Not every camper has access to a permanent potty. If you have a camper van, or are a tent camper, then a fixed toilet is something you probably don’t have.
While on some trips public toilets are an option if you want to go off the beaten track for a while and stay out of a very formal paid campsite – trips also known as boondocking – then you will need to brainstorm a way to use the bathroom that is both as pleasant as convenient as possible AND eco-friendly at the same time.
The good news here is that there are more options available to you than you might think.
Some are pretty primitive while others offer a level of bathroom practicality that (almost) rivals a built-in RV toilet. Which of these is right for you and your camping set up?
That’s what we are going to take a look at here.
The 5 Best Portable Toilets
Once you start shopping for a portable camping toilet, you’ll quickly find that there are more options available to choose from than you might have expected, even if you have already made your choice between chemical cassette, composting or bucket options.
To help you get started without feeling too overwhelmed here is a quick look at some of the best options we have found, based on both our own camping experiences and those of others via customer reviews.
SereneLife Outdoor Portable Toilet
This very reasonably priced chemical cassette camping toilet is a favorite with many campers – including us – for lots of reasons.
It has a larger than usual wastewater tank – 5.3 gallon – and has an indicator that will warn you in plenty of time that it’s getting full and will need to be emptied soon.
The toilet also comes with its own special carrying case and has an easy-to-use pull lever flush. Most people found that cleaning it was simple (and that it cleaned up well) and, something that may be important to some campers, it can hold up to 400 lbs in weight.
Camco Portable Travel Toilet
Camco is a very well established and respected name in the camping products industry so it’s no real surprise that they can produce a great camping toilet.
This one is good-looking (not hugely important maybe, but a plus) option with a large 5.3 gallon wastewater tank and special handles that make it easier to carry when the tank needs emptying.
It weighs only 11.5 lb empty, but supports up to 330 lb.
Most campers found this to be a great chemical cassette camping toilet – especially as its locking system seals in odors better than many other options – but as a number of ‘larger’ reviewers said they had problems using it for the fuller figured person we’d probably recommend our first choice instead.
Nature’s Head Self Contained Composting Toilet
First, let’s be honest, this is not a cheap toilet option at all. However, for the avid camper who hits the road a lot it may be an investment well worth making.
Actually designed originally for use at sea, the manufacturers claim it can be used for up 4-6 weeks by two people without needing to be emptied and a number of customer reviews attest that this is indeed the case.
This composting portable toilet is designed for a 12V system and comes with brackets to mount on the floor. Many praise the fact that there is no odor at all and that electric use is minimal. The downside to this Nature’s Head toilet is that you do need to remove the whole toilet to empty it.
However, some reviewers said they were so impressed with the way their Nature’s Head toilet performed on the road they installed one at home in a second bathroom as well!
Reliance Luggable Loo
A bucket is just a bucket right?
Well, when it comes to camping toilets not quite.
The quaintly named Luggable Loo (for those who don’t know that’s a politer British term for toilet) offers a snap on/snap off toilet seat that reviewers say is big enough for even a larger person to use comfortably. Many also praise how well odors are contained when the lid is sealed.
WolfWise Portable Toilet Tent
If you are camping in a small van, or are tent camping, having your portable toilet inside is not going to be nice or convenient for anyone.
A portable toilet tent can help you create an outdoor bathroom of sorts that protects your privacy while also keeping those biting bugs at bay.
There are lots out there, but our personal favorite is the WolfWise Portable Toilet Tent. It pops up easily, is waterproof, comes with a removable bottom mat and is quite rugged.
Its UV-protected fabric wipes clean with ease as well.
It’s roomy enough that it can be used not just as a toilet tent but as a changing tent, or a place to hang – and use – a portable shower as well.
A Beginner’s Guide To Camper Van Toilet Options
As we mentioned, you have an increasing number of options available to you to choose from when it comes to the best portable toilet for camping and van life.
Here we’re going to take a look at some of the most common and the pros and cons attached to their use.
Chemical (Cassette) Camping Toilet
The chemical – or cassette – camping toilet is a popular choice for many, especially those who head off on the leisure travels in a camper van.
They are perhaps most like the toilet you have at home and offer, in the minds of many, the most ‘civilized’ portable toilet experience.
A gas powered gun comes in both automatic and semi-automatic operations.
