One of the first things I thought about before buying into van life was considering and researching the mundane tasks of daily life and this included bathroom tasks like showering and of course – can I poop in a van toilet. At first I wanted a whole, huge set up with separate bathroom spaces, one for a composting toilet and basin and another for a shower.
Quickly this decision became ridiculous and hard to find for my budget, but not only that it also left less living space inside the van. Once I purchased my van, and everything it had in it, it was too expensive to replace the existing cassette toilet with a composting option so it remains the toilet I have today.
The next crossroads I came to was determining whether or not I should or should not poop in the van loo. And in discovering so it’s a question a lot of people also struggle with.
To poop or not to poop..
Short answer – YES!
Long answer – Try not to
Before hitting the road I decided to move into my van full time for a month or so to make sure everything was functioning correctly. During this time I decided to use the bathroom as I would a house bathroom.
Let me just say your decision to use the toilet for number 2s will be completely reliant on who is the person designated to emptying the cassette, and how strong they are (or if they have any sense of smell).
When I first emptied the cassette, let’s just say it involved a lot of dry reaching (I think I nearly died) and splashing about.
What does pooping in the van do?
Let’s start by confirming there are a lot of different toilet options on the market today yes? My experience lies with a Thetford cassette toilet which consists of a separate black water holding tank that sits under the toilet seat and is accessible from outside the van. Your decision to poop in your van toilet might be reliant on the type of toilet you have and how and how often you must empty it.
I choose to only pee in the van now and only #2 under extreme emergency circumstances.
Let me tell you pee only in the cassette mixed with the flush water and toilet pod chemicals empties at a dump point just as a semi-odorless green liquid.
When you add poop into the mix believe it or not it adds texture! Now when you’re trying to pour everything out of a cassette with a tiny spout (am I creating visuals?), it’s not very pleasant when things get stuck and come out in big blobs of stinky mush when you give it a shake. And it depends how long the cassette has been in use whether or not there’s been time to begin breaking everything down into a muddy wasteland or for the smell to turn putrid, or if it’s all still solid.
(Do you see now where the dry reaching came from?)
Adding paper to the mix
After a few cassette dumps I decided to also hold off adding toilet paper to my van toilet. This saves room in the cassette. But it also allows me to use paper I like and not the recommended cassette paper that decomposes in your hand mid wipe. Normal off the shelf toilet paper will not break down in your cassette before you empty it. This not only fills up space (meaning you have to empty it sooner), it also creates clogs when you’re trying to empty it, and my friend the less chance you have for spray back the better!
I use nappy bags for my loo paper and just chuck them in a bin every few days, no smell, no mess. (since writing this blog I’ve found a little air sealed tight container I now use as a little toilet paper bin with the nappy bags – no smell)
I empty my cassette every week, even if it has hardly been used. After every empty I add a fresh toilet pod to the cassette with a liter or so of fresh water. This will keep everything smelling kinda fresh. The longer you leave it though of course it will begin to smell.
Another note to remember is there is usually no toilet brush in a van. Well I don’t have one, I don’t know where people would store one if they did (please tell me), so if things get messy you’ve got to clean the bowl.
A Sh*t emergency
Ok so there are always instances when you travel full time. Times when there’s no bathrooms around, when you really need to go all of a sudden, when it’s storming, when you ate a bad curry, when the public facilities look like diseases waiting to happen. In that instance I use my toilet! DUH! It’s my home so of course I poop in my van toilet. When this is the case I just find a dump point close by on my travels and empty the cassette. The quicker you empty it the better. If you can’t get to one soon make sure there is plenty of water flushed into the cassette to cover the matter and prevent smells, also keep the toilet blade closed and a small amount of water sitting in the bowl to prevent any sneaky smells from escaping.
When you empty a poopy cassette make sure to flush and empty the cassette multiple times until you can shake it with water in it and it comes out clean, you don’t want any hidden logs hiding in there for your next surprise dump point visit.
Other poopy options
Ok so you’ve done your research and worked out van pooping isn’t for you still? What are your other options? If there isn’t any public bathrooms around there are still other options. When nature calls – consider nature! Yes I also carry a collapsible spade in my van for emergencies. Make sure your waste is buried deep enough (12-20cm) so as not to be found by other humans or animals. And keep to 100m away from camps, trails and waterways.
Don’t have a shovel? Use a bag. Yes a bit weird but you get used to it. Believe it or not the most basic camping toilets are just a seat with bags underneath. If you are using this option a lot try to use environmentally friendly bags. And dispose of your waste in a decent human being way, in the correct bins.
The final option is a bucket with a composter material such as peat for number 2s and a urine bottle for 1s. This is a common option for those with smaller vans and car camping. Although I think emptying this would be worse than the cassette.
Have any questions or want to share your van pooping etiquette? Comment below, I’d love to hear if you poop in your van toilet 😉
Happy wandering x