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Best Composting Toilet For RV & Camper Van Conversion

  • By Kate Moore
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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.

Nature's Head Self Contained Composting Toilet with Close Quarters Spider Handle Design

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.

Nature's Head Dry Composting Toilet With Standard Crank Handle

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.

portable composting toilet in a campervan conversion

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!

portable toilet in a camper van conversion

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.

Installing a portable composting toilet in a conversion van bathroom

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.

How to use a portable composting toilet in a van or tiny home

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 HandleNature’s Head Composting Toilet With Standard Crank Handle
2" Spider Handle5" Standard Crank Handle
22 x 20.5 x 21.7 inches19.8 x 20.8 x 20.5 inches
28 lbs27.2 lbs
Elongated SeatStandard 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.

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Kate is the lead content creator for and has spent over two years living in a camper van conversion. She has traveled through 48 US states and writes about van life, camping and RV living.

This Post Has 12 Comments

    1. Airhead designed for marine life—is the Roll-Royce of mobile compost toilets. The founder’s partner stared Nature’s Head years after 2001 (the Mercedes Benz). Both are good, and a new German company is launching their version.

      We also had Sunmar, but replaced it with Aurhead. We’ve been enjoying Airhead for 9 years, and it keeps getting better—used in our Airstream and Truck Camper.
      By the way, keeping with the automotive metaphor; Pot-a-potty is the Fiat!

  1. You may want to consider adding Separett Toilet as well. We had the Nature’s Head for almost three years and are tired of the difficult cleaning, smell and bugs and switched to the Separett. So much less maintenance, no smells and way easier to clean!!!!

  2. When dumping the compost, would you dump the whole contents and begin the process anew with fresh peat or coir, or would you keep some of the compost you just created to use for the next month?

  3. Salve ,Vorrei se possibile informazioni sul funzionamento e istallazione in italiano e costo dell’articolo …grazie

  4. Great discussion on the pro & cons of the composting toilet. I am just getting started on which system to use and this was very helpful. A great big thumbs up.

  5. I bought this nature’s head RV self contained composting toilet to be installed in my RV. It’s an appropriate option. This product has durable construction with stainless steel hardware, simple to disassemble for easy dumping, features a low volume fan inside the toilet’s head to dissipate odor effectively. I was also thrilled to see how well it did, keeping my bathroom odor-free.

    1. Overall, the tropical climate performance issues seem a little overblown to me. It shouldn’t be something to make you wary of purchasing this Nature’s Head composting toilet. The product shouldn’t have any problems meeting all your expectations.

  6. I bought a Natures Head composting toilet to be installed in my Class C RV. It has no discernable odor, even when the lid is lifted or the upper portion is lifted partially when removing the liquids bottle to empty it every other day or so. Cleaning is simple if you spray down the inside of the bowl with a water and white vinegar mix after every use and perform a minor wipe up with a paper towel (which you then just drop into the trap door) if you have a particularly egregious contact mark.

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