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Van Life Composting Toilet Options (And Other Great Choices)

Van Life Composting Toilet Options

There is no doubt, many people are embracing the freedom and flexibility of van life. Why not? What an amazing way to live! Living in a van allows you to explore new places, save money on accommodation, and break free from the constraints of a traditional lifestyle. However, there are certain challenges that come with living in a van, including the lack of bathroom facilities. This article provides a comprehensive guide to van life composting toilet options, and some alternatives that you might like to consider also. If you’re a weekend warrior, or a van lifer, we’ve got you covered.

Keep reading to find out if a composting toilet is the best option for your van life. For more general advice on composting toilets, you may want to read our other great articles here.

Table of Contents

Quick Overview of Composting Toilets

What is composting?

Composting is a natural process of breaking down organic matter into nutrient-rich soil. It involves the decomposition of waste materials through the action of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms.

How does a composting toilet work?

Van Life Composting Toilet Options

Small scale campervan composting toilets typically separate liquid from solid waste. The solid waste is mixed with a composting material, such as peat moss or coconut coir, which helps facilitate the composting process. The urine is collected separately in a container. Over time, the waste materials decompose and turn into compost, which can be safely disposed of. So basically, the pee goes in its own container and can be regularly poured out in a public toilet (or somewhere sensitively). The poop and solid stuff eventually turn into compost that can be disposed of safely without any problems.

As you’ll find out below, the biggest challenge for van life composting is the time it takes to achieve well composted material. Not impossible, but a serious consideration when selecting your toilet option. 

Benefits of Composting Toilets for Van Life

No water usage required

One of the main advantages of composting toilets for a campervan is that they do not require any water usage. This is why we’re so interested in it here at everydropsaved.com. This means you don’t need to worry about filling up the water tank or finding a source of water for flushing. In many parts of the world, finding good clean water when you are living in a van can be a real challenge. A composting toilet is a waterless option that offers a real advantage.

Cost-effective

Composting toilets can be a cost-effective option for van life. They eliminate the need for expensive plumbing infrastructure and can be installed easily without a plumber.

Independence from public facilities

With a composting toilet, you can have the freedom to go to the bathroom anytime, anywhere. You no longer have to rely on public restrooms or find campgrounds with toilet facilities.

Challenges with Composting Toilets for Van Life

Compost time

As mentioned above, perhaps the biggest challenge with having a composting toilet in your camper is the time it takes to fully and safely compost. In reality it may require several weeks or months for the waste to fully decompose, depending on your climate. This means you need to have enough storage space for the composting material. For many people this is a showstopper. 

But if you’re in a warmer climate and there is only one or two of you this challenge can be overcome! You may need a fairly large container to allow the material time to fully compost.

Smell

While composting toilets are designed to minimize odors, there can still be an occasional smell, especially if the toilet is not properly maintained or if the ventilation system is inadequate. Most people using composting toilets at home have no issues with this, but in the confined space of a van, you might find it a bigger issue.

Privacy

Privacy can be a concern when using any toilet in a van, or any camping setup. It is probably best to have a designated area or a separate enclosed small space for the toilet to ensure privacy.

Van Life Composting Toilet Options

Disposal of waste

Disposing of human waste from any kind of toilet can be a challenge, especially if your toilet is full in an area without proper waste disposal facilities. You may need to find a dump station or use compostable bags to dispose of the waste with your regular trash.

You’ll also need to discretely empty your urine container outside of the van on a regular basis, but you’ll probably find this much easier.

Van Life Composting Toilet Options

Factors to Consider when Choosing a Composting Toilet for Van Life

If you’ve already got your vanlife setup and you’re looking to retrofit a toilet, your options will be more limited. However, if you’re still researching van conversions and have the luxury of deciding which type of toilet to go with, how the toilet is to be installed, where it is positioned, or if you’ll simply live without a toilet in the van, then here are some key considerations for you. 

Size and space limitations

When choosing a toilet for your van, you’ll of course need to consider available space and the size of the toilet. Compact and space-saving options are ideal for van life. You’ll need a self-contained composting toilet which has adequate holding capacity (more on this below).

Installation requirements

Some composting toilets require installation with ventilation systems or connecting to plumbing. Consider the manufacturers recommendations and installation requirements of the toilet you are looking at, and choose a toilet that is easy to set up in a van. Not all will be suited for vanlife. The section below provides some good options to consider.

