Attending to the Call of Nature- Installing a Composting Toilet in a Truck Camper

Before we even bought our camper, we knew that one of the first modifications we wanted to make was to replace the flush toilet with a composting unit. This option works best for us so that we don’t have to deal with a black tank and allows us to double our grey water holding capacity. We had done some initial research and were familiar with many of the popular models on the market, such as Nature’s Head and Sun Mar, but couldn’t get serious about shopping until we knew what type of bathroom set-up we were working with. When we decided to go with a Lance truck camper, we specifically sought-out models with a “dry bath” configuration, so that we wouldn’t have the added complication of trying to install a composting toilet inside an open “wet bath” configuration.

 

 

Knowing that someone had to have tried what we were attempting, we poured through YouTube videos and online searches, but the information we sought wasn’t out there. There are lots of blog posts related to composting toilets, but very little of what we found was relevant to our truck camper configuration. We only found one blog post where someone specifically detailed their process for installing a composting toilet into an actual truck camper. The key difference being, he was working with a larger and level floor space.  The bathroom floor plan in our 2002 Lance 1130 model is smaller and has a raised pedestal platform where the flush toilet sat. This raised design limited the floor space we had for securing a new toilet and also meant that we needed to be considerate of the fact that we were already starting at 8 inches above ground level- no big deal for Cay at 6’2’’, but a concern for me at 5’2’’.

 

 

Having previously researched composting toilets, we revisited some popular models and realized that none of them would work in our small space. Even “tiny homes” generally have more floor space to work with than what we had. Switching gears, we researched composting units for boats, figuring that boat bathrooms were often tiny and odd shaped. I came across a guy named Sandy Graves who makes portable composting toilets for boats and small spaces called the C-Head. We really liked the simplicity of his model over other composting units, especially the fact that it did not require electrical hookups, and Sandy was very responsive and helpful with our questions. Starting at around $589, a C-Head toilet is more expensive than basic portable toilets you can purchase from big-box stores, but it has a lower price tag than Nature’s Head, Sun Mar, and other well known composting toilet companies. Another drawing point is that the design of the C-Head has a much smaller “footprint”. Using the measurements from the website, we constructed a cardboard replica to gauge how it would fit in our bathroom, ordered, and hoped for the best!

 

 

Removing the existing flush toilet was a little bit of a process and presented a few obstacles. Neither of us had plumbing experience, which we supplemented with YouTube tutorials and ingenuity. We immediately discovered that all of our tools were too large to maneuver in the tight space surrounding the toilet to loosen the side bolts. The best tool for the job ended up being a tiny little wrench we had gotten for free with some Ikea furniture. After we had the bolts removed and began trying to lift the toilet, we discovered that there was a blue water tube glued into the back of the flush toilet, and it took some finesse to detach the toilet from this tube.

 

 

After the toilet was removed, this blue tube remained protruding up about 10 inches from the base of the platform. We tried feeding the tube down into the plumbing cavity of our camper under the bathroom, but the space was too tight to maneuver and neither of us wanted to start dismantling the plumbing. With no other option that we knew of, we decided to cut the blue tube using a pipe cutter tool, which makes a clean 360-degree cut.

Before cutting anything, we did some research to make sure that this was a reversible process, in case we ever needed to go back to using a traditional flush toilet. We learned that there are metal coupling pieces that you can use to attach two pieces of tubing together and a ratcheting cinch tool to seal the bond. Thus, giving us the comfort of knowing that it is possible to re-attach the blue tube. Using a small metal plug and clamp we plugged the now cut tube and also bought a large red plug for the hole left by the toilet itself. Both plugs are inexpensive and easily found at major hardware stores.

 

 

With the flush toilet removed, we were not expecting to find an uneven floor surface, which is exactly what we discovered when we removed the toilet. As pictured above, the toilet platform had a blue mounting ring, which was very securely attached to the floor with heavy glue and screws. Rather than remove it and cause damage, we left it there and decided to build-up to level the floor surface. Using spare rubber mats that we had for some exercise equipment, we trimmed two squares down to stack over the old mounting bracket and leveled-off the floor surface. This worked perfectly and the rubber material served as a grip for the layer of ply-wood we eventually used as the new baseboard for our composting toilet.

 

 

Another trip to Home Depot later, where we purchased and trimmed ply-wood down to size, covered it in white contact paper (even nailing it down as extra reinforcement), and voilà, we had a level baseboard for our new toilet! Thanks to the odd shape of the pedestal space, the new plywood baseboard does not slide around. Cay bought some Backer Rod to line around the edges and stuff into any gaps, and the new baseboard fits snuggly.

 

 

The final step was to attach the mounting brackets we had purchased from C-Head to securely mount the toilet in place. With the new floorboard we added above the old pedestal, the toilet now started at 9.5 inches above ground level, making it to high to reach. We purchased a common 9-inch folding step that slides perfectly under the toilet and our new set-up was complete and perfectly functional for even a shorty like me!

 

 

Hopefully putting this out on the Internet will save others some hair pulling. With absolutely no prior plumbing knowledge and a lot of improvising, we now have a fully functional composting toilet in our little truck camper that we are very happy with.

If anyone else is considering doing the same, feel free to message us for additional info.

 

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