The Sprinter is a model of van produced by Mercedes Benz. In many parts of the world, it is a popular choice for delivering cargo. You’ll often see it used as a commuter van as well. The reasons for its popularity have to do with its reliability, as well as the fact that it’s available in a variety of configurations.
Wheelbase options range from 144 to 170 inches and Mercedes also offers 3 different roof heights. Including one model with a roof high enough to accommodate a 6 footer standing straight up.
For these reasons, it’s also become a popular choice for those looking to embrace the van life. Many ‘vanners’ embrace the Sprinter because they believe it to be a good candidate for adding a bathroom. But is it really a good idea to add a bathroom to a Sprinter van? That’s what we’re here to find out.
Van Bathroom Basics
Here are some of the reasons people don’t add a bathroom to their van:
- Height – Ever try to stand up in a van? In the vast majority of cases, you can’t. Ever try to take a shower scrunched over? Not gonna work. So most people don’t put a shower in their van because most van roofs just aren’t high enough.
- Space – Adding a toilet/shower combination to a van is going to gobble up a pretty good chunk of real estate in the back. If your van isn’t a very long one, you may have to give up the idea of being able to spread out in the back if you want to add a bathroom.
- Water storage – A toilet and/or a shower means you’ll have to add a water tank to the van. Maybe as large as 20-25 gallons. 25 gallons of water weighs over 200 pounds. And the storage tank will take up space. Oh, and don’t forget the plumbing you’ll need to add to the van.
The good news is that, because the Sprinter Van is available with a nice high roof and because you have the option of choosing the 170-inch wheelbase, you can overcome these obstacles.
“Camper van showering may be one of the most challenging obstacles you may face, but after some time you’ll find it’s not hard at all.” – Outbound Living blog
DIY vs. Professionally Built Van Shower
- Costs – Sometimes folks have the space to add a bathroom to their van but think twice when confronted with the costs. Remember, there’s more to adding a bathroom/shower than just building walls to enclose it. You have to add plumbing, a water tank, waterproofing and more.All those things add cost. In total, you might be looking at about $3,000 (ballpark) to DIY your van bathroom. If you want it professionally done, you can pretty much double that. While that’s not a deal-breaker for some, it’s enough to make others think twice.
- Duration – Unless you have construction experience, adding a DIY van bathroom is going to be one long learning experience. Some people will be up for the challenge. But even then, planning and execution are going to take time. It’s likely to take several weeks from start to finish. And you’d better hope you get everything right.We’d recommend having it professionally done. It will probably take about a week and you won’t have to worry about a leaking toilet fouling your adventures.
- Typical Measurements – RVs the size of buses can have hotel-style bathrooms. But that’s not an option in a van. You’re going to have to make the most of every square inch. That said, the shower enclosure/bathroom should be at least 30 inches wide and equally deep to allow enough room to move while showering. With all their experience pros will typically be better at optimizing space.
What are Sprinter Van Shower Pros and Cons?
Sprinter van shower pros and cons are as follows:
DIY Van Shower Pros
- More affordable
- The satisfaction of a job well done
DIY Van Shower Cons
- The job may not be so well done
- It’s going to take a lot longer
- Having to redo things can negate any savings
Professional Van Shower Pros
- Will get done a lot faster
- Will get done right
- Work will be guaranteed (at least it should be)
Professional Van Shower Cons
- More expensive
The DIY impulse is understandable and the sense of satisfaction from a job well done can be intense. However, most people would be better off leaving things like plumbing and toilet installation to the pros if they can afford to.
How a Van Shower Works
Van showers typically occupy the same space as the toilet. (This is similar to the setup you’ll find in small hotel bathrooms, particularly in Asia.) Clean water for the shower is kept in a holding tank. Because van water tanks are limited in size, most people will run the water just enough to get wet.
Then they’ll turn it off to lather up. And then turn the water on again to rinse off. Wastewater from the shower drains into what is called ‘grey water tank’ on the bottom of the van. There it’s held until you’re able to dispose of it.
More developed campgrounds, in particular those that cater to RVs, will often provide facilities for emptying the grey water tank. Many also offer the option of emptying the ‘black water tank’ that are used to hold toilet waste. If you have both in your van you should empty the black water tank first so that the greywater is then able to cleanse the lines a bit.
Bottom Line: Is the Sprinter Van Shower Good?
Yes, the Sprinter van shower is good if you have the room in your van for it. Living the life of the vagabond can be incredibly rewarding. But it’s not always as easy and carefree as people imagine. Installing a bathroom and/or shower in your Sprinter van is going to cost some real money.
In the end, most people who do so wind up considering it money well spent. Women especially have a hard time finding discreet ways to relieve themselves while on the road and a van bathroom can make life much easier for them.
It’s not always easy to find a shower while on the road either. And so having one available in the van can be a real lifesaver and ramp up the comfort and enjoyment levels of your road trip. Even if you are well-financed and traveling with someone you are very comfortable with it’s the little things that often make the difference between a good time and a slog.
And personal hygiene certainly qualifies as one of those things. Our only word of caution would be this: unless you are an exceptionally talented do-it-yourselfer, we’d recommend leaving the installation to a pro. Since there isn’t really a lot of room for error when it comes to bathroom installations.