There are also DIY options which you might find easier to retrofit into your van. More on this in a future article, but if you understand the fundamentals of composting toilets, you’re in a suitable climate, and you are handy enough, give it a go! You’ll find this article useful: How Do Composting Toilets Work?

Capacity and usage needs

Think about how often you will be using the toilet and how much waste it can hold. Consider the capacity and your usage needs to ensure that the toilet is suitable for your lifestyle. And as discussed above, the biggest challenge with composting toilets in vans is usually ensuring the compost bin is large enough to allow adequate compost time. Otherwise, you’ll find you are emptying un-composted waste which isn’t the end of the world, but can be unpleasant and messy. For health, safety and cleanliness, un-composted waste should always be disposed of in a toilet or septic system. 

Emptying, cleaning, and maintenance

Take into account the ease of emptying the toilet contents and cleaning the toilet. Look for a composting toilet that has simple and convenient maintenance requirements. Also consider where it is positioned in your van to ensure you can easily dump the toilet waste, clean, and maintain as required. 

Van Life Composting Toilet Options

Best Composting Toilets for Van Life

Nature’s Head Composting Toilet

Natures Head

The Nature’s Head Composting Toilet is one of the most popular options for van life. It is self-contained, easy to install, and has a large capacity for waste storage. It feels essentially like a regular toilet to use.

One key advantage of this system is that it has a crank wheel (or spider handle) to mix the solids. This ensures that composting occurs as quickly as possible. The crank is easier to use than mixing in other ways and can be done without opening the solids tank. 

This is an excellent choice for vanlife and is our pick as the best all-rounder composting toilets on the market today. See our article here: Best Off Grid Composting Toilets. A 2023 Review

The OGO

The OGO

The OGO composting toilet is a portable and self-contained option that is perfect for van life. It features a comfortable toilet seat and a built-in vent system to eliminate odors. The toilet is also ‘square’ in shape which can help a lot in positioning and securing it within the van’s limited space. A big advantage for vanlife! 

Maintenance and Care for Composting Toilets

Emptying and disposing of waste

First and foremost, dispose of the waste in accordance with local regulations. Find designated dump stations or composting facilities to dispose of the waste properly.

Whilst you’re on the road, you’re unlikely to have a garden available to utilise the nutrients contained in your composted material. But if composted adequately, digging this material into the land has considerable benefit for soil health and growing plants.

To empty a composting toilet, carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions. You can use compostable bags and place them in a waste disposal facility for safe and eco-friendly disposal. 

Van Life Composting Toilet Options

Cleaning and sanitizing

Regularly clean and sanitize the toilet to prevent odors and ensure proper hygiene. Use non-toxic cleaning products that are safe for composting systems.

Preventing odors and maintaining airflow

To prevent odors, make sure you have considered ventilation, and the ventilation system is functioning properly. Maintain good airflow by keeping the air vents open and regularly checking the vent hoses for blockages.

Careful positioning of the composting toilet to take advantage of the van’s factory ventilation can assist with this.

Tips for Using a Composting Toilet in a Van

Securing the toilet seat lid

May seem obvious, but this is easily overlooked. When traveling, secure the toilet seat lid to prevent it from accidentally opening. Use straps or latches to keep the lid closed and avoid any spills. 

Depending on your system, you may have latches or other mechanisms that must be fixed closed when on the road. This will ensure you don’t end up with an unexpected mess!

Separation of liquids and solids

In any van build it is smart to install a toilet that has separate containers for liquids and solids. As we’ve discussed, the time in which your waste takes to compost is a significant drawback for composting toilets in camper vans and RVs. Composting time dictates the size of your holding tank and given you won’t have space for a large tank, you want to speed this up as much as possible. One of the easiest ways of doing this is to use a urine diverter. Keeping the solids urine free will make your composting as efficient as possible.

Follow your toilet’s installation and maintenance instructions for proper separation of urine and solid waste. This will help maintain and accelerate the composting process and minimize any potential odors.

Other Toilet Options for Van Life

Dry flush toilets – such as the Laveo Dry Flush Toilet

Laveo Dry Flush

Dry flush toilets use a special ‘flushing’ mechanism that seals the waste in a bag. They are compact, easy to use, and provide a more familiar toilet experience.

These toilets overcome the greatest drawback of composting toilets in vans. There is no need to wait for composting to occur! your waste is simply bagged and can be disposed of when the system is full. They also essentially eliminate odor.

