Best Campervan Toilet Options & What to Do if You Don’t Have One

One of the most common questions I get about living in my Sprinter Van is where I go to the bathroom. In my first Sprinter Van, I had a campervan toilet, specifically a porta-potti, which I’ll talk about in more detail in this blog post.

In my new Sprinter Van which was converted by Outside Van, I chose not to have any kind of campervan toilet in the van. In the comments on my YouTube tour, people can’t believe this decision. How could I give up one of life’s most important conveniences?

We’ve now been living full-time in my new Sprinter Van for six months, and I feel prepared to share about the pros and cons of having a campervan toilet, as well as tips for living without a toilet in your van. I’ll also share a list of the best campervan toilets for those of you who know you absolutely can’t live with without one.

Learn about the best campervan toilet options in this blog post.

Pros of Having a Campervan Toilet in your Van

  • Convenience – Having a toilet means you’ll never have to search for a bathroom, dig a hole, or go outside in the middle of the night
  • Comfort – Sitting on a toilet in your van is more comfortable than popping a squat
  • Privacy – If you’re camping with a group, having a toilet allows you to do your business without anyone else knowing what you’re up to
  • Cleanliness – There are some nasty public bathrooms out there

Cons of Having a Campervan Toilet in your Van

  • Emptying the campervan toilet – No matter what kind of toilet you have, at some point you’ll have to dump it. This process is not only NOT fun, but when your toilet is full, emptying it becomes your top priority over any adventure you might have planned for that day. Then what happens if there isn’t a dump nearby? You’ll be driving your van around with a week’s worth of pee and poo sloshing around in your toilet or tank, worrying that it might overflow.
  • Smell – When cared for properly, your campervan toilet technically shouldn’t smell, but this isn’t always the case. You’ll also get the occasional whiff, even it’s its only deoderizer, in your very small space.
  • The space it consumes – Camper van toilets aren’t that big, but they still take up quite a bit of precious space when you are living in less than 100 square feet. You also need to plan your conversion and floorplan around the toilet, otherwise, you might not have anywhere good to store it once your van is built. Dedicating a compartment to a toilet means you have to leave something else behind.
Where do vanlifers go to the bathroom? Learn about the best campervan toilet options, the pros and cons of each, and my method of choice.
Here is the portable campervan toilet in my OLD Sprinter Van. I did a lot of things differently for my 2nd Sprinter Van build-out.

So what was the deciding factor for me not putting a campervan toilet in my new Sprinter Van?

I really just hated dealing with dumping it. It’s gross, there isn’t always somewhere to dump it, and while it was nice in my first van, I realized over time that it wasn’t totally necessary. Instead, it was a luxury, of sorts, that I wasn’t willing to sacrifice the space for in my new Sprinter Van. Outside Van was building me the ultimate adventure mobile, and a bathroom meant less space for bikes, paddle boards, my camera equipment, and everything else that ranked higher on the priority list…for ME. Plus, after 22 days backpacking on the John Muir Trail in 2014, I got pretty comfortable going outside.

Whether you are inconvenienced when you go to the bathroom or inconvenienced later when you dump your campervan toilet, at some point, you are inconvenienced. I chose to be inconvenienced on the front end and avoid the chores, all while saving space in my van. Now I’m not trying to convince you one way or the other. If you need a toilet, you need a toilet. End of discussion. You might not agree with me that bikes are more important than a toilet. It’s all in your priorities, and the point of this blog post is to lay out your campervan toilet options and talk about the pros and cons of each.

So where do I go to the bathroom?

  • Going #1

After six months of living in my Sprinter Van without a campervan toilet, I’ve come to realize that there are a ton of options for going to the bathroom. There are public toilets literally everywhere…. campgrounds, gas stations, grocery stores, rest areas, trailheads, McDonald’s, and the list goes on. Some of them are cleaner than others, but if you’re really in a bind, chances are you’ll be able to find one. But what about in the middle of the night or when we are camping off the grid?

