Composting Heads

I previously talked about holding tanks and what size is reasonable for actually living on a boat.

One way to get away from a holding tank is a composting toilet. A few years ago, a boat with a composting head was a rarity. Now they’re becoming much more common.

According to people to have them, there are several advantages:

  • No need for pumpouts; much longer time you can be away from a place to get rid of “compost”
  • Lighter weight
  • Nothing to clog — almost no way that it becomes unusable
  • Much less smell
  • Can be used on the hard

There are three main brands of composting heads for the marine market:

  • Nature’s Head (using of the links on this site to Nature’s Head will get you an automatic $25 discount at checkout on the purchase of one of their toilets)
  • Air Head
  • C-Head

We are seriously considering switching to a composting toilet aboard Barefoot Gal and I know of several other people who are also thinking about switching. UPDATE: yes, we did switch to a Nature’s Head and are very happy with our choice.

Those of you who have a composting toilet: would you be willing to share your thoughts with us and anyone else thinking of switching to a composting toilet?

If so, please leave a note with the brand you have, how long you can typically go between emptying the liquids and the solids, features you particularly like/dislike about the model you chose or composting toilets in general, and — if you installed it yourself — how difficult the installation was and how long it took.


  • Joe Stude
    Posted at 18 January 2015 Reply

    As I am planning on purchasing a composting toilet in the near future, it will be interesting to see what your readers have to say. In addition, I do have three specific questions that have not really been addressed in my research, and should pertain to all three manufactures.

    1. Can toilet paper of any kind go into a composting head?

    2. If the toilet paper cannot go into the head, what ideas are out there as to where to put it? I have thought about using (if not for lack of space) a diaper genie. I do not know if they are even still made, but we used one for diapers 15 or so years ago when the kids were in diapers. We loved our diaper genie!

    3, Lastly, and perhaps most important, is there a time period that you have to wait before the last deposit (if you will) of solid waste and actually emptying the compost tank? For example, if you use the toilet for solids today, I wonder if you might want to wait perhaps days (?) for the composting process to take place before attempting to empty the solids tank.

    Thanks in advance everyone. I look forward to hearing the reviews and ideas.

    s/v Ten-Forward

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 18 January 2015 Reply

      Everyone that I know with one does not wait for the solids to compost, but simply takes the bag to the trash and disposes of it there.

    • Off Grid And Green
      Posted at 04 February 2016 Reply

      1.) Yes, regular tp can be used with most units.
      2.) no longer applies
      3.) Most manufacturers recommend waiting 8 hours from last use.

      Hope that helps, for more info, check out this site….

      • Carolyn Shearlock
        Posted at 04 February 2016 Reply

        My thoughts:

        1. You’ll have a lot more capacity if you don’t.
        2. A separate lidded trash can with a grocery bag liner works well and is what most cruisers use — with or without a composting head (in other words, don’t put it in a conventional marine head, either).
        3. While manufacturers may recommend you wait 8 hours (and yes, they do), that doesn’t always work with the realities of life on a boat. You can empty it sooner — it’s not a problem and doesn’t stink.

    • woody
      Posted at 01 September 2016 Reply

      Don’t buy a composting toilet, make one, to fit your space. Just buy the urine separator, then it is cheap and easy. Also the #2 dries, rather than composts. The true composting is done where you dump it. Use compostable bags and it is clean and easy, as often or infrequent as the size of you ‘bucket’ allows.

      • Jo-Anne Mason
        Posted at 06 September 2016 Reply

        Hi Woody do you have photos or instructions for doing this we have a small space and building one might be better for us.

      • Tom Cox
        Posted at 28 August 2017 Reply

        I’m interested in your homemade unit. I’m thinking of installation in a boat with very limited space. Have you any details about what equipment is needed?

  • Sherlene Eicher
    Posted at 18 January 2015 Reply

    We are in the process of tearing out our conventional head and Installing a C – head. We should know in a few months how we like it but we have heard good things about it from others and it is one of the inexpensive brands on the market.

  • Carole Erdman Grant
    Posted at 18 January 2015 Reply

    Because of the unusual place for our head on our boat we chose to buy the important componants from Separett —

    and designed and built our own dry composting toilet rather than purchasing a complete unit. We have only had it in a month and have found it to be a great addition.

    • Tom Cox
      Posted at 28 August 2017 Reply

      I’m interested in your homemade unit. I’m thinking of installation in a boat with very limited space. Have you any details about what equipment is needed?

  • Carol Zip
    Posted at 18 January 2015 Reply

    We have used the Air Head toilet for about 4 years now aboard Improbability. No holding tank to empty, no hoses to smell and clog, no maintenance. After a year of use, we removed the toilet from the guest cabin and purchased a second Air Head. We prefer this brand because the toilet seat comes in a standard size and it lifts up, so no men dripping on the seat (like with Nature’s Head). For 2 people using it every day, the tank for solids needs to be emptied about every 30 days. Just dump into a garbage bag and out with the trash. Then fluff up a coconut husk brick with some water and place in the tank. The Air Head was easy to install and takes up a little less room than other brands.

  • RLW
    Posted at 18 January 2015 Reply

    We’ve been using a DIY head based on the Separett Privy kit (about $100), a five gallon bucket (for solids), and a 2 1/2 gallon jug (liquid) for going on to seven years and it has worked perfectly…

    No hassle and no smell.

    • Laurie
      Posted at 19 July 2015 Reply

      This sounds awesome!! Do you have plans that you used?

  • Penny Davis
    Posted at 18 January 2015 Reply

    Just installed a C-Head, also. Immediately the boat smelled better. Assume only the best from all I’ve read.

