The 6 Best Portable Toilets for Camping
There's been a lot of debate about camping toilets, especially since the tiny house movement erupted. Composting toilets seemed to take center stage on all those HGTV shows. But, this leaves dedicated campers (or glampers) with a wealth of options and a little bit of shaky ground when it comes to decision-making time.
The truth is, the best portable toilet is going to adapt to your needs. You can go as basic as a five-gallon bucket lined with trash bags and sawdust, or you can go as high-tech as a nearly thousand-dollar compost toilet that will look and feel a lot like the toilet in your home.
Below, we're going to start with the basics (as in, five-gallon bucket basics), move our way to portable toilets, and end with the crème de la crème. None of our links below are affiliate links.
Rather, we know that the toilet situation is an often-overlooked situation when camping or glamping. But, we're about to remove all the noise and fuss, and make it easy for you. We hope you consider us friends because we're about to get personal.
1. Reliance Hassock Portable Toilet
We're going to go in order, from the most primitive to the most spectacular outdoor toilet ideas. But, just because we're starting off with basic models doesn't mean you shouldn't pay them any mind. By basic, we're referring to toilets that basically have a seat on top of a five-gallon bucket.
At first glance, that doesn't seem like it will do a lot for the potential odor situation. But, there are ways around that. First, you can line the bucket with biodegradable waste bags if you plan to camp somewhere with ready access to waste removal.
Second, you can (and should) add a substrate. Substrate is an underlying layer of substance that will absorb some of the odor. This can be cat litter, coconut husks (search for coco coir when you're looking for it), sawdust, or pine shavings.
As for the Reliance bucket toilet, the Amazon reviews say it all. They have over 2,200 nearly five-star reviews. It chimes in under $25, is lightweight, and will do the deed just fine, making it the best portable toilet for the pricetag.
2. Stansport Easy-Go Portable Toilet
Our first selection will get the job done. But, it seriously looks like a five-gallon bucket. So, that's a matter of style and preference. If it's just you or you and a couple of non-judging friends, then you might be okay.
If you want to remotely disguise the fact that you're using a bucket, then you might check out Stansport's option simply because it's shaped like a small, plastic trash bin, rather than a bucket. We know; is that really any better?
It might be! This model also features a green base, making it slightly less obtrusive to the great outdoors. The same principles apply; line it with eco-friendly trash bags, add in a little deodorant like sawdust or pine shavings, and you're good to go.
3. Dometic Portable Toilet
We've seen more than a few of these bad boys around our friends' campsites. With portable toilets, you're looking at a toilet seat atop an approximately two or five-gallon tank. Typically, they're plastic, square-shaped commodes that do the trick.
We like the Dometic brand because, like the Thetford brand we're about to discuss, it's pretty tried and true. The 970 series has a nice look with a white toilet atop a gray holding tank. The white unit also holds water that can be pumped in before you take a seat.
Then, there's a little handle you pull out and, voila, the waste goes down into the gray holding tank. The thing with portable toilets is that, if you don't use some type of chemical in the holding tank, no matter how well-sealed the unit is, you're looking at a stinkfest.
This isn't a situation where you can tie off a plastic bag and be done with it. So, a lot of folks use drop-in treatments. The trouble is, they're loaded with harmful chemicals, so definitely beware. Some are made with formaldehyde which works to conceal the odor. But, it's formaldehyde.
Still, you can do your research and choose wisely. There are some organic treatments out there and some that are formaldehyde-free. Chemicals are rarely our friend but, in this case, they're quite necessary to neutralize the odors in your home away from home.
4. Thetford Porta Potti
Thetford is a trusted name, kind of like what Levi's are to jeans. You'll find this brand in the RV aisle at a lot of local stores, including your neighborhood-friendly Walmart.
Thetford also offers a lot of options. Some of their portable toilets have a lower profile, making them easy to tuck away after business has been conducted.
