Why every camper van needs a portable campervan toilet
One of the most challenging aspects of vanlife can be finding a restroom. In fact, as we’re all aware, no other issue feels quite as urgent.
The solution? A portable campervan toilet.
So even if I’m headed for a campground with great restroom facilities or even planning to stay some nights in motels, I always carry a portable campervan toilet.
Campervan Porta Potty Top Picks at a glance
Table of Contents
What is the best toilet for a campervan?
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What is the best toilet for a camper van? A frequently asked question and one that really does need to be thought through carefully.
The best toilet for your campervan will depend on the size of your van:
The best toilet for a minivan campervan
- Folding portable toilet
The best toilet for a low roof cargo van
- Small portable cassette toilet
The best toilet for a high roof van such as a Mercedes Sprinter, Ford Transit or Promaster
- Larger size cassette toilet
- Composting toilet
You know, we've got a great article on camper van toilets over at and we talked about just how great it is to have a toilet on board.
Some of the really obvious advantages are, if you have a toilet on board, you never have to worry about campground toilets or truck stop toilets, restaurant toilets, will they let me use the toilet, et cetera.
So, it's really great to have one on board. So the question of, should you have a campervan toilet on board I think is pretty cut and dried; you definitely should if you can.
I think the answer is yes, unless all you're doing is boondocking and you can always go outside for most people.
Just the issue of being able to relieve yourself in the middle of the night is huge. But there are a lot of other reasons to have a toilet in a campervan.
What is the best toilet for a camper van? It depends on your van and this is a very important thing. So you'll want to give some serious thought to this.
Now, if you've got a Toyota Delica mini campervan, you may not be able to use a toilet inside at all.
I'm running a mini camper right now and while I can relieve myself in the van, I prefer not to. So that's an issue. The smaller the van, the more difficult a toilet becomes. Probably the cheapest and simplest toilets are folding toilet bucket toilets.
And then what I call a full squat tray toilet. I actually prefer this method. A couple of years ago, Squaty-Potty’s for home toilets were all the rage. They made it possible to, instead of sit on on the toilet, you could more or less squat over the toilet and it really is a much healthier way to relieve yourself.
Now, not everybody is physically capable of doing a full depth squat. I hadn't really thought about it until I started lifting weights and got into squatting for, for exercise. And then. Yeah. Spending time in Asia, where people will sit in a full squat all day while they work. I've seen motor motorcycle mechanics that don't even have a stand they're actually squatting all day long and they can do it and it doesn't destroy their knees. That's a myth. It actually makes your knees more flexible and stronger.
But anyway, I digress, except to say that if all you have is a shallow tray, And maybe a plastic liner, then that can be a great campervan toilet solution. If you have the physical flexibility, you just use your tray and you wrap up whatever waste you've created and take that out to the garbage, which is what most municipalities want that just dumped in the garbage and that's it.
So then moving on… There are also bucket toilets and that's just a toilet seat that fits on a five gallon bucket. You'll want to use plastic bags. Now you can get into a variety of mediums for that. You could do a homemade composting situation with the right medium.
You could use kitty litter and cover it up there. You know, there's a lot of ways you can deal with that. I don't really want to get into that here. There's a lot of info online about that, but that's an option. The disadvantage of a bucket toilet is the seat is round. Most toilet seats are not round, they're oval.
And because the human anatomy isn't really made to sit down on this circular object, it just doesn't work very well. So that's something to keep in mind, but if it works for you, a bucket toilet can be a great solution.
Next would be folding toilets, which are great for minivan campers and some people with larger vans like them as well for their simplicity. They’re inexpensive and easy to come by and there are a variety of folding toilets available.
And again, if you go to our article at Vansage.com you will find our article on camper van toilets.
Folding toilets are cheap, easy to use, they fold away for easy storage, they use the plastic bag system that you use once, maybe twice. If you've got two people that are going to use it consecutively and then tie it off and throw it away. So folding toilets are a good campervan solution and very simple.
Cassette toilets are are the most popular camper van toilet for full sized conversion cargo vans and for many larger vans such as Sprinters, Transits and Promasters.
Many campervan owners love them because they contain the waste well and they don't require ducting. You don't need a hose or an exhaust fan. Some cassette toilet allow you to hook up an exhaust fan as well.
