This week we continue our Q&A series with a question fielded from our YouTube subscribers. During our 11 months on the road, many people have wanted to know the scoop on one of our favorite RV modifications.
A composting toilet?! How does it work, and do you like it?
We installed a Nature’s Head composting toilet in our RV during the final stages of renovation. Torn between having to empty a black water tank or empty a compost “bucket”, our research led us to the latter.
Needing only two L-Brackets to hold it in place, the Nature’s Head toilet is an easy install. It does require 12 volt power and a ventilation hole. We easily wired it into existing wires in the area. The company offers a 110 converter if you’d rather plug it in to an outlet. We routed the ventilation hose into the floor – in an existing hole from our old toilet.
Overall, the installation took about two hours. Most of that time was consumed by figuring out exactly where to place it.
Starting the Compost
To begin the compost, we recommend using Peat Moss or Coco COIR (we buy it on Amazon). The Coco COIR we use comes packaged very dry & tight. You’ll have to chip off the dry material and rehydrate it in a bin or bucket.
We learned how to do this from Gone With the Wynn’s. Here’s their tips:
1. Take off the top, aka the seat and set it out of the way.
2. Break off enough coconut coir or sphagnum peat moss (about a 1 gallon buckets worth) and place it in your bucket.
3. Hydrate the coco coir or sphagnum peat moss (typically comes dehydrated in a solid mass) with water until no dry clumps are visible and it has the look and feel of fresh garden soil (damp and crumbly, not wet). I use approx 1.5 – 2 liters of water.
4. Pour the hydrated coco or moss until it levels out just under or at the agitator.
5. Put the toilet back together and its ready for use.
Using the Toilet
It seems pretty intimidating to use the bathroom on a new device, but before no time it will feel like home!
Toward the front of the toilet are two holes; these holes drain into a urine compartment. The urine tank holds about two gallons of liquid.
In the center of the toilet is the solid waste hole equipped with a lid. A lever on the side of the toilet easily opens and closes the lid. When you have to go, open the lid – and when you’re done, simply close it.
You may put toilet paper in the compost, but it will slow the composting process down and lead to emptying more often.
Cleaning & Emptying
The most annoying aspect of this toilet is how quickly the urine tank becomes full. We empty the urine at least twice a week.
The urine tank is easy to remove and there are a few methods of emptying. When boondocking with no vault toilet, we empty the tank in the woods (and never in the same place twice). When boondocking with vault toilets, we empty the urine in a vault toilet. If we have access to flush toilets, we’ll empty the urine down one of those.
Any method works fine, just practice common courtesy when handling large amounts of urine in a public area!
The composting tank is fairly easy to clean. We unhook to toilet from the floor, place a large trash bag around the lid, and flip it upside down. Because the substance is considered compost, you can throw it away like everyday trash.
Why We Chose a Composting Toilet?
We wanted a composting toilet for two reasons. First and foremost, our blackwater tank was tiny (7 gallons) and we didn’t want to empty it so often. And secondly, we liked the organic aspect of the Nature’s Head toilet. Dumping strong chemicals into a blackwater tank and filling our camper with that chemical smell is a sure-fire way to harsh our vibe!
Overall, we’ve been really happy with the function of our composition toilet.
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You said that with the composting toilet, you don’t even have to think about your black water for a couple of months. I’m wondering how it comes in to play with this system at all? We are definitely considering a composting toilet for the same reasons you mentioned, mainly the chemicals.
How often do you have to empty the composting tank? And approx how long does the unused peat moss or coco last? Does it “keep” if the rig is parked for a month or two?
Thanks for another informative post. I am not mobile yet (maybe next year). I must say the composting toilet has definitely been the leading contender for what I would like to get. The cost is very high initially 🙁
That high cost has me thinking of trying to build my own, the concept is very simple. I wouldn’t mind paying a premium for a ready made solution but the premium for the manufactured one’s is so high I don’t know if I can bring myself to pay.
Thanks for your blog and YouTube videos.
So the composting toilet doesnt connect with the black tank at all. It’s completely portable and when solid matter is full, you just dump the container into a trash bag and toss it. How often it needs to be changed is going to depend on how often you use it. We have heard from others that use it constantly between two people, that it need to be changed every two weeks. Because we use it a week on and week off, it lasts a bit longer for us. We use other restroom facilities whenever available to avoid changing it too often.
We empty ours every two months, because we use it only when boondocking and never when restrooms or vault toilets are available. The unused peat moss is dehydrated and will keep forever basically. The “in use” peat moss will keep if its turned regularly while not in use. Sometimes it will dry out a bit, but you can add a bit of water and turn it, and if its too wet you can mix in a bit of the dry peat moss as well.
Since we payed so little for our rig and repairs, we justified spending the money on the toilet. If you can make your own though, go for it! Just keep in mind getting a tight seal to keep out bugs and odors and, yet find a way to vent it properly and I think you’ll be good!
If your composting toilet is due to be dumped, Can you dump it if you just went # 2 that morning, Or, is it a good idea to wait a couple of hours later in the late afternoon or night ?
Another words, How long do you have to wait after fresh bowel movement ?
We like to wait a minimum of 12 hours
Installation took about two hours to find out where to place composing toilet, I think it’s long time. Unitl now, are there any better method to reduce this effort?