However, they require you to carry in your van the disposable waste bags and you will have the ongoing cost of replacing these. 

Dry flush toilets are an excellent choice for vanflife and the Laveo Dry Flush Toilet is in fact our pick as the best campervan and RV toilet available on the market today. See our article here: Best Off Grid Composting Toilets. A 2023 Review

Cassette toilets – such as the Thetford Porta Potti

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Cassette toilets have a portable waste-holding tank that can be easily emptied. These typically require chemical additions according to the manufacturer’s specifications. They are a popular choice for van life due to their convenience and simplicity. Arguably, they are the more conventional option for vans and travellers when compared to composting toilets.

We recommend the Thetford Porta Potti, available on Amazon.

Portable camping toilets – such as the SFSUMART Foldable Potty

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SFSUMART Foldable toilet

Portable camping toilets are lightweight and easy to transport. They are suitable for short trips or occasional use. 

Whilst you’ll need to empty your waste more frequently and you therefore need to stay close to waste disposal facilities, these are a great, low-cost portable toilet for short trips away. 

We recommend the SFSUMART Foldable Potty, available on Amazon.

DIY emergency toilet solutions

If you don’t have access to a toilet, you can create a DIY emergency toilet using a trash bag and a bucket. This can be a temporary solution for emergencies. You’ll have to overcome the issue of where to dispose of your waste, but hey, there is usually waste disposal facilities close by. Of course, you need to be considerate of other users.

Public restroom alternatives

In urban areas, or road stops, you can normally rely on public restrooms, such as those in gas stations, coffee shops, or shopping malls. Keep a map or an app that shows the locations of public restrooms. 

However, we always recommend having an emergency toilet onboard. Just in case!

Conclusion

When it comes to van life, finding the right toilet option is essential for a comfortable and convenient living experience. Composting toilets offer the benefits of waterless usage, cost-effectiveness, and independence from public facilities. They can be a great option, particularly in warmer climates.

Consider the size, installation requirements, capacity, and maintenance needs when choosing a composting toilet for your van. The Nature’s Head Composting Toilet and The OGO are among the best options. And we highly recommend the Laveo Dry Flush Toilet to keep life simple.  

Proper maintenance and care, along with following proper disposal methods, will ensure a hygienic and odor-free experience. In addition to composting toilets, there are other alternatives such as dry flush toilets, cassette toilets, portable camping toilets, DIY emergency solutions, and public restroom options. Choose the toilet option that suits your needs and preferences and enjoy the freedom and flexibility of van life!

Van Life Composting Toilet Options

FAQs

Q: What are the options for composting toilets in a van life?

A: There are several options for composting toilets in a van life. The Nature’s Head Composting Toilet and the OGO are among the best options. There are also other systems such as cassette toilets, dry flush toilets, portable toilets, and DIY composting toilets.

An alternative to a composting toilet, we highly recommend the Laveo Dry Flush Toilet.

Q: What is a cassette toilet?

A: A cassette toilet is a type of portable toilet that consists of a removable waste tank, which can be easily emptied and cleaned.

Q: How do you empty a cassette toilet?

A: Emptying a cassette toilet depends on the model you have, however typically, you simply remove the waste tank from the toilet and empty it into a designated waste disposal point.

Q: Can I use a normal toilet in my campervan?

A: Most campervans cannot accommodate the plumbing required for a normal toilet. However, you can install a composting toilet or use portable toilets.

Q: What should I do if I don’t have a toilet in my van?

A: If you don’t have a toilet in your van, you can use alternative options such as public restrooms, campground facilities, or carry a portable toilet for emergencies.

Q: What is a portable toilet?

A: A portable toilet is a compact, lightweight toilet that is designed to be easily transportable. It typically consists of a toilet seat and a waste storage tank.

Q: Can I use toilet paper with a composting toilet?

A: Yes, you can use toilet paper with a composting toilet, but it is important to use biodegradable toilet paper that can easily break down during the composting process.

Q: How do I compost waste with a composting toilet?

A: Composting toilets use a natural process of decomposition to break down waste into compost. This process requires the right balance of moisture, oxygen, and carbon-rich materials. Its best to separate liquids with a urine diverter in the toilet bowl, from the composting material.

1 thought on “Van Life Composting Toilet Options (And Other Great Choices)”

  1. Pingback: Composting Toilet Dumping: A Complete Guide to Responsible Emptying and Composting | Every Drop Saved

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