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In case you’re not a regular camper, chances are you’re not familiar with the amazing range of camping toilets available online. And even if you do go camping often, you might still be wondering which kind better suits your needs.
That’s why in this post I’ll cover all types of camping toilets that you can find and what you should consider when you’re about to buy one.
Unlike our series on the top camping toilets on the market, I won’t list the products I’ll be discussing here. I did include, though, plenty of links to the best models of each type so you can order your favorite toilet right away.
Now bucket toilets are probably the most straightforward among the types of camping toilets on our list. The majority of models are literally made up of a 22.7-liter (5-gallon) bucket and a seat+lid that you snap onto the rim of the bucket.
There are countless manufacturers and models of bucket toilets available online. While that’s awesome for the sake of choice, it also means you’ll have to double-check the reputation of both seller and product. That said, the only real downside to bucket toilets, in general, seems to be the seat, which in many cases is either too small or uncomfortable for men according to reviewers.
Luckily for you, I’ve already done some extensive research to find the best bucket toilets for camping, yet do pay attention to size differences between seats and buckets, in case you’re considering buying them separately. Some of the most interesting listings include foldable and versatile toilets that work as trash cans, stools, and storage boxes as well.
When it comes to functionality, the inside of bucket toilets is normally lined with trash bags that are replaced and disposed of after every use. But that’s not the greenest way of using it, of course, unless you happen to use biodegradable bags.
Alternatively, you can cover your stuff with sawdust or some cleaning chemical and turn your bucket toilet into a composting toilet of sorts. You can actually combine the two methods, as getting rid of the waste can prove to be quite challenging if you haven’t lined the bucket with a bag.
- Lightweight and portable
- Some models are versatile and also work as trash cans, stools, or storage boxes
- Can be used as makeshift composting toilets as well
- Seats can be uncomfortable
- Have to be emptied every time if you line the inside with a plastic bag
- Seats and buckets can be sold separately, which requires extra attention (especially to sizes) when purchasing
Highlights: AiQueen Portable Folding Camping Toilet; Camco Portable 5-Gallon Toilet Bucket with Seat and Lid Attachment; CarpLife Bivvy Loo Green Portable Toilet
Chemical toilets, alternatively called flushing toilets, are arguably the most convenient among all types of camping toilets. Despite not being as portable as collapsible toilets (up next), they’re still easy to carry around. And although they do need a source of water so you can run the flush, they’re usually pretty efficient.
Most chemical toilets have two different tanks: one for waste, which you dump periodically, and another for fresh water, which is filled up through a hose. After each use, you manually pump the flush, and — voilà! — everything’s gone from your sight. Here’s a list of the best chemical toilets with flush.
When the time comes to empty the waste tank, you’ll simply unlock the seals and take it to a regular toilet or an RV dump station. Upon opening the valve and getting rid of the stuff, you’ll then have to pour some water (and maybe some vinegar too) inside the tank, pour it out, and repeat the process till the water is crystal clear.
Some models come with special drawers for chemical bottles which will help you keep the toilet smell-free. While clean-up is the least exciting part of owning a flushing toilet, the convenience of it definitely makes up for the effort.
If you consider purchasing a chemical toilet, make sure you check the manufacturer’s trustworthiness beforehand, because there’s a great deal of obscure brands on the market. This is not the costliest portable toilet out there, but it’s still an investment (and is supposed to work fine, obvs!).
- Sturdy and comfortable
- Most are equipped with a flush like a regular toilet
- Can be used several times before disposal
- Typically rely on a supply of both fresh water and cleaning chemicals
- Quality standards varies widely between manufacturers
- Not so portable as bucket or collapsible toilets
Highlights: Alpcour Portable Toilet; Dometic 5-Gallon Portable Toilet; TPS Power Sports Portable Toilet
Collapsible toilets are generally made up of legged plastic seats (often equipped with a lid) that you use with a trash bag, which is commonly wrapped around the toilet. Some of the leading models also include a few hooks under the seat that you can attach the bags to.
There’s honestly not much to collapsible toilets, except for the fact that they’re ideal for folks with little storage space. In case there’s already too much stuff crammed into the trunk of your car or RV, you’ll be glad to realize how compact these are. Most are smaller than a large pizza box, which means they can fit virtually anywhere.
You’ll likely have to dump your waste every time you use a collapsible toilet, unless you combine it with a bucket and turn it into the makeshift composting toilet I’ve discussed before. Overall, people who settle on this kind of toilet won’t have to use it for weeks on end or share it with a large group.
Whenever you’re going through the reviews of your favorite models, don’t forget to see if other users think they’re sturdy enough, especially if you are (or someone in your group is) a bit bigger than the average person.
