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Composting toilets are becoming increasingly popular among campers but they still aren’t quite the norm when it comes to choosing a portable loo
In this article we take a look at composting camping toilets; how they work, why you might choose one over a more traditional travel loo, and the downsides to them. You’ll also get a list of the best composting toilets.
Keep an eye out for the Q&A section at the back that may answer many of your questions.
What is a composting toilet?
Composting toilets are sometimes called dry toilets because they don’t use water. That’s right, you don’t flush a composting toilet like you do an ordinary loo. Instead, the solid waste sits inside the toilet as it becomes compost.
This takes some time to happen but once it has, you can either bin it or use it as fertilizer on your garden.
So how does a composting toilet work?
Composting toilets work just like a composting heap or bin in your garden. Solid waste and liquid waste are separated from each other. This part is really important because if it didn’t do that you would end up with sewerage, and that’s really something you don’t want!
The liquid goes into a bottle and can just get poured down a regular toilet. The solids stay inside the toilet where bacteria break it down until you end up with compost that you can use in your garden or in your greenhouse.
This portable composting toilet by Nature’s Head was originally designed by two sailors who wanted something that could withstand the harshness of the open sea for a few weeks at a time.
That being so, this is an incredibly sturdy and robust toilet. Even if you aren’t on an epic trans-Atlantic voyage, this toilet would make an excellent choice for your van or trailer.
If you are looking for a dry toilet for your camper or RV, this would also make an ideal option. It’s free standing which means you could use it with your toilet tent too. Two people can use this toilet without emptying it for 4-6 weeks and even then, it only takes 5 minutes to empty.
It’s a little heavy at 28 pounds but the 21.5 inches of height means no more squatting with knees under the chin again.
- Sturdy design
- No need to empty for up to 6 weeks
- Very quick and easy to empty
- Suitable for the taller person
The Separett Villa is a wall-mounted composting toilet which means you won’t be taking this camping if you use a tent. However, this is well worth considering if you are looking for a composting toilet for your RV or campervan.
It’s touted as being ideal for off-grid camping but because it runs on AC/DC power, you are going to need a battery pack that is charged via solar panels or something similar.
There are lots of extras that come with this toilet. For example, it has a fan that continually diverts any odor outside and away from your campervan. You can actually vent the odor up to 20 feet away from your RV and you get all the tools and accessories included.
The fan also helps dry out the waste in the loo so reduces odor further. You also get a number of composting bags and even a child seat.
- Wall mounted and comes complete with all fixtures and fittings
- AC/DC powered from mains or battery
- Electric fan diverts odors away from your living area
- Child seat attachment included
This waterless camping toilet is one of the more portable dry toilets on the market.
Portability means that this loo has smaller dimensions than some others but with a height of 20 inches, it still offers comfort for the taller camper. And talking of comfort, the GTG has an elongated seat for that added touch of luxury.
Installation of the Sun-Mar couldn’t be easier either. Its compact design means you can install it in minutes without the need for specialist equipment.
This is a really versatile little toilet too. It’s a great option for an RV and camper, but if you’re looking for a loo for your tiny house, boat or cabin, the GTG would be ideal.
- Easy to assemble
- Built for comfort
- Suitable for a range of locations
C-Head is the company responsible for two models of composting toilets. They are included here as one review because both toilets are basically the same, it’s just that the shorty is a more compact design.
The C-Head features a unique ‘crank handle’ design that acts as a mixer. There is a bucket in the bottom of the toilet where you put your dry composting medium. Then when you’re finished doing what you have to do, you turn a handle which then buries your number two.
Think of it as the same as a cat might do when it goes in your garden! And because it’s dry and buried you get no smell!
The C-Head looks like a standard toilet, it even has a cistern at the back, not for water, but for keeping your loo rolls and canisters of sawdust in. The standard and compact designs also mean they are suitable for a range of camping requirements.
It’s a really neat design and one I would be very tempted by if I were looking to go down the bio-toilet for camping route.
- Unique crank handle design
- A cistern for storage
- Versatile and suitable for a range of camping needs
5. D.I.Y Bucket Composting Toilet
This last toilet is a bit of a cheat really because it’s more of a DIY thing and doesn’t really belong on a list of composting toilet reviews, but bear with me here. One thing you will notice about all composting toilets is the price.
