A camping toilet won’t be a top concern for newcomers to the great outdoors. In all likelihood, you won’t even think of it. It’s not a great conversation starter at family dinners or parties or date nights. But when nature calls in nature, you’ll realize how important it actually is.
We’re so used to relieving ourselves cozily and comfortably whenever we need that we’ve been taking it for granted. And there’s hardly anything so distressing as a toilet that breaks on you – or heavens forbid, under you.
That’s why we decided to cover this important, if unsavory, topic. Hunting, homesteading, off-grid living and other outdoor lifestyles aren’t always idyllic. In fact, they almost never are. And part of our training is learning to take care of even the dirtiest business our bodies engage in.
How to Do Number Two in a Nature-Friendly Way
Why bring yet another piece of gear when you can squat behind a bush? It’s not like our ancestors had any of our fancy toilet bowls and other tools to make the process more comfortable and less, well, repulsive. And if birds and bears and deer and other god’s creatures can do it everywhere without so much as wagging their tail in doubt, why shouldn’t we?
It might be hard to believe, but there’s a whole science, ethics – some would say, even art – behind the simple act of going number two in nature.
There are even handbooks to read, one of the most interesting being Kathleen Meyer’s classic “How to Sh*t in the Woods”. As much as it makes an amusing gift idea for your nature loving friends, this hilarious book doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. In fact, it boils down to a simple ecological message: Thou shalt not leave your waste behind. Whenever possible, you should dig out a cat hole to bury the caca. Preferably, without toilet paper. (Meyer advises to do the job first, dig the hole later – better than doing vice versa and having to aim.)
And if you happen to be on a dry, arid or rocky ground where digging a hole would require the muscles and stamina of Conan the Barbarian, you should simply and elegantly pack it up and bring it with you back to civilization, where you can dispose of it properly. It’s gross alright, but you’ll learn to live with it.
I would add another common-sense requirement: if you choose to poop in a cathole, make sure you do it at least 200 feet away from any water source. The farther, the better.
Do You Need a Camping Toilet? Maybe Not, But I Know I Do
Meyer wrote her book back in the 1990s, when the heap of human dirt that the earth had to endure was at least a bit smaller than it is today. Plus, the outdoor market wasn’t nearly as rich with different options as it is now. All the less excuse for not dealing with the byproduct of your hearty lunch in 2020 and beyond!
Now, that’s exactly why our camping toilets come in handy. No need to dig holes or bring dog poop bags with you. Just bring one of these and you can focus on the business at hand guilt-free. By doing so, you’ll spare mother nature the need to forcefully degrade yet another pile of human output. She’s already had enough with all the toilet paper.
More importantly, you’ll be one of the reasons why our grandchildren will (hopefully) be able to start drinking mountain water without a purifier, just like our grandparents did. Cool mountain streams appear mouthwatering clean even today, but if you indulge your thirst and take a sip, you might be in for serious trouble.
Portable or Camping Toilet – Three Basic Types
All portable toilets serve the same function, but they can be surprisingly different in terms of how they function. Most options I’ve seen and tested will roughly fall into one of three groups:
- Buckets. I’m not joking, they really are a commercial type of toilet! But they are still as simple as they sound. You can even DIY them for under $20, and you don’t even have to be very crafty. Just get a toilet seat such as this one to fit your bucket. And make sure you acquire loads of sawdust or cat litter. You will need them with this type of toilet! Naturally, this is the cheapest option.
- Cassette toilets. Like their name suggests, these consist of two parts: the bowl itself, often equipped with fresh water for flushing, and a separate cassette where the waste goes. These will cost more than bucket-type toilets, but a lot less than our next type. They are also typically lightweight and compact, so you can carry them with you. I’ve known folks that even use them as a second bathroom in their homes. Keep two things in mind if you opt for this type. First, empty and clean them as often as possible. They are usually easy to clean, so you should take advantage of it. Second, always use waste dissolving drop-ins. They will liquify the yuck, making the job easier for you.
- Compost toilets. These are a relatively huge investment and therefore most adequate for people who are spending most of their time outside of the plumbing zone – such as homesteaders. Compost toilets are heavy and need quite a bit of know-how to install. On the bright side, you only need to empty them once every 4-6 weeks.
Best Camping Toilet – Our 9 Cents
If you ask your common sense, making a decent camping toilet can’t be rocket science. If you can put together an uncomfortable but functional toilet bucket, why wouldn’t a manufacturer be able to produce a perfectly functional and functionally perfect portable toilet?