And if you have a dedicated kind of shower unit or shower/toilet combo unit in your van, then you can install a vent fan in the roof and all the smells are taken care of, especially if you have a door that closes tightly.
There are a variety of cassette toilets. They are relatively inexpensive. If you got one that you weren't crazy about, you could try another one and it wouldn't break the bank. So yeah, a lot of advantages to campervan cassette toilets.
The disadvantage of course, is that you need to empty them pretty frequently, every couple of days at the very least, maybe even daily.
And then finally are composting toilets and we've done another episode of The Campervan Podcast on Composting toilets titled Can you use a composting toilet in the camper van?
For many people, a composting toilet is the best way to go. And that comes down to environmental concerns. And there are also some convenience related issues with regard to composting toilets that some people really like.
Regarding what is the best toilet for a Campervan, I think the number one issue is the size of your van and how much room you have for a toilet.
How much room you have in your van with regard to what is the best toilet for a camper van? Probably the number one issue is how much space you have. And do you have a dedicated space where a toilet can be standing all the time or you can tuck it away somewhere, or do you need it to be folded and completely out of the way?
One more option is that you can get a free-standing toilet tent that would allow you to have privacy outside. People set them up with a camper van shower, but that can be a great solution for a toilet, too.
They unfold very easily and quickly, and they fold away and take up very small amount of space. You can put it up at your campsite. You can put your folding toilet in there and just leave it up until you're ready to leave. So that's another possibility.
Thank you for listening to The Campervan Podcast.
That public restroom may not be very clean
Gas stations, restaurants, truck stops and rest stop toilets can be hit or miss with regard to how clean they are and some tend to be very dirty.
I’m not over the top with regard to cleanliness, but I am mindful of staying clean on the road and don’t feel the need to risk getting sick.
And if there’s family, kids, friends involved, I’m extra careful and definitely don’t take chances.
It’s worth it to have a campervan toilet to avoid less than clean public options.
Quick, convenient toilet use, any time, any place
Just pull over, climb in back, problem solved. No searching, no extra driving, no stress.
The time it can take to find a public facility can throw off your itinerary or even get you lost.
Hoping for a rest stop, gas station or truck stop to come along is a gamble that doesn’t always pay off.
Will they let you use their toilet?
With van life on the rise everywhere, gas stations and restaurants are less and less likely to let random travelers use facilities for free.
“Restrooms are for customers only” signs are more common than ever on the road.
Pretty sure some places bank on travelers needing a toilet and being forced to make a purchase. How many random packs of gum or bottles of water does one van need
I like to think that this one advantage, not having to make unnecessary purchases, has paid for my campervan portable toilet.
It’s 3 am, do you know where your toilet is?
Some of you don’t need this one explained. I’m talking to the very special club known as “men over 40”.
But it’s not only those of us with aging prostates needing a late night tinkle.
Kids, moms and pretty much everyone needs some middle-of-the-night-relief from time to time and that’s no time to be wandering off across the campground to the public restroom, or out into the woods.
Campervan porta potty feature options
You can always tell how crucial a campervan accessory is by how many brands and types of products are on the market, and campervan toilets are one such accessory.
When it comes time to choose one, perhaps there even too many toilets for campervans.
And that’s what this article is all about: simplifying the process of choosing a toilet that’s just right for you.
So fear not and read on, the Van Sage has got you covered with all the details.
Flushing Portable Campervan Toilets
campervan portable toilets are fully self contained with fresh and waste water tanks. These include cassette style portable toilets.
We’re surprised how well these work and, if you’ve got the space in your van, this is one of our top picks.
Most like home: Designed to provide familiar comfort and a satisfying flush.
- Clean: The waste is contained in a tank, so there’s little or no odor.
- The waste tank fills up and needs to be dumped.
- Mid range in size and price.
Just like it sounds; a disposable bag is attached under the seat that gets tied off and thrown out after use.
Some vanners will add some kitty litter to the bag so they can get a few uses out of a bag.
- Simple: No fancy moving parts or needing to get water. Just use it and throw out the bag.
- Inexpensive options available.
- Often collapsible, easy to fold up and store away. Easy to set up outside the van at the camp site.
Campervan Cassette Toilet
- Cassette refers to a tank section that can be easily removed for emptying and cleaning. Some cassette toilets have a lower section that slides out, other are held on to the upper section of the toilet with clips.
