If you don’t want to hear about pinching a loaf…seeing a man about a horse…dropping the kids off at the swimming pool…(ok that’s enough 🤣)…don’t read this article! But let’s face it, if you’re living in an RV or camper van, you’ll need to figure out how to deal with your waste, and composting toilets are one of many ways to do just that.
Keep reading to learn all you need to know about when you’ve got to go on the go!
Table of Contents
What Is a Composting Toilet Anyway?
Now with all those poop jokes out of the way… the main idea behind composting portable toilets is to be able to compost human waste without using water.
So, instead of flushing, composting toilets work by separating liquid waste from solid waste and mixing the solid waste with some type of compostable material (sawdust, peat moss, coconut husks, etc.) using a hand crank. Then the solid waste will decompose inside of the toilet. The toilet also has a fan that helps dry out the waste and keeps the toilet from smelling (ideally).
Pros and Cons of Portable Composting Toilets for RVs and Camper Vans
Every decision you make about your van camper or RV is going to have a huge pros and cons list and not every new and trendy RV amenity is going to suit your needs best.
Portable composting toilets in particular just aren’t right for everyone–they’re expensive, and you’re going to have to be face-to-face with you’re own solid and liquid waste pretty regularly.
- Uses no water
- No need for a black tank
- No plumbing necessary
- Easy to install
- Great for winter RVing and boondocking
- Lower environmental impact
- Most are pretty expensive
- Can be stinky
- Have to empty regularly
Portable Composting Toilet Pros
Honestly, the biggest pro of having a composting toilet in your RV is that it does not use water. Composting toilets are completely dry systems. This means you can spend more time between filling up your water reserve—so more water for drinking, showers, washing dishes, or brushing your teeth.
A self-contained composting toilet might be a good option if you like to do a lot of boondocking or if you’ve ever found yourself at a few campsites in a row without running water. (I’ve been there… yikes!)
They’re also way better for the environment because they don’t use water, and you aren’t dumping a ton of black water with all those chemicals. Instead, you’re allowing your waste to break down naturally.
Portable Composting Toilet Cons
I’d say the worst thing about portable toilets is that they are pricey–most go for about $1,000. If you’re on a budget and you need a toilet, composting toilets are likely not your best option.
BUT, the maintenance costs are super low. Every month or so you’ll have to buy some mulch, peat moss, or coconut husks to refill the solids compartment of the toilet. These materials are way cheaper than all of the chemicals you have to buy to clean and maintain a blackwater tank.
Another way to cut down the cost is to build your own composting toilet–we’ll talk about that later.
*If you’d prefer some more budget-friendly RV toilets (but not composting), check out my article 13 Best Camping Porta Potty Toilets to Go On the Go!
The 7 Best Portable Composting Toilets
Now that we’ve gotten down and dirty with the pros and cons of composting toilets, I’ll discuss some top portable composting toilets.
Composting toilets are definitely not a “one size fits all” thing. Every RV or camper van has different needs, so do your research and find out which one is the best composting toilet for your RV.
Here’s my list of the top 7 portable composting toilets. I’ll list them here first that then go over some details.
- Nature’s Head Composting Toilet
- Air Head Composting Toilet
- Sun-Mar Spacesaver Electric Composting Toilet
- Separett Composting Toilet
- C-Head Portable Composting Toilet
- Sun-Mar Excel Non-Electric Composting Toilet
- DIY Bucket Composting Toilet
The best of the best.
- Great customer support
- Large solids bin
- Easy install
- 5-year Warranty
- The seat can be uncomfortable
This Nature’s Head toilet is the go-to composting toilet for RVers. It’s pricey, but not the most expensive composting toilet on the market.
People who have purchased the toilet say the customer service is unbeatable, so if you ever have an issue, you can contact the seller. Plus, they offer a 5-year warranty.
Waste disposal is also super easy compared to some other toilets I’ve seen. It has a great big handle on the liquids bucket so you can easily lift it when it’s time to empty. (That’s what you’re going to be emptying most often so this is an important plus.)
The only downside I’ve seen about this toilet is that the seat is not like a typical toilet seat and some people find it uncomfortable. But hey, you’re using the bathroom in a van, how much more can you ask for? 😂
Check out this video for a full review of the Nature’s Head composting toilet.
And look here for the most current price.
A fan favorite with great seals if you’re worried about odor.
- Comfortable toilet seat
- Solid color liquids container
- Built-in insect screen
- Great gasket seals
- Not great for humid conditions
The Air Head toilet is right up there with Nature’s Head in the RV Composting Toilet Hall of Fame (that’s a thing… right?😂).
If you’re comparing the two, I’d say they’re very similar. The only difference here is that the Air Head is slightly more expensive, but it’s got a more comfortable seat.
Another big pro with the Air Head is that the liquids container is fully opaque. So if you’re walking around a campground to empty it, no one will be able to tell you’re lugging a huge bucket of your own pee.
