3 Most Common Camper Van Bathroom Options (with Pros & Cons)

By: Scott Adamson
/ March 4, 2020
Thinking of building a bathroom in your self-converted van? Read this first!

“You live in a van? Where do you go to the bathroom? How do you stay clean?”

These are some common questions I get when I first tell someone about #vanlife.

In my Sprinter van conversion, a toilet and shower were definitely on my “must-have” list, and I don’t regret installing them for a second. Personally, I didn’t want to rely on campgrounds, gas stations, or having to do my business in the great outdoors.

Should I install a bathroom in my van?

In your #vanlife research, you will come across a lot of varying opinions on this topic.

Like everything else in your build, you need to weigh out your options and decide what’s most important for you to live a comfortable lifestyle in your van.

Bathrooms can take up a significant amount of space, if not designed carefully. So, as you work your way down your list of priorities for the van, a toilet and/or shower may not make the cut. That simply wasn’t the case for me.

My lifestyle involves a lot of off-grid and off-the-beaten-path “camping”. If I had to rely on public washrooms or campground facilities, I would need to adjust my way of life.

And quite frankly… Thinking about where the next public bathroom will be is just not something I want to do.

Camper Van Bathroom Options

In my experience, there are about 3 common options for vanlifers:

  1. A wet bath
  2. A hidden bathroom
  3. No bathroom at all

1. The Wet Bath

A wet bath is a bathroom that is finished so that all surfaces can be wet or damp.

This Camper Van bathroom option is very popular, mainly due to the privacy that it provides.

If you’re familiar with Alex and Sara James, this is a staple in almost all of the vans they build. 

This bathroom provides the most amount of privacy, by far.

Ease of Use
This bathroom is set up and ready to use at any moment. That being said I have seen many times where this style of shower turns into another closet inside the van, nullifying the ease of use I’m talking about here.

These washrooms are typically some of the most visually stunning options for your build and will give your van that “home feel” many people are going for.

Dual Use
The wet bath includes the use of both the toilet and shower in 1 location of the van.

The biggest issue with this type of bathroom is the sheer amount of space it takes up in the van.

If you’re planning to convert a 170 and 170 EXT, you’ll be in the best position to incorporate this style of bathroom. However, if you’re going with a 144 WB Van then I think this style of bathroom just takes up way too much real estate.

That being said I have seen some pretty impressive vans that include the full shower inside of the 144 Wheelbase!

Depending on how you go about installing this bathroom, weight can be a concerning factor.

Lots of professional Van Upfitters use aluminum shower pans and shells to keep the weight of this solution to a minimum. However, a lot of DIYers turn to heavy construction and waterproofing materials that substantially increase the overall weight of the build.

And if you’re trying to nail that Pinterest photo by applying beautiful tile to the shower walls, well you’ve just added 100lbs of unnecessary weight to your van.

Overall, if you’re looking for that true “home feel”, this bathroom option is great. Just be mindful of your layout and materials used.

2. The Hidden Bathroom

The hidden bathroom is a great option for those looking for innovative ways to save space in their van, and aren’t as worried about privacy within their home-on-wheels.

This bathroom type can use a combination of drawers, sliders, and secret trap doors to reveal the toilet and shower.

If your aim is to ensure all spaces can serve many purposes, the hidden bathroom is the way to go.

Use of Space
As mentioned above, when designing small spaces, it’s very important for you to try and have as many multi-functional concepts as possible. This bathroom option certainly accomplishes that.

Out of Sight
When everything is packed away, most people would never know you have a fully functional bathroom setup.

Even though my toilet is more or less right out in the open, you would be surprised that the majority of people who come into my van never even notice it.

Check out my full van tour for more info on my hidden bathroom.


Lack of Privacy
This option doesn’t provide you with a dedicated private area. This doesn’t always sit well with some vanlifers, especially when they’re not riding solo in the van.

Ease of Use
This solution is not always set up and ready to go. For me, the convenience of having the ability to go to the washroom and shower far outweighs the drawback of having a little bit of set up each time.


3. The No Bathroom option

One option is to forget the shower and toilet all-together and solely rely on the great outdoors, campground facilities, gas stations, truck stops, etc.

This usually means that your schedule is structured around your ‘morning business’, and for me; nothing about waking up and planning where I am going to go to the bathroom sounds appealing.

What better way to save costs than by just removing it entirely?

Without an indoor shower and/or toilet, you will save a significant amount of space in your van.

If plumbing isn’t something that you’re comfortable with, this option would greatly reduce the amount of plumbing that is required.