There is no getting away from it; they are expensive. And this is one of the main reasons they aren’t as popular as they might be. Think about it. What do these toilets do? They take your poop and bury it. And for that, you pay a fortune.
Here in England, we have an annual music festival at Glastonbury. We get literally hundreds of thousands of music lovers that descend on the town every year. But for the last few years instead of the smelly chemical toilet cubicles that usually get put up, they introduced a composting option. Now, this isn’t some $1,000 toilet that you’re going to be sat on, it’s essentially a bucket in a tent.
Outside the loo there are plastic scoops and piles of sawdust. What you do is take a scoop of sawdust with you into the loo and then sprinkle it over your number two when you’re done. Whether it works as it should with a hundred thousand people using it is debatable, but the point is, you don’t need to spend all your money if you don’t want to.
- Still a great ‘Green’ option
- No lengthy installation times
FAQs about composting toilets
Why choose a composting camping toilet?
The main reason people opt for this type of loo is because of its environmental benefits.
Dry composting loos are as close as you can get to what happens in nature. They don’t use chemicals so nothing unnatural is ever flushed back in to the water system. You can also use what is produced as a very good fertilizer for your garden. If you’ve ever seen the movie Martian, you will know what I mean here!
And because they don’t flush, there’s a big saving in fresh water too. With everyone becoming more environmentally conscious, they really are the greenest bio toilet for camping you can get.
What are the disadvantages of composting toilets?
The biggest disadvantage of composting over your more traditional toilet is price. Without doubt, if you go for a composting loo you are going to pay a lot more than you would a cassette toilet. There really isn’t such thing as a cheap composting toilet.
They aren’t very potable either so you’re unlikely to use one for traditional camping trips. They are designed to be a more permanent fixture in RVs or campervans.
They also take some installing too; it’s not a 5-minute job, and another reason you wouldn’t use this in your tent. Lastly, they can get smelly. If you don’t get the temperature and moisture levels just right you can end up with very smelly sludge!
Do composting toilets need chemicals?
No. Unlike the more traditional cassette camping toilets, composting toilets don’t use chemicals. The only thing you need to use is some sort of medium to dry out the solid waste and to help with the composting process.
Something like sawdust or coconut coir is sprinkled over the top of your number two, but that’s it. You just let nature do the rest.
Do composting toilets smell?
Well, no they don’t smell but if you get it wrong then yes they can. The thing about composting is that you have to get the conditions right for the process to work properly.
Bacteria are what make composting possible. They break down organic matter that eventually becomes compost. But bacteria like warm, moist conditions before they can really do their job. If you get the conditions wrong, such as there being too much water in the loo, then things can get really smelly.
Once you get the hang of it though the only smell you get is a sort of woody, forest floor-type smell.
Can you put toilet paper in a composting toilet?
Yes, you can. But it’s worth bearing in mind that different types of toilet paper break down at different rates. Thickness, ply, whether dyes are used etc., can all slow down the composting process.
The good news is that you can buy RV or marine grade toilet paper that’s designed to break down quicker than your more standard loo rolls.
Are composting toilets hard to maintain?
No, they aren’t. There really is very little maintenance needed for one of these. You don’t even need to clean them.
In fact, the one thing you absolutely shouldn’t do is use any artificial chemicals to clean out a composting toilet. Things like bleach or ammonia products will kill any bacteria so the composting process can’t happen.
At the most, all you need is a bit of water and white vinegar to freshen the insides up and get rid of any lingering odors.
How do you empty a composting toilet?
Most composting toilets have a tray in the bottom that you unlatch and slide out of the loo when the composting is done. You just tip the contents on your garden or in the bin. It’s usually a very easy 5-minute job.
Are composting toilets worth it?
This is a really difficult question to answer and like many of these things, it depends.
If you are a regular camper with an RV or campervan, and if you like to go off-grid, want to go green, save water, etc., then yes a composting toilet may be the right choice for you. They do take some getting used to and you have to get used to handling ‘humanure’ so you need to be aware of that.
If you are more of an occasional camper or perhaps you use a tent rather than RV then maybe composting toilets aren’t the right choice for you.