Considering purchasing or building a camper van with a bathroom? Find out why you may or may not want a bathroom in your van.
When you are buying or building a campervan one thing to think about is should I get a bathroom. Do I need a full bathroom? How often will I use it?
When we bought our Australian campervan Marlee, we already had a built-in full bathroom and everything was done for us. We thought “This is awesome, we will use it all the time!”
We found early on that we used the toilet a lot for number 1s. And having a private door is nice.
But, unfortunately, we did not use the shower a lot. The bathroom does take up a lot of space in our camper van so we ended up using it as a storage area for our bedding during the day.
We camp at free campgrounds in Australia often so we thought that we would use the shower quite often. Surprisingly, we found that a lot of the rest stops have flushing toilets and some even have cold showers. Or you can have a cold shower at the beach.
We have used the toilet in the middle of the night or on rainy days when there is not a toilet in sight, so we love that we have a toilet.
And we have showered in our van a few times. It has been great to have it available on demand. But it takes about 10 minutes after to clean up and wipe everything down as we store items in there.
The Pros and Cons of a Camper Van With Bathroom
Here are the pros and cons to having a bathroom in your campervan.
PROS to having a bathroom
1. You can shower whenever you want
This is pro and so handy when you go off freedom camping for weeks on end. Obviously, you cannot shower every day as your water may not last.
But being able to have a quick shower every second day is amazing!
Read Next: Check out other great alternatives for taking a shower on the road.
2. You do not need to worry about finding a toilet again
Having our own toilet has been a lifesaver for us. There are times when you need the bathroom badly and there is not one around.
But when you have one of your own you can go whenever you want!
3. You have everything you need – Freedom
This is one thing we love about our bathroom. We have access to a toilet and shower whenever we want. We do not have to worry about whether the campground has facilities. It is amazing and we always have a sense of freedom.
4. You are off-grid living
Living off the grid is such a great feeling. Setting up your campervan to have a composting toilet is even better. You are dealing with no harsh chemicals and you are not putting any into the environment.
We have a Nature’s Head Compost Toilet and loved it. We highly recommend this composting toilet. We feel it is much better than a cassette toilet
CONS to having a bathroom IN a Campervan
While there are a few great reasons for having a camper van bathroom, there are also equally compelling reasons not to. These are the cons we found to have a shower and toilet in our camper van.
1. Takes up a lot of space
The bathroom units do take up a lot of space – particularly if you have a toilet and shower in your camper van. This is something you need to think about and evaluate whether you have the space to do so.
Our bathroom does take up a lot of space in our van so during the day we use it as a storage area. The items we put in there can be easily taken out if we need to shower or go to the toilet.
2. Water Storage
This is something we never thought about in a house. You turn the tap on and the water comes out. Sometimes the only thing we had to worry about is not having enough hot water.
When you have a shower in your camper van, you definitely need to learn to have quick showers. It is crazy how much water you can use for a shower if you are not careful!
Read Next: Check out your water tank options for ensuring you have proper plumbing in place!
3. The Clean up
If you are like us and use the area for storage during the day, then you need to wipe the shower down. We give it a quick wipe after we shower so no water is laying area.
Then we let it air and place the items back in the bathroom. We do this so things do not get wet or stay damp as this is how mold starts.
Having a toilet also means that you have to empty it also. This is not a pleasant job. But there are dump points where you can do this and a tap for rinsing. We find these spots on camping apps.
Dry Bath vs Wet Bath
What is the difference between a dry and wet bath? It is simple really…
A dry bath is when the shower is separate from the sink and toilet so only the shower floor gets wet not the other floor spaces. You see this in houses and it will take up more space in your camper van or RV. Make sure you have a shower curtain to help
A wet bath is when the sink and toilet are in the shower area and everything gets wet. It definitely takes less space but beware of everything getting wet. You just have to think about a few things. You will need to have your toilet paper high up or in a waterproof bag.
This goes with your toiletries maybe living in another part of the camper van. Having a hand pump soap instead of your soap bar. That one is good for your gray water tank so soap gunk does not build up.
Camper van Bathroom options
Having a great workable toilet and shower setup is essential in your campervan. It needs to work well and be practical so you can use it daily. Here are some ideas for different bathroom options.
Shower and Toilet Combo – Same Cubicle
This is what a lot of van lifers will do in their camper van, especially if you have a long wheelbase and a high roof.
We have this for our Sprinter van bathroom. It is great. It is one cubicle where we have the shower and composting toilet. It has a sliding door on it to stop the water from getting out. We are connected to our gas system to access hot water for that luxury hot shower.
It is a wet bath, meaning when we shower everything gets wet. After we have finished we wipe everything down with a chamois. This just helps the room dry quicker and cut down on precipitation build up.
A great spot to put your full bathroom is behind the driver’s seat. This is where ours is in our camper van and it was the best spot we felt.
Read Next: Learn everything you need to know about proper campervan ventilation.
Outdoor Shower and Hidden Toilet Inside
I have seen a lot of camper vans do this one as they do not have a lot of pace. The shower will be out the back of the camper van and can be only accessed through the backdoor. This shower is not for inside use.
