A Complete Guide to Camper Van Bathrooms


Photo credit: Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Camper vans continue to increase in popularity. Seasoned road warriors are downsizing after years of RV ownership. First-time #vanlifers are hitting the road and living out of vans full-time. There’s a lot to love about traveling in a camper van, and people are finally beginning to catch on.

With so many inexperienced camper van travelers thinking about trying out the van life, some common questions are being repeated. Among them is something we hear people ask time and time again: “where is the bathroom?!”. The truth is, there are multiple solutions to address the need for a bathroom in a space as small as a camper van.

The two main aspects of a bathroom are the toilet and the shower. In a house, a full bathroom takes up a minimum of about 35 square feet. In a van, 5 square feet would be seriously pushing it! So, what are the various ways to fit a bathroom into a camper van, and which solution is the best? Keep reading to find out!

Camper Van Toilet Options

When it comes to using the loo in a camper van, there are a few common options. Each option has pros and cons when it comes to convenience and space consumption. It’s important to keep in mind that just about any camper van toilet option is going to feel less comfortable than using the bathroom in your house. For this reason, most van owners only use their toilets when there are no public restrooms available, or when they don’t want to go outside the van.

Option #1: The Glorified Bucket

That’s right – one of the most common toilet options in a camper van is essentially a 5-gallon bucket with a lid that resembles a toilet seat. Bags are inserted into the bucket for easy cleanup when going number two, and to improve sanitation. Most van owners that carry these only use them for absolute emergencies and opt for either using public restrooms, or going outside when applicable.

The benefits of this kind of camper van toilet include having an option for emergencies without taking up very much space inside of your van. Additionally, this is a super affordable item at under twenty dollars. However, for those planning to use their camper van toilet on a more regular basis, the ‘bucket toilet’ is not going to cut it.

Option #2: The Cassette Toilet

A cassette toilet, also called a cartridge toilet, is similar to an RV toilet but is more suited for use in a camper van. The main difference that sets a cassette toilet apart from a traditional RV toilet is that it includes a removable and portable holding tank. The tank can be removed and dumped at dump stations or in public restrooms.

If you’re using a cassette toilet to go number two, you can add chemicals to the tank to control the smell and break down the waste. Otherwise, the toilet can be emptied and rinsed every time you use it to avoid any odors.

Option #3: The Composting Toilet

Composting toilets are quickly becoming the most popular option for camper vans. As the name suggests, these toilets use composting fibers such as coconut husks to break down waste.

Some composting toilets feature a side for pee and a side for poop, with separate holding tanks. The pee side can be dumped regularly and rinsed out. If you use the toilet for number two, you add some of your fibers to the tank and the natural composting process takes care of the waste. You can dump the contents of the holding tank into a trash bag, which can be disposed of in a garbage can. This must be done every three weeks or so. Because of the composting process, odors are kept to a minimum.

Camper Van Shower Options

A shower is the second key bathroom element that can be included in a camper van. While many vans do not have showers at all, having the ability to rinse off at the end of a long day spent climbing, biking, or surfing is quite a luxury.

There are two main challenges when it comes to adding a shower to a camper van: finding the space and heating the water. There are various ways that van builders work around these challenges when adding a shower to a Sprinter van conversion.

Option #1: The Built-In Shower

Some van owners opt to go with a permanent, built-in shower in their camper van. This option takes up the most space and will require a large fresh and grey water tank, water heater, and ample power to heat your water.

Having a permanent and enclosed shower in your van makes for the most versatile and convenient showering experience, but there are many downsides to going this route. Major modifications must be made to several areas of your build to accommodate for a built-in shower.

Not only will the shower take up a massive amount of space in the van, but it will also require huge fresh and greywater tanks, complex plumbing, and expensive upgrades to your electrical and/or propane system to handle the load of the water heater. While these costs may be worth it for someone living in their van full-time, it’s hard to justify an indoor shower for most van owners.

Option #2: The Portable Solar Bag Shower

On the other end of the spectrum, there are some shower options that are very cheap, take up hardly any interior space, and draw zero power from your van’s electrical system. Solar bag showers like the Sun Shower are a popular budget option for some van owners.

These showers are as simple as they sound – a 4-gallon bag that you fill with water, leave out in the sun to heat up, and then hang somewhere high on a tree or on your van to create enough pressure to rinse off with. These are a good option for those who only need a shower for emergencies and rare occasions. Although they are cost-effective and space-saving, they aren’t convenient enough to make them viable for regular use.

Option #3: The Road Shower

The Road Shower is a solar-heated, pressurized shower that is specifically designed for use on camper vans and other off-grid vehicles. The Road Shower is a great option for Sprinter van owners – providing ample hot, pressurized water without drawing from the van’s water and electrical supply or taking up any interior space.

The Road Shower comes in 4, 7, and 10-gallon sizes, and you can add more than one to your van’s roof rack if you wish. The shower can be pressurized using a hand or electric pump, but it also self-pressurizes when you fill it with a garden hose. It captures the heat of the sun to provide hot water wherever our closest star shines.

The Road Shower is highly versatile – it can be used for washing dishes or rinsing off dirty pets. It is independent from your van’s main water supply, so it can also be used as extra water storage when you go deep down the backroads. The only downside of the Road Shower is that it does not supply hot water when the weather is cold and cloudy – but this is a small pitfall given the shower’s versatility and ease of use.

So, What Kind of Bathroom Do Muse & Co. Outdoors Vans Have?

Muse & Co. Outdoors vans do not come standard with a toilet or a shower, but we have options to add both to our builds. When customers do want a bathroom, we can add either a composting or cassette toilet into an integrated slide-out drawer. We can also install Road Showers on any Sprinter van with a roof rack.

Our Shower Package includes a 10 gallon Road Shower, a hose with a spray nozzle, and an optional custom curtain setup for your Sprinter van’s rear barn doors. You can enjoy your warm outdoor shower with complete privacy using this setup! Our Toilet Package includes your choice of either a composting or a cassette toilet, an integrated slide-out storage space, and composting material if you go with that option.

If you are in need of a fully enclosed bathroom in your van, we can work with you on a custom build! Get in touch with us today to start building the van of your dreams!

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