Toilet facilities in Caravans

Submitted: Wednesday, Jan 12, 2022 at 18:04
ThreadID: 143085 Views:1415 Replies:7 FollowUps:19
I am currently exploring options to upgrade our camper to a hybrid style that contains an ensuite. When looking at the options available it appears that there are three main types installed- cassette, composting and macerators that feed into a black water tank. Not having any experience with these previously I am seeking advice/ recommendations based upon what readers of this forum have experienced. I am sure this could be almost as divisive as debates on Toyota v Nissan but let’s put the question out there as see what happens.
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Reply By: Peter_n_Margaret - Wednesday, Jan 12, 2022 at 18:38

Wednesday, Jan 12, 2022 at 18:38
We have been cassette users for the last 17 years.
Pros - simple, cheap(er).
Cons - needs emptying every 3-4 days (2 people full time), needs to be disposed of into a dump point or burried.
HOWEVER, we recently discovered that if urine is diverted, emptying frequency can be extended significantly, maybe to 14 days (for 2 people full time). How you divert the urine is an ongoing question.

I am currently building a second vehicle. It will probably get a Natures Head composting toilet. Others are available, but "oils are not oils".
Pros - emptying can be up to about 4 weeks (2 people full time), can be disposed of into a rubbish bin or burried. Urine is seperated and can be disposed of seperately every 3-??? days depending on collection container.
Cons - more expensive, needs a composting 'starter'(about brick size), needs to be emptied into a compostable plastic bag, needs a small fan 24/7 (very low power), struggle at very low temperatures unless heated.

Black tank - I would never consider one. The only difference to a cassette is more complexity (and failure potential) and extended emptying times, but that emptying is more restricted - you can not empty into a dump point or burrying hole 50 metres from the vehicle without a bucket and multiple unpleasant trips.

Empting 2 cassettes in the Simpson.

Cheers,
Peter
OKA196 motorhome


AnswerID: 639068

Follow Up By: Briste - Thursday, Jan 13, 2022 at 17:36

Thursday, Jan 13, 2022 at 17:36
I did a lot research on toilets in the last couple of years a part of the process of selecting a first van. Were I to get a van with a cassette toilet (unlikely), I would get a SOG system fitted. I honestly don't understand why they're not more popular in this country. No chemicals needed, eliminates any odour issues, as the fan stimulates a mild composting effect it effectively increases the capacity a little, and can be emptied in places where a normal cassette can't. Although some explaining may be need as to why you're emptying it in such places.

If you also manage to somehow collect urine separately then you've got a poor man's composing toilet of sorts. However I'd have thought that a Natures Head would be a simpler and more elegant solution. I chose a van that has one.
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Reply By: Jarse - Thursday, Jan 13, 2022 at 07:39

Thursday, Jan 13, 2022 at 07:39
We're on our second camper with a macerator and black tank. The black tank CAN be emptied at regular dump points (or anywhere for that matter). It has 2 methods of emptying - pump out via a hose, or via gravity feed using the same hose (or decanting into a small tote for disposal if you're in one place for an extended period). I've not had to do that because we generally move on after a few days.
The pump's throughput is about 45 LPM, so it only takes 3-4 minutes to empty a full tank at a dump point.
I've had no problems with the system over several years of ownership, and get well over a week's use out of the black tank.
AnswerID: 639071

Follow Up By: Glenn M8 - Thursday, Jan 13, 2022 at 08:58

Thursday, Jan 13, 2022 at 08:58
Hi Jared
Thank you for this information. The previous response regarding black water tanks was surprising when they mentioned that you cannot empty them into a dump point. That contradicted the other information I have managed to research so far. Your clarification supports what I have discovered. Do you mind if I ask what brand camper you have that has the macerator and black water tank?
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Follow Up By: Frank P (NSW) - Thursday, Jan 13, 2022 at 12:41

Thursday, Jan 13, 2022 at 12:41
Glenn,

To further ease your mind, I second Jarse's comment.

The toilet in my Kimberley Karavan is a Dometic VT2500 . It is plain water flush with vacuum extraction to a blackwater holding cassette. No chemicals, and able to be emptied into dump points, flush toilets and septic systems with no ill effects. Not sure about long-drops. Though there are no chemicals there is quite a lot of added water (0.4 litres per flush) which may adversely affect biological processes used in many campground toilets.

You can also bury it but you need quite a hole for 14 litres. It's hard work if the ground is hard or rocky.
FrankP

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Follow Up By: Jarse - Thursday, Jan 13, 2022 at 14:19

Thursday, Jan 13, 2022 at 14:19
Hi Glenn,
Our first camper with a black tank was an AOR Quantum 4. We now have a new Matrix 4. The main thing you need to consider is length of flush. The basic macerator has a push button, so it will flush as long as you hold the button down. That can cause wastage if you're not careful. We don't worry too much, as we have 280L of potable water on board.

