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Does Your Camper Really Need a Toilet? Campers Without Bathrooms Explained

For many RV shoppers, one of their highest priorities is a bathroom. Some consumers refuse to step into a camper without a bathroom. However, to others, a bathroom simply takes up space and adds unnecessary weight and complexity to the RV.

But do you need a toilet in your camper? Should you consider an RV without a bathroom? These are the questions you need to ask yourself.

Today, we will share some insights you’ll want to consider to help make up your mind. Let’s get started!

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Not All Campers Come with a Bathroom

We’ll be honest: we fall pretty squarely in the “needs a bathroom” camp when it comes to RVs. After living full-time in an RV for nearly a decade, we’ve come to appreciate the conveniences of having a bathroom on board.

While many campers come with a restroom, that’s not always the case. Typically, the smaller the rig, the less likely it will have a bathroom. Types of campers that often skip the bathroom include campervans, teardrop trailers, overland trailers, lightweight truck campers, or truck bed campers.

Some of these smaller camper units may have a toilet and sink but not a shower, or simply forego the water closet completely. These may or may not have an outdoor shower connection.

So what do you do when you have to go? How are you to enjoy camping without a bathroom?

RV bathroom interior
While many RVs have full bathrooms, some come without a toilet or shower.

Do You Really Need a Bathroom in a Camper?

Before we dove into the RV life, there was a time that we tent camped without having our own restroom, and those times admittedly weren’t awful. Most campgrounds have facilities for campers to use the bathroom and shower. Public restrooms are also widely available as you travel, as most travelers don’t actually travel by RV but rather by passenger vehicles.

So will you survive in a camper without a bathroom? Absolutely. While they’re convenient, they’re not always essential. If you typically camp in state parks and established campgrounds, they generally have community facilities. However, it may require you to grab a flashlight if nature calls in the middle of the night.

While it may not be ideal, you can also relieve yourself in the great outdoors. However, this is usually only an option if you’re setting up camp in a remote area away from others. Trust us, the moon in the sky is the only one you and your camping neighbors want to see.

If you go in nature, do so responsibly. Find a safe place away from water sources, dig a deep enough hole, and don’t bury your toilet paper. Once you do your business, bury it so no animals come along and discover it.

Pro Tip: When you gotta go, you gotta go. If your RV doesn’t have a toilet, use this guide on How to Poop in the Woods.

portable toilets
Instead of using a toilet while RVing, connect with nature and relieve yourself in the great outdoors.

Sometimes You’re Required To Be Self-Contained

Some places, however, require that your camper be “self-contained.” This phrase means that your camper has gray and black tanks to catch and contain all the wastewater and dirty water that you produce. Campgrounds without sewer hookups at the campsite or non-traditional campsites often have a self-contained requirement as they don’t want people dumping wash water or burying waste in the area. Most national and state park campgrounds also require this.

Pros of Having a Camper Without a Bathroom

While you may not have considered a camper without a bathroom, there are several reasons to do so. Let’s look at some advantages of having an RV without a bathroom.

Cost Savings

Who doesn’t like the idea of saving money? RVs without a toilet tend to run on the cheaper side. Running water lines and installing bathroom components takes time and resources. Manufacturers can save money by cutting these items out of the construction process.

While this tends to be a common occurrence, it’s not always the case. Some teardrop trailers can cost upwards of $20,000. You could get a travel trailer with more space and a bathroom for the same price. However, you’ll have to decide if you will trade quality for quantity regarding square footage.

More Space

If you won’t use it, a toilet in an RV is a waste of space. By choosing a camper without one, you could have more living space for you and anyone camping with you. This can be useful when the weather doesn’t cooperate and forces you to spend most of your time indoors. If you’re a parent, you’ll appreciate every square foot you can get. 

Tear drop trailer
Smaller rigs, like teardrop trailers, will typically not have bathrooms to help save space.

Lighter and Easier to Tow

Unfortunately, we see far too many people pushing the limits of their tow vehicles. Luckily, if you choose an RV without a bathroom, you won’t have to worry nearly as much. Because these RVs are smaller, they also tend to be lighter.

This doesn’t mean you can ignore your towing capacity or load limits. You still need to ensure you’re safe to hit the road. However, you won’t need the biggest and most capable truck to haul most of these trailers. In most cases, light-duty trucks will tend to do the job, but check the tow ratings before hitching up a trailer.

No Black Tank to Empty

For many owners, dumping the black tank is their least favorite task. A black tank stores any solids or liquids you flush down the toilet. RV owners often fear making mistakes and ending up with sewage all over themselves and the ground.

If you purchase a camper without a bathroom, you won’t have to worry about experiencing a “poopsie.” One less thing to worry about is something that any RVer can appreciate. You can spend your time doing the things you love most about RVing.

There Are Plenty of Public Restrooms

From outhouses to well-appointed RV resort bathrooms, you’ll be surprised just how many bathrooms are everywhere once you start looking. And while many get a bad reputation, we’d have to say that most campground bathrooms we’ve visited have been just fine. If you’re planning a few trips a year and are more concerned about the awesome view than a bathroom, you’ll probably be fine.

Campervan parked at sunset
While not having a bathroom in your rig can save space, it also makes you reliant on finding public toilets.