  • Judith Nast
    Posted at 18 January 2015 Reply

    We are not liveaboards but cruise in the summer for several weeks at a time far from marinas. The rest of the time we do daysails and overnights, often with a full boat of friends. Have had a nature’s head onboard for 3 years. No smell, easy to maintain and use. For us it’s been an excellent product and a welcome change from the traditional head that smelled despite our best efforts. Easy installation, easy maintenance. For us disposing of liquids and solids was not a big deal, but then I’m not bothered by such things and we’re not onboard full time. Hope this is helpful…

  • Connie Lacelle
    Posted at 18 January 2015 Reply


  • Larry Whited
    Posted at 18 January 2015 Reply

    Our AS-29 came with an Airhead. Very glad of that. I had experimented with building my own before. The Airhead looks to make life simple. Perhaps this review would help:
    I understand Airhead recommends no paper. A container for throw away paper is recommended. Obviously, a self closing model would improve the aesthetics.
    Airhead: so far so good.

  • Beth Duncan
    Posted at 18 January 2015 Reply

    We love our C Head !!

  • Lori Steinbrunner
    Posted at 18 January 2015 Reply

    Installing a Nature’s Head was one of our first improvements after buying our boat with an already malfunctioning traditional head. Two people cruising full time. Three + years later, still love it. No smell, easy to maintain. An extra urinal is a handy thing to have as well, depending on your cruising habits. (We fill 2.5 gal in about 3 days.) Solids need swapped out about monthly when away from the dock. Venting is key; we put a mushroom vent on the old pump-out deck fitting.

  • Candy Ann Williams
    Posted at 19 January 2015 Reply

    On the bootlegger we took both of our old heads out-turned one into a tool room and were going to put an airhead in the other-but haven’t yet… Our friend loves his -that’s the way we were going to go.

  • Nuno Antunes
    Posted at 19 January 2015 Reply

    Love my Air Head! 🙂 So much that I actually started to sell them here in Sweden this year. I am not living aboard yet so I had it for a year and did not needed to empty it yet. The smells are gone and when I check the solids, there is just dirt inside. Going to install a second one in the guest cabin.

  • Shari
    Posted at 19 January 2015 Reply

    I have been thinking about this for a long time, but they seem so expensive. I have a 40year old Pearson 26, built in the no holding tank days, with a small retrofit holding tank that we do not use…we bring along a potty. I have been thinking of using camping poop bags but not really guest friendly. I hesitate to put a $1000 toilet on a boat worth a few grand on resale…

    • Larry Whited
      Posted at 19 January 2015 Reply

      The suitability of the boat for toileting brings up a good point. I just sold a boat that I liked in a lot of ways b/c of this one problem. There simply wasn’t a place to accommodate toileting. I think the toilet potential of a boat should rate high on the scale of potential targets for purchase. It’s OK if the boat doesn’t have the right toilet. It’s not OK if it doesn’t have the potential. Bucket and chuck-it works in the third world but not in the USA. A boat will remain a rustic camper if it cant feature a real place for “doing business.” My $.02

      • Gabrie
        Posted at 26 January 2016 Reply

        Larry, thanks for that word of advice. I think it’s particular apt in today’s buyer’s market, where a lot of boats are out there for little but people have distinct needs. Waste management on the water weighs in heavily.

  • Dennis K. Biby
    Posted at 19 January 2015 Reply

    It appears that everyone likes whichever brand they have. This reinforces my desire to add one this spring.

    Would like to hear what users “don’t like” about their specific choice. Or more mildly, what would you like to see as an upgrade to your unit?

  • Jennifer Pierson
    Posted at 19 January 2015 Reply

    We have an Airhead on our catamaran, SunStar 2, and LOVE IT!!! We have used it for several years, lived aboard for 18 months, and have never had a problem. Our solids we empty out every 30 days or so when living aboard. We usually dump them into another container do continue composting for another 30 days before throwing away. That way, what had been done right before you dumped it will be inert. We do have a few extra liquid tanks for times when it is not easy to dispose of. No smell and extremely low maintenance, would never use anything else!!

  • Alison Sayers
    Posted at 19 January 2015 Reply

    Nature’s Head, and love it.

  • Renee Klapper
    Posted at 19 January 2015 Reply

    We installed a C-head on our current boat about 6 months ago, not vented, but not really needed either. We never put tp into it because I do not buy the rv type that dissolves so it goes into a waste can next to the head. The one gallon “milk” just that comes with it gets hard to see the level of fullness for liquids after awhile. We replaced it with a clear juice jug. We always do a quick rinse after emptying it and add a little vinegar to keep odors down. How often you empty depends on how much it is used. I still have a had time seeing how full it is, at least when it overflows it is contained in one area. As for the solids we have used different medium for it peat moss “yuck”! We have been using pine pellets for the last several months, it seems to do well. No odor. It gets dumped about every 7-10 days. Never long enough to actually compost. It goes out with the garbage. Then we rinse the bucket let it dry and add about 3-4 cups of pellets. After 4-5 days we add another 3-4 cups of pellets. Sometimes we get what I call “poopy flies” that come out when I remove the lid. GROSS! Then we add some diatanatious earth and mix it in to get rid of them. On our new “to us” boat it has a air head and is vented. Previous owner places a coffee filter over the solids catcher lid (I am assuming so it doesn’t leave any residue before dumping) then dumps it all inside. Will know in a few weeks when we get the boat how we like it.

  • Lisa Robinson
    Posted at 20 January 2015 Reply

    We had a Nature’s Head on our last boat and we LOVED it. NO smell!!!! We just got a new boat (Bavaria 40) and would love to replace at least one head with a composter, but they won’t fit!! (We have 2 compact-sized Jabscos) Sure miss my composter….. ;(

    • Diane Dashevsky
      Posted at 29 January 2015 Reply

      Try Air Head – they should have one to fit.