There are some variations with systems, such as a measured flush, and AOR also option a grey water recycle tank to flush the toilet with. That requires more maintenance of debris filters etc, but it can save quite a lot of water when remote.

Regarding hoses, etc, we've never run out of hose at any dump points we've used around the country. They come with camlock fittings, so if you want you can make up extra hoses if you feel you might be left short. Ours came with 2 hoses, (short and long) a total of about 8m. The pump outlet is near the centre of the drawbar, and the gravity outlet is on the left hand front side. Although there have been opportunities, I haven't had the desire to use a long-drop to empty into, for the same reasons as Frank.

Hope this helps.

John.
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Follow Up By: Glenn M8 - Thursday, Jan 13, 2022 at 15:31

Thursday, Jan 13, 2022 at 15:31
John
Thank you for the reply. One of the campers we are looking at is an AOR Quantum, so to hear your experience with an AOR is great. We have spoken to AOR about how the black water operates and what you have said reinforces what we have been told. There are a number of reasons we are looking at the macerator/ black water tank option:
-Time between empties.
-Not having to carry a “ spare” cassette for longer trips
- chemical free
I’ll have to check about the long and short hoses to see if both are provided. Where about do you store the hoses after use? ( My wife thinks they may develop an odour after use).
I am assuming that you are happy with the AOR brand since you have gone from a Quantum to a Matrix.
Regards Glenn
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Follow Up By: Glenn M8 - Thursday, Jan 13, 2022 at 15:32

Thursday, Jan 13, 2022 at 15:32
Frank
Thanks for your input. Always good to get a second opinion.
Glenn
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Follow Up By: Jarse - Thursday, Jan 13, 2022 at 17:43

Thursday, Jan 13, 2022 at 17:43
Glenn, I'm very happy with AOR. You'll get both hoses supplied at handover. The advantage of camlock fittings is that you can join the male and female connectors on individual hoses, creating a water (and stink) tight seal.
I always flush the lines out at the dump point, so there's no residue in the hoses.
I store them in a Navigator bag in one of the storage compartments. Some owners store them in the zippered compartment of the spare wheel cover, which is ventilated.
Some owners have had the composting toilet fitted in their AORs. I don't know much about them, apart from them saving weight and water. However, they seem to be getting more popular.

John.
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Follow Up By: breaka - Sunday, Jan 16, 2022 at 12:07

Sunday, Jan 16, 2022 at 12:07
we had a composting toilet in a kimberly but found on corrigations it paced down hard and needed a cold chisel to empty have gone back to a cassette
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Follow Up By: Peter_n_Margaret - Monday, Jan 17, 2022 at 09:29

Monday, Jan 17, 2022 at 09:29
What brand composer breaka? I have never heard anyone with that problem before.
Did it have a mixing mechanism like the Natures Head?
Cheers,
Peter
OKA196 motorhome
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Follow Up By: Briste - Monday, Jan 17, 2022 at 10:18

Monday, Jan 17, 2022 at 10:18
This report surprised me too and had me wondering. Never read a report of compaction problems. If it was a NH, then I'd have suspected that the composting mix had become too dry. If left unused for more than 10 days the advice is to disconnect the fan, although I assume you could also add a bit more water and agitate. Not sure about other brands of composters.

From the NH FAQ: "If you are NOT going to be using the toilet for 10 days or more, unplug the fan, as the compost would tend to become too dry and hard. "

The mind boggles as to how you'd reinstall a cassette system.
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Reply By: Peter_n_Margaret - Thursday, Jan 13, 2022 at 09:25

Thursday, Jan 13, 2022 at 09:25
Sorry, my poor explanation.
If the dump point is further away than the length of your hose, you still need a cassette or other portable container to transfer the waste. That takes up space and partially defeats the benefit of the black tank.
The big advantage of a black tank is that the tank can be any size that will fit (and is within the weight limits when full) and can be remote from the toilet.
A vacuum toilet has similar advantages to the macerator.
Emptying 100L of liquid sewerage into a long drop or septic system may not be a good idea whereas you may be OK with 20L.

Another advantage of the composting toilet is the water savings.
Cheers,
Peter
OKA196 motorhome
AnswerID: 639074

Follow Up By: Glenn M8 - Thursday, Jan 13, 2022 at 15:33

Thursday, Jan 13, 2022 at 15:33
Thanks Peter for the follow up and clarification.
Glenn
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Follow Up By: Member - Captain (WA) - Friday, Jan 14, 2022 at 20:16

Friday, Jan 14, 2022 at 20:16
One can empty only ~20L from a black tank if the spot cannot acommodate more.... you don't need to completely empty the tank, just make enough room and ~20L would typically give ~2 days.

