Bus Project Update

A Bus Called Home

It’s been a fun and productive weekend but it’s time to go back to work – to support my habit of living the funnest way possible.

The big victory this weekend was finding my favorite curtains on clearance. Score! I also had a chance to spend a few days in my bus really seeing what is most urgently needed for comfortable living. That experience plus a generous tax return has bumped the composting toilet to the top of the list – right next to some sort of economical plug-in heat source for situations when idling the bus would get me unwanted attention. It gets coooooold in here!

Yeah, I’m still BoonDocking. Luckily that’s been going really well. There are plenty of unobtrusive spots besides Walmart, and at least one no-hassle RV campground I can use. Parking around town has been easier than expected as well.

Getting this thing registered as a motor home is beginning to feel urgent. I’m only allowed 9 days of unregistered “trip-permit” driving per month and I’ve already used 3. I’m not sure what happens if I get stopped while driving unregistered and un-permitted but I really don’t want to find out.

So. That means I need to find a sink and an electric cook-top or oven pronto! There were a few at the Habitat for Humanity store, but they were bigger than what I wanted. I may get one of them anyway. A “too large” sink would be a relatively minor inconvenience.

It also means I should probably just go ahead and build a kitchen counter. It will have to be removable since I am doing the floors and insulation later. That’s kind of a back-asswards way of building out a bus, but since I need it road legal and livable ASAP, it’s the way I’ve decided to go. I’ll bolt everything down for the inspection, but it will all be removable.

I’m also thinking about painting sooner than planned. Apparently a school bus that looks like a school bus is not welcome in some RV parks. Bummer. I guess I’ll have to do the fun stuff first instead of last.

That’s it for now! Thanks for following me on my journey!

Why a Composting Toilet?

A Bus Called Home

As I have been looking at examples of really well done school bus conversions, I’ve started to notice a common trend in the bathrooms I’ve seen: nearly all of them have composting toilets. This came as a surprise to me and there were a lot of questions I needed answered in order to convince me to go with a composting toilet. Many of theses were finally answered in the video below, but a few I had to figure out on my own.

Here are my particular questions:

Q: Isn’t it more smelly/unsanitary/gross than a conventional toilet?

A: No. Just the opposite in fact (see video). Next question.

Q: Isn’t it cheaper and simpler to just install a conventional RV toilet with a black tank?

A: No, and NO! Even a high-end composting toilet like Nature’s Head, at about $900 (+/-)  is cheaper than buying an RV toilet, black tank, and plumbing, and spending the time to cut the necessary holes, mount your black tank, buy chemicals, etc. It is also WAAAAAY easier to install and maintain a unit like Nature’s Head (see video). In addition, a conventional RV toilet should really be installed directly above the black tank so solids have a straight uninterrupted path down to the tank; this limits where you can put the bathroom in your floor plan (i.e. not over the wheel wells, fuel tank, battery box, etc.) Compare that to a fully self contained composting toilet that you can put ANYWHERE. You literally just set it down somewhere (optionally securing it with a couple screws for comfort & convenience). So in summary, you don’t save any money by going conventional, and you DEFINITELY don’t save any time or effort.

Q: Isn’t it simpler to maintain a conventional RV toilet?

A: No. Definitely not. Watch some YouTube videos on the Nature’s Head toilet and compare with videos on dumping, cleaning, and maintaining ANY conventional RV toilet / black water tank system. Not to mention installation. Don’t even get me started on installation.

Q: What’s the difference between a composting toilet and a regular old (and much much cheaper) camping toilet?

A: A lot actually:

  1. Camping toilets usually ARE more  smelly/unsanitary/gross than a conventional toilet.
  2. You can only legally (and safely) “dump” waste from a camping toilet at specific facilities. Camp toilet manufacturers claim you can just dump the contents in any toilet, but have you ever tried dumping several gallons of waste into a toilet? Compare that to compost from a composting toilet which can safely and legally (and non-grossly) be disposed of anywhere from your local dumpster to on/around non-edible plants or trees.
  3. Camp toilets still need to be cleaned and maintained (if you don’t want them to be completely disgusting) using (often toxic) chemicals and deodorizers. A composting toilet like Nature’s Head simply has a crank on the side that you turn a couple times with every use, and when it gets hard to turn, you dump the contents. You don’t even have to clean it out. Anything toxic is dead and sterile within a few hours of your last use. Also did I mention it’s not smelly and gross? (see video)
  4. All that said camp toilets are way cheaper. You can get a top of the line camp toilet for about $100 vs something like the aforementioned Nature’s Head which runs around $900.


A camp toilet is a temporary solution at best for a bus I plan on living in full time, so my choice is really between conventional and composting. Considering there is no cost advantage to getting a conventional unit and a lot of convenience advantages to getting a composting toilet (for instance no need for a black tank whatsoever) not to mention health safety and environmental advantages (zero water & power usage, cleaner safer disposal, less pollution, etc) this has become a no brainer for me, but I think the most compelling fact is that as of this posting I have never heard of anyone who switched to a composting toilet and regretted it. Definitely let me know if you have!

Bus Conversion Project

A Bus Called Home

Stage 1: Getting Started
complete by November 2016

    ✓ Basic Locks & Security DONE!
    ✓ Essential Repairs (Crank Position Sensor, Signals & Gauges, Remove Heater, PM Service) DONE!
    ✓ Insurance & Permits DONE!

Stage 2: Setting Up Shop
complete by January 2017

    ✓ Remove Seats MOSTLY DONE
    ✓ Find Storage/Work Site DONE!
    ✓ Basic Camping Amenities MOSTLY DONE

Stage 3: Essentials
complete by ?

    ✓ Basic Power
    ✓ Bed, Sink, & Stove
    ✓ Legal (Title & Registration) 
    ✓ Change Legal Status to “Motor Home”

Stage 4: Preparing the Canvas
complete by ?

    ✓ Remove old floor
    ✓ De-rust, Seal, & Paint
    ✓ Install subfloor
    ✓ Stain & finish subfloor
    ✓ Advanced Floor Plan

Stage 5: Structure & Utilities
complete by ?

    ✓ Open walls & ceiling
    ✓ De-rust, Seal, & Paint
    ✓ Basic Floor Plan
    ✓ Move and re-seal windows as necessary
    ✓ Undercarriage Bays (Batteries, Tanks, Plumbing, Electrical, Propane, & Tools)
    ✓ Power, Propane, & Plumbing
    ✓ Framing (Walls, Floors & Ceiling)
    ✓ Insulation 

complete by ?

    ✓ Fixtures
    ✓ Appliances
    ✓ Framing (Rooms, Closets, Cabinets, Counters)
    ✓ Paint Exterior 
    ✓ Framing (Table, Benches, & Seats)
    ✓ Paint Interior
    ✓ Finishing Touches
    ✓ Furnishings

Stage 7: ENJOY!!!