The toilet in the RV: Let’s talk shit!
“What about your toilet?” is secretly code language for “Where do you shit?” perhaps one of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to vanlife. So at this Let’s talk SHIT! dear people! The possibilities are endless. From pooping on a bucket to a veritable 1,000 euro composting toilet. In this article, we share our bathroom secrets, all the options and, of course, the cost, because you always love that. Curious about our own fancy composting toilet? You will find all the details in the article “Composting Toilet Trelino for your VAN or RV: how does it work?“.
In this article
- Why an VAN toilet is a must
- Layouts for your camper bathroom
- The toilet closet in our Mercedes camper
- Motorhome toilets: all options
- Chemical Toilet
- Dry Toilet / Composting Toilets
- Advantages and disadvantages of different toilets for your van or rv
- The Perfect Van Toilet
Is a toilet in your van or RV a must?
In 2019, we took our first road trip of almost six months with a small 1983 Citroen C25. There was just enough room for a bed and kitchenette, so the decided to skip the toilet. Big mistake! Wild urination did not always turn out to be an option, and seeking out a bush outside in bad weather was not really always the most ideal situation either. So we decided that for our new project a toilet is a must.
But it’s not just when wild camping that a toilet in the van is nice. Also, if you need to go to the toilet in the middle of the night at the campsite or when you are on the road, your own on the van toilet is really convenient.
A toilet (or bucket) in your RV, by the way, is something you place not only for yourself, but also for your fellow vanlifers. In fact, it is really disgusting how some people leave a place after camping because they do not have a toilet in the van. For example, the most idyllic spots in nature today are more like a public toilet, and we don’t just mean in terms of smell, but also the filthy toilet paper you find everywhere. Several times we have also experienced a bucket of pee being thrown outside while we are enjoying our morning coffee. Not okay people!
How big should your bus be for a bathroom
RVs come in all shapes and sizes. Real/original RVs usually already have a toilet built in. For example, in 2020 we bought an old FIat alcove camper with a real bathroom. Very fancy I know! The camper itself was a bit of a bore, so we decided to spruce up the camper bathroom with some spray paint and wallpaper. Check out the results here. But you also see complete bathroom in converted camper vans, this of course depends entirely on the space.
Most camper vans are 4.5 to 7 meters long and up to 3 meters high. A Mercedes Sprinter L1 (smallest model) is about 5.2 meters long and the Sprinter L4 almost 7 meters. That’s almost a 2-meter difference. May not sound like much, but with a van, that’s an extra bed, full kitchen or full bathroom. If you see amazing RV bathrooms passing by on Pinterest and Instagram, keep in mind that this will not fit every van just like that.
Our Mercedes 508d looks robust, but is small in length to be exact 5040 cm. A bed, kitchen and sitting area will fit just fine, but a full bathroom will be difficult. An extra meter would be perfect.
If you really want a van toilet in an enclosed space, we recommend you look at an original camper or a camper van with a length of min. 6 meters.
Do you want to add a compost or dry toilet to your camper? We definitely recommend it! After almost three years of full-time road tripping, we finally have our own fancy dry toilet and it’s the best decision we’ve ever made!
Our toilet: TRELINO composting toilet
After thorough research into dry toilets, we ended up at Trelino. Two important factors immediately stood out: price and design. Prices for compost toilets start at Trelino from €299, which is a real bargain for a dry toilet! And then the design, absolutely gorgeous. This is just a toilet that deserves to be seen and it’s almost a shame to store it away. It’s no surprise that Trelino recently won the German Design Award.
As we delved further into it, we became even more enthusiastic. The products are very easy to use, compact, and environmentally friendly. Do you want to save even more money or do you have a unique design in mind for your camper? Then you can also purchase a DIY kit at Trelino and make your own dry toilet.
Pull-out toilet under a bench or cabinet
Most people choose a toilet hidden under a bench or cabinet. If you want to use the toilet you slide the toilet out from under it, you do your thing and when you are done you slide everything back into the closet. Especially with small van or rv’s, this is ideal! After all, a slide-out toilet in your RV takes up very little space. One drawback is that you have little to no privacy.
Our Mercedes 508d pee box
Some people find it totally no problem to go to the bathroom in the middle of the RV while your partner is working just 1 meter away. Of course, that’s totally fine and makes installing your RV toilet extra easy. However, we have 1 bus rule and that is: to be able to go to the bathroom in peace and privacy, without the other person having to go outside.
Because of the lack of space, we came up with the idea of making a pull-out closet that holds the toilet. Privacy without sacrificing too much space. The cabinet was soon given the fancy name “Pee Cabinet.” You slide the door forward, so to speak, creating a sort of mini bathroom. When you are done then slide the cabinet back inside.
