Choosing whether or not to have a van toilet in your campervan is a tough call. While having a campervan toilet makes it easier to stealth camp, dealing with a black tank or a bag of doo-doo isn’t the most fun activity in the world.
Plus, a van toilet takes up room in what’s already a really small living space. That’s the main reason we didn’t have a toilet in our campervan, which is a small Chevy Astro that we lived out of for years.
We now have a Sprinter van camper, and are still going the route of no toilet. Just personally, I don’t like the idea of storing poo so close to my bed and kitchen area. But to each their own!
When traveling in our van, we usually rely on campground bathrooms, vault toilets, truck stops, fast food joints, or my personal favorite: going in the great outdoors.
If you really feel the need for a van toilet, here are the best portable toilet options we could find.
Before we get started, you might like listening to my podcast episode about going to the bathroom in a campervan:
4 Best Portable Toilets for Van Life
Here’s a brief rundown of the four types of portable toilets you can put in your van:
In-Depth Guide to Campervan Toilets
Now that you’ve seen the options, we’ll go a little more in-depth on each one.
- Small and compact
- Easy to move around
- Feels like a normal toilet
- Easy to set up
- You can bolt some to the floor of your van
- Lasts several days
- Have to dump waste
- Liquids can freeze in winter
- Have to deal with chemicals
- Can be smelly
- Not great for boondocking because you have to empty it so often
A camping toilet or portable toilet is a box-shaped toilet with a seat like a normal toilet in your house. It even flushes using a freshwater tank! Your waste goes into a container that sits below the toilet seat and the freshwater tank.
Typically, you add chemicals to the container so it doesn’t smell. When the cassette is full, you detach it from the camper van toilet and carry it to the nearest public bathroom, where you empty it and flush it down.
This is an extremely popular toilet option for campervans as it’s so small and portable, but dealing with that smelly slurry of sewage is a definite downer.
Large RV companies like Winnebago and Storyteller Overland put a cassette toilet in their Class B campervans. This is the type of toilet you’ll also typically find in a campervan rental.
If you properly maintain your cassette toilet, it shouldn’t smell or leak. The toilet’s cassette, or black tank, holds several gallons of sewage which should last several days before you need to empty it.
Here are the most popular portable toilet models:
With one of these best toilets for van life it’s a good idea to put some sort of odor neutralizer in the detachable holding tank part of your toilet. I have heard some people using just vinegar as a deodorizer.
Here are some portable toilet chemical options:
Bucket portable toilets for van life are the most affordable on the market, and can even be homemade.
You don’t have to buy an entire bucket toilet – if you already have a 5-gallon bucket laying around, just buy one of these lids that fit right on top!
What’s cool is that you can legally throw the bags away in any garbage dump.
These portable camping toilets for a van are small enough, but you’ll need some sort of cabinet or place to tuck them away inside your campervan. These van toilets can be used either inside or outside your van with a privacy tent.
When using a bucket portable toilet for a van, we recommend only using this for #2. If you mix both pee and poo, you’ll end up with a wet mess in your bag that can either leak or is hard to throw away. Use a small pee cup or bottle or a separate bucket for liquids (you can get a 2.5 gallon bucket at Home Depot with a lid!)
However, if you put enough cat litter in the bag, it might work just fine for both.
Here are a couple bucket van toilet options you can try:
- The 2.3-pound Luggablo Loo comes with a snap-on lid with a cover to mask odors. It’s compatible with Reliance’s own Double Doodie Toilet waste bags. However, one reviewer uses it with a regular kitchen bag and a few scoops of cat litter!
- Another respected brand of bucket toilets for van life is Camco, which also comes with a snap-on seat and lid attachment. The main difference between the Camco toilet and the Luggable Loo is the Camco can hold 300 pounds.
- Low odor when used correctly
- Can go a long time before being emptied
- High quality
- Easy to throw away waste either in a dumpster or by digging a deep hole in nature
- Best option for off-grid camping as it lasts a long time
- Most expensive option
- Requires maintenance
- Can require 12-volt power, depending on the toilet
- Isn’t portable, except the brand-new Cuddy prototype
Composting toilets are some of the best toilets for a campervan and are becoming increasingly popular among van lifers. They’re environmentally friendly and have a low odor if properly maintained. You can go a long time without emptying the toilet as well.
These toilets do require more maintenance and setup than other toilets. Most models (AirHead and Nature’s Head) need a power source to run properly with outside venting. This means you’ll need to drill a hole in your van to use those two models of composting toilets.
The newest portable composting toilet on the market, Cuddy, is especially intriguing because it is the size of a portable toilet and doesn’t have to be vented. Cuddy has a carbon filter to neutralize odors.
