The Nature’s Head composting toilet really made our full-time vanlife much more enjoyable. We’ve been using it full time in our van conversion since September 2017, so it’s time to have a discussion about this relieving device!
Introduction to Nature’s Head Composting Toilet
Does it smell?
No! Sewage smell is the result of the liquid and solid being mixed together. If you’ve ever used a dry toilet (such as a hole-in-the-ground toilet at trailhead), you know what we’re referring to! The Nature’s Head composting toilet is designed to separate the solid and the liquid; thus, there is no sewage smell:
So no odor?!
There is NO odor in the van, but we’re not saying the solid tank produces ZERO odor. If you plunge your head into the solid tank, you will smell something we can best describe as a “soil” or “earthy” smell: nothing like poop smell, really, it does NOT smell like sh*t.
This “soil” or “earthy” smell is evacuated by a small fan that constantly pulls a small volume of air from the solid tank to the exterior of the van. The fan will also pull (most of) the odor out of the van while doing a number 2 🙂 The fan only draws 0.1 Amp, that’s almost nothing.
What’s in the solid tank as composting medium?
There are two options here:
- Sphagnum Peat Moss (Buy on Amazon)
- Coco Coir (Buy on Amazon)
- For both options, make sure there are no additives added (such as nutriment. We’re not trying to grow anything here)!
- Do not use soil from outside to fill the solid compartment, as this will introduce bugs or worms…
How often is the solid tank emptied?
We empty our solid tank every 2 weeks, using the composting toilet full time (2 persons).
If we have a chance, we will use other toilets (gas station, etc.) to extend the time between dumps. If not using the toilet frequently (such as for remote cabin), the solid can be left for months in the tank! It’s even better as this will leave more time for composting action to happen.
How to empty the Nature’s Head composting toilet solid tank: http://natureshead.net/user_guide/
How do you know the solid tank is full?
When it’s getting difficult to turn the handle, it’s time! If it’s not emptied then, it becomes almost impossible to turn the handle in the next 2-3 days. (don’t worry the solid tank won’t overflow)
How often is the liquid bottle emptied?
We empty our liquid bottle every 4 days, but that’s because Antoine prefers to pee outside. Otherwise, we would empty the liquid bottle every other day.
As opposed to the solid tank, emptying the liquid bottle more frequently is preferred. If using the toilet for remote cabin or such, make sure to empty the liquid bottle before leaving; otherwise, it will develop an unpleasant smell!
How to empty the liquid tank: http://natureshead.net/user_guide/
How do you know the liquid bottle is full?
We keep an eye on it! It’s semi-transparent, so we can monitor the level when we use the toilet. If the liquid bottle is not emptied, it will overflow! Don’t ask us how we know… (the overflow will be collected by the toilet; it won’t go on the van floor)
Where are the solid and liquid disposed?
- Solid: in a trash bag, into a dumpster. (it can be buried in nature, too)
- Liquid: we dispose of it in nature. (if diluted, it’s a great nutriment source for mature trees)
Don’t you think emptying the Nature’s Head composting toilet solid tank is disgusting?!
No! We would much rather empty our composting toilet than a cassette toilet. The solid matter does NOT look and smell like poop, it looks and smells like soil! Alright, there you have it:
See, we told you it’s not gross!
What are the Nature’s Head dimensions?
Nature’s Head Composting Toilet VS Cassette Toilet
It was a hard decision… in fact, no… it was very easy to choose! Here are the main reasons why we chose the Nature’s Head composting toilet:
- Dumping it much less often (2 weeks VS 3-4 days)
- Easier to dispose
- We used a cassette toilet in a cabin before, and we found the process of emptying a mix of poop & urine really gross (that’s us, it’s OK if you prefer this!)
- Composting toilet reduces our impact on the environment! Not convinced?
- Quick Overview
- Want to know more? Make sure to read “The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure”: Buy on Amazon
What we Like
We covered much of that in the F.A.Q. above, but here is a nice list with bullets:
- Long interval between dumps
- No odor in the van
- Emptying the tanks is not unpleasant
- Low impact on the environment
- Using the toilet is just like using a “regular” toilet (except that you have to sit for a number 1)
What we Don’t Like …
- We have to carry composting medium, but fortunately we found compressed coco coir (Buy on Amazon): this block is only 5in x 11in x 11in and equals to about 3 cubic feet! Awesome!
Models & Where to Buy the Nature’s Head Composting Toilet
There is an option with “Standard Handle” and an option with “Spider Handle”; the “Spider Handle” is more compact, so, of course, this is the one we got and we recommend.
We detailed EVERYTHING about our installation in the following article:
Using the Nature’s Head Composting Toilet
To ensure the liquid goes into the liquid bottle, everyone has to sit: no gender discrimination here! When finished, spray a mixture of vinegar/water to help keep it clean (the spray bottle is included with the toilet).
It’s just like using a regular toilet. Don’t forget to open the solid tank trap! When your moment of glory is finished, spin the handle 2-3 turns in both directions to mix with composting medium and spray a mixture of vinegar/water to help keep it clean (the spray bottle is included with the toilet). Voilà!
We’ve been using the Nature’s Head composting toilet full time since September 2017 and we’ve had no issues whatsoever. It’s a device with few features, so it’s hard to imagine how it can fail! Nice!
If anything happens, we will keep you updated! Subscribe to our Mailing List to be notified.
- Owner’s Manual, Installation, Dimensions, etc.: http://natureshead.net/installation_use/
- The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure, Third Edition (Buy on Amazon)
29 thoughts on “Nature’s Head Composting Toilet Review”
I notice many folks have their shower in the same space as their toilet. Is it totally water tight or does it have to be removed every time one showers? Thank you.
