Most campsites have toilet facilities these days but there are a number of sites in National Parks and conservation areas that do not. However, having your own campervan toilet facility with you negates having to find the loo in pitch black or when it’s raining.
Also, having a toilet in your campervan is a great advantage when out exploring so that you don’t have to find public facilities which can sometimes be unpleasant.
The chemical toilet has been the standard since the 1960s. Smaller campervans can use a portable potty type, where larger campers can accommodate a cassette type toilet. These work very well but they do of course need emptying, and some do not like the smell of the chemicals used.
Another option for the cassette type toilet is to install a SOG system. A SOG toilet negates the need to purchase and use chemicals in a cassette toilet and is better for the environment. A SOG works using a fan that draws air into the cassette when the toilet valve is activated. Normal toilet paper can be used and it is said that there is less smell when emptying the waste from a SOG system.
Flushing toilets are now available for campervans and motorhomes. These are more suitable for larger motorhomes or campervans as they require a holding tank for the toilet waste (black waste).
The water for the flush comes from the main fresh water tank on the campervan. Therefore, you may require a larger water tank.
The waste is flushed into a holding tank situated directly under the toilet. These work the same as a domestic toilet. Pedal or electric flush versions are available.
When the flush is engaged the waste is pulled from the bowl using a stored vacuum and is transported to a holding tank. This system can also incorporate a macerating vacuum pump to reduce the mass to a slurry. This system allows for the toilet and the tank to be positioned away from each other. Less water is used with this system.
A macerator uses powered blades that turns the waste into slurry prior to being transported to a holding tank. The flush from this system allows the waste to be transported to a holding tank positioned away from the toilet. The waste slurry is easier to discharge form the holding tank.
Holding Tanks & Disposal
This type of system is used much more in America than Europe. However, some European motorhome manufacturers are now installing flushing toilet systems. One great benefit is that due to the capacity of the holding tank, you do not have to dispose the waste so often.
The design of the system and consideration of disposal is very important. Many British and European sites do not have a suitable disposal point for black waste. On American sites, they have a small manhole cover which you simply remove and fit your waste hose to.
A solution to the disposal could be to install a holding tank macerator. This connects to the holding tank, macerates the contents and can pump it a distance to a suitable disposal point.
Some holding tank systems allow the grey water to be flushed through the black holding tank to ensure it has been cleaned through. Other systems allow you to connect to a mains system to flush the tank.
Although there are holding tanks available in the UK there isn’t much information on design and installation. On YouTube there are a number of videos about black water holding tanks. We suggest a lot of research before you buy any components for a flushing toilet with holding tank.
This type of motorhome toilet works quite differently to the other types of motorhome toilet. This system uses a mixture of water and chemicals that dissolve the solid waste. This solution is then used for further flushes until the toilet is full. To empty, the toilet is taken out of the motorhome or camper and the contents disposed of, like emptying a cassette toilet.
There are now a number of composting toilets available to purchase and use on a campervan or motorhome. Having researched these we can see benefits over cassette and holding tank toilets. However, having not used one (yet) these benefits will only be valid if the claims of no, or low odour are true.
The theory behind these toilets is that by separating the urine from the solid matter, the contents do not smell. The toilet seat unit diverts the urine away to a small tank or bottle. The tank or collection vessel for the solid waste unit is primed first with peat moss or coconut fibre, then after each use a handful of this material is used to cover the solid waste preventing smells. Fans are included on some models to direct any smell away and vent on to the outside of the campervan or motorhome.
Motorhome composting toilets negate the use of a black waste holding tank and ancillary pipework. They do not need chemicals which do have quite a pungent smell. They do not use much water at all apart from a quick spray after going to number 1!
Manufactured or Self-Built
Manufactured compost toilets range in cost from a few hundred to over a thousand pounds. It seems they work on the same principle so it would be prudent to do some good research before selecting one. Another option is to build your own campervan compost toilet. There are kits comprising of the toilet seat with urine diverter, fans, pipes and collection vessels.
Disposing of the Waste
The urine can be simply disposed of down a drain or toilet. The solid waste can be further composted into what is known as humanure and used as compost for the garden. Alternatively, we have seen on some YouTube videos that the waste is disposed of into a normal bin. We do not know the legalities of the latter way of disposing of solid waste. We will, however, look into this and update this page accordingly.
Some of the buildacampervan.com crew are looking rather favourably at composting toilets and one is currently being constructed for test purposes. We can also see the pros and cons of the other types of toilets described in this guide. As with the holding tank toilets, we will be checking whilst visiting campsites to see if many have a suitable disposal facility. If you notice any or have experience of these systems please let us know?