Time to dive into the taboo world of campervan toilets! In this article we're going to explore every option, from a poop trowel to chemical cassette toilets, to a fully-compostable campervan toilet! We will look at the best brands, including the Thetford cassette toilet and Dometic Cassette toilet. We will also look at how to install a campervan toilet cubicle.
I'm Shane, I've been teaching people to convert campervans for many years, I'm the author of The Van Conversion Newsletter, the van conversion instructor at Udemy, and the proud owner of a beautiful self-build campervan called Beans. So let's jump in and learn about campervan toilets!
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To toilet, or not to toilet?
Space in a campervan is a highly valuable commodity. Some things (like showers, toilets, or ovens) can feel a bit 'extra'. And in certain circumstances they can be. But most people are going to need some sort a solution when they need a number 2!
So, who doesn't need a campervan toilet?
If you spend very little time in your van
If you are extremely regular with a stomach of steel
If you only ever stay on campsites
If you have a teeny tiny van and don't have a choice
In my experience, a campervan toilet is nearly as mandatory as a fridge. I spend a lot of time off-grid and have used my chemical cassette toilet countless times.
Let's look at the pros and cons of a campervan toilet cubicle:
Convenience: No need to faff about when you are urgently looking to do the business. If you have IBS this should not be underestimated
Comfort: A lot more comfortable than a nature squat
Privacy: No need to worry about who might be around
Space: A campervan toilet cubicle takes up space - that can't be avoided.
Smell: Some types of campervan toilet can let off a chemically smell
Emptying: There is a little bit of effort required in emptying the toilet - though usually minimal
Irrelevant side story: My chemical cassette toilet once overflowed and spilled into the surrounding storage 🙃 #vanlife....
'Non-toilet' campervan toilets
The Trusty Pee Bottle
Ahhh, old faithful. Sometimes a pee bottle can be a life-saver if it's pouring rain in the middle of the night and you really need to go. A Nalgene is a particularly good pee bottle due to the wide top on it.
From what I hear, peeing outdoors can be a little more challenging for girls! Welcome to the stage: SheWee - the ultimate urinating device for the femininely inclined. Go check it out! Pretty nifty device.
The Poop Trowel & Biodegradable Toilet Roll
Did you know that human waste is one of the most harmful excrements of any animal? It is high in pathogenic organisms and heavy metals.
If you are going to go outdoors - you absolutely need to bury it (and the toilet paper)
Unless you are packing out your toilet paper with you, you should also purchase some biodegradable toilet roll. Here's a pack of 24 bamboo toilet rolls!
The Bin Bag
You're in a busy car park, you haven't built a toilet, and beads of sweat are dripping down your forehead as you clench your butt cheeks...
Thank god you have those bin bags!
Sometimes a person's gotta poop in a bag. Just make sure you use the biodegradable ones! (double them up). If have used this technique many times when the chemical cassette toilet isn't setup.
Portable Bucket toilet
On the cheaper and simpler end of campervan toilets is the portable bucket toilet. No frills here - just a bucket with a bin liner that you sit on.
Truthfully, these types of toilets are actually pretty good! The folding campervan toilet takes up no space and does the job just when you need it.
Chemical Cassette Toilet
With chemical cassette toilets, we enter the realm of 'real' campervan toilets. This is the luxurious stuff!
The chemical cassette toilet was created by Thetford many eons ago. It consists of three parts: the toilet seat, fresh water storage (flushing), and the cassette. The cassette is a removable waste-holding tank that can be emptied in the appropriate location.
Chemical toilet fluid
A chemical cassette toilet contains chemical toilet fluid and water which helps break down your waste.
Chemical toilet fluid can come in fluid or power form.
How much chemical toilet fluid should I use?
Thetford recommend using 150 ml of chemical toilet fluid per 20L waste-holding tank capacity. At a minimum you should add 2-3L of water to your chemical cassette toilet to ensure optimal breakdown of excrement.
Dometic make a chemical toilet fluid which I have used personally - it definitely did the job!
EcoGel also make an environmentally friendly chemical toilet fluid that gets raving reviews.
When and Where to empty a chemical cassette toilet
Empty your chemical cassette toilet when you meet either of these criteria:
The chemical cassette toilet is full
It has been a week since you first did the business
To empty the campervan toilet cubicle, simply detach the cassette from the toilet. Most cassettes have a flue/spout that you rotate in order to pour and empty the cassette.
You can empty a chemical toilet cassette at a campsite or a campervan dumping station. If you cannot find either of these, you can dump the waste down a regular toilet - be ultra careful of the splashback though!
Here is a detailed article on when it is okay to empty a chemical cassette toilet into a septic tank.
Note: When your chemical cassette toilet is not in use, you should clean it out thoroughly with disinfectant and let it dry out.
