A Toilet for a Small Van

Disclosure: Links marked with (eBay⇒) or (Amazon⇒) are affiliate links. This means I get paid a small commission if you buy something after clicking on the links. This money helps to pay for the running of the website.

One of the problems with a classic VW-style side conversion that is used in most VW campers and other short wheelbase van conversions is that there isn’t a dedicated bathroom or wash area – and there is nowhere for a toilet cubicle.

Most converters seem to get around this problem in one of two ways:

  • Don’t include a toilet – basically tying you in to using campsites
  • Include a very small, low capacity Porta Potti (eBay⇒) in a cupboard. In this case, you have to move the toilet to use it and the low capacity means that it will become full rapidly…

I wasn’t happy with either of these two solutions when I converted my van. While thinking about a solution, I remembered seeing something called ‘buddy seats’ in old VW campers. A buddy seat is a cushioned storage box behind the front passenger seat that still leaves enough room for the bed to be pulled out.

It seemed to me that this would be about the right size to contain a larger Porta Potti (eBay⇒) and some quick measurements proved that it might be so. In fact, The Camper Shak actually makes such an item, the Porta Buddy, but it was too small and expensive for my liking!

We already had a toilet – a Thetford Porta Potti 365 (eBay⇒) which offers several benefits:

  • Generous 21l waste capacity and 15l flush capacity – will last 2 adults about 3 days with full time use
  • Manual flush – less to go wrong and no need for wiring
  • Comfortable height to sit on

All I needed now was a suitable box – enter my father-in-law, who lives close to a branch of Ikea. He found that they made a suitable storage box, called Hol (eBay⇒), that was exactly the right size to fit both the toilet and the gap left when the bed folded out (50cm x 50cm). Better still, he reinforced the base to take the weight of the toilet and a person. (You can actually pick these boxes up off eBay quite cheaply – click here for current ones (eBay⇒)). My mother-in-law was kind enough to make a cushion using the same fabric as the seat cover – and this was the result:

Toilet closed - a usable seat - ideal when cooking
Toilet closed – a usable seat – ideal when cooking
Toilet box open - ready for action!
Toilet box open – ready for action!

The toilet (eBay⇒)< is fairly heavy once the flush tank has been filled with water (15l = 15kg). Obviously it’s even heavier when the waste tank starts to fill… To ensure it doesn’t move in any normal circumstances, I put rubber pads on the feet and pushed the toilet box hard up against the step up into the cab area.  This is visible in the first photo – and in more than 5,000 miles, it hasn’t moved an inch, even when empty.

Obviously the toilet box isn’t fastened down to the floor, so if the worst happened and the van rolled over, it could be a hazard.

Next: Electrics…

Back to Conversion Guide Index

Disclaimer: All material is provided for information purposes and is my opinion only. I can take no responsibility for the accuracy, suitability, reliability or safety of the information in this guide.

10 thoughts on “A Toilet for a Small Van

  • March 12, 2016 at 8:58 am

    Brilliant idea, what did your father in-law use to reinforce the bottom.

    • March 14, 2016 at 3:57 pm

      Thanks for your comment. Wooden battens screwed into the frame and a thicker sheet of board for the base have done the job for the last eight years!

  • November 14, 2016 at 5:36 pm

    Just made mine as per your advice. Total cost £10.99! Thank you so much for a great idea.

    • November 16, 2016 at 5:16 pm

      Hi Paul, Glad that it worked for you. Ours lasted for years without problems.

      Cheers, Roland

  • March 20, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    Very impressed and exactly what I need BUT not sure if I have the skills. Any chance of your Father in Law going into production.
    Depending on location – happy to collect?
    I know I am cheeky but, if you don’t ask . . .

  • September 12, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    Hi How did your father in law hibge the front – does the hoi box come apart easily?

    • September 13, 2017 at 4:10 pm

      Hi Erin,

      The front was just hinged with a small pair of brass hinges, like a cupboard door. I can’t remember exactly how it came apart, but I don’t think it was a problem. It would have come as a flat pack originally, anyway.

      Regards, Roland

  • October 1, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    Hi – do you have problems with odour in the van? My memories of using these things as a kid on caravan hoidays was that the toilet compartment always stank of the blue checmical stuff even when the toilet wasn’t in use- and in my van there is no compartment to hide it away in!

    • October 4, 2017 at 4:25 am

      Hi Sam,

      No, we never had a problem with smell. Modern Porta Potti waste tanks are fairly well sealed when closed. Obviously we kept the toilet fully closed up when not in use (except on mountain drives, when it pays to leave the slide open a fraction to ensure the air pressure remains equal in the waste tank. Otherwise splashback can occur when the trap is opened…)

      My only comment regarding odour is that our personal experience was that Elsan toilet fluid was more effective at neutralising odour than Thetford fluid. We always used the organic fluid so we could dispose of it in septic tanks if necessary.

      Regards, Roland

  • October 2, 2017 at 6:40 pm



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