You’d be surprised! We’ve sifted through hundreds of camping toilets (and tested at least a dozen), and I have to say: none of them are perfect. None of them can hit the sweet spot that’s lying in between portability, ease of use, ease of cleaning (which is paramount), smell management, reasonable price and decent quality. When I think of it, I’m almost becoming a fan of catholes or dog poop bags.
But you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do, and it’s certainly easier to do it in controlled circumstances than in a public camping toilet. So, here are the 9 carefully handpicked options that won’t frustrate you too much.
1. Luggable Loo Portable 5 Gallon Bucket Toilet With a Seat
Say hello to the best bucket-type camping toilet on the market. This camping toilet really isn’t a space shuttle. Basically, it’s an advanced potty bucket with a snap-on lid to keep things under control. You definitely won’t need an instructions guide with this one. Its 5-gallon capacity is enough for the whole family, for a day or two.
When I first saw the product, the 5-gallon label didn’t sound very promising. Sure it’s plenty, but plenty isn’t necessarily an advantage in such circumstances. You should scoop in some cat litter or peat moss after every use. It really makes things so much more pleasant. Another step you can take in this direction is getting rid of the bag after every session.
Poop bags are not included, but you should definitely consider getting a batch of Double Doodie Bags from the same manufacturer. With this type of product, a perfect fit does matter.
- The seat is comfortable
- Very affordable
- Doesn’t smell if you use litter, saw dust, or peat moss
- Lightweight (when empty) and relatively compact to put in a car
- Sturdy handles that won’t fail you
- Easy to clean
- Great for every prepping household to have
- You need to buy bags separately (and often)
- A bit unstable – you can easily flip it over if you’re not careful
2. SereneLife Outdoor Portable Toilet with Carry Bag
Who knew that toilets could come with bells and whistles? This one even has a level indicator to let you know when it’s time to empty the waste tank. The capacity of 5.3 gallons exceeds Luggable Loo’s. There’s also the overall feeling that much resembles the experience on your regular toilet bowl. Namely, it flushes, and flushes relatively well. With 3.2 gallons of fresh water for flushing and rinsing, it will flush up to 50 times before you need to refill.
Admittedly, it is easy to clean – at least when compared to some other portable toilets we’ve had a chance to try out. All you need to do is rotate the orange spout, unscrew the cap, and off it goes. Keep in mind, however, that you need to use waste breaking drop-ins, as the only way to clean it effectively is to turn it liquid.
- Easy to clean
- Doesn’t smell
- Feature-rich and comfortable
- Can hold 50+ flushes on a single fill
- Good enough to serve as toilet in your off-grid cabin
- Comes with a carrying bag
- If you are a very big guy, you might find the seat a bit small
3. Nature’s Head Self Contained Composting Toilet
If you’re going on a very long camping trip or are looking for a toilet for your RV or summer cabin, this might be the way to go. Composting toilets do have their shortcomings, but they have hands down the most ample capacity. With this one, two people can use it for up to six weeks without emptying. However, they are nowhere near as portable as your other options. In fact, you usually have to mount them on the floor, just like you would with your regular toilet bowl.
This camping toilet, however, does need compost applications in order to function normally, that is, to turn your waste into compost. Be it saw dust or peat moss, whenever you’re done with the business, make sure to turn the spider handle several times so the yucky stuff can mix together.
- There’s an air circulation in the bowl, which deals with most of the smell
- Separate tanks for urine and solids
- No chemicals, unlike with “traditional” RV toilets
- No need to empty it too often
- Very expensive compared to other camping toilets
- Not very easy to install
- Not for the faint of heart when emptying time comes
- Pretty heavy
4. Thetford Porta Potti Camping Toilet
The “modern appearance” part of the product description is definitely something I can live without. However, the reason why you should consider this portable toilet is the fact that you can flush, which does wonders for smell management, even if it’s nowhere near your regular toilet flush. Plus, the contraption is very portable – with its 13 x 12 x 15 inches, 8 pounds and a carrying handle, it can tag along easily.
Now, this is a small and not very rugged camping toilet. Even though the manufacturer doesn’t say so, it’s probably best to use it for number one only. If you like Thetford’s technology but need a bigger toilet, scroll down to see our contestant #7.
- It’s flushable
- The lid latches well enough to prevent the smell coming out
- Very handy for number one
- Relatively easy to clean
- Flushing won’t always be completely effective
- Not very capacious
5. Camco Portable Travel Toilet
This model is one of the decent ones, in spite of a few shortcomings. Just like Thetford’s portable toilets, it’s one of those small potties that you can carry on camping trips, but sturdy enough to withstand more frequent use on your homestead. With 5.3 gallons of waste capacity, you won’t have to empty it every day (unless you have a super sensitive stomach).
