Camping toilets: a complete guide
If you are wild camping, camping off-grid or the campsite you book onto doesn’t have toilet facilities, you will need to consider alternative arrangements
While motorhomers and caravanners are used to having their own toilets on board, most tent campers tend to rely on the campsite facilities. So, if you are planning a family holiday on a site where the amenities are limited, you'll need to think about buying a portable camping toilet
- Types of camping toilets
- Camping toilet chemicals
- Emptying a camping toilet
- Cleaning a camping toilet
- Camping toilet tents
- About our magazines
Words by Iain Duff
Types of camping toilets
Camping toilets can literally range from a hole in the ground to a fully flushing toilet. The best camping toilet for you will depend on various factors, including budget, length of trips and how many campers will be using it.
Bucket camping toilet
If you’re wild camping, all you need is a mini shovel and some toilet roll. But if you are camping on a site your first option to consider is a basic ‘bucket’ type model. The most basic approach is a bucket with some cat litter inside to absorb the smell.
This is perhaps best suited as an emergency-only option, with a strict ‘no solids’ rule, as it will need regular emptying. Another alternative is the Bog-in-a-Bag, which is lightweight and disposable and a good choice for festivals.
Non-flushing camping toilet
The next level up is a simple, non-flushing, portable toilet, like the Kampa Khazi (and the larger King Khazi), the Big Loo from Outdoor Revolution and Outwell’s 7L portable toilet. Here we have the portable toilet at its most basic – essentially a bucket with a seat and lid. These are relatively lightweight and compact, so are easier to transport in the car than the bulkier flushing models.
They are also more affordable, usually coming in at under £20. Prime with some water and toilet fluid and then you can start using it. These can be unstable and emptying the heavy bucket down the toilet can be tricky, too, but they are popular.
Flushing camping toilet
(Photo courtesy of Thetford)
For longer trips, flushing portable toilets offer more in the way of comfort and convenience. The best known is probably the Porta Potti range from Thetford, but other manufacturers produce their own, including Outwell’s Portable Toilet.
Although they tend to be quite bulky, they are far more stable than the bucket-style, so there is less chance of accidents. And the biggest plus with a flushing loo is that there should be no nasty smells. These toilets have a manual flush and detachable tank for emptying, and are used with special chemicals that break down the waste and mask the smell.
The eco-friendly Blue Diamond Nature Calls toilet was the first portable composting toilet. The separation of liquids and solids makes disposal of waste more environmentally sound, removing the need for water or chemicals. Coffee chaff or sawdust (supplied separately) dries out the solid waste and masks the smell. Solids can be added to any compost heap whereas liquids can just go straight down the drain.
Another environmentally friendly option is the WandaGO, from German company, Trobolo, which uses a composting system.
Because there are no chemicals involved, getting rid of the waste is easy, with no need to use a chemical disposal point. Solid waste can go in any regular rubbish bin, just like used nappies, and liquid waste can be poured down any toilet or diluted with water and used as a natural fertiliser.
The Popaloo uses a dry powder waste gelling system and biodegradable bags. The toilet itself folds flat into a carry case so it is easy to transport.
Camping toilet chemicals
(Photo courtesy of Thetford)
For a normal flushing portable toilet, you’ll need two liquid chemicals. The first (pink) is a cleaner that goes into the flushing tank. It cleans the bowl when you flush and also protects against dirt marks and water deposits. If you are using a non-flushing toilet you obviously don’t need the pink liquid.
The second (blue) goes into the waste tank to break down solids and prevent odours. There is a green alternative to the blue liquid, which uses more natural methods to break down the waste. Some campsites will only accept this type of product, so make sure you check in advance or take both.
Toilet chemicals are available widely from camping and outdoor shops. Thetford provides an extensive range of pink, blue and green products, including sachets, which are a convenient alternative to bulky bottles of liquid. Kampa has also launched a range of eco-friendly toilet liquid, which comes in the more pleasant fragrances of spearmint, pomegranate and pine.
Emptying a camping toilet
The majority of campsites – especially those that accept motorhomes and caravans – have chemical waste disposal points. These are the only place you should get rid of toilet waste. Never pour it down the general water disposal drains and definitely keep it well clear of fresh water.
The tanks in flushable toilets can get quite heavy, so it’s advisable to empty them every day. Stick on a pair of gloves, carefully remove the cassette from the toilet unit and carry it to the disposal area. Empty the tank, flush away the contents, then rinse it out using the hose provided. Back at the tent, make sure you fill it with chemicals again.
Cleaning a camping toilet
It’s recommended that you give your portable camping toilet a clean down every few days while it’s in use and give it a thorough clean after every trip.
Proper cleaning is crucial for hygiene and keeping the toilet in good working condition. Keep the inside of the bowl clean with specially made cleaning products that are safe to use on plastics. The exterior surfaces can be wiped down with hot water or cleaning wipes. At home, make sure the interior of the toilet is completely clean by taking it outside and hosing it down. There are various products available for cleaning the cassette or you could try the DIY option by using white vinegar.
Use silicone spray on the seals to prevent the rubber from drying out and breaking down.
Camping toilet tents
(Photo by Iain Duff)
If your tent has an enclosed side porch then that’s the perfect place to create a makeshift camping WC, especially if it has a zip door sealing it off from the main body of the tent. A spare bedroom in a large family tent is another option. If your tent is smaller or has a large single living/sleeping area (like a bell tent or a tipi) then you might have to be creative with your set-up to provide some privacy. Fashion a privacy screen using a blanket or a throw draped over some furniture, perhaps.
The simple solution is to buy a stand-alone, pop-up toilet tent. Olpro, Kampa, Outwell and Quechua are among the brands that produce these simple tents, which can be used both as a toilet and a shower cubicle. Some campsites don’t allow them so check in advance, but most should be sympathetic.
Can I use regular toilet paper?
You can use regular loo roll in your flushing camping toilet, but you should keep its use to a minimum. Wet toilet paper can form clumps and clog up the tank, making it difficult to empty and clean. It’s far better to use specially designed, fast-dissolving toilet paper such as Thetford’s Aqua Soft. Don’t put any other waste into the toilet, such as nappies, wipes and sanitary items.
What size of tank do I need?
If you decide on a flushing toilet, you’ll need to consider what size of waste tank you need. For a small family a 10-litre tank will probably suffice, but for bigger groups a 20-litre capacity is recommended.
Can you poop in a camping toilet?
The short answer is yes, you can. However, it’s recommended that if you have a bucket-style or non-flushing camping toilet, then there should be a liquids-only rule. In a flushing toilet, chemicals break down the waste and mask the smell so these are better suited for solid waste.
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