CAMPING | Your Guide To Choosing A Portable Camping Toilet

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With holiday parks and campsites now open following lockdown, many have reopened with strict rules in place. Some are currently only admitting caravans, campervans and tent campers who have their own washing and toilet facilities, allowing shared toilet and shower blocks to remain closed.

With this in mind, now could be the ideal time to invest in a camp loo, especially if you’re planning on taking the family away for a summer camping trip this year.

So what do you need to consider when buying a camp toilet? Our guide will walk you through all of the main considerations.

Thetford Portable 165 Camping Toilet
Cotswold Outdoor

Should you get a camping toilet?

If you get up to go to the loo in the night or have little ones that do, then buying a camp toilet could make sense anyway, but with some campsites keeping toilet facilities closed this summer, a camp toilet isn’t just a luxury, it could turn out to be an essential bit of camping kit for post-lockdown camping.

Guide to buying a camp toilet
I upgraded my camp toilet last year and it was an excellent decision!

As someone who goes to the loo multiple times throughout the night and is a bad sleeper anyway, getting up, leaving the tent, putting on shoes and going to a toilet block is annoying and leads to me getting even worse sleep than usual, so for someone like me, even when staying at a campsite with full open facilities, a camp toilet is crucial – I simply couldn’t and wouldn’t camp without one!

You should consider getting a camp toilet if;

  • You or a family member frequently wake up to use the loo during the night
  • You are camping somewhere basic or wild that doesn’t have a toilet block
  • For safety reasons, you want to minimise your families use of shared campsite toilet facilities
  • You are camping at a campsite that decides not to open its shared toilets and will only allow campers with their own toilet facilities on site
Choosing a camp toilet

Why I recently bought a 4th camp toilet

I’ve had 4 camp toilets in my camping lifetime. Before you think I have a weird camp loo fetish, let me explain.

The first, a Luggable Loo (similar to this), was basically a bucket with a seat, but it did the job for a good 7 years of camping. Whilst not sealed or watertight, the seat and lid closed with a reassuring click, but when the seat broke, I decided to get a bit fancier and made the decision to replace it with a small flushing camp loo.

Camp toilet buying guide

I chose a small Hi-Gear flushing loo, used it just once and then sold it as I didn’t get on with it. The waste tank capacity at 10litres was too small, it got clogged (partly my fault, down to ignorance I was using and flushing regular toilet paper) and at the time, it was too big to fit in my car with the rest of my camping gear.

I then went back to a bucket-style loo, but this time, I chose a different style (BranQ 1306) with a seat and lid that didn’t fit firmly, so I constantly worried I was going to knock it over and face a sewage disaster. Frankly, I thought it was terrible – definitely one of my worst camping purchasing decisions!

Thetford Porta Potti Qube 165 Flushing Camp Loo
My Thetford Porta Potti

Last year, I purchased my fourth camp toilet, but this time I’m confident I finally made the right investment. I chose the Thetford 165 Porta Potti after talking to a friend with one and following weeks of research and review reading. Over a year on, I’m still delighted with my purchase.

Types of camp toilet

Although you’ll find all sorts of pop-up and emergency toilets, ranging from stools with a bag hanging underneath, to folding cardboard boxes and chamber pot style containers, for family campers, I believe there are only really 2 sensible camp toilet choices.

The first choice is the basic bucket-style camp toilet and the second option is the fancier, bulkier and more expensive, flushing camp toilet.

There are pros and cons of both to consider…

Pros & cons of basic bucket-style camp toilets

  • These generally take up less space and in transit, because they are essentially a bucket with a loo seat and lid, you can use them to store stuff inside.
  • They are much lighter than a flushing camp loo.
  • Bucket style camp toilets aren’t ideal for solid waste due to the fact they aren’t sealed.
  • You could probably use chemical toilet liquid in them, or you can use them with wood chips (wood-based cat litter is ideal, a friend of mine swears by it!) as a composting loo, but again, because the unit isn’t sealed, knocking a toilet bucket over could have nasty results!
  • They are generally pretty cheap – you can pick a bucket-style camp loo up for around £15.
  • This style of bucket loo is generally best for light, emergency night time use.
  • They aren’t as easy to empty as flushing camp toilets that have a waste tank – you tip the bucket up to empty and everything comes rushing out…keep your mouth firmly closed in case of splashback!!