  • Alison
    Posted at 20 January 2015 Reply

    VERY important to think about what kind of sailing you do and where. We were at the point of installing a Nature’s Head and then decided not to. The premise is based on separating liquids from solids. Hard to do if you’re heeling over in the wrong direction. We called Nature’s Head and they said they call it the “pee tack”. We like to do long off shore hops and go to cold places so decided it just wasn’t for us. Did hear that airhead is making a gimbaling version.

    • tom geren
      Posted at 22 January 2015 Reply

      Oh my. “Poopy flies” and “pee tacks.” My C-head doesn’t spill but if it did I’d put the top back on the milk jug. Duh.

      If you have “poopy flies” it indicates you are not covering the solids with compost medium. You will pay for your laziness with maggots. The diatomaceous earth is to be used as a preventative, not a fix.


  • New Girl on the Dock
    Posted at 20 January 2015 Reply

    We have a Natures Head that we purchased for our Catalina27. We love it. When we went to the Bahamas we didn’t dump tthe Compost for 2 months and had no problems with smell. We also have a 27′ Bayliner mv that we take to British Columbia deep sea fishing. We tore the old smelly system and holding tanks out of there, put in the vents and now we can move the toilet back and forth between boats! What a fabulous solution for us!. The only complaint that I have is that you have to pee on the correct tack or it goes in the compost. You have to sit more forward to make it in the pee tank. Otherwise….LOVE!

  • Colin E. Cunningham
    Posted at 20 January 2015 Reply

    Our Hunter Legend 45 has two heads with two holding tanks. We just discovered that the aft holding tank has pinhole-size leaks. The forward tank is completely built-in, but we are assuming it is in the same shape. I have always hated holding tank systems due to the stench and inconvenience of having to be near a pumpout or heading far enough offshore to legally pump overboard, so we are seriously looking at composting heads. We have considered both the Air Head and Nature’s Head toilets for their features, even though both are expensive.

    The heads on the Hunter 45 are very well done and designed to maximize the space; however, that means that the toilets are mounted on narrow shelves that are as close to the hull as possible. The narrow mounting space combined with the way the doors have to swing leaves very little room for the large footprint of a composting head. However, after careful measurements, we have found that the Nature’s Head will fit within a space on the opposite side of the sink in the aft head that is used for seating while showering. It means that the toilet seat will be unusually high, but a folding step stool will do the trick. The Nature’s head is also the only one that will seem to fit in the forward head. This is due to the fact that Nature’s Head had the foresight to add a bevel at the rear of the holding basin so it could be tucked up against the sloping hull. So, looks like we will be purchasing two Nature’s Head toilets very soon. We will update on installation and performance.

    • Bonnie Lopez
      Posted at 21 January 2015 Reply

      We live on a 41′ Formosa, and about 5 years we put an Airhead system in. It worked great, no smell, we could go a month between solids disposal, but boy when it was time to empty, it was heavy to get uptop to empty safely into a bag, or empty it down below, say a prayer that there won’t be an accident, or a ripped bag before getting it up for disposal, and now slung into the dumpster. We tried disposing of our toilet paper in it, but that just wrapped around the churning forks, and made it nearly impossible to churn very fast, so we just keep a garbage with a lid for the disposal of paper now.
      Two years ago, we took out the very expensive Airhead, and replaced it with a C-Head. Love it!! It’s designed that you don’t have to worry about what tack you’re on, everything goes where it’s supposed to go, when it’s time to go there. It needs to be changed about every 1-2 weeks depending on which composting medium you’re using. But there is no need for hemorrhoid ointment after you’re done disposing of the waste. It also has multiple designs, and one is specifically designed to fit against the hull. I don’t know how much the nature’s Head is but with an extra urine container, our AirHead was $1100, the C-Head was $600 and $100 of that was because we ordered a teak looking one. Also the C-Head has an oval seat which from what I’m told is much more comfortable for men, when doing business.

  • Dan Thomas
    Posted at 20 January 2015 Reply

    We have a C-Head on our Gemini catamaran. I haven’t read all the post yet so bear with me.
    We went with a composting head for the same reasons everybody else did. To get away from having a holding tank full of poo goo juice and that goes with it. Smell and and the pumping out are the worst.

    We went with C-Head for a few of reasons.
    1)The owner’s were next slip marina neighbors when they were developing it and helped him build his first prototype. Sandy is a retired firefighter as myself and they are just good people, and super freindly. If you call C-Head you will talk to sandy the owner. Not some flunky just working for a check.
    2) We looked at the three major brands and liked the C-Head best. One brand says you have to use a coffee filter for the solids to land on then open the trap door to make a deposit (their term not mine). But you can’t put to it paper in it because it fills up quickly Hmmmmmm
    3)The C-Head is about half of the other brands. To do this Sandy used regular hardware and common stuff. Like the seat is a regular to it seat, the liquid container is a 1 gallon water/milk jug the solids container is a 5 gallon bucket. All commonly bought stuff. So if it breaks you can just replace it with off the shelf stuff. Why reinvent the wheel?
    We usemthemheadnas a

    • Brad
      Posted at 31 January 2016 Reply

      And empty once a week vs once a month, no fan to exhaust the moist stinky air, rope tie downs instead of stainless steel screwed in hold down brackets, etc, etc. Not comparable at all.

