Camper vans can offer you flexibility and financial freedom, as you have low overhead and endless travel opportunities. Despite all that van life can offer, there are certain limitations you have to acknowledge when planning your camper van bathroom and how to choose between the variety of toilet and shower options out there.
I’ve assembled a list of the best options for camper van toilets and showers for virtually every van life situation:
- Portable composting toilets
- Portable camping toilet
- Bucket toilet
- Permanent composting toilet
- Chemical toilet
- Hand pump shower
- Battery-powered portable shower
- Solar shower bag
- Outside shower kit
- Collapsible indoor shower
- Combo toilet shower wet bath
Maybe you’re thinking, how could there be so many “best” options. Well, the people who decide to take the plunge into van life can be just as diverse as their camper van set-ups. After all, that’s why so many people love van life. It offers the freedom to live life on your terms.
As a result, the people using camper vans have a variety of plans and goals for what their life on the road will entail. Their intended van lifestyle should shape their design choices.
Just like the creative side of making camper vans, like the array of innovative décor ideas and tech mods people have thought up, the practicalities of what toilet and shower to choose needs your attention, too. Despite how unique camper vans can be, there are still across-the-board concerns to keep in mind when making these decisions.
Concerns When Outfitting Camper Vans
When it comes to designing the camper van of your wanderlust dreams, you have seemingly limitless options for how your camper van can turn out. But, no matter how creative, off-the-wall, or luxurious a van you want to have, some inherent aspects should guide all your choices, especially:
Space – When arranging the amenities in your camper van, space is the number one factor that can limit what you can include in your design. Camper vans need to have all of the elements of a home within a fraction of the space, including a fully operational kitchen, sleeping quarters, living area, and a bathroom.
If you max out on your bathroom square footage, it could take up space you might need based on where and how you plan to use your camper van.
Comfort – Because you’ll be spending a lot of time in your camper van, it’s essential to create an area that will be comfortable to use. If you make the wrong decisions when planning your space, you end up missing out on the benefits and enjoyment of van life and could cost you a lot to correct later.
Cost – Another element that can impact how extravagant your camper van can be is how much money you can sink into the project. Your budget may dictate many of your options, but limited funds can also give you a chance to employ some creativity.
Customizability – A very appealing part of van life for many people, is being able to control and customize their camper vans to maximize the usability and individuality of their space. If that’s important to you, you need to consider which options offer the most flexibility and/or DIY options that are easier to modify.
Other Posts of Interest
- How to Choose the PERFECT Mattress for Camping in a Van
- How to Stay Warm Sleeping in A Van: The Ultimate Guide
- How to Inflate an Air Mattress When Camping
Additional Considerations When Choosing Camper Van Bath Features
Water and electricity usage – Camper vans need to have water and electricity supplies for many of the amenities you can install in them, but what options you have in your van should be uppermost in your thoughts when choosing your toilet and shower.
Knowing the water capacity and usage, as well as the electrical source of your options, can help you pick which is the best choice for your needs and situation.
Environmental impact – Many people using camper vans, especially those doing it full-time, care about the environmental impact of their lifestyle, and love how van life helps them reduce their carbon footprint.
If this is important to you, as you look through the options listed below, keep in mind that the various options for toilets and showers do vary in how environmentally friendly they are.
Installation and maintenance – Because of the unique demands for having toilets and showers in camper vans, some of these options can require greater technical knowledge or maintenance than others. For toilets and showers, which are used quite often, you need to keep in mind how your abilities and know-how align with what you choose to use in your camper van.
If something goes wrong, will you be able to repair any damage yourself, or would you need expert help? How much would the average repair cost? These are essential questions you need to ask yourself.
Convenience – Although you can find options that are space-saving, budget-friendly, and easy-to-use, that doesn’t mean it’s automatically your number one contender.
Especially because toilets and showers can see frequent use and rely on your water supply. You need to evaluate if your choices are convenient for your habits and your location, which is something I’ll talk more about as we review the eleven best options in the upcoming list.
Categories For The 11 Best Toilets And Showers
To make for easy navigation of this list, I’ve divided both the toilets and showers between portable and permanent options. If you already have some idea of which you’re considering, this will make it easier for you to compare the ones you’re interested in.
Generally, portable options tend to take less money and less space compared to their permanent counterparts.
