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  • Writer's pictureThe Desert Cruisers

Best Van Life Toilet: Compo Closet Cuddy Review

Updated: Mar 31

Potty Talk! You’re here to find out what we truly think of having a Cuddy Composting Toilet, our experience with it, and comparison to other toilets in the market.


Compo Closet Cuddy Review

We’ll cover the pros and cons of this toilet and ultimately why we chose to part ways with the Natures Head which we had in our van build and very briefly in our diy truck build. We hope this gives you insight to make the right decision for your own toilet even if it’s not with Cuddy! Keep in mind that, Cody has filmed over a 100 vans tours for the Nate Murphy YouTube channel and still believes that this was the best choice for our build! So lets get started…


Why did we choose Cuddy Composting Toilet over all the other toilet options in the van market?



We chose Cuddy for a couple of main reasons:


  • It separate the liquids and solids. When I was using the Natures Head, I was initially only using it for liquids in our truck build, and I noticed when the composting section was empty for some time, that a lot of the liquids would build up, like a LOT. I never noticed this when we were using it full-time in our van because the composting bin was always full of mulch. The pressure of my urine as a woman probably had some type of impact and Cuddy’s design doesn’t have this issue. I didn’t like the idea of having inches of urine in my composting bin so that's one of the reasons why we parted ways with the Natures Head. It was great for the time we did have it for our van.


Desert Cruisers Stainless Steel Shower
  • You don’t have to externally vent it or cut any exterior holes and this was our primary reason. We opted in for a stainless steel shower and wanted to find a way to seamlessly take the toilet in and out of the shower. We didn’t want to deal with the venting part, but if you wish to vent your toilet, it will help with moisture and you can do so with Cuddy. Nature’s Head venting has a rubber plastic like hose that is easy to take on and off. I’m sure there’s a way you can do the same with Cuddy but we wanted to avoid doing that all together.


  • Liquids area tells you when it’s full with the LED light. This was super important to me since I use it full- time. This is a battery operated section of the toilet and when the urine hits a certain level of fullness, it will have the red light come on. I needed to make sure that I could still know when to empty my pee since it's not transparent like the Natures Head.


  • It’s a bit smaller than most of the other composting toilets and the size of moving it is easier to deal with. If you're looking to maximize space in your van build or DIY build, the Cuddy is a great size.

Cuddy Toilet Dimensions

Why we recommend a composting toilet?

A composting toilet is one of the biggest products on the market to include in Tiny Houses, Van Builds and Camper vans because a composting toilet separates the solids and the liquids. Having a composting toilet minimizes the smells by separating the two.


One thing you really have to consider when building your van or camper is “Where can I go to the bathroom?”. If you opt out for a toilet, then you'll have to plan accordingly by using other bathrooms along your travels or by going outside consciously. There are definitely many scenarios where it would be very convenient on having a toilet with you. And you totally can choose to have a toilet in your van and not use it full-time but rather for emergencies when these types of situations come your way!


How does the Cuddy Composting Toilet operate?

So you’re probably wondering what all the hype is and how it all works. Let’s dive deeper into our potty talk! The Cuddy has a very unique design and holds the same idea as the other composting toilets by separating the urine and compost section. When you open the lid, you’ll see a huge section in the front where you pee and it’s quite large so you don’t need to worry about aiming! And in the back, you’ll see a knob on the top right where you can rotate it and it will open your composting area for #2. Cody likes to call this the poop shoot. Fitting right?


The urine section holds up to 1.7 gallons and the composting holds up to 3.9 gallons and is meant for 20-25 uses.


Now you can’t just start using the composting part of the toilet until you have your composting material. It’s recommended to use sphagnum peat moss or coconut coir. We’ve personally prefer sphagnum peat moss, but coco coir is easier to buy and easier to store because they come in small bricks. We’ll get into why and where we get sphagnum peat moss down below.


So once you choose your composting material of choice, we recommended using two zip lock bags worth in the composting bin or until it's a bit over the agitator. This will give it a nice amount of room for when you are mixing your solids with your handle.


How to minimize smells in my composting toilet?