      • Capt Sandy
        Posted at 03 March 2016 Reply

        Hey Brad, The C-Head comes with ventilation hose and fittings but in most cases it doesn’t need ventilation because it doesn’t smell. That is because it doesn’t mash up the waste with a dough mixer bar like the others, which exposes a lot of moisture. So the other toilets pretty much require ventilation whereas the C-Head usually doesn’t. Why make things more complicated than they need be? Also, the lash down rope system is only a suggestion for a nautical look. Other more practical methods are normally used. You also don’t need to disassemble the entire toilet to empty it or herniate yourself in the process. You’re right, not comparable at all.

  • Dan Thomas
    Posted at 20 January 2015 Reply

    (You need to have a edit button on here)
    This isn’t a magic wand and your sewage problem goes away. You still! Have to deal with it. Just now it isn’t a stinky smelly mess. What goes in has to come out.

    We use the head as a Liveaboard couple. As an all American, country boy, male. I can pee outside with no problem. So when the coast is clear I just go off the boat. Between the two of us we have to empty the liquid container about once a day. Urine does not have any ecoli in it. It is very high in nitrogen. We put a drop or two of holding tank stuff in it and dump it out. The head is vented to an on deck mushroom vent. At first we did vent, and it and it was fine. With a lot of use the solids dry out quicker if vented. We do and do not put to it paper in it. It fills up quicker if you do but then so does the garbage can if you don’t. So it’s about 50/50 on the paper in the head. It is a 5 gallon bucket cut away so it holds about 3/4 of that size container. The more you Put in it the harder it is to spin. I keep another 5 gallon bucket with a lid in the forward locker with a draw string garbage bag. This is what I dump the head into. When full it goes into the dumpster. This is much cleaner that baby wipers and all the ecoli are dead by now so it is much cleaner than diapers.

    For compost material we use what ever we have. Most of the time we use wood shaving/pet bedding bought from wal marts pet section. Both pine or cedar give off nice aromas. We also use peat moss but not much. We also have used free (please take some more) sawdust from a friends cabinet shop. Haven’t done plane sand yet. but it would work.
    We have a 2 quart plastic container that we use as a scoop. One of these gets it going. You spin it after each use and if its wet just add dry compost material. The smell is kind of “earthy” it smells like the woods. Gone is the sewer smell of the holding tank honey pot.

    It isn’t for everyone. Some people like the flushing of the head. Some say it is like a liter box for humans.
    Some say they can build one cheaper. Then do it. Cruiser/Liveaboards will beat a path to your door

  • Ice Floe
    Posted at 21 January 2015 Reply

    We’ve had a Natures Head for 3 years and love it. As everyone else has said, No smell. We use the RV type paper and just add it to pot, it breaks down quickly and isn’t much different than the peat moss.
    Yes, it’s bigger and higher than marine tiolets, but the advantages far out weigh the disadvantages. When I read about leaking holding tanks, porous hoses, clogs and all the rest, I know we made the right decession.
    Our “pee tack” is conviently our port tack. If on a port tack, “Preparing to come about” is usually followed by ” do you need to pee”?

  • Ed Lee
    Posted at 21 January 2015 Reply

    My wife and I live aboard our 48’ power boat. The boat came to us with two Vacuflush heads and a 40 gallon holding tank. We cruise the beautiful waters of the Salish Sea and anchor out most of the time. The concept of the composting toilet came to my attention and I was immediately sold…no need to “pump out”, no water usage (we have no watermaker), no electricity required and, of course the reduction (elimination?) of “potty smells”.
    I did not look at the C Head that others have referred to, but did a lot of analysis on the Air Head and Nature’s Head. We eventually went with having an Air Head installed in our master stateroom and keeping the Vacuflush in the guest stateroom. This gave us the chance to check out the composting toilet concept without going all in. While we had ours installed it appears to be easily self-installed by someone less challenged than I.
    We have used the Air Head now for about 10 months. We have had a bit of a learning experience over that time that included some discontent but having worked through those issues are happy with our Air Head. I will try to “bullet point” some of our experience….
    Construction – we are very happy with the quality of the Air Head. We installed the Household size seat and it is very comfortable. There are a couple of design features I would suggest…see “Issues” below.

    Usage – We dump the pee bucket about once a day with both of us using it and have a spare bucket in case we don’t get it emptied in time. We empty it in a PortaPotty dump close to the boat when in the marina, otherwise it goes overboard. We get approximately 3 weeks before need to dump the solids tank if using the AH only. We place it in the dumpster and try to use compostable bags as it is not true compost yet. We use the recommended coffee filter regimen for the Admiral’s solids to keep the urine separated due to the anatomical differences. We use RV type TP and for just a “#1”experience, we put it in the wastebasket, but for “#2” we leave it in the AH. It breaks down quickly and unless you use a LOT of TP it helps absorb moisture to keep the medium from becoming too moist.
    Medium – We use the CocoTec coconut husk that came with the unit and is available on Amazon for reasonable cost. It works very well and has a nice earthy smell with good moisture absorption and quick break down to compost.
    Smell – We had an interesting experience that verified the need for ventilation….upon first using the unit we both commented on the lack of ongoing smell and even liked the lack of “immediate” smell common with the use of about any toilet (if you know what I mean). About a month into it we started to notice odor and were perplexed as to why. To make a long story short, it took me a considerable time to realize I had shorted out the vent fan while doing some of my DIY projects. Once I replaced the fan the smell was gone and things are good again!
    Issues – 1. There is no “back flow preventer” on the pee bucket so we always empty the unit before starting a voyage. Even with a power boat of our size we had an overly wet mess due to the sloshing of urine into the solids tank. We now are power boaters, but 80% of our experience has been sail and I would agree the Air Head could have a “pee tack” issue. However the design of the flap covering the solids tank opening should help reduce that problem depending on the alignment of your unit to centerline.
    2. If the solids tank DOES get too wet, the mess has the ability to leak out the holes on each side for the agitator handle.
    3. Not a major issue, but the pee bucket level indicator is small and hard to see so we just go by the sound…when it gets quiet it needs to be changed.
    I hope this wasn’t too long, but wanted to be informative.