There is nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night in your van, putting shoes on, and going outside in the dark to pop a squat. I’ve gotten around this by peeing into a large, empty plastic wide-mouthed jar, while standing up (sorry for the visual). It’s just like peeing in a cup at the doctor but a lot easier due to the large size of the opening and the jar itself. When I’m done, I just screw the lid on, put it in a cabinet, and then I dump it in the morning, either outside away from any campsites or in a campground toilet. After dumping it, I rinse it out, sometimes with a drop of eco-friendly soap or hand sanitizer, and then it’s good as new.

Now, I’ll admit, I don’t feel that ladylike when I’m doing this, and I can literally see some of your squealing faces as you read this… but ladies…realizing that you don’t need a bathroom to go pee is one of the most liberating feelings. If the trailhead toilet is gross, I just go in my jar. If we are driving down the highway, and I can’t hold it until we find a restroom, I go in my jar. No big deal. And dealing with the aftermath isn’t a big deal either.

If you are worried about people seeing your pee in a jar, then I’d recommend putting duct tape around the outside so no one can see what’s in it. You can also use a dark-colored Nalgene with stickers on it. Stickers are a good reminder that it’s not your water bottle.

If you’re traveling with a significant other and you are worried about what they might think, then you might want to rethink who you are choosing to do van life with. It’s close quarters, and to cohabitate in a van, you have to be very comfortable with one another.

What about those pee funnels?  In my experience, they don’t work, meaning they spill, and it’s just another thing to clean. Just get a wide-mouthed plastic jar, and you won’t need a pee funnel.

  • Going #2

Again, there are toilets everywhere, and it’s very easy to find a bathroom after a night of dispersed camping.

We don’t typically set up camp and stay somewhere for several days without moving. We are always en route to do something fun in the mornings, and generally, we pass a toilet along the way.

I’ve only had a dig a hole a handful of times this summer, but in most cases o public land, that is usually an option. If you don’t know best practices when it comes to going #2 outside, check out this blog post where we talk about things like how deep the hole should be and why it’s so important to pack out your toilet paper so future campers don’t come across it.

*Important Update: Free dispersed camping areas are being closed due to campers not following Leave No Trace principles (ie taking surface dumps and not packing out their toilet paper). It’s really gross, and as van lifers who live on public land, we have a responsibility to do better. As a result of this, we’ve started traveling with the Go Anywhere Toilet that I talk more about below.

Learn how to poop in the woods

Best campervan toilet options for vanlife

If my methods don’t work for you, it’s completely understandable. So let’s talk about what your options are if you want to have a toilet in your van.

  • Cleanwaste Foldable Go Anywhere Toilet

Who it’s good for: The Cleanwaste Foldable Go-Anywhere Toilet is good for vanlifers who don’t care about regular access to a toilet but want something for #2 emergencies or extended off-the-grid stays.

This is the toilet we now have in our van for times when there are no public restrooms, we don’t want to go inside a building, and going outside isn’t an option due to location or regulations.

The Go-Anywhere toilet is what a lot of white water rafting guiding companies use. The toilet unfolds and sets up giving you a place to sit. You then attach a wag bag (thick light blue plastic bag) to the bottom of the toilet and you poop into that – the same kind of wag bag you would take with you if you were hiking up Mt. Whitney or in Southern Utah’s Coyote Gulch. These wag bags are double-lined to prevent leaks and when you are done, you seal it up and you simply throw it in the trash. This isn’t a good everyday solution since the wag bags are expensive and not very eco-friendly, but they are nice to have on hand for an emergency.

Cleanwaste Foldable Go Anywhere Toilet // Where do vanlifers go to the bathroom? Learn about the best campervan toilet options, the pros and cons of each, and my method of choice.
  • Nature’s Head Self Contained Composting Toilet

Who it’s good for: The Nature’s-Head Self Contained Composting Toilet is good for people who are building their vans out from an empty shell and want a permanent toilet.

The Natures Head Composting Toilet is quickly becoming one of the more popular campervan toilets due to some advantages over the porta-potty described above. You fix it to the floor using a pair of brackets, hook up the toilet’s van to a 12 volt power source and then run the ventilation hose to the outside of your van.

Nature’s Head self-contained composting toilet tackles odors by separating the pee and the poop. When the pee side is full, you can dump it anywhere  – in an outhouse, in a pit toilet, or in the forest  (make sure to be respectful to other campers and to follow local regulations and Leave No Trace principles by emptying it more than 200 feet from any water sources. According to reviews, the urine container needs to be emptied every 1-2 days if used regularly by 2 people.

