Deciding on whether or not to even have a bathroom in your campervan can be a difficult decision. This decision is made even more difficult by the fact that campervan toilet options are almost limitless.
In this post, I’ll try to make things easier for you. I’ll break down all of the different campervan toilets you can choose from and give you the pros and cons of each.
1. Wet Baths
A wet bath is a room that houses both the shower and the toilet in the same space. When you run the shower, the toilet will get wet – hence the clever name “wet bath”.
The toilet in a wet bath is usually plumbed to a blackwater tank but it can also be a stationary cassette toilet. These bathrooms are very popular in small RVs and campervans as they take up the least amount of space while still providing both a shower and a toilet.
Here are the advantages and disadvantages of using a wet bath in your campervan.
Advantages of Campervan Wet Baths
- You save space.
- You have a flush toilet.
- Aftermarket options and parts are easily available.
- Wet baths have large showers with built-in seats.
- The bathroom in a wet bath is permanent.
A wet bath combines the shower and the toilet so you end up cutting your space requirements in half without sacrificing having a flush toilet or a shower. These toilets are made professionally too so you should always have aftermarket parts that you can buy to make repairs.
Because your shower is mixed in with your toilet, you end up being able to have a larger shower. Also, having the toilet in the shower means you have a place to sit down and relax while you bathe.
On top of all of this, you end up with a permanent toilet. This means you won’t have to worry about the bathroom area moving around or shifting while you drive.
Disadvantages of Campervan Wet Baths
- Your toilet gets wet.
- Storage is difficult to impossible to build into a wet bath.
- The bathroom is permanent.
One of the biggest issues van lifers have with wet baths is the fact that the entire bathroom gets wet every time you shower. This means you end up having to wipe down your toilet and everything else after you’re done. Sure, you end up having a very clean bathroom but you will have to work for it.
The fact that everything gets wet also means you can’t use your bathroom for storage. You won’t be able to leave towels in the bathroom and even the toilet paper will need to be protected before you start the shower.
Lastly, you will have a permanent toilet. While this can be a benefit, it can also be a disadvantage. This is because you’ll be forced to have a bathroom in your van even when you don’t need it and aren’t using it.
2. Portable Cassette Toilets
Portable cassette toilets are fully self-contained flush toilets. These small toilets have a small reservoir tank of fresh water for flushing and a small tank for collecting waste. The wastewater tank can be taken out of the toilet so that the waste can be dumped into a standard toilet or at a dump station.
Here are the advantages and disadvantages of using a portable cassette toilet in your campervan.
Advantages of Portable Cassette Toilets
- You can easily move a portable cassette toilet.
- Cassette toilets are inexpensive.
- A cassette toilet is easy to empty.
- Cassette toilets don’t take up much space.
Portable cassette toilets can be used inside a dedicated toilet area in your van but they don’t have to be. With a portable toilet, you can stash the bathroom away and only pull it out when you need it. You can even take these toilets outside and use them as outhouses. Some people even use these toilets inside their homes during emergencies.
Cassette toilets are also one of the cheaper van life bathroom options. You can get a cassette toilet online for less than a hundred dollars.
These toilets are generally easy to empty too. In most cases, you’ll just need to pull the waste reservoir away from the rest of the toilet and dump the waste into a toilet or dump station.
Disadvantages of Portable Cassette Toilets
- Cassette toilets can smell bad.
- A cassette toilet must be emptied frequently.
- You can’t get portable cassette toilets with a large seat.
- Cassette toilet parts break down.
- Cassette toilets can become pressurized.
Some people complain that their cassette toilets don’t trap odors very well. For this reason, many van lifers will only do “number one” inside their vans. Others say that you just need to use the right chemicals and you won’t have to worry about odors. While this might be true, I personally try to stay away from using chemicals as they’re bad for the environment and they can’t always be dumped into septic tanks.
While cassette toilets might be easy to empty, they do need to be emptied frequently. Most cassette toilet waste tanks max out at about 5 gallons. This means one person would need to dump it out every few days.
Emptying a cassette toilet isn’t that big of a deal for me but the seat size is. Portable cassette toilets always have small seats and they can be uncomfortable to use.
