Best Portable Toilets for Camping: All You Need to Know
- Posted by Mary O. Frazier
- On February 16, 2021
- 0 Comment
Outdoor camping is an exciting and pleasant activity until you hear nature’s call.
Thankfully, the modern world has provided us with a lot of comforts to make elimination easier, and one of them is a portable toilet!
This unit ensures a home-like bathroom experience for everyone and helps make camping trips more comfortable.
And if you’re hesitant in search of a worthy unit, be sure to check out our selection of the best portable toilets for camping along with a comprehensive guide on how to choose it according to your needs.
Which Type of a Portable Toilet Suits Best for Camping?
The modern world has created a lot of portable toilets but they all can be divided into three main groups, each having unique features.
Bucket Type Toilet
This is basically a chair-like frame with a bucket or pail to collect waste. If you’re looking for a cheap camping toilet, a bucket-type unit might be the option for you.
Bucket-type toilets are lightweight and compact and don’t take much space in your car or boat. They’re also quick to install in the case of an emergency, and — if you use disposable waste bags — incredibly easy to clean. But be mindful about where you throw your waste and use specialized spots or at least public restrooms.
The main problem with bucket portable toilets is odor. Since the urine and feces are mixed in the bucket, they can produce quite a strong odor. Using a seal valve and a bit of cat litter can help you deal with it, but if you plan a long trip, it’s better to revert to other portable toilet types.
These are the most common camping toilet types. They consist of two functional parts:
- a holding tank where you dispose of all the waste;
- and a container with fresh water that you use for flushing.
These toilets are more suitable for car and RV camping because they tend to get quite heavy when full. Also, you can use specialized toilet chemical treatments to liquefy the waste and make emptying easier.
However, these toilets are still keeping liquids and solids together and the emptying might become a really unpleasant experience. Also, they might require a pump or a hose to discard the contents of the tank without splashing.
Finally, the most eco-friendly and as close to the household toilet as you can get — the composting toilet. This type of commode uses a composting agent — usually peat — and breaks down the waste with the help of aerobic bacteria.
Unlike flush toilets, a composting toilet doesn’t require water to operate and separates the waste: the liquid goes into a urine bottle, and the solid goes with a container with a medium. This results in little to no odors and the possibility of using the final product of decomposition as fertilizer. This makes composting toilets approved by the EPA (1)
So, what disadvantages does this almost perfect unit have?
Quite a few:
- You need to carry the composting medium with you, and it can eat up a lot of space in the car.
- Some models may require an electricity source to work.
- They’re much heavier and don’t fit for camping activities without a vehicle.
5 Best Portable Toilets for Camping
Best Overall — Editor’s Choice
- available with 2.6-gallon and 5.3-gallon holding tank;
- bellow-type flush with 3.5-gallon freshwater tank;
- sturdy side latches secure the seat with the holding tank;
- supports up to 330 lbs;
- fairly lightweight — 10.8 lbs when empty, approx. 32 lbs when full.
Camco 41541 opens up our selection of the best portable toilets for camping because it can offer you almost home-like comfort on the road or during camping. 5.3-gallon holding tank, sturdy design, and comfort 15.5-inch high seat are among many features that have got it to the top of the list.
The Camco toilet features a 5.3-gallon holding tank and can come in handy during long car or boat trips. It’s made of polyethylene and can hold up to 330lbs of weight. Additionally, the toilet has side latches that secure the holding tank with the seat and ensure a sturdy build.
Another great thing about the Camco’s toilet is the bellow-type flush that uses water from a 2.5-gallon tank. It creates a powerful flow and, along with the gate valve, keeps the toilet clean and prevents leaks. Finally, this model includes a small bottle of the TST Orange concentrated treatment for portable toilets. This concentrate helps break down waste, including toilet paper, and is formaldehyde-free with a refreshing orange scent.