But given you have ~14 days between complete fills, pretty easy to choose dump points prior to suit the location. If staying put for more than ~14 days, just take a cassette (readily available and fit into one of the jerry can holders) or take a long length of hose (plenty of van storage space) and makes the emptying job very easy.

I have a 30m x 25mm sullage hose (from Bunnings) for dumping at home (no dump point within 100kms of Perth :( ) and doesn't take up much more room than a typical roll of garden hose. I have never taken it with me, but if I was going to a remote location for an extended time frame, then its an option. Usually getting fresh water is a bigger issue if camped up remotely... YMMV

Cheers

Cheers
Its not what you drive, but how you drive it!
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Reply By: Member - Captain (WA) - Friday, Jan 14, 2022 at 16:10

Friday, Jan 14, 2022 at 16:10
Hi Glen,

I currently have an AOR Q+ with a macerator toilet (125L black tank) and the water recycle system (uses shower water to flush).

My prior AOR Q had the Dometic Vaccum toilet (~18L tank) .

With earlier camper trailers, I used a cassette type porta potti with a ~20L tank.

As I have a new AOR van on order, I too have gone through the exercise of evaluating all toilet types again. As I have yet to use a composting toilet, have done some research on them and discounted the idea.

Vacuum
Very good and very frugal on water, but small tank capacity. With 4 people you struggle to get through to the second day without emptying, 2 people you may make the 3rd day if conservative. No longer available new (spare parts getting harder to come by) so not a viable option with a new van.

Cassette
Cheap, especially the portable ones. Cannot empty into long drops no matter what the additive used is and shouldn't be buried into the ground if using the old blue formaldehyde fluid (which happens to be the best from a user perspective). Work well enough but far from a pleasant job to empty... don't do before a meal :)

Composting
Need to seperate the #1 from the #2 while in use, otherwise the "dry" waste gets too wet. Need to sit down for any use and cannot be used for oral excretions... not good if one is sick. Also requires a small fan to run 24/7 and the liquid container (#1's) need to be emptied daily. Solid waste needs to be emptied periodically (4-8 weeks) and cannot be emptied into waste disposal dump points (too dry)... burying or into the normal trash (yuk) seem to be common ways I have read about.

Macerator
Is arguably the best type around. Has no chemical additives and can be easily pumped into the common dump points and long drops. I carry camlock hoses and can easily reach over 15M if required, but have never needed more than the 5m hose in 4 years. A very easy and "clean" task compared to other options.

The size of the black tank dictates how often it needs emptying and my ~125L tank means I can go for 10 days (2 people) or stretch to over 14 days if #1's are minimised (night use only). When combined with the shower water recycle system like mine, there is no additional water use.

After having virtually all the different types and reading up on the composting, I am fitting the macerator again, though this time the "silent flush" version. This uses a seperate pump for the water in and waste out, unlike the combined pump on the standard macerator.

A hand pump option is available with the TMC macerator and friends who have it on their boat would have prefered it in their Q+. But the "silent flush" TMC overcomes the minor issues in the standard TMC macerator (keeps pumping water in even if outlet is blocked... think about it!).

Cheers
Its not what you drive, but how you drive it!
LC 200 + AOR Quantum

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Follow Up By: Glenn M8 - Friday, Jan 14, 2022 at 16:28

Friday, Jan 14, 2022 at 16:28
Hi Captain
Thank you for a fantastic overview of your experiences. What you have described helps greatly with our decision and gives us a good comparison. My wife is still worried about the macerator type and the amount of maintenance around the emptying and cleaning process yet my impression is that it is a cleaner process than the cassette type. Having watched people at dump points struggle with the smells and visuals of the experience of emptying a cassette, I am not keen to go that way. I think placing a hose in the dump point and then standing metres away while it empties appeals to me more.
I gather that you are happy with AOR considering you have ordered another one. Overall how would you rate the sales and service experience and quality of build?
Regards
Glenn
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Follow Up By: Jarse - Friday, Jan 14, 2022 at 16:43

Friday, Jan 14, 2022 at 16:43
Glenn,
The macerator pumps out under a bit of pressure at its normal flow rate. The wife holds the hose end in the dump point (otherwise it will flail around :D ), and I do the switching/pumping and hose flushing/stowing once the tank's empty.

John.
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Follow Up By: Peter_n_Margaret - Friday, Jan 14, 2022 at 19:19

Friday, Jan 14, 2022 at 19:19
Good post.
"Composting
Need to seperate the #1 from the #2 while in use, otherwise the "dry" waste gets too wet. Need to sit down for any use and cannot be used for oral excretions... not good if one is sick. Also requires a small fan to run 24/7 and the liquid container (#1's) need to be emptied daily. Solid waste needs to be emptied periodically (4-8 weeks) and cannot be emptied into waste disposal dump points (too dry)... burying or into the normal trash (yuk) seem to be common ways I have read about."