  • vicky
    Posted at 22 January 2015 Reply

    My husband built our composting head.We’ve been using it for a year now and we are very happy we switched.This design came from another fellow cruiser and it works very well. Here is the link to the blog

    • Larry Whited
      Posted at 22 January 2015 Reply

      What a great idea. I believe anyone could do that. It’s so simple it is brilliant!

    • Dennis K. Biby
      Posted at 22 January 2015 Reply

      Certainly inexpensive! Unlike commercial models, there is no stirring – do you add compost after every use?

  • Jenn and Terry McAdams
    Posted at 22 January 2015 Reply

    We installed the Airhead last spring (2014), and then went on a two month cruise from New Hampshire, along the Maine Coast to Nova Scotia (just two of us, no guests). We did not like the unit. Install took a day. 3 weeks into the trip the AH started leaking brown fluid out the crank fittings – even though we stopped at moorings and marinas with shore toilet facilities at least half the nights. Our vent hose was the culprit – if the very fine in-hose screen glogged, the the tank got too wet and leaked – a major mess to clean up. Cleaning the vent hose took us about an hour to do right. Forget composting on long trips (composting cycle is about 3 months in good weather, longer when its cold), you’ll fill the solids tanks long before anything composts. So, you’ll be dumping sewage overboard or bagging it and sneaking it into a dumpster. As a former govt. environmental regulator, I can attest that this practice can get you into expensive trouble in some jurisdictions. What did we do? We sailed out past the 3-mile limit for legal overboard disposal or stored the bags of sewage until we got to areas where we could dump. This was all legal, but not very environmentally friendly or convenient.
    We learned that dumping the solids sometimes entails scooping the sewage out of the tank with our hands and rubber gloves, as the waste, paper and coffee filters can all stick to the crank.
    The AH is significantly harder to clean than a conventional head, in our opinion. Why? Well, we had to put a coffee filter in the bowl for each solid deposit, but it sometimes slips or your aim is off -particular when heeled, so you have to reach in with more paper to clean the bowl (if you flush with too much water, the wastes in the solids tank get too wet (see above).
    We also plumbed our liquids tank to our holding tank – a nice touch to avoid dumping the liquids overboard every day or so – except that the fitting that AH installed in the bottom of the liquids tanks is way too narrow and calcium deposits soon blocked it – a messy thing to deal with.
    As noted by another commenter, the AH (and possibly the other models) may not always work well when the boat is heeled. You’ll be putting too much liquid in the solids tank and/or soiling the inside of the bowl.
    Also note that AH does not come with a satisfaction guarantee. The company said they used to, but they said they soon discontinued the practice. So, if you don’t like it, you may have to eat most of the cost ($1200 with all parts and shipping). You can get a really nice elec. macerating head for less money that uses very little water. We plan to do this next year. Or, just use a self-contained head for less than $100. You may be dumping it out as much or less than an AH and you can flush it all down a shore toilet or over board in legal zones.
    An AH may work for one person or for a couple for occasional weekend use or short trips. This infrequent use may actually allow some composting to occur. Otherwise, in our opinion, to call the AH a composting toilet may be a gross overstatement. But we have learned the hard way that there are better ways for live-aboards or long-term cruisers.

    • Brad
      Posted at 23 March 2016 Reply

      Jenn and Terry,
      Unsure what you are referring to in terms of “getting into expensive trouble in some jurisdictions” by disposing of human waste in trash dumpsters, since used disposable baby diapers are quite legal to dispose of in regular trash in both US and Canada.

  • John Reeves
    Posted at 22 January 2015 Reply

    Our AirHead composter was an easy install over 8 years ago on our 28′ sailboat. Using a 4″ solar-powered vent unit on its air vent eliminates any worries with our cabin 12V battery. Mr. Trot in Ohio, who designed system and talked to us several times, is dependable and reach-able. Yes, its not cheap. And, at least one “knock-off” is now on market; yet, here and elsewhere, users have positive reviews/ comments. We’ve done just outings and few day trips, so our end-of season cleaning is simple. Pump-out stations are far away & time-killing. Great to eliminate black-water hoses & tank. Lots of oyster areas on our land and nearby; so, we like being no-discharge.

  • tami
    Posted at 26 January 2015 Reply

    Sandy, the proprietor of C-Head, developed the concept for use aboard his Gemini catamaran, if I recall

    We have installed a C-Head and think very well of it. No more holding tanks for us. Like the fact that the C-Head parts are commonly available.

  • Diane Dashevsky
    Posted at 29 January 2015 Reply

    Having read most of the replies, I hope I remember all the concerns expressed.

    Our experience: Had a traditional marine toilet on our Tartan 37 (Raritan)…pulled it out and had it “refurbished” by the manufacturer, installed latest and greatest new hoses…still couldn’t get rid of the “potty smell” in the boat. Purchased a Nature’s Head, installed (easy install) and LOVE LOVE LOVE it!!! We were on a 7 mos cruise at the time and only had to empty the solids tank once! Pee bottle emptying would vary depending on our fluid intake! Potty smell was immediately gone after installation and NEVER returned.

