You don’t want to have to run outside in the rain or the middle of a city searching for a bathroom. Composting toilets are a comfortable way to relieve yourself when on the go. There are a number of different methods to choose from when deciding how to go to the bathroom when living in a van. Finding vault toilets, using bucket methods or the tried and true chemical toilets are also good options.
Portable composting toilet with a close-quarters spider handle design. Eco-friendly, easy to install, minimizes odor, and allows you to travel weeks without emptying.
Portable composting toilet with an easy-to-turn crank handle. Eco-friendly, easy to install, minimizes odor, and allows you to travel weeks without emptying.
Building a composting toilet into your campervan conversion is a good way to feel at home and reduce the smell. We’ve established a list of the most user-friendly and best rated brands of composting toilets on the market.
Top Portable Composting Toilets:
▸ Nature’s Head Composting Toilet With Spider Handle
▸ Nature’s Head Composting Toilet With Standard Crank Handle
Benefits Of A Composting Toilet
While you can certainly get away with a bucket toilet, a composting toilet comes with a swath of benefits. The most notable is the fact that they are environmentally friendly. Composting toilets use no chemicals and a minimal amount of water.
Residual composting waste can be thrown out in a trash bin unlike chemical toilets. This means you won’t have to look for specific black water dump stations.
With a bucket toilet you’re stuck with having to ‘take out the trash’ immediately after doing your business. Not only does this turn into a time-consuming process, but finding a good place to dump it can become inconvenient.
Composting toilets keep your camper van build smelling fresh. Mixing waste with peat moss or coconut coir along with the assistance of ventilation of a fan will reduce the stench to a minimum.
You’ll be able to get away with tens of uses out of a composting toilet before having to clean out the waste. Many RV enthusiasts report going weeks or even months at a time between waste disposal! This can lead you to longer road trips and less stops in-between.
Finally, the clean feeling of familiarity is not to be understated. A composting toilet will be comfortable to sit on, easy to operate and feel similar to a home toilet. Many RV’s choose composting toilets for these reasons.
They are also small enough to add to a mini camper van bathroom!
Disadvantages Of A Composting Toilet
While weighing your options, there are a few disadvantages to be considered. Composting toilets are significantly more expensive than a chemical or bucket toilet.
Composting toilets also require a bit of work to get installed. They are not meant to be moved around once in place so they should be planned into your build from the start. They take up a bit more space than some of the chemical or portable toilet options, including room for the hand crank.
Finally, these toilets do need a small amount of electricity to run a ventilation fan, so are best installed in vans with an electrical system available.
How Does A Composting Toilet Work?
Though a composting toilet looks similar to your home toilet there are a few key differences. For one, solid and liquid waste needs to be separated to prevent odors. The toilet seat sits atop a waste reservoir which is divided into solid and liquid compartments.
You can relieve yourself normally into the toilet and liquids will be directed into a liquid waste tank. To go #2, a lever is pulled, opening a trap door which directs solid waste straight into the compost bin.
In the solid waste compartment, a small fan pulls air in through an intake hole and out an exhaust tube keeping the compost dry and odor free.
Unlike a chemical toilet, there is no flush after using a composting toilet. Instead, there is a rotating crank arm that is hand-turned a few times to mix the solid waste with the compost.
This may sound like a complex process, but it doesn’t take much longer than using household toilet and you’ll be grateful to have a clean, chemical-free process in your fan.
- Read this post about the most common type of RV toilets (gravity-fed)
How to Install A Composting Toilet
Composting toilets are sold as a complete unit, so all you have to do is place everything properly. A composting toilet is not meant to be mobile. It needs an air exhaust hole and 12V fan connection so it’s something you will want to build into place.
All composting toilets are going to come with brackets or some sort of connection on the bottom for anchoring.
Most composting toilets are anchored to the floor (some people install them in a way that they can be moved around), then an exhaust tube run to the outside. The exhaust tube is typically 2-3” in diameter and will require cutting an opening in the floor or sidewall of your build.
