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3 reasons why you don’t need a toilet in your van | Full Time Vanlife

As vanlifers without a toilet in our van, we talk about poop.  A lot. There’s no doubt that “Where do you go to the bathroom?” is one of the top 3 most frequently asked questions that people ask.

And we get it.  People are curious how we manage without a toilet in our van.  Of course we all dread the scenario where Taco Tuesday is coming back with Montezuma’s Revenge.  Not only do you regret trying that unlabeled hot sauce that was hot AF, but you also need a bathroom ASAP.  

Being in a situation where you need really to go, but don’t have a bathroom is something we all dread, and it’s definitely happened to us a few times.  If those are the stories you want to hear, we’ll have to get together and chat by the fire sometime! Kidding! Read our recent post about How to Live In A Van Full Time Without A Bathroom.  

We also just published a post about our Bathroom Emergencies!

So… Where do we go?

We’ve pooped in holes in the ground and used thousands of public restrooms.  In addition, we have a bucket that can be made into a portable toilet for places like Mexico with very little infrastructure and no public restrooms.  Also, in a desperate situation, the direct-to-bag (DTB) method was used. We’re not saying it’s glorious, but there are several really good reasons why we don’t have a toilet in our van.  In fact, even if we were to go back and build the van all over again, we still wouldn’t put a toilet in our van.

Here’s why:

Having a Toilet in your van takes up a lot of valuable space

When you live in less than 100 square feet, every inch counts.  We have so much gear in our van and we wouldn’t give it up for anything.  Not even the convenience of a toilet. Our gear enables us to say “yes” to any adventure that comes our way.  For example, no matter where we are, we can hike, bike, climb, fish, paddle, backpack, camp, skate, frisbee, ukulele, yoga, and more!

Pursuing outdoor adventure is the main reason why we started living in a van in the first place.  We aren’t about to give any of that up for a toilet. Therefore, we’re willing to put up with the inconvenience of finding public bathrooms or going in the woods in order to preserve more space in the van for our gear.  Call us crazy, but being outside is our priority!

It should be there for emergencies, but becomes a habit

It happens with other nomads all of the time.  You’ll put a toilet in your van with the intention of only using it for emergencies.  Everyone is ok with that, in theory. You plan to go outside or in public restrooms, until there’s a more convenient alternative.  There will be a situation where it’s more convenient to use the toilet. It’s a cold night and you don’t want to put clothes on to go outside.  So you use the toilet. Or you’re at a WalMart and you don’t want to walk all the way across the parking lot in the middle of the night.  

We get it.  We’ve been in all of those situations and I won’t deny that I’ve wished for a toilet some nights.  Also, if you’re carting that giant thing around, you might as well get some use out of it, right? It’s so easy to rationalize using it, that suddenly you’re wondering why you thought you would only use it for emergencies in the first place!  “Why did we buy this thing, if we’re not going to use it?” Which is how we’d feel if we spent hundreds of dollars on a fancy toilet for our van and never used it.

But then once you use it, you have the biggest reason of all not to put a toilet in your van…

If You have A Toilet In your van, You have to clean it

People who have a toilet in their van will say it’s not a big deal to clean the toilet.  And with a portable toilet, a black water tank or a Natures Head composting toilet, I’m sure that’s true. To us, it’s one more chore to take care of in order to maintain our rolling home.

When we lived in a house, we used to spend every Sunday cleaning the house and doing chores.  Overall, cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming, doing laundry, and house maintenance became a weekly, time consuming obligation that took up one of our precious days off of work.  Once we moved into a van, we were so grateful to be free of most of those chores. But suddenly we had a new list of things to do regularly. Refilling water, sweeping, and keeping things charged is the majority of what we do now.  It’s not much, and we like it that way.

Keep it simple

We built our van with practicality and minimalism in mind.  It is the ultimate adventure mobile, and we didn’t want anything installed that would hinder our ability to pursue outdoor adventures.  Especially cleaning a toilet or finding a place to empty a black water tank. The simplicity of it is what makes it so easy and so much fun.  Plus, we have some great poop stories to tell.

travel insurance

Toilet or No Toilet?  To Each Their Own

Having a toilet in your van is usually a black and white decision for most vanlifers.  While some people say they’d never live or travel in a van without one, others (like us) are glad not to have one.  

Everyone has different priorities when they travel.  It’s important that you take your needs into account when planning your trip in a rental van, or planning the layout of your own van.

We’re not intimidated by the challenge of finding a place to go to the bathroom.  It’s made us very resourceful and we find that it’s not all that difficult in developed countries like the United States.  However, we’ve had different experiences in Mexico. Be sure to check out our blog post about traveling without a toilet in our van in countries without public facilities.

What do you think?  Would a toilet in your van be a minimum requirement to vanlife?  Or would be willing to hit the open road, not knowing where you’ll poop next? 😉 

8 Comments on “3 Reasons Why You Don’t Need a Toilet In Your Van”

  1. I agree with you on this one. Squatting in the wild is healthier as well since you squat and take in some fresh air. Imagine you poop in the van, and it’s too cold outside to open the windows. 🙂
    I never had a toilet in my van, and I also would not do it. Especially when you are an outdoors person, I don’t think it is a big deal just to hop outside.
    I did always have a foldable shovel in my van to dig a hole just in case. Also I believe google always finds a public toilet for you. Perhaps there are even some apps to download? Great article as always. Happy vanlife!

    • Hi Hendrik, thanks for your insight. You make an important point about ventilation in the van! We certainly prefer a poo with a view!

      Greg & Jess

  2. I love the article.

    And no, you don’t need a toilet when traveling in the US.

    Back in 2010, I decided to take a trip up the east coast. I started in Nashville and ended up in New york. I paid for the trip by going into salons & sharping the stylist salon scissors. I mostly slept in my Subaru Baja and when I needed to go to the bathroom, I went into a fast-food- restaurant or a Walmart. If I was camping out, I had toilet paper and toilette wipes for cleaning up.

    Looking forward to reading your next article on traveling in a foreign country without a toilet.

    Take care,


    • Hi Bob, that sounds like quite an adventure you went on! I admire your resourcefulness when it comes to making money and finding bathrooms on the road. We certainly haven’t had an issue and love hearing that others are enjoying their travels as well!

      Jess & Greg

  3. I have stayed in a van before and never had a toilet. I agree with you about how much space they take up. I have definitely wished for it some nights but the reasons for not having one outweigh the reasons for having one.

    • Hi Catherine, that’s great to hear that you didn’t have any issue without a toilet either. A van is so small, theres no reason to lose more space to something unnecessary! Happy travels!

  4. Hello, thank you for this informative post. I always go camping with my son. The toilet is always a big problem for us. Luckily I landed on your site. I can see you spend a ton of time. I like your post include portable toilets for me so I can buy it directly. At least, I don’t need to do further research online.

    I totally agree with cleaning the toilet in the van is much troublesome than handling the portable toilet.

    I will bookmark your site and share it with all my friends. I believe your post can helps many people. Please keep sharing with us.

    • Thanks for reading along and I’m so glad that this article was helpful for you! We are happy to hear that one of our solutions will work for your camping trips with your son!