Cons of Having a Camper Without a Bathroom

While it may sound like going without a bathroom is easy, there are some cons. Let’s look at some negative aspects of buying an RV without one.

Lack of Convenience

Not having a toilet can be incredibly inconvenient. Nature doesn’t always call when it’s timely. Depending on the campground, you may need to walk a distance to get to the nearest commode. This may sound like an excellent opportunity to reach your daily walking steps. However, your opinion might change when it’s raining, dark, or extremely buggy out.

Overall, having a bathroom in your RV is very convenient. You can do your business in your camper instead of walking across the campground to use the facilities. It can save time and get you back to what you were doing before your digestive system interrupted you.

Reliance on Public Restrooms

Many people love having a bathroom in their camper because they don’t have to use a public washroom while traveling. You know the feeling if you’ve ever walked into a sketchy gas station or truck stop washroom.

Whether stopping to fill up on gas or grab a bite to eat, being free from public commodes is a great feeling. You can have confidence knowing the last time someone cleaned the toilet. If it’s messy, you at least know it’s your mess and can do something about it. You also have all your bathroom and shower necessities on board rather than lugging them to the campground facilities every time.

Choosing a camper without a bathroom is also probably not the best choice for full-time RV living or long road trips. While doable, the convenience factor just multiplies as the trip duration gets longer. Also, families traveling with small children will do well to have a potty on board for urgent needs.

No Privacy

Giving up some of your privacy is one of the biggest cons. Bathroom stalls are only just private enough for many people. If you’re one to sing in the shower, you may or may not appreciate having a new audience.

However, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. It can be an adjustment, especially if you’ve never done it.

Pro Tip: If you want some form of toilet on your adventure, learn more about Portable Camping Toilets: What They Are and How They Work.

Bye Bye Black Tank! - Installing an Airhead Composting Toilet and removing our RV's black Tank

Tips for Making Campers Without Bathrooms More Comfortable

There are many ways to overcome all the cons mentioned above. For starters, having a portable toilet on board can relieve emergencies and be a practical solution for small campers. Getting in the habit of ALWAYS using a public restroom before you leave a gas station, rest stop, visitor center, restuarant, or any other establishment will also decrease the number of times you’d have to use a porta-potti or an outhouse.

Using body wipes and bathing in the lake can also help with hygiene when you’re out in nature. And as long as you follow leave no trace and proper burial procedures, you can answer nature’s call wherever you roam.

Should You Buy a Camper Without a Bathroom?

Ultimately, choosing whether to buy a camper without a bathroom is up to you. Spend time processing the pros and cons on our list. In addition, make your own list. Think through how and where you use your camper and have access to facilities.

If you’re uncomfortable with going in nature, consider rigs with a bathroom. However, you can enjoy nature and adventure in remote locations in an RV without one.

Would you consider buying a camper without a restroom? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

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About Tom Morton

Tom, a Pacific Northwest native, is our technical genius. Born in Washington and raised in Alaska before settling in Michigan. He's the man who keeps our operation running, both figuratively and literally.

With a background in Electrical Engineering, Tom specializes in RV solar systems and lithium batteries. He made history as the first documented individual to use a Tesla battery module as an RV battery. Tom has personally assisted countless RVers with system installations and has educated thousands more through his videos and articles.

Cinematography is another of Tom's passions, showcased in his work on the Go North series. You can see his camera skills on display in The RVers TV show on Discovery Channel and PBS where he also stars as a co-host.

Tom's mechanical expertise extends beyond RVs to boats, planes, and all things mechanical. He's renowned for taking on maintenance and repair projects single-handedly and is often spotted underneath RVs, making him the technical backbone of our endeavors.

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scott

Tuesday 30th of January 2024

Yes and the reasons are numerous. We full timed in our class A for almost two years. All of that time was boondocking and the bathroom was needed. We have a 22' camper trailer, the shower, toilet, and indoor kitchen are what make it better than a tent. I traveled full-time for four years. Half in my SUV with a tent and half in the RV. Finding a toilet is not easy, and some places have no public toilet. A stowaway toilet is space and money saver. But when it's pouring rain how do you feel about using the toilet in your one space? What if you are not alone? A tent for the stowaway toilet and an outdoor shower would work. Most people fail miserably at the cat hole method. Heavily used areas are often marked by dug up cat holes, racoons, possums, dogs, ... what a mess. Staying any amount of time requires a trench not a cathole... good times ;p. The shovel and hole is only good for lightly used backcountry. More places require packing it all out anyhow. Get the unit with the self contained toilet.

Steve C

Sunday 23rd of July 2023

Nope, been traveling full-time in my truck camper and have never used the toilet in it. I got a tip from an old timer once to line the toilet with a plastic bag, but only for emergencies. To date, I've never used it. I use both tanks for greywater storage so I can last twice as long before having to dump them. I almost always stay where there are restroom facilities and if not, there is always somewhere where there is a bathroom, like service stations or fast food restaurants. I use the bathroom area in my camper for extra storage. I installed a rod across the top of the bathroom so I have a place to hang all my clothes that need hanging. I've been traveling this way for seven years now and have done just fine. No problem! If places require that I have a bathroom; yes, I do! lol