Sorry if this has already been addressed. Do you see any issue with storing it under the bed (hooked up to the vent and power to the fan) and moving it outside or into the main space to use it?
I’ve seen some layouts with a composting toilet on a pull out tray; it should work as long as you find a way to attach the power/vent. Cheers!
I was wondering if you would recommend this toilet for a van that is used 1 or 2 times a month? Longest trip would be a week maybe two but mostly just a long weekend.
One advantage of a composting toilet is that there’s no need to empty the solid tank (unless it’s full!). I’d recommend emptying the liquid tank between your trips though.
does it work well if you do have, let’s say, explosive diarrhea? I trust the product but since I have some gastrointestinal issues, I often have pretty explosive diarrhea. Also, I don’t know how to say this without it being gross…but a lot of times, there is a lot of liquidy stuff. Mostly curious about how well it would work to keep the smell down, if my solids are liquidy.
It’s hard for us to tell. When we fill the solid tank with coco coir, we also add water (about 1.5L). Maybe if you don’t add water (or less), you’ll be ok? Maybe adding new matter (coco coir/peat moss) after you’re done would also help? You might have to empty your “solids” more often though. As for the explosion, I think it will dry on the wall of the solid tank making the tank harder to clean (we rarely clean the tank, we simply empty and refill; so I don’t know how you feel about leaving dry substance on the solid tank walls) and that might cause some smell because it won’t be “absorb” my the coco coir/peat moss. Overall, the fan should help drying the “result” and minimize the smell.
Nature’s Head should be able to give you a better answer. If I were you, I would contact them.
What frig freezer do you have and size are you happy with it
We own a Novakool R5810 (5.8 cubic feet) and we’re happy with it 🙂
You might also be interested by this article: faroutride.com/van-build/learn/fridge-guide/
Just a couple of questions here.
Do yall put toilet paper down with the solid waste?
Also on the Kempf Coco do yall wet it at all and about how much of the brick to yall typically break off to refill?
Toilet paper can be added, but it fills the solid waste faster…
We use about 1/5 of a brick to which we add 1-1.5 liter.
Great detailed info on the composting toilet!
My question is not on the mechanics of it but the etiquette of a couple sharing the van and using the toilet.
I like your floor plan without an enclosed shower/toilet space but with that plan everything is out in the open.
My partner and I are close but wondering people handle it when one person is using the toilet does the other step out? Number 1 does not seem like a big deal but number 2 together in the van seems like it could be uncomfortable.
Welcome to Vanlife 😉
At first it’s a little uncomfortable, but you’ll get used to it. In summer the other normally get out, in winter the other go in the bed.
Good luck 🙂
I was wondering if you’ve ever had issues with the solids becoming wet and soupy? We bought one 4 months ago and are full-time living. We also empty it about every 2 weeks. For the most part, we haven’t had too many issues, except that I have the stir the mix once during the cycle, as alot of dry stuff stays around the edges and wont’ get mixed in. And right now, we have the problem that it is wet and soupy, and we just changed the coco coir 4 days ago. Something is not right and we can’t figure out what. This happened our last cycle also. It’s like some of the urine is going in the solids compartment. Any suggestions?
That’s weird, we don’t get this. Maybe you put to much water in the coco when filling in? Otherwise, I can’t think what is cause that sorry…
I recently read about this on another site where the person sells composting toilets in Canada. Someone else was having the same problem with either a Separett or a Nature’s Head. The owner said that it was likely due to the female personnel not sitting properly (I think they were leaning back too far and should sit straighter) on the toilet. When not sitting properly, the urine went into the solids area, resulting in a problem. Maybe give it a search by typing ‘Composting toilets, Canada.’
I love your website. I just became a member. And my first comment is about poop. !!!
I had a professional install the tile floor in my house’s bathroom. My house’s ONLY bathroom. Unexpectedly he had to take 5 days off just after he’d removed the toilet. I consulted Ms. Google, and she suggested I use a 5 gallon bucket (thank you, Home Depot), and some white pine shavings (I have chickens and that’s what I use as coop litter).
…equals zero nasty smell. Antoine is right when he says it smells earthy – when I dumped it into the garbage it had all broken down into a compost-like material.
Can’t wait to get my own NaturesHead.
how do you attach the various devices, such as solar collectors and fans, to the roof?
i don’t want to drill holes in the roof.
You’ll find answer to your question here: https://faroutride.com/build-journal/
Have a good one!
I’m still a skeptic. As I understand it, this is not a two stage design, right. That is, the stuff that is actually composted is not separated into its own container. Have I got that right? If so, whenever you dump, you are not really dumping earth compost. You are dumping a mixture of earthy compost and fresh, raw waste. Am I wrong?
If the toilet is used frequently, you’re correct. That being said, as mentioned in the article, we dispose our waste in dumpster… Compost or not, it doesn’t make much difference. In the end, we love our nature’s head because it’s super convenient to empty it every two weeks or so.
Thanks for the quick response!
Salut Isabelle et Antoine,
I’ve been thinking of getting a Nature’s Head for my van. I’ve read about someone using this toilet to compost both human waste and vegetable food waste. I find that idea so fascinating.
Have you ever tried composting vegetable food waste in your Nature’s Head?
Don’t do it, you’ll end up with bugs in it. And it would fill the toilet too fast… Also, because it’s our main toilet (we both use it full time), there’s not really time for compost action to happens; it’s more like a neat, odorless way to store NO 2 until we put it in trash.
How is it in winter, if I keep my van warm. I’m doing my own right now and was wondering if it doesn’t generate any ice due to condensation, since the fan is running full time?
Any issue with the fan, the pipe, the outlet?
No issue at all, it just works the same 🙂
Where do you dispise of the urine?
We spend most of our time in the woods, so that’s where it goes! Otherwise it could be dispose in public restrooms. Cheers!