    So…when we purchased our second vessel last spring (a 40 ft trawler) as our winter home, we knew we were going to pull out the 2 electrosan heads and install composting heads. We purchased 2 more Nature Heads at the Annapolis Boat Show and had them shipped to FL. If the Nature’s Head “fit” on a 37′ sailboat, it would surely fit on a 40′ trawler, right?? WRONG!!! The 2 heads ordered would not fit in either head…so we returned them and found Air Heads with a variety of sizes. Two more heads ordered.
    Installation of the Air Heads was not quite as simple as the Nature’s Head, but not bad.

    Details and hints:

    – We use peat moss as our composting material – available nearly everywhere, even in winter. Only need about a half of a small bag per head.

    – Toilet paper NEVER goes in the head…I purchased small stainless steel “step on” cans and line with either grocery bags or wastebasket liners if they are on sale. Tie up the bad and toss in the trash. Note: We never put paper in our traditional head either – less chance of clogging and extended the time a bit between pumpouts.

    – We prefer the design of Nature’s Head – especially when it comes to the location of the “exhaust” fan. With Nature’s Head you can determine immediately if it is running or not…with the Air Head, the fan is located at the end of the hose where you vent to the outside…can be difficult to know if it is running. We will be installing an in-line fuse.

    The Nature’s Head pee bottle is also larger = less frequent emptying.

    – Cleaning the liquids bottle: DENTURE TABLETS!!! Put some fresh water in after emptying, drop in 2-3 denture tablets, swish and let sit. Empty and replace bottle that is now clean and fresh smelling!

    – TIP: Turn the crank on the solids tank at least once a day…even if you don’t use it. If you are away from the boat for a while (i.e. weekend boaters) turn crank before leaving the boat and first thing when you return. Our peat moss lasted the entire Spring/Summer season with frequent turning. When we emptied the tank to put the boat on the hard for the winter, we literally could have taken it home and put it on the garden…there was absolutely NO odor except to smell like dirt!!! On the trawler, as liveaboards, we haven’t needed to change it yet – and it’s been 3 mos. NO ODOR, NO poopy bugs, etc. Turn, turn, turn!! When you DO empty the solids container, simply empty into a garbage bag and put in trash/dumpster…unless you have a garden that can use some compost 🙂 DO NOT wash the container! There are useful bacteria remaining in the tank that will help hasten the composting process when you add new peat moss. If you are putting the boat on the hard, you can either wash it or just wrap plastic wrap over the top.
    – Regardless of brand of composting head, it will be the best boat bucks you EVER spent! And no more looking for or needing pumpouts!!! YAY!!!

    Glad to hear so many others are as pleased with their composting heads as us. Several of our friends have made the move after seeing our experience.

  • Liz
    Posted at 27 March 2015 Reply

    We have an Airhead. We find our aim is good enough that we don’t need the coffee filters to line the bowl unless we’re having intestinal issues. We put soiled TP into the poo-bucket and urine-only TP and baby wipes into the lidded trash.

    The poo-bucket likes to have a teaspoon or so of septic-tank digester-germs sprinkled into it every now and then. This dramatically speeds up the transformation of TP into dirt. Get these germs in Home Depot. If you’re abroad, you can do without, it will just take longer to turn your TP into dirt so your poo-bucket will fill faster. Or, you could just put all of your TP into the trash.

  • Amelia
    Posted at 05 November 2015 Reply

    While designing the head for our hand-made houseboat, we looked into all sorts of options: standard boat heads with holding tanks, treat-and-dump systems, and the major players for composting heads. We ended up with a C-Head, because it was half the price, easier to install, easier to maintain than the competitors, and fit our space perfectly. That was at least three years ago, and we remain pleased. I, no mechanical expert, assembled it myself, carried it out to the boat, and in about a half hour, it was entirely installed, ready for use. Ours has a height and width that is comparable to the average shoreside toilet, (though there are several height and bulkhead configurations) it uses an off-the-shelf toilet seat, it needs no platform, special cabinetry, or allowances for a side-crank. Cleaning it is utter inoffensive simplicity, and there is absolutely no odor. So far, no bugs, either. We have tried a variety of media for desiccating the solid waste, and while the coir bricks are compact and easy to store, we like the cypress sawdust left over from our interior paneling and cabinetry best.
    We empty the urine container, that ubiquitous, free, 1-gal milk/water jug, daily. The smaller container size isn’t a drawback, it’s a feature! it’s the pee that begins to smell bad. We want it gone often. My husband scoops the solid bucket as if it were a cat box, considerably extending the time between ‘litter’ changes. No smell, no ick factor, just sawdusty lumps into a plastic grocery bag, thence emptied into the nearest shoreside toilet. We arrived at this solution after several other almost-as-easy thoughts, and it works for him, and thus for me. The paper goes in the head, and by the time Himself gets around to scooping, it is dry and dusty, goes in the same bag as the dried lumps. If only we could design a cat box as yuck-free!
    We never installed a vent fan, as the tube to the bulkhead, screened, provides plenty of Venturi-effect ventilation.
    Drawbacks: Some guys seem to be very proud of their special ability to stand up to urinate, and cannot bring themselves to comply with the directive to Sit Down, this means YOU, These habit-bound gents are directed to the lee rail, to prevent splattering the wall and at the same time, soaking the fiber. That is the only ‘problem’ I can think of, so far.
    The C-Head has proved a very civilized approach to waste management, and so far, we remain pleased.

  • Sue
    Posted at 09 November 2015 Reply

    You might find our FB group interesting. Most of the members are UK narrowboaters on the canals of Britain. Members are either thinking about getting one or already have diy and commercially bought composing toilets and there’s lots of toilet based chat which is straight to the point! The docs in the ‘Files’ section are also very helpful.

