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 Composting Toilets
Does it smell?
No! Sewage smell is the result of the liquid and solid being mixed together. If you ever used a dry toilet (such as hole-in-the-ground toilet at trailhead), you know what we’re referring to! Composting toilets are 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 “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 pull 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 draw 0.1 Amp, that’s almost nothing.
When driving on highways, we can sometimes have smells inside the van. That’s because the pressure inside the van is lower than outside: air (and dust!) makes its way inside. The smells is subtle and we don’t mind it when it happens.
What’s in the solid tank?
There are two options here:
- For both option, make sure there is 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 into the tank! It’s even better as this will leave more time for composting action to happen.
How to empty the 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 prefer 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 solid tank is disgusting?!
No! We much rather empty our composting toilet than a cassette toilet. The solid matter does NOT look and smell like poop, it look and smell like soil! Alright, there you have it:
See, we told you it’s not gross!
What are the Nature’s Head dimensions?
Composting Toilet VS Cassette Toilet
It was a hard decision… in fact, no… it was very easy too 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 environment! Not convinced?
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 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
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 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)
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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!