A cassette toilet can also break down more frequently than other types of toilets. Gaskets leak, flush mechanisms stop working, and even the reservoirs can break. This means you may have to repair or replace your cassette toilet more often than you might imagine.
I’ve also heard stories about portable cassette toilets becoming pressurized during high-altitude travel. The end result is a face full of human waste when you open it. This can be avoided by keeping the valve open while you travel, but it is something to consider.
3. Composting Toilets
Composting toilets generally won’t do any real composting inside of a campervan. Of course, this hasn’t stopped van lifers from making use of them.
Here are the pros and cons of using a composting toilet in your van build.
Advantages of Composting Toilets
- You don’t need any water with a composting toilet.
- Composting toilets can be inexpensively made.
- Most composting toilets are portable.
- Composting toilets are comfortable to sit on.
- A composting toilet is better for the environment than a flush toilet.
Composting toilets will cut down on the amount of water you need. This makes them better for the environment than flush toilets and cuts down on the amount of weight you have in your campervan.
These toilets can also be made at home. This means you can use any toilet seat size you want and you can do it for a fraction of the cost of a commercially made campervan toilet.
The DIY composting toilets are usually quite portable too. This means you can use them anywhere inside or outside of your van.
Disadvantages of Composting Toilets
- Composting toilets can be expensive.
- A composting toilet can be more difficult to empty.
- Composting toilets can attract insects.
- Guests may not want to use your toilet.
- You may need electricity to run your composting toilet.
While a DIY composting toilet can be inexpensive, a professionally made composting toilet can cost a lot of money. For example, a Nature’s Head composting toilet could easily cost you over a thousand dollars.
A composting toilet may also be difficult to empty. Unless you have a compost pile to put your waste into, you’ll usually just end up throwing it out. This means you never truly end up composting your waste at all.
Your composting toilet may also become too moist. This could lead to odors and even bug and insect issues.
Of course, a properly vented composting toilet with a fan won’t have this issue. However, a vented composting toilet with a fan is not portable and it needs electricity to operate.
Lastly, some people just won’t want to use a composting toilet. These toilets haven’t gained mainstream acceptance and any guests you may want to take with you on your trips might be hesitant to do so because of your toilet.
4. Dry Toilets
Van lifers and RVers have a few different dry toilet options. Some are as simple as a toilet seat and a trash bag while others are more complex and more expensive.
Here are the advantages and disadvantages of dry toilets.
Advantages of Dry Toilets
- Dry toilets can be extremely inexpensive.
- A dry toilet won’t require the use of water.
- Dry toilet waste is often simple to dispose of.
- Most dry toilets won’t take up much space.
- Dry toilets can be stored when not in use.
A dry toilet can be as simple as a bucket with a bag and a toilet seat on top. This makes it one of the least expensive toilets to buy and one of the easiest toilets to make.
These toilets don’t require any water and waste can simply be thrown in the garbage. Bring enough bags with you and you can throw your waste out after every major use.
A dry toilet isn’t going to take up much space and will often be able to fold down when not in use. This makes it portable and cuts down on your van’s total weight.
Disadvantages of Dry Toilets
- Dry toilets can be expensive to buy and maintain.
- Waste from a dry toilet can be difficult to dispose of.
- Dry toilets may require additional ventilation when in use.
A dry toilet can be simple but it can also be complex. Dry toilets such as the Laveo, wrap the waste up in a bag with a drying solution. These are great because they eliminate odor and reduce the number of times you have to empty your toilet, but they do cost more. Not only do they cost more money to buy but they also cost money to operate as well.
A DIY dry toilet won’t cost much but it could start to smell after just one use. This means you’ll either have to empty it frequently or add some ventilation to the system.
5. Incinerating Toilets
An incinerating toilet works by burning your waste to ashes. Incinerating toilets aren’t often used in vans or RVs but they are an option.
Here are the pros and cons of using an incinerating toilet in an RV.
Advantages of Incinerating Toilets
- Incinerating toilets leave almost zero waste behind.
- It’s easy to empty an incinerating toilet.
