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A common question that one might have when they are searching for a camper van is whether or not it will have a bathroom. Most people are aware that larger motor homes, as well as travel trailers, fifth wheels and other medium to large sized RVs have some sort of shower and toilet available to use within the unit.
However, a camper van is much smaller and may not have the space required for a full-fledged bathroom. Of course, this will all depend upon the brand and model you choose to go with.
Many commercially available camper vans have some sort of bathroom option available. However, many custom-built camper vans do not have bathrooms since they take up so much space and you are already living in a very tight space. Many people make do with portable options that require less space, making for a more roomy floorplan.
This is a matter of preference and some people do not prefer a bathroom within their camper van. Many people would rather utilize that space for more storage or just for a more comfortable amount of room.
A van has a minimal footprint in which to work with and a bathroom can take away from the valuable space available.
Do You Need a Toilet in a Camper Van?
This is very much up for debate and there are many different schools of thought on this question. When I was first looking to build a camper van, I pondered this question and I did my research in-depth on the subject.
In the end, this all comes down to personal preference.
No one can tell you that you need or don’t need a toilet in your camper van. No one knows your needs or your desires for the way you wish to do your business.
Me personally? I would not want a camper van without a toilet and a shower. It’s my personal preference to have both.
Beyond that, I prefer to have my shower and toilet both contained inside my van instead of having to use an outdoor shower as many campervan dwellers use.
Having utilized my shower and my toilet quite often out on the road, I can say for sure that having these two things are a necessity for me and I’m glad I put them into my van.
This may have been a different story if I had built a van in my younger years. When I was in my teenage years or my 20s, I may have had a different opinion and different needs.
However, now that I am in my 40s, I prefer my alone bathroom time and I don’t have any desire to seek out public toilets and showers.
Of course, some campgrounds do have nice facilities to use and I do make use of them occasionally but I like being self-sustainable. Besides that, I don’t stay in campgrounds very often and I prefer to be off-grid as much as possible.
The off-grid lifestyle is one of the reasons I built my van for traveling.
Camper Van Toilet Solutions
Unlike larger motorhomes, there aren’t a lot of options for the smaller spaces in a van. You can have a toilet solution but don’t expect it to be the roomy version that you may be used to in a standard home or larger motorhome or RV.
Many camper vans utilize cassette toilets but there are other options available as well. Let’s look at some of these options below.
Perhaps the most popular option for smaller RVs and Vans. This is what I prefer and it has been a great solution for my needs. If you aren’t aware of how a cassette toilet works, it’s similar to a real toilet.
It has a toilet seat that you sit on and the bowl fills with water while you are doing your business.
It has a clean water reservoir that is used to flush the toilet after you are finished and the dirty water flushes straight into a holding tank which can be dumped at a later time.
I generally only use my cassette toilet for number 1 and I find it to be the perfect solution for this. I have no problems using it for number 2 as well and have done this on occasion and it worked fine.
However, I like to keep this as my main way to pee while I use another solution below to do the other stuff.
It doesn’t take up much space and stores away easy as needed.
Composting toilets have gotten a lot of praise since they offer a mostly odor-free solution.
However, it isn’t without its drawbacks.
Similar to cassette toilets, they have to be dumped regularly. The urine jug has to be dumped every few days depending upon how much it is used.
The composting area will also need to be dumped once a month or so, depending on the amount of usage.
The benefit of the composting toilet is that it separates the solids from the liquids, or in other words, the poop from the pee.
Most of them have a fan that runs continuously and pulls air across the solids and allows them to dry and compost within the composting medium. Most people report that there is no odor, even while using it.
The downside is that it is a bit larger than most cassette toilets and it has to be connected to an electrical source to run the fan. It also needs to be vented so that the stinky air can escape the van or RV.
Another downside is the cost. A composting toilet is the most expensive option that van dwellers consider.
The Nature’s Head is one of the most popular composting toilets on the market.
Dry Flush Toilet
Perhaps you don’t want to deal with the usual problems associated with toilets that you have to dump. If you are looking for a solution where you can do your business and then not have to see it or dump it, a dry flush toilet may be for you.
This type of toilet uses cartridges that contain a certain number of flushes. With each flush, the waste is sealed in plastic. The entire cartridge gets dumped after the allotted number of flushes has been achieved.
One problem with these types of toilets is that they are not the most environmentally friendly. There is a lot of plastic waste involved in these. Besides that, they are expensive and you have to refill with cartridges to keep on using it.
The Laveo Toilet is the best example of this type of toilet.
Portable Bag Toilet
Similar to a dry flush toilet, a portable toilet is made up of a toilet seat that has a hanging bag in which you do your business. They often contain a gelling product that turns liquids to solids and can be used multiple times.
After use, the bag can be thrown into a standard trash can. Similar to picking up your dog’s poop and throwing it in the trashcan using a doggy bag.
