shows by example how easily you can eliminate stress, become more independent, raise your children in a safer environment (while spending more time with them, instilling values not based on the mighty dollar) and avoid the traps of commercialism. Because we live and sail simply, we have been wandering for 11 years with no intention of stopping. This is not a trip for us; it is our life, and I hope to share our success with stories of laughter and tears, as well as how-to tips and DIY projects for preparing, sailing and making a boat a home, so that others can join us.

Air Head or Nature's Head

March 18, 2013

Thank you for the response to our post about Air Head Composting Toilet. We received a lot of good information and first-hand experiences from composting head users. But what we noticed more than anything was the debate between brands. Because we are undecided about our next composting head, we thought there might be others like us out there who would like to learn more about both brands. Here's what we heard:

Cathy wrote:

"We have the Nature's Head--very similar. No worries about being in compliance with no-discharge zones."

Richard sent in a tip about using composting toilets:

"Great post on composting toilets. I have a tip. That second lower bin is expensive. I use a free 5 gallon ice cream bucket. When the bin needs emptying, I place a compostable plastic bag over the top, and invert the bin, dumping the contents into the bag. I then place the bag, open, in the 5 gallon bucket. If there have been recent deposits, you can optionally throw a shovel of soil on top, to contain odor and prevent flies. Put the lid on. Punch a few holes in the lid for ventilation, and let it sit. It sounds like work but the whole operation takes less than 5 minutes once a month. As a bonus, the 5 gallon bucket is easier to store than a second chamber, and could be used for other things in a pinch. (It doesn't get stinky, because it's always lined with a plastic bag).

The brand I use is the Nature's Head, which also works perfectly. I've used and installed both. As an aside, both companies, AH and NH, will give you a long list of "reasons" why their toilet is superior, but in real life there are few substantial differences."

Air Head

We looked at the websites and and could find only a few differences: an inch here and there, a slightly different configuration for the seat, fan and liquids container.

Here's what a reader said about the differences:

"Regarding the differences...if you ask either manufacturer, they send you a list of why they are "better." Some of the stuff on these lists is out of date, and some not really 100% true.

For example, I believe both are now warrantied for 5 years. They are both roto-molded plastic, which is very tough, and use stainless hardware. NH says with the AH you can't change the handle from one side to the other. Well, if you think things through first you won't have to! [SSO Note: One reason this may be important is if, like us, you move your composting toilet between boats or between a boat and an RV. Having the option to change the handle side after purchase can be important.] AH says the NH must be opened slightly to remove the urine bottle. Yes, but just a crack and for about 2 seconds. Not a big deal. One has a molded in seat, one has a standard toilet seat. (pros and cons, all minor and just personal preference). One has the fan at the toilet, the other has the fan at the end of the house near the vent. I asked a ventilation engineer and he said no substantial difference--same resistance if you are pulling or pushing air and with something this small it doesn't matter. Both ventilate properly.

Nature's Head

Actual, important differences? The AH with marine seat I believe requires about 19" from the wall, while the NH, only available with full sized seat, requires 20". The AH ships with a lid to the lower chamber, which some might like. The NH is about $100 less expensive. All in all, it's a toss up. For me, the $100 decided it. If that one inch was critical, I'd have gone to the AH.

There is a third toilet. The C-Head. It's a low budget concept, that uses standard flat plastic panels (until recently plywood) glued together, rather than the extremely expensive to set up (and strong) roto-molding process. It uses rubber tie downs, rather than stainless brackets, does not have a fan (!), and must be emptied once a week, rather than once a month. I don't recommend it."

Thanks to all for the great information. As far as the C-Head, after looking at their website it is not an option for us. The C-Head is in a different league, especially since it needs to be emptied one a week and the deposits stored somewhere else on board.

Nature's Head sent me the following.

"Nature's Head is a self-contained composting toilet. The head has many features such as the spider handle for narrow installations and the molded in seat. All the features and the complete installation and users guide are available on our website. Also there are power point presentations and an installation video in a sailboat by Jim Grant of Sailrite. Nature's Head is available by email or phone 7 days a week for questions or for orders. Nature's Head price is $875.00 and $35.00 UPS shipping in the US. The units are always in stock for immediate shipping. Nature's Head is proudly manufactured in the USA! Please feel free to call or email with any questions or concerns. 251-295-3043 [email protected]"

I know from experience that Larry at Nature's Head is willing to answer any questions or address any concerns you have about composting toilets in general or Nature's Head toilets specifically. He also included the following interesting note:

"Connie, this might be of interest to you and your readers. There are some areas of the US such as Long Island that are considering banning gray water discharge. This has been proposed. Since most boats have hardly room for a black water tank they sure do not have room for a gray water tank. The composting heads will give you this freedom to use the black water tank for gray water. These are regulations that will be coming."

Something else to consider when thinking about making the move to composting toilets onboard. Whether our next head will be composting or not is not a debate. For us, it just makes sense, especially on a small boat that travels far. The only question still remaining, is which one? We'll let you know our decision when we finally make one. Until then, feel free to keep the comments coming.

You recognize the boat from half a mile. Then, when it swings around and heads toward you, your heart beat increases and you run through your gear. Do you have it all? Is it all up to date? What could you possibly get busted for? Worse than getting stopped by a police car, being boarded by the Coast Guard can be stressful, even if you're not doing anything wrong. MONDAY we'll share our experiences and some tips to make these boardings less stressful.

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