How to Go to the Bathroom in a Van! Part One

Today we are taking the way-back machine to  the very basics of living in a van, How to Go to the Bathroom! I’ve fallen into the habit of taking the basics for granted and it’s been years since I’ve covered them… so it’s time! My good friend Al wrote a great post covering this in his blog  http://rollingsteeltent.blogspot.com/ so I asked him if I could copy it here. He graciously agreed, so here it is. After his post I’ll answer some Frequently Asked Questions. This will be a two part post and in the next post we’ll cover porta-potties, different kinds of seats, potty tents and even a composting toilet. 

People who live with the benefits of plumbing often ask me how I do without. The answer is a five-gallon bucket, trash bags and a nifty lid. I started with a Luggable Loo seat-lid combo that snaps onto a five-gallon bucket with a plastic bag inside. They’re popular. But I didn’t like that the cover just flopped over the seat. It didn’t seal. That meant either putting up with the odor or sealing up the plastic bag. One use per bag. Neither was a good solution.(There is toilet seat with rubber gasket that does seal at Amazon: Tote-able Toilet Seat with Lid and Rubber Gasket )

Luckily, there’s a lid for five-gallon buckets that does seal. Gamma Seal lids are designed to seal five-gallon buckets of paint, adhesive, food, whatever. It comes in two pieces. One is a threaded ring that fits on the lip of the bucket. You need to pound it on with a rubber mallet. The other is the lid. It has an O-ring gasket for sealing. The lid screws into the ring. They come in a variety of colors. Though the lid seals tightly, there’s enough of a gap in the threads that it can fit over trash bags. I double bag with 13-gallon trash bags. And I hold them in place with a bungee cord. The Gamma Seal lid is $9.99 and can be ordered from Amazon here: The Gamma Seal Lid, White

Another problem with the Luggable Loo is that the opening is too small for large guys. With my system I get almost the entire diameter of the bucket mouth. The ring and bags also provide enough cushion for my bony butt.

So, now you’re wondering, how do I dispose of the contents? As often as possible I pour it into an outhouse/vault toilet/regular toilet. I tie off the empty inner bag and then the outer bag and toss them in the trash. But… but…, there’s residue of, ew, human waste in the bag, you say. True. But it’s far less than in the typical disposable diaper, or a sack of dog poo, which we toss without a care.

Finally, whenever I wash and vacuum the Rolling Steel Tent I give the bucket and lid a good blasting.

The bucket will eventually wear out. You can’t really pry the ring off the bucket without damaging it, so I already have a spare Gamma lid for the new bucket. Maybe I’ll get it from Home Depot next time.

Thanks Al, for allowing me to use your blog post! Next I’ll answer some Frequently Asked Questions 

Some options for the toilet: 1. 3 pound coffe can, detergent bottle and used soda cups to pee in 2) wet wipes to clean up 3) spray bottle with vinegar and mouth wash to clean the pee container.

Some options for the toilet: 1) A 3 pound coffee can, detergent bottle and used soda cups to pee in 2) wet wipes to clean up 3) spray bottle with vinegar and mouth wash to clean the pee container. If you never rinse the pee container, it’ll get funky.

Frequently Asked Questions about 5 Gallon Bucket Toilets:

Q. Why not just use public toilets, after all they are on every corner? A. When I live in a city, that’s exactly what I did! they literally were on nearly every corner so I used them! But I always had a 5 gallon bucket as backup. Why? Because you never now when you are going to have an urgent need to go in the middle of the night! By the time you wake up, get out of bed, get dressed, drive around and find an open public restroom, get parked and go inside, it might be too late. Especially as you get older! It seems like the time between thinking I have to go, and having to go right NOW gets shorter and shorter with every passing year! I always have a 5 gallon bucket ready to go, even in the city.

Here is an example of using a toilet multiple times. She lines it with newspaper between every use and sprinkles A&H Deodorizer on it. This toilet seat has a rubber gasket so it never leaks odor.

