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The Van Conversion Series: Building A Bathroom

Monday 16th December 2019
By Ely Power
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By Ely Power

Create A Self-Contained Van With A Shower And Toilet

Cover image: Edna On Camplify

First things first, ask yourself if you even need a bathroom on board. Fortunately, keeping clean and relieved on the road is a lot easier than you think. From servos and supermarkets to cafés and KFCs, you’ll find public restrooms all across Australia. So no matter where you roam, chances are you won’t be far from bathroom facilities.

What’s more, all holiday parks and most campgrounds provide some kind of bathroom amenity - whether there’s hot water and flushing loos or cold outdoor showers and pit toilets. So unless you plan to go off-grid camping in the remote wilderness, there’s not much need for your own private bathroom.

But perhaps the biggest argument against an on-board WC is that it can use up a lot of valuable space inside your already compact campervan. Not to get too graphic, but some van lifers don’t like living in close quarters with potentially unpleasant odours... And when you’ve taken care of business, you’ll have to find a dumping station for your waste.

Having said all that, knowing that you don’t have a bathroom nearby can feel pretty uneasy - what if it’s an, *ahem*, digestive emergency? Or what about when you’re uncomfortably grimy after hiking around in the sunshine all day? 

If you simply despise the idea of not having 24/7 access to your own bathroom and you’re happy to compromise on living space, then you’ve got lots of options to choose from when it comes to including a bathroom in your campervan. Let’s check them out.

As a van owner, you can earn over $10,000 each year by hiring it out on Camplify. As a holidaymaker, Camplify helps you to find the perfect rental so that you can experience the joys of van life without having to own one yourself. 

Interested? Learn more about Camplify here.

Complete Your Van Conversion With A Bathroom


Camping Showers

Realistically, van life does not lend well to daily showers. But if you are camping for an extended period deep in the wilderness or just don’t want to pay to stay in a holiday park, camping showers are the ultimate luxury. There’s nothing like feeling refreshed and clean after washing off the day’s dirt. Camp showers are also multi-purpose, perfect for cleaning dishes, equipment and even the van itself! 

Discover the most common camping showers below.

Portable Hot Water Systems

These packages include all of the necessary bits and pieces for pressurised hot water on demand, such as hoses, showerheads and even temperature controls - this is luxury camping at its finest. To heat this type of shower, you’ll need access to a gas supply, or else lithium or 12V batteries. 

Pros:
  • Heat water quickly
  • Have temperature controls for ultimate comfort
  • Wide range of versions available
Cons:
  • Relatively large and heavy
  • Need a power source
  • Not as wallet-friendly as many other options
Our pick: Joolca HOTTAP 
 
Glind Heat Exchangers

These clever camping shower systems heat water with your van’s engine. By installing a heat exchanger under the bonnet, using a pump and attaching hoses to your vehicle, you can enjoy pressurized hot water – and then even recycle it!
 
Pros: 
  • Works with any vehicle type
  • You can forget the need for additional power sources
  • Doesn’t take up much space and is always accessible
Cons:
  • Relatively complicated to install - you might need to hire a professional mechanic
  • Expensive

Solar Showers

Warming water with the heat of the sun, solar showers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Usually, this style consists of a black PVC bag designed to hang from a branch after soaking up the day’s sunshine. Many come with a detachable hose showerhead, and some are compatible with 12v water pumps.
 
Pros: 
  • Affordable
  • Simple to use
  • Lots of variety and easy to source
  • Environmentally friendly
Cons:
  • Relies on sunshine and heat to warm up water
  • Water may get dangerously hot depending on where you use it
  • Water pressure can be weak without a pump, as it is delivered by gravity
  • Limited water capacity for larger groups

Pressure Showers

Thanks to a pressure hose, no batteries or power are needed for these showers. Just fill up your container with water for 20 seconds to enjoy the strength of a standard household tap for four whole minutes (that’s a long time when you’re washing in the wild!). 

Pros:
  • Quick and easy to set up
  • As the name suggests, it delivers great water pressure
Cons: 
  • Doesn’t maintain heat very well
Our pick: The RinseKit

Compact Camping Showers

With these basic showers, you can enjoy minimal fuss for little money. Simply fill the heat-resistant bag with water and seal. Then turn on the showerhead at the base of this 10-litre sack, which hangs by D-Rings from a branch. When you’re done, fold it down to pocket-size and store away!
 
Pros:
  • Light and simple
  • Packs away very small for easy storage 
  • Very affordable
Cons
  • Cold water

Camping Toilets

If you’re undertaking a DIY van conversion, our advice is to stay away from the complex and expensive installation of a built-in RV toilet and blackwater tank. Rather, your best best is to stick with portable camping toilets. This simple yet effective option is perfect for cosy campervans. 

A standard portable camping toilet is made up of two main sections that connect to create a nearly full-sized toilet anywhere you go. The seat section includes a bowl surrounded by a flush tank filled with water, while the bottom serves as a waste tank (this is kept sealed until emptied at a dump station).  

Sound appealing? Below are some of our top camping toilet picks:

Porta-Potti

This compact little portable camping toilet has an easy-to-use manual piston pump and a holding tank level indicator so that you know when to plan a visit the dump station. To top it off, this loo chemically controls odours so that your space stays smelling fresh all trip round. 

Budget Portable Toilet

With a comfy moulded seat, stable corner legs and disposable waste bags, you can enjoy a portable toilet for under $30. Once you’ve done your business, simply tie up and dispose of the bag in an outdoor bin. Need an added bonus? It even folds up instantly for compact storage when not in use!


Portable Composting Toilet

Although usually the most expensive portable camping option, it’s also the most eco-friendly. Once you’ve used it, simply add some peat moss or sawdust and your toilet will naturally break down any waste into compost. If the Nature’s Head composting toilet exceeds your budget, have a crack at creating your own!


Test It Out In A Campervan Rental


Want to trial campervanning with an onboard bathroom to see how much it makes a difference before you build one in your own van? Hire a self-contained van on Camplify to experience the luxury first-hand and decide if a WC on wheels is worth it!

Camplify is a peer-to-peer rental marketplace that connects local van owners with holidaymakers across Australia. To check out what’s available, take a look at these awesome vans with showers and toilets

Why Hire A Van On Camplify?
  • All vans have their own layouts and features to feed your conversion creativity!
  • Each hire is covered by comprehensive insurance and 24/7 roadside assistance, so you can have peace of mind throughout your adventure.

To find out how Camplify can work with you and your RV, register today here.

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