If you’re on a very tight budget, I’d consider looking at the portable options first, but if you have some wiggle room, there are still some strong arguments to be made for the permanent options as well, depending on your situation. Keep reading to find out if one of these options best meets your van life needs.
At the end of each entry on this list, I’ll be mentioning the most important considerations that each toilet and shower option fulfills.
1. Portable Composting Toilets
Although there aren’t that many options out there when it comes to portable composting toilets, these can be a great option because they offer so many advantages. Composting toilets work by separating liquid and solid waste in their storage compartments. Also, they use limited water.
Space: PRO – A portable composting toilet takes a limited amount of space and can be moved anywhere.
Comfort: NEUTRAL – This type of toilet is much smaller than a regular toilet and might take time to get comfortable using. On the other hand, the fact that it separates liquid and solid waste helps to reduce any bad smells.
Cost: PRO – While there are definitely cheaper options when it comes to camper van toilets, relative to the options that most mimic a standard toilet, a portable composting toilet is on the lower end of the most comfortable toilet options you can find.
Customizability: PRO – Because of its small size, you can often hide composting toilets in secret compartments, which allows you to get creative with storage options in your camper van.
Water and electricity usage: PRO – Because composting toilets don’t always flush (and if they do, they use limited water) and instead use a hand crank to move the waste to be stored, there’s no impact on your water capacity or electricity used.
Environmental impact: PRO – There are no chemicals used, so there are no environmentally harmful substances you have to worry about.
Installation and maintenance: PRO – A portable composting toilet can be easily kept and maintained as it’s a self-contained unit.
Convenience: CON – Because of their smaller size, the portable versions of composting toilets don’t allow the long stretches between dumping that their permanent counterparts offer.
Best For: Space-saving, low cost, usability
You might want to consider the Sun-Mar GTG Composting Portable Toilet. It was designed for RVs, tiny homes, marine, and other uses. The toilet is easy to install, which is always a plus.
The Sun-Mar weighs 25 pounds and measures 24″ deep x 15.75″ wide x 19.8″ high. The toilet has a seat height of 18 inches. The solids and liquid get separated into separate areas. This portable toilet has a vent for odor-free use.
2. Portable Camping Toilet
A portable camping toilet is a small, collapsible option that can be carried wherever you go, making it an easy option to take with you if you leave your camper van behind when hiking or camping outdoors on your latest adventure.
Space: PRO – Having a collapsible, packable toilet can be a great way to have all the necessities without giving up valuable real estate in your camper van.
Comfort: CON – You won’t mistake this kind of toilet for the real thing, and there’s no way to reduce the smell if you aren’t somewhere with easy disposal.
Cost: PRO – Portable camping toilets can be inexpensive, leaving you room in your budget for more fun upgrades.
Customizability: NEUTRAL – There’s not much to customize with this option.
Water and electricity usage: PRO – Portable camping toilets don’t require any water or electricity.
Environmental impact: PRO – This is one of the lowest-impact options you can choose for your camper van.
Installation and maintenance: PRO – There’s no installation or maintenance needed, other than keeping it clean.
Convenience: NEUTRAL – These toilets have low storage capacity and need to be dumped frequently.
Best for: Space-saving, low cost, low water/electricity usage, convenience
3. DIY bucket/bag toilet
This is as simple as it gets. Many camper van users will DIY (or even buy) bucket toilets that use bags to line them and smell-absorbent materials like kitty litter or peat moss. Then, these bags will be disposed of regularly.
Space: PRO – These can be easily tucked away and, if you make it yourself, the toilet can be as small as whatever size bucket you can find.
Comfort: CON – At the end of the day, it’s still a bucket, and no matter how much kitty litter you use, the lack of smell suppression will always be a reality.
Cost: PRO – These are a budget-friendly option.
Customizability: PRO – Since this is an easy DIY, you can make changes to this option that aren’t possible with the other choices on this list.
Water and electricity usage: PRO – These toilets don’t need water or electricity to work.
Environmental impact: CON – The bag liners and kitty litter you have to replace each time will add up to a higher environmental impact over time.
Installation and maintenance: PRO – This is a low-tech option that anyone can manage.
Convenience: CON – The need for frequent waste removal, cleaning, and liner replacements might get old fast.
