Going the Bathroom in a Van: Porta Potties and Composting Toilets

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This is a Thetford Porta Potty, a very popular model.

This is a Thetford Porta Potty, a very popular model. You use chemicals to hold the odor down.

In the last post we covered my friend Al’s method of using a 5 gallon bucket and answered some general questions about going to the bathroom in a van. In this post we’re looking at other methods.

Different ways to make a toilet seat on a 5-gallon bucket.

  1. Nothing, just leave it plain: That works, but it’s hard on the ole be-hind! Worth a try, but not recommended.
  2. Gamma Lid: These are cheap, very strong, seal tight against odors and a very good choice if you are using the same bag more than once.
  3. Toilet seat designed for 5-gallon buckets: These are more comfortable than most and reasonably priced. This one has a gasket and seals fairly tight against odors. Tote-able Toilet Seat and Lid with Gasket
  4. Pipe insulation: Very cheap, easy and comfortable, but cheesy looking. This one is my choice.
  5. Build your own toilet box out of plywood and use a toilet seat designed for home use. You can see an example below with the composting toilet
Very cheap and very confortable

Very cheap and very comfortable

This is my pipe insulation toilet seat.
This is my pipe insulation toilet seat.

Porta Potties

I know numerous people who use and love their porta-potties, but I must admit I’m not a fan. However, I can understand why some people like them because they are very close to the same experience that they had inside a house so there’s comfort in that. Even I must admit that sitting on a 5 gallon bucket and pooping in a bag is far from “civilized!” But to me that’s the whole point! I want to get back to my more natural, wild side. Porta Potties are a great compromise, letting you live mobile and free but still feel civilized! Get a Thetford porta potty for $78 from Amazon here Thetford Porta Potti 260B Portable Toilet

These are the instructions on how to use it. They're printed on the bottom of the seat.

These are the instructions on how to use it. They’re printed on the bottom of the seat.

Here are their advantages:

  1. They give you a sense of normalcy.
  2. They’re a good height and they are comfortable to sit on.
  3. You can pee in them instead of a separate container.
  4. You don’t directly have to handle or see your waste.
  5. They flush like a regular toilet.
The bottom of the porta potty unsnaps and comes off. You carry it to a dump station or a public toilet and use the tube on the top-right and dump it.

The bottom of the porta potty unsnaps and comes off. You carry it to a dump station or a public toilet and use the tube on the top-right to dump it.

Here are their disadvantages:

  1. Their cost.
  2. Keeping remnants out of the bowl.
  3. Finding a toilet or dump station where you can dump them and driving to it.
  4. Carrying them (and all the cleaning supplies to clean them afterwards) into the toilet in front of god and everybody.
  5. If you let them get full they are quite heavy, up to 50 pounds.
  6. If you can’t carry a full one (and many older women can’t) you have to dump them often because you only fill them half way.
  7. Dumping them!!
  8. Cleaning them after dumping them.
  9. Finding water to refill the top tank after dumping it.
  10. They can smell unless you use chemicals.
  11. The cost of the chemicals.
  12. Did I mention dumping them! Yuck!

To be perfectly fair, I’ve never owned or used one so I really don’t have anything to base my opinion on, but it seems to me the negatives far out-weigh the positives. But to be really fair I also must admit that I once had a girlfriend who used one and thought it was great. She said dumping and cleaning it were no big deal and it didn’t bother her at all.  Once we were camped by a National Forest campground so we drove over and she dumped it in their outhouse (which is perfectly legal). I never went in with her but it took her at least 15 minutes and I was totally convinced I would never own or use one.
However, I’ve had numerous friends who liked them a lot, so it may be something you have to try for yourself and make up your own mind. Don’t let my prejudices influence you.

This is the inside of the Stansport tent I set up at the RTR. I hated dumping the bag full of poop and kitty litter so I only did this one time! Never again. I still set up a potty tent, but now people bag there stuff up and take it out with them.

This is the inside of the Stansport tent I set up at the RTR. I hated dumping the bag full of poop and kitty litter so I only did this one time! Never again!!  I still set up a potty tent, but now people bag-up there stuff and take it out with them to dispose of. I provide the bags, toilet paper and wet wipes.

Where do you go the bathroom?

So you have your toilet all ready to go, where do you use it? That depends on where you  live. If you are in a city, and you can’t get to a public restroom, well, that leaves you only one other choice. In the van you go. If you are a boondocker, and live on Public land, you have a lot more choices. Some people like potty tents like this Stansport from Amazon: Stansport Cabana Privacy Shelter, Potty Tent I have a friend who has an Ozark Trails potty tent from Walmart and loves it. Here are your choices:

  1. Inside the van. I’m sure most people do this no matter where they live. It’s not a problem even in low top vans. 99.9% of the time I go inside the van.
  2. Behind a tree. I mean that metaphorically for just outside somewhere. Personally, I pee outside and poop inside.
  3. In front of god and everybody. I can’t do this myself, but I have friends who live pretty remote and they use their poop bucket outside at all times. If you camp too close to him, you get what you deserve!
  4. Potty Tents. You can get several good brands of these tents that set up and  you use them to shower or go potty. Like porta potties, they aren’t absolutely essential but they’re more comfortable and let you maintain a sense of your old life.
I set this Stansport potty tent up at the RTR two years in a row . It stood up to numerous monster winds!