Composing toilets are the most expensive option on this list for van toilets, running between $650-$1,000. However, they are durable and high-quality, and a great choice if you’re going to be spending an extended amount of time in your campervan. Composting toilets typically require more room than the other van toilet options on this list.
We’ve seen people build entire cupboards, half or full bathrooms dedicated to their composting toilet. This might be a more difficult model to fit into a smaller campervan unless you go with Cuddy.
Here are the most popular composting toilets:
- The AirHead Composting Toilet is the original on the market and was built to fit into a boat head. The AirHead is also the only portable composting toilet that offers an easy-to-remove urine bottle so you can dump #1 without opening the solids tank.
- Nature’s Head came up as a direct competitor to AirHead. It has a similar design, but you must open the waste tank to get to the urine container. The urine container is also clear, making it a little more conspicuous to empty. Nature’s Head is slightly bigger than AirHead.
- Cuddy is our new favorite composting toilet for van life. It’s truly portable, being the size of a cassette toilet. You also don’t have to vent Cuddy outside if you don’t want to; it has a carbon filter to reduce odor. Cuddy is also the most affordable composting toilet out there.
Another type of toilet we can’t leave out is a folding/collapsible toilet for a campervan. These toilets can fit in any type of van because you just fold it up and slide it anywhere in your van.
My Dad uses this type of toilet and just stores it under his bed platform when not in use.
You can either attach a bio bag to your folding toilet or just dig a deep hole in the ground and put the van toilet right on top. If you do that, you won’t have to worry about carrying your waste until you find a dumpster.
Popular folding toilets to check out:
- The Green Elephant folding van life toilet is only 3.5 pounds and is made of durable stainless steel. You can fold the Green Elephant toilet down almost completely flat to fit anywhere in your van conversion. This is a great toilet for smaller van life vans.
- The FamilyGroup Folding Portable Toilet Seat for a campervan is different from the Green Elephant in that it can support up to 300 pounds. The stainless steel construction is rust-resistant and durable with rubber stoppers to prevent slipping. FamilyGroup’s Folding Portable Toilet Seat has a comfortable sitting height and folds up neatly for storage.
The pee cup option
A "pee cup" or portable urinal like this one lets you go #1 anywhere. You can either purchase something like this from Amazon or simply use a wide-mouthed plastic cup or jar with a lid. Add a little vinegar to your cup after washing it out to keep it smelling fresh.
Another way to “go to the bathroom” in your van is to simply use a pee cup and then find a public bathroom or dig a hole when you have to go #2.
This is what we do when stealth camping in cities, and sometimes we even break out the bucket toilet option with a bio bag and cat litter to go #2.
Ladies: it is possible to use a pee cup. You just need to find one with a wide mouth and a screw-on lid. Not to get too personal, but I like using the large mixed nuts container from Costco. Super wide mouth and a screw-on lid. You can also get a funnel to help you aim into the cup if you’re worried about it.
Guys can use almost anything, but there is this pee cup made specifically for men. My dad actually uses one in his small minivan as it’s too hard to stand up in the middle of the night to go pee.
The “dig a hole” option
Please use proper leave-no-trace principles when digging a hole to go #2. Here is some advice to follow:
- Make sure you dig a hole at least 200 feet from water, trails and camp
- Must be 6-8 inches deep and 4-6 inches in diameter
- Choose a spot where people probably won’t hike, like on a gently-sloped hill or near a downed tree
- Try to find rich organic soil that can help decompose your waste (this is usually thick, dark soil)
- Dig your hole on a sunny hillside as sun helps break down human waste
- Avoid places with visible water flow such as sandy washes. The goal is to keep human waste out of the water supply
- Use white, unperfumed toilet paper. It can either be buried deep in a cat hole or packed out.
If you’re going with the cat hole method, we highly recommend a portable bidet to help you wash up before using toilet paper. This significantly reduces the amount of toilet paper you’ll use and that will need to be buried in the ground.
A portable bidet is a game-changer when you're living in a van. We actually have two of these - one in the campervan and one on the sailboat. An easy way to keep clean without having to take a full-on shower.
The van lifer you know will appreciate this, trust me.
Places to Look for Public Bathrooms to Use
Public bathrooms are typically really easy to find when you’re traveling in your campervan. As long as you have a pee cup for emergencies or regular daytime use, you should be good to go.
Here are the best places to find public bathrooms:
- Truck stops
- Rest stops
- Coffee shop chains, like Starbucks
- Big box stores – we often use Target, but stores like WalMart and Cabella’s would work, too
- Grocery stores
- Day use areas
- State parks
- Outdoor shopping malls
Pretty much any store that’s large enough or a chain we feel comfortable going into just to use the bathroom. It’s pretty easy to find a bathroom when urban camping, and when out in nature, we just dig a hole.
