Choosing a Composting Toilet

 The Air Head composting toilet arrived by USPS within a few days after I ordered it.

The Air Head composting toilet arrived by USPS within a few days after I ordered it.

You’d think that finding the ‘right’ composting toilet would be a cinch. After all, how many of them could there be? I planned to do a little research on the Internet, weigh the pros and cons of each, make a decision, place the order and voilá … we’d have ourselves a composting toilet. But, as we found out, it’s really not that simple. First of all, there are lots of composting toilets. Secondly, it’s hard to find all the information on all the contenders in one place and third, what information and product endorsements you do find are not always objective.

I watched videos, read reviews, perused product sheets and brochures, checked out comparison charts. I contacted the manufacturers and dealers, sent e-mails and asked questions. Sometimes I got speedy, informative responses and sometimes not.

Since there are so many options out there, it was important to figure out what we needed and wanted. Truth be told, though we were interested in the eco-friendly and green aspects of a composting toilet, those were not our first considerations. We certainly knew we didn’t want a holding tank nor the bother of pump-outs/dumps. We focused on feature/benefits like ease of installation, ease of use and emptying, ruggedness, low maintenance, convenience, space requirement and initial cost. A ‘port-a-potty’ type product or using clumping kitty litter in a bucket were out of the question primarily because we were looking for a toilet that was a bit more ‘robust’ and that would make sense for prolonged daily use ... more than just a weekend camping trip.

The final decision came down to Nature’s Head and Air Head. Nature’s Head had it hands down as far as marketing goes … and having come from a marketing background, I appreciated the effort that had gone into their advertising, website and market presence. Right off the bat, Air Head lost the marketing battle … not a good name (what does the term ‘airhead’ connote?), plus it took a concerted effort to find them on the Internet. I was all set to order a Nature’s Head, then I researched a bit longer and finally found the product information I needed about Air Head.

If what I read was true, Air Head came first in 2001 and their design has been continually upgraded and polished over the years by the original engineer. The same engineer/designer/ owner still manages the business and is thoroughly involved. The Nature’s Head folks were originally dealer representatives for Air Head and decided to manufacture their own product using the Air Head design as their model. This information gave Air Head some big points and I forgave them their lack of marketing expertise. Having come from a small, boot-strapped, start-up business background, we prefer doing business with creative innovators, not copycats. (If the info I read was incorrect, I apologize in advance for the ‘copycat’ comment.)

What we ended up liking the most about the Air Head vs. the Nature’s Head was:

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  • A sight glass on the opaque urine container allows us to see when it's time to empty it. Plus the fact that the tank is opaque will make it a little less conspicuous when we're transporting a container full of pee while walking across the campground or rest area to the toilets to empty it.

 

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  • The urine container can be removed and emptied without opening or tilting the solids container of the toilet. Call me a princess, but the less I have to look inside the solid waste container the better. Also, because of the tilting required on the Nature’s Head, more install room is required.

 

  • The toilet seat is like a household seat instead of a marine toilet … a little larger and more comfy than a marine toilet seat.

  • The fact EOS Design dba Air Head was the original designer and manufacturer of the product was a distinct warm and fuzzy for us.

    The installation process is easy. Bolt it down to the floor, attach the exhaust hose (supplied) to the output vent. A small fan (also supplied) is integral to the exhaust hose which draws air from the toilet and out the roof vent. Though not complete as of today, it's on the A-list for to-dos and will be done before we leave next week.

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Paul has constructed an enclosure around the potty which will serve as an 'alternative' seat when the toilet is not in use. The lid opens easily and hooks to the side wall of the van when in use. Initially, I plan to hang a curtain around it or just ask one of us to leave the van while the other is using it.

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A handy TP holder will be installed on the under side of lid and becomes available when the lid is flipped up and the toilet is in use. Pretty clever, I thought.

 There's also room along side to store the 'solids cover' when it's not in use.

There's also room along side to store the 'solids cover' when it's not in use.

Will we like it? We’re hoping ‘yes’. After spending $1000 for a toilet, you’d expect to be satisfied with your choice. We’ll let you know in a few weeks after we’ve had the chance to use it and can comment objectively and experientially.