Relying on others
You are constantly relying on other people’s facilities. Depending on where you choose to take care of your business, you might be taking advantage of business owners and other facilities.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I gotta go, I gotta go.

Not having your own shower facilities will likely result in less frequent washing.

I’d be lying if I said I used my shower every day, but I’ve met a lot of vanlifers over the years and I’m being serious when I say that you can tell before seeing the inside of someone’s van to know whether or not they own a shower…


Best Camper Van Toilet Options

Now that we’ve talked about the different types of camper van bathrooms options, I’m going to dive a little deeper into some of the different options that exist for fixtures.

When deciding to include a toilet in your van, there are three primary toilet options that I’ll break down for you.

  1. Plumbed RV Toilet
  2. Cassette Toilet
  3. Composting Toilet

Plumbed RV Toilet

The plumbed RV toilet is essentially a toilet that has flush water supplied from the freshwater system and empties into a black water tank located under the van.

Plumbed RV Toilet

This toilet has the largest capacity and is only limited by the size of black water you want to mount on the underside of the van. I had a 12 gallon Black Water tank on my first van and that would last me about 2-3 weeks between required dumping with daily use.

Ease of Use
This toilet is always set up and ready to go. Even though it’s very similar to a toilet you’d use at home, you do need to consider that your waste storage is not unlimited like a household toilet and some maintenance is required.


This solution is permanently in the van and cannot easily be removed if it’s not always required.

These toilets are not a set it and forget it solution like a household solution. You do need to use special toilet paper that will break down inside the waste tank and also add chemicals into the tank to eliminate any fumes that can exist. If proper maintenance is not done regularly then the cleanliness and hygiene of these toilets can quickly come into question.

These toilets do require you to locate full RV Dump Stations to drain the blackwater tank. But I have not found this to be a real problem after 4 years with this type of toilet.

Harder to hide
These toilets are much harder to hide and take up more space inside the van, which can be a deal-breaker for some people.


Cassette Toilet

The Cassette Toilet is very popular in the RV community and seems to be most common in smaller travel trailers. They are lightweight and don’t use any electricity or batteries.

Cassette Toilet

I plan on using a Cassette Toilet in my second van, to avoid the need of having exterior plumbing. My version of vanlife involves a lot of winter excursions.

I did love the regular toilet in my last van and I’m not sure if I am going to like this option as much but it’s a sacrifice I am making to eliminate the amount of exterior plumbing that has the potential of freezing.

One of the big pros of this style of toilet is the size and ability to easily “hide” it inside the van. I’m not sure if not having it constantly ready to use or not is going to be an issue so I will have to report back on that.

The smaller size of this type of toilet makes it easy to remove from the vehicle if needed.

Easy Dumping
Due to its smaller size and portability, dumping this toilet should be easier. But you should be dumping this toilet at the same places you would dump a standard RV Toilet Black Water Tank so I’m not sure if this is going to be a huge PRO or not.

No Exterior Plumbing
As mentioned above this is the main reason for me deciding to use this style of toilet. I am trying to avoid the need for as much exterior plumbing as possible and the idea of bringing the black water tank inside the interior of the van just did not appeal to me.


Some people don’t like cassette toilets because of their small overall dimensions. They don’t find the low profile easy to use and prefer a toilet to feel more than a traditional toilet does. These toilets are typically much shorter than a standard house toilet to allow for easier storage and portability. That’s a drawback I was willing to live with.

The biggest drawback I can see with this toilet is that the wastewater storage capacity is less than half of my first van and I will, therefore, need to dump twice as often.


Composting Toilet

The third most common toilet option is a composting toilet. I have never personally used one of these but from everything I have read, they work extremely well and are environmentally friendly.

Nature’s Head Self Contained Composting Toilet

The main reason for me deciding against using one was just the sheer size of the unit. Composting toilets are much bigger than standard RV Toilets and Cassette toilets as they need to accommodate the area of the toilet where the composting action takes place.

If this option is something that interests you I suggest that you do some further research. I do know that with composting toilets you cannot mix the urine with the compost matter and therefore you are still going to need to find places to dispose of the urine.


Other worthy mentions

Some other worth mentions you could consider, if you’re looking for something portable and affordable:


So hopefully that helps you make up your mind?

My shower and toilet are key features to my van, and something I wouldn’t choose to live without in future van builds. That being said, every vanlifer should think long and hard about the basic essentials they need to live a comfortable yet adventurous vanlife. That may or may not include a place to handle your business in the comfort of your own van!

Let me know about your innovative bathroom designs! I always love to see how creative people can get with the space they have.

Scott Adamson
Wanderful Idea Guy
Coffee drinker, adventure seeker, below average photographer.
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