- Some cassette toilets are designed to be removed from outside the van, requiring modification to the van. This allows for the cassette to be cleaned outside the van.
Campervan Composting Toilet
The Cadillac’s of portable campervan toilets. They break down and compost human waste through bacterial activity that results in a very clean, no-odor system.
They cost more than the others but, Cadillac style, Cadillac price.
- There’s a learning curve that includes adding a microbe mix and other sciency stuff, but it’s pretty straightforward and worth the effort.
- A composting campervan toilet sits taller than the other types so if you’ve got a low roof van, you might want to avoid these or plan on using them outside the van in a tent.
Can you use a composting toilet in a campervan?
Yes you can. Please give a listen to our episode of The Campervan Podcast that answers this question.
The Campervan Podcast is a daily audio program featuring ideas for design and building, cooking, organization, gear and more for a better overall Vanlife experience.
👉 Check out our full review of MANY Campervan toilets, including Composting
👉 Get the FREE Campervan Essentials List for Outfitting and Packing
A question we get a lot Vansage.com as well as one that I see all over the internet is, Can you use a composting toilet in a camper van?
Yes, but there are pros and cons, as follows:
• Using a composting toilet in a campervan requires a vent hose with an outlet through the floor or side wall
• An electric fan is required to vent the air from the composting toilet reservoir to the outside
• Composting toilets often need to be permanently mounted, not portable
• Composting toilets require a special medium that breaks down human waste
• You cannot put paper or other debris in the campervan composting toilet
Of course like so many things regarding van life and campervan design and build and outfitting, the answer is not cut and dried. It depends on your van and your lifestyle.
So we'll get into a few tips that will help you decide if you can use a composting toilet in a camper van. First of all, some of the advantages of a composting toilet that will help you decide if you can use one in your van.
Probably the biggest advantage is that you can go longer between emptying the reservoir.
So in that way, it's more like a “normal” RV or full-size RV toilet where they fill a black water tank over a long period of time, maybe a week or longer, and then they pull into a dump station and empty the tank all at once and they're done with it. They don't really have to think about it other than cleaning the head.
So that's nice to be able to go a bit longer. And one of the reasons you can do that is because the composting medium masks smell very well if you're handling it properly. We'll get into that in a second here. The medium. That is.
Then another advantage is that there's less environmental impact.
A lot of people are concerned with using a lot of plastic bags or nasty chemicals in a basic folding toilet or a portable cassette toilet. And so they like the idea of creating compost where basically what comes out is dirt, instead of this slurry of again, chemicals and human waste. So that's an advantage as well.
And then the fact that you have this toilet that is not too bad in terms of smell and requires less emptying. It means that you have kind of more normal access to a toilet in your van.
It's important to understand that a composting toilet requires some installation. So basically you can think of it kind of like an air conditioning unit, good air conditioning doesn't result from just putting a freestanding unit in your van and turning it on. You need ducting.
Well, it's the same with a composting toilet. It needs to be ducted.
It also needs a fan to be wired. So the way a composting toilet works is there'll be a fan that pulls air out of the reservoir and then pushes it out through a tube and that tube is connected to a hole that you've either cut in the floor or the side of the van.
There's both wiring and ducting to deal with in terms of installation, those aspects also limit the portability and location, obviously, of your composting toilet.
So you need to choose a spot in your campervan where the toilet will live more or less permanently.
And I say more or less because it is possible to install a composting toilet with some portability and you could even have it completely portable as long as you're willing to have a kind of extension cord and then to run your hose outside each time you use it or to have it where you can unplug the hose and stick it out through a window or a door or something like that.
But honestly, I think it's better to have the air hose permanently installed through a port in the outside of the van. Again, either through the floor or the side of the van so you're not having to worry about that.
And you can have the fan on at regular intervals so that the smell is just never an issue. Therefore, I would recommend that you choose a spot where if you do have to move the toilet, if it does need to be more portable for you, that it be only a few inches that you would move it out, such as on a set of sliders or where you'll drag it out from under a counter. So that's something to think about.
I've seen a variety of designs with regard to the encapsulation and storage of composting toilets and other toilets, such as cassette toilets. For example, you can put it inside of a bench cabinet.
