Whether you’re a hardcore budget vanlifer, weekend warrior or car camper, one thing that all campers have in common is that..nature calls. Picking the right portable toilet for camping or off grid living can make or break your experience!
And if I’ve learned anything on the road, it’s that nothing beats a reliable, comfortable, easy to setup portable toilet when you gotta go outdoors (or in a camper). Oh, and a tight-seal Nalgene water bottle for those late night pees.
While you can opt to have a designated porta potty storage space in your camper, there is no installation required for any of the portable toilets covered in this article. Let’s walk through the most portable camping toilets so you can figure out which loo is best for you!
Best Portable Camping Toilets
5 Types of Portable Camp Toilets
Which van life toilet best suits your needs? There’s a lot to consider, so let’s walk through an overview of each.
1. Bucket Toilets
Typical Price Range: $25 - $50
A bucket toilet is exactly as it sounds – a bucket that you use as a toilet. It’s the most basic type of portable camping toilet, and so simple that you can easily make one yourself using just a 5-gallon bucket.
– No complicated parts so it’s easy to use and maintain.
– Cleans and stores easily.
– Doesn’t smell great.
– No way to break down waste so it fills quickly.
– You’re pooping in a bucket…
Camco Bucket Toilet ($30)
The Camco bucket toilet is essentially a 5-gallon durable plastic paint bucket! It features a toilet seat and lid attachment that snaps onto the rim of the toilet seat.
The Camco comes with three disposable bag liners, which may be one of the best features. These bags aren’t just trash bags; they are trash bags filled with biodegradable powder that turns liquid to gel on contact. Each of these bags is secured inside a bigger zip-locked bag, for two layers of extra protection. Attach the bags to the toilet by securing them underneath the toilet seat.
Stansport Easy-Go Bucket Toilet ($62)
The Stansport is a bit more “refined” bucket toilet with built-in carrying handles, unlike the Camco which only has a big, detached wire carry handle. However it only comes with one disposable sanitary bag. Attach the sanitary bag to the interior of the toilet using the four hooks placed around the rim.
I think this attachment method seems less leakproof than the Camco’s method (put the bag underneath the toilet seat), but that’s just me. The Stansport’s slim design and evergreen color certainly give it a more subtle look than the bright blue Camco paint bucket look.
Giantex Portable Travel Toilet ($53)
Want a portable toilet that puts the “ass” in class? The Giantex Portable Travel Toilet is as fancy as you can get while still essentially just being a bucket toilet. It’s a bit bulkier than other bucket toilets, but it boasts a built-in toilet paper holder and a small “waste tank”, which is really just a removable plastic bucket. But if it works, it works, right?
What I like about this design is that you’re never directly going to the bathroom inside the outer shell, but just the inner bucket (that comes with a lid). This will make cleaning up a lot quicker and easier.
2. Portable Cassette (or Chemical) Toilets
Typical Price Range: $100 - $500
Technically, a cassette toilet can either be a toilet that permanently attaches to a rig (ie boat, RV, camper) or is completely portable and unattached to anything (AKA a porta potti). Cassette toilets use chemicals to help break down waste and reduce odor. These chemicals can come in gel, powder or liquid form.
A cassette toilet operates like your toilet at home, meaning you can flush waste away into a holding tank where the chemicals will do their magic until it’s time to empty it. You can dispose of the waste at a pump-out dump station or public facility.
– Smell of waste is greatly reduced, and it’s “out of sight out of mind.”
– Can use it like a regular toilet.
– Seals with a latch, so it’s easy to carry without spilling.
– Some chemicals can be bad for the environment
– You may not be able to dispose of waste everywhere.
– The pump system can break.
– Chemical smells
– Repurchasing chemicals can get costly long term
Serene Life Outdoor Portable Toilet ($100)
Serene Life states, “This leak-proof cassette toilet for RV travel is crafted from high-density, premium quality polyethylene for a corrosion-resistant travel toilet”. It’s advertised as being able to flush up to 120 times without needing to be emptied–that seems steep but impressive if true!
The extra large tank is 5.3 gallons and the waste tank level indicator will tell you when it’s time to empty. One of its best features to me is the rotating spout for quick and discreet emptying. That being said, one customer noted that the rotating spout is difficult to fully clean out since it sort of has a rim that traps water. They also recommended NOT throwing toilet paper in the waste tank, in order to make it easier to clean and to prolong having to empty it.
Thetford Porta Potti 135 ($105)
Similar to the Serene Life portable toilet, the Thetford features a rotating pour-out spout and a fresh water tank and black tank. Both tanks can hold 2.6 gallons, which translates to about 27 flushes before needing to be emptied.
Also similar to the Serene Life, reviewers recommend not flushing toilet paper down (well, maybe just #2 TP). You’ll get more mileage from your toilet before needing to empty it, and it will be easier to clean.
3. Folding Seat Toilets
Typical Price Range: $25 - $50
A folding seat toilet is one of the more basic portable camping toilets. As the name suggests, it’s essentially a seat that you position above a hole in the ground to create the illusion of a toilet. One step up and you can attach a bag to the underside of the seat to catch waste. The bag detaches from the seat for easy disposal in any public toilet or porta-potty.