- Comfort seat height and sturdy construction
- The capacious holding tank is perfect for long trips
- Includes a sample of the TST toilet treatment for effortless cleaning
- Disposing of the waste requires a hose
- The seat might be a bit small, especially for those who have a large build
Best Camping Toilet with Flush
- a 5.3-gallon tank with level indication;
- the 3.2-gallon water tank holds 50+ flushes;
- rotating pour spout for easy and splash-free emptying;
- a 18-inch high seat feels comfortable;
- includes a carrying bag.
The next pick in this review of the top-rated portable toilets is the Serenelife, and its name stands for itself because this toilet will rid you of any worries during camping. It features an extra-large holding tank, a comfortable height seat, and a powerful piston flush that will keep your experience clean and convenient.
A toilet is a winner option for those who often travel and want a unit that can stand a long-time camping trip. The Serenelife has a 5.3-gallon holding tank and a 3.2-gallon water tank that ensures 50+ flushes! Plus, its double-sealed gate valve prevents any odors and leaks.
Besides, the manufacturer also took care of the necessities that must be done after the trip is over. The Serenelife has a rotating pour spout, unlike most portable toilets that come with a simple discharge opening and may need a hose. This spout makes the toilet easier to empty without a hose and prevents any splashing.
- Extra-large holding tank with a rotating spout mechanism that makes emptying easier
- Water reserve for more than 50 flushes
- Easy to transport thanks to the carrying bag
- The waste hole seems small
- The crevices of the holding tank make it difficult to clean completely
Cheapest Portable Toilet
- use with 8-gallon toilet waste bags for easy cleaning;
- has a toilet paper holder;
- a waste pail has a lid that seals the odor;
- one of the cheapest options on the market;
- full-sized seat for a more comfortable experience.
The next contestant on our list of the best portable toilets for camping is the bucket-type option by PLAYBERG. This lightweight and sturdy toilet has a full-side residential-style seat, doesn’t require water, and can hold up to 300 lbs of weight, which means it can be easily used by anyone.
The PLAYBERG comes with a 1.2-gallon bucket, which is a good pick for a short trip or boating adventure. Both the bucket and the toilet have a sealed lid that locks the odors in, so the toilet can even be used as the regular seat when both of them are closed.
Finally, the PLAYBERG comes with a built-in toilet paper holder for improved comfort and is made of durable polyethylene plastic that is resistant to smells and can withstand active use. To make the cleaning even easier, it’s recommended that you use the PLAYBERG with disposable toilet waste bags.
- Comfort seat height and full size resemble the feel of the household unit
- Doesn’t smell thanks to two lids
- Comes with a carrying bag
- The seat feels a bit flimsy
- Doesn’t include any manual or specifications
Best Low-Profile Portable Toilet
- 2.6-gallon holding tank and 3.75-gallon water tank;
- the insides are made of a non-stick ABS resin that makes cleaning easier;
- swivel dumping elbow for easy emptying;
- a sliding gate valve seals the odors inside;
- weighs only 11 lbs when empty.
Another Camco unit earned its place in our review of the top-rated portable toilets because of its compact low-profile design and features that contribute to a comfortable experience, such as sturdy build, powerful pumping flush, and non-stick material that makes the cleaning a breeze.
So, the premium is made of ABS resin, a material with an incredibly smooth finish that prevents the waste from adhering to the insides. ABS resin is also more durable than polyethylene and can withstand years of active use without bending or breaking. The latches that hold the tank and the seat have a tight grip and add stability to the toilet even if an overweight person sits on it.
The water tank holds 3.74 gallons and comes with the pumping flush that efficiently eliminates waste right into the holding tank. And when it’s time to empty the toilet, just use the rotating swivel elbow to prevent any awkward leaks and splashing.
- Pumping flush efficiently discards waste
- Can be used up to 20-25 times
- Easy to clean thanks to a non-stick surface
- Some users report that the valve isn’t 100% sealed and can let the odors out
- Not a good pick for tall users
Best Composting Toilet for Camping
- doesn’t need water to operate;
- odorless performance;
- the solid waste tank requires emptying every 2-2.5 weeks if used by two adults;
- 21-inch high seat suits taller individuals;
- a full-size seat adds comfort.