I set this Stansport potty tent up at the RTR two years in a row . It stood up to numerous monster winds!

A home-made composting toilet.

A couple years back I met a really nice guy at the RTR who was living in his van and had designed a composting toilet. I took pictures and planned to do a post on it but I never did. Now it’s been a long time and I’ve lost touch with him and lost the notes I took but I really want to share with you what he had done. So I’m going to post the pictures and tell you everything I can remember about it. You proably have a lot of questions, but unfortunately I have no answers. Hopefully this will be enough for you to get stared if you want your own composting toilet. If you do, you MUST buy the book “Humanure.” It’s the gold standard on this subject. The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure, Third Edition

For the composting toilet he built a simple box out of plywood and went to Home Depot and bought a standard homeowners toilet seat. It's simply bolted onto the lif of the box. You can make one of these even if you aren't making a composting toilet.

For the composting toilet he built a simple box out of plywood and went to Home Depot and bought a standard homeowners toilet seat. It’s simply bolted onto the lid of the box. You can make one of these even if you aren’t making a composting toilet.

With the lid up you can see it is a simple plywood box that holds a 5 gallon bucket. with a lid. You can see the bolts that hold the standard toilet seat on the lid.

With the lid up you can see it is a simple plywood box that holds a 5 gallon bucket. with a lid. You can see the bolts that hold the standard toilet seat on the lid.

To keep all odors out he has a computer muffin fan inside the box. They draw very little power so he can leave it on all the time if he needs to.

To keep all odors out he has a computer muffin fan inside the box. They draw very little power so he can leave it on all the time if he needs to. In the pictures you can see the gasket along the top.

The fan blows out of the box into this hose.

The fan blows out of the box into this hose.

The hose goes from the compoter fan inside the box to a hold in the side of the van to exhaust.

The hose goes from the computer fan inside the box to a hole in the side of the van to exhaust.

This is the key to making the compost toilet work: pete moss. He buys a a bag at Home depot and mixes it in to his poop.

This is the key to making the compost toilet work: peat moss. He buys a bag at Home Depot and mixes it in to his poop.

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96 Comments

  1. Rob

    We used a porta potty for some time (I took it out to dump it in the outhouse) and it worked well. The smaller one (2.5 gal) is better because it is not as heavy when you go to empty it.
    Those square shaped ones with a positive lock between the halves are the best.
    Here is an example:
    http://www.walmart.com/ip/Century-Portable-Toilet-2.5-Gallon-Capacity-Holding-Tank/10966279
    Please note the outside clamps between the top (working part) and the bottom (storage). You can tell the halves are connected at a glance.
    I’m a big fan of visible, positive locking mechanisms on a porta potty.
    There is almost nothing worse that a porta potty ‘accident’ in the van.

    • Bob

      Rob, that’s why I’ll never have a porta potty! An extreme phobia for an accident in my van.
      Bob

  2. Douglas

    I still prefer to heed to the call of nature outside, less chance of smells in the vehicle, as well as you’re not doing your business where you sleep.

    • Bob

      Douglas, we’re all different but inside is what works for me. I do it where I sleep, cook, eat and work. I guess I can see where that could gross you out! 🙂
      Bob

    • Douglas

      I also usually just use a hole of some sort. I carry a shovel with me for that reason.

      • Bob

        Cat holes work well. I’ve done it but I prefer a bucket.
        Bob

  3. Diane Bentley

    Had a porta potti accident dumping it once. My human error but it has lest a lasting impression on me. You have covered lots of choices well, thank you.I like the peat moss idea.

    • Bob

      Diane, yuck, I don’t even want to think about it!! Maybe that’s why I’m certain I will never own a porta potti. In 13 years I’ve never had an accident wrapping up a trash bag with that stuff. I can’t even imagine how I could!
      Bob

  4. BC Guy

    How did he dispose of the peat moss, etc?

    • Bob

      By th time he was ready to dispose of it, it should have broken down and become compost. He could just dump it anywhere and it would look just like soil.
      Bob

  5. Naomi

    Lots of good info, as always.
    Thanks!
    My sister just got a used one (clean, like new) for free, so that will be a good research project for me. 🙂
    As my dear dad used to say about toilet issues, that’s something even Samson couldn’t hold. 😉
    ~Naomi

    • Bob

      Naomi, your dad was very wise!
      Bob

  6. George

    Bob, in your article http://www.cheaprvliving.com/blog/bobs-12-commandments-for-stealth-parking-in-the-city I learned how to live responsibly in a van especially in urban environments. I used to use a portable flush toilet but now I use a 5 gallon bucket with a gamma seal lid, a 5 dollar toilet seat, disposable 13 gallon scented trash bags and some kitty litter. I use a clean bag every time I go and tie a knot in the bag when I’m done. The gamma seal lid is used to hold the waste bag and odors in the bucket until I can dispose of it. I have a large storage tote and lid in the van that I call “the bathroom” where I keep and use these items. Thank you for taking the time and effort to publish your articles! I appreciate your knowledge and experience!

