Time to Talk About Shit: Chemical vs Dry Toilet

Compost Toilet vs Chemical toilet Campervan

Smelly gases, looking for black water dumping and the unnecessary use of chemicals. These were the reasons that we chose to move to a dry toilet as an alternative to a chemical toilet!

Our Intro to Van Life Toilets

To be fair, we have never actually done much research on mobile home toilets for our Campervan. Actually, we received a chemical toilet as a gift from a friend because he no longer needed it. That was our first box to poop in.


As you may know, we now live in our second camper. We’ve converted both campers ourselves. In the beginning, it worked fine with the chemical toilet. We didn’t use it often because we parked at semi-permanent places in the Netherlands. This was usually on campsites, and the toilets were simply available.


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Travelling with a chemical toilet

It wasn’t until our trip through France and Italy that we noticed how clunky this thing was! Every few days we had to look for a black water point to empty the toilet, this was often a hassle. The toilet was not very nice and it smelt terrible, especially in the summer. Before we knew it, the toilet started to gas, and opening the lid was far from fun.


For us, the worst part was the chemicals. All those chemicals we used, attempting to make the toilet smell a little fresh and keep the contents soft, which didn’t really work. It didn’t feel right, especially when we try to live more environmentally friendly and then still use this poopy toilet!


Cleaning the toilet for the camper at the fuel station

Is a Dry Toilet Expensive?

During our second build, we often talked about a DIY dry toilet, also called a separation toilet. We were shocked by the prices of a ready-made compost toilet on the market. After some online research, we discovered that the parts for building a toilet yourself were also very expensive! In the end, our build cost a lot more than our budget, so we were left with the same old chemical toilet.


What Is the Best Toilet for Van Life?

To summarize, there are various mobile toilets that are specially designed for mobile homes and campers. Among other things, there is a chemical toilet, a composting toilet (also called a separating toilet), a dry toilet and a toilet bucket on the market. Last but not least, there is also the “natural toilet”.


  • Chemical toilet: In the chemical toilet, everything is mixed, wet and dry. It generally consists of an upper tank for flush water and a lower compartment for wastewater. You normally use chemicals to liquefy the contents which makes it easier to clean, while also reducing the unpleasant odours.


  • Composting toilet: This toilet is the most environmentally friendly product. All urine and faeces combine with organic matter, and over time it becomes compost. After some time, you can throw it on the compost pile or bury it.


  • Dry toilet/ separating toilet: One big difference between a compost toilet and a dry toilet is that with a dry toilet, the urine and faeces are separated into different containers. This way reduces the bad odours by keeping the solids dry. You can find a dry toilet at various prices, but BOXIO has one of the cheapest options!


  • Toilet bucket: Simply put, it’s a bucket you can sit on and poop. You could purchase a toilet seat for above the bucket,  otherwise, you need to balance well before pooping! The bucket is very cheap, and easy if you need a quick and basic solution.


  • Natural toilet: A natural toilet actually means that you find a place in nature, dig a hole and do your business. For many it is ideal, however, it is important that you do not leave any toilet paper behind!


5 Great Layout Design Plans for a DIY Camper


Finding Our BOXIO

After our yellow home on wheels was ready, we wanted to travel for a longer period of time. This time, to Portugal and then over to Greece. We soon noticed how annoying it was to have a chemical toilet again. During our travels, we met many fellow van-dwellers who also had different toilets. Many had a dry toilet or a compost toilet, our favourite quickly became the BOXIO. This was mainly because the BOXIO toilet was within our price range, is compact, and light weight. It is ideal for a narrow shower room like ours.


Unfortunately, it was not possible for us to have the BOXIO toilet delivered because we simply did not know where we would be. It is possible to have the BOXIO shipped to many countries, though we don’t often stay at a location for long enough to collect the post. Finally, we came across a couple in Greece who still had an unused BOXIO. They had a private parking lot with a number of self-converted campervans and they needed to order some extras from the BOXIO website before their next trip. In the end, we bought the toilet from them and continued on our way with big smiles.


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Why Choose the Dry Toilet?

It was such a relief to have this alternative toilet while in Greece. It is simply not possible to dump a chemical toilet in the majority of the country. We heard the craziest stories, even that fellow travellers dumped their toilet waste in the local rubbish bins! This was really a no-go for us. Now we don’t have to worry about finding a black water point and purchasing chemicals, we just throw our poop in the compost bin!


differences chemical and compost toilet


So, How Do We Like It?

Our chemical toilet is in the garage, and we haven’t touched it since purchasing the BOXIO toilet. This says enough, right? Seriously, the toilet works well because all parts are easy to remove. This allows us to clean everything properly, which was much more difficult with the chemical toilet.


Instead of chemicals, we now use wood chips to cover our poop. We empty the urine daily, and the dry goods go in the bin every 3 days. Wood chips can be found almost everywhere, but we usually buy them at the pet store. You can also use other products, as long as it is organic.


Environmentally Friendly

It also feels a lot better; we are a lot more environmentally friendly. We are self-sufficient with solar panels for electricity, our rubbish is always separated and recycled whenever possible, and our toilet creates a minimal impact on our environment. The last challenge for us will be to get rid of the LPG gas, but that is a project for later!


Boxio in shower  Boxio in the shower


Would we recommend it?

We definitely recommend purchasing a dry or compost toilet! Especially if you would like to travel to countries such as Greece, it is much more practical.


For us, the BOXIO toilet is really a godsend because of the nice and reasonable price, and if you also have a specific budget, which many van lifers do, this is a really good option. It is slightly more expensive than a simple chemical toilet, but it does not make much difference. And over the years it is still cheaper since you no longer have to purchase chemicals.


Our compost toilet Boxio


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Find The BOXIO Dry Toilet Here

For more information about the BOXIO dry toilet and its other products, you can find it here

Have fun pooping!






If you enjoyed reading this post, then you may be interested in checking our blog pages. We have covered a range of topics about Van Life, Van Build, Van Travel, and our Van Buddies, where we share our experiences from living in a campervan for the past two years. You can follow us on Instagram or Facebook to stay up to date with our latest posts and to take a closer look into our daily lives.


We are Bai (Aussie) and Den (Dutch), living in a van for over two years.

 Together we have lived in two self-built campervans over the past two years. Through this experience, we have gained many storiestips and tricks.

We have kept track along the way to share everything Van Life with you.

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