One thing that sets these apart from a dry flush toilet is that most of these use a biodegradable bag so you can feel better about tossing them in the trash. Although, I don’t trust this and I usually see this as marketing hype.
I currently use the Cleanwaste Go Anywhere Portable Toilet as my solution for number 2.
I can do my business and then seal the bag up and toss it into the trash. It does feel a bit wasteful because it seems like a lot of plastic bagging but since it’s supposed to be biodegradable, I have settled on this solution for now.
If you do not want to purchase the Cleanwaste Go Anywhere solution, you can always just use a bucket. One of the most popular ones is the Luggable Loo.
Of course, you can just purchase your own, cheap, five-gallon bucket and create your own. You can also purchase your own biodegradable bags to go into it making it a decent solution.
A bucket toilet can be stored out of the way and even used to keep other items in when not in use.
Camper Van Shower Solutions
Who doesn’t like a good warm shower? Especially when you are camping or living in a van. Although a hot shower might be hard to come by, having a shower is possible and there are many different solutions that you could choose from.
A full-featured shower is one that is set up just like the showers that you may be used to in your home. This is what I chose to go within my van and I am so glad I did for a couple of different reasons.
The first reason is that it is great to step into a real shower after a day of hiking and sweating and clean off just like you would in your house.
Although there is not as much space, you can still get the job done. There is no setting up or tearing down. It’s easy to take a shower, wipe the walls down afterward and you are done.
The second reason is that the shower space allows for an area in which I can dry wet clothes, towels, wash rags and other things that may need airing out.
I can hang them up to dry on the shower curtain rod and they will remain out of my way and if there is any drippage, it will end up in the shower pan and make its way down the drain.
This is quite handy for someone like me who hikes and bikes while out in my van. I often come back from the trail sweaty and hot and it feels good to cool off in the shower and then wash my clothes off in the sink or the shower and then hang them to dry out of the way.
Although a shower like this is the most difficult to build, it is definitely worth the effort if you are like me and want a way to take a shower without hassle.
In a commercial class B motorhome, you will often find a built-in shower similar to this. However, many of them don’t have showers installed or have the option to leave it out in favor of more space for other things.
I had considered using a portable shower in my van build but decided against it in the end. A portable shower is great for someone who wants to save space and not have a dedicated shower permanently in their van.
One of the best portable showers is the Big Kahuna. Although it looks quite cheesy and is just a customized dog food container, it works great as a portable shower and has good water pressure.
It doesn’t use a lot of energy and even has a heating option available so that you can take hot showers.
If you want a hot shower, a rooftop system may be the choice for you. A rooftop system is a tube that sits on the top of your van that holds water. This water gets heated in the sun and offers you a warm shower.
The only problem with this type of shower is that it has to be used outside. You’ll have to be in a place that allows outside showers and also a place with enough privacy for you to wash without drawing attention.
These types of showers can be great for those who Boondock often and who are in areas where they can obtain more privacy. Many people choose to shower in their bathing suits which works for a quick cleanup.
Probably the simplest solution for washing yourself in a camper van is by filling water into a simple water pan, a bucket or some kind of large container.
I have even seen people use small swimming pools as a place to sit in and scoop water up onto their bodies and wash off.
One good option is a collapsible container. These containers take up very little space when collapsed and then you can uncollapse them to create a basin for you to add water to. The good thing about this is that you can even heat the water before putting it in the basin.
Pros of Having a Bathroom
- Convenience – go when you want without waiting or searching for a place.
- Cleanliness – no worries of going after others in public bathrooms.
- Less stress of having to find a place to use the bathroom
- Provides a place to store wet items – hang dry clothes and towels and keep them out of the way
- Feels more like a home – who would want to live in a home without a bathroom?
Cons of Having a Bathroom
- Takes up a lot of space in a small van – some people see this as a deal-breaker when considering a bathroom in a van.
- Requires more water usage – showers use a lot of water and you’ll need water for cassette toilets if you use one.
- You have to dump toilets – this can be the worst part but it isn’t that bad if you stay on top of it and don’t leave it sitting for days.
Each person will have to decide for himself or herself whether or not a bathroom is a good idea to have in a camper van. Everyone has different needs and will not come to the same opinion on this matter.
Camper vans can have bathrooms that are quite nice and will allow you to conveniently wash off and use the bathroom anytime you want.
As I stated earlier in the article, I wouldn’t even consider having a van without a bathroom. To me, this makes living or camping in a van a much more pleasant experience.
Camper vans aren’t cheap so I would expect them to have all the conveniences that I’m used to at home.
So if you are seeking out a van that has a bathroom, you are in luck because you can certainly find them and you can also build one in your conversion van.
On the other hand, if you don’t want one, you are also in luck because you can certainly find camper vans without a bathroom. Many people make do without one and they are happy to use public bathrooms along their journey.