Going the Bathroom in a Van: Porta Potties and Composting Toilets
Different ways to make a toilet seat on a 5-gallon bucket.
- Nothing, just leave it plain: That works, but it’s hard on the ole be-hind! Worth a try, but not recommended.
- Gamma Lid: These are cheap, very strong, seal tight against odors and a very good choice if you are using the same bag more than once.
- Toilet seat designed for 5-gallon buckets: These are more comfortable than most and reasonably priced. This one has a gasket and seals fairly tight against odors. Tote-able Toilet Seat and Lid with Gasket
- Pipe insulation: Very cheap, easy and comfortable, but cheesy looking. This one is my choice.
- Build your own toilet box out of plywood and use a toilet seat designed for home use. You can see an example below with the composting toilet
This is my pipe insulation toilet seat.
I know numerous people who use and love their porta-potties, but I must admit I’m not a fan. However, I can understand why some people like them because they are very close to the same experience that they had inside a house so there’s comfort in that. Even I must admit that sitting on a 5 gallon bucket and pooping in a bag is far from “civilized!” But to me that’s the whole point! I want to get back to my more natural, wild side. Porta Potties are a great compromise, letting you live mobile and free but still feel civilized! Get a Thetford porta potty for $78 from Amazon here Thetford Porta Potti 260B Portable Toilet
- They give you a sense of normalcy.
- They’re a good height and they are comfortable to sit on.
- You can pee in them instead of a separate container.
- You don’t directly have to handle or see your waste.
- They flush like a regular toilet.
- Their cost.
- Keeping remnants out of the bowl.
- Finding a toilet or dump station where you can dump them and driving to it.
- Carrying them (and all the cleaning supplies to clean them afterwards) into the toilet in front of god and everybody.
- If you let them get full they are quite heavy, up to 50 pounds.
- If you can’t carry a full one (and many older women can’t) you have to dump them often because you only fill them half way.
- Dumping them!!
- Cleaning them after dumping them.
- Finding water to refill the top tank after dumping it.
- They can smell unless you use chemicals.
- The cost of the chemicals.
- Did I mention dumping them! Yuck!
To be perfectly fair, I’ve never owned or used one so I really don’t have anything to base my opinion on, but it seems to me the negatives far out-weigh the positives. But to be really fair I also must admit that I once had a girlfriend who used one and thought it was great. She said dumping and cleaning it were no big deal and it didn’t bother her at all. Once we were camped by a National Forest campground so we drove over and she dumped it in their outhouse (which is perfectly legal). I never went in with her but it took her at least 15 minutes and I was totally convinced I would never own or use one.
However, I’ve had numerous friends who liked them a lot, so it may be something you have to try for yourself and make up your own mind. Don’t let my prejudices influence you.
Where do you go the bathroom?
So you have your toilet all ready to go, where do you use it? That depends on where you live. If you are in a city, and you can’t get to a public restroom, well, that leaves you only one other choice. In the van you go. If you are a boondocker, and live on Public land, you have a lot more choices. Some people like potty tents like this Stansport from Amazon: Stansport Cabana Privacy Shelter, Potty Tent I have a friend who has an Ozark Trails potty tent from Walmart and loves it. Here are your choices:
- Inside the van. I’m sure most people do this no matter where they live. It’s not a problem even in low top vans. 99.9% of the time I go inside the van.
- Behind a tree. I mean that metaphorically for just outside somewhere. Personally, I pee outside and poop inside.
- In front of god and everybody. I can’t do this myself, but I have friends who live pretty remote and they use their poop bucket outside at all times. If you camp too close to him, you get what you deserve!
- Potty Tents. You can get several good brands of these tents that set up and you use them to shower or go potty. Like porta potties, they aren’t absolutely essential but they’re more comfortable and let you maintain a sense of your old life.
A home-made composting toilet.
A couple years back I met a really nice guy at the RTR who was living in his van and had designed a composting toilet. I took pictures and planned to do a post on it but I never did. Now it’s been a long time and I’ve lost touch with him and lost the notes I took but I really want to share with you what he had done. So I’m going to post the pictures and tell you everything I can remember about it. You proably have a lot of questions, but unfortunately I have no answers. Hopefully this will be enough for you to get stared if you want your own composting toilet. If you do, you MUST buy the book “Humanure.” It’s the gold standard on this subject. The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure, Third Edition