A toilet in your tent could be very convenient. Or could it? We cover the pros and cons of taking a toilet when tent camping.
Even if you stay at a campsite with the best facilities, getting up in the middle of the night, or first thing in the morning when it is a bit chilly, using the toilet isn't that fun.
So, should you get a toilet for your tent?
Well, that's something you'll have to decide for yourself.
Read our little guide to using a camping toilet and decide for yourself.
We had a toilet but don't any more
Many years ago, we bought a small chemical toilet to take camping.
We had a toilet not so much because of the late-night/early-morning inconvenience but because we liked to camp at remote campsites, where the toilets and facilities would be some way off.
It made perfect sense.
kept the toilet smells away from where we eat and sleep
We bought a Campingaz canister chemical toilet and a separate toilet/shower tent, which kept the toilet smells away from where we eat and sleep.
And we did use it—a couple of times.
We finally sold it after many years in its box in the garage.
Why we sold our camping toilet
The convenience of having the toilet wasn't worth the hassle of it.
With many people in the family using the toilet, it wasn't long before it would become full and need emptying.
Unfortunately, this could result in some seepage
Perhaps this would have been easier if we weren't at remote campsites, but for us, the long trek to the chemical disposal point involved driving in the car.
Unfortunately, this could result in some seepage from the canister 😐
The alternative was a long walk carrying a cumbersome and smelly toilet canister.
I remember doing this once on a hot summer day. It wasn't pleasant.
It wasn't pleasant
It wasn't long after I went through all that, it would be full again, and I would need to repeat the whole sorry process.
The toilet (and chemicals) also took up quite a lot of space that was better used for taking other things to the campsite (like the BBQ/Firepit).
However, Many Campers Do Take a Toilet
I know plenty of people who wouldn't camp without their portable toilet. This is mainly to make things easier at night.
Some tents have a porch at the side entrance, where many people place their toilet.
Loo Loo was our very best purchase ever along with the pop up toilet tent she sits in during the daytime. My 3 yr old granddaughter who was struggling to use the toilet at home learned how to take herself to the loo on a 3 day camping trip with us. She thought it was marvelous and started using the loo at home when we got back. We didn't need to do the constant runs to the ablutions block what a bonus that was and at night we bring loo loo into the tent for emergencies. Emptied regularly swilled and wiped over with antibacterial wipes makes camping with kids so much easier. Oh and my pregnant daughter was verry glad of it on our last trip out too though she did find it just a bit low down. Lynn Wallace
We got a toilet for the tent last year. I was worried about the chemical smell but it wasn't a problem and the whole camping experience was so much nicer, especially the nights! We do have a big tent tho so it was away from the beds Suzanne Elliott
We got a little compact loo, we only use it at night, wouldn't be without it x Tracey Hart
I take a bucket with lid (Eimer mit Deckel) from wall paint (2.5 litres)). I will do it on festivals or when i am alone with the kids. In the morning i carry the bucket to the toilet, take some soap and water to clean it an that's it. Very easy and cheap. But i won't take it when my husband is with me/us because he don't like it. Nicole Walkinthewoods
Camping Toilet Options
So if you want a camping toilet, there are quite a few options.
The most basic DIY approach is a bucket with some cat litter!! 😲
Bog in a Bag - A Popular Non-Toilet Option
An alternative to the Chemical Loo is the Bog-in-a-Bag option.
It scores points over traditional camping toilets because the Bog-in-a-Bag is disposable and lightweight, even if it doesn't feel quite like a toilet.
You buy bags that contain an absorbent pad (a bit like a nappy) which you then attach to the Bog-in-a-Bag stool (err, the wrong word, perhaps!?!).
enforce 'no solids' and 'only after bedtime' Mary McGrory
- Easy to clean - just dispose of used bags
- Not as expensive as a chemical toilet
- Small and easy to transport and store at home
The not so good
- Perching on the little stool may not be that comfortable
- The adapted small camping stool may not be that stable...leading to accidents
- Waste is not flushed into a separate compartment, so open to the air
Bucket with 'Seat'
Numerous people are selling these camping toilets.
