How to Install a Nature’s Head Composting Toilet in a Van

Natures-Head-Composting-Toilet-Installation-Van-Heading

How to Install a Nature’s Head Composting Toilet in a Van

We plan on living full time for a year or two in the van. For a minimum of comfort (and convenience), we really wanted a toilet and after reading about Nature’s Head composting toilets, it seams like the perfect solution for us!

 

 

The present article covers the installation of the Nature’s Head composting toilet in our van. If you want to learn more about it (pros/cons/emptying frequency/what we like/don’t like/etc) please head over here for our review:

 

 

 

TIME SPENT ON THE JOB: 20 hours

 

TOTAL COST : 1200$ USD (that’s a shitload of money to take a dump, but it’s so worth it!)

 


DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click a product link and buy anything from the merchant (Amazon, eBay, etc), we will receive a commission fee. The price you pay remains the same, affiliate link or not.

Portrait


 

 

 

MATERIAL:

 

TOOLS:

 

RESSOURCES:

 

PRE-REQUISITE:

  • Get your sh*t together

 

ALRIGHT, LET’S GET THIS SH*T DONE!

First of all, our Nature’s Head composting toilet is hidden in our couch just behind the driver’s seat:

Composting Toilet Installation Camper Van Conversion (1)
That’s the idea…

 

Installing the Air Exhaust

There is no black water or whatever to install with the Nature’s Head, but there is however an AIR EXHAUST. The air exhaust will ensure that absolutely no odor leaks in the van by constantly pulling a very small volume of air from inside the toilet towards the outside world. There is a very small fan (computer-like) that runs at all time; that’s no big deal as it draws just about 0.1 amp. We decided to pass our air exhaust through the floor near the B-Pillar, inside the wall cavity. We got the idea from CargoVanConversion.com, although he is using it as his main van passive intake.

We need to get inside this cavity:

Composting-Toilet-Installation-Camper-Van-Conversion-(39)
Air Exhaust Passage

To access the cavity, we cut a door through the Ez-Cool (you can read our EZ-Cool Installation Article here):

Composting Toilet Installation Camper Van Conversion (40)

 

Behind the Ez-Cool “door”, we drilled a 2-3/8″ diameter hole through the van floor using a hole-saw (Buy on Amazon):

Composting Toilet Installation Camper Van Conversion (44)
Inside the door…

 

Of course, to prevent corrosion, we sanded the bare edges of the hole and touched them up with primer+paint+clear-coat:

Composting Toilet Installation Camper Van Conversion (43)
Corrosion is for other’s van, not ours.

To prevent the composting toilet exhaust from being sectioned by the hole edges, we improvised something out of a MLV leftover (what’s MLV? See our Floor Installation Article!). Note that a grommet would have been much better, but we did note have one handy…

 

Composting Toilet Installation Camper Van Conversion (54)
The “triangle” shapes of the MLV are in contact with the hole edges

 

Now let’s get under the van, on the driver side where this arrow is pointing:

Van-Side
Here!!

 

 

We can see the exhaust passing through the hole in the floor!

Composting Toilet Installation Camper Van Conversion (49)
MLV is not shown in this picture.

 

To prevent critters from crawling into our toilet (huh), we installed some wire mesh and mosquito screen (not shown in the picture) on this plastic part (included with your Nature’s Head Toilet):

Composting Toilet Installation Camper Van Conversion (47)
The Mosquito screen is not shown in this picture, but it’s very important!!

 

The we just pull the exhaust out (from the hole in the floor) and press-fitted the plastic part:

Composting Toilet Installation Camper Van Conversion (51)

 

The plastic-part is bolted in the upper-left hole of the van’s vent passage (there is a hole in the van. no need to drill):

Wire-Mesh-and-Mosquito-Screen

 

That’s it for the exhaust! Here we are at this point:

Composting Toilet Installation Camper Van Conversion (20)
Note that we don’t pass the exhaust through the Ez-Cool “door”. It pass just behind the toilet so we don’t see it…

 

Installing the Composting Toilet

We like our Nature’s Head, but it still has to be hidden. We built a couch with a removable lid and a nice cushion for that job!

