Everybody poops, or so the children’s book has led me to believe. So we all need somewhere to do it, here are the best options for camper vans, RVs, overland rigs, and off-grid travel.
Whether you’re mounting it in your Sprinter van or stashing it in your trailer for outdoor use, these are the best portable toilets we’ve used for life on the road, and more. Here’s what’s in this guide:
- The best portable toilets we’ve tested
- Other things you’ll probably want
- Types of portable toilets and how they work
- Frequently Asked Questions
Our top picks are all in their own unique category. You’ll find similar ones in each style, but these are the ones we’ve field tested on numerous trips, under numerous butts, and liked. I’ve included one from each main category:
- Bucket Toilet – basically a 5-gallon bucket with a toilet seat on it
- Outdoor Toilet – sits over a bag or hole in the ground
- Composting Toilet – uses organic matter to compost your waste
- Cassette Toilet – combines waste in a holding tank, like a small porta-potty
Each has its pros and cons, and I explain what to look for in each in case you don’t like my top picks.
Best Portable Toilets for Vanlife & Overland Travel
Best Bucket Toilet – Reliance & Camco Toilet Seats
A bucket toilet is a multi-piece pooper. You need a 5-gallon bucket, which you can get anywhere, a snap-on toilet seat with lid, and bags to line the bucket. I’ve used two different models – Reliance Luggable Loo and Camco’s Toilet Bucket Lid.
They both snap onto the bucket very tightly, and the lid closes snug enough to keep odors from escaping. This is important because if it tips over, it’s unlikely to pop off or open (but you should still secure it while driving, it’s not leakproof!). Here are the products we used and recommend:
- Reliance Luggable Loo (~$20)
- Camco Bucket Toilet Seat w/ Lid ($22)
- Five Gallon Bucket (~$10)
- Reliance Double Doodie Plus Bags w/ Bio-Gel ($18 / 6-pack, $32 / family)
NOTES: Check out the “recommended supplies” section further down to see why you want the Double Doodie bags.
PROS: Cheap, mostly comfortable, works really well as a system (gel bags + lidded seat) to virtually eliminate odor.
CONS: Narrow base made me feel like I could topple over (I didn’t), and the opening is much smaller than a standard toilet, so (as a male) I had to position myself to pee or poop…I couldn’t just get situated and do either. This isn’t a throne for marathon sessions or playing Candy Crush.
Best Outdoors Toilet – Reliance Fold To Go Camp Toilet
The Reliance Fold-To-Go Toilet ($50) is compact, its legs fold inward for a slim storage height of about 5 inches. Set up, it’s a low 14.5″ tall, which should make Squatty Potty fans quite comfortable. And it’s only 5lbs, so it’s very easy to carry and setup well away from camp.
NOTES: There’s two ways to use this, with bags and without. If you’re not bringing bags, you’ll want a small shovel or camp trowel to dig a hole under it, then bury your poop afterward. Please don’t do this near rivers and streams! If you’re going to capture your work in a bag to transport elsewhere, the non-gel Double Doodie Bags are great because they’ll seal up extra tight once you’re done with them.
PROS: It’s rated to 300lbs. We’ve only tested it up to 225lbs, but it’s held up for a couple of years and 50+ uses. Relatively comfortable.
CONS: It’s all plastic, so it doesn’t feel as solid as it really is, and a couple of the latches have snapped on ours. The low seat height might be tough for less flexible people.
Best Composting Toilet – Trelino Evo
For going potty inside your vehicle, the Trelino Evo composting toilet is a big upgrade from the bucket and portable seat. It’s rock solid, comfortable, and appropriately sized for relaxed use. It’s also fairly unique in that it separates liquids from solids, which works well enough. The soft-close lid is a nice touch, and I added the non-slip cover on mine so I can use it as a functional surface (space is tight in a van!).
A splash-proof canister captures urine, with a one-way funnel flap that prevents pee from sloshing out while driving. The poop lands in a small container that you line with a thick bag and layer with a compostable material. The benefit is that, with biodgradeable bags, it’s a chemical-free, eco-friendly solution that needs no water or electricity. Check the FAQ for filler material recommendations.