On the poop side, you use composting fibers (coconut is a popular material) to break down the waste. Then every 3 weeks (give or take), you have to dump the contents into a bag and then you can dump it into a garbage can. Don’t believe me? Check out this blog post about how to responsibly dispose of solid waste from a composting toilet.

The downsides of the Nature’s Head Composting toilet for campervans is it is very expensive, and you still have to deal with dumping it.

Read more about fellow vanlifers, Our Home on Wheels, and their conversion which includes a composting toilet that can easily be stowed away.

  • Porta Potti Curve Portable Toilet

Who it’s good for: People who want access to a normal toilet in their van and don’t want to have to deal with installing anything permanent.

This Porta Potti Curve Portable Toilet by Thetford is the one I had in my first Sprinter Van. This portable toilet functions most like a regular toilet in that you sit on the seat, and everything goes into a toilet bowl. Then you flush it, and it rinses everything down into the holding tank. You have to use a healthy amount of scented deodorizer, which breaks down the #2 into a liquid and prevents it from smelling. Then once you reach the max fill line, you have to find an RV dump.

To dump it, you take the entire toilet out of your van, as there is no permanent plumbing. Then you separate the holding tank from the bowl, unscrew the hose, and pour it down the dump drain. Then rinse and repeat.

As you can imagine, it’s not the most pleasant of activities, but it’s not that horrible either. I’d just recommend wearing gloves and closed-toed shoes. There are plenty of options from Thetford for portable van toilets depending on your space and needs. This type of portable campervan toilet is also very affordable relative to the composting toilet.

Thetford Curve Portable Toilet // Where do vanlifers go to the bathroom? Learn about the best campervan toilet options, the pros and cons of each, and my method of choice.
  • Luggable Loo

Who it’s good for: Vanlifers on a budget who want an inexpensive, low maintenance toilet.

The Reliance Products Luggable Loo is a very simple 5 gallon bucket with a snap-on lid. You can go #1 straight into the bucket and dump and rinse in the morning. Or for #2, you can line the bucket with their compatible Double Doodie Bag which contains an absorption powder to neutralize odors. When you are done, you simply seal up the bag and throw it in the trash.

Lugaloo Portable Toilet // Where do vanlifers go to the bathroom? Learn about the best campervan toilet options, the pros and cons of each, and my method of choice.

Those of some of the major campervan toilet options and the pros and cons of each.


23 comments on “Best Campervan Toilet Options & What to Do if You Don’t Have One

  1. 5 gallon bucket with a pool noodle for seat, wag bag, and most importantly a Gamma lid. Keeps odors inside and just use a Tide wide mouth bottle to separate the #1. best and cheapest solution. Trent and Allie did a good video on the chemical toilet and could not stand emptying poo. I much prefer taking a black hefty bag to the rubbish 1x a week and emptying the bottle at the gym.

  2. WOW! campervan toilet options really is very essential for everybody. This article really useful for me. I confused for choosing the campervan toilet information what would be the best for everything. But review this article my confusion has cleared. Thanks a lot for sharing such an informative article about best campervan toilet options and where to go to bathroom and I have pleased to get this blog page. I have read your valuable page and gotten much information. Thanks Kristen and keep it up…….

  3. Of all the toilets mentioned, I think I’d have to stick with the Nature’s Head.

    It’s the only toilet on the list that does not mix solids and liquids creating either sewage or a chemical slurry of yukness!

  4. That’s a good point that you would want to have a toilet with you if you are going to be camping for a long time. I am thinking about camping in a single spot for a while, so it might be a good idea to invest in a full on porta potty. That way I wouldn’t have to worry about taking my toilet with me wherever I go. I could just have someone come take care of it for me.

  5. Me personally, it is essential. I am looking to build an adventure van and this is the #1 reason. I have dealt with stomach issues my whole life and it has made me miss out on so many adventures and life events. I say no more! If I have a toilet with me 24-7, I can go where I want without worry. This is a game changer for me and the main reason I am thinking of swapping my built Jeep for an adventure van. Many people can say “oh just stop at a McD’s or gas station when you need to”. That’s not always an option.