Then wire up the fan and you’re all set for your bathroom necessities!
How to Prepare The Compost For Use
Preparing a composting toilet for use takes a bit of time. Luckily, it won’t have to be done often. Peat moss and coconut coir are the two most common compost types. Peat moss can be purchased in large bags and coconut core comes in the form of compressed bricks. The bricks can be broken by hand into smaller pieces when you’re ready to use them.
Following the directions that come with your toilet, mix the compost with a bit of distilled water until it is damp, but not wet. Too much liquid can result in mold. Then cover the bottom of the composting reservoir with this mixture until it can be reached by the rotating lever.
Latch the seat back onto the reservoir and place the whole thing back in the van. This process should take just a few minutes.
How To Dump A Composting Toilet
Due to the separation of solid and liquid waste, there is no sewage; Dumping a composting toilet easy. With regular use, the solid waste tank of a composting toilet can go weeks without being dumped. The liquid tank will have to be dumped more frequently – every few days.
The liquid waste container can be easily removed and released into a regular toilet.
When it comes to dumping solid waste, it will be best to remove the entire toilet from the van. Latches holding the upper seat from the lower tanks can be undone and the solid waste material can be dumped into any trash bag then placed in a dumpster.
Composting Toilet Tips And Tricks
To make your composting toilet last longer between dumps, avoid throwing toilet paper into the waste reservoir. Toilet paper will fill up your tank fast! Many RV road trippers use a separate container to place their RV safe toilet paper.
A spray bottle with a mixture of water and vinegar can be used to spritz the inside of the toilet after use. This will further keep it smelling fresh and clean. Vinegar is a natural sanitizer and the smell dissipates quickly. Some people even add a drop of essential oils to the spray bottle.
The Best Composting Toilet: Nature’s Head
Competition is slim when it comes to composting toilets. Nature’s Head is far and away the most popular brand because has designed two portable composting toilets specifically for RV’s that are compact and simple to use.
These two products are nearly identical to each other in features, price and operation. The main difference is the handles.
|Nature’s Head Composting Toilet With Spider Handle||Nature’s Head Composting Toilet With Standard Crank Handle|
|2" Spider Handle||5" Standard Crank Handle|
|22 x 20.5 x 21.7 inches||19.8 x 20.8 x 20.5 inches|
|28 lbs||27.2 lbs|
|Elongated Seat||Standard Seat|
Spider handle vs Crank Handle
Product dimensions are listed for the toilet; not including the handles. Standard crank handles are easier to turn than spider handles. The spider handle only takes up 2” of extra space on the side vs 5” with the standard crank handle.
Natures’s Head Composting Toilets
Nature’s head toilets are designed to last a full-time couple 4-6 weeks between replacing the waste receptacle. The liquid reservoir is an opaque color so you have an idea of when its starting to get full.
All of their products come with a 5 year warranty. They do not take batteries and instead are designed for a 12V system. You purchase a separate adapter to plug it into a 110V system if necessary. Each toilet comes with brackets to mount to the floor.
The downside to Nature’s Head toilets are that you do need to remove the whole toilet to empty it. They don’t have a drawer on the bottom like some larger composting toilets, but this is because a drawer takes up a lot of extra space. Nature’s Head makes some of the most compact composting toilets you can find.
Other Self-Contained Composting Toilets
There are a few other companies that also make self-contained composting toilets. Sun-Mar is another popular brand. Unfortunately, Sun-mar toilets take up more space and are more expensive than Nature’s Head. They are really designed to be used in a tiny home or cabin.
Sun-mar also has a smaller waste container and does not easily attach into a 12V system. This unit weighs 90lbs. and does not come with a warranty. In our opinion, Nature’s head is superior in almost every way when it comes to van life.
That’s A Wrap!
Composting toilets are environmentally friendly, comfortable and will make your road trip that much more enjoyable. They are a great solution for anyone who can’t live without a bathroom on the road. If you have the space, a Nature’s Head composting toilet is something to consider for your vehicle.