Let’s talk campervan toilet: There is quite a lot of debate about toilets in vans. There are lots of full-time van dwellers without any toilet facilities. On the other hand, one of our main motivators for getting a larger van, the Peugeot Boxer, as opposed to a VW or similar van, was to be able to fit a tiny private space for a campervan portable toilet.
READ: Our Campervan Layout plans- https://mumonthebrink.com/2016/campy-van-layout-plans/
Do you need a toilet on board in your campervan? In my view, yes, you do need a toilet. Why…
Why have a portable loo in your campervan?
1. Clean and Convenient
There is something reassuring about having a nice clean, quiet space at your convenience, especially at night, when you don’t want to be stumbling to the loo deshevelled and half asleep.
Personally, I hate hunting around for decent toilets, and some public toilets are so revolting that you find people doing their business outside them, instead of inside. Every come across any of those? …or you get there and they are locked.Gabor Monori
One of the kids will actually “take it home”, i.e. not go for a long time, till we find somewhere clean and relaxed.
Squatting over grubby public toilets is not good for the pelvic muscles either.
2. Keeping Vanlife Flexible
Having our own facilities in the campervan gives us immense flexibility: we can stop off for the night in the middle of a city, park up inconspicuously and with the doors closed, no one is any wiser that there is anyone in there. We have no need to exit the van for anything we need and don’t, generally, get bothered or moved on.
The same goes for beautiful nature spots- we aren’t ruining it for others, when we need to go, we just use our own facilities.
3. Public Hygiene…every little counts!
Once, during a roadside rescue, the rescue guy told me how he hated sliding under the cars anywhere along the road or in a lay-by, as it was like laying down in a toilet itself. I had never thought about it before that, but have since clocked so many people who stop for a pitstop in nature, along the road. And, indeed, in some of Europe’s motorway stops, especially in the summer, there is a strong urine smell. YUCK!
You defecate and urinate in nature, especially where there are likely to be other campervan users wanting to stop and you will ruin it for everyone: on the way to Yosemite, there are some extremely picturesque spots to pull up for the night. Yet it is full of signs of no camping, no campervanning, no defecating or urinating… the locals have had enough!
For these reasons, I actually believe toilets should be a compulsory addition to any campervan, because with growing number of people opting for vanlife full-time or part-time, it is less likely it going to be just you choosing that secluded tree by the road to piss against.
The Trade-off of Having Campervan Toilet
1. You loose space
Depending on how many of you there are in the van, how private you want the toilet to be, there are a lot of options:
You don’t actually need a dedicated cubicle for your toilet. You can, for example, have a simple portapotti that slides under the bed and perhaps you pull it out and peg a curtain around it when you need to go.
Our van has a little corner in the back sectioned off. We placed it there, so I didn’t have to make any cutouts to empty the tank, but we remove it via the backdoor.
Our portapotti is also easy to take out, so if I need the space for extra storage, when the van is not in campervan mode, then I take the toilet out and use it as an extra loading space.
Here are some brilliant examples for barely taking up any space:
2. You have to empty the tank
When I’m travelling with the kids and we use our small Porta potti continuously, then I have to empty it every 48 hours. This can be a challenge in some countries, where motorhome waste dumping places aren’t as frequent or where they charge silly amounts, like 5 Euros plus.
However, having such a small tank has it’s advantages too: I’ve figured out that I can put the tank into a shopping bag and take it to a regular toilet more inconspicuously. (Just label the shopping bag, so you don’t use it for your shopping, as we almost did!)
Practice emptying in dedicated toilet emptying places though, as there is a trick to getting it to flow without splashing and keeping it clean.
To make emptying the toilet easier, we don’t flush toilet paper, but collect that into a separate bag, that we throw away daily.
Have a plastic bottle of clean water with you to rinse.
Take some paper towels and clean up in case you do splash.
…because, remember: If you leave a mess, it will reflect on others that follow you and you may be ruining it for other vanlifers and campervaners too.
3. The odours
Don’t get me started on the smells… I am very sensitive to foul smells. So we do everything to minimise the bad odours with our portapotti:
Candles are magic! They really do eliminate a lot of the scent while you are doing your business.
We have a fixed candle holder, where a lit candle can stand securely. (Coz fire in van is no laughing matter!)
Use the proper toilet chemicals
These may be expensive, but they work. Trust me, I’ve tried different concoctions, from toilet blu to vinegar and all have left a scent wafting through the van… but I’m still open to hear more environmentally- and budget-friendly options, if you’ve found some.
Don’t let the waste stand in the potty for longer than needed. I would always empty it every 3-4 days even if it wasn’t full.
Install an extractor fan
A small extractor fan near the toilet can make a big difference too.
With these measures we’ve managed to keep odours at bay.
Chemical vs composting toilet
Another debate, once you have decided to go for a toilet in your van is what sort of toilet to go with- a chemical toilet or a composting toilet.
There is no doubt that environmentally a composting toilet is by far the better option. However, they do require more space and figuring out the separation and mixing is a bit daunting.
We opted for a very simple chemical toilet for convenience: originally I was going to install a built-in Thetford toilet.
As we set off on our first road trip, however, I picked up a Porta potti, from Thetford and have loved the flexibility and ease of it.
My current vote is for chemical toilets for vans, but I am still looking into ways of lowering our environmental impact with different chemicals or switching totally to a composting toilet.
Now I’ll hand the debate over to you: Do share your views on whether a toilet should be compulsory in any campervan. Chemical, composting or no loo for you?
Any hints and tips?