Composting toilets are the best option for anyone living off grid in a tiny house, RV, or van. The composting toilet breaks down human waste with aerobic microorganisms. It stores the waste in tidy, removable packaging, which can then be used as compost. So… what is the best composting toilet for off grid living?
The toilets on my list separate liquids from solid. This helps the bacteria and organic compounds break down the solid waste to produce manure (human-made). Composting toilets are a great way to make use of your waste in a productive and healthy way. Just make sure your local laws allow you to use your homemade compost! Now, let’s get down to business (pun intended).
What Are The Different Types Of Composting Toilets?
There are a few different types of composting toilets. Before making a purchase, I recommend familiarizing yourself with each option. So, read on and start learning!
I shoud note that both types of composting toilets—self-contained and split/central systems—break down waste. However, they operate slightly differently and have distinct specifications.
Want to learn more about off grid toilet setups? Check out our in-depth guide on Off Grid Toilets!
The self-contained toilet is the classic composting toilet. This is typically the best composting toilet for off grid living (for most people, at least). The self-contained toilet has a removable tank and a liquid drain for waste removal. Some self-contained systems can be set up where plumbing won’t fit and are portable, making them ideal for someone who is on the go (RV or camper).
My favorite part about a self-contained toilet is that everything you need for successful composting is in the toilet! Remove the tank and empty the compost once it is full. These systems occasionally include freshwater tanks or supply lines to flush waste into the chamber below.
Spit System/Hybrid System
The split system composting toilet is comparable to a conventional toilet. These thrones attach to a network of pipes that transports the waste to a central bio-drum, hopper, or tank, where composting is done. The trash is broken down while being stirred in the hopper, letting off odorless gases. Similar to the self-contained toilet, you should drain the tank after it has filled.
Since split compost toilet systems need a hopper typically located underneath the toilet, they are substantially more expensive than self-contained toilets. While they are more expensive, they’re typically a higher-quality option and have a much larger capacity. The split system toilet is best for those that are settled down off grid and have electricity and plumbing systems.
What To Consider When Purchasing A Composting Toilet?
When purchasing a composting toilet for your RV, camper, or tiny home, you should keep these things in mind:
Difference Between Portable and Composting Toilet
Composting toilets and portable toilets are similar, but not the same. Many portable toilets do not break down human waste—instead, they just hold it. On the other hand, composting toilets always divide waste into liquid and solid components, allowing bacteria to eat each organic substance. After being composted, this waste can be used to strengthen your grass or garden. Composting byproducts feed the soil and supply plants with nutrients.
The opposite is not true of a portable toilet. All waste from portable toilets is collected in a single waste tank, which does not separate liquids from solids. The finished product needs to make its way into a sewer or septic system. With a portable toilet, you need to add enzymes and deodorizers to break down sediments and reduce odor.
In my opinion, the greatest option for permanent housing is not portable toilets, even though they can be convenient for camping and boating trips. I highly recommend a composting toilet instead.
The tank size is important to consider when buying a toilet. Unlike a normal toilet, you have to change the waste tank in a composting toilet. To find the best tank size for you, ask yourself how many people will be regularly using it.
A composting toilet with a five-gallon tank is more than sufficient for one adult living off grid. However, a split system with a high-capacity tank might handle waste from three persons or a family of five. The theory behind this is that properly sizing the tank will give waste ample time to decompose into manure before the tank fills.
Some composting toilets have a fan that draws air into the tank and over the waste using electricity. The abundant oxygen in the air supports the aerobic microorganisms that break down waste. Additionally, the air flows through the waste a dissipates the smell. Many operate on a 110V system seen in homes, but others may operate on a 110V AC or 12V DC battery. The smaller battery-powered systems can be run off of a car battery (or boat)!
A water pipe may also be required for a composting toilet. Despite what might seem, the composting toilets that use water use much less than a typical home toilet. When selecting a functional toilet, consider the household budget and utility set-up. Waterless and non-electric types are also available (and typically cheaper).
It’s necessary to exhaust the gases produced by the microorganisms in a composting toilet. Unless you particularly like the smell… If not, smells could accumulate, or the bacteria might work poorly due to a lack of fresh oxygen. As previously mentioned, most composting toilets have a fan that does just this! After each use, you can reduce odor while allowing bacteria to break down the particles by covering the waste with organic materials like sawdust or woodchips.
Typically I use woodchips or sawdust that I have on hand. If I’m out, I usually buy this cheap bag of wood chips that smells great!
How Much Space Do You Have
Composting toilets require a little more floor area than regular toilets, but they do not need a separate holding tank. Look for a small composting toilet with a smaller waste tank if you have a little house or RV.
If there is room for a split system, it might be worthwhile to spend the extra money to have a bigger holding capacity. There may be room to put a hopper in garages and cabins. Installing the tank outside is a possibility for warmer climates. This option is typically more costly, though.