  • Brad
    Posted at 31 January 2016 Reply

    The Nature’s Head and Airhead both vent the moist, stinky air outside. The C Head does not. That air is going somewhere. The NH and AH are emptied about once a month with two people full time, the C Head once a week. The NH and AH are seriously well made the strongest possible way – rotomolded plastic (same as kayaks). C Head uses flat panels, starboard I believe, mechanically fastened. Starboard is light and brittle. The NH and Airhead use marine grade stainless crank and rotating mechanism. The Chead uses what appears to be a paint stirring device. You get what you pay for. They are NOT all the same.

    • Capt Sandy
      Posted at 03 March 2016 Reply

      You clearly have never seen a C-Head.

      • s/v Dulcinea
        Posted at 10 November 2016 Reply

        None of this is true… If interested in composting toilets, I would seriously consider the as it is by far the most affordable. I find it is very well constructed, and has a smaller footprint then most of the others. In addition, it has no proprietary parts, and repairs can be made in almost any part of the world.

      • Rob Bridges
        Posted at 18 July 2017 Reply

        Hear, hear…..Brad does not know what he speaks of. You can vent th C-head if needed, but I have never spoken to someone who has as the solids and liquids don’t mix which would be part of the reason for venting. As for the install, it is solid and does not look like there will be any faliures of the system…will report back in Sept after our 4 weeks of cruising Desolation SOund.

  • Amelia
    Posted at 29 February 2016 Reply

    I wonder if dear Brad has every even seen, much less used a C-Head. He certainly spends a lot of time on various forums bad-mouthing them for some very odd reason.. But whatever. If he is having a great time with his ever-so-superior-rotomolded-better’n-yours pot, more power to him. Our poor little half-the-price, half-the-weight, fits-anywhere C-Head is in great shape four years after purchase, we still like it, it still looks new, smells new, it takes up very little space, and it just plain works..I expect it to outlast its owners, which is all we ask of it.

  • John
    Posted at 20 December 2016 Reply

    LOLOL, who knew there were marine toilet trolls?
    This Brad dude has got to be involved with AH or NH, why else would someone so persistently spread the same weak information. I’m researching these things and he pops up everywhere! Always saying the same thing. Dude is so caught up in the price. I think most boat owners aren’t hung up on $300, we just want what fits our needs and c-head seems to do that.

    I’m gonna buy a c-head just to spite this man.

    The way I see the evolution of these products in a nutshell:
    The original Sunmar-esque systems were ousted by marine centric versions(AH & NH).
    The AH & NH, which are basically the same thing, are great. The c-head is a lateral evolution of the AH & NH and also great.

    And lastly, emptying the waste weekly is preferable to me. I don’t see the opportunity to hang out with my poo 4x longer as an advantage.

  • Peggy
    Posted at 22 March 2017 Reply

    we use dog poop bags for tissue on our boats. When knotted after use, they do not smell… They come in tiny rolls that are easy to keep stored close to the location needed… Reasonable price. Put a hook on each boat next to the roll.
    Not sure how charterers will accept composting toilets but I would love to get away from holding tanks and clogs!!!!!

    • Rob Bridges
      Posted at 18 July 2017 Reply

      No TP in composting toilet. Neat idea for using poop bags. We have done something similar on our boat with the old head and the new head. We also don’t flush TP in our RV. Leads to cloggs, solids dam in tank and other issues.

  • Jen
    Posted at 13 July 2017 Reply

    Ahhhh so many comments to make, so little time!

    4 years ago I bought a 1980 boat with a 1980 head and holding tank. After much research I ripped it out and put in an Airhead (also had the yard glass in the holes). The removal of the old was gross, but I had planned it out well (plastic taped down, pre-cut plastic squares and rubber bands on hand for easy capping off of hoses, lots of gloves, pro tip: double up on gloves so you can remove one set and continue to the next without stopping, cleared with my marina my plan for dumping the old stuff). It was quite satisfying in the end and the boat instantly smelled better.

    My kitty and I mostly happily used the airhead for a year (she is toilet trained). I say mostly because the urine jug walk to the marina and pour got old fairly quickly. And the pour was stinky…. not appreciated by others using the marina bathroom (i tried to go off hours, but …) Getting lazy or misjudging how much I had to go and overfilling is no fun either. The solids was surprisingly no big deal. Even living aboard I changed every 2.5-3 months (but i was working on shore so usually did that business there just out of timing of coffee consumption). A garden dowel was perfect for the job. No smell other than the smell of dirt. Joy.

    Then the man who is now my husband started coming around. To say he was skeptical would be an understatement. He was impressed at the lack of smell (and the toilet-using kitty), but feared he would fill the solids tank in one shot (really, honey, really?) We also learned the hard way that he wasn’t urinating at the correct angle. After 2 solids-liquefying incidents (far less pleasant emptying experience), I pointed the finger squarely at him and he figured out the better angle.

    Right around this time I floated the notion of diverting the liquids overboard. Yes yes I know not compliant coastal waters etc etc but how is this any different from the men all peeing off the dock in the early morning hours hmm? Or grey water from the galley? (please don’t shred me on this, this is not what the post is about). So I got a whale foot pump, and ordered a new liquids container with the fitting on the bottom from Airhead. One problem though: I had glassed in the old thruhull for the holding tank. Couldn’t tie into the head sink as was too low to the waterline. Had to run it back to a deck drainer scupper thruhull. Lot of hassle, but worked in the end. For a brief time, life was grand.

