Top 3 reasons to put a composting toilet in a vintage Airstream

Vintage Airstream trailer

There are several reasons why anyone renovating or rebuilding a vintage Airstream would install a composting toilet rather than replace the original toilet with a standard RV throne.

In this blog post, Crystal McCullough, vintage Airstream enthusiast and renovation expert, takes a look at the top reasons to put a composting toilet in your vintage Airstream.

vintage airstream argosy with cow in a field

Reason 1: Composting toilets don’t need plumbing into a vintage Airstream

The first reason why I decided on a composting toilet years ago is because I knew absolutely nothing about plumbing systems, either installing a new one or retrofitting the old one.

I was a camper newbie, too, and had no experience (nor did I want any) with an RV black tank. Using a composting toilet gave me freedom from ever touching that nasty black tank hose. 

I used a traditional portable cassette toilet for a while, but the chemical smell grossed me out, and the whole camper smelled like a portaloo. A composting loo was the best option and one I honestly recommend.

Zack the vintage Airstream Argosy that was renovated with a compost toilet with other vintage Airstreams in a field

Reason 2: Less water consumption

As a bonus, having a composting toilet reduces water consumption.

Traditional RV toilets use a lot less water than a home toilet, but still, it’s using water that can best be used for something else. My old cassette toilet had a water tank that had to be filled regularly for proper flushing, too. The only water I use regularly for my composting toilet is water mixed with white vinegar or urine enzymes that I use to spray the toilet bowl after using.

Conserving water is crucial when on the road and camping in areas with limited water resources.

Cuddy composting toilet in a vintage Airstream Argosy

Reason 3: Compliance with today’s environmental standards

Until around 1974-1975, Airstreams didn’t have a gray tank. Water from the toilet went into a black tank, and all wastewater that was un-toilet related simply drained out of the camper on to the ground - a practice that today is not only frowned upon, but illegal pretty much everywhere.

Adding a composting toilet frees up the old black tank to become the ‘new’ gray tank for a vintage Airstream, keeping the integrity of the original design while complying with today’s environmental standards.

Many renovators with slightly newer vintage Airstreams built with both a gray and black tank often convert the black tank to an additional gray to allow for even more time between dump stations. If you enjoy boondocking or camping in off-grid locations, it’s really nice to be less dependent on traditional infrastructure.

What to consider before making the switch to a composting toilet in your vintage Airstream

If you are planning to invest in a portable composting toilet for your vintage Airstream, then there are a few things to consider. So before sending you on your way, I’ve created a handy list:

  • Research and choose a composting toilet model that fits your Airstream's layout and your specific needs. 
  • Weigh the price differences with long-term savings and think about portability, earth-friendliness, boondocking flexibility, and water preservation. 

If you’re like me, the pros list will far outweigh the cons, even if you know how to do your own plumbing!

Here's some more useful information on composting toilets for Airstreams and other tiny spaces on our blog!


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Crystal McCullough in her vintage airstream argosy

Crystal McCullough

Crystal is the head of CompoCloset’s customer service and a vintage camper aficionado and fixer. She is the author of the popular book Before You Buy a Vintage Camper, owner/designer/builder of Zack the Airstream Argosy, and a long time composting-toilet advocate.

She is currently working on an updated edition of her vintage camper book when she’s not helping Cuddy owners.


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