    • Bob

      George, I’m delighted it’s working out so well for you George. I’m glad to have helped!
      Bob

  7. Greg

    I had a urine separating composting toilet that I installed in an RV several years ago. It was the best system of all. It had a 2.5 gallon jug that collected the urine that you dumped every few days depending on use. The solids stayed in a separate compartment and mixed with peat moss via a crank on the side. It would go for months without needing emptying. Unfortunately it stayed in the RV when I sold it. I would not hesitate to get another.
    Greg

    • SusanC

      Hi Greg,
      I like the sound of the composting toilet you used. What brand was it? Thanks!

      • Greg

        SusanC,
        “Natures Head” was the brand.

    • Openspaceman

      Greg_
      Anymore info on this system you speak of…cost, size, approximate dimensions would be greatly appreciated. Just curious.
      Thanks.

      • Greg

        Openspaceman,
        I had the “Natures Head” that I initially bought for use in a small space living quarters that had no plumbing. It was about $900 for the unit, which is expensive, but it did what I needed it to do at the time. After my time in the small space was done I put it in my RV where I used it with great success also. No more black tank to dump!:^) For a lot less money you can build a similar unit that probably would work just as well. Buy the urine separating unit (such as the Separett Privy 500 and 501) and build the cabinet yourself to contain a 5 gallon bucket for the solids and a smaller container for the liquid. Throw in a computer fan and vent outside.

        • Bob

          Greg, I don’t understand the whole thing of a second compartment for the urine when any bottle will hold the urine. In 6 years I’ve never accidentally peed in my poop bucket.
          I can see it being more of a problem for women, but not much more.
          Bob

          • Greg

            Hey Bob,
            On the compost toilet the separator directs the urine into the bottle. I guess it makes it feel more like a home toilet and that might be the draw for some people, and for women the separator would be easier.
            Greg

          • Bob

            That makes sense Greg. Thanks!
            Bob

    • Bob

      Those work really well, but boy are they expensive! Too steep for me!
      Bob

  8. Calvin R

    Bob, this is a good post on toilet issues, but you failed to mention that having a bucket and several garbage bags handy serves many other purposes. The bucket can be used to carry water, tools, or many other things as needed around camp. I can do laundry with a bucket and a toilet plunger. With a good lid, the bucket is also a seat. On the road, it’s storage. It might add to stealth in industrial environments; tradesmen of all sorts use them.The garbage bags also serve other purposes, especially keeping dirty laundry organized and their original purpose, garbage. Even the kitty litter (what I’ve used) can come in handy for soaking up spills and what not.
    A Porta-Potty serves one purpose. We can argue that it serves that purpose well, but it doesn’t do anything else.

    • Bob

      Calvin, very good point! Some people are grossed out by using it for double-duty but I use my toilet bucket to hold my dogs biscuits. Of course it’s always double-bagged so my waste never touches the biscuits. But even if it did I doubt my dog would care!
      Bob

  9. Gloria Brooks

    So, will we get part two of what the composting fellow did with the humanure? I assume he must have buried it or placed in someplace deep in the woods. This is fantastic, but, looks like a lot of work to put it together and the box would take some space.
    I still like my pooping in a 5 lb. butter container and walking it out into the forest (in a bag) and burying it deep or walking it to a public toilet…once a day. Not bad. And cleaning the little butter container just takes a couple minutes. The entire clean-up is around 10 – 15 minutes (which may be too much for many folks), but, I haven’t timed it yet either. The longest part, is walking it out to bury or dump it. When I was at the shore in the city over the summer, I was fortunate to be about a 1/4 mile from a porta-potty and public restroom and just included it as part of my exercise routine, which is doable with such a small container. It looks like I’ve just been “shopping”. LOL. But, I don’t mind and it gets it out of the van that day. I can always sit it temporarily in the shade under my van too until I can get to it that day.

    • Bob

      Gloria, the great thing about a composting toilet is that what comes out of it is, well, compost and compost can just be thrown out into the woods because it’s basically just dirt.
      It sounds like your butter container is working very well for you!
      Bob

  10. Tom

    Just a great couple of posts, and not just for people finding the website for the first time.
    “Don’t let my prejudices influence you.” The only thing I’d disagree on, I am influenced,,, because what you explain just make sense to me.
    Thank you!