NOTES: Normal plastic bags are not thick enough, get bags specifically made for toilets, they’re thicker and trap smells. Bonus points if they’re biodegradable. The urine canister needs to be cleaned with vinegar, not water, so you’ll need to carry both vinegar and some sort of litter to put in the dry waste bin.
PROS: The Trelino Evo comes in S/M/L sizes depending on your needs. I tested the Medium, and it’s good for two people for a couple of days. It’s sturdy, comfy, and the square-ish shape makes it easy to compartmentalize inside the vehicle.
CONS: It’s expensive ($350-$550, depending on size), takes a little more work to clean, and odor containment is pretty good but depends very much on your choice of litter.
Best Cassette Toilet – Camco 5.3-Gallon Portable Toilet
Also known as “cartridge” toilets, these use a dual-tank system to flush waste into a holding tank with chemicals to break down the waste. A pump adds fresh water to the bowl, then you pull a lever to release it all into the tank when you’re done.
The Camco Portable Travel Toilet has a big 5.3-gallon holding tank for combined waste with a small 2.5-gallon upper fresh water tank to flush with. It’s a very compact 14″W x 16.25″D, so it fits almost anywhere, and it’s sturdy enough to sit on with the lid shut, too. Two latches make it quick and easy to separate for emptying the waste tank.
NOTES: I have used these types of toilets, but don’t own them, so I don’t have my own photos. I recommend the Camco because it has all of the features you want and it’s surprisingly affordable for the category (“marine-grade” versions can run close to $1,000 or more!). MSRP is just $139. Make sure to get this one with the rectangular base, it’s more stable than their other model with an ovalized shape. You’ll also need to keep some liquid toilet tank digestant & deodorizer on hand.
PROS: Affordable, solid, compact, and extremely easy to use.
CONS: It’s like a regular toilet, so you have regular toilet problems, like skid marks, and there’s more total surface area to keep clean. Once filled with water and waste, they’re also heavier, making it harder to move in and out of the vehicle.
What other supplies do I need?
Going in the wild is beautiful on its own, but here are some extras that make your off-grid bathroom experience better.
Privacy Bathroom Tent
The Wolfwise Changing Tent pops open in three seconds, and folds back to flat in 10 seconds, making it incredibly quick and easy to use. It provides privacy, with a nearly full height zipper door. The top is mesh, with vent flap windows for letting odors out and fresh air in.
It comes in a basic version without extras for $40, and a better version that includes top cover, stakes, guy lines, and floor for $60. If you’re going where it’s windy, I recommend the better version, or at least bringing some tent stakes…the tent is ultralight and blows away easily.
Toilet Paper & Wipes
Toilet paper is obvious, just make sure to get some that’s compostable and/or approved for septic tanks. This will ensure it breaks down quickly and won’t clog up a cassette toilet’s drain port.
I also strongly recommend baby wipes, which you can get anywhere. But the Honest Co. Clean Conscience wipes are eco-friendly, biodegradable, plant based, hypoallergenic, etc…good stuff! If you’re out in the wild without a shower for more than a day, wipes are crucial to staying fresh down there.
Toilet Bucket & Toilet Waste Bags
If you’re joining the bucket brigade, you’ll need a bucket. Any hardware store has them, as does Walmart, or just order one along with the seat & lid. For these, or if you have to transport your waste outside of whatever toilet you’re using, you’ll definitely want the Reliance Double Doodie bags with Bio-Gel. These are the best camp toilet bags on the market.
The Double Doodie w/ Bio-Gel bags have a gel that thickens when liquid (pee) is added, which traps anything else (poop) in there, and keeps odors from emanating.
They have a dual layer design with a large inner bag that fills the bucket to keep it clean, and a thick outer bag with double “Zip-lock” seal to keep it all contained once you’ve filled it. They come in three versions, depending on your needs:
- Standard size w/ Bio-Gel (holds 5lbs, good for 1-2 people for a couple days)
- Family size w/ Bio-Gel (holds 12lbs, good for more people or more days)
- Standard size w/o gel (holds 5lbs, good for single-day use, no odor control)
All three fit a standard 5-gallon bucket, but the family size has a larger outer bag and more gel.
