Our Nature’s Head Review
Having a bathroom in your skoolie build is a must in our opinion. The freedom to go when nature calls takes a ton of stress out of the trip, and makes the bus feel more like a home.
We’ve been using our Nature’s Head composting toilet full-time for four and a half months now, and I honestly love it! I keep telling my wife I’m going to build an outhouse for this thing when we get home (only half kidding).
At the beginning of our build, there was so much lying ahead of us that I wanted the toilet to be a no-brainer. We looked at the Air Head, Nature’s Head, and DIY models out there and decided to go with the Nature’s Head composting toilet. It was on a 6 week backorder, so we just pulled the trigger to ensure we would have a toilet by the time we hit the road. It was a bit expensive at $900+ (2021), but peace of mind is priceless.
I have heard people argue against the Nature’s Head in favor of a DIY commode with a garbage-bag lined Home Depot bucket – and while I think this is definitely a feasible option, and considerably less expensive, we’re very happy with our NH toilet. It is very well built, and since it can be removed from the bus we will definitely be using this in a future tiny-home application.
does it stink?
For carrying around three weeks of poo, the NH toilet really does not smell that bad. Seriously! It smells like wet dirt mixed with a bit of compost. Sure, if you’re standing directly beside the exhaust vent, and someone is using the toilet or it has been a few weeks, you can smell some funk – but not as bad as you’d think. I’ve gotten bags of soil from Lowes that smelled worse than our NH toilet. The vent fan does an amazing job of pulling fresh air into the waste chamber and exhausting to the exterior of the bus, keeping all of those earthy aromas on the outside.
Urine for a treat
I wish we had bought a second urine tank to use as a backup when we cannot get to a restroom to dump the tank. We’ve found that we have to dump the urine tank almost every day, so we have to keep an eye out for public restrooms and porta-potties in our area. Once we got the hang of dumping the urine tank, it really is no big deal. It does smell worse than the poo tank, but it isn’t so bad – and a small price to pay for a place to pee in the bus.
I recommend bringing a face mask (we all have them now), rubber gloves and hand sanitizer with you on your tank-dumping trips. The face mask helps keep the smell out of your nose, the gloves help keep the pee off your hands (sometimes it drips just a little), and the hand sanitizer will make you feel fresh after you leave the porta-potty – until you can go was your hands!
Dump the tank with the round-side pointed down, the flat-side upwards – we have found this method creates the most direct and cleanest pour. Originally we were dumping with the flat side down and constantly had pee dripping on the floor – no good!
Note: if you drip any pee on the ground or toilet, clean it up! Remember rule #1 – leave no trace, not even pee.
Cleaning the poo chamber
By far the most intimidating part of owning a composting toilet – emptying the poo chamber! In reality, it is not so bad. We have found that for 2 people we have to empty the solids chamber after about three or four weeks. (In humid climates we empty it after 3 weeks – whereas in the desert we were able to stretch it a bit further.)
We use coco coir bricks for our NH composting material – they are cheap and easy to store. I try to prep the bricks in advance so the material is 40% dry by the time we load into the NH toilet. You can find the bricks on Amazon and pick them up at Amazon Lockers on the road – life saver!
I always try to clean the poo chamber at night: A) I like the cover of darkness while I do my dirty work, and B) it helps with the gross-factor. At night, it just looks like a tub full of dirt, during the day we’re looking at peanut butter brownies – gross!
HAZMAT Protection 101
Since you’re dealing with human feces, you’ll want to be sure you’re protected from bacteria. This isn’t a crazy messy process, with some common sense and good PPE equipment, you’ll be just fine.
You’ll need some durable gloves, a face mask, and my wife even makes me wear a full set of cover-alls. I’m pretty good with gross things so this part really does not bother me. Good quality, thick rubber or latex gloves = peace of mind here.
dumping the chamber
Grab a big, durable trash bag and pull it over the poo chamber. I push all of the extra bag inside the chamber so there is no rush of air as the waste falls into the bag. Carefully, and slowly, lift the chamber up and tip it over so all of the waste falls straight down into the bag. I try to hold the chamber steady between my knees while I bang on the bottom to release any stuck material. Give the handle a little shake and bang on the sides of the chamber to release more stuck material. When you feel the chamber get lighter you’ll know most of the waste material is out, now you can slowly lift the chamber up and out of the bag – careful not to spill any over the sides!
When all of the waste is out of the chamber, you’ll be left with a nice chocolatey residue inside – nothing too crazy. You don’t have to clean the inside, after all you’re just going to fill it back up, but I try to clean the the stirring mechanism, as well as the top half of the chamber – the lower half will be covered up by fresh coco coir so you don’t need to worry about getting it too clean.
clean it up, you’re almost done!
Once the inside of the chamber is empty, fill it with your compost medium (coco coir or sphagnum peat moss) so the medium just covers the stirring mechanism – you don’t want too much compost medium inside as you’ll need some room for your new poos!
Replace the top of the toilet and give it a good cleaning – I spray ours down with plant-based cleaner and then wipe it with Clorox Wipes to make sure all of the bacteria is gone before bringing it back into the bus.
what to do with toilet paper?
Some people say you can put your toilet paper inside the toilet – while technically true, it will compost, I think this is a bad idea. Imagine all of that TP wrapped around the stirring rod – gross! It will also fill up your NH toilet faster, requiring more frequent emptying of the chamber.
In many parts of the world people do not flush their TP – so it is not that novel a concept. Keep some news paper in the bathroom, and tear off TP sized sheets to wrap your used TP in, making little “paper burritos.” This helps keep all of the business ends of your TP wrapped in nice, clean news paper – cutting down on smell in your trash can and the possibility of someone else seeing your dirty work.
As I mentioned above, I love having a toilet in our bus. Nothing like a good cup of coffee and a bathroom break in the morning, and I would hate to have to run to a dirty porta-potty every time I have to answer to nature. I love the Nature’s Head – it is a simple design, easy to clean, and it works! I think these should be in every home – each flush uses 2 gallons of water, and the average US citizen uses 80 to 100 gallons of water every day!! That is insane, and it is time we start to change to better our planet.
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