    • Bob

      Thanks Tom. Very nice of you!
      Bob

  11. Greg

    Gloria,
    There are many ways to dispose of the humanure. Placing it in a cathole in the woods, tying it up in a bag and dumpster it etc, same as you would dispose of any other human waste from your van. What’s nice about it is that depending on usage it may only need to be handled once every month or so. It naturally decomposes in the toilet and shrinks in volume as it does. That’s why it can go for such a long time before dumping.
    Greg

  12. Ming

    I very much agree with how nice a urine separating composting toilet is. It is much easier to deal with the products when they remain separated. I can’t imagine going the porta-potti/ cassette toilet route.
    Since the Nature’s head toilet referred to by the commenter above costs close to $1000, I decided to play around with DIY’ing my own. I wanted something for camping and I also call it my “earthquake” toilet as I live in Vancouver where we are supposed to be able to look after ourselves if/when the big one hits.
    I started with a milk crate as I did not have a 5 gallon bucket handy. It is a good height for sitting on and a good size for the compartments needed to hold the different “products”. I had done research by reading the Humanure book and looking at youtube videos of other peoples’ home made toilets.
    This version of my toilet involves 2 containers that fit inside the milk crate, one in the front for the urine, one in the back for the poop. The back container is lined with plastic and a layer of peat moss/ coco coir on the bottom. When you go #2, you sprinkle more peat coco coir on it to cover the deposit, which seals in the odor and is the carbon portion of the composting equation (it really does not smell at all). You can repeat until the container fills up and then tie up the bag and throw it out in the trash, empty it into a hole in the ground and bury it, or dump it down a vault toilet. Depending on the size of the container and how often you use it, it will take several days to weeks to fill up.
    For the contents of the poop mixture to turn into finished compost, it would need to sit for many months after emptying the toilet, so people who homestead with a composting toilet empty theirs into outside compost piles somewhere on their land. After 2 years, it is considered safe, from the point of view of public health regarding pathogens from human manure.
    I use coco coir because it comes in a small compressed brick that you add water to to expand. I chip off what I need at a time with a hatchet and rehydrate. Peat moss comes in huge bags that take a lot of room to store. It is also not a renewable resource at the rate at which it is being harvested. Those with access to cheap sawdust can also use that.
    In the front of the toilet is a container that fits in the remaining space of the milk crate to hold the liquid. A square funnel from the automotive section of Canadian Tire makes the urine separating part of the toilet work. I empty it as needed, depending on how big that container is (I’ve tried several by now). On my last trip, it came in handy for extinguishing the fire each night. Two birds with one stone…
    How do you sit on this toilet? The top consists of a table top made of 3 boards. The middle board is removable and makes the toilet seat “hole”. Everything has a rectangular feel to it, but it works. When not in toilet mode, the milk crate can be a table or a seat.
    I used it in the corner of my large tent shelter, as I do not have a vehicle I can live in yet.
    My toilet may morph into other shapes in the future as I may buy a bucket to experiment with. I consider this one my version 1.0.
    I hope that this answers some of the questions on how a composting toilet works and how to experiment with one on the cheap.

    • Bob

      Thanks MIng!
      Bob

    • Bob

      Again, I don’t see why add the complexity of a second pee compartment to the toilet when simply peeing in a bottle before or after is so much simpler. Even after almost daily use for 6 years I’ve never accidentally peed into the bucket.
      Bob

      • Ming

        Hi Bob, there are various reasons for my project:
        1 – it was a challenge, to replicate the expensive nature’s head in a simple, cheap, and lightweight manner.
        2 – it’s also a disaster toilet, for me and my household and my brother’s family upstairs, so the closer to a real toilet, the better.
        3 – I have a touchy tummy with some foods that I eat, leading to no time to dig a hole even, and needing to do both at the same time. Much easier to deal with that on an all-in-one toilet, especially first thing in the morning. Others may not have the same problem.
        BTW, nice pair of posts detailing a good variety of toilet options! I learn so much from the practical posts.

        • Bob

          Ming, as I get older the time between when I get the first urge to “go” and “I’ve got to go right now” is getting very, very short! That’s one of the main reasons I don’t dig holes and my bucket is always ready to go “right now”!
          I understand many people need things to be as close to “normal as they can get. I guess I’ve never been terribly “normal!”
          Bob

          • Ming

            lol, ditto here with not being “normal”!
            And you should have heard the arguments at the house when our sewer pipe collapsed and we temporarily could not flush TP along with the wastes, had to put it in a separate container. I recall hearing “I don’t live in a third world country!!” from my brother more than once. The less uptight people had a good laugh.

          • Klee Rogers

            Bob, being “normal” is not an option for many of us!!