We tried empty bags and adding wood chips or powdered gel packets, but nothing worked as well as these. They’re pricy, but with the Family Size version, we could get 2-3 days of use with 2-3 people using them. Just make sure to spread them wide open as you place them in the bucket, this will give things the room they need to make it to the bottom of the bag.
Trowel or Shovel
For burying waste, you’ll need a shovel to dig the hole. If you don’t already have a full-size shovel for vehicle recovery, the 87g Sea to Summit Nylon 66 Pocket Trowel is a great compact option that collapses smaller than a soda can and has internal storage for bags. That makes it great for bringing along on hikes, too, or with pets. It’s just $15, too! (available at Moosejaw and Sea to Summit)
If you want to combine tools into something you can use for digging tires out of soft sand, clearing snow, etc., there are a ton of options, so you may as well get something cool. The Mastif Gears Battle Wolf Shovel not only has the coolest shovel name, it also has variable sharpened sides for hacking up firewood, vines, etc. It’s made in the USA with hardened steel, has replaceable rivets, and AAA European Beechwood handle. All for $36.
Frequently Asked Questions about Portable Toilets
What’s the difference between composting toilets and cartridge toilets?
Composting toilets and cartridge toilets are both popular choices for camper vans & RVs, but they work in different ways. Composting toilets utilize natural processes to break down waste into compost, often with the help of a composting medium like peat moss. They are eco-friendly, don’t require water for flushing, and produce compost that can be disposed of safely. However, composting toilets tend to be larger and may have a steeper learning curve for users.
On the other hand, cartridge toilets, also known as cassette toilets, are more compact and user-friendly. They use a removable cassette or cartridge to collect waste, which can be easily emptied into conventional toilets or sanitation stations. Think of them like mini PortaPotties. Cartridge toilets usually require less maintenance and are simpler to install. However, they rely on chemical additives to control odors and break down waste, which may be a consideration for those looking to minimize chemical usage in their camper van.
In summary, composting toilets are environmentally conscious, larger, and involve natural decomposition processes, while cartridge toilets are more compact, user-friendly, and rely on chemical additives for waste management. The choice between the two depends on individual preferences, space constraints, and environmental considerations for camper van owners.
What’s the trick to making compost toilets work?
Composting works by drying out your solids, which is why composting toilets divert liquids into separate holding tanks.
Simpler models, like the Trelino EVO recommended above, rely solely on a composting medium like wood chips, coconut husk, moss, leaves, etc., to pull moisture from your poop, which helps it break down and also eliminates the odor. These are extremely portable, lightweight, and require no power, but you’ll want to empty them every couple of days.
More advanced composting toilets, like the OGO Origin, have a motorized mixing blade in the waste compartment to speed up that process. These are more expensive and require power. Others, like the Cuddy Toilet, have manual crank-operated mixers. Some have carbon filtered vent lines that can be piped outside your vehicle. Often, these options are meant to be installed in your vehicle and aren’t as portable, but they can go longer between emptying & cleaning.
Wetter waste (diarrhea, etc.) takes longer to dry out. Adding more compost filler will help, but it’ll also fill up your toilet faster. As much as possible, try not to pee into the compost compartment.
What’s the best filler material for composting toilets?
Peat moss is a popular and effective choice for composting toilets. It has excellent moisture absorption properties, helps control odors, and aids in the decomposition process. It’s widely available, lightweight, and easy to store in your rig.
Coconut Coir and Sawdust and good runners up. Coconut coir, derived from coconut husks, is an eco-friendly option. It has good moisture retention and aeration qualities, but it’s packaged in condensed bricks or pucks that you need to break apart.
Sawdust works, but as simple as it sounds, sourcing it is weird. You could ask your local wood shop or maker space, or collect your own, but Both materials assist in waste decomposition and odor control, providing flexibility based on your preferences and availability.