Here is an example of using a toilet multiple times. She lines it with newspaper between every use and sprinkles A&H Deodorizer on it. This toilet seat has a rubber gasket (it’s the black ring on the seat) so it never leaks odor.

Q. Do you both pee and poop in the bucket? A. Never! It just make disposing of it  so much more complicated if you have both in there, so I never mix them. If your bag has small hole, the solids aren’t getting out but the pee will and I don’t want the pee anywhere but in a container! A bag rolled up with my poop is very small and inconspicuous but if it has pee in it too, it’ll be larger and fragile. I don’t want that.

Q. What do you pee in? A. For men it’s easy, we can pee in anything, even a pop or beer can. But I like a quart yellow Nalgene bottle  best of all. You can take it into any public restroom to dump it and no one will be the wiser what you are doing. Some people use quart Gatorade bottles, but I prefer a larger opening. Detergent bottles also work well, but let’s face it, for a man anything will do as long as it has a lid. The larger the opening and the more discreet the better.

Q. What do women pee in? A. Their anatomy makes peeing a little more complicated for women than men so they need a container with a very large opening. Many women find a 3 pound coffee can to work perfectly for them, but anything with a large opening and a lid will do. I have a female friend who used a 2 gallon ice cream container very successfully, another found a mayonnaise jar was big enough. Some have found good luck with women’s urinals that are essentially funnels that are molded for a woman’s anatomy that they hold close to their privates and a tube leads to a jar. Amazon sells numerous models that you can see here: Women’s Urinals On Amazon  The Go Girl female urinal is well reviewed on Amazon: Go Girl Female Urination Device

Q. Do you use the bag one time or do you use the same bag multiple times?  A. There’s no right or wrong answer to that question and many people use them multiple times. To me it’s worth paying a few cents a day for the bag and just using it once. After I use it, I wrap it up and throw it in the trash. Hopefully I’ll soon be in town where I throw it into a dumpster. If not I take it out and set the whole trash sack on top of the van until I do. Very simple and odor free.

Q. If I use it multiple times, should I use kitty litter also? A. I can’t really answer since I only use it once, but many people do. One friend puts a section of newspaper between each use and also sprinkles Arm & Hammer Kitty Litter deodorizer on it. She never had an odor problem with it. You can buy it from Amazon for $3.98 here: ARM & Hammer Cat Litter Deodorizer Some people use different things to control odors, the most common is kitty litter but I’ve heard of people using sawdust and even peat moss. To me, I don’t see any reason to carry anything else around. I use it once per bag and I’m done.

A Poor Man’s Toilet. I got the bucket for free and the lid is pip-insulation I bought at Home Depot for $2.50. I’ve been using it for 6 years now! You ask, “Doesn’t it get germs?” No, remember it always has a double layer of trash bags in it so I never make direct contact with it. It’s very comfortable and warm!

Q. Is it legal or morale to throw poop  in the dumpster?  A. Here’s how I answer that; when I had kids and they pooped in their disposable diapers I never asked the question and neither did anyone else! That nasty stuff went right into the trash and to the landfill no questions asked! When I walk my dog in the city we all know we are supposed to carry a bag and pick up his poop, right? Where does all that stuff end up? In the landfill of course. I don’t feel bad about it at all! By living in a van I’m doing 100 times less damage to the environment than anyone living in a house does so if I do this one small thing wrong, the balance is still very much in my favor.

Q. Is it okay to dig a hole and poop in it. A. Yes! If you live on public land and dig a cat hole at least 6 inches deep it’s perfectly legal!  As long as the hole is at least 6 inches deep and you cover it up, it’s not only legal, it’s also by far the best thing you can do for the environment and society. I carry a shovel and when I dig a cat hole I want the hole to be at least the depth of the shovel blade below the ground.

This post got too long so it will be two parts. In the next post we’ll look at:

  1. Different toilet seats you can use.
  2. Potty Tents
  3. Porta Potties
  4. And a home-made composting toilet.

Posted in Bathroom

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