The Nasty Truth of RV Composting Toilets

By Kyle & Olivia Brady | Founders of Drivin' & Vibin' | We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases.

The Nasty Truth of RV Composting Toilets

Sometimes distance makes the heart grow fonder. In the case of RV composting toilets, there’s no truth in that sentiment.

My wife and I began full-time RV life five years ago. From day one, we used a composting toilet. Now that we’ve transitioned from full-time to part-time RVers, the composting-toilet-life became glaringly less attractive.

Before we shed too much nasty-truth about composting toilets, let us explain what an RV composting toilet is and give them a little credit.

What Is An RV Composting Toilet?

An RV composting toilet differs from traditional RV toilets because it uses no external holding tanks. Instead, it’s a glorified bucket.

In fact, an RV composting toilet is two buckets. There’s one compartment for solids and one compartment for liquids. This separation is key to its functionality. 

A composting medium is used as the base of the solid compartment. Coconut coir is the most common base material. When your #2 is introduced to the coco-coir, the composting process slowly begins.

A liquid-compartment captures urine and stores it separately. 

The Benefits of RV Composting Toilets

The reason we decided to use a composting toilet was for extended off-grid camping. Both of our RVs were small. This means the black tank would have to be emptied every five days or so.

The RV composting toilet allowed us to camp off the grid for up to 14 days without having to dispose of our waste.

Composting toilets are also environmentally friendly. They don’t use any water for flushing.

Now let’s dive into the dirty truths!

#1 They DO Smell

Composting toilets do have a unique smell. And as they fill, the smell increases.

It’s not awful (most of the time), but it smells like healthy farm soil…if you know what I mean. 

We’ve also had challenges to ventilate the scent adequately. The internal fans are typically weak, and (depending on which brand you choose) they need regular replacement.

#2 The Urine Is The Biggest Challenge

Even though the solids conjure a more visceral response, it’s the liquids that create the biggest headaches. We had to empty our liquid container at least once every three days.

And it does overflow!

If you haven’t emptied the jug recently and it’s 2 am, your urine may likely wind up on your RV floor.

Before installing our first RV composting toilet, I told myself I’d never let the urine overflow.

Let me be honest – it overflowed at least 50 times during our five years of full-time RV life.

It’s messy, smells worse than the solids, and no fun to empty!

#3 Why Are RV Composting Toilets So Expensive?

The answer is simple…the patent protects the price. Our composting toilet cost almost $1000.

That’s ridiculous!

It’s literally a few pieces of molded plastic.

Here’s the deal; the toilet manufacturers know there’s no other great option. You can buy an expensive one, or make your own.

Current prices:

#4 Face to Face with Your Dookie

Over the last five years, I’ve come face to face with my poop way too often. It’s never fun, and it never gets better.

I’ll change baby diapers any day over dumping a bucket of my own solids into a garbage bag.

Additionally, you have to dispose of that garage bag in public. This means you’re lugging your poop-bag to a campground dumpster (and praying no one sees you).

#5 They’re Big

Big is good since you’re using it as a storage bucket. As far as space in your RV bathroom, it will take up more room than a standard toilet.

You’ll also need to figure out where to install the thick exhaust pipe.

We found the pipe to be challenging to install in a tight space.

To Compost or Not?

With all that said, we’d do it the exact same. When we take trips again, we’ll happily use our composting toilet.

It has one massive upside for us – it allows us to boondock for more extended periods.

However, if we upgrade to a motorhome or 5th wheel RV, we don’t plan on installing a composting toilet.

We Encourage You to Free-Camp This Summer (and Leave It Better Than You Found It)

Don’t view this article as discouraging. Use it as motivation to get out there, camp in nature, and help the clean-up effort.

At the end of the day, it’s our land, and we should treat it with pride and respect.

Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers that love to score the best site! 

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5 comments

  1. I’m a bit confused and shocked by your article. For all your videos and everyone else’s for that matter, it’s been pretty much, “It doesn’t smell.” “It’s easy to clean and change out the medium” “Just throw it away in the dumpster” Why no follow-up on any of these items while you were full-time?

    1. Everything is relative. When you’re in the thick of it, it’s normal. When you then switch back to a toilet that flushes, it’s another world.

  2. I’m also shocked by your new thoughts on the composting toilet. I would rather deal with taking the poop bag out, which really no one knows whats in the bag than to deal with that stinky linky thing. More accidents happen with that stinky linky !!

  3. Two years on the road now with an Airhead…
    This article is on target. A little whiny about face to face with your own poop but… Compared to dealing with the pooper hose and dump sites the emptying of the poo bucket every 3 to 4 weeks (2 adults) and emptying the pee bottle EVERY DAY is a breeze. To each his own but we are keeping our pooper.

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