          • Bob

            Klee, I couldn’t agree more!
            Bob

    • Bobby Ray

      I have lived with folks that use only a composting toilet. We were not shy and we guys peed outside. Fresh urine diluted 5:1 or 10:1 is suitable for immediate application to food crops or flowers. My roses love my pee. Their solid waste system was a 5 gallon bucket under a toilet seat in a wooden box. They had a second bucket with sawdust and garden mulch … They did farmer’s market sales and made lots of mulch for their garden beds. A tornado destroyed their house so they moved into their barn. The county approved their composting toilet. Waste from it was added to other garden waste and temperatures charted twice a day to insure that the temps was over 165 degrees in the compost pile. I think that after 6 months the compost was “safe for garden use.” This was 6 months after the last addition. This means that you need to have two compost piles to comply with the laws in that county. One actively being used and one just sitting for 6 months. When I was in rural China I was part of a health team and we advocated that villages build “Tibetan Toilets”. These were solar assisted composting toilets built in the manner of a well designed outhouse. Well designed ones are vented to be odor free inside.
      One does not need to purchase plastic buckets.. Bakeries and in grocery store bakeries throw out used buckets every day. I have gotten free buckets almost every day this month. I use them for storage and to make self watering containers and for other garden uses. All of my garage pantry items are in buckets. Usually 3.5, 4.25 and 5 gallon buckets made by the same manufacturer can use the same lids. I also get very heavy duty pickle buckets from hamburger and sandwich shops. Buckets can also be used with filter cartridges to make the highest quality water filters for safe drinking water anywhere. I find 4 gallon rectangular frosting buckets most convenient for storage. They shack 8 high very nicely. Most bakery buckets have plastic handles that become brittle and break when left out in the sun. One does not have to use a 5 gallon bucket as a toilet. Free grocery shopping bags work well with plentiful 2 gallon buckets. A two gallon bucket fits very nicely inside a 5 gallon bucket even if it has a lid on it. Little people would find it easy to use a smaller bucket. A bed board can easily be supported by 6, 8 or more buckets. The buckets make for easier organization and hide messy items. The Humanure book is available online as a free PDF. It has been through many editions.
      Bobby Ray who is now trying to fix a dead Ford Van and complete the purchase of a Chevy Express 2500 van. One will be my work truck and the other will be my stealth van. Please help me choose which to make which. Both are in Missouri 1600+ plus miles away from me.

      • Ming

        Bobby Ray, thank you for the supply ideas!

      • Bob

        Hi Bobby Ray, thanks for all that great information about composting toilets and buckets. Great stuff.
        I’d have to know a lot more about about the vans and your plans before I could offer you any informed advice.
        Bob

  13. Sassypickins

    @Ming – I didn’t know about coco coir before, sounds perfect. How much water do you add to hydrate it before you use it? Do you make up a batch to use as needed for, say, a whole bucket’s worth of poo?

    • Ming

      coco coir expands to about 8X of its original size with water. I chip off about 1/4 of the block, add some water, let it sit for a while and check, work it through with my fingers or a trowel until it resembles peat moss in consistency. If you used too much water, it will evaporate off if you leave it uncovered, or add more dry coir.
      How much to hydrate at a time depends on how much space you have for storage, how many days of use you will need (I take short trips with the occasional longer one) so I estimate how much I need for the trip and chip off that much and hydrate. I think if you hydrate the whole brick, it will make a really big bucket.
      You use a bit at a time to cover each deposit, about a cupful each time. I really like the non-stink aspect, and minimal weight of the system, as you are emptying the pee all the time, you don’t need water to flush with, and you are not dealing with sewage. My guess is that if you use corn based compostable liner bags, you could just bundle up the whole thing and throw it into a vault toilet without upending. Just make sure no one sees you do it or they may think that you are throwing an ordinary garbage bag down the toilet.
      Gone with the Wynns have a very good series of youtube vids on their (pricey) toilet, showing how they use it and answering questions on composting toilets in general.
      Happy composting!

      • Sassypickins

        @ Ming – thank you so much. This is very helpful info indeed.
        and of course @ Bob – thanks for your good posts in the first place LOL!

        • Ming

          good luck, if you make one, let us know how it works for you!

        • Bob

          You’re welcome!
          Bob

      • Sharon

        Those bricks are great for a variety of uses! For other purposes we rehydrated the whole brick at a time, and it will fill a 2 1/2 gallon bucket. It rehydrates fastest if you use hot water, but cold works fine.It becomes nice and “fluffy” (featherlight and fine textured) when allowed to dry out, which also makes it most useful to absorb liquids. There might be a temptation to skip the rehydrating step if you’re using it for toileting purposes to absorb urine, but the manufacturing process compresses it so tightly that you’ll be wasting a lot. You don’t need to rehydrate the whole brick all at once if storage space is tight.

  14. RVTravel

    If using a gamma lid, aren’t they permanently stuck (bottom portion, not screw-on top) on the bucket? If using gamma lid, you cannot use a stick on toilet seat like what comes with a luggable loo?

    • Bob

      RVtravel, you’re right, it’s one or the other, not both. It’s possible to remove the bottom part, but not easily. It’s meant to be put on and left on.
      Bob

  15. Ming

    are these special bucket lids available in stores, or must they be mail ordered?
    If so, which stores?
    It may be a challenge to get all these different models in Canada so it would be handy to know what store to drop into to pick them up if I travel to the States.

    • Bobby Ray

      WINCO sells screw on lids for 5 gallon buckets in their
      bulk food department. WINCO is one of my favorite stores
      for buying groceries … and they have applefritters at 6:30am
      hot from the ovens for $0.58 each.
      WINCO stands for Washington, Idaho, Nevada, California and Oregon.
      The are a big box store and if you bring your own bags then 6 cents
      is knocked off for each bag you bring. I like their greek bread too
      which was $1.28 but is now I think $1.48 since I returned from Florida.
      On most items they are less than Wal-Mart and have lots more grocery items.
      They advertise that they are employee owned. I know several that are happy they work for WINCO. They will also give you free buckets even though they also sell new buckets.

