When Nature Calls

Welcome to the vanlife, where people talk openly about where to go poo

What are the options for staying clean and—er—regular in your van? Read through this infosheet to find out. Then complete our When Nature Calls Checklist

Toilet Features: To Poo or Not to Poo?

At home, we don’t often think about where we’ll go to the bathroom next… but in a van, bathroom duties like where to go and how to keep clean are a hot topic.  

To answer this most personal of questions, you’ll need to take a look at what you need to feel comfortable. 

You might be surprised to learn that toilets are an option for a van. Converted vans can have elaborate bathrooms, with hot showers, flushing toilets, and a vanity for your makeup. As with all things van, the features you add are entirely up to you.

The advantages of having a toilet on board are obvious: you can go to the bathroom whenever you need to in the privacy of your own “home.” No searching for a place to dig or hoping there’s a gas station nearby. The downsides? Added cost and van space, plus someone needs to empty the toilet out when its full.

We have several solutions to this problem. Our two favorite toilet types are composting toilets and cassette toilets. Both are relatively easy to empty and, if used properly, are low odor. At Levity Vans, we don’t install black water tanks, which are required if you want to install a flushing toilet. We’ve found that most vanlifers don’t want the hassle of a black water tank, either.

 

Cassette Toilets

Cassette toilets are neat. They look like a two-foot square plastic box with a lid when they’re not in use. But lift the lid and you’ll find a toilet seat that leads to a secure several-gallon holding tank. When you need to go, flip a valve to open the several-gallon tank below. Liquid and solid waste collect in the tank. When the toilet isn’t in use, the tank seals off so it’s leak- and smell-proof (very important!). When the tank is full, detach the hand-held tank and dump it in any public bathroom straight down the toilet.

Cassette toilets are a good choice for vanlifers who want a toilet but not a designated bathroom (more on that below). The toilet, when not in use, can fit easily in a cabinet or under seats.

 

Composting Toilets

Composting toilets look more like typical toilets from the outside, only made of durable plastic. They use sawdust and ventilation to dry poo out and keep it from smelling. It’s essential to keep liquid and solid waste separate in a composter. They include a nifty system of valves to accomplish this. When peeing, open the front valve and close the back one. Pee only collects in a tank you empty into a toilet. When pooing, open the back valve and add sawdust when you’re done. When the liner is full, tie it up and throw it out.

 

Public Toilets

Many of our customers choose to forgo the toilet and utilize public toilets and lands for their bathroom needs. Other customers use a designated pee bucket and find somewhere else to poo.

Public Bathrooms

We traveled with two kids for three weeks with no toilet and no problems. Use public toilets or go outside.

Keep it minimal

Avoid the hassle of emptying your toilet

You must be comfortable waiting when necessary or going outside

Composting Toilets

A dry system that uses ventilation and sawdust. Empty the bag when it’s full into a garbage can. 

Looks and feels most like a standard toilet

Cover poo with sawdust to keep it from smelling

When it's full, remove the liner and toss it

Cassette Toilets

Store waste in a small tank under the toilet seat. When it’s full, dump the contents down a public toilet.

Low on space? Use a compact cassette toilet

Fully self-contained, they can cleanly tuck into cabinets or under beds

Discreetly dump it into a public toilet when it gets full

Bathroom Options: Inclosed or “Around the Van”

Where will you store your bathroom features? You can store them in a dedicated bathroom or you can stash them around your van to save on space. 

There are two main options for where to store bathroom features:

  • Inside an enclosed bathroom
  • Around the van

An enclosed bathroom means you have a dedicated toilet/shower area with a door and walls—an official bathroom! “Around the van” means your bathroom features are tucked in spaces around your van—for example, a toilet stored in a cabinet on a slider or an outdoor shower that attaches to a hot or cold water spigot at the back of your van.

Enclosed Bathrooms

If you want the feel of a traditional bathroom while on the road, an enclosed bathroom is for you. We’ll put a mini-bathroom right inside your van. You can use the toilet, shower, and wash up at the sink in private. We offer many space saving options when it comes to shower pans and bathroom designs.

When it comes to convenience, a dedicated bathroom area receives top marks. For some, an enclosed bathroom makes the van feel like home.

However, enclosed bathrooms also have their drawbacks. If you choose to have a bathroom on board, you’ll be taking up real estate inside your van.

We suggest you consider all the other features you want to put into your van to determine if you have the desire, space, and budget for an enclosed bathroom.

Advantages of an enclosed bathroom: 

  • Always set up and ready to use
  • Private
  • Convenient

Cons of an enclosed bathroom: 

  • Takes up van space
  • Drainage and venting requires some monitoring
  • More expensive to install

 

“Around the Van” Bathrooms

You may not realize that you can store many bathroom features around the van in space you otherwise wouldn’t use. Cassette toilets, for example, are designed to be compact and completely self-contained. The kitchen sink can double as a bathroom sink—and its nozzle can also turn into your outdoor shower when it’s pulled out the back or side of the van. Even indoor showers can fit around the van in unexpected places!

Pros of storing features around the van: 

  • Frees up space for other features
  • Less expensive to install
  • Less to worry about in terms of having standing water and steam in the van

Cons: 

  • Less privacy
  • Less convenient

Enclosed Bathroom

Have all your bathroom features stored in one place, including toilet, shower, and bathroom sink.

Convenient and safe: use the bathroom in private

A dedicated bathroom area takes up valuable floorspace

Around-the-Van Bathroom

Use your kitchen sink to brush your teeth. Store your toilet in a cabinet. Put a shower pan and a plastic curtain in the kitchen. 