Note: When designing you toilet installation remember that to empty the compost, the upper part of the toilet must be removed. To do so, the upper-part rotates around the hinges in the back and then pulled left. Make sure your enclosure has enough clearance around the toilet to allow this movement!

The upper-part rotated around the hinges in the back
Then the upper-part slides about 2 inches to the left

 

Here is the base of the couch:

We kept things simple…

 

The base holds with corner braces and glue

 

 

The lid is built the same way as the base, except that we glued a 3″ thick cushion on top (with 3M 90 Spray Adhesive Buy on Amazon) and covered it with fabric.

The cushion is glued with 3M 90 Spray Adhesive, so it doesn’t slip away

 

At this point, hand over the lid and the cushion to your mother-in-law and LET THE MAGIC HAPPENS!*

*Thank you SO MUCH!

It’s magic!

 

The fabric is held with Velcro, so it can be removed and washed:

Lid Velcro

 

The lid is held to the base with small “bracket” we made:

Compostion-Toilet-In-Van-Couch-(3)
The lid fit nicely on the base!
Compostion-Toilet-In-Van-Couch-(4)
Here is a look inside

 

Compostion-Toilet-In-Van-Couch-(12v)
Dump & Recharge Station

 

At last, fill the composting toilet with coco (or peat moss):

Composting-Toilet-Installation-Camper-Van-Conversion-Coco

 

And here are the dimensions:

24″ Height x 24″ Width x 23″ Depth

 

And here is a happy man:

Composting Toilet Natures Head Man in a Van

 

As mentioned previously, the small exhaust fan is running continuously. No big deal, as it draw just about 0.1A…

Composting-Toilet-Electrical-Draw-Cropped-01
Exhaust Fan Electrical Draw

 

 

 

ON SECOND THOUGHT

Before living full-time review:

At the time of writing this we don’t live in the van full time yet, but we used the toilet for a few weekend trips. So far, so good! We haven’t emptied the toilet since we first used it (about 3 months ago): there is no odors and we think the Nature’s Head Composting Toilet is THE SHIT!!

First month on the road review: 

(The following text is extracted from faroutride.com/first-month/)

We would definitely install it again if we had to do it over. You might get away without it for weekend trips, but for full-time living it’s just so-much-better. We empty the liquid tank every 3 or 4 days if using the composting toilet exclusively, or every week if using other toilets. We’re getting between 2-4 weeks autonomy for solid depending on the temperature (cold slow down composting action) and depending if we use other toilets occasionally.

We bought compressed coco fiber (Buy on Amazon) because it’s MUCH more compact to carry than normal coco fiber! This block is 5in x 11in x 11in and equals to about 3 cubic feet!

Kempf Compressed Coco Coir. Buy on Amazon.

 

 

 

 

WANT MORE?

Check out our Build Journal, learn everything about The Van, read our VanLife Guides, or if you’re new to this start by reading Our Story.

 

 

 

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ABOUT US

Hello! We’re Isabelle and Antoine 🙂 In 2017 we sold our house (and everything in it), quit our engineering careers and moved into our self built campervan. We’ve been on the road since then and every day is an opportunity for a new adventure; we’re chasing our dreams and hopefully it inspires others to do the same!

 

 

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CHEERS!

 

 

 

34 thoughts on “How to Install a Nature’s Head Composting Toilet in a Van”

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Thanks for your comprehension and your support, you're awesome! See you on the road.

- Your hosts, Isabelle and Antoine.
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  1. LOVE all the information! I’m new to the whole idea of this and would want to live in my van/ travel full time. How do you go about dumping it? Is it usually pretty easy to find somewhere to dump? Do you clean it every time after? lol sorry for the nitty gritty questions.

    Reply
  2. Hi Guys,

    If you don’t mind, I was wondering what is the exact measurement inside the box, top to bottom (or the top and the bottom). I am getting ahead of my self, doing projects that don’t require $1K, so made the box for the Nature’s Head, but alas, we are still headless (remember, $1K). So it’s just a storage box at the moment, that we can sit on.

