I’m a woman living a camper van without running water in the dead of winter. How do I do it and still be fresh and well groomed for a 9 to 5 job? It’s time to talk logistics. I’m not only going to talk about grooming, but also matters of functional sanitation and the like. So if your sensibilities are especially delicate, I suggest you refrain from reading the rest of this post and patiently await the next one. Otherwise, brace yourself for a little TMI.
My RV is fully winterized, meaning that all the tanks and lines have been drained and replaced with antifreeze. This protects pipes and tanks against freezing which would result in expensive damages to my system and ruin my Spring. After an RV is winterized, it is usually at this point that owners put their RV into storage or park it in their yard until the weather gets warm. Not me!
Since I do not have the luxury and convenience of indoor plumbing, I have quickly found ways to get around it. For showers, I go to the gym six days a week. I make the most of my time there by going extra early to exercise for 30 minutes to an hour. After my shower, I bake myself in the sauna to clear my head for 10 – 15 minutes and usually pray at least one Hail Mary and Our Father for the last five. It keeps me grounded for the day. Then I head back into the shower for a one-minute Arctic blast to cool down my system. I get dressed and head off to work, right around the corner.
I must say that in choosing this lifestyle, you can’t be germaphobic or unwilling to shed some germaphobic tendencies that you may harbor. With the exception of the occasional visit to friends and family, all of the toilets, sinks and showers I have used have been public. This is not to say that I have absolutely no fear of germs and pathogens. I do. I just take simple steps to avoid excessive contact with either of them. Outside of work and the gym, I only go to public restrooms that are clean and well maintained. A double layer of toilet paper line the seats and a few squares in the bowl to avoid splash backs… My apologies to tree lovers! I always wash my hands afterwards and never grip any handles or doorknobs without paper.
At the gym, I bring along a strong water-bleach solution in a spray bottle to sanitize my usual shower stall, towel hangers, and sauna bench before I go upstairs to work out. Most of the bad germies are dead by the time I return to lather up. The idea came to me when I couldn’t find flip-flops in stores during the cold season to use in the showers. I’m much happier with using bleach spray instead. So far, no athlete’s foot… Win!
Late at night when most places are closed, I do not venture outside my camper to find a public restroom. It’s not safe and it’s super inconvenient, especially if I’m already in my pajamas. That’s why I have instituted third world techniques to get my business done. In my sink, is a gallon jug of spring water for drinking and oral hygiene and a container of antibacterial hand wipes. Hidden under my sink are two 64oz plastic containers from the local dollar store that act as substitute “liquid waste” tanks for my rig. That’s right… pee jugs. This is something that men have been using in cars since the creation of plastic bottles.
Since I am female and not male, putting my little tanks to use in the same manner as a man would pose a challenge. I first tried using a Go Girl, an apparatus that would allow for a woman to go like a man, but I couldn’t bring myself to stand and go. It just felt so unnatural… I may be a little rough around the edges, but I’m still a woman, damn it! Also, I feared to have urine roll down my legs and unto my stain free carpet.
A solution was found to my problem. I went out to a medical supply store and bought a pink fracture bed pan. When nature calls (numero uno), I place it on the floor in a medium sized, rectangular plastic wash basin and then crouch over it like a cat in a litter box. When I am done, used toilet paper gets tossed in the garbage and the contents of the bed pan get carefully poured into one of the holding containers. This is done over the washbasin to avoid any spills on the carpet. The bedpan is sprayed down with white vinegar solution, wiped dry and stored away. I clean my hands with sanitary wipes and continue on with my evening. I empty the containers as needed (usually every 5 days) at the dump station or a secluded bush under the cloak of night. I like to replace the containers with new ones at least once a month.
For bathroom emergencies (the dreaded numero duet), I just go ahead and use my toilet… GASP! I make sure that afterwards, I flush everything down with a good amount of antifreeze, which I have handy to prevent the waste from freezing. I picked up this very helpful tip from JC at Longview the day I had my rig winterized. I only had to resort to this twice, coincidently around my indulgences the week of Thanksgiving.
That time of the month isn’t as difficult to handle as I thought it would be. The chance for messy mistakes can be high if I’m not on top of things during my heavy days. Since I love the aqua velour upholstery throughout my camper, ruining it would be unacceptable! I usually like to use a super plus tampon in tandem with a pad, but I’ve been using a Diva Cup instead since moving into my van. I find that using one really simplifies things and is way more economical. It holds more liquid for longer periods of time and therefore, less bathroom changes are needed during the day and night. The downside is that they can take getting used to in the beginning, but by the next cycle, you’ll find them easier to use. There is also a chance of leakage if you don’t insert them properly or leave them in for too long. It’s always a good idea to wear a pad as a back up when your flow is heavy. I also like to place a towel under me when I go to sleep.
Keeping my beauty routine was easy. I kept my hair’s natural, African texture and had it dreadlocked in a feminine style. Though I choose to go to the salon once a month, it’s a simple style that I could maintain myself when I finally go on the road. I find this style more favorable than when I had my hair chemically straightened years ago. Simple is always best. Woe to the black gypsy with high-maintenance hair who finds herself without a qualified salon in the remote corners of South Dakota!
My skincare is low-maintenance, as well. I like to shower with Suave shampoo because it’s chemically identical to body wash, only cheaper! I tone my skin with witch hazel and moisturize with facial lotion by Lacura, a low cost, high quality skincare line that can be found at any Aldi’s grocery store. I then lotion my body from the neck down using a somewhat pricey body cream, CeraVe… my one “splurge”. I mix in as much liquid MSM in the jar as I can get away with to keep my skin tight during weight loss.
Day & night Cream and a water optional cleanser
I usually don’t wear a lot of make-up. I’ll fill in my eyebrows, line my eyelids and apply some mascara. I dust my cheeks with blush in a natural hue and put on some lipstick… usually coral pink. Yes, pink can really look beautiful on women of darker shades, especially mocha ones! I find that it gives me a youthful glow, so I stick with it. At night, I use eye make-up remover for my mascara and Walgreens make-up remover wipes for the rest of my face. I’ll follow up with cleansing using Walmart’s version of Cetphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, tissue it all off, tone with witch hazel and moisturize with Lacura night cream. The routine is easy and effective, no running water needed!
Side note: Going to the gym regularly is an unexpected benefit of my new lifestyle. I’ve never consistently gone to the gym for this length of time before. I do so because I have to and I am glad for it! I have so much energy at work and my body is much stronger and supple. I’d like to add that anyone living in a camper would have a lot to gain from working out. At least twice a day, I have to stretch my whole body over into the cockpit to pick up my 25 pound gym bag on the passenger side floor and it feels easy to do so. I’m 40 pounds overweight and there was a time picking up a bag in this manner would feel like a strain. Since I rarely enter and exit my home via the side door, I constantly have to jump back and forth over my storage box between the seats, which separate the cockpit from the house part of the van. I always have to keep good balance while hopping in and out of my vehicle, which is somewhat high off the ground. It is important to be able to easily navigate in and around my rig. I also have changed my eating habits by eating low-carb. Though I’ve cheated several times, I still feel great. Simplified life realization: Our health is our wealth!