our minimum requirements. So, I started shopping for showers. I discovered quickly that most showers were designed for homes. Showers are basically a fiberglass pan or tub with some kind of piece-together plastic or fiberglass shell. While it sounds simple, they’re both heavy and expensive. Not only that but showers are drained out the bottom and require a p-trap on the drain and a frame for the shell. To hook up that type shower I would need to drill a drain hole in the trailer floor and run a drain pipe along the trailer undercarriage. In a camper the shower drain would connect to the gray water tank. Looking into RV and camper showers, I discovered that most were simply smaller, lighter versions of what you can find at Home Depot. Either way a conventional shower added a lot of weight and a lot of work.

So I started researching camper and vandweller showers. Most of those are someone standing in pan, wrapped in a shower curtain with a sprayer. Somewhere between building walls and drilling holes in the floor was a better solution. What I finally settled on will surprise you. The perfect camper shower/tub turned out to be…a stock tank.

This stock tank will hold a 100 gallons, way more than you need for a bath and it has a built-in drain.

My first idea was simply a galvanized steel portable tank. Drill a hole in the bottom for the drain, add a shower curtain and there was our shower. Shopping around a bit, I found a bigger foam stock tank that was the size of a small bathtub at a fraction of the cost and weight. The stock tank is 51 inches long, so it fits comfortably in the bathroom space. It’s also plenty long enough for my wife to sit in if she wants to take a bath. The best part is it already has an 1 1/2” side drain installed.

The side drain meant I no longer needed to drill a drain hole in the floor of the camper. Now I could run the drain line along the inside wall. The bathroom and kitchen sink could connect to the same drain line, hidden behind the bathroom wall and kitchen sink. But that doesn’t leave enough drop for a p-trap, which keeps sewer gas from seeping in through your drains.

This one-way valve eliminates the need for a p-trap under a drain.

Enter The HEPVO Valve

There are options to a p-trap today, like the HEPVO valve. It’s a valve that lets water and air go one way but not the other. One of these on the sink and shower drain line and the only p-trap I need is under the kitchen sink. Since we’re not running septic in the drain line, I can run the drain line behind the wall, tap in the kitchen drain and put a hole for the septic connector right there and not the undercarriage of the trailer where those pipes would be exposed to crap flying up from the road.

This design also maintains my ability to install waste tanks if I feel like it in the future.

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