Best for: Space-saving, low cost, customizability, easy maintenance
This low-cost option from Reliance might be the right choice for you while you are on the road or at a campsite. The Luggable Loo portable 5-gallon bucket toilet weighs only 3 pounds.
It is just a plain 5-gallon bucket with a snap-on lid, and it provides a simple solution for when you have no place to “go,” or the bathrooms are too far away to get to in the middle of the night.
All you have to do is line the bucket with a couple of plastic bags, add kitty litter, and you’re ready to “go.” Then simply remove the bag, dispose and replace it with a new one.
4. Permanent composting toilet
The permanent alternative to the portable version I discussed higher up in this list, a regular composting toilet, is a favored option among many veteran van life enthusiasts. It has the benefit of low-odor due to its dual waste storage compartments, and its low water-usage can allow you to go weeks between waste dumping.
Space: CON – These can be on the larger end of the spectrum, so make sure you’re willing to sacrifice on space if this is your choice.
Comfort: PRO – These are the most similar option to traditional toilets on this list.
Cost: NEUTRAL – Depending on which model you want, these can range from reasonably priced to fairly expensive.
Customizability: PRO – These have to be built into your camper van, so that offers the opportunity to get creative with how you can disguise or hide your toilet if you choose.
Water and electricity usage: PRO – These rely on hand cranks to move waste and don’t use water or electricity.
Environmental impact: PRO – With no chemical, water, or electricity usage, these are a very environmentally friendly option.
Installation and maintenance: NEUTRAL – While they don’t require any special knowledge on how to use and maintain them, these toilets do need to be mounted inside your camper van, so they don’t move around.
Convenience: PRO – These toilets can go weeks between needing waste removal, making them a very convenient option.
Best for: Comfort, convenience
5. Chemical toilet
A chemical toilet will rely on specific substances to break down waste materials into smaller masses, so you can go longer between waste removal and don’t need to worry about noticeable smells.
Space: PRO – These toilets have a lot of options on the market and can be custom-made to fit your space as well.
Comfort: PRO – Compared to other portable toilets, they can be more similar in comfort to regular toilets and have low-odor because of the chemicals they use.
Cost: NEUTRAL – There’s a wide range of options in terms of price. So these can get expensive depending on what you’re looking for. If you want, you can even buy the chemicals on their own to make a cheaper DIY toilet into a chemical toilet, too.
Customizability: PRO – It’s up to you if you want a completely custom or premade chemical toilet, and you even have a wide variety of chemical substances to choose from that can serve this purpose.
Water and electricity usage: CON – These toilets can use a lot of water so they can eat into your water supply very quickly.
Environmental impact: CON – The chemical used can often be harmful to the environment.
Installation and maintenance: CON – Because these need to be hooked up to the water supply, installation and maintenance can require someone experienced to take over, which can make things difficult if something breaks down unexpectedly.
Convenience: CON – The high volume of water needed to make these toilets work, means they need more frequent dumping and water fill-ups.
Best for: Space, comfort, customizability
Van Camping Life Tip: Need a little bit of privacy for showering or using your portable potty? Purchase a free-standing privacy tent; they cost between $25 to $125.
6. Manual pump shower
A manual pump shower will usually have a water tank and showerhead that can release water if you engage the hand or foot pump that controls it. This can make for a tiring shower with little or no water pressure.
Space: PRO – These small, portable showers are easy to store and take up little space.
Comfort: CON – Having to manually pump these showers doesn’t allow for a very relaxing shower experience.
Cost: PRO – This is a very inexpensive shower option.
Customizability: CON – There’s not much to DIY or customize here.
Water and electricity usage: NEUTRAL – How much water this uses is up to you and your showering habits, although it doesn’t need a direct connection to your van’s supply.
Environmental impact: PRO – This is a very environmentally friendly option.
Installation and maintenance: PRO – There’s little maintenance needed for these showers, and they can be easily replaced if broken.
Convenience: CON – The amount of physical work they take to use and their small water tanks mean they’re not the most convenient option.
Best for: Space-saving, environmental impact, easy maintenance
7. Battery-powered portable shower
An improvement in convenience and comfort-wise over a manual version, a battery-powered portable shower is the upgraded version of the previous entry on this list. Additionally, this option, depending on which one you choose, can offer water pressure that manual pump showers lack.
