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The smallest room in the van: A practical guide to caravan toilets

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If you’re new to caravans, toilets are possibly the furthest thing from your mind when buying. However, as you’ll soon discover, putting a bit of thought into the ‘business end’ of your caravan could save you time, effort and perhaps frustration later on. While there are many different brands and models, here are the ups and downs of caravan toilets.

Portable toilet

The portable toilet is a compact, two-part system comprised of a seat/flush tank with a holding tank underneath. They are much more advanced than they sound, however, and are fitted out with bells and whistles that make their use and maintenance easy. A hand-pumped piston pump is used for flushing.

Two chemicals are required for the adequate operation of this toilet. One chemical is a conditioner for the flush tank, which helps prevent build-up and bacteria in the bowl and lubricates seals. The other chemical liquefies waste solids and assists in breaking up toilet paper in the holding tank. It also reduces gas build-up and odour. To empty, the holding tank is separated from the seat/flush section and the contents poured out at a waste-disposal point.

Pros

 Compact and lightweight.

  • Very inexpensive.
  • No electricity or plumbing required.
  • Can stow away in a cupboard if required.
  • Suits pop-top camper trailers.

Cons

 Most models sit very low, which can be inconvenient for certain people.

Cassette

The cassette toilet takes the porta-potty concept one step further but separates the seat/flush unit from the holding tank (cassette). It uses the same chemical-treatment system as the porta potty. Unlike the porta potty, however, the cassette is built in. The key difference is that the cassette is accessed from the outside of the caravan. Higher-spec models have an electric flushing mechanism.

Pros

 Waste stored externally to toilet.

  • Easy emptying of cassette.
  • Electric flush available on certain models.
  • Some models even have a rotating seat to facilitate getting in and out.

Cons

 Considerably more expensive than portable toilets.

  • Possibly challenging to retrofit to a caravan.

Composting

A composting toilet comes with the best credentials for leaving the smallest footprint on the planet. As the name implies, it turns solid waste into compost. As the composting process relies on evaporation, the only plumbing required for a composting toilet is ventilation. The resulting waste is good enough to fertilise your garden. Electric, vacuum-flush models are available. One of the best advantages of this kind of toilet is that it requires zero or little water to operate, thereby giving you more water for other uses.

Pros

 Environmentally friendly.

  • Zero/minimal water use.
  • Minimal plumbing required.
  • No holding tank.
  • Odourless.
  • Easier installation than cassette systems.
  • Lighter than cassette systems.
  • No need to find stations for waste disposal.

Cons

 Tend to stand taller than other toilets, making them difficult for small children.

  • Not everyone’s cup of tea.
  • Expensive.

There’s a toilet to suit everyone, no matter your budget, van type and preference.

Find out how to maintain your pride and joy with our guide on how to maintain your caravan toilet.

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