    Until it wasn’t. The foot pump action started getting harder. And harder. Then stopped all together. We hadn’t installed the hoses thinking about easy disassembly, so messy disassembly is what ensued. I don’t think I have to tell you guys about stale pee. Except I’ll remind you that in our mix we had stale cat pee as well. As a previous commenter pointed out, the fitting out the tank bottom is ridiculously small, prompting small hoses as well. All had gotten clogged with crystals. The only thing that worked in the end was completely removing the hose, physically banging it on the dock and forcing water through it till it ran clean. The husband did it that first time. He made me do it the second time to feel the pain. That time being after our poor poor friend boat-sat for a few days near the end of the crystallization time frame, and couldn’t get the pump to pump. I still apologize to him about that.

    There were other problems too…. sitting in the cockpit on the side of the boat with the vent was unpleasant (i wish i had run the vent all the way to the stern, but, hassle) the stirrer for the solids didn’t stir everything, only the middle. (really bad design). The times that the husband sloshed urine into the poo and everything went to goo, the seals all oozed. I ended up pointing out these design flaws to the proprietor, nicely, as polite constructive criticism (we had chatted several times before as he was pretty pleased with the cat-toilet-story). He blew up at me (over email) and we never conversed again.

    By this point, husband was actual husband, and we had decided to sell my boat and consolidate onto his. When we first met I knew that would be the way of it, and told him then that I’d want him to consider a composting head on his boat. He said he would. After the 2 years on mine, the poo ooze, the urine crystals, the overflows, etc. etc. I didn’t even bring it up.

    In the end, I say this: I asked more from the Airhead than it was designed for, and did not take heed about the instructions for men urinating. (though husband’s point was this: “am i supposed to go into the head with guys and show them how to hold and point their d#@^s?”) The cat use likely prompted more rapid crystallization, and had I still had a holding tank thruhull, that problem may have been easier to solve. However, I think the Airhead is very poorly designed, especially for the price. And from what I’ve seen of the Natures Head, it too. If I had to do it all over again, I would have gone C-head (but I didn’t have that kind of space) or, built my own… but then again I wouldn’t have all the knowledge I do now. I am glad that I don’t have an Airhead any longer.

    • Rob Bridges
      Posted at 18 July 2017 Reply

      Yes for a positive experience, men must sit while urinating on all composting toilets. Now I know what it is like when my wife grumbles about stripping down out of layers of rain gear and warm clothing. I decided to keep a hospital urine bottle at hand for rough weather. I have heard of the crystal issue and I was told that vinegar helps reduce this problem. Peeing in the wrong direction is also a concern, but I think the C-Head is better designed for this…. I have not yet glassed the thru hull and the C-Head has a nice diverter package but I will wait to see how the milk jug design works. Your experience with AirHead has been echoed by my friend.

  • Rob Bridges
    Posted at 18 July 2017 Reply

    Will the time came to rid ourselves of the stink. We were happy with the head we were using on Otter, but our holding tank was small and always smelled like… know. So we thought about getting a bigger holding tank, mainly because we like the Lavac Head that we were using. After searching, planning and pricing the upgrade I was feeling doomed to keeping the current tank. Then I went to a boat show and saw the composting head – what an idea. This opened new research and after 3 years I bought the C-Head.
    I watched hours of YouTube videos, read many accounts of composting heads and visited with folks at boat shows and in the end I decided that pros were stronger for the head I purchased. Now understand that the AirHead and Natures Head are fine products that are well made but the C-Head is simple and has a feature that I really like – price. In the end an account from a friend who was using one of the other product convinced me the direction I wanted to go.
    He told me of a story of sailing with some friend and the #1 tank filled up. He decide to empty the tank while under sail so he proceeded to take the top off and set it aside – about when a wave hit the fore quarter which caused the liquid to slosh out of the tank. With the tank dripping he headed to the disposal area.
    Now I envisioned the same scenario with the C-Head – lift the lid, screw the cap on the 1 gallon milk jug (yes it uses milk/water jugs), lift out the full container and place a new empty container inside the cabinet. If there was spillage it would be contained in the cabinet that could be cleaned when calm waters are reached. The full bottle could be stored on deck until a disposal site is available.
    Installation was very easy and had it done in a couple of hours – needed some different screws so I walked to the chandlery which was part of my install time. Fits well in our WC.
    The unit has seen little use to date, but will get the full function, long term test shortly – we are headed to Desolation Sound for a month and will be sure to comment of how things worked out. I worry as to whether we will have enough media for the #2 tank so I am sure we will have too much onboard. We have coconut coir and we are using a leftover bag of wood pellets that our cat used before she moved on to kitty heaven. The wood pellets seem to do a good job, but like the coir need to be broken down in water before use. They do put out that nice pine woodshop smell, which is a plus for me.
    I will let you know how it goes with a month of use.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 18 July 2017 Reply

      The AirHead must have been the spilly one as we do the same tilt the top, screw on the cap and then remove with the Nature’s Head — and since we have two bottles, it makes the swap out very easy. Glad that the C-Head is working for you!

  • Frank E Francisco
    Posted at 21 October 2017 Reply

    I just started researching compost heads. Very interesting. I purchased a 50′ sailboat last summer. It has 3 Jabsco toilets. The last thing I want to do is maintain them. Sounds like the C-Head is the way to go, but only one for now. As for the pee problem, from my days as a college biology student we determined therer is no bacteria in urine. Ntrogen, yes but certainly not much per quart. I see nothing wrong with dumping it overboard, however you do it. My 48′ sailboat which I have cruised for the past 30 years has no y valve and the toilet empties to a 15 gallon holding tank. In pristine harbors I close the overboard and open when in open waters.. I worry about it plugging up but it hasn’t happened so far. I have overhauled the Raritan toilet 5 or 6 times. Now I will definitely look into installing a C-Head in my new boat. Thanks for the posts.

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