I have also seen the kitchen sink near the back or side door and a shower attachment is used. The van lifers will usually have a shower curtain for some privacy.
The toilet will go inside the camper van under a bench seat. This is the best way to utilize the space. You can use the bench seat as a seat for your dining area and when you open it there is a toilet hidden inside.
Or you can have it in a cupboard or drawer with a pullout system. This is so it is easy to access and pull out when you need to go. No one will ever know it is there hidden away unless they open the drawer or cupboard.
There is a great shower setup for every van. Do your research on which would be better for you and your van before installing one.
Having an outdoor shower can leave you with extra space in your camper van. It is the van life way as camp vans do not have a large amount of space inside them.
The outdoor showers are usually set up out the back of the camper van. It is connected to a water tank and the shower head will come off that.
Do keep in mind the water is going onto the ground so please use environmentally friendly products so they do not affect the environment. Also have quick showers, like military showers. Wet yourself, turn the water off, soap up, water on and rinse off. It will save you so much water.
I have seen ones with poles inserted so a shower curtain can be hung. This will give you the privacy you need when showering.
Setting up your shower inside can be great but do remember it takes up space.
If you have a small camper van maybe think about the outdoor shower option to give you more space.
If you have a larger camper van a bathroom inside is very nice. It is like a tiny home. We found the best way to build an indoor bathroom is to insert a cubicle.
You can purchase shower cubicles from different companies that are shaped for your camper van. These cubicles are great as they are waterproof and keep all the water inside.
If you do not go with the cubicle system, do make sure the shower area is fully waterproof as you do not want a water issue in your camper van.
Read Next: Check out our guide on all of the best shower options for van life.
Having hot water is such a luxury when you are on the road. Every shower that is installed in a camper van can have hot water, it just needs a hot water system. When your system will work on gas or electricity, do what will work best for your setup.
If you want hot showers, you can purchase a system that heats your water before coming out. Depending on whether your shower is inside or out, check out these options below:
- KICKASS Instant Gas Hot Water System & Portable Pump Pack
- Thermomate Outdoor Water Heater Gas Camping Portable Tankless Hot Shower
- Hottap V2 Essentials Portable Propane Hot Water Kit
- Camplux Enjoy Outdoor Life Outdoor Portable Propane Tankless Water Heater
- Camec Digital Instantaneous Gas Water Heater (we have this one)
- Smarttek Black Hot Water Shower System Water Heater with Pump
If you would like more suggestions, check out our article for more water heater options.
When installing your shower head just make sure it is a head that you can remove. It helps out in so many different ways, especially for cleaning.
You can direct it to where you want it and take it off to reach a child if you are traveling with one. You can choose low-pressure or water-saving shower heads ones also to help with your water saving. Do some reach before you purchase your shower piece.
There are a few toilet setups you can do in your camper van. Whether it is fixed or a portable toilet inside your van.
A cassette toilet is one option for a camper van bathroom. This toilet can be fixed or a portable toilet.
It is named a cassette toilet as these toilets have a cassette that you can lift out from the toilet or from the side of the camper van bathroom is located. They usually have a door that you unlock and open and there is the toilet cassette with the waste.
Some cassette toilets can be accessed from the toilet inside the camper bathroom. You just grab it empty out, give it a rinse, add a tablet, and place it back in its spot.
Composting toilets for any type of camper van is the way to go we think. You do not need to carry around harsh chemicals with you and it will not have that chemical smell that sometimes cassette toilets get.
The composting toilets are portable toilets so you are able to put them in and out to give them a proper clean when they need it.
The reason we got ours is we love the fact it is a composting toilet and your waste turns into soil, they are environmentally friendly and surprisingly do not stink at all.
Some put the toilet paper in the number 2s area to compost but it does fill up quickly. We recommend putting the toilet paper in a biodegradable bag and disposing of it when you can.
You will need to find a dump spot for your number one. We put them in a black water waste system and our number two in a biodegradable bag and throw them in the bin. The reason we did this as we stayed in a lot of national parks and there was no composting system near.
There are different composting toilets so do your research before you buy one and see if it is for you. Compost toilets are not for everyone and that is totally fine. They can be more expensive and not in a van life budget.
Read Next: Check out our honest review of Nature’s Head Composting Toilet.
Our Personal Opinion – Would we have it again?
If we were to rebuild our van we would definitely have a toilet but we would figure out another way to have a shower but make it compact. When you are living full-time out of the van, space is important and so precious.
I know you can buy these shower awnings that come off the side of the camper van and fold up small. This is the privacy cover and then attach the shower head on the outside of your campervan. We would connect it to hot water and use a wooden slat to stand on. If you do this make sure you use biodegradable soap so you do not harm the environment.
We definitely love having a shower and toilet. Knowing we have the freedom to go anywhere we want and we are self-sufficient makes us so happy. We always have a sense of freedom knowing we have everything we need with us all the time.
When you are buying or building a campervan one thing to think about is should I get a bathroom. Do I need a bathroom?
When we bought our van it was already built and everything was done for us. Our van, Marlee, came with a camper van bathroom and we were so happy it was an off-grid living camper van with a composting toilet, gas hot water system and solar panels for electricity. It is perfect.
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