All You Need to Know About Setting Up a Toilet in Your VW Bus

toilet VW bus

To many, living the Buslife is like living a dream. Traveling around without limitations, experiencing the world from different angles, and meeting new people is all part of the experience. When encountering Buslife for the first time, the appeal of the lifestyle may overshadow some of the practical aspects. One such practical aspect is setting up a toilet. Have you thought about that yet? If not, this article is for you.

In this article, we’ll dive into: 

  • Pros and cons of having a toilet 
  • Types of toilets suitable for VW Buses 
  • Whether you really need one

What are the pros and cons of having a toilet in your VW Bus? 

The pros:

1. Basic needs are met 

While not having a toilet may sound adventurous to some, having one prevents you from needing to think (and sometimes worry) about where to complete one of your most basic needs. If you decide to stay close to nature, not having a toilet may be acceptable. If your travels are going to take you through towns and cities, it can be a real hassle not having a toilet on board.

2. Cleanliness in your own hands 

If you are relying on public bathrooms, cleanliness needs to be taken into account. By having a toilet in your VW Bus you can keep hygiene under your own control.

3. Privacy 

Knowing that there is a toilet in your own space can be very comforting. When traveling, you are exposed to the outside world in many ways. To many, it’s important to maintain some level of privacy, and having a toilet in your VW Bus helps a lot with ensuring privacy. 

The cons:

1. You need to clean and empty it yourself 

Having a toilet in your bus does not mean you don’t need to worry about it anymore. The biggest con of having a toilet is that you need to empty the tank at some point. More about that later.

2. Ensuring the smell doesn’t remain in the bus 

Some may even get used to it but in the beginning, it can be really challenging to deal with the subtle smells in your bus. As the tank builds up over days, the smell in the bus can become a bit annoying. The cure is simple: Keep the toilet window open, regularly empty the tank and make a DIY odor-preventing solution (more on that later).

3. A toilet takes up space 

It’s a simple fact that toilets take up a lot of space. Not having one makes it possible to store extra items. If you plan on installing a toilet in your bus, you’ll need to consider the space issue. 

Types of toilets suitable for VW Buses 

There are various types of toilets that can be used in your VW Bus. Let’s take a look at some examples. 

  • Chemical toilets
  • Dry flush toilets 
  • Compost toilets 
  • Buckets 

Chemical toilets 

Chemical toilets are closest to what most people have at home. It is the standard for most campers as well. Take the Thetford Porta Potti, for example. If you are looking for a simple, basic toilet, go for a chemical one. An alternative, an electricity-powered chemical toilet may also be a good choice, especially if you have solar panels installed. 

Portable chemical toilets may come in handy, too (though be careful where you use them :D). This is a suitable option for buses that have very little space. The SereneLife Outdoor Portable Toilet comes with a handy carry bag. 

Note that chemical toilet tanks need to be disposed of in designated areas (more on that later). You also need to consider the chemicals used for these types of toilets. Chemicals help break down the waste and prevent some of the smell. You can purchase liquid toilet chemicals or tablet dissolving chemicals. Typical products or chemicals used include bleach, biocides, microbial and enzymatic agents. Some chemicals may even help break down toilet paper! 

Dry Flush toilets

The Dry Flush toilet by Laveo uses a unique and patented container which wraps your waste never to be seen again! these toilets are one of our favorite for a number of reasons:

  1. You can dispose of the waste in landfills because it is fully contained
  2. There is absolutely no odor
  3. There is no need for chemicals
  4. The replacement cartridges are easy to carry
  5. The toilet is battery powered and will do 300 flushes on one charge

It’s really one of the best portable toilets out there!

The only caveat is that the containers are not biodegradable, which leads us to the next option.

Compost toilets 

Many Buslifers consider themselves to be environmentally conscious and prefer not to use anything that goes against nature’s ways, including a chemical toilet. Compost toilets offer an excellent alternative. They are widely used in a variety of settings, including VW Buses. One of the most well-known composting toilet brands is Nature’s Head

Note that there are not a lot of places to deposit semi-decomposed poop. Though you can deposit it in nature, it is not something generally accepted. You’ll have to take the utmost care ensuring that the place in which you decide to deposit is far away from paths and that the waste is deposited as far underground and as best covered as possible. 

Also, do not deposit near lakes or streams, or other sources of water. Not respecting these basic principles has led to some issues in the past. In some cases, locals have developed a negative view of Buslifers because of using nature as a toilet. In Portugal, for example, this was part of the reason a freedom camping ban was introduced. 


Last on the list are bucket toilets, or bucket-like toilets. The main thing to consider here is that you’ll want to be close to nature to be able to dispose of the bucket contents easily and without leaving a trace (more on that later). The Reliance Luggable Loo and the Suces Portable Toilet are bucket-like (portable) toilet solutions. 

Do I really need a toilet? 

The quick and easy answer is ‘no,’ though the main considerations here are your own needs. 

Some things to consider: 

  • Privacy, comfort, and convenience. If these are important for you, having a toilet in your VW Bus is a necessity. 
  • How often you are in the wilderness. If you plan to spend a lot of time in nature, a toilet might not even be necessary. 
  • Hygiene and cleanliness. If cleanliness is high on your list of priorities, having a toilet in your bus would be ideal. 
  • How often you are elsewhere with a toilet. If you plan on working, drinking, and eating in bars and cafes, you might get away without a toilet in your bus. 

In any case, a simple portable, bucket-like toilet is a handy option to have with you on board. 

Waste holding tank disposal 

Unfortunately, but obviously, chemical toilets do not flush into the sewer system. Thus, you need to find a place to dispose of the contents of your tank. This can be a real hassle. Dumps, petrol stations or camping sites often offer tank disposal facilities. What you’ll want to look out for are ‘chemical waste disposal points.’ Make sure to identify several of these points in the areas you’ll likely be spending time during your travels. 

Natural solutions for preventing odor in the bus 

If you decide to have a toilet in your bus, you might want to take some preventive measures to prevent or decrease the smells. 

Our top tip is to make orange peel candles. Slice an orange in half, remove the contents but keep the stem in place. Then, place the orange peel on a dish, fill the empty hole with some oil and light up the top of the stem! 

Click here for more natural, DIY homemade recipes to prevent odors. 

Finding public toilets near you 

If you decide to go without a toilet, you’ll want to make sure you get to know a couple of public toilets. Obvious places are petrol stations, bus and train stations. Other places you may find public toilets include parks, cafes, malls and markets. Depending on which country you visit, you may also find a map of public toilets online. Search for ‘Public toilets in (name country)’ and see what comes up! 

The natural way 

We’ve already discussed several nature-friendly toilet options. But what if you are in nature, you need to do a number 2 and you have no toilet at all and no access to a public toilet either? Our recommendation is to bring plain pocket tissues with you at all times. You may also use tree leaves (though make sure they are not itchy :P). Make sure to hide the evidence by digging a small hole in the ground and covering it up with leaves and dirt. Please read the section on ‘Compost toilets’ for more information and issues relating to using nature as a toilet. 

Want to know what else you should put into your VW Bus? Consider this course which gives you all the information you need to build your VW Bus from the ground up!

Darren Van Es
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