If you aren’t into expensive campervan builds, this could be the toilet for you.
– Lightweight, foldable, and easy to carry.
– Can double as a normal camping chair.
– One-time use bags are not great for the environment, and restocking can get pricey.
– If you’re not using bags, you must figure out how to dispose of the waste.
– No way to combat smell.
Playberg Folding Portable Toilet Seat
This folding portable toilet hardly needs an explanation! Simply unfold the seat, place an 8-gallon waste bag over the toilet seat, sit down and do your business! Be sure to use zip ties to secure the waste bag and properly dispose at a dump station. Or if you’re on public lands that allow catholes, you can just dig a 6+ inch hole beneath the seat and bury your waste.
Tri-To-Go Camping Foldable Toilet Chair ($36)
The Tri-To-Go toilet chair is built on a reinforced tripod-style stand with wide, “anti-sink” feet. This toilet doubles as a regular camp chair! It weighs just four pounds and can hold up to 300 pounds.
4. Flushable Toilets
Typical Price Range: $150 - $900
Enter the most premium portable toilets: flushable toilets. A flushable toilet is as close as you’re going to get to a regular toilet when you’re camping. Flushable toilets are slightly less portable than other options because of their size, but if you’re someone who likes the feeling of using a real toilet, this is the option for you.
There are two types of flushing portable toilets: wet and dry. Wet flush toilets must be filled with fresh water, and waste is stored in a holding tank (AKA waste tank). Dry flush toilets use a bag inside the bowl and a special flushing mechanism. When you flush a dry flush toilet, the bag is twisted, sealed, and compacted into the holding tank, reserving space and eliminating the need for water.
– Surprisingly lightweight (when empty).
– Wet flush toilets are not very expensive.
– Very comfortable and the ultimate “out of sight out of mind” experience.
– Wet flush toilets must be filled with fresh water.
– Dry flush toilets are pricey and use special one-time-use bags.
– Complicated flushing system can break.
Thetford Flushable Toilet 365 ($160)
The Thetford 365 is a wet flushable toilet with the same sturdy and comfortable design as the Thetford 135. It’s slightly taller than the Thetford 135, coming in at 16.3″ tall (versus 15.1″ tall on the 135), which makes for a more comfortable sitting experience.
With a 4 gallon water tank and 5.5 gallon waste water tank, you can get up to 56 flushes before needing to empty! It has a rotating spout and bellows pump flush for easy functionality.
Laveo Dry Flush Toilet ($895-$975)
The Laveo Dry Flush toilet uses a sophisticated, yet simple, bag suction system that compacts waste and saves lots of space in your black tank. The toilet uses cartridges that average 15-17 flushes per cartridge. You don’t have to use Pee Powder with the Laveo, but you’ll significantly increase the lifespan of your cartridges if you do.
The Laveo is in a league of its own in terms of no mess and no smell. Since it doesn’t use water but instead chemicals that immediately break down waste and a system that condenses it, cleanup is a breeze! But it comes at a cost (literally and figuratively). It needs a power supply and has a price tag of nearly $1,000.
For the RV and camper portable toilet options, Laveo offers three power options: 12V 7AH Battery with cable and charger, wall outlet (AC power adapter), or car adapter plug (DC power cord). So what it lacks in maintenance for cleaning, it makes up for in having to run a power supply to it.
5. Composting Toilets
Typical Price Range: $200 - $1,100
Composting toilets are the most environmentally friendly portable camping toilets out there. They are also the only option that enables you to dispose of your waste in a regular garbage can (as long as it is sufficiently composted by the time you dispose of it.) Unfortunately, they are also the most expensive, and most are not truly portable (except for the BOXIO and Cuddy.)
A composting toilet has two separate tanks – one for liquids and one for solids. The separation of waste allows the solid waste to remain dry and to compost, usually with the aid of a bulking material like peat moss or coco coir. It also eliminates odor naturally: smells only happen when liquid waste combines with solid waste, forming sewage.
– Environmentally friendly – no chemicals.
– Comfortable, can be used almost like a regular toilet.
– No smell.
– Can be left for months without emptying (in fact, it works better when you do this!)
– Not truly portable – except for the Cuddy, which is a new model.
– Liquids tank fills up pretty quickly.
Nature's Head Composting Toilet ($1,030)
The Nature’s Head toilet is delightfully similar to a regular toilet. It has the same ballpark height as a regular toilet for extra comfort (20″ tall) and a regular flusher. But it’s not very portable; it weighs 28 pounds and needs a DC power source. This is not the toilet you take camping or on car trips!
The Nature’s Head toilet is a great option for a spacious RV or a camper van with designated toilet storage. Two people using it full-time will only have to empty it every 4-6 weeks–that’s impressive. You don’t need to buy pricey waste bags or dump at designated dump stations; the chemicals break down waste so you can dump in a porta potti or regular trash (so long as it’s properly composted first).
BOXIO Compost Toilet ($249)
Compost toilets can be some of the pricier portable toilets on the market today, but here’s a much cheaper and basic compost toilet option: the BOXIO toilet. Like the name implies, it’s essentially a crate box equipped with a toilet seat, lid, and two separate waste tanks for solids and liquids.