Every time you use your toilet you’ll have some protocols you’ll do. If you go pee, you’ll need to be sure you have a spray bottle with white vinegar and water mixture solution. You’ll want to have an even mixture of white vinegar and water in a small spray bottle and after every time you pee, you’ll spray the area a couple of times. This will pretty much kill any pee smell.


For the composting part, after every time you use it, you’ll want to use the agitator handle that you pull out in the front of the toilet, and spin it a couple of times with opposite rotations. Sometimes I can forget to spin it (whoops sorry Cody) but it still most likely won’t smell too bad if you did accidentally. Just be sure to do it when you remember.


Cuddy Toilet Agitator Handle


Another way to minimize the smell is the fan that's inside the Cuddy where the composting material is. There is a carbon filter which you can get at any pet store or most places, and it helps reduce odors. So the fan circulates the carbon filter. If you choose to vent your toilet outside, you will have to follow the steps on Cuddy’s website where you can make the fan push air out.


*Random tip, when you are traveling through fluctuating elevations and you have the spray bottle stored in your toilet area, expect pressure in your spray bottle that will result in a leak! This will happen to anyone who has a spray bottle! If you do not desire a leak, find a little bucket and put your spray bottle in it, use a paper towel or rag to place underneath it, or simply put it in your sink while you are driving! All are viable options.


Where can you buy Sphagnum peat moss or coconut coir?

We use sphagnum peat moss and we typically buy from Home Depot or Ace Hardware. Now when you buy this in person, it’s a very large bag meant for gardeners. You’re probably wondering, "I live in a van, why the heck would I buy that huge bag? Can I get a smaller bag?". I have a couple of solutions for you. First of all, this worked out for me and Cody because we had Aluminess Exterior Boxes on our sprinter van and we were able to have multiple zip lock bags stored back there that we would reuse. Now in the truck, we have a lot more boxes. If you’re not able to store much in your van, take as much as you can and give it back to Home Depot when purchasing from them. We’ve done that a couple of times and they are more than happy with the donation so they can use it for themselves.


We prefer the smell of sphagnum peat moss and you don't need to do anything to prep the composting material. With coco coir you have to prep it by adding your brick in water and then letting it sit for several minutes. I might be terrible at it, but it took me about 45 minutes or so to let it soak and finally break it down properly. Don't take my full word for it because maybe I just suck at prepping it, but I'd rather have something ready to go. Coco Coir is very popular for a composting base. You’re not likely to find any smaller bags for sphagnum, which is why we think the coco coir is a viable option. They come in blocks and is easier to store is smaller places.


It’s really your preference on how you choose to buy these products. We know that we tend to see sphagnum peat moss at Ace Hardwares and Home Depots. We do our best to think ahead in our travels if we are running low on composting material or not.


How often do we use the Compo Cuddy toilet?

I use the toilet FULL-TIME! Yep, I only use it full-time and I couldn’t image a life without it. I rely on this toilet so much, that when we come back to visit family and travel in our tiny Chevy Spark I’m lost with out it and always wonder, “where am I going to go pee?!”. No not really, but it’s so luxurious that I’m so used to having it with us on the road.


How often do you need to empty the Compo Cuddy composting toilet?


I am so surprised with the answers I see online from other people.


Liquids

I must drink too much water because the urine bucket has to be emptied every other day with just me.


Solids

For the composting part, I don’t need to empty it until roughly every 3-4 weeks with just me. I’m primarily the only one using it full-time with Cody using it for emergencies or conveniences when we're camped near a bunch of people and there’s no private place outside for him. When we are using it full-time together, we can get away with two weeks and then we start to notice more smell from the moisture. This can be solved by adding more composting material to the bin or by letting the Cuddy air outside for a couple of hours in the sun.


How can you tell the composting is ready to be dumped?

When you are no longer able to easily spin your compose with your handle, you know it’s time to dump it.


How to empty the Cuddy Composting Toilet

Now that you understand how this composting toilet works, you’re probably wondering how to dispose of your solids and liquids. This may be the not so pretty side to van life, but once you get used to it, it’s nothing more than a house chore.