Space: PRO – These portable showers are easy to store out of the way.
Comfort: NEUTRAL – While they don’t require the physical labor of the manual pump showers, they also aren’t among the more luxurious options either.
Cost: NEUTRAL – These can range in price, depending on what features you’re willing to sacrifice or can’t live without.
Customizability: CON – If customization is your priority, look elsewhere.
Water and electricity usage: NEUTRAL – Your water usage depends on your showering habits.
Environmental impact: NEUTRAL – While they don’t require the resources of other showers, they still need batteries that are hard to dispose of.
Installation and maintenance: PRO – These are easily cared for and replaceable if necessary.
Convenience: CON – Not having a ton of water storage or a comfortable space to shower in, they’re not the most convenient shower option.
Best for: Space-saving, functionality, easy maintenance
8. Solar shower bag
A solar shower bag, which can be pressurized if you choose the right model, consists of a showerhead connected to a black bag that stores water. You hang the bag outside so it can be heated by sunlight so you can enjoy a warm shower without relying on electrical or battery power.
Space: PRO – This is one of the best space-saving options as it can be neatly folded and tucked away.
Comfort: CON – Even if you do have water pressure, these showers aren’t known for delivering the best showering experience comfort-wise.
Cost: PRO – This is a very inexpensive option.
Customizability: PRO – Solar shower bags are easy enough to DIY.
Water and electricity usage: PRO – There’s no electricity used to heat up your shower water.
Environmental impact: PRO – These are very environmentally friendly.
Installation and maintenance: PRO – There’s practically no maintenance, and they can be easily repaired.
Convenience: NEUTRAL – You have to wait around for the water to warm up for hours (assuming it’s sunny enough for that in the first place).
Best for: Space-saving, low cost, environmental impact, easy maintenance
This 5-gallon solar shower by Advanced Elements is an economical choice for when you are someplace that doesn’t have a convenient place to shower. You can harness the power of the sun to heat your water.
It weighs just over one pound, and the showerhead is really easy to use, you can turn it off and on.
The twist-off cap allows you to fill the bag quickly, and there is a pocket that will enable you to keep your soap handy.
The PVC free bag rolls up to allow easy storage. It is also available in a 10-gallon option.
9. Outside Shower kit
Another way to have an outdoor shower would be to permanently install a showerhead coming from the back of your camper van. This would allow you to tap directly into your water supply and add features like controllable water pressure and water heating, depending on your set-up.
Space: PRO – This is the most space-saving permanent shower option.
Comfort: NEUTRAL – How comfortable this option is depends on how you feel about an outdoor shower.
Cost: CON – This can be an expensive option to still have to shower outdoors and without complete privacy.
Customizability: PRO – You can find a variety of kits and DIY plans to customize this option to your needs.
Water and electricity usage: NEUTRAL – Any water or electricity usage is for you to control.
Environmental impact: NEUTRAL – This is as environmentally friendly as you make it.
Installation and maintenance: NEUTRAL – This is the easiest permanent option (toilet or shower) to install but still might have some difficulties when it comes to future repairs.
Convenience: NEUTRAL – This option is convenient for quick rinses but inconvenient for setting up full private showers.
Best for: Space-saving, usability, customizability
10. Collapsible indoor shower
This option allows you to have a shower without it permanently taking up space in your camper van. Usually, people will set up a showerhead over an easily protectable, water-proof area in their camper van. Additionally, you can hang a shower curtain that can be easily tucked away to protect the rest of your belongings from getting wet.
Space: PRO – This option can help you have dual purposes for areas that would go unused when you weren’t showering otherwise.
Comfort: CON – Having to shower in a makeshift shower stall won’t be the most comfortable experience.
Cost: PRO – This can be the cheapest way to have an indoor shower in your camper van.
Customizability PRO – There are a lot of ways to DIY this option and make it fit your camper van’s needs as precisely as possible.
Water and electricity usage: CON – Arranging your shower design and location will have to depend on what your water and electrical system configurations allow.
Environmental impact: NEUTRAL – Depending on how much water you use to shower and whether you decide to incorporate water heating, these options are as environmentally friendly as you make them.
Installation and maintenance: CON – Once you have your shower hooked up to your water supply, any damage or fixes might get complicated and/or expensive.
