The Natures Head composting toilet has been providing off grid enthusiasts with a comfortable and eco-friendly place to do their ‘business’ for decades.
Instead of heading out into the woods while trying to juggle an umbrella, a shovel, a torch, and trying to keep a roll of toilet paper dry, this simple but effective toilet system has been keeping people ‘at ease’ while boating, camping, at work, or simply providing an effective waste solution on an off grid homestead.
Featured Image © Far Out Ride
The idea of the composting toilet certainly isn’t anything revolutionary; I built one with my friend last year while working on his Italian house restoration in the mountains, but that was just a basic set up with a bucket and some chestnut rinds.
It’s not exactly what you’d call ‘hi-tech’ and wouldn’t have worked in any other mobile living situation. It’s tough to find a campervan toilet that isn’t a chemical one, which is why so many vanlifers know the pain of the nighttime forage into the woods to try and do a ‘number two’ without being mauled by a bear.
You might have already seen our article about the best campervan toilets while scrolling through our website looking for van build inspiration, which means that you may already be acquainted with the Natures Head composting toilet as it featured as our number one purchase.
- But what is it about this bit of kit that makes it so special?
- Why does it make people who take toilets for granted so excited?
- And, more importantly, how does it work?
We’ve answered all of this and more in the article below, and before you go, you’ll know more about how to compost poo than you ever thought possible.
The Natures Head Composting Toilet – The Friendlier Way To Do Your Ablutions
I’m going to say one thing before I start – there’s only so many ways I can say ‘poop’ without actually saying ‘poop’. Be prepared for some weird analogies and phrases as we continue.
Some composting toilets require a lot of faffing around with coffee filters or permeable linings to separate solids and liquids. Others still require some amount of water to help with the breaking down process, which kind of defeats the whole ‘off grid living‘ process entirely.
The Natures Head composting toilet is one of the only units out there that are simple and easy to use straight out of the box.
It’s made of stainless steel, so there’s no nasty plastic shell that might ruin the look of your tiny home and indeed be a strain on the environment, and according to the official website, is made to withstand ‘the harshest conditions’.
I’m going to take a wild guess that this means it’s suitable for changes in pressure on boats or can cope with extreme temperature fluctuations, and not that it can ‘take a beating’ after a dodgy curry.
How Does A Composting Toilet Work?
A composting toilet works by separating your solid waste from your liquid, the idea being that you can remove your liquid waste at regular intervals and keep your solid waste to ‘break down’ until it becomes compost.
Now, I know that you’re already asking two questions, one of which is going to get its own subheading in a second.
The first one is undoubtedly ‘where can you empty this stuff?’ Well, it might surprise you to know that urine is good for mature trees, and that you can even dilute it for smaller plants. So, if you’re travelling and need to empty on the go, all you need to do is find a forest or a discreet area to dispose of your liquid waste.
Once your solids are composted, you can either dispose of the finished product in a compost heap or bin, bury it, or bag it up and put it in a normal waste bin. If you plump for that last option, just make sure that it’s more ‘compost’ than ‘raw poop’ (no one ever said that this article would be a walk in the park – maybe wait till you’ve eaten your lunch before carrying on).
Does A Composting Toilet Smell?
There’s the question that you’ve all been waiting for! The Natures Head composting toilet has two separate compartments that can be sealed individually, and you only get a lasting smell when urine and poop are combined. The idea is that you would have a small amount of peat moss or nut rinds of some kind to completely cover your solid waste after you’ve done your business, and if used right, there should only be a slightly earthy smell like a forest in the rain (that’s not so bad, right?) Plus you can use toilet paper with it too, but try and get the eco-friendly stuff that breaks down better.
As with any composting toilet, the longer that you leave your solid waste in the tank, the better it will smell. I know that might sound counter-intuitive, but it’s true. A lot of boat owners will leave their waste to work its magic over the winter and get rid of it on their flower garden in the spring. And the materials are cheap too. People are practically giving away peat moss, and you if you’re lucky to be in an off-grid situation with a chestnut tree or something similar, then you’ll have a constant supply of ‘breakdown’ material at your ‘disposal’ (another toilet joke).
Is The Natures Head Easy To Use?
The team behind this toilet system are all from an alternative living background and have spent a lot of time on boats and in campervans over the years. They’ve used a variety of different composting toilets over their time, and along with their wives, have collected their combined ‘throne-time’ experience to come up with a product that is not only easy to install and maintain, but one that is also easy to use and comfortable too.
The main tanks are held in place by a couple of latches and a few screws. The liquid waste bottle is simple to lift out and empty and can be cleaned with an eco-friendly antibacterial spray or wipe. The main solid waste tank is never heavy; it’s the liquid that makes most chemical toilets heavy to lug around, and the waste tank is perfectly shaped so that you can slip a rubbish bag over the top and flip it over to empty.
You don’t need to even worry about cleaning your waste tank, because any leftover material will help to kickstart the next part of your composting process. There are no pumps or chemicals in sight, and the 12V fan will help to keep everything nice and aired.
Hold Up; Does The Natures Head Composting Toiler Need Power?
Technically no, but a fan will help the compost to degrade faster and leave you with a nicer experience if you’re using your toilet on a regular basis. If you’re going to leave your loo vacant for ten days or more, then the manufacturers recommend unplugging the fan to prevent your compost from getting too hard and effectively unusable.
So how does the fan work then? Well, the Natures Head composting toilet comes with a ventilation hose that runs to the outside of your vehicle or toilet shed, and it also has a 12volt power hook-up that is connected to the type of fan that you might find in a desktop computer.
The fan draws 1.7amps over a 24 hour period, which equates to about $0.04 a month (around the same in pounds – we’re talking pocket change). If you have an off grid solar set up, then this thing will practically power itself!
When emptying the toilet, all you need to do is unhook the fan, lift out the waste, and you’re good to go. You don’t need any kind of mechanical or technical skills to take it apart and put it back together, and there’s a handy instruction guide if you get stuck.
If you’re installing this toilet in a camper, a trailer, or a tiny house, then you can make use of an optional mushroom vent for feeding your hose through a wall, or a PVC vent for taking it out through a floor. The choice is up to you, and both will work fine.
How Much Does The Natures Head Composting Toilet Cost?
The one downside to this toilet is that it costs just under $1,000 (around £807), which makes it a much more expensive option than the standard porta-potty chemical unit that many van owners go for.
It might seem like a lot of money, but if you weigh up the cost of buying all of those chemicals over a long timescale and also the cost that they have on the environment, then it’s not that big a price to pay.
The Natures Head composting toilet is completely self-contained and an eco-friendly way of doing ‘what you gotta do’ while travelling, and I would definitely consider getting one for my future Sardinian off-grid setup.
We love the idea of this toilet because it’s so user friendly and takes the stress out of having to search Park4Night for a local campsite or toilet emptying facility to get rid of your ‘business’ while out on the road.
There’s nothing worse than needing the toilet and finding out that it’s full; it’s not a situation that you ever want to be in, and It’s one that I have been in far too many times.
If you’re looking for a full time van life solution, then this is the bog for you. If you just need something to use for a couple of days a year, do what I did and make one out of a couple of pallets and a bucket. Just be sure to watch out for splinters – that could end up being nasty!
Visit the Natures Head website to find out more!