Emptying Liquids

The liquids is such an easy part to dispose of! If you’re on the move like us and are active, we are always seeing trailheads bathrooms and porta potties. There are always bathrooms, public parks on our route and you can simply take your urine bucket and bring it inside to release in the toilets. Dump stations are also viable options that are at gas stations and some places require a dumping fee so keep that in mind.


Emptying Solids

There’s are a mixture of reviews of this process. It’s said that a composting toilet, it not fully compostable due to high bacteria that is not allowed to break down in such a small space. The way we do it is grab a small trash bag, and put all of your compost in there. Then find a public trash can such as a gas station, park, or trail heads that have the space for it to dispose of. Remember, the composting section is only 3.7 gallons, so not a ton of composting material.


Think about poopy diapers or your dog’s poo. Where does it all go once it’s picked up? To the garbage cans. Think about all those tent campers that go to all these popular places and what do they do? They pee outside. What do your dogs do when you go out camping with them, they pee outside.


Disposing your liquids and solids is one of those topics people don’t dive too much into because it can get very complicated on people’s opinions and what they feel is right for the environment. Be social and environmentally conscious on your choices and do the best you can.


How to clean and maintain the Cuddy composting toilet?

Honestly, I just grab paper towels and add some water on it to clean the areas I want to clean. It does a great job getting clean.


How much does the Cuddy Composting Toilet Cost? And is it worth the price?

Spending nearly $780 probably sounds like a lot, yet it’s a common van life expense if you are anticipating on having comforts on the road. Knowing that we would be full-time in this build and knowing the history of this brand and quality, it is worth buying for. A lot of other toilets cost more than $1,000 if you go with Natures Head or the Air Head Toilet. Check out our link to find the most current price today!


Buy Cuddy Toilet

How to install a Cuddy Composting toilet in your van build or truck build?

Cuddy has a great video on how to set it up.




Are there any cons to the Cuddy Composting Toilet

  • There are some things that may be a concern. We opted in to not vent our toilet, which means there is going to be moisture. We found out when I didn’t check for weeks and saw that all of the inside of Cuddy was getting a lot of moisture in there. There is a solution to this however, which means you’ll have to take your toilet outside and let it vent out naturally. Yes that is tedious, but we specifically opted in for this toilet so that we could avoid more holes in our shower and for the convenience of putting the toilet in and out of our shower. There is going to be some type of trade off with any toilet and you just need to pick what is best for your situation. If putting it outside once a week to vent with the lid open is not ideal for you, that is understandable. Again, you can opt in to vent your Cuddy toilet and it will reduce the moisture. Choose what is best for your situation.


Where do you put toilet paper?

I actually have a super cute trashcan that has a lid and is battery operated to open and close automatically when using it! I don't recommend putting toilet paper in your toilet at all.


trash can van life

What happens if the urine overflows?

It will just flow over inside the box and you'll have a small section that you'll have to clean, but you'll be able to avoid that if you add a battery to the pee sensor.


How do you deal with periods?

Just like any other toilet! I'm fairly lucky because I have very light periods but you can use your spray bottle solution to spray it down or add some water to get rid of any bit you see.


Does it smell?

A little. When the moisture builds up because we don't externally vent it, we can start to smell more earthly smells. Not the worst smell, but definitely want to air it out to avoid it.


Is this the best composting toilet

It's definitely a great option! Any composting toilet is going to have its trade offs by the way it's designed and how it fits for your build. Cuddy is such a great option because they figured it out by adding an agitator, pee sensor, carbon filter to reduce odors and the size of it. Overall, it's definitely a great option and if you have any questions, comment in the section below and we can have more potty talk!



natures head composting toilet

 


cuddy composting toilet

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From 2020 to 2023, we embraced life on the road in our DIY sprinter van, The Desert Cruiser. With no prior building experience, we transformed our van into a home, exploring deserts and rainforests, seeking the best campsites, mountain biking, and living our dream. In June 2022, a new dream emerged — building a 2022 Ford F550 into our DIY Earthroamer. With hopes of future family adventures, we found our dream truck in Texas. We believe anything is possible and aim to inspire others to explore life to the fullest!

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