Convenience: CON – Having to continually clear out your shower might get old after a while.
Best for: Low cost, space-saving, customizability
Van Camping Life Tip: Once you get done showering, you will need some way of drying off. Please read our review of quick-dry travel towels to learn about this convenient option.
11. Combo toilet-shower wet bath
A combo wet bath will have an enclosed shower where a toilet is mounted on one side of the enclosure. This option might seem totally out-of-left-field, but van life often requires some creativity, and many people have found this is the right option for their needs.
Space: PRO – If you absolutely must have both an indoor shower and toilet, this is the best way to save on space.
Comfort: CON – The quarters will be pretty tight, no matter whichever function you’re using in your wet bath.
Cost: CON – This can be on the expensive side, especially since it tends to need individual customization per camper van.
Customizability: PRO – You can have this option custom fit to your needs and desires in your camper van. There are plenty of DIY plans available out there if you’re feeling ambitious, too.
Water and electricity usage: CON – This option can take up a lot of your water and electricity supply, putting further demands on your camper van’s systems.
Environmental impact: NEUTRAL – Depending on your showering habits and which type of toilet you install in the wet bath, your environmental footprint can vary with this option.
Installation and maintenance: CON – If something goes wrong, this option might not even be repairable and could call for expert help in replacing the entire thing.
Convenience: PRO – You’ll always have a set-aside place to shower and go to the bathroom with complete privacy.
Best for: Space-saving, customizability
Other Things To Consider
In addition to these options for your camper van bathroom, there are other ways you can improve your daily life when it comes to your hygienic needs. One of the best parts of van life is the freedom to think outside the box when deciding on how you live your life. These accessories and untraditional bathroom “options” could be right for your needs.
- Disintegrating toilet paper – This helps reduce what’s stored in toilets with tanks, so you go longer between waste disposal.
- Toilet/shower tent or DIY shower curtain – If you want to use your portable options outside, like when you’re at a camping ground, these tents or curtains can help you
- Shower mat – This will help keep your feet clean if you’re showering outside.
- Environmentally friendly shampoo/body wash
What to Consider When Planning Your Own Camper Van Bathroom Options
Now that you know how to evaluate the best options for camper van toilets and showers, you need to apply that knowledge to your own situations. Here are some questions you should ask yourself.
How are you getting your camper van? (DIY, custom made, premade, hybrid option?)
Many people who want to get on the road as soon as possible prefer to buy a pre-outfitted camper van, either from someone selling their old home-on-wheels or from people who make camper vans as their business.
If you want the customization without the hefty price tag, you might try following some of the many online DIY tutorials to upgrade and outfit your camper van bathroom yourself.
What kind of climate will you spend your time in?
If you’re spending any time in extremely cold climates, outdoor showers are probably not an option. Depending on how cold of an area you will be in, you might have to forgo a bathroom entirely. If that’s not a viable option, you should look into getting a camper van that is winterized, so you’re prepared for the cold.
What kind of area will you be in most of the time?
If you’re going to be in populated areas where a 24-hour gym is accessible or often use campgrounds that have bathroom facilities, you could, like many campers, save the space and expense of a toilet and/or shower. Of course, that comes with the added inconvenience of having to look for bathrooms when in an unfamiliar area.
What kind of disposal are you comfortable with?
When it comes to toilets and dirty water disposal, you need to know how often and what kinds of disposal you are comfortable regularly doing. Compare and contrast the options you’re considering and try to imagine making the disposal methods a regular part of your routine.
Do you need to decide right now?
If you’re at the start of your van life journey, consider if you can settle for one of the most portable (and cheapest) options for now so that you don’t invest in a time-consuming option that takes more effort and money to maintain.
As you interact with other camper van users during your travels and learn more through online resources, you might have a much clearer idea of what you need in the future.
Without a doubt, there’s a lot to consider when designing and planning your camper van. Choosing your toilet and shower options is no exception. Try not to get overwhelmed with all the choices out there and focus on picking what meets your needs and suits your lifestyle.
There are numerous van life resources out there that you can learn from, so make sure to do your research without getting sucked into buying the flashiest option. If you keep your planned lifestyle and budget in mind, you’ll be able to choose a toilet and shower option that fits your individual situation perfectly.