For many people, having a toilet in their campervan is a non-negotiable must-have, and it’s easy to understand why. After all, we all need to go, and when you’re adventuring in a camper van you may not always have access to suitable washroom facilities along the way.
Whether you’re looking at buying or building a campervan yourself, by the end of this post you’ll know all about the pros and cons of the best camping toilet options available for bringing or installing in your camper van for road trips as well as full-time van life.
Should you choose a permanent or portable camper toilet?
Toilets suitable for bringing in your camper or using for full-time van life fall into one of two categories when it comes to storing, using and installing them:
- A toilet that is more or less permanently installed in your camper van, or
- A more portable camp toilet that you can move around or even remove from your van when not needed.
Both have their advantages.
If you always want access to a toilet in your camper, then it makes sense to have one installed in one fixed location, whether that’s in a bench seat, or hidden in a cabinet, to be revealed by lifting a seat or sliding out from a drawer when you need it.
Having a fixed toilet, such as a composting toilet is probably for you, if you’re considering living in your campervan for extended periods of time. Composting toilets are highly popular as they are easy to keep clean, organic (no chemicals needed) and do not give off that port-a-loo smell that can come with chemical toilets.
However, for those who want a more flexible, portable camp toilet option, you may be best off going with a porta potty (or ‘cassette toilet’) options as these are small and compact enough that you can move them in and out of your van as you wish.
Porta potties have their own small tank of water that is used to flush waste into a container that you can empty into a regular toilet or dump station when needed.
A porta potty such as Thetford’s Porta Potti or this option from Dometic is likely a better choice for those who want to get flexible use out of their van (for example, it serves double-duty as a gear hauler as well as a camper for family weekenders), or you just prefer the smaller toilet set-up.
It is worth noting that it’s very unusual for a camper van conversion to feature a full RV or boat toilet (or ‘heads’). Most toilets for RVs are designed to be flushed with water into a black water tank underneath the van, that needs to get emptied at RV dump stations from time to time.
This RV toilet-style setup requires special installation considerations, consumes precious water from your vehicle’s fresh water supply, and tends to be expensive.
For these reasons most campervan conversions you will find are not designed to accommodate RV toilets – so most van builders and owners prefer to keep things simpler, and closer to camping than apartment living!
The best camping toilet options for your campervan
These are some popular camping toilet options for your camper van or DIY RV.
Composting toilets for campers
Composting toilets keep solid and liquid waste separate, and use an organic material (such as coconut coir like you may use for a hanging basket) for managing the solid waste. This makes them easy to empty and avoids use of chemicals or water for your camper van’s toilet.
The Nature’s Head composting toilet is incredibly popular among van conversion companies and self-build DIY camper van builders.
Another composting camping toilet option with a more compact design, the OGO is also worth considering:
Portable camping toilets (porta potty options)
These portable camp toilets can be used for tent camping as well as in or in a separate toilet tent near your campervan.
They require some water and use a pressurized system which you pump up, together with chemicals, to flush and clean the toilet. Waste is collected in a tank that can be removed and emptied as needed.
If you are set on having a flushing ‘porta potti’ for camping, then this compact Thetford model is definitely one to consider.
Another popular marine and RV supply brand, Dometic, also sells a similar cassette toilet:
Minimalist camper toilets
If you just want a toilet for an emergency or perhaps using in the middle of the night when you don’t want to leave your camper, then you could also consider something cheap and basic, like these Camco bucket toilets.
Bear in mind that you need to invest in strong waste bags to go with them, and they’re not set up to contain smells or retain waste if they’re knocked over!
Where to buy a toilet for your camper van
The options above contain links to where you can buy them online. You may also be able to find them at camping, RV and boating supply stores near you.
Where and how to install your camper van toilet
If you’re doing a DIY campervan conversion then you have control over where to install your toilet.
If you are going to use a composting toilet in your van then check the measurements when planning the location, as these tend to be larger and require more space around them when installing.
Most people find that the best place to install a toilet in a camper is hidden within a cabinet or seat.
You can get creative with this. Check out the range of Sprinter van conversions featured on our Instagram for a preview of how they have installed toilets on pull-out sliders (like a heavy-duty drawer), and hidden them under seats that lift up to reveal the ‘loo’.
Composting toilets require a vent to be installed. This is another consideration which may affect where to locate your on-board bathroom. Most people drill a hole in the base of their van for venting the toilet.
For portable camp toilets, it makes sense to plan a specific location for stowing the toilet, away from food, and somewhere you can easily access it to empty the cassette or contents when needed. For this reason, a cabinet by the back or sliding door of the van is the most convenient option.
For some Sprinter van conversion bathroom and layout inspiration, read this post next.