There are lots of beautiful DIY campervans being built these days and many van lifers are choosing to install complex toilet systems as their bathroom solution. There are so many different options for campervan toilets, the choices these days are mesmerizing. Hey, I know we’re all human here and we all have bathroom needs. But do you really need a van life toilet?
In this article, we will discuss why we decided NOT to have a toilet in our campervan. And after 2 years on the road, never once did we regret our decision.
What Is In This Post?
In this post, we will breakdown our decision why we do not travel with a campervan toilet. This will include:
- Types of Toilets
- A Confession
- 4 Reasons For Not Having A Van Life Toilet
- When Having A Toilet in your campervan makes sense.
Types of Van Life Toilets
Who knew there were so many bathroom solutions out there? We detail several of the most popular types of toilets for van lifers today.
The Cassette Toilet (aka the Porta-Potti): These types of toilets come with a storage unit that can be removed and emptied. Liquid chemicals are often put into the removable tank to reduce odors, and as a result, these “black water” tanks must be emptied in a certified dump station or toilet. Not the most convenient.
Compost Toilets: Compost toilets separate the liquid from the solid waste. The solid waste is mixed in with organic fiber to create a compost, which can simply be bagged and thrown away when full. People who have compost toilets love them and can DIY versions can be made. Professionally made compost toilets can run almost $1,000.
Foldable Seat w/Bag: As simple as a toilet gets. This gadget can fold out into a basic toilet and you can attach a plastic bag underneath to catch the waste. Space efficient and easy. The best part is that this toilet folds down to the size of a briefcase when not used.
Our first preference for a toilet would be this one if we were FORCED to buy one!
But First, A Confession...
To be upfront and honest, we actually did bring along a small porta-potti during the first 7 months of travel!
We traveled with our portable toilet all throughout Canada and the USA.
But we never ended up using it. Not even once!
And before we entered Mexico with our camper van, we chucked that toilet out of our van and never looked back.
But...We Don’t Carry A Single Toilet In Our Campervan Anyore
And yet, with all the different options open to us, we still chose not to travel with a van life toilet. And after all these years on the road, we’re still happy with our decision.
Below we discuss our top 5 reasons why being toilet-free was the right choice for us.
1 - Public Toilets Everywhere We Go.
We’ve spent the last 2 years traveling all across Canada, the USA, and even Mexico and trust us when we say that there has been an over-abundance of public toilets everywhere we’ve went.
Let’s list all the different places where toilets exist.
- Gas stations
- Fast food restaurants
- Big box stores (Walmart, Cabellas, etc)
- Campgrounds & RV Parks
- National Park Ranger Stations & Trail Heads
- Cafes & Restaurants
When you’re on the road, how often do you find yourself at, or near, one of the places above? Unless you’re boon-docking long-term in the countryside, bathroom facilities really are everywhere and we’ve used these services countless times.
2 - The Great Outdoors Is Your Bathroom Friend
Like many other van life travelers, we’ve also spent countless days boon-docking on BLM Land, National Forest Land, and small roadside pull outs.
Out in the wilderness, there aren’t any of the bathroom facilities I discussed above.
This is when we utilize a combination of:
- Empty Gatorade bottles + pee funnel (for #1)
- Toilet trowel (for #2)
We have to be honest here, squatting in the great outdoors took some time to get used to. It’s slightly uncomfortable at first and a bit intimidating with slight feelings of vulnerability.
Who wants to get caught with that pants down at their ankles?
But once our initial discomfort subsided, we got very used to doing our business out in nature. Behind a tree, or a bush, or even simply by the back of the van; it’s all fair game.
We want to make clear that we follow certain important guidelines to disposing of waste while in the wild.
- Ensure the hole that is dug is large and deep enough.
- Ensure we are more than 100m from a water source.
- Everything is fully buried.
If done properly, doing your business outside is clean and with minimal impact to the environment.
3 - Campervan Toilets Are A Waste of Space
Space is limited in a campervan and toilets take up a good chuck of a van’s real estate. When we install something in our vans, there is almost always a trade-off.
If you want a toilet, what will you give up?
- Storage space?
- Bed space?
- Kitchen space?
- Counter top space?
We actually value each of the above spaces more than having a toilet.
Or if you wanted, you could buy a bigger van and fit everything. But we highly, highly valued traveling in a van that was less than 20’ long, for navigation and parking purposes.
4 - Dealing with the Waste Products & Black Water
In my opinion, this last reason is the least reason for not having a toilet in a campervan. But it’s significant, nonetheless.
No toilet means not having to live with the sweet fragrance of human waste in our tiny campervan.
And while composting toilets seem to eradicate much of the indoor odors, I feel more comfortable not living in my van with human waste solids within an arms reach of me.
Dealing with large quantities of black water is also something I don’t particularly look forward to. You have to find a dump station, or lug your black water tank into a McDonalds/Walmart.
But I understand everyone has their own preferences and tolerances.
When A Campervan Toilet Makes Sense
Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to bathroom solutions.
The goal of this article is to explain why having a van life toilet is not necessary for us and how we get by.
But campervan toilets can make perfect sense for many different groups of people.
- Not everyone can, or wants to, poop outdoors. Or even pee in a bottle.
- Some of us simply need to go to the bathroom more often than others.
- Or others might have medical conditions, which require an actual toilet to always be nearby.
We wanted to make clear that installing a toilet in a campervan is not a necessity. We stressed about whether to have a toilet during our van conversion, but looking back now, we can’t believe we stressed so much about it.
“Where are we going to go to the bathroom today” is a question we ask ourselves almost every day. But with a little thought, there are plenty of places to go. And once you learn what to look out for and with some pre-planning, we don’t think going to the bathroom is such a big deal anymore.