- Incinerating toilets don’t need water.
- Incinerating toilets don’t require much cleaning.
- An incinerating toilet can be used even in freezing temperatures.
An incinerating toilet will burn your waste to ashes. This brings the size of the waste down to just one teaspoon of ashes with each use. As a result of this process, you usually don’t have to clean the toilet and you don’t have to have any water for flushing.
Since the toilet doesn’t need water, it can be used even in freezing temperatures. This is great for van lifers who want to ski, snowboard, and snowshoe with their adventure van.
Disadvantages of Incinerating Toilets
- Incinerating toilets require power.
- An incinerating toilet must be vented.
- Incinerating toilets are expensive to buy and operate.
- The incineration process can take more than an hour.
An incinerating toilet needs to be hooked up to electricity or gas in order for it to operate. The amount of energy it needs is more than a typical solar panel system can provide so it isn’t always the best off-grid option.
Incinerating toilets must also be vented. This means you’ll have to cut a hole in your van and you’ll have to keep the toilet in a stationary position.
The incineration process can also take a while. This process isn’t terribly loud but it does make noise and I’m not sure how comfortable I’d feel driving around while the toilet is doing its thing.
Want to buy an incinerating toilet for your van? Expect to pay handsomely for it. Even a cheap incinerating toilet is going to cost you over a thousand dollars.
Not everyone wants to go to the bathroom inside of their small campervan. Fortunately, there are some outhouse options that van lifers can take advantage of.
Advantages of Van Life Outhouses
- You don’t have to go to the bathroom in your van.
- An outhouse can easily be left behind.
- Outhouses reduce moisture in the van.
While we’d all like to think our “shit doesn’t stink”, this just isn’t true. Campervans typically have less space than your average bathroom so the odors are bound to infect your entire van. A good ventilation system can help with this but it still isn’t ideal. With an outhouse, you can take these smells outside and leave them there.
An outhouse can be hooked to your hitch and opened up when you need to use it. Other versions of outhouses can be erected via a popup tent and a portable cassette toilet.
Some outhouses will even have showers inside of them. Using the shower outside will cut down on the moisture you let out into your van and reduce the chances that mold and mildew will form.
Disadvantages of Van Life Outhouses
- You may have to tow your outhouse.
- Outhouses take longer to set up.
- An outhouse won’t be stealthy.
An outhouse on a hitch isn’t quite a towable object but it does add length like one. This could make parking more difficult.
Popup outhouses won’t have the same issues as outhouses that sit on your hitch but they will need to be set up. This could be an issue for people who aren’t at a campsite.
While an outhouse that sits on your hitch can be used outside of a campsite, it won’t be stealthy to do so. You’ll have to leave your van each time you go to use the bathroom.
7. The Great Outdoors
Some people skip the toilet altogether and just go to the bathroom outside. Here is a quick rundown on the pros and cons of doing so.
Advantages of Not Having a Toilet in Your Van
- You’ll save a lot of space.
- You’ll save money.
- You won’t have to worry about maintenance.
In most cases, toilets are free to use and easy to find. Use these toilets and you’ll save space in your van, you’ll save money by not buying a toilet, and you’ll leave the cleanup to somebody else.
Disadvantages of Not Having a Toilet in Your Van
- There will be some places that you won’t be able to visit.
- An emergency or sickness will become a much bigger deal.
- You’ll have to do more work to find bathrooms.
Some campgrounds demand that you bring your own toilet with you. These are campgrounds that don’t have bathrooms and don’t have places where you can bury your own waste. If you find yourself at one of these campgrounds, you may find yourself scrambling to find a bathroom.
Get sick on the road without a toilet and you’ll quickly wish you had one. You’ll end up scrambling to find a bathroom and you might not find one in time.
What’s The Best Campervan Toilet For You?
The best campervan toilet for you is always going to be the toilet that best meets your needs. Personally, I like dry toilets and composting toilets but I know others who prefer to use the other types of campervan toilets, and others that don’t bother with having a toilet at all.
My advice would be to try a few different types out before you build your van out. This way, you won’t be stuck with a toilet option that just isn’t right for you.