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 has become 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 critical to its functionality.
A composting medium is used as the base of the solid compartment. Coconut coir is the most common base material. The composting process slowly begins when your #2 is introduced to the coco-coir.
A liquid compartment captures urine and stores it separately.
The Benefits of RV Composting Toilets
We decided to use a composting toilet 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 disposing 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. Its a very “ripe dirt” smell.
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, the liquids 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 ten times during our five years of full-time RV life.
It’s messy, smells worse than the solids, and is 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.
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.
#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).
At the end of the day, it seems like I endlessly pick up #2 from my dog, my baby, and myself. I find myself questioning life decisions!
#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.
Fun Facts About a Composting Toilet
Composting toilets use a natural biological process to decompose human waste into a nutrient-rich compost.
The compost produced by a composting toilet can be used as a natural fertilizer for plants, flowers, and vegetables (once the human waste has had time to properly compost). Research to find out how much time that takes.
Composting toilets can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfills.
The process of composting in a composting toilet can take anywhere from a few months to a year, depending on the design and usage.
Composting toilets are often used in off-grid homes, remote cabins, and eco-friendly communities.
Contrary to popular belief, composting toilets differ from pit toilets or outhouses. Pit toilets collect waste in a hole while composting toilets actively decompose waste.
To Compost or Not?
With all that said, we’d do the same. In a small camper and an intent to stay off-grid, a composting toilet is our best strategy.
It has one massive upside for us – it allows us to boondock for extended periods.
However, in our 5th-wheel RV, we don’t plan on installing a composting toilet.
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