Do you even need a campervan toilet?
Before you put a van toilet in a DIY campervan conversion, you’ll want to first weigh the pros and cons. A van toilet is a very personal decision and depends on the type of travel you’ll be doing and how comfortable you feel “going” outdoors.
Campervan Toilet Pros:
- Easier to stealth camp in a city, as you don’t have to go outside or seek a business to go #1 or #2
- Good if you need to go to the bathroom multiple times per night and like the familiar feeling of a toilet seat
- Handy if you stay in RV parks or campgrounds a lot and are squeamish about public restrooms
- Perfect for people who love boondocking but aren’t comfortable with digging a hole
- Portable chemical toilets can easily be emptied into a regular toilet – you won’t have to go visit an RV dump station
- Essential if you want to be self-contained to use services like Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome
Campervan Toilet Cons:
- A van toilet can be smelly if you don’t take care of it properly
- Emptying a cassette or bags of #2 can be a gross experience, and you’ll have to find the right place to dump
- A campervan toilet takes up precious room inside a van
- You’ll have to deal with cleaning a toilet on a regular basis
Things to think about before choosing the best portable toilet for van life
Are you set on having a portable toilet in your campervan? Here’s what you should consider before making a purchase:
How much space do you have?
Look around your campervan and figure out where your van toilet will go. Take measurements and figure out just how much space you can dedicate to a portable toilet.
If you don’t have a lot of space, you can always use a folding campervan toilet with a bio bag. My dad just started van life and he uses this folding toilet.
Do you want a permanent van toilet or one you can carry around?
One type of portable campervan toilet, called a permanent cassette toilet, is meant to be permanently mounted inside your campervan. This toilet is connected to your vehicle’s water system for flushing and features a small outer door where you can access the tank, or cassette.
Then, the tank can be carried or wheeled to a restroom or a dumping station.
Do you want to deal with a waste tank you’ll need to empty?
Think about whether you want to deal with a van toilet with a waste tank you need to empty and clean, or if you prefer dealing with a bio bag or composting toilet instead.
Do you want to go both #1 and #2 in the campervan toilet?
Some people choose to only do #1 in their van toilet. That means you don’t need to add any chemicals, and can simply clean the toilet with water and maybe a little vinegar or bleach.
Do you want to put toilet paper in your van toilet?
Another question to ask yourself is whether you want to put toilet paper right in your portable van toilet for your campervan. This can cause the tank or bag to fill up even faster.
Some van lifers choose to stick their paper into a trash can with a lid, then empty the can frequently.
Accessories to go with your van toilet
If you’re “going” out in nature, there are some accessories to make your van life bathroom experience a little more comfortable.
Here are our top favorite accessories for a more pleasant #1 and #2 in the great, wild outdoors.
- Brondell GoSpa Travel Bidet
- Rapid-Dissolving Toilet Paper
- A Privacy Tent
- Dr. Bronner's Pure-Castile Soap
This travel bidet is one of the best things we've bought for our campervan, sailboat and backpacking! It helps you feel clean when you're out camping without a shower for a few days.
We also think it's great that you don't have to use as much toilet paper when using this van life essential.
It's also really easy to store.
Another thing you'll want to consider is toilet paper that easily disintegrates. Scott's Rapidly Dissolving Toilet Paper for RVs and Boats is a great choice. This means if you do want to put toilet paper into your portable toilet, it will dissolve very quickly and won't take up as much space in your tank.
We are obsessed with using Dr. Bonner's soap. Dr. Bronner's Liquid Pure-Castile Soap offers organic and vegan ingredients for a rich, emollient lather and a moisturizing after feel.
We use it both for washing dishes and ourselves! It can be used for pretty much anything, and is biodegradable. A great soap! (Just don't use it near a stream!)
Conclusion on the best portable toilets for a campervan
Before buying the best portable toilet, spend some time thinking about whether you really need one in your campervan. There are opinions for and against. Here’s a really interesting article on Curbed about why one 4×4 Sprinter van owner chose not to have a toilet in her van.
Also, check out The Bearfoot Theory’s blog post about Pros and Cons of a Sprinter van bathroom.
Ultimately, you’ll have to decide whether or not you absolutely need a portable toilet for a campervan.
Or, you can do what some people do, and only use a toilet for #1. There are plenty of other toilets out there for #2, including truck stops, rest stops, gyms, coffee shops, campground bathrooms, you name it.
A portable camping toilet for van life does add another level of convenience when you’re living full-time on the road. It’s especially a good idea for someone who has to go to the bathroom frequently throughout the night.
If there’s a toilet right in your van you won’t have to stop as often for bathroom breaks.
Luckily, there are so many options out there that you’ll be able to pick the best portable toilet perfect for your unique situation.