Frees up space for other features that are more important to you

Can give the van a more open feel

A Case Study: Our First Van

How will you know which of these options are right for you? We’ll tell you how we approached it when designing our first van—the one we used for our own family.

We were traveling with 4 people for week-long family vacations. We knew we wanted a larger kitchen because we like to cook. With four in the van, we needed extra space for sleeping areas.

Based on our need for other features and our shorter travel time (days and weeks), we didn’t want to take up van space for an enclosed bathroom. 

We instead opted to stash our bathroom features around the van. Our cassette toilet tucked under the kitchen sink right next to the water tank. When we needed to use it, we pulled it out and opened it up. Cassette toilets can be used inside the van on any flat surface or outside the van in the privacy of nature (sometimes with exceptional views!).

We used public toilets whenever possible and peed outside. For our needs, it was a better option to forgo a dedicated bathroom and use the space for features that mattered more to us.

Shower Features: Staying Clean on the Road

When it comes to keeping clean, there are three main options for a van: indoor shower, outdoor shower, or no shower.

 

Indoor Showers

If you want to have the full bathroom experience aboard your van, then choose an indoor shower. And those hot showers after a day in the great outdoors? Ahhhh…

Pros of indoor showers: 

  • Feels more like “home”
  • Privacy and comfort

Cons of indoor showers kitchens: 

  • Takes up floor space
  • Requires additional plumbing
  • More expensive to install
  • Adding hot water adds further expense

 

Outdoor Showers

We offer several outdoor shower options for your cleaning needs. Your indoor sink nozzle can double as a shower head: extend it, pop it into the clip mounted on your van, and voila—insta shower. We can also plumb a separate tap to that back of your van that’s just for showering or spraying off wetsuits, dogs, kids, etc. Your outdoor shower can be hot or cold, depending on your feature preference and budget. A shower curtain can attach to the outside of your van, giving you some privacy. 

Pros of outdoor showers: 

  • Affordable
  • Leaves more space in your van for other features
  • Nice view!

Cons of outdoor showers: 

  • Less privacy
  • Less convenient

No Shower

Find places to bathe on the road: rivers, friends’ houses, gyms, or hotels. Baby wipes are key. 

Outdoor Showers

If you want to stay clean and keep costs down, install an outdoor shower that uses unheated water. 

Outdoor shower nozzles attach to the outside of your van, often out the back

Use heated or unheated water

Unheated Water

Having some type of water storage is a game changer, allowing you to wash hands and bodies more easily. 

Fill your water tank off any hose

Water will come of of the faucet at "room temperature"

Indoor Showers

If comfort is at the top of your priority list, consider an indoor shower with hot water.

Feels more like "home." Private and convenient

You don't need an enclosed bathroom to have an indoor shower!

Hot Water On Board

Sometimes, you need a hot shower. And sometimes you need a hot shower every morning…

For extended travel, hot water can make a van feel like home

Can be plumbed to your kitchen sink and your shower

“When Nature Calls” Checklist

Help us create a customized design and an accurate quote by knowing your options

🚽Do you want a toilet on board?

  • Cassette toilet
  • Composing toilet
  • No toilet

🚿Do you want a shower on board?

  • Indoor shower
  • Outdoor shower
  • No shower

🚰Do you want water on board?

  • Unheated water
  • Hot water
  • No water

🚻Do you want an enclosed bathroom on board?

  • Yes
  • No

❓What other bathroom features are you considering?

  • We want to hear about them!

How do you decide what’s right for you?

Our three biggest tips as you’re dreaming and designing:

  • do your research,
  • know what you want, and
  • know your budget.

Then you’re ready to go!  ⛰🚐✨

Van conversions are like home sales: you want the best your money can afford. (How is a van sale different than a home sale? With your van, you can always change your location! 😉)

Similar to buying a home, it helps to know your price range. Levity Van conversions range from $30K for basic essentials to $150K for luxury models, excluding the van. We’ll help you get as many features as you can for a price you can afford.  

Choose your features

Your price depends on the features, components, and systems you need. 

  • Stick with these basics if you want to keep your conversion costs low.
  • If your budget allows, we can suggest modest upgrades to increase your comfort and enjoyment.
  • If you want the total vanlife experience, you’ll need a bigger budget. Just remember you’re investing in a tiny home: it’s worth it!
  • Are you a go big or go home person? Turn your van into a truly unique pleasure, sport, or full-time vanlife vehicle. We’ll help.

Once you know your options and are 75%+ certain about what you want in your van, fill out our Conversion Worksheet. We’ll set up a time to talk on the phone about design ideas and price estimates. We look forward to hearing about your project!

Not yet sure what you want? Tell us about your project ideas and we’ll send you relevent suggestions and resources. 

Meet Our Team

My love of building and mechanics began decades ago with brake jobs at age 10. I wired my first house at 13 with my dad, then became the high schooler who upgraded everyone’s stereo systems. Levity Vans was born 4 years ago when I saw my uncle’s empty Transit van and thought: “I could do so many customizations to make that truly unique!” I’m happy to help people’s travel dreams come true.

Jimmy Grey

Our first two-week road trip in a converted ProMaster got me hooked on vanlife travel with kids. The freedom, sense of opportunity, and comfort of being able to go anywhere, anytime inspire me to support Jimmy’s vision of Levity Vans. Follow us on Instagram to see my handiwork and to share your travel photos. One step closer to adventure!

Bez Stone

Full Service Van Conversions

Serving Santa Cruz and Beyond

Call us today

(831) 531-4151