It has mixed reviews from Amazon customers, but is a lightweight and budget-friendly option for those who want a compost toilet. It weighs 11.5 pounds and can hold 1.5 gallons of waste. You’ll want to use waste bags for solid waste–which they claim can be easily disposed of in a trash can after being mixed with hemp pellets. However, I’m not sure how that works since the waste won’t be composted at that point…? Shop at your own discretion…
Cuddy Composting Toilet ($720)
The Cuddy comes in at 16.3″ tall and weighs 21 pounds. It has a 1.7 gallon liquids waste carrying capacity and 3.9 gallon solids waste carrying capacity. Similar to the Nature’s Head, it needs a power supply. The Cuddy runs on hardwired 12V DC power which also powers a fun LED smart light, which tells you when it’s time to empty the liquids tank.
Cuddy uses an internal carbon filter to keep smells down and messes at bay–it only needs to be replaced every 6-12 months. What’s more, the filter uses basic (and cheap) carbon pellets that you can refill by swinging by any pet store.
Cheapest Van Life Toilets
Maybe you’re just looking for a very basic and inexpensive portable loo to use in a pinch. Check out these toilets that are a hybrid of the simplest designs, such as the bucket toilet and folding toilet.
Trip Tips Portable Camping Toilet
For $38 you can get yourself a Trip Tips camping toilet, which packs up impressively small, just two inches wide! This makes it ideal for camping, backpacking, car rides, or van life. I don’t think you’ll want to be cleaning this out daily, though. It comes with one waterproof, reusable bag.
The Trip Tips toilet can also be used as a stepping stool, small seat, trash bin, or a good ‘ol vomit bucket (yum).
Vingli Portable Toilet
I can vouch for this budget portable toilet because it’s my go-to loo on the road! The Vingli Portable Toilet is a modest $25 and is essentially a plastic toilet seat lid with screw-on plastic legs. The toilet comes with two different sets of legs–a long and short set.
You can fill the toilet seat with warm water to heat up your bum on a chilly morning, or to help weigh down the toilet. You can either dig a hole outdoors, and simply place to toilet above it, or (as I do) use compostable waste bags.
IPXEAD Portable Camping Toilet
Look at this simple beauty–don’t you want to sit your tush on it? For just $26, the IPXEAD portable toilet can be yours. It’s advertised as an emergency toilet, but can also be a basic outdoor toilet.
The legs are made of stainless steel and can support up to 250lbs. This toilet is so simple, that you just fold an 8-gallon plastic bag over the toilet seat, and that’s how it stays secured while doing your business.
My Portable Camping Toilet Setup
I’ve gathered some wild van life bathroom stories after a year on the road. From tasing myself accidentally in a pit toilet, setting up my portable toilet in a bed of fire ants, to ripping a hole in my compost bag while going to the bathroom INSIDE my van…
I prefer the great outdoors and a good poop shovel as my van life toilet. If that’s not an option, I use my collapsible Vingli toilet with Green Elephant portable toilet bags. Don’t forget the zip ties to make sure NOTHING escapes that bag!
How to Choose the Right Portable Camping Toilet
If you’re the kind of hardcore outdoors-person who thinks “the world is my toilet”, then a foldable seat toilet over a hole in the ground might be all you need. Just make sure you’re observing the rules of the wilderness and packing out your waste if that’s required.
For those who need a bit more, uh, cush for their tush, a more typical flushable toilet or composting toilet might be preferable.
The bucket toilet is certainly the cheapest option on the list. In fact, if you happen to have an old 5-gallon bucket laying around then boom – free toilet!
Composting toilets are at the other end of the spectrum, sometimes running as much as $1500 – but for that, you are getting a well-built, environmentally friendly solution that requires almost no maintenance and is unlikely to break on you.
Flushable and chemical toilets lie somewhere in between – usually in the $300-$700 range – but you will have the continuing cost of restocking bio bags or chemicals.
Frequency of Emptying
Emptying a toilet after every time you use it gets old, and if you’re using a bucket or foldable seat toilet, you will either be emptying the bucket or dealing with a bio bag after every use (unless you don’t mind sitting with the smell for a few days.)
Chemical, flushable, and composting toilets, on the other hand, can be emptied much less frequently. In fact, you can leave a composting toilet for months without emptying it.
Let’s face it, going to the toilet while you’re camping is never going to be glamorous…unless you’re rocking one of these.
Seriously though, whatever portable toilet solution you choose for your next camping trip, there are ways to make the experience more private, from the Yoni robe linked above to pop-up privacy tents to a complete portable bathroom system.
No matter what kind of camper or van lifer you are, taking care of business is something that happens multiple times a day. Don’t skimp and don’t leave it to chance.
Sure, a public restroom or the great outdoors make nice bathroom options as well, but having a designated “safe” bathroom option 24/7 will give you peace of mind!
A portable toilet can mean the difference between a comfortable camping experience and a miserable one, and with so many options out there, you’re bound to find something that fits your needs.