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A closer look at the water closets


This is part eight of 'How to choose a mobile home'.

As we began to explore the variety of vehicle options for our family travel adventure, we were overwhelmed with new information.

In this series we aim to provide you with the questions and considerations to make choosing the right mobile home to suit you much easier.


First let's look at the toilet facilities:

Most motorhome, campers and caravans have the traditional cassette toilet installed.  A limited flushing system where the holding container on the bottom is initially filled with chemical to break down the waste product, and this is emptied and replaced.  Many mobile homes have a couple of the holding containers / cassettes so one can be capped, the other used, and the time between having to find a dumping station prolonged.

Marine toilets are a newer introduction to the home-on-wheels market, although as their name suggests they have been in the marine industry for a while.  Marine toilets use water to flush and often a macerator to break down the matter into a sludge before it is disposed of.

Composting toilets are not common at all in NZ whether that's in our campers or in our homes.  Using one may feel as if we haven't progressed at all from the bed pan and night cart era, although I do know a family who use one in their Yurt.  The premise is interesting in that 90% of our poo is water, which if evaporated off or separated only leaves 10% to get rid of.  Humanure - a composting of human waste materials, is a somewhat taboo subject, in that we have been brought up thinking that all human waste is toxic.  What if I said that after 24 hours sun exposure, any bacteria is destroyed.  The challenge in NZ is where to dispose of humanure responsibly.  Urine is sterile being mainly water with some inorganic salts and organic compounds.


Closely linked to the toilet is the shower / bathroom as they often share the same space.


So along those lines, here are today's details to muse:

  • What sort of toilet facilities are there?  None / chemical / marine / humanure toilet?
  • What does the toilet need to keep it running?  Chemicals?  Water?  Sawdust?  Electricity?  Solar?
  • Is the toilet in the same space as the shower?  Or a separate area?
  • Does the toilet need to be pulled out to be used?  How easy is this for all travelling companions to do?
  • If the toilet is separate from the shower, where is the hand basin?
  • Does the shower have a shub or bath?  Where can little children be washed?
  • Can you stand in the shower and wash yourself without your elbows and head hitting the walls or ceiling?
  • Is there an area in the shower room that you can put dry items?
  • Is there a shelf for regularly used bathroom supplies?  Think tooth brush, hair brush, razor etc
  • Are there drawers for storage?
  • Where does the toilet paper get put?  What about the soap / shampoo ?
  • Is there adequate ventilation in the toilet &/or wash room(s)?  Roof?  Side?  Mechanical?  Natural? 
  • Is there natural lighting for shaving, applying make-up, popping zits etc?


At home we have just one bathroom for the 7 of us, and we manage okay. We split showers/baths into a morning session or an evening session; and have the luxury of two hand basins. Our one toilet is separate. There are definitely times where a second toilet would be great though.

On the road it would be to our advantage to have a toilet and a stand-alone shower / bathroom. We will be toilet-training along the way; and although the showers will be shorter there is still primping and preening time, and the possibility that one will also need to get dressed in the wash room too that will vie for importance. I keep thinking that a shub would also be good if more than one child could 'bathe' at the same time but it isn't really a necessity and may be counter-intuitive to saving water if the shower heads are reduced flow anyway. Quite frankly a fishing bin or over-sized rectangular bucket would suffice and double as a storage / carry tool at the same time, so no worries there.

At the start of our research we liked the environmental idea of the humanure toilets, even if the concept messes with our heads and comfort zones. We hadn't really heard of the marine toilets at that stage though and these do have quite an appeal albeit they still require water to flush.

As for where everything will go in the wash room, I've seen an idea of using over the door shoe organisers for bathroom stashes (instead of toilet bags or individual drawers) so as long as there is space to put the basic bathroom supplies and a door or wall area that remains dry for the organiser, I think we will be okay.

All the wet towels will be the main issue, and I would hope that we'd have or be able to install some sort of pull out drying rack in the shower, so that with fresh air ventilation (& sunlight) these would dry enough not to give off that dank smell. One tip we were given was to use hand towels or smaller towels anyway, which is fine if you don't intend to wrap it around yourself at the beach.