Or, you can opt for a higher profile, making it easier on the knees. We think their best portable toilet for camping is the 565E model, due to it's higher profile. It also has a battery-operated electric flush that maintains four gallons of fresh water. (Just be sure you to pack extra batteries or else trouble will come knocking at your tent door.)
Beneath the four-gallons of fresh water, there's a five-gallon receptacle for the waste. We appreciate its little tank level indicator to let you know when the waters are rising. All in all, this is a (dare we say) good looking option that's easy on the knees and wonderfully functional.
5. Loveable Loo Compost Toilet
Now, we're going to graduate from camper toilets to compost toilets. These are quite different in that they separate the liquid from the waste. Believe it or not, if there are lingering odors from your toilet, that's actually from the liquid waste and not the solid waste.
Think about it. If you walk past a pile of cow dung or dog poop after a short while, it no longer smells. But, if your kiddo managed to pee his pants and doesn't tell anyone, you're going to be able to sniff him out in no time at all.
So, composting toilets do a lot of the work for us, and certainly more than the five-gallon bucket situation or chemical-induced camper toilet. Before we get into the super high-tech composting toilets, though, we want to linger on the Loveable Loo for a moment.
This is sort of the in-between from camper toilets to compost toilets. It actually works a lot like a camper toilet. The waste goes into a bucket; you pour a substrate over it like sawdust; when the bucket is full, you empty it into your composting bin.
The reason this is advertised as a composting toilet and not a camping toilet is because it's designed by a lover of all things compost, Joseph Jenkins. He wrote a book called The Humanure Handbook which allows eco-friendly advocates to put even their waste to use.
6. Nature's Head Composting Toilet
If you're ready to invest nearly a thousand dollars in your sanitation situation, then we definitely recommend Nature's Head. We're talking a waterless, odorless, stainless steel situation that can't be beat.
What happens here is that liquid waste is diverted away from solid waste (which goes back to the odor situation). Unlike fecal matter, urine isn't bad for the environment and you can discreetly dump this anywhere. Did you know urine contains nitrogen which, in many cases, is helpful to our gardens?
Anyway, as for the solid waste, you only have to dig into this every week or so (depending on how many people make use of it). One of the many reasons for the uppity price tag is its air circulation fan. This recycles the air and makes the toilet odorless.
It does require electricity, but if you plan to frequent off-grid campsites, you can connect this to an RV battery in lieu of an electrical outlet. This is about as pain-free as it gets, friends. And if you're about to make outdoor living a lifestyle, a composting toilet like this may be well worth the investment.
Side Note: Consider a Privacy Room
With composting toilets and well-maintained camping toilets, you'd be alright to keep your commode within the confines of your tent. But, if you plan to set up shop for some time, we recommend setting up a privacy room. You can build something yourself or contact us for a privacy room setup. Our privacy bathroom setups come complete with a frame, canvas exterior, a window if you desire for additional ventilation and zippered front door.
This is a great way to separate your personal business and, in our opinion, take things up a notch. You can find five-gallon solar shower bags with hoses that turn into - you guessed it - your own, personal shower. If you're going to go all out, you might as well go all out.
The Best Portable Toilet for You
There you have it. Through a combination of personal experience and online research, we hope this list will help you hone in on the best portable toilet for whatever kind of campsite you'd like to establish.
Here at Big Sky Canvas, we like to practice that "go all out" principle. This is evidenced by our canvas wall tents. It's our mission to make campers and hunters feel at home in the outdoors and a wall tent definitely strikes the right balance.
With five different size options, from 8'x10' to 16'x20', we have just what you need to turn your tent into your inner sanctum. Pop in a cylinder stove, add a cooler, secure your portable camping toilet, and you're locked and loaded.
Whether you're looking for hunting gear, camping gear, boat covers, tack, or any other variety of outdoor equipment, we're ready to outfit you.
We're also here for all your custom-build dreams and designs, from jet engine covers to glamping tents. Give us a call today. We'll shoot for the moon and leave you with a lifetime of nights under the stars.