Two posts ago I asked what your biggest questions were about tiny trailer living, and by far two most asked questions were: 1. What do you do for a bathroom? And 2. What do you do for a kitchen?
There are several possible solutions for those who live in teardrops (and some kinds of vans , passenger vehicles, etc.) and being the person I am, a fair bit of research went into my decision. First, the bathroom.
It’s common knowledge that while the Casita had a shower, I never, not even once, used in in the six years I lived in it. So nothing has changed there.
I like my showers long, and a 6 gallon water heater just didn’t do it for me. So instead I take showers in the places I travel – campgrounds, truck stops, laundromats, visitor centers, public pools, gyms, friend’s houses… there are all sorts of places to take a shower when you don’t have your own. And when I’m boondocking and don’t have regular access to a real shower (which I usually indulge in about once a week), I use sponge bathing, wet wipes, and local lakes and streams to keep myself clean.
People who aren’t use to roughing it are probably right now dismayed to learn that I only shower once a week. A couple things here. First, you can keep yourself quite clean with sponge bathing. It can be just as thorough a cleaning as taking a shower, and wastes a lot less water which is very important when boondocking. And second, when you shower less frequently, your body gets use to it and produces less oils and such, so that you don’t get gross and smelly as fast. Interesting fact: My profile picture? The one of me sitting in front of the Casita in the desert? I hadn’t washed my hair in eight days when I took that photo. Eight. Days. And my hair was still alright. (As a side note, that photo will be changing soon.)
Now that I’m in the squaredrop, I’m using wet wipes more and sponge bathing less. Why? Because the Hiker Trailer has no gray tank, and dumping gray water (water used for cleaning yourself, dishes, etc. for you newbies) on Forest Service and other public, boondocking land is prohibited or at least frowned upon in most places. If you ARE in a place where it’s okay to dump gray water, always disperse it in a wide area well away from your campsite, well away from any water source, and only use soaps and detergents that are biodegradable – I use Campsuds.
If you’re in a teardrop, pop-up, or van that doesn’t come with a shower and you want one, there are are ways to get around the ‘no plumbing’ problem. Many people in these situations buy a bag-style shower that can be hung in a high place, often the bag is dark in color so it can be set out in the sun to warm the water inside, and then there’s a spray head on the low end where the water comes out from the force of gravity.
If you want something a bit more sophisticated, you can buy a pump-style bottle meant for use with liquid fertilizers and use that to shower or wash dishes with – there are even high end ones specifically meant for camping, but the garden ones are cheaper and work just as well. I’m sure there are other camping showers out there too.
For privacy, there are bottomless tent structures that you can buy and put up around your shower area, or to save some money you can simply rig up a tarp.
Disclaimer: I do get into quite a bit of detail about my toilet solution, as I want this to be a useful guide for others thinking of buying a rig that doesn’t come with a toilet. But some readers might be squeamish and not really care about how I do my business, so if that’s you, you may want to skip this section.
For most of my teardrop researching phase, I thought I would end up with a cassette toilet. It’s the most “toilet-y” option for a rig that doesn’t come with a standard RV toilet. But then days before picking it up when I actually got into looking how a cassette toilet works, I changed my mind. There are a lot of parts that can leak and they require some finesse.
But first, toilet research.
My RVing friends Kelly and Marshall run a website called Camp Addict, dedicated to RV and camping related product reviews. And they have a page comparing toilet options. And when I say they have a page dedicated to toilets I don’t mean they spent an afternoon looking at RV toilets and spit out some recommendations. I mean they spent months researching all different categories of RVing toilets and wrote thousands of words on the subject. And if you don’t really want to read thousands of words about toilets that’s okay, because they have a quick summary and comparison guide too. These two are thorough.
Anyway, I went to their toilet page to look up the best cassette toilets, and while I’m sure they’re a great option for a lot of people, I’m on a mission to keep things simple. So what did I end up with? A bucket with a toilet seat and lid over it. And that’s just for emergencies, I haven’t even used it yet.
Yes, I’ve been relieving myself in the woods, which probably makes the RVers in my audience uncomfortable, but which the tenters and vehicle dwellers are probably quite familiar with.
It is legal when boondocking to do your business outside, but of course there are rules. Here’s a page direct from the Forest Service that talks about what those rules generally are, and if you’re going to go this route, you’ll want to search for the specific area you’re staying in to see if there are additional caveats. The Bureau of Land Management has similar rules for their land.
Here are the basics though:
Do your business away from the campsite, away from public areas/points of interest, and away from water sources.
Bury Number 2. I have a small folding shovel I use to dig a hole.
Pack your toilet paper out with you! This is a pet peeve of mine, I hate seeing used toilet paper left behind at the edges of a campsite. It’s unhygienic, animals (including pets) can get into it, it takes a long time to decompose (especially in the dry west), and it’s an eyesore. Just. Don’t. Do. It.
Some people erect a small bottomless tent over their latrine pit and have a frame with a toilet seat to sit on inside. I literally just squat behind the trees. And yes I’ve done it in all sorts of weather. Momentarily uncomfortable, but again I appreciate how simple it is.
As for the bucket, it lives in the back of Bertha, which has an adequately tall topper to be able to sit on the thing inside. The back windows are tinted so people can’t see in, and this way I won’t get smells inside my living space.
Oooookay, I feel like I’ve shared more than enough on this topic. If you want more info, visit Camp Addict. Moving on.
Traditionally shaped teardrops have a sloping rear galley, with a lot of open surface space in back for cooking. The Hiker Trailer has a flat rear with three tiers of shelves, more like a large cabinet. You could install some sort of sink and stove setup back there on the largest middle shelf if you wanted to, but being a full-timer, I wanted all that space for storage.
So what I did was bought a cheap 4′ long table from Walmart, and a Classic Coleman stove (together they cost maybe $80). I already had plastic tubs from my time in the Casita to use for doing dishes in. I set up the stove and table on the left side of the trailer where the propane tank is mounted, bought an adapter hose to hook the stove up to the propane tank, and voila, instant kitchen. Here it is in use, my first time heating up lunch after buying all the stuff.
Not coming with a fridge, some teardrop owners opt to put a tiny, dorm size one in. Others buy 12 volt cooler shaped fridges, which can be placed in the teardrop or tow vehicle. Others opt for a high quality cooler, there are models out there that will keep food cold for seven days with one round of ice.
I may opt for one of these methods eventually, but for the time being, I’m just avoiding food that requires refrigeration. Some of you may remember my dehydrated food experiment from 2016 – I was already thinking about teardrop living when I did that experiment. Well, I’ve stocked up on dehydrated soups again, they’re lightweight, healthier than the typical canned soup, last almost forever, and can be mixed with other canned or fresh ingredients to make a whole variety of dishes.
Otherwise, my food routine hasn’t changed much, you can find it in my Boondocking Answers article. I’ve never been much of a cook and have only heated up one meal a day (lunch) when boondocking. Breakfast is a bar of some sort, supper is a sandwich – none of that has changed. The Hiker has a pas-through door to access the middle shelf from inside, so I put snacks, water, and sandwich stuff on that shelf, so that I can make easy meals inside no matter how cold or dark it is outside.
Okay! I think that’s everything. I hope you found this article helpful or at least entertaining. Thanks Patreon supporters and PayPal donators!