This toilet is also slightly smaller than the Nature’s Head, so if you’re looking to save room in your RV, this could be a better option.
One slight issue with this one is that the composting unit might not work well in humid conditions, but it all depends on what substrate you use and making sure the fan is on all the time.
Check out this video that does a nice job comparing the Nature’s Head and Air Head.
Check the latest price here.
But do you need something a little fancier?
Great high-end option.
- Super comfortable
- Great ventilation
- Great compost system
- No need to empty liquids
- Built-in squatty potty
The Sun-Mar toilets are some of the best composting toilets if you’re looking for a high-end option. They’re pricey, but they have some features that no other toilets on my list do.
Sun-Mar has a patented system for making the composting process faster called the Bio-Drum. Plus, you NEVER have to empty your liquids because this toilet has a special evaporation chamber.
This compact composting toilet has a nice, discrete look to it, and it’s super comfortable.
If all this sounds great to you, plus you’re willing to pay extra for these special features, the Sun-Mar toilet is great for you.
Learn more here.
Best if you’re squeamish.
- Easy disposal of solids
- No emptying liquids tank
- No smell
- No need for compost medium
- Need to purchase compost bags regularly
So, with all the other composting toilets so far on my list, there will be a point in dealing with them that you have to be more or less face to face with human waste.
If that doesn’t sound pleasant to you, but you still want to compost. This is your toilet.
The Separett toilet does not have a liquids compartment, instead, the liquids will be routed to your gray water tank so you’ll never have to walk to the dump station carrying your jug of pee.
Plus, this system uses composting bags for solids, so you don’t have to rotate a wheel every time you go, you don’t need compost medium, and you never have to see the waste inside when you remove the bag to throw it out.
You will have to keep purchasing composting bags, but if that’s not an issue for you, then this is a great toilet.
C-Head Portable Composting Toilet (No longer available as of 11/22, monitoring for when it becomes available again)
Smallest on the market if you need to save space.
- Super simple parts
- The churning knob is removable and on top
- Doesn’t need electricity
- No tubes or hookups
- A little uncomfortable
This C-head portable toilet is pretty bare-bones compared to the other ones I’ve talked about so far.
It’s a super-compact, stand-alone, portable composting toilet that you don’t have to hook up to anything because it doesn’t have a fan. This makes it super easy to install—you basically just put it down where you need it and secure it to something. Plus, you don’t have to worry about the fan draining your RV battery when you’re not hooked up to electric.
It has a top churning knob where all the other toilets have churning knobs on the sides. And unlike the Nature’s Head, you don’t have to disassemble the whole toilet to empty the solids container.
This portable toilet is probably best if you’re in a small space and you don’t want to do any construction or modifications — like a van or a sailboat.
The toilet seat is honestly a little uncomfortable, but to me, the pros here really outweigh this factor.
Learn more about this toilet here. (No longer available as of 11/22, currently monitoring to see if it’s temporary or forever)
But is this portable toilet a little too bare-bones for you?
Fancy, non-electric toilet.
- Super comfortable
- Odor free
- Built to last
- On the pricier end
If you need non-electric but you still want a high-end composting toilet, then this is the one for you.
This has all the same features as the other Sun-Mar toilet I mentioned—the fancy churning system, no need to empty the liquids or solids, etc. Except it’s non-electric!
It’s also a bit larger, so if you’re not in a cramped space, this will definitely work.
These Sun-Mar toilets are super high-quality. They’re built to last as long as you need them, they have great customer service, and the technology they use really makes sure that you’ll never have to deal with odor.
Again, this toilet is really an investment. But if you want a nice toilet that is durable, odor-free, and doesn’t use electricity, I think you can’t go wrong with this Sun-Mar non-electric.
Learn more about how it works here.
Now let’s swing to the opposite end of the price spectrum… shall we?
DIY Composting Bucket Toilet
Best on a budget.
- Super cheap!!
- Pretty easy to build
- Can use scrap materials
- You have to build it yourself
…and for my final option: A DIY Composting Toilet!!! Fun, right? 😊
If you like building things, you have super specific needs, and a small budget, this one’s for you!
Composting toilets are super expensive. Building your own portable toilet will dramatically cut down on the costs, plus you can make it look pretty much however you want it to.
I know it sounds a little dicey, but it’s really not that difficult to build your own composting toilet. And if you maintain it properly, it’s not going to smell.
You can buy all the parts you need for a bucket toilet, like the one in the picture, for pretty cheap: check out this urine diverter attachment for $45.
Ultimately, if you’re on a budget, DIYing a portable toilet is not as bad of an option as it might initially sound.
Top 3 Things to Consider When Buying a Portable Composting Toilet for Your Camper
The biggest thing to remember when looking for the best composting toilet is that everyone has different needs for their space. What’s best for other people isn’t necessarily going to work best in your camper.
