Searching for the best toilet for your van life or RV life? We've weighed the options on the market and narrowed down the list to two solid options, but ended up with one toilet that perfectly fits our lifestyle. Curious? Keep reading....
"How do you go to the bathroom?" or "Do you have a toilet?"
We get asked this question allllll the time. And for good reason! I mean, we live in a van, do we really have room for a toilet in this tiny little space. YES! It was an essential part of our van build (and will be an essential part of our van build 2.0 as well!) and we're going to tell you today why why we think we chose the best toilet for van life.
Choosing the right van life toilet
There are so many toilet options for a van that it can seem overwhelming to choose the right one. For us, we knew a couple of things:
- We wanted the toilet to be simple. Not having to worry about cutting extra holes in our van or installing black water tanks to hold the sewage was a must.
- We knew that we wanted it to be able to hold liquids and solids if need be (gross, but it's true).
After a lot of research and talking to other van folk, we finally landed on two main options: the Thetford Porta Potti toilet and the Nature's Head Composting toilet.
But how did we decide which van life toilet to purchase?
At some point in the van build process we just had to pull the trigger (or push the little "buy" button on Amazon) and hope we made the right choice. We've been in the van full-time for 11 months now and we can say confidently that we think we did pick the right toilet for our lifestyle.
We ended up purchasing the Thetford Porta Potti toilet for van life and here's why....
- The price point - The porta potti runs around $150 and the composting toilet is about $940 + shipping. Ouch.
- The size - The porta potti is significantly smaller than the composting toilet and it also is removable, which was a really nice feature for us. The composting toilet is permanently in place and hardwired into the van. The benefit of having a removable toilet is that we can easily take it in and out of the shower area. Being able to take it in and out of the shower gives us a lot more room to shower. This wasn't must-have on our toilet wish list, but we're so glad we have the option of a little more space for taking showers!
- How often you have to dump the toilet - We dump our porta potti toilet about once a week, which to really isn't that bad. Typically that's about as often as we need water anyway and the water is usually found at the dump stations. The composting toilet (from our understanding) has to have the liquids dumped every few days. However, it can go a couple of weeks before needing to dump the solids. We find ourselves in cities a lot which means we can't just dump our pee in the woods like most people are doing, so instead we'd either have to carry our jug of pee (gross) into a public restroom to dump or pay for a dump station twice as often. For our lifestyle, the porta potti was just overall the best option.
- The height of the toilet - This may sound crazy, but I took a tape measurer to our apartment toilet to figure out what a "normal" toilet height was. I didn't want to use a toddler size toilet for the entire duration of our van life. It turns out the porta potti is actually the exact same height as our real toilet was!
- The smell - We knew that the composting toilets were notoriously good about not smelling since they separate liquids from solids. While we weren't too sure about the porta potti, we decided to take our chances with it and haven't been disappointed. To help combat smell we use black water RV toilet tablets to break all the "stuff" down. We also are intentional about making sure we rinse out the toilet at the dump station really well. We even toss some bleach in there to clean it out from time to time which seems to help. I'm not going to lie and say we've never smelled our toilet. We have. But only a couple of times and always when it is 1) 90+ degrees F, and 2) when it's been sitting for over a week. Clean your toilet often and don't leave it just sitting and festering and you'll be good!
Final thoughts on picking a toilet for life on the road....
We're really happy with our toilet for van life decision. There is one thing that we should mention though: There's no perfect substitute for a real house toilet with running water. You can look high and low for a "real" RV toilet, but truth is, you'll come up empty handed. That being said, the Thetford Porta Potti toilet has been a really alternative for us and we'd recommend it to other van lifers or RV dwellers in a heartbeat.