Note, however, that the seat has 13 inches in width. So, if your rear end is a bit big boned, you may experience some trouble. It will also withstand up to 330 pounds in weight.
The waste tank is detachable. Which should mean less hassle when you need to empty and clean it. But that’s exactly where it gets gross: unlike Thetford, Camco hasn’t built a spout. So, if you’re not very careful when emptying the thing, it may splatter all over the place.
- Waste tank is detachable
- Decent capacity
- Doesn’t smell
- Comes with waste dissolving pods
- The seat is a bit small for big guys
- Doesn’t have a spout so emptying may be messy
6. Cleanwaste Portable Toilet w/ 1 Waste Kit
If you’re one of those people who can’t stand the emptying process of a cassette portable toilet (not to mention the more capacious compost toilets), this could be just the right potty for you. It’s basically a disposable bag attached to a foldable toilet seat, with a pair of legs (also foldable). When out of use, it only weighs 7 pounds, but will support all human weights.
What I especially like about this toilet is the comfort. You can tuck your legs underneath, which is impossible with cassette toilets. That way, you’ll almost feel like squatting – which is, in turn, good for bowel movement. Plus, it’s very discreet on the outside, if that’s something that matters to you. When folded, it looks just like a suitcase.
A potential downside could be the need to buy their bags all the time since the package only includes one of those. However, you can always switch to your regular 13-gallon trash bags.
- Most compact on our list
- Simple design – absolutely nothing can go wrong
- Discreet when folded
- Easy to clean
- Very affordable
- You’ll always need to buy disposable bag batches
7. Porta Potti White Thetford Corp
This cutie is a good option because of a nice balance of capacity (5.5 gallons of wastewater, 4 gallons of fresh water, 56 flushes give or take) and comfort. For instance, the seat is just as high as your regular toilet bowl, allowing for a way better user experience than with the smaller Thetford porta potti we listed above. Also, both tanks (for waste and fresh water) have level indicators. Which you definitely should pay attention to. Take it from someone who learned it the hard way.
It even has a toilet paper holder at the bottom, where you can reach for it easily. This little add-on will tempt you to dump the used toilet paper in the bowl, but you should definitely resist the temptation. Not only will your porta potti get full more quickly, but it will also be more difficult to clean. So, you should keep a separate trash bag or bin for used TP.
But those little conveniences are totally unimportant when compared to the ease of cleaning. So, how likely are you to barf on a scale of 1 to a composting toilet?
I would say, about 3. Which is actually great. Just rotate the waste spout, unscrew the protective cap from it, and press the round button.
- User-friendly and comfy
- Compact and relatively lightweight
- Comes with batteries and waste digestion liquids
- Level indicators for both tanks
- The flush is electric (battery-powered)
- A bit pricey
8. WolfWise Portable Pop Up Shower Privacy Tent
First of all, this is not a toilet. Just like its name suggests, it’s a thing made to meet any or all privacy purposes. Whether it’s taking a shower, dressing or undressing, or doing your #1 or #2 business, this tent will make it easy to focus on the action at hand.
As far as tents go, it’s sturdy and durable. The material is water repellent, and you’ll get four sand bags to keep it on the ground in windy conditions. It comes with a few useful add-ons such as hanging ropes for towels, clothes, toilet paper, as well as a side bag for your phone or newspaper (whatever you prefer reading on the throne).
Of course, the most significant con of this tent is that it’s not actually a toilet. But it’s a welcome addition to one, which is why we decided to feature it on our list.
- Versatile (use it for going potty, getting dressed, taking a shower)
- Great for campsites and other crowded places
- Stable, rain and windproof
- You still need to get a toilet
9. Reliance Products Hassock Portable Lightweight Self-Contained Toilet
We opened up this list with a Reliance Products product, and we intend to close it with one too. That’s because this manufacturer doesn’t try to glamorize the thing you poop into. This one is as simple as it gets: two buckets, one inside of another, a lid, and a toilet paper holder. The inner bucket is removable for emptying and cleaning. You’ll also need their Double Doodie bags (or pretty much any other disposable bags), an ample supply of kitty litter, and you’re ready to go.
You’ll also get a 5-year limited warranty. Not a bad thing, even though I can’t imagine any defects in a poop hassock.
- Very simple
- Extremely sturdy yet lightweight
- Easy to clean
- 5-year limited warranty
- Very affordable
- It does tend to smell if not emptied regularly
- You’ll need to buy disposable bags all the time