So, these are my top three things you’ll want to look at before you start researching what toilet you want.
This is my most important tip. Living in an RV, camper, or boat, we all know that space is something we think about with every decision we make.
I recommend measuring the area you need your toilet to fit in, and looking for a toilet that’s even a bit smaller than that (this will make installation easier).
Honestly, my least favorite thing about composting toilets is how pricey they are. The benefits they bring mostly outweigh this, but you should definitely have a budget.
If you’re not willing to spend at least $800 on a toilet, then you’ll need to either DIY a portable toilet, or try a different option!
You’ll also want to assess your needs:
- How many people will be using the toilet?
- How often do I want to empty the tank?
- Do I want to use electricity to run the toilet?
These questions can help you figure out things like what type of capacity you’d like in your toilet, and if you’ll go with an electric or non-electric option.
How To Use a Composting Toilet for Camping or Van Living
Using a composting toilet definitely takes some getting used to. It’s not a flush-and-go situation so you’ll have to get through a bit of a learning curve.
Every toilet is different, but here are the basic steps for using most portable toilets on the market.
Install the Toilet
This step will really vary from toilet to toilet. If you previously had a flush toilet in your camper, you can use the same footprint but you’ll first want to plug up the hole where the water flushed to your RV’s black tank.
If your toilet has an exhaust fan, you’ll need to find a place to route the air tube outside of the space so the toilet can ventilate.
Finally, you can secure your toilet to the ground using whatever brackets the toilet came with.
Add Composting Medium
The composting medium goes in the solids waste tank of the composting toilet. There are a few types of organic medium you can use:
- Coconut coir (ground up coconut husks)
- Peat moss
Most composters use coco coir just cause it’s cheap, packs small, and does really well with odors.
Now, you’re reading to “go”!
How to “Go”
This is where the learning curve comes in. The most important part of composting toilets is that they separate liquids and solids, but it’s your job to aim! You need to make sure that your urine goes into the liquid waste tank and your solids go into the solid waste tank.
And here’s a kicker…If you’ve got male parts, you have to pee sitting down! Let’s look at it as a nice test for your masculine ego. 😂
Anyway, this does take some getting used to but once you’ve used it a few times, you’ll be just fine.
Emptying the Toilet
You’ll have to empty the liquids container once or twice per week. All you need to do is take out the container and dump it down a toilet or RV dump station… pretty simple.
Once every few weeks you’ll have to empty the solid organic materials and you can do this by dumping it all into a trash bag and throwing it in the trash, burying it (if you’re not near anyone else), or putting it into a compost pile.
*Depending on where you are, you might want to check local regulations regarding waste disposal.
See… it’s not so bad!
There are going to be some maintenance steps you’ll need to take to keep the toilet from smelling, and they take a bit more maintenance compared to a traditional toilet.
If there is any leakage of the liquid waste container, you’ll need to clean that up right away or it will start smelling. Other than that, you might want to take the entire toilet apart every 6 months or so and give it a good deep clean with vinegar or bleach to prevent any smells from developing.
Composting Toilet Tips and Tricks
There are a few extra things you can do to make portable toilets easier to have and less smelly. Something most toilet composters recommend is never putting toilet paper in the solid waste container. This is because the toilet paper builds up quickly and you’ll have to empty it way more often.
I’ve also found that it’s important to keep a little spray bottle full of either vinegar or diluted bleach next to the toilet and spray the liquids area with the bottle after every time you go number one. Believe it or not, the liquids tend to smell way more than the solids do, and this really helps cut down on that.
Portable Composting Toilet FAQs
Do composting toilets stink up your RV or camper van?
They shouldn’t! If your composting toilet is working as it should, you should never be able to smell any stench from the toilet. The best ones are designed to dissipate odors effectively.
How often do you have to empty a portable composting toilet?
For two people full-time, you’ll have to empty the liquids around once every 3-4 days, and the solids every couple of weeks.
But, these numbers really depend on the capacity of your toilet, how many people are using it, and how often you “go”.
Where can I put compost toilet waste?
Solids waste can go in one of three places:
- In a bag in the garbage
- Buried in the ground (if you’re in a remote place and away from water sources)
- In a compost pile
Can I use toilet paper with a composting toilet?
Yes! Toilet paper can absolutely go into the solids section of a composting toilet. It will degrade along with the solid waste. But remember that you’ll have to empty it more often.
Are portable composting toilets expensive?
Most composting toilets on the market are expensive ($800-$1800). But if you make one yourself, it’ll be super cheap.
Are there other types of portable toilets for RVs and camper vans?
Yes! If composting isn’t the right option for you, check out some of these camping porta potties!
Portable composting toilets are definitely not for everyone, but hopefully, you found something here that suits your unique needs and will help you save water and the environment.
For more info on all things RV check out my other articles: