5 Alternatives To Having a Bathroom in Your RV
By Alexis Chateau \
Most people buy their RVs to go places. While on the road, you’ll also need somewhere to “go.” Some RVers insist on having a bathroom onboard, while others think it’s a waste of space. Regardless of where you fall on this spectrum, knowing the alternatives can help you go further and stay longer because you don’t need to empty a black tank. Let’s look at some alternatives to having a bathroom in your RV. Then, we can figure out the right one for you.
What Are Your Priorities for the Alternatives to Having a Bathroom in Your RV?
The alternative you choose will depend on your travel situation and personal preferences. You likely won’t find a solution that covers all these points, so take some time to figure out which two are most important to you.
Some people are just fine moving some bathroom activities outside but not others. For example, a woman traveling alone might prefer to shower inside but might not mind peeing outside. Similarly, couples traveling together might choose to poo in the woods but don’t mind showering and peeing inside. What functions are you trying to move outdoors?
If you are a woman traveling alone, your greatest fear is probably stripping down for an outdoor shower, only for a random van to pull up beside you. This has happened to me! Couples might also prefer privacy but find that they have less of it indoors than outside. How important is privacy to you?
I have a fully-equipped bathroom inside my RV, and the convenience is unbeatable. When it’s 40 degrees and windy, I don’t have to worry about what to do if I need to pee after dark. I still have that convenience when I’m overlanding without the trailer in the same conditions. How? We’ll get to that in a moment!
Consider the space my bathroom takes up with an entire wardrobe, sink, commode, and small shower. Then compare it to a trailer that has only a portable toilet. If your travel trailer does not have a bathroom, how much space are you willing to commit to an alternative?
Would you happily empty a portable toilet or would you rather dig a hole in the woods and leave it to nature? It might seem like a minor consideration now, but choosing not to handle waste can also save you on the cost of using dump stations.
What Are 5 Alternatives To Having a Bathroom in Your RV?
Most RVs over 16 feet long have some bathroom amenities inside. However, when I refer to having a bathroom onboard, I’m talking about a fully self-contained unit. That means an RV with a shower, toilet, sink, running water, and the proper waste tanks to collect gray and black water. So, what are your alternatives if you need to supplement some or all of your RV bathroom functions?
1. Go Primitive
I know people who only camp next to natural water sources. That way, they can take showers in rivers or lakes and squat in the woods. Men traveling alone and couples traveling together tend to like this option:
- Use: Going primitive can replace all bathroom functions if you have a water source.
- Privacy: You could have very little privacy or you could feel like the whole world is yours. It depends on how many other people are in the area.
- Convenience: This can feel convenient when the weather is warm or cool, but it can feel like a hassle when it gets cold. Who wants to bathe in cold water in 40-degree weather? Not me!
- Space: You don’t need to take much with you for this setup, so it’s ideal when space is limited. Get a small shovel and opt for biodegradable toiletries.
- Handling: You usually don’t handle black or gray waste in this setup, but that depends. Some areas will still ask you to pack the poo instead of burying it.
2. Invest in a Portable Toilet
You will be spoiled for choice when it comes to portable toilets―and I don’t even mean the brands. There are so many different types, and they all have various benefits. Composting toilets are popular for people who plan to keep toilets in one place, while luggable loos and cassette toilets can easily go outside. There are also special pee bottles made for women. I take mine rooftop tent camping and call it my she-nis! Here goes the pros and cons:
- Use: They resolve the toilet issue, but you will still need to find alternatives for showering. It’s also worth remembering that the she-nis is just for peeing.
- Privacy: You can put these portable toilets anywhere to ensure privacy. I successfully put the luggable loo behind the front passenger seat in my FJ Cruiser, and I have used the she-nis inside the rooftop tent like a pro. No mess, no stress.
- Convenience: It’s nice knowing you have a semi-onboard bathroom solution you can take with you where you go.
- Space: Composting toilets are often bigger and heavier than regular toilets. Luggable loos and cassette toilets are smaller and lighter, but they still take up space the size of a five-gallon bucket. The she-nis fits in the storage nets in my rooftop tent.
- Handling: You become responsible for disposing of the waste, but timespans vary. For example, I have only had to empty the pee tank in my composting toilet.
3. Explore Portable Shower Solutions
Let’s say you travel alone and don’t mind using your composting toilet inside your trailer. But, figuring out the drainage situation for a shower is a hassle. You will find even more shower solutions to choose from than portable toilets. These can range from elaborate systems that heat water and run off electricity to a 5-gallon bag you hang in a tree. The possibilities are endless:
- Use: You still have to find a solution for the toilet, but taking a nice, warm shower is priceless.
- Privacy: None of these provide privacy on their own, but you can use shower tents to solve that problem.
- Convenience: Each portable shower option has its drawbacks, so do your research. For example, the elaborate, heated setup might need an existing water supply, and the 5-gallon bag needs direct sunlight to heat up.
- Space: The 5-gallon bag won’t take up a lot of space, but the fancy, heated solution likely will. You might also need propane or a generator to heat the water.
- Handling: Most areas don’t regulate gray water from outdoor showers, so you won’t have to worry about handling waste.
4. Use Restroom Facilities
Many people who relied on this alternative found themselves in difficult situations during the pandemic. Gyms closed, and some RV parks refused to rent spaces to anything but self-contained units. Some remote areas might also not have gyms or rest stops. Even so, this option is worth considering:
- Use: You can usually find bathrooms that meet all your needs, but some do not have hot water, even when they say they do.
- Privacy: Technically, you’re behind a closed door, but not everyone feels comfortable using a public restroom.
- Convenience: Sometimes, you can find camping spots right next to a bathroom; other times, you might have to drive an hour to the closest gym.
- Space: The only thing you pack is your toiletries and a backup bathroom option, such as a pee bottle or a shovel.
- Handling: You have fully outsourced the handling of black and gray waste to the facilities providing the services.
5. Piggyback Off a Friend
I have a fully self-contained RV. So, when I travel with friends, I let them use some of the amenities. Doing this might not even mean extra foot traffic inside. My RV has an outdoor shower, and I always take the luggable loo and pop-up tent with me. Here are the pros and the cons:
- Use: Your friend’s fully loaded RV will likely have everything you need. But be sure to ask what they’re comfortable with letting you use and under what conditions.
- Privacy: Using someone else’s space means you both give up a little privacy, but it could still be more private than skinny-dipping in a lake or pooing in the woods.
- Convenience: Always ensure you have a backup system because shared amenities might not always be available when you want them.
- Space: You won’t need to pack anything else but your toiletries and a backup plan.
- Handling: You have outsourced most of the work to your generous friend, but be sure to offer your assistance. Chipping in on the dump station fee is a nice gesture for long trips.
Now that you know the top alternatives to having a bathroom in your RV, you can consider much more minimalist setups. Choosing a smaller trailer with fewer amenities can reduce the RV price, lower travel costs, and make it much easier to move often and travel far.