5 Things To Consider When Buying A Toilet For Camping Or RVs

Portable toilets are quite different than normal indoor toilets. We’ve already written about what to look for when picking the best toilet but the outdoor toilets are another story.

We don’t have to decide between one-piece and two-piece toilet because all portable toilets are one-piece; it’s just more convenient.

However, when picking an outdoor toilet, we have to be aware of certain metrics. Here is the list of 5 things you should always check when comparing camping toilets:

#1 Size And Weight Of Toilet (Smaller For Hiking, Bigger For Camping)

As you might imagine, the size and weight are very important; normally we want to reduce both of these. What sizes of camping toilets there are? Well, a standard size would be something like 15 x 15 x 15 inches. Anything below that is considered a small portable toilet and anything above that is considered a larger toilet more appropriate for longer (a week or more) vacations.

When it comes to toilet size, there are two things to remember:

  1. The smaller the toilet, the easier it is to carry it. But, on the other hand, it is less comfortable to use, obviously. Smaller outdoor toilets are more appropriate for hiking, short trips, and finishing trips.
  2. The larger the toilet, the heavier it is to carry; however, it is much more comfortable than the smaller varieties. You can use it for longer trips; the big outdoor toilets are especially appropriate for RVs, boats, vans or longer camping trips. And, of course, if there are more people, a larger portable toilet makes sense.
And remember, larger toilets are more stable – that counts for much when you’re squatting on a toilet.

Weight depends on the size but also on the material. What are camping toilets made out of? Usually light materials like ABS plastic or high-density polyethylene. In fact, polyethylene is the most popular choice when designing a portable toilet because it can be easily maneuvered into shape and it has a high durability/weight ratio.

#2 How Many Times Can You Flush?

If you don’t want constantly refilling the portable toilet with water, you’ll probably have to opt for a bigger water tank. With the advancement in camping toilet flushing mechanisms, an outdoor toilet offers anywhere from 30 to 80 flushes per one filling on the water tank.

There are two factors that define how many times you can flush the camping toilet: the volume of the water tank and the volume required for a single flush.

You can get anything from 2-gallon to 6-gallon water tank. The water tank is the upper compartment of the outdoor toilet and if you can readily refill it, you can opt for low-volume tanks (it’ll make carrying the portable toilet filled with water easier). However, if you can’t or don’t want to refill it more than once or twice, go for the high-volume tanks.

A standard toilet uses 1.6 GPF (gallon per flush) of water. The camping toilets are designed to use only about 0.1 GPF. Of course, the flush is not as thorough as with a standard toilet but in the outdoors, it will do the trick.

Combining the water tank size of portable toilets and flush volume, we can calculate the number of flushes you get with one filling. Being a key metric, the producers of outdoor toilets will usually state the number of flushes. Just a tip: take that number with a grain of salt. Some producers might exaggerate with the flush number.

#3 Waste Tank Volume

The bottom part of a camping toilet is the waste tank. It’s where all the feces end up. Of course, camping toilets are meant for multiple uses and the feces accumulate to, in the end, fill the entire tank. That’s why it’s important to check what kind of volume does a portable toilet waste tank have.

Interestingly, the majority of outdoor toilets have 4-6 gallon waste tanks. Why are all camping toilets so comparable when it comes to waste tank volume?

It’s quite simple actually. The waste tank, the bottom part of the toilet, gives height to a toilet. A camping toilet would be unusable it would be too low: that’s why the waste tanks are quite big to heighten the base for the water tank and, finally, the seat of the camping toilets.

#4 Do Camping Toilets Smell? (Key Is Sealed Valve)

One of the key concerns is that the toilet for camping will smell. It’s easy to imagine all those feces macerating and producing an outworld aroma that the whole camp will smell. But do the portable toilets really smell?

Not if they have a sealed valve. The key to an odorless camping toilet is to completely shut off the bottom waste tank when you’re not using a toilet. Of course, when you flush the outdoor toilet, the seal will open and let the water and feces through to the waste tank. The sealed valve is the key feature that completely separates the tanks and prevents leaks.

Tip: If you can still smell the camping toilet, use deodorant tablets for toilets. You just flush them down to the waste tank and it will cover the smell (or at the very least, you’ll smell the deodorant pills instead of feces).

Also, check how both the tanks are connected. Strong connection with sealed valves will not only take care of the odor but it will also increase the stability of the portable toilet. Check that one tank doesn’t wobble on the other; they should be held together as one uniform piece.

#5 How To Clean A Camping Toilet? (And What To Dispose Of The Waste)

Sooner or later, the camping toilet will be full and you’ll need to empty the portable toilet and clean it. How to empty a camping toilet? Well, simply pour out the waste. That is easier said than done. For emptying purposes, portable toilets usually have a big spout. If you’re lucky and the camping toilet’s spout is wide enough, the waste will drip out without a problem.

However, what to do if the waste is stuck in a camping toilet? Well, you can shake it but a more effective technique is to use a water hose and flush the feces out. Another way of emptying toilet for camping is to use chemicals to soften the feces; add the chemicals, leave it for half an hour and then flush it out with more ease.

In order for camping toilets to be hygienic, they need to be regularly and properly cleaned. Here is a great article about how to clean a camping toilet. In short, you have to spray the insides with water and add anti-bacterial spray to prevent the growth of bacteria. High-pressure hot wash is a good idea as well if you have an option. In the end, you can even use some odor removing fluid to get rid of any persistent smell.

And finally, where to dump the portable toilet waste? Improper disposing of toilet waste can be damaging to the environment and can even be against the law in some states. In order to help you properly dispose of the camping toilet waste, some camping and RV sites offer dump stations or vault toilets. Those are something referred to as the ‘black tanks’.

Now that you know what to look for when buying the best camping toilets, you can check our list of the best 5 portable camping toilets here.

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