They are basically a bucket with a seat.
- More comfortable and stable than Bog in a Bag
The not so good
- Larger to store and transport than Bog in a Bag
- No flushing mechanism, so waste is exposed, which could lead to smells
The Classic - The Thetford Porta Potty
This is the classic porta potty ideal for camping.
The Thetford Porta Potty comes in different sizes, with the larger sizes providing more storage.
This is the classic chemical toilet you use with toilet chemicals (see the later section below for details on toilet chemicals).
- Flushing with waste stowed away
- More comfortable to sit on than a basic stool
The not so good
- Large to store and transport
- More expensive
Pink, Blue, and Green: The Toilet Chemicals you need
Depending on your toilet (and the campsite you are staying at), different chemicals are needed for your toilet.
Their main purpose is to keep your toilet hygienic, mask smells, and break down waste, making it easier to empty and clean.
Many brands make camping toilet chemicals, though Thetford Aqua-Kem is often considered the standard.
You pour the Blue Liquid into the waste container.
Its job is to break down the solids, mask the smells, and reduce gas build-up.
They claim that one dose can last up to 5 days, though you would typically need to empty the waste container before then anyway.
Carrying liquids to the campsite is not ideal. They take up space, and you wouldn't want them to leak.
You can also get the 'blue liquid' as sachets.
Each sachet has the right dose, and you only need to take as much as you need for that camping trip.
You only require the Pink Liquid if you have a flushing camping toilet.
You treat the water in your flush tank with it.
When you flush, the Pink Liquid helps clean your toilet bowl and adds a protective layer to fight against bacteria.
The Green Liquid does the same job as the Blue Liquid, and it goes into your waste tank.
The big difference is that the Blue Liquid fights the bacteria and odours with chemicals. This liquid promotes the natural biological process of breaking the waste material down, so it is safe to use on campsites with septic tanks.
As with the Blue Liquid, you can get the Green Liquid in Sachet form, which will be easier to take to the campsite.
Which toilet chemicals should you take to the campsite?
Some campsites will only accept Green toilet liquid or sachets. So if you get the blue liquid or sachets, just in case, it's best to get some green.
Alternatively, only buy a pack of Green Sachets.
I haven't had it confirmed, but I suspect you can't use the Pink Liquid on campsites that require the Green, as the Pink Liquid will probably destroy the micro-bacterial processes created by the Green sachets.
Where should you empty your camping toilet
Campsites that have 'Chemical Waste Disposals' have somewhere where it is safe to empty your toilet waste.
The Chemical Waste Disposals usually look like toilets where you can empty your holding tank's contents and flush them away.
They usually have a hose so you can rinse your camping toilet.
If there are no chemical waste disposals at the campsite, speak to the owner.
If you use the Green Septic-Tank-friendly version, you might be allowed to flush it down the toilet.
Otherwise, you'll have to transport the waste out of the campsite.
Accessories for your Tent Toilet?
Yes, I bet you didn't think you would need special toilet paper, did you?
Well, you don't, but you should. Let me explain.
As you may know, wet toilet paper forms clumps and can stick to many things.
This can be a problem when you must empty and clean your waste tank.
Though bucket-style camping toilets don't have much of a problem, the sealed cassette waste tanks can be more difficult to clean.
Thetford has created this fast-dissolving toilet paper to reduce this problem.
You don't have to have it, but if you've had to spend ages rinsing out a smelly waste tank, this might be one of those things to make life a little bit easier.
A Separate Tent
Some family tents have a little side porch that can be zipped off from the main living space. This makes an ideal place for the toilet inside your tent.
Alternatively, you can create your own outhouse for the toilet, keeping the smells (and sounds??) away from the tent.
This is what we had (until we sold it).