  6. I think cassette toilets are most useful in emergency moments. I already using it. Actually I’m a solo traveler. This kind of cassette toilets is looking beautiful and easy to carry. Most importantly, it’s user-friendly. In an emergency moment, we should use such kind of toilet that’s are like we can open fast and use fast. In that case, cassette toilets are really good.

  7. Love love love that you address peeing in a jar in this post!! One of the first questions my friends always asked when I first moved into my van was “where do you pee?!” I hated to paint the visual, but we really shouldn’t be embarrassed about about these common life occurrences.

    In a real pinch for #2 I’ve also double-bagged my garbage can and placed a few paper towels in the bottom before doing my business. At the end of the day, we are all toilet-paper entrepreneurs when we have to be 😉

  8. WOW! You had me at large wide mouth container. I know how to pee/poo in the woods and I’ve sworn off the funnel to bottle method after a few backpacking trips. While a Porta Potti would be nice I still consider it a luxury. Thank you for such helpful information!

  9. I have had a pee funnel with a hose that drains underneath my van since the 80s, I upgraded the funnel system to a “female fit” model about 8 years ago, I thought we were “good to go” when it came to #1. Then my wife asked if we could buy a toilet tent and a bucket toilet, it takes us about 20 minutes to unpack & set up and about 30 minutes to re-pack and stow away. It has held up to 40 mph winds if set up with all the stakes & ropes which adds another 10 minutes to the set up time. The toilet contents are in a plastic bag with absorbent beads designed to turn liquid into solids. Easy to zip lock and put into the trash, no smells after the bag is sealed.
    I can’t get any ladies to explain why the funnel is not user friendly for females but I believe my wife when she says “It Just Isn’t”, she still occasionally uses the funnel. When I grew up in the 60s my ant used a coffee can for both #1 & 2 in her trailer.
    We will soon be buying a larger van (current van is a 1973 Dodge) and we will probably be building the interior ourselves, my wife has requested a flushing toilet and a shower, this is how I found your article & blog.

    1. Thanks for sharing that Mikey! It’s always helpful to hear about other people’s setups and what they’ve tried.

      1. Wow! Thanks for all the work you did! I have a Roadtrek with a leaky black tank and the cost of replacing it will be astronomical! So I began looking for other options. This article was really helpful. I had been thinking a compost toilet would be the way to go, but seems like that requires quite a bit of work to empty too. Now I’m thinking the wag bags seem like an easy doable option since there is already a toilet in the camper. Couldn’t I just put a wag bag in there and throw it away after a couple of uses or is it only good for 1 use?

        1. I think most wag bags are designed for one time use, plus I can’t imagine it would be nice to have to open and close them and use them multiple times. There may be wag bag options out there that we’re not familiar with though that could potentially be used more than once…

  10. A friend always has a traffic cone in the van which when turned upside down with a couple of liners in it is a rather precarious toilet.

  11. With my experience as a partial vanlifer (live and work from my van 1-3 months at a time a few times a year) over the past 5 years, based out of CO and travel in all directions (except East, there’s nothing THAT way :-), I would agree with almost everything you said. What isn’t true is “I’ve only had a dig a hole a handful of times this summer, but know that’s always an option.”. No, it isn’t always an option. You mentioned UT in your article, so surely you’ve come across dispersed camping areas where you are required to have a waste system with you because they don’t want you pooping in the desert. Even if you are there less than 24 hrs, I know I would likely need to poop before I can get somewhere. And frequently I’m in these areas for several days, doing fun stuff like climbing and canyoneering. What’s more, I’m finding those kinds of areas popping up more frequently. Of course also popping up more frequently are more and more no camping, or no overnight parking, areas.

    That said, I came to your article looking for options since I don’t have a toilet in my van either. I usually just carry some wagbags but ya pretty inconvenient on their own. Surprisingly I haven’t seen the Cleanwaste foldable before, I really like that option. The bucket system is ok, but just too bulky. So thanks for the article, I’m heading to Amazon now.

    Drop me a line if you guys pass through the Denver area and need a place to stop for a while or want to hit some adventures.

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