    • Bob

      Ming, in the US you can get them at Winco grocery stores and most survival or Preppers supply places. Amazon sells them and I know they have a Canadian branch so you can get them on it.
      Bob

      • Ming

        thank you Bobby Ray and Bob, I will keep an eye out for WINCO’s when traveling south. Amazon in Canada only carries a fraction of what is available in the US. Most of what I am interested on Amazon I can’t find when I look it up again on the Canadian side. 🙁

        • Bob

          Ming, Winco is big in Washington state, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding one.
          Bob

  16. Marie Watts

    I like the idea of the 5 gallon bucket, but I don’t have room for that large of a container. I use a much smaller bucket lined with a single use plastic (grocery) bag, with a tiny bit of toilet paper. Do your thing, tie up the bag, and you have a very small package to put in the trash. If I could find more environmentally positive bags, I would probably go to the extra expense. However, if you already have the plastic grocery bag, you’re gonna have to throw it away sometime…

    • Bob

      Marie, that’s essentially what I do but with a bigger bucket and a Glad garbage bag. It sounds you’ve got it figured out for what works well for you!
      Bob

  17. jonny babylon

    Great information. I thought I was alone in dealing with these kinds of issues. Guess I better head for Quartzite! Really, lots of useful tips on these pages, and I’ve already laughed out loud several times. Nice. Thank you

    • Bob

      Jonny, I hope you’re laughing with me and not at me!! I’m glad to be of help. If you’re ever nearby, stop by my camp!
      Bob

  18. Bob W

    Aloha, Bob!
    I’ve been reading a lot on RVing and hope to transition to the mainland and set up a base in central California, then hit the trail for 6 months and then return to Hawaii for 6, etc. Your site it the most informational and humorous I’ve yet found. THANKS! When you’re just researching “starting over again”, like me, information and tips is what you live for. I’ve got stacks of notes already and love the gypsy lifestyle.
    Keep up the good work and see you on the road,….soon I hope!
    Bob Wood. oahu

    • Bob

      Bob, glad I can help!
      Your plan sounds like heaven on earth to me!
      Bob

  19. Rita

    It does not have to be so complicated. I just poop on newspaper and wrap it up. I pee in a quart mason jar, add water to it and fertilize a plant somewhere.
    The newspaper packet really has little odor, so I can collect these for days. But I am a veggie eater and that helps. No plastic needed, and add them to my trash, worm bin, or compost. I try not to use any plastics at all and strive for no trash, and little electricity, water, or gas. Kinda like the pioneers.
    Right now I live in a 26 foot trailer, but travel in a truck with a topper. Before that I lived in a canvas tent , before that a Honda Civic. This method was only difficult in the Civic, so I sought out a public toilet then for #2.
    I am enjoying your blog as I lean toward getting a van next. Tons of ideas here. Thanks y’all.

  20. Kay Cee

    Hi Bob. Love your website, I’m learning a lot. Do you recommend the Tote-able Toilet Seat with Lid and Gasket, which you linked to in this article? I didn’t see where you said what specific set up or product you use and there’s nothing on your Amazon store recommended items list. I want something simple that isn’t distasteful to empty, so the flushable port a potties are OUT for me. Also, do you recommend using the Gamma lid/container combo to pack out your trash and “solid waste?” Thanks for sharing your experiences and knowledge.

    • Bob

      Kay Cee, I went super cheap, I just have a 5 gallon bucket and I taped pipe insulation around the rim. I’ve been using it for 7 years and see no reason to do anything different. It’s the only thing I’ve ever used but I have friends who use the other methods and like them just as well. I don’t think you can go wrong with any of them.
      I would say my method with the pipe insulation is by far the cheapest and I think most comfortable. I put one layer of insulation on it then a second which was larger and softer. It works very well.
      Bob