Motorhome Toilet Choosing? Which toilet in the motorhome do I choose
Now that you’ve found a space and place for your toilet, comes the question of which RV toilet option suits you best. There are three options:
- The bucket
- a chemical toilet
- The composting toilet/dry toilet
A Toilet Bucket
If you are looking for a very simple and inexpensive solution for when you need to go to the toilet occasionally while roadtripping, then a simple bucket is often enough. It may sound a bit like a crazy option, but the bucket is used by many people as a toilet in the van. It is spot on and provides little hassle. The only drawback is that you have to empty the bucket immediately after use, and that option is not always readily available. Now you may also be wondering exactly what about pooping? Very simple, you place a bag in the bucket and when you are done you button the bag and throw it away. But in a place where it is allowed, of course. It is a great alternative, but quite basic and, as a result, not for everyone.
You can buy a toilet bucket for as little as 15 euros. View all toilet buckets
The chemical toilet
The chemical toilet is the most common option in an RV, caravan or bus. And yes you can also poop on a chemical toilet. Especially popular is the model the Porta Potti. A Porta Potti or chemical toilet is shaped like a “normal” toilet and actually works somewhat similarly. The only difference is that everything is collected in a catch basin. You can then easily disconnect the collection container and empty it at special dumping sites. Easy peasy! So why then doesn’t everyone opt en masse for a Porta Potti? This is for 3 reasons in particular:
- You have to use chemicals to smell and break down paper and feces and that’s not nice for nature
- you need special places to empty your toilet
- It has a nasty smell
Yet these days you have lots of sustainable and biodegradable options, such as Solbio’s toilet fluids. For example, you can also choose to urinate only in the porta potti and dispose of paper in the trash can. Foul odors can then be easily countered by natural cleaning vinegar. Inexpensive and environmentally friendly. Attention! Vinegar is not good for rubbers and can cause your chemical toilet to last less time.
Another tip I once received from someone is to add fabric softener (preferably sustainable fabric softener). In fact, fabric softener also degrades.
Popular Chemical Toilets
The supply of CHemic toilets is huge. Most people choose Thetford brand Porta Potti’s. Porta Potti’s are available in different sizes and shapes. We chose the Porta Potti 165, with a 12l waste tank. Here we can take about 3 days. Therefore, much smaller I will not recommend. Available from 70 euros.
If you prefer something more luxurious, you also have the even Porta Potti Excellence. This chemical toilet has a built-in toilet roll, a high seat and a spacious 21-liter waste tank. Fancy Schmancy, but so is the price tag. Available from 150 euros. View all Porta Potti Camping toilets
A dry toilet or composting toilet in your van
One option that has grown tremendously in popularity in recent years is the composting toilet also known as a dry toilet because it uses no water. A dry toilet is environmentally friendly and requires much less frequent emptying. Ideal for when you’re on the road a bit longer. 1 drawback, dry toilets or composting toilets are quite pricey, but there are some new players with more affordable options.
One of them is TRELINO! Trelino aims to preserve rather than harm beloved travel destinations, which is why their portable toilets require no chemicals for use or cleaning. Water is a precious resource, particularly while traveling, and using a composting toilet can help conserve it. Trelino also uses recyclable materials to manufacture their toilets and prioritizes sustainability by producing their products locally. The designs are stunning!
How a composting toilet works
It turns out that feces, that is, your poop, only really smells when it comes into contact with urine. Collecting the two separately prevents odors and allows you to use the toilet for a longer period of time. Your urine is collected in a kind of bottle, making it easy to empty on any toilet. So you no longer have to look for special unloading spots.
In the stool collection tray, use special pellets or wood chips to help it dry up faster and avoid odors. Also, some compost toilets are equipped with a fan.
Emptying a composting toilet
Urine can be easily disposed of anywhere, such as a toilet at a gas station. For poo, use biodegradable bags that can be disposed of with the residual waste. Many compost toilets only need to be emptied once a month. Of course, this does depend on the size of your dry toilet.
What does a dry toilet cost?
A dry toilet is not very cheap. These days you do have more options, and dry toilets and composting toilets are available in different price ranges. A simple dry toilet costs about 350 euros and the luxury options you can buy from 800 euros. If you want to keep it low budget, you can also put together your own dry toilet.
Making your own dry or composting toilet
If you don’t have a big budget but would like to go back for a dry toilet, you can make your own composting toilet. This is quite simple. You can buy the parts yourself or buy a standard DIY kit. Making your own composting toilet for your RV costs about 150 euros.
Advantages and disadvantages of different motorhome toilets
|from 15 euros
|from 50 euros
|from 500 euros
|No, but there are sustainable options these days
|Takes up little space
|Takes up little space
|Is comparatively a bit larger than other options and you need space for the wood chips
|Immediately after use
|About after 3 days at special discharge sites
|Can last almost a month and not dependent on unloading spots
|Hardly, by you threw it away immediately
|Smell is not pleasant
The perfect RV toilet for you!
The perfect RV toilet depends on your budget and needs. A dry toilet has many advantages, but it is quite pricey. If you are often at campgrounds or RV sites, then this option may be a bit redundant. If you travel for longer periods and are often wild, then a dry toilet is a good investment. We have been using a chemical toilet for 3 years and so far this has been fine. Nevertheless, we are increasingly thinking about investing in a dry toilet for once.