If we go for a composting toilet this time around, it will have a 20L (+/-) urine tank under the floor.
90% of our cassette waste is currently burried, so that will be easier with a composter. Long drop would also be OK.
Cheers,
Peter
OKA196 motorhome
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Follow Up By: Member - Captain (WA) - Friday, Jan 14, 2022 at 20:05

Friday, Jan 14, 2022 at 20:05
Hi Glen,
The pump-out of the black tank is a very clean and easy job, all the other types I have used are far worse by orders of magnitude. They require pouring soupy smelly waste down a hole while holding the container up close and personal... cannot avoid drips, spills and smell.

In comparison, the black tank pump-out has one hooking up a clean hose and turning the switch. Then when complete, close the isolation valve and connect up the flush water to one end of the hose to flush it. The only time there is any chance of drips is during the connection of the flushing water to the hose van end, very minor and one soon learns the method to avoid drips.

I normally use the lid on the dump point to stop if failing around, never had an issue. The wife normally gets to stay in the vehicle during the dump stop, its a 1 person job and might as well earn a few brownie points doing the manly duties :)

I am very happy with my AOR vans, have put my money where my mouth is for a third time! They have an aftersales service second to none and a genuine desire to ensure the cutomer is happy. Very rare to hear of an unhappy AOR customer, but there is the odd one as you cannot please everyone.

I organise the AOR Owners Rallies in WA for the last 4 years and wouldn't have done so if I didn't think the company was honest and genuine. Are they perfect, no... but have not come across a better built and designed van with a support team that goes above and beyond for their customers. I believe the majority of sales are now repeat customers....

Then there is their resale value, very common to sell after ~5 years for the same purchase price, if not more in this current climate. I guess thats why there is a 1-1.5 year waiting list....

Hi Peter,
I can see the advantages of the composter, but there are 2 deal breakers for me.... having to seperate #1's from #2's during the course of action while sitting and not being able to use it for any oral emmissions, be it sickness or self inflicted !!!

Cheers
Its not what you drive, but how you drive it!
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Reply By: Sally G1 - Friday, Jan 14, 2022 at 18:46

Friday, Jan 14, 2022 at 18:46
Peter, thank you very much for the clear explanation.
Sally,
publictoiletnearme.com
AnswerID: 639095

Reply By: Briste - Friday, Jan 14, 2022 at 20:46

Friday, Jan 14, 2022 at 20:46
My impression of macerator toilets are that they're a very good system, esp combined with the grey water flush. I've had positive first-hand reports. But am I correct in saying that AOR are the only company that provides this option? If so then choosing that option limits you to one company, albeit a very good one.

I opted for a composting toilet in part for its simplicity. It's very hard for something to go wrong. Also for the length of time between emptying the composted waste, and the ease of doing so in a remote area. I think the Captain makes the emptying process seem worse than it is. If the solid waste has composted then it's not an unpleasant or difficult process. Nor is empyting the liquid waste, and the design of the unit makes the separation fairly automatic.

I think both systems are very good and a big improvement over a cassette. You pays your money and takes your choices.
AnswerID: 639096

Follow Up By: Peter_n_Margaret - Friday, Jan 14, 2022 at 21:57

Friday, Jan 14, 2022 at 21:57
Which composting toilet are you using Briste, and what is the maximum time between empties (for 2) of the main container?
Cheers,
Peter
OKA196 motorhome
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Follow Up By: Briste - Friday, Jan 14, 2022 at 22:24

Friday, Jan 14, 2022 at 22:24
Peter - I've got a Nature's Head in a newish Karavan. Much as someone would choose an AOR for the macerator, I chose a KK in part for the NH, although I have the impression that there are a number of makes that would fit one if you wanted it.

Because it's still newish I'd rather someone else answer the duration question as I don't think I have enough experience yet to provide a reliable answer. My impression is that it's going to depend on a number of factors, but i'm hoping for a typical minium of three weeks. I think four will be stretching it. My comment was aspirational based mainly on a lot of research and some first hand reports.
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Follow Up By: Peter_n_Margaret - Friday, Jan 14, 2022 at 23:36

Friday, Jan 14, 2022 at 23:36
Thanks Briste.
Cheers,
Peter
OKA196 motorhome
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Reply By: Keith B2 - Sunday, Jan 16, 2022 at 18:02

Sunday, Jan 16, 2022 at 18:02
We have been on the road for the past year with an Airhead Composting loo, I had to do a bit of re-engineering on it to get it working a bit better and would definitely go for another one rather than the current crop of dunnies.

But there is a new one on the market called the Separett Tiny and I would most definitely be going for one of those.

Separett Tiny

It has all of the advantages of a composting loo with none of the downsides. Mucking around with poo hoses and stinky cassettes is no way to spend a holiday.

Keith
AnswerID: 639111

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