  21. surfer

    Here’s an idea for a folding stowable toilet bass: Jimmy’s ThunderBox™ Camping Toilet – Made in Australia http://www.2daloo.com/thunderbox.html for $100 AUD that could be home made out of wood and/or sheet metal fairly easily.
    Here are some of its selling points:
    It is really nice to be able to just sit there and have no flies buzzing around your bum.
    • Jimmy’s ThunderBox is the same height and has the same hole as your toilet at home.
    • Designed to save space and folds down to a very flat 40cm x 40cm x 2½cm or 1 inch thick. 
    • Comfortable, Stable, Strong, Robust, are just a few of the words used to describe this toilet.
    • Jimmy’s ThunderBox comes in a bonus carry bag with handles — Absolutely Free.
    • If you are in a hurry, this camping toilet is extremely easy to erect. Seconds is all it takes.
    • The most important feature of this camp toilet is that it has a very comfortable wooden seat.
    • There is no assembly required, take it out of the bag and in seconds it’s ready to use. 
    • This toilet can be used with a bucket inside or with the In-viro™ degradable toilet bags. 
    • It’s so easy to clean, the only thing you need is, a little water and a stiff brush.
    • This toilet weighs only 4·2kg or 9·2lbs and when erected is 40cm x 40cm x 39cm high.
    • You can choose from either a *raw or a *black melamine seat, both are made from MDF.
    • The bottom box section is made to last from quality Australian made galvanized steel.
    • All spare parts are available for the Jimmy’s ThunderBox portable toilet if ever needed.
    • This toilet can support 230kg or 507lbs. Check our Jimmy’s ThunderBox outdoor Toilet test
    • By turning a catch under the seat, the base and the seat are locked together into a slot.
    • Jimmy’s ThunderBox – is easy to use, easy to clean, stable and strong and will definitely
    • add comfort to your camping – It is suitable for the outdoors – 4W driving – Hunting – Fishing
    • Boating – Family camping – remote areas – expeditions – disaster and emergency situations
    If homemade, it could be used in conjunction with the Separett Privy Separator Bowl http://www.littlehouse.co/shop/separett-privy-bowl/ to make it a composter. Then it could be more adaptable to urban camping or boondocking. And of course, it’s more suitable for women so they don’t have to use 2 methods per event.

    • Bob

      surfer, that’s a great find! Being able to fold up my 5 gallon bucket toilet would create quite a bit of extra room. But, my 5 gallon bucket was free so I’ll probably stick with it.
      Bob

  22. surfer

    I’m with you, K.I.S.S. & free trumps. Keep on the look out for a free folding milk crate!

    • Bob

      Thanks Surfer!
      Bob

  23. Jordan Baker

    My mom used to drive us around in a camper just around very year. It was a little frustrating because she didn’t know how to use that toilet. Maybe I should show this to her. She still likes to take the younger kids out. This will definitely make the bathroom situation a little less miserable. http://bodenplumbing.net/services

    • Bob

      Jordon, it doesn’t get much simpler than pooping in a bucket!
      Bob

  24. EmilyJ

    Great article and tip! I can’t believe there are so many ways to make a toilet seat, who knew 🙂 You can practically do it from anything. Thanks again.

    • Bob

      Thanks Emily!
      Bob

  25. RobinH

    Impressive solution, looks easy and clean. Will definitely try this method on my next camping trip.

    • Bob

      One of them should work for Robin!
      Bob

  26. JosephineSmith

    These ideas are really nice and of course budget friendly, but I totally agree with BOB that it won’t properly solve our problem of disposing off the waste hygienically in outdoors.
    According to my personal experience it is better to buy a small portable toilet that can be used in outdoors and has all the facility of cleaning and disposing of the waste at the same time.
    Just like we use portable toilets arranged in bigger events by the organizations.
    These days, fully equipped portaloos are easily available online on a very affordable rate.

    • Bob

      Thanks Joesphine.
      Bob

  27. Zubair Ahmed

    Hi Bob,
    This is my version of the portable bucket toilet.
    Take a hard 5 gallon bucket that is used in construction sites. Take a pool noodle or a pipe insulation. You will have to cut the pool noodle length wise. Put this on top of the bucket.
    Fill the bucket with some absorption material like torn newspapers so it soaks up the liquid. This makes it easy for disposable. Your portable toilet is ready for use 🙂
    To take care of the after use odour, you can make a cheap freshener by mixing 10 drops of lemon essential oil, 10 drops of grapefruit, 5 drops of tea tree and 10 drops of Bergamont. Mix this with distilled water and your own freshener is ready.
    If you are not ok with the freshener, you can just let the bucket dry in the sun with a little distilled vinegar and the odour should go away naturally.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Bob

      Those are great tips Zubair, thank you!
      Bob

  28. sarah

    Here lately, I’ve been peeing in a cup, and going poo in a small 2 quart paint bucket from Ace hardware. I line the small bucket with a doggie doodie bag, and go. I tie the bag, and put the lid back on. When it’s time to throw it away *that same day* I open the lid and take out the bag and toss into any trash container I find. I love the small size of the bucket, and the perfect fit of the doggie bag. Also it’s a dog poop bag, so nobody is expecting anything except doo! Which makes for an easy toss in the trash, no questions asked by unsuspecting onlookers. So the thing about that is, the smell, and I need to make some home made poo- pourri, which is simply essential oils, water, and a touch of liquid soap, put in a spray bottle, and spritz before you go, or afterward as an all natural air freshener. My next plan is to venture into the composting toilet sector. I don’t have a problem peeing in a separate container. So the best option for me is…drum roll.. It’s called a “Gama vittles pet food storage” the size is measurably smaller than a 5 gallon bucket. A 5 gallon bucket is just too big! The Gamma pet food container has the gamma lid to keep odors IN! Also the opening is a little smaller and more manageable for my lady hands. I’m getting a Gamma pet food container, and a brick of Coconut fluff. Composting toilet solved, stench out. Self contained sealed gamma lid for odors, and safety on bumpy roads. I’ll line it with a strong plastic bag, (one that doesn’t get holes in it from screwing on the gamma lid) so when it comes time to dump, I can tie up the bag, out she comes and throw it away.

