How to Choose the Best Toilet for Van Life: 7 Simple Options

Dee | Lady Bugout
by Dee | Lady Bugout

I get a lot of questions asking what my toilet system is when I’m on the road. I want to go through some things I have tried and share the best toilet for van life.

The easiest thing to do is to find a place along the way. Many campgrounds have toilets. Even a lot of state parks and national parks have bathrooms you can use when you're camping. There are also rest stops.

The real question is: what do you do when you're in a situation where you are boondocking or off the grid? Here's what you need to know about toilet options for van life.

Hand shovel for a DIY latrine

1. Hand shovel 

If appropriate, you can use a hand shovel. You can make a little latrine of your own. Just dig it about six to eight inches deep and use that. It's easy when the ground is not frozen.

Five-gallon Luggable Loo

2. Five-gallon Luggable Loo 

Then there are times when you can't use a shovel. One alternative is a Luggable Loo portable toilet. A lot of people use this. I used this when I was in my Dodge. I didn't have space in the Dodge itself, so I used a little pop-up tent and set it up there. 

My Luggable Loo was a five-gallon bucket. The lid snaps on. You put a bag in there and that’s it.

The problem was it took up too much space inside when I was on the road.

Three-gallon Luggable Loo

3. Three-gallon Luggable Loo 

Then, I switched to a three-gallon bucket. That worked for a little while. It fit under my shelf so I could keep it inside. 

You must empty them every time you get to an appropriate site outside your boondocking area. You dump the bags. I use biodegradable eco-friendly type of plastic bags when I'm doing this.

Using a commode toilet for van life

4. Commode 

Then, I decided to go even smaller. I got this commode that usually sits on top of a metal structure but I thought I could use it on its own. It has a cap on it and everything. The only issue is that the toilet seat for the Luggable Loo didn't fit. 

This is still an option. It's not comfortable because you don't have a toilet seat, but besides that, you use it the same way. The issue is the cover doesn't screw on, so it wasn't secure. This ended up being a failed attempt to try a small alternative.

Toddler training toilet for van life

5. Toddler training toilet 

Then, I tried a toddler training toilet. It has a little seat and then you can put a bag in there. It worked because it actually fit in my cupboard. But it does not have a lid.

In the end, that wasn’t a problem because I would just tie up the bag every time and dispose of it pretty easily.

Using a canvas chair as a toilet

6. Canvas bench

I saw an interesting idea in a video: a canvas bench with a cut-out opening. You leave as much as you can of the canvas so that it's nice and robust. Then you put a bag through it. 

Making a DIY van life toilet

It's stronger than it looks. Just look around and find a camp chair that is foldable like this that you can use. Mine is actually a little more convenient and smaller. I used it for quite a while until I had another thought that I will show you.

Using a compost bin as a toilet

7. Compost bin 

People laugh at this, but it actually works for me. This is an actual compost bin from Ikea. It is only five and a half inches tall and has a wide enough lid. 

I use 100% compostable bags and they're the perfect size for the bin. I lined the bottom with cat litter and I put a paper towel under the litter.

Since the bags are compostable if they get any kind of moisture they start decomposing pretty fast. I use the litter to keep the moisture down.

Horse bedding pellets

I used to use fragrance-free cat litter, but more recently, I started using horse bedding pellets. They sell them at tractor supply stores and cost around $7 for a 40-pound bag. 

It looks like dog food or something and has a very nice light pine smell. These are game-changers because they take away the smell. 

The best toilet and waste disposal supplies for van life

The horse bedding pellets leave this really light pine smell and it’s actually very refreshing. When you urinate on it, it doesn't get wet and it doesn't get heavy. It turns into a light sawdust-like substance.

You can prepare a bag to sprinkle over your waste each time you use it. It provides an extra barrier and covers and absorbs it. Nobody would know that I have a toilet in here, especially one this size that fits under my bench. 

When I'm done, I put a bit of that sawdust-like substance on top and close it. The bucket is very strong; strong enough to sit on. For me, this has worked great. 

The best toilet for van life

I hope that has helped you a little bit. Sorry about all the potty talk, but it is something that people ask frequently. It's a question that you really can't get away from when you're living van life.

When you are out in remote areas for any length of time, you will have to figure out what you’re comfortable with. I hope that presenting these options gave you some ideas.

Do you have other solutions I haven’t mentioned? Leave me a comment so we can share ideas.

Join the conversation
  • Ccb30321025 Ccb30321025 on Mar 28, 2023

    Wonderful idea. I have had anal cancel n how colon problems Loose bowels n leaking is a problem. Sometimes only a minute warning has me looking for a toilet. I have a regular mini van but this can work at the camp house during winter. The camp is winterized so no water available. Great advise. Thank you from Maine

  • Cheryl Cheryl 4 days ago

    Small cat litter bucket with lid - comes with it's own litter! :)