    My inside measurement is a little over 22 inches (546 mm), thinking that it is easier to trim than to grow plywood. But you said that your top is almost touching the toilet top. So is your interior 21″ (533 mm), based on the Nature Head specs?

    Like to get that seat a little shorter!!

    Cheers, Don

    Reply
      • Thanks Antoine.

        We were really surprised at how big the box was, although I had measured it many times before. Because we have the middle ceiling height van, our upper cabinets are lower than yours, and, you guessed it, my head hits the cabinet on the 22″ (no cushion ) height. Well, unless I move a little forward to the non-cabinet front. And my feet dangle, like a little kid.

        So Nature’s head says 21″ high, but you measure it at 20.5″. Good info. That means I can trim 1.5 inches off it, eventually.

        Still in the fund building stage for the composting toilet; right now, it will be a 20 liter camping toilet, for peeing only. $20 as opposed to $925.

        Cheers, and, again, thanks a lot.

        -d

        PS. Did I see on Strava that you guys are now in the US Carolinas? That can’t be right, can it?

        Reply
  3. I need to drill a hole in my Transit to install my natureshead. Do you guys know how to tell where is OK to drill? I was thinking about installing it behind the wheel well. Hard to get the information from Ford.

    Reply
  4. I love the site…just curious. How sturdy is the couch when sitting on it directly rather than on the toilet. I ask because there is no frame to any of it…just the 3/8 ply

    Reply
    • It’s super solid! Take a 2’x2′ 3/8 plywood and walk on it to convince yourself 🙂
      Moreover, it’s almost sitting on the toilet so it cannot warp.

      cheers!

      Reply
  5. Curious, I see that there is space in the box on the left side of the toilet. Did you leave that space there so the toilet would be in the center of the box? To save space would you be able to make the box for “fitted” to the toilet?

    Reply
  6. I’ve used the same system as JT (5gal drywall compound bucket and sawdust) for over 4 years sailing full time and now in Honu (the Transit conversion). Nothing could be easier or less trouble. Like what you’ve done but $0 (or almost as the box has some cost) is better than $1200. Great blog. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Is there a chance you could have made the box smaller to save space? Or are those measurements the smallest recommended for usability? Thank you!

      Reply
      • You could shave 1 inch width, but you won’t be able to completely remove the lid to empty the solid tank (which is fine, we take the whole toilet out anyway);
        You could shave 1-2 inches in the back. Actually more than that, but you wouldn’t be able to open the lid to remove the liquid tank.

        Note that we use the little extra space to store toilet paper rolls, some pharmacy items, etc, so it’s not a bad thing!

        Cheers!

        Reply
  7. I’ve had great luck with my composting toilet, which cost zero dollars. Orange home depot bucket, found toilet seat + lid, and box built around it with pallet wood. Filled with sawdust. Works great!

    Reply
    • Yep, we considered the DIY option as well because it’s suppose to work too. We finally splurged on a fancy Nature’s Head because it’s easy and clean to handle.
      It’s all good!

      Reply
  8. Finally!! We have been waiting patiently on your pooping prose!! Pleased as pie for your helpful pointers in this post.

    Seriously, concur with above; so appreciative of your attention to detail and your guidance to others on our build journeys. Take good care.

    Reply
      • Hi Antoine. my wife and I just ordered our transit and now are trying to get a few things built while waiting for it to arrive. Currently planning the couch toilet area. Do you think it would be possible to make the couch 6-8″ longer to make it more useable for 2 poeple? It looks like you have a good amount of room between it and the front seat. Just trying to figure out the eating/working situation. We already purchased your layout/electrical/plumbing aids and made our first amazon purchases through your links today. Many thanks for making this endevor so much easier. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to ride with you guys someday!

        Reply
        • Congrats on the new Transit!

          If our couch was longer, our knees and feet would “clash” into it when sitting in the driver seat (swivelled)… But then you could modify the layout (fridge cabinet) to get more couch towards the back…

          Note that we don’t use the couch that much; we spend more time in the driver/passenger seat. The couch is very useful for when we have visit though.

          Hope that helps, good luck!
          antoine

          Reply

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