If there’s one question we hear more than any other, it would have to be, “Where is the toilet?”. We don’t have a toilet, and surprisingly we don’t mind it one bit. In this post I’m going to talk about why we don’t have a toilet, what we do instead, what options are out there for those of you considering van life and what we might do differently if we built out another van knowing what we know now.
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There are a few different options to consider if you’re thinking about buying a toilet for van life. Personally, after having lived and traveled in the van and seeing other Van Life/RV setups, we totally vetoed the idea of a septic tank on board because of the horrible smell that it brings into your tiny home. So, we won’t be talking about “conventional” RV toilets. Your options therefore include:
This option of compostable toilets seems to be one of the most popular. They are known for having minimal to no odor, they bring you the ability to go #2 in your home, but they are also known for a high price tag. If I were to feel the need to have any sort of toilet added into my van, I would most likely go for this option.
If you’re a cheapskate, the classic 5 gallon bucket with a toilet seat and poop bags might just be the move for you. The pros: very cheap. The cons: after using the toilet to go #2 you have to figure out the proper disposal protocol.
A classic in the van life world, everyone I’ve met that has one of these is obsessed. At it’s most basic, it’s a funnel connected to a hose that you poke a hole through the floor of your van to make it so that when you use it, the pee comes right out the bottom of your van. We don’t have one of these yet, but as soon as we have the time and the tools, we are definitely installing one.
What We Use
In our van, we use the empty bottle & funnel method. We basically buy water bottle cases from the store, and then once we’ve used the water, we have empty bottles to.. pee into. It’s really as simple as that. And, for #2… we find bathrooms in cities and we dig holes when we are out in the middle of nowhere.
After living in cars and vans, we’ve realized a few things.
(1) Buying an expensive toilet is a big commitment. We didn’t want to risk paying a grand for a toilet that we rarely used. We don’t find it difficult to go into town to use the restrooms at grocery stores, gas stations, rest stops, etc. once a day. If we were out in the boonies for weeks on end and absolutely hated digging holes in the ground to do our business, maybe we might consider investing in a toilet.
(2) Your comfortability with privacy determines a lot. If you aren’t comfortable peeing into a bottle in front of your partner, maybe you need a build with an enclosed bathroom. If you wouldn’t be comfortable peeing into a bottle but you would be comfortable peeing in a toilet in front of your partner, maybe you buy the toilet.
What We'd Do Different in Another Van
If we did another van build, we’d definitely be doing a larger van and would therefore have the space to do a composting toilet. Although it is really easy to find restrooms in practically every building in the US, the convenience that having a toilet on board would bring would probably be worth it. There are many times where we have an “emergency-I-need-to-poop-right-this-second” moment, and those are really the worst. Having the Natures Head toilet would be worth every penny considering those moments alone.