Pros & cons of flushing camp toilets

  • They tend to be quite bulky, so you’ll need to ensure you have enough space in your car to transport one.
  • They come in lots of different sizes and so vary in price from around £45 and upwards.
  • Some camp toilets have dodgy seals (yuck!) and designs that make them more difficult to empty as they may be more prone to clogging.
  • Depending on what design you go for, you’ll find that flushing camp loos are much more stable, so there is less chance of knocking them over.
  • If you’re on a site that doesn’t have a chemical disposal site, most can be transported (carefully!) without leaks and the contents disposed of at home if necessary – this does vary by manufacturer and model though, so do your research – a surprisingly large number of reviews mention leaks!
  • You get next to no smells when using a flushing camp loo as long as you are using the recommended chemicals at the right levels – again, please read reviews as some are more highly concentrated, have nicer smells and are more effective in use than others.
  • They can be heavy when full, especially if you go for a camp loo with a large waste holding tank, you can pop them on a rolling trolley though if the carrying weight is a real problem.
  • Although you can use toilet roll with a flushing camp loo, too much or using the wrong type can cause clogs when it comes to emptying time, so we’d strongly recommend minimising the use of loo roll (we use either biodegradable nappy bags or dog poo bags for loo roll), or using loo roll designed to be used in camp toilets, like Thetford Aqua Soft Toilet Paper or using something designed to be reusable like Cheeky Wipes.
Camp toilet bowl cleaner and fluid

What are toilet chemicals and why do I need them?

Flushing camp toilets should be used with a special fluid. A blue fluid is added to the waste tank which helps to not only break down waste but also to keep smells under control and to reduce gas build-up.

A different liquid, usually pink in colour, is added to the flush tank that will help to deodorise and clean the bowl after use.

There is a third toilet fluid option which is generally green and promotes a more natural biological breakdown of the contents of the waste tank. A handful of campsites will only accept green, so do check first.

Go Outdoors
Guide to buying a camp toilet

Camp toilet purchasing considerations

1. Size of the camp toilet waste tank

The main thing to bear in mind is the size of the waste tank. The cheapest and smallest camp toilets will have a relatively small waste tank, and whilst this might be suitable for a small family to use on a short weekend break, you’ll generally need something with a bigger capacity if more than a couple of people will be using it.

For more than 2 people, or for camping trips longer than a weekend, I’d recommend choosing a minimum waste tank capacity of 20 litres.

2. Access to chemical toilet disposal points

Does the site you are planning on visiting have a chemical disposal point? It’s fair to say most, but by no means all campsites have chemical loo disposal points, so if your loo fills up whilst you are away and you can’t empty it, you could be in trouble!

Either make sure the tank capacity is big enough to see you through your whole trip or make sure your chosen site has a disposal point. Also think about how far away the disposal site is, walking with a full 20+ litre tank can be hard work, and not all waste tanks are high-quality enough to be able to safely transport without leaks in the car!

3. Don’t forget to purchase (and take with you!) the right toilet chemicals

Some toilets come with chemicals, others don’t so we’d recommend checking and buying these separately. You’ll generally need a pink bowl cleaner which goes into the flush tank and a separate (usually blue) liquid which goes into the waste tank and helps to eliminate any nasty smells.

Do remember too, that toilet chemicals represent a small ongoing cost to factor into your purchase. I personally use and recommend Blue Diamond Toilet Fluid & Bowl Cleaner.

4. Where will you put your camp loo?

Big family tents will often have several different rooms or even a side entrance that you could use as a makeshift bathroom. or you can buy stand-alone toilet or utility tents.

If you have a bell tent however and don’t use an inner tent, think about the practicality of where you’ll put the loo and how you’ll use it with a modicum of privacy! As a bell tent camper, I found making a privacy screen using a folding clothes airer with a throw over it was ideal.

5. Design of waste tank

You might need to pay a little more, but a good camp toilet will allow you to safely detach the waste tank, which you should also be able to seal off. This means the unit can then be easily moved or carried to the disposal point, or even transported home.

Please read reviews, and don’t scrimp on the toilet model you choose. Having the contents of a camp toilet leak is something you seriously don’t want to risk happening!

Camping toilet options & accessories summer 2020

Outwell 20L Portable Toilet £64.99

Sunncamp Lulu Tourlet Portable Toilet £19.99

Sunncamp Lulu Tourlet Portable Toilet £19.99

Thetford Aqua Rinse Concentrated (750ml) £9.60

Thetford Aqua Rinse Concentrated (750ml) £9.60

Thetford Porta Potti 365 Portable Toilet £89.99

Hi Gear Portable Camp Toilet £22.50

OLPRO Pop Up Utility and Toilet Tent Tree Design £39.00

OLPRO Pop Up Utility and Toilet Tent Tree Design £39.00

Agande Portable Composting Toilet

Cheeky Wipes Reusable Toilet Wipes


Thetford Aqua Kem Blue Toilet Sachets

Where to next?

Shell Robshaw-Bryan
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