    • Bob

      Sarah, it sounds like you are doing great with the whole thing and have it figured out!! The Vittle Vault will work great (I own two of them). But I don’t believe that is composting. It takes a lot of time, air, heat and movement for composting to happen and I think you almost have to be a homesteader to finish the process. It’s in the composting toilet to begin it and then it goes into a composting pile to finish it.
      But, it’s still a great pan and will work very well for you!! Bob

  29. Wes

    Hey Bob, I’m thinking of van dwelling and was considering a compost toilet if I could design one to be simple, functional and easily maintained.
    It would consist of a square wooden box with a hinged lid and toilet seat installed
    There would be a fluid separator in front of the 5-gallon bucket, the bucket being for solid waste decomposition. In the back of the box there would be a small fan running to vent pipe leading outside of the van.
    Now, im aware of the oxygen and carbon is needed to procure aerobic bacteria to allow for healthy decomposition process.
    Should I be leaving the lid off of the bucket, but have the lid on the box closed, just to allow for more air flow to the bucket so it can decompose more efficiently? or is this not something that works in practice?

  30. Fredwingg

    Hello,
    Good Post.
    I’m fairly sure that anyone reading this has used a portable toilet once in their life or has at least seen them somewhere and felt a little bit of relief knowing there is somewhere to go when nature calls. This is just one of the advantages that portable toilets provide.
    Thanks for sharing this useful post.
    I really appreciate your efforts for writing this post.
    Keep up the good work!

  31. Edward

    Thanks for the post. The homemade composting toilet looks good, I really liked.
    If you don’t mind, I have a couple of questions. What’s you hate the most when using the homemade composting toilet? Is the design is for van/RV only? I really want to introduce it for tiny house lover if it fit for the tiny house on wheels also.
    Looking forward for your opinion 🙂
    Regard,
    Edward

  32. Yolande

    Hi, people talk about living responsibly and in the same breath say they use plastic bags to pee and poop in. Do you know that EVERY PIECE of plastic ever made still exists!!?

  33. Sharon

    Thanks for your great tips about making a homemade composting toilet. I have a question to all of you campers. How do you earn through living into a camper van permanently?

  34. Janice Martinez

    Clorox toilet bowl cleaner is an awesome and very effective toilet bowl cleaner. It works super fast and clean your toilet within 15 mins.
    I have been using it since 5 years you can use for your bathroom and toilet. Thank you very much for sharing this informative tips.

  35. Andrew Powell

    WOW, it’s really great tip to homemade composting toilet. Your tip is very helpful for making composting toilet. Thank you for share a very helpful tip.

  36. Gioko P.

    I think I would go with the homemade one, looks cool and I would know how to repair it if it ever breaks down. I think I might also use a smaller bucket as I do not have space for a 5-gallon one. Nice post, very informative.

  37. Joe Carrow

    Fantastic Post !!! and that I am sense very blessed to find out this sort of content concerning Porta Toilets and Composting Toilets. Will be very very important for all. Also, you fellas added several useful ideas as well. Appreciate your sharing this useful content again…

  38. Eric Smith

    Awesome job really it’s great article.

  39. Lawrence Barnett

    Firstly, thanks for sharing this informative post. I really like your homemade composting toilets ideas. It’s perfect! Sometimes my friend and I travel in Oregon and are planning on changing cargo trailers into traveling spaces! This composting toilet will be complete!

  40. Nili Petricious

    This very informative and helpful tips for composting toilet. I’m looking for some bathroom accessories for my summer projects, and this is something. It may fit the bill to add to my list. I’d love an outdoor shower to use after gardening and yard work. Thanks for sharing these excellent indoor bathroom accessories.

  41. Kevin B.

    It’s amazing to see how much these types of toilets have changed over the years. Just think, these versions are only 5 years old, but the options today are a lot more sophisticated.

  42. Tim

    I’m considering on dropping the 1k on a Nature’s Head. It seems like it’ll save me more time.
    I like the idea of getting rid of waste out of my vehicle regularly. It just seems a little weird and unhealthy to have it so close to a place where I sleep and hangout.
    Ok so the portability is pretty cool. My concern is it could get stolen. That’s a lot of money.
    If I make my own do I need some crank? Or list throw on some dust after every time and I’m good?

  43. Blake

    Good tips. Especially opting to go for a porta bathroom. It’s funny how people assume they will be just fine with all the generic items they have. Thanks for the share of this blog!

  44. haAvali

    I provide https://kidstrust.org as a service to my parents customers. Please assume from the following reviews if you start use of my site. During using this site, you send me a happy hour 😉

  45. James Martin

    Hey, your article is very informative for van and trackers.
    hopefully, These types of toilets also used for boats.
    Homemade toilet making is easy but not looks good. how I improve this toilet color or overall design?
    thank you so much. I like your tricks.

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