The Best Composting Toilet For Off Grid
Here are my top picks for the best composting toilet for off grid living. Each toilet can be used in an off grid cabin, RV, van, or yurt!
It’s difficult to match this Nature’s Head composting toilet in strength and use. The toilet has a urine and solid waste divider which speeds up the composting process. In addition, this composting toilet has a side-mounted “spider” handle for churning the solid waste inside the tank. The waste tank can accommodate two persons using it full-time but will need to be emptied every four to six weeks.
An electric fan is used by the Nature’s Head composting toilet to pull in the fresh air and push aromas out. The fan operates on 12V power, but it can be converted to 110V using a kit that can be bought directly from Nature’s Head.
In my opinion, this is the best option for composting toilets out there. It’s high-quality, has a large storage tank, and is innovative (with the fan and spider handle). It’s perfect for RV or van life with the 12V battery, but also a great solution for permanent dwellers.
- Huge waste tank
- Easy to transport (small footprint)
- Ventilation fan for smells
- Better waste breakdown with spider handle design
- High-quality and durable
- Smaller capacity than alternatives
- Urine tank needs to be emptied more often than solid waste
- Relatively expensive
The Sun-Mar Excel composting toilet is a good option to consider when looking for an environmentally friendly model. Electric fans are used by this composting toilet to dry liquids, but they also suck air into the tank and force waste gases out of the vent to remove odors. There is space in the self-contained tank for three adults.
Even with its high capacity, the Sun-Mar weighs only 60 pounds, making installation simple. To wire it for 12V electricity in a boat or camper, purchasing an additional electric kit might be necessary. However, a 110V system comes included.
I recommend this the Sun-Mar composting toilet for those in a permanent off grid dwelling. With a bigger tank and 110V setup, it’s perfect for the home!
- Large capacity and storage tank
- Lower odors with the ventilation fan
- Pull-out step for kids (or for ergonomics)
- Extremely high-quality (will last a lifetime)
- Heavier than alternatives
- Most expensive option
When looking for a small, portable design that composts, the Sun-Mar GTG Composting Toilet is a great budget-friendly option. The self-contained GTG toilet creates the same kind of compost as other, much larger toilets. In simple, this option is my top pick for people living on the road or on a budget.
The GTG is a fan-powered, waterless toilet. It splits waste into two simple-to-remove containers, separating it into solid and liquid waste. It will easily fit most bathrooms in tiny houses, recreational vehicles, and campers! For exact measurements, it weighs a little under 30 pounds, is 15.75 inches wide, and is 19.8 inches tall.
- The most affordable option
- Vent fan to control odor
- Easily transportable
- Small footprint
- The small footprint be too small for larger people
- Lower quality compared to more expensive options
Look into the Separett Villa 9215 if you want an all-around compact composting toilet. With an electric fan to exchange gases, this waterless self-contained composting toilet can be used on a boat or motorhome’s 12V system or 110V in a home. It is relatively portable because it is compact and only weighs 34 pounds.
Everything you need to set the toilet up comes with it! These items are adapters for 110V and 12V electricity, components for direct venting, and items to connect the liquid drain to a gray water system. An average-sized family may use the tank for about three weeks.
- Minimalistic and lightweight
- Multiple power alternatives (perfect for off grid)
- Adequate tank size
- Ventilation fan for odors
- Includes adapters for 110V and 12V
- Mounts on the wall
- Not easily portable
What’s The Best Composting Toilet For Off Grid Living?
The Nature’s Head composting toilet is perfect for year-round or seasonal use. It has a generous waste tank and cutting-edge fan mechanism that eliminates odors without requiring a 110-volt outlet. As an alternative, the lightweight Sun-Mar composting toilet is a good option if you’re seeking something more transportable and reasonably priced.
Here are some of the most asked questions regarding composting toilets for off grid living. If you have any other questions, feel free to leave a comment, and I’ll get back to you!
How Do Composting Toilets Work?
Composting toilets collect human waste and allow aerobic bacteria to break down the waste. After emptying the tank, you can use the waste as compost (or break it down further with other materials).
Can You Use Toilet Paper in a Composting Toilet?
Yes! You can put toilet paper in a composting toilet. However, try to limit the amount of paper you’re putting it, as too much can stop the waste from being broken down correctly.
How Do You Install a Composting Toilet?
A self-contained, non-electric waterless device can be easily installed. Ventilation outside is the only issue. There will be recommendations for vent-pipe sizes and heights in the toilet’s instructions.
How Long Before A Composting Toilet Will Work?
This is based on how frequently you fill the toilet with new waste. Your composting toilet’s bacteria will start decomposing waste right once. However, it should take a few weeks to fill up with human waste (or less if you eat really healthy).
If you want to learn more about off grid living, we’ve got a library full of free resources!