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Camper Van Toilets

Camper van toilets are another one of those heavily debated topics in the vanlife community. Many people don’t see the need while others simply can’t live without a dedicated space to unload some timber.

This guide is designed for those who have decided a toilet is a necessary part of their van build. In it we’ll lay out the different types of camper van toilets available and cover other things that need to be considered when adding a toilet. 

Where do you go to the bathroom in a camper van?

This is near the top of the list when it comes to questions about camper vans. The easiest answer is, outside. After all, vans are meant for the outdoors and most of the time that’s where they are.

However, situations also occur where outside isn’t an option. A bottle isn’t glamorous but gets the job done for number 1. What happens when a surprise number 2 comes knocking?

Can you have a toilet in a camper van?

Absolutely! Technically you can put a toilet in a car or your living room. A better question is “Do I want a toilet in my camper van?” Start by thinking about how the van will be used.

Here are a few questions that can help make this decision:

  • Will the van be lived in or just used for trips? 
  • Will the van be used in the winter? 

If the van will be lived in, used for winter camping or often parked in places where going outside is not an option, then a toilet is probably a good idea.

Do camper van toilets smell?

Quick answer, it depends. Most camper van toilets shouldn’t smell when maintained properly. You may get a whiff of deodorizer every once in a while. After all, vans are a very small space and there’s only so much air in them. 

Toilet Types

      The simplest and most economical option for a portable camper van toilet is the tried and true bucket toilet. It’s exactly what it sounds like. A bag-lined bucket with a toilet seat. This option sits in the emergency category and shouldn’t really be seen as a daily solution. Even if chemicals such as bio-gel are used, the waste still needs to be disposed of after each use. 
      • Portable/Chemical
          These are basically mini porta potties for vans. The biggest benefit being that they can be moved around and stored wherever they fit. There’s no need to permanently mount or cut holes for ventilation and they don’t require plumbing or electricity. Portable toilets hold their own water and use hand pumps to flush waste into a separate tank. Since chemicals are involved the waste needs to be emptied at a dump station.
          • Cassette 
              Cassette toilets are very similar to portable toilets. They both contain the waste in a removable tank and use chemicals. The biggest differences being that these are permanently installed, require a dedicated location and the waste tank is separated from the top portion and often removed from outside. Cassette toilets are also much more expensive than portable campervan toilets but still cheaper than most composting toilets.
              • Waterless 
                  This is the newest solution on the market with only one option available currently. It doesn’t use water or chemicals but captures waste in a bag and spins the bag to contain it. Think of it as a fancy adult diaper genie. 
                  • Composting 
                      Compost toilets are by far the most eco-friendly option. They work by separating the liquid waste and solid waste into two separate chambers. The urine chamber can be easily emptied in a regular toilet. The solids are deposited in a tank that contains a composting material such as peat moss or coco coir. These materials act to break down the waste over time and can be thrown away with regular trash. No special dumping required. Composting toilets have the least amount of smell and don’t need to be emptied as often as other toilets. They are the best option for permanent vanlife or extended trips. The biggest downside is that they are also the most expensive of all camper van toilets and often cost more than $1000. 

                        Where do you put a toilet in a camper van?

                        Determining where a toilet will live in your van build is highly dependent on the space available, planned layout and requirements of the toilet selected. Some toilets need vents or access from the outside and this will dictate locations available.

                        • Dedicated bathroom - The ideal setup is having the toilet located in a closed space that offers privacy to do the deed. Building a dedicated bathroom has a huge impact on overall layout and only makes sense in the largest vans.
                        • Toilet box/drawer - This is the most common solution and allows the toilet to be hidden out of the way while still being accessible. It’s always nice not to just have a toilet out all the time in living space.

                        Shop Bathroom Products

                        We’ve developed our own composting toilet that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

                        Check out our Composting Toilet

                        Related Topics

                        Check out our DIY Camper Van Knowledge Center for more info to help you with your camper van conversion.