- Extremely convenient to carry around
- Quite cheap on average
- No installing or maintenance needed
- Can be slightly flimsy depending on the model
- Waste has to be dumped every single time
- Rely on plastic bags (which aren’t exactly green)
Highlights: BLIKA Stainless Steel Portable Toilet Seat; Cleanwaste GO Anywhere Portable Toilet Seat; LIONALP Porta Potty Commode
As with bucket and collapsible ones, composting toilets have the advantage of being dry, i.e. they require no water source to work. And the best thing is that’s not even their greenest feature.
A composting toilet separates liquids from solids so that you’ll only get rid of pee on the reg. Poop, on the other hand, is stored in a compartment where bacteria break it down and turn it into compost.
Using the byproduct as a natural fertilizer is possible, by the way, though controversial. Some experts argue it’s not safe to pour it onto your home garden. Even so, the fact remains that you won’t have to dump the waste tank as often as in other types of camping toilets.
You should bear in mind that more sophisticated models are equipped with fans to prevent the toilet from smelling, in which case you’ll need some juice to power it. The good news, however, is that reviewers who did without the fan reported a smell of damp earth rather than a particularly bad one.
With such a complex mechanism, it’s no wonder composting toilets are pricier than other types of camping toilets. They’re aimed at regular and environmentally aware campers with a taste for DIY. In case that doesn’t sound too much like you, try another sort of toilet instead.
- Waste tank will keep for weeks before having to be emptied
- Environmentally friendly
- Typically easy to assemble
- Not as portable as simpler types of camping toilets
- More expensive than regular portable toilets
- Might release smells if you don’t keep a fan on 24/7
Traditional cassette toilets
Here I’m talking about a kind of toilet that is fixed in place in your camper or trailer, just like a regular home toilet. The difference is that cassette toilets have a waste tank that you need to empty on a regular basis.
I’m labeling these “traditional” cassette toilets because chemical/flushing toilets that are equipped with a waste tank are also known as portable cassette toilets. The only thing both types of camping toilets have in common is the tank itself, though.
Cassette toilets are meant for people who don’t fancy the idea of roughing it at all. Since they depend on being installed into a vehicle to work, they’re the most complex and (naturally) expensive of the toilets I’m covering here. By this I mean that, unless you’re a jack-of-all-trades, you’ll have to hire someone to get the job done.
You won’t find many manufacturers or models of conventional cassette toilets on the web. Michigan-based Thetford seems to be the best-known factory of this kind of toilet. Their offers include level indicators, so you’ll know exactly when to empty the waste tank, and electrical flushes in a few instances.
For extra convenience, Thetford’s toilets usually have wheeled tanks, which should make disposal as easy as it gets. Like with a portable flushing toilet, you’ll have to unlock the tank’s latches, then open the valve and pour the content into a regular toilet (or dump station if you’re lucky). Cleaning it afterward works just the same too.
- Most models have waste tank level indicators, and some have electrical flushes
- Extremely comfortable
- Easy disposal, as wheeled waste tanks are commonplace
- Generally need a professional to install it
- Not many choices available on the market
- Pricier than all other options
What to consider when choosing between different types of camping toilets
Let’s structure this around a few basic questions you’ll have to answer before committing to a specific model:
How much are you willing to invest?
Composting toilets and conventional cassette toilets (which also normally require a professional to install it) are pricier than other types of camping toilets, as their mechanisms are more complex.
If you’re short on your dough, a bucket or a collapsible toilet could be just what you’re looking for. A few chemical toilets are more affordable than others too.
How much storage space do you have in your van or RV?
Some chemical and bucket toilets that aren’t foldable can be really bulky, despite being portable. If space is a scarce asset, go with a collapsible toilet. It can fit practically anywhere!
Does the idea of emptying your waste tank every other day bother you?
Disposal can be an issue when you’re into traveling to remote areas. If that sounds like you, a composting toilet might be ideal for you, since it can be used for weeks before having to be emptied.
Will you need your toilet to accommodate bigger folks?
If you do, you should probably stay away from collapsible toilets. Some models are more resistant than others, yet sturdier toilets like a chemical or cassette one are more recommendable in this case.
Will you have easy access to fresh water?
Traditional cassette toilets and portable ones that are equipped with a flush rely on that to work properly. In case you want (or need) to rough it instead, bucket, composting, or collapsible toilets are the way to go.
Going camping usually requires a lot of storage space in your car or RV, so choosing a toilet that is compact, efficient, comfortable, and affordable might be a real challenge.
Knowing what types of camping toilets you can find online is a crucial first step for getting the model that will work perfectly for you and your group. Now tell us in the comments below which one you’re tempted to buy and bon voyage!