Our final pick for the list of the best portable toilets for camping is the self-composting model by Nature’s Head. It uses a dry composting technology — liquid goes into a urine bottle, solid goes into a tank with a composting medium — and creates an eco-friendly and odorless experience.
So, the solid waste flushes into a separate tank with a medium — usually peat or coco coir — and decomposes into a soil-like substance which you can throw in the dumpster or even bury into the soil once the tank is full. If you’re an active camper, you might need to empty the solid tank every 2 weeks. The Urine bottle is emptied separately, and you can just flush it into the public toilet.
Nature’s Head toilet requires a power source since it has a built-in fan that vents the excess air from the tank during the waste decomposition. So be sure to have a separate 12V socket for the unit. Aside from that, the maintenance is pretty easy: just clean the bowl with sanitary wipes (don’t throw them inside) and regularly dump the waste and change the medium.
- Great eco-friendly pick for long-time van trips, as the waste can be dumped in nature
- It doesn’t require water or toilet cleansers — only water and vinegar spray after each use
- Doesn’t produce odors
- You have to carry the composting medium with you, and it can take a lot of space
- Seems a bit overpriced
What to look for in a Good Camping Toilet?
Most camping toilets are made of plastic, but there are different types:
- Polyethylene. Cheapest and least durable plastic, most common in bucket-type toilets. Has a smooth finish and is easy to clean, but deteriorates quickly.
- Polypropylene. One of the materials used for making household toilet seats. More durable than polyethylene and less prone to odor retention.
- ABS resin. Premium polymer material with an extra smooth finish. Can withstand years of active use and is easy to clean, but is more expensive than other types of plastic.
Portable toilets come in different shapes and sizes, so be sure to consider them when choosing the right one.
Bucket-type units are usually very compact, so if you travel by car or boat, the only measurement you need to look up is seat dimensions.
As for flushing toilets, check their measurements thoroughly because larger models can take quite a lot of space in the car and can be heavy to carry around the campsite.
Also, check the seat dimensions. Most of the portable toilets offer smaller seats than regular household units, though you can find options with a full-side residential seat.
Water Tank and Holding Tank Capacity
These parameters determine how often you will need to empty the toilet. The more waste a holding tank can hold, the lesser stops you have to make on your way.
Flushing toilets today came with different holding tank volume, the most common being 2.5-gallon and 5-gallon. The latter can contain 15-20 flushes and is good for long-time trips when used by 2-3 adults. However, it is quite empty when full, so be sure to empty it when it reaches ⅔ of volume.
As for the water tank, its capacity is usually smaller, and it requires re-filling parallel to the emptying of the holding tank.
Ease of Emptying
Emptying the toilet is an unpleasant but necessary experience and modern camping units give you two ways of doing this:
- via the standard discharge opening;
- via the swivel elbow.
We recommend that you choose the swivel elbow over the others. First, it may not require a hose and allows you to dump the contents without splashing. Second, it provides a better seal when not in use, unlike the hole opening.
Note that you can only dump the portable toilet waste in specialized areas like an RV dump station or an authorized vault toilet (2). Also, it’s advisable to have a cleaning kit with you to minimize any inconvenience.
The simplest way to clean a portable toilet is to use a bleach solution (¼ cup of bleach per 1 gallon of water) and rinse the tank thoroughly after emptying until the water runs clear. You can also use formaldehyde-free enzyme cleaners and cat litter for odor removal.
ADA compliant toilet height is 17’’-19’’. Not all units may meet these requirements, but some commodes, especially composting toilets, can be ADA compliant.
The average weight capacity of a portable toilet is 300-330 lbs, so it can easily hold an average adult.
Letting your toilet tank air out after cleaning if possible is the most efficient way to deal with odors. Also, enzyme cleansers that break down the waste particles can help you decrease the odor.
Small capacity camping toilets can be dumped into the public restrooms. For bigger models, it’s best to dispose of contents at the RV dump station or order a scat machine.