Most chemical camping toilets are made up of four separate components working together:
- A seat with a latched lid
- A freshwater tank
- A simple hand operated water pump
- A wastewater (aka blackwater tank)
Using one of these toilets is pretty simple.
The wastewater tank – which sits at the bottom of the unit – is filled with a chemical solution designed to break down solid waste and neutralize strong odors.
The freshwater tank is then filled with water. When it comes to using it, you do so ‘as usual’ and flush the toilet after use with the hand operated water pump.
In most cases, emptying the wastewater tank is as simple as unlatching it from the rest of the unit and then pouring out the waste in an appropriate place.
You don’t have to touch any nasty stuff and the tank can be hosed off easily afterwards so that everything stays clean, sanitary and pleasant to use.
There are a few downsides to chemical toilet use though.
They are not the most environmentally friendly option and as the blackwater tank is sealed it can, with some models, be hard to tell when that reservoir is getting too full and needs to be emptied.
Some models have mechanisms to overcome the latter from becoming a problem though, like the SereneLife Portable Toilet.
Pros of using a chemical cassette camping toilet:
- Use no electricity and can be operated anywhere
- Assemble easily and are easy and sanitary to empty
- Offer a bathroom experience that’s closer to the one you get at home.
Cons of using a chemical cassette camping toilet:
- Must be used with special chemicals
- It can be hard to tell when they are full and need to emptied
- It can be hard to find a place to dispose of waste in a properly environmentally way.
Portable Composting Toilet
Composting toilets are not new, they have been around for decades and used by many who try to live life in a more environmentally friendly way.
Portable composting camping toilets work in the same way as the toilets some very green souls have installed in their homes and the mechanism behind them is a relatively simple one.
The average camping composting toilet is not as primitive as it might sound though.
For a start they need to be hooked to an electric socket and powered, so are out of the question for most tent campers. For RV fans or camper van owners they are a viable alternative however.
The idea behind portable composting toilets is that liquid and solid waste is separated by a lever system and the waste is composted into a form of soil that is far more environmentally friendly when disposed of.
There is a vent system to remove bad smells and the toilet itself looks like small version of ‘the real thing’.
Although they can take some getting used to portable composting camping toilets are easy and pleasant to use and waste disposal is usually simply a matter of emptying the liquid chamber out and then, every few weeks, composting the solid waste with a soil mixture and disposing of it in garbage bags (or even on your compost heap at home if you like).
Pros of Using a Composting Toilet:
- Very environmentally friendly
- Great for RVs or larger camper vans
- Easy to use
Cons of Using a Composting Toilet:
- Needs mains power and a way to be vented, so not suitable for tent camping
- Can be harder to get used to using
Bucket Camping Toilets
These are the simplest camping toilets of all, as they are, as the name suggests, buckets.
Most are designed to be lined with garbage bags – at least two – which are then disposed of when you are done.
There is nothing fancy about these camping toilets at all, but as a very simple, very cheap solution to a bathroom ‘problem’ then they are more than serviceable.
Pros of Bucket Camping Toilets
- Super cheap
- Very easy to use
Cons of Bucket Camping Toilets
- Only really good for solid waste.
- Liquid may spill too easily from the bags
- Waste bags need to be disposed of immediately.
Other Camping Toilet Options
As we mentioned earlier, you may never need to worry about portable camping toilets if you stick to formal campgrounds that offer toilet facilities of their own.
In a pinch a bottle can make a good solution for a ‘number one’, although you are likely to need a ‘pee funnel’ if you are a female.
And, in a real pinch there are bushes, although because of the risks posed by bugs, wildlife and sheer embarrassment if you are spotted, they really are an emergency only options!
A Word About Toilet Paper
If you are using a bucket camping toilet you can make use of almost standard toilet paper, you find at the store as all you will be doing is bagging up your toilet waste and throwing it away.
If you opt for a composting or chemical cassette toilet you have to be pickier, and we don’t just mean in terms of how soft your toilet paper is.
Ideally you should choose a dissolvable toilet paper. We like the one offered by toilet paper ‘kings’ Scott. Their Rapid-Dissolving Toilet Paper, Bath Tissue for RV & Boats breaks down faster than almost any other paper on the market, is dye free and endorsed for its environmental friendliness by the Forest Stewardship Council as it is sourced only from ‘green’ materials.
It’s also rather soft and while it dissolves easily is not so wafer thin that your fingers rip through it when you are making use of it!