I saw a great design where this lady had a bench built that held the composting toilet and you would lift up the foam bench top and then drop the front of the bench down, and then now you have a toilet and you can just use it and then you lift the face of the bench up and close the lid and nobody sees the toilet in your van and it was ducted so that nobody could smell it either.
So that's pretty cool and there are a lot of different ins and outs and possibilities with regard to storage and encapsulation of composting toilets in campervans.
A couple of the disadvantages with regard to composting toilets:
There's a learning curve regarding the medium. Now I'm not going to get into the medium, the kind of material you need to use as that is technical.
I'll just do another episode about that. Suffice it to say that there is a bit of a learning curve with regard to getting the ratios right, and learning how to clean it and how to keep the toilet clean after each use… So it's not as simple as the toilet that you would have in your house.
Another negative is that you can't put paper in the toilet. And this gets back to environmental impact. I suppose if you're, you're not concerned about that and you'd prefer to just use a chemical toilet, then you won't have to worry about the paper thing.
The paper can just go in the cassette or, or the container each time you use it. And then you take that and you'd dump it. End of story.
But with a composting toilet, the paper needs to be contained separately. Now I've seen that in the extreme in Southeast Asia where the plumbing is just not made for the Western concept of toilet paper they use what is often referred to as a “bum gun”, which is just a spray nozzle then, and you clean yourself with water instead of paper, in many ways, that's a better way to go. But unfortunately we have very little of that here, and that would be a very difficult thing to do in a campervan.
But getting back to the toilet paper issue, a disadvantage of composting toilets is that the paper has to be separate from the other, natural waste.
Those are the disadvantages, just needing to kind of understand how the chemistry works and needing to spray and clean the toilet well after each use and then, no paper or other stuff in the toilet.
Another disadvantage is that the urine and solid waste needs to be separated. Now the better composting toilets do that sort of automatically. And again, I'm not going to get into the details of that in this episode.
So the question: can you use a composting toilet in the camper van? And the answer is yes, with caveats and understanding.
Thanks for listening.
Bucket portable campervan toilets
- DIY and commercial options available
- Cheapest, simplest
- Typically single use then need to be emptied.
- Least expensive and simplest to use, but not always the most stable.
Privacy tents are a great addition to your portable toilet for outside-the-van privacy.
Check out our Campervan awning tents article, which can also provide the necessary privacy to use your campervan toilet.
Our Portable Campervan Toilet Top Picks
★ VanSage Top Pick. We love this portable campervan toilet for its brilliant design, portability and innovative odor elimination system.
|Two sizes to fit your family and offgrid vanlife needs. The comfortable lid and tank indicator make it a top option among campervan toilets. |
|This bare bones campervan portable toilet serves the most basic urge without frills, complexity and does it all at a great price. |
★ VanSage Top Pick. Smart design, compact size and easy waste disposal. This campervan toilet takes simplicity to the next level, and at a great price.
★ VanSage Top Pick. The Cadillac of campervan toilets, this product is loved by vanlife travelers for its remarkable ability to break down solid waste into odor-free, easy to dispose of compost.
|The essence of innovative campervan porta potty design, function and all at a reasonable price. |
The WolfWise Pop-up privacy tent is made of high-quality material that’s waterproof and durable.
It’s great for a campervan shower.
It’s reliable in windy conditions. The polyester fabric in black and silver coating can protect you from UV rays.
Perfect for outdoor enthusiasts who want to have a private place to change clothes and take a shower.
The mesh roof and window allows good air circulation and it’s equipped with a hanging pouch to store small things like your keys or phone.
No complex assemble since it pops up in seconds. The “T” style door makes it easier to go in and out of the tent.
When opened, the dimension of this tent is 47.24*47.24*78.74. When folded into a flat circle, it’s 25 x 25 inches.
Campervan Porta Potty Recap
You can’t rely on rest stops, gas stations, restaurants and truck stops for your restroom needs.
Public restrooms tend to be dirty. It’s nice to have your own clean toilet, any time you need it.
A flushing cassette toilet is a great choice for comfort and middle of the road price.
For the ultimate in simplicity and lowest cost, consider a bag toilet with a folding frame.
Composting campervan toilets are considered the high end.
Thanks for reading!
Questions or Comments about a campervan portable toilet?
Please leave your questions in the comment section below. We’d love to hear from you and we’ll do our best to answer or find a resource for you.