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Do You REALLY Need a Camper Van Toilet? We Don’t!

From basic chemical toilets to the more expensive composting varieties, many toilet options exist for a camper van conversion. But the question remains, “Do you really need a toilet in your camper van?”

When we started van life, we carried a small Porta Potty in our camper. It was comforting to know our bathroom solution was taken care of. But after the first seven months on the road, we NEVER used our toilet and ended up selling it.

This article will discuss five reasons why we believe you don’t need a camper van toilet. As of this writing, we’ve been on the road for five years and have rarely had an issue with this.

1. Public Toilets Are Everywhere!

Corporate logos of companies with public bathrooms available
Stores with public toilets available during van life

After more than five years on the road, trust us when we say there is an overabundance of public toilets everywhere we go. If you are in an urban or semi-urban setting, a public toilet is likely very close to you.

Let’s list all the different places where toilets exist.

  • Gas stations
  • Fast food restaurants
  • Big box stores (Walmart, Cabellas, etc.)
  • Cafes & Restaurants
  • National Park Ranger Stations & Trail Heads
  • Highway Rest Areas

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 are everywhere, and we’ve used these services countless times.

So it was no wonder we never used our camper van toilet when we had it.

2. Empty Water Bottles Are More Convenient

We admit it took a bit of getting used to, but peeing into plastic bottles was a game changer. I know, I know…if this is the first time you’ve heard this, then I’m sure you’re a tad grossed out. But hear me out.

Bottle and trowel bathroom combo
The perfect combo for your #1 and #2 needs
  • Not enough time to locate a public bathroom? -> Use the bottle.
  • Bathroom emergency in the middle of the night? -> Use the bottle.
  • Driving and don’t want to pull over?  -> Use the bottle.
  • Stealth camping and can’t go outside? -> Use the bottle.
  • Is the public bathroom gnarly? -> Use the bottle.
  • Lazy? -> Use the bottle.

The list is endless.

Replacing a camper van toilet with a plastic bottle is one of our top van life tips.

Top Tip: Getting a bottle with a wide opening is very nice to have. If you’re in the USA, Gatorade bottles work perfectly here.

But you might be asking, “But what about her? You couldn’t possibly expect her to go directly into a bottle!”

Great question. Female urination devices (aka a ‘SheWee’) work perfectly with a plastic bottle. One look at this funnel, and you won’t need this post to explain how to use it.

Top Pick
Female Urination Device (aka "Pee Funnel")
$13.99

Product Recommendation: Used in conjunction with a water bottle. Yuko swears by this method and says she'll never go back to having a toilet in our camper van again!

Buy On Amazon
We earn a commission if you purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/19/2024 07:16 am GMT

Yuko believes this funnel is one of the vital van life essentials for women.

And again, we know it sounds gross. But pick up a bottle and the funnel and try it out. You’ll be glad you did.

“But what about going #2? Surely you don’t poop in  your bottles as well!”

We’re not THAT gross! For that dreaded #2, we still look out for public restrooms. But if we’re out boondocking in nature, keep reading below to learn more.

3. The Great Outdoors Is Your 5-Star Bathroom

If you’re into boondocking out in the wild, chances are no public toilets are available. But just because there aren’t any public toilets doesn’t mean we don’t have a bathroom solution.

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 their pants down at their ankles?

But once our initial discomfort subsided, we got used to doing our business in nature. Behind a tree, bush, or even simply by the back of the van, it’s all fair game.

We want to clarify that we follow certain important guidelines for disposing of waste 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 correctly, doing your business outside is clean and has minimal environmental impact. To ensure that we ‘leave no trace,’ we use a trusty camping trowel to help dig our holes and ensure they’re in the proper dimension.

iunio | Hiking Trowel

We use a multi-use trowel for digging cat holes when going to the bathroom outdoors. Lightweight and easily packs away when not needed.

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4. Camper Van Toilets Are a Waste of Space

Space is limited in a camper van; no matter how compact, that RV toilet will take up a good chunk of a van’s real estate. There is almost always a trade-off when we install something in our vans.

If you want a toilet, what will you give up?

  • Storage space?
  • Bed space?
  • Kitchen space?
  • Countertop space?

We value each of the above spaces in our van more than having a camper van toilet.

Or, if you wanted, you could buy a bigger van and fit everything. However, we prioritized traveling in a van less than 20’ long for navigation and parking purposes.

5. Don’t Have To Deal With Waste Products & Black Water

Not having a camper van toilet means not living with the sweet fragrance of human waste in our tiny camper van.

But just as important, not having a toilet means not having to dump a toilet full of black water. Without a toilet, you won’t have to constantly search for a dump station or try to secretly lug your black water tank into a McDonalds/Walmart.

When a Campervan Toilet Makes Sense

Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to bathroom solutions.

This article explains why having a van life toilet isn’t necessary for us and how we get by.

But camper van 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 need to go to the bathroom more often than others.
  • Others might have medical conditions requiring a toilet always to be nearby.

For this reason, we quickly list some of the common camper van toilets available today.

Types of Camper Van Toilets

Compost Toilets: Compost toilets separate the liquid from the solid waste. The solid waste is mixed with organic fiber to create compost, which can be bagged and thrown away when full. People with compost toilets love them, and DIY versions can be made. Professionally made compost toilets can run almost $1,000.

Nature's Head Composting Toilet
$1,030.00

Popular van life toilet solution with minimal maintenance and odors. Manufacturer claims two people can use it for 4-6 weeks before emptying. Some installation is required.

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02/18/2024 06:20 am GMT

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.

Porta Potti Thetford 92860
$104.00

Portable, low-profile chemical toilet. A removable waste water holding tank makes dumping at rest areas and bathrooms clean and easy.

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02/18/2024 06:06 am GMT

Foldable Seat w/Bag: As simple as a toilet gets. This gadget can fold into a basic toilet and 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 unused.

Our first preference for a toilet would be this one if we were FORCED to buy one!

Folding Portable Camping Toilet
$47.99

This ultra-portable and lightweight foldable toilet is great for travelers who want a backup solution for emergencies.

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02/18/2024 07:00 am GMT

Conclusion

By now, we hope we’ve helped answer the question about whether or not you need a toilet in your camper van. Though these toilets are convenient, we don’t think they’re worth the space they take up for all the reasons we listed above.

“Where are we going to go to the bathroom today?” is a question we ask ourselves almost daily. But with a bit of 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.

We hope you enjoyed our article, and if you have any questions, please feel free to comment below!

Happy traveling!

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4 Comments

    1. Thanks for the comment! We did built in an informal shower where we planned to stand out the back of our van. But we NEVER use it because it’s inconvenient to fill the water tank. We now travel with a solar shower bag and find that this solar shower is much more useful and practical. The bag also folds away when we’re not using it and takes up virtually no space. You can find the solar shower here: https://amzn.to/2zkYTGP

      Even if we could build a second camper van, we wouldn’t build a shower room. It’s not that useful in our opinion and takes up too much valuable interior space.

  1. We took your advice and have now travelled for one month in a van without a toilet. Either we have used facilities along the road or we have “squatted behind a bush”. Certainly you then are vulnerable, but why bother? We have noticed that quite many others also have the great outdoors as their “bathroom friend”.

    1. Absolutely! Getting over our fear of a lack of a private bathroom is something we all need to go through. But once we adjust, we can made do. Thanks for the comment!

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