I can tell you from experience that pet cage Aspen wood shavings work mediocre at best. Go with one of the others.
Frequently Asked Questions about Portable Toilets
Where can I dispose of toilet waste?
Where you dump your toilet waste depends very much on what state it’s in and how it’s stored. For urine, you can pour it over organic matter (dirt) where it can soak into the ground. For solids, here are your options:
Mixed waste from cartridge/cassette toilets should be poured into sewage pipes at a dump station. RV parks and campgrounds usually have a dump site, but you may have to pay to use them. Some national parks also have dump stations, usually free, just ask at the Visitor’s Center. And some larger truck stops (TravelAmerica, Pilot, etc.) have them, too.
Apps like The Dyrt, Allstays, and other popular camping apps will show dump stations along with everything else. There are also apps specifically for RV dump stations that make it a bit quicker to find.
Compost Piles / Nature:
Composted waste can be added to a compost pile, bagged and trashed (ideally put into a compostable bag), or buried. If you’re going to bury it, do it in the wild…not the islands in a Walmart parking lot.
If you’re putting it in a compost pile, keep it in the pile. Your toilet waste will need 6-12 months to fully compost and get rid of any harmful bacteria and parasites, so don’t just dump it into your (or anyone’s) garden.
For smaller bags of waste, like from a 5-gallon bucket toilet, that can be securely sealed, any outdoor trash can should do. Keep in mind it’s frowned upon (or illegal) to use private dumpsters, but every gas station has trash cans near the pumps.
How often do I need to empty my portable toilet?
The frequency of emptying your camp toilet depends on two things: How full it’s getting, and if it’s starting to smell. If it’s full or it smells bad, get rid of it.
Based on my personal use, here are general timelines for how often you’ll need to empty each type:
- Bucket: 3-4 days for one-person, 1-2 days for 2-4 people
- Composting: 3-4 days for one-person, 1-2 days for 2-4 people
- Cassette: Ranges from 3-10 days depending on tank size and users
These rules-of-thumb assume you’re using the appropriate odor mitigation products, keeping the lid sealed, and not having any GI distress or abnormally large bowel movements. Larger toilets will hold more and last longer between empties.
How do I clean my portable toilet?
I use standard household bleach wipes to clean the seat, lid, and shell, just like with a normal home toilet. From there, it depends on the type of toilet:
Simple, just seal the bag and throw it away.
If it’s bagged, like in the Trelino, seal it and chuck it. If it’s collected in a bin, dump it out, wash the bin with soap and water, then let it dry completely before adding fresh filler.
For tanks that are only used to hold urine, you’re better off using vinegar to rinse them out to avoid urine scaling, which is hard deposits that form when urine combines with water and it evaporates. I rinse and spray mine with standard white vinegar and let it air dry, which works perfectly and results in no residual odor.
Cartridge / Cassette:
After pouring out the contents, rinse it with water until it runs clear. If the interior is accessible, assess whether it needs to be scrubbed. The chemicals used inside the tank to break down waste should also help keep it clean-ish, but it’s still a good idea to scrub it once in a while. Otherwise, a light bleach solution rinse is also a good idea unless the manufacturer advises against using it.
How do I keep my portable camp toilet from smelling?
It depends on the type, but for all of them, keep the lid closed. This helps control odor, but also helps keep flies out.
Also, keep them from being overfilled, and empty when necessary. Add more composting medium to cover the waste, and mix it up a bit if you can. For bucket and cassette toilets, add chemicals and gel as needed to compensate for extra waste material.
How do I wash my hands after using a camp toilet?
I use hand sanitizer to kill the germs first, then followup with a baby wipe for some friction, which makes it feel like I’m actually cleaning them.
Is a portable toilet worth the effort?
Yep. Absolutely. It allows you to get off grid, out in the wild, and explore further for longer. They’re honestly not that much work, and the benefit is well worth the effort.
Plus, they’re lightweight and easily portable, making it easy for everyone in your party to take it somewhere to find privacy if you can’t set it up inside your vehicle. Or just avoiding a sketchy truck stop. All of us here recommend having one along on every trip.
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