The Original Thetford Porta Potti
Hoover mass marketed the vacuum cleaner, Kleenex the tissues, and Tupperware the plastic box.
Well, Thetford were the creators of the Porta Potti - surely the most important invention of the last half millenia.
The Thetford porta potti is a trusty throne that can fit in the tiniest of places. It has full flushing capabilities and a cassette for the chemical toilet fluid.
It is a portable chemical cassette toilet with a 2. 6-gallon Waste Water Holding Tank with rotating Pour-Out Spout and 2. 6-gallon fresh water holding tank.
Thetford C200 Cassette toilet
The Thetford C200 cassette toilet is the best known of the permanent chemical cassette toilets. The newest model is the Thetford C223.
A cassette inlet is installed in the side of the campervan. This makes the removal of the cassette from the campervan toilet cubicle extremely easy and hygienic - you can empty the cassette from the side of the van!
The Thetford C200 cassette toilet is about as comfortable as it gets. The top of the toilet swivels to fit the campervan toilet cubicle you have built. This is especially helpful if are building a campervan toilet and shower unit.
How to install the Thetford C200 Cassette toilet
Thetford have a fantastic guide on how to install the Thetford C200 cassette toilet here. Here is an illustrated guide on how to install the chemical cassette toilet:
Dometic Cassette toilet
The second biggest name in the exciting world of chemical cassette toilets is Dometic. There are a variety of Dometic cassette toilets.
Dometic 972 portable toilet
The equivalent of the Thetford Porta Potti is the Dometic 972 Portable Toilet.
In my opinion the 972 Dometic cassette toilet is better than the Porta Potti. It is a bit more comfortable and has a level gauge on the side so you can tell when it needs to be emptied.
Dometic CTS 4110
In fact, Dometic cassette toilets take it to a whole new level. If you're willing to spend ~€800 or so you can buy the Nirvana of toilets.
The Dometic CTS 4110 is a serious piece of kit. It has a beautiful design, made of lightweight ceramic and allegedly has a comfort rating of 11/10. It has a ring vacuum flush and an electronic level gauge so you know when to empty the waste.
It has a built-in bidet, a heated seat, and sings you a lullaby while you do this business. Okay... not really. But it is a really great toilet!
Compostable campervan toilet
Compostable campervan toilets are becoming seriously popular in the off-grid world. And for good reason... They're amazing!
I have a friend who lives on a barge and I got the privilege of using his very fancy compostable toilet. It felt like the future.
A compostable campervan toilet is for people who go off-grid frequently and for long periods of time. It has Separate compartments for the liquids and solids
The liquid container needs to be emptied every few days. The solids container, on the other hand, can go 60-80 uses before needing to be emptied. This separation of affairs means that a campervan compostable toilet is virtually smell free!
Virtually smell free!
Separate compartments for the liquids and solids
Easy to empty
Needs to be emptied very infrequently
Composting toilets need to be turned regularly to help the waste break down properly. Most composting toilets also come with a vent system to help control odors, and it is important to clean and maintain these vents regularly.
You must add either peat moss or coconut coir to the solids container, which turns it into a dry dirt.
What do I do with the waste from a composting toilet?
Add it to an existing compost pile
Spread it around fruit trees
Spread it over lawns
Spread it around non-edible gardens
HOWEVER: Do not use it on: edible plants, herbs, vegetables, or seeds.
Natures Head Composting Toilet - Top pick
The Natures head composting toilet is consistently rated as the best composting toilet on the market.
The toilet is urine diverting and has a waterless operation. Also called a dry toilet, the Natures Head composting toilet is lightweight, odorless and compact.
This composting campervan toilet comes with a handle on the side for churning solid waste, converting it into manure. Additionally, it includes an air circulation fan that recycles the surrounding air to manage odors.
Campervan Toilet layouts
You have a lot of freedom with the location of a portable chemical cassette toilet, whereas a fixed toilet will need to be in a permanent location.
It is common to have a pull-out drawer for a portable toilet, like the image shown below. It makes an enclosed campervan toilet cubicle.
Campervan toilet and shower
The campervan toilet and shower are frequently installed together as one unit. A company called EvoDesign make these self-contained units for ~€700.
Alternatively, you can learn how to build your own campervan toilet and shower unit in this guide. It's a lot cheaper than buying a kit online.
And that's all there is to campervan toilets! I hope you found this guide helpful. If you did, consider subscribing to The Van Conversion Newsletter for everything you need to get started with your own van conversion (I'll send you a free wiring diagram when you sign up).
If you're converting a van but unsure of how to do it, you could also check out the Van Conversion Course on Udemy. In the course, you'll learn directly from me how to convert a van into your dream home - no prior experience needed!
Until next time,