17/05/2013
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Gear guide - camping toilets and showers

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The toilet is an emotive subject. We all love nice warm wash blocks with hot showers and soft paper but sometimes you need your own facilities – especially if exploring some of our more remote campsites or taking part in a rally. In fact, even parents with a young family can benefit from their own small chemical toilet if they want to minimise late night tramps across the campsite.

If this sort of talk is mildly disturbing then let me put your mind at rest. Gone are the days of latrine trenches dug behind Hessian screens, the successful construction of which would get any camper their master craftsman badge. No, now we have top toilet tents like the Paha Que Teepee filled with luxurious bogs and even showers!

OK, some sites will not allow the use of a toilet tent – after all, aren’t their facilities good enough? Well, no. Not when you are dragging fractious and desperate offspring across a wet campsite in the dark (have you noticed that families are always pitched the farthest from the toilet?). It is then that you really wish you had a little portable toilet tucked away in the spare bedroom.

However, in the good tradition of camping gear your kit will not be wasted if banned from site. Portable toilets are a good standby at home if you develop a blocked sewer or are going for a bathroom redesign. We take a solar shower on beach walks. It sits on our car’s parcel shelf where it rapidly heats in the sun. The resulting warm water is a delight when washing off the sand – even our dog now appreciates the quick paw and coat swill before setting off back to camp.

Of course, many of the accessories are equally at home at, er, home and in the campsite’s facilities as they are in the toilet tent. A good washbag keeps everything dry and tidy. Microfibre bath towels pack small, work well and dry quickly – just the job for the sports bag. Lightweight campers will find that universal wash will take care of skin, hair and dirty pots. It is only your imagination that limits use.

So, to help you on your way we’ve come up with just a few items on the market that will help fire your neurons and get you thinking about campsite cleanliness and toilet sizes.
 
BUCKET AND CHUCK IT

Simple is often best and here we have the portable toilet at its most basic. The £23.98 Luggable Loo (blue-diamond-products.co.uk) is a bucket with seat and lid. Prime with some water and toilet chemical and away you go. Stability is a tad suspect so sit with caution. And emptying the heavy bucket can be fraught. But they are popular and certainly a good standby. The £19.99 Kampa Khazi (kampa.co.uk) is more stable and sophisticated po altogether – but still a bucket. Prices are a guide only – shop around for bargains.
 
TOP TOILETS
Here are three portable toilets showing different flush designs and sizes available. There are a number of companies offering similar products – including those mentioned in Bucket and Chuck It, and the manufacturers here have different toilet in their ranges. Shop around for top deals and the type that suits you.
 
LUXURY LOO

Porta Potti 465
Expect to pay £148
thetford.com
Size 41cm x 38cm x 42cm
Fresh/waste capacity 15/21 litres
Comfort Good and solid
Flush Strong action to bottom of fresh reservoir
Emptying Autolock prevents waste slide valve opening; air release valve falls to thumb; rotating spout easy to use
Camping says Thetford has to be the top toilet manufacturer and the Porta Potti brand is synonymous with chemical crappers. And, this is the bee’s knees. Features like electric flush (6 x AA batteries), waste level indicator and a recess for storing small bottles of toilet fluid all add to the quality build to create the Rolls Royce of portable toilets.
 
STRONG WORKHORSEcampingaz euro wc

Campingaz Euro WC Platinum L
Expect to pay £79.99
campingaz.co.uk
Size 38cm x 35cm x 43cm
Fresh/waste capacity 13/20 litres
Comfort Good and stable
Flush Manual pump delivers strong jet until the bottom of fresh tank, but misses front of pan
Emptying A heavy waste tank and moulded block for a handle makes emptying tricky; the rear waste outlet is not as neat as Thetford’s rotating spout, but is ample to the job
Camping says The large Euro WC is a good, comfortable and stable toilet. It is made from easy-to-clean recyclable materials and the lack of metal means it should provide years of reliable service.
 
TOILETS FOR TOTS

Campingaz Porta Toilet
Expect to pay £59.99
campingaz.co.uk
Size 30cm x 37cm x 42cm
Fresh/waste capacity 12/10.5 litres
Comfort Very low but stable
Flush Manual bellows pump delivers strong jet but does not drain fresh tank. It also misses the back of the pan
Emptying The smaller waste tank makes this easy to empty, but its small size makes this a regular job; the rear waste outlet is similar to the Euro WC
Camping says The compact Porta Toilet is ideal for campers with a smaller car and the low height is just the job for independent toddlers. This is a very useful bit of kit as long as you do not mind regular emptying.

CHEMICAL WASTE
Two treatments are normally used in a portable toilet. The first is a biodegradable cleaner that goes into the fresh water tank. It also protects against dirt marks and water deposits. The second goes into the waste tank to break down solids and prevent odours. Neat, these chemicals are quite aggressive so clean it off seals etc. But they are not as bad as they used to be. Environmental awareness has cleaned up the act.

Jon Oakes of portable toilet specialist One-Chem (one-chem.co.uk) says: “Formaldehyde and other toxic non-biodegradable chemicals are out. Enzyme action will do the same job and is far more environmentally friendly. Our own One-Chem is ph neutral and a dedicated biocide for waste. It will quickly eat solid waste, making emptying far easier and less unpleasant. It can also be used in both the fresh and waste tanks, doing away with the need for two treatments.”
 
WHAT A SHOWERsolar shower
A simple solar shower like those from Sea to Summit, Vango and Gelert, can produce plenty of hot water – even in our UK summers. Prices start from £5.99 and the low price tag makes these black PVC bags a cheap source of hot water – 20 litres is more than ample for a nice shower. But why not try an electric shower. I know of one camper who bought a shower tray from B&Q and rigged up his own en-suite using an electric pump and old showerhead. A big pot of boiling water was cooled with cold until warm enough for a comfortable shower.

If this is too much like hard work then buy a ready assembled shower like the £23.90 On Tap from Blue Diamond Products, pictured here. It runs off an 8 x D battery pack or from a car socket. Mixing boiling with cold in a bucket provides warm water – you supply the bucket…

The showerhead has adjustable settings. I often take this off and use mine to get cold water from an Aquaroll to the camp kitchen sink. This one comes with an adaptor for use with garden hose tools – remember, get the most out of your investment at every opportunity.
 
ACCESSORISE
Use a shower in the toilet tent and it stands to reason you will need something to keep the loo paper dry. Sea to Summit (seatosummit.com) is just one manufacturer with a solution. Its £9.99 Outhouse Toilet Roll Holder is in effect a drybag with an internal toilet roll hanger. And, while on the subject of toilet rolls you can buy tissue especially made for portable toilets – it degrades quickly and makes emptying easier.

Another useful bit of kit is the washbag like Outwell’s £12.99 Traveller Washbag M (outwell.co.uk). There are plenty of pockets to neatly separate items and keep wet kit from dry. The hard wearing water resistant outer is just the job for wet toilet tents and shower rooms. It even has a simple strap that acts as a towel rail.

And, where would we be without microfibre towels. This £17.99 Gelert Global Bath Towel (gelert.com) is soft, highly absorbent, lightweight and low bulk, quick drying and odour resistant. In fact, it is everything that a camping towel needs to be.

Few major outdoor manufacturers can resist putting such accessories in their range and it is worth checking them all out. From toothbrush head protectors to unbreakable mirrors, there is something for everyone who wishes to pimp their washroom.

For more gear guides, click here, or to see reviews of camping products, just click here.

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