Camper Van Kitchen

Understanding the Basics: How do Camping Toilets Work?

Imagine the serenity of a camping trip, connecting with nature and enjoying the stars above. But when nature calls, using a public restroom can dampen the experience. Understanding the basics of camping toilets, including how camping toilets work, can greatly enhance your outdoor adventures. In this blog post, we will delve into the different types of camping toilets, their functions, proper usage, and maintenance, as well as the pros and cons of each option. By the end, you’ll be well-equipped to decide on the best camping toilet for your needs.

Short Summary

  • Camping toilets provide a convenient and sanitary solution for campers, with four main types: flushable, composting, bucket and collapsible.
  • Proper usage and maintenance is essential to ensure optimal performance. This includes adding recommended chemicals before use as well as regular cleaning.
  • Four top recommended portable camping toilets are discussed to make an informed choice for individual needs.

Types of Camping Toilets and Their Functions

Camping toilets come in various designs to cater to different preferences and situations. There are four main types of portable camping toilets.

  1. Flushable
  2. Composting
  3. Bucket
  4. Collapsible

Each type has its unique mechanism to provide a convenient and sanitary solution for campers. Let’s explore these options in detail.

Bucket Toilet

Flushable Camping Toilets

Flushable camping toilets resemble residential toilets, complete with a bowl, fresh water tank, and waste water tank. They function by using a manual pump for flushing the waste into the waste tank. These toilets typically have a level indicator to show the waste level in the holding tank, ensuring you know when it’s time to empty it.

To use a flushable camping toilet, follow these steps:

  1. Add fresh water to the bowl before using.
  2. Close the lid once filled.
  3. Flush the toilet. The flushing action opens the gate valve.
  4. Gravity helps to transfer the contents to the waste tank.

These toilets are easy to set up and straightforward, making them popular among campers.

toilet cassette being bulled from campervan

Composting Camping Toilets

Composting camping toilets offer an eco-friendly option for campers. These toilets have the following features:

  • They separate liquid waste from solid waste
  • They use carbon-based substances to speed up decomposition
  • By dividing liquid waste from solid waste, composting toilets minimise unpleasant odours.

The primary components of a composting toilet include:

  • A bowl.
  • A liquids/urine receptacle at the front.
  • A solids receptacle directly beneath the bowl.

Before using a composting toilet, a carbon-based material such as peat moss, sawdust, or coconut coir should be added to the solids bin. The separation of waste and the use of carbon-based materials help reduce odour and waste volume.

campervan toilet

Bucket Camping Toilets

Bucket camping toilets are a simple and affordable option for campers. They consist of a 5-gallon bucket with a snap lid that serves as a seat and waste bag. You will require compostable garbage bags and an absorbent material like poo powder or kitty litter when using a bucket toilet. It is easy to keep clean and hygienic with these items in place.

Although bucket toilets are cost-effective and do not require water for operation, they do not have a mechanism for separating liquid waste from solid waste. This means frequent emptying to prevent unpleasant odours. They are lightweight and easy to transport, perfect for campers on a budget.

Collapsible Camping Toilets

Collapsible camping toilets are:

  • Compact and stylish
  • Designed for easy transportation and storage
  • Unfold for stability
  • Require a garbage bag and absorbent material for waste management

These toilets are perfect for campers who prioritise convenience and style.

To use a collapsible toilet, follow these steps:

  1. Unfold the legs of the toilet completely.
  2. Insert a garbage bag within the bowl.
  3. Add a suitable amount of poo powder.
  4. Perform the necessary action.

Despite their stylish design and compact nature, collapsible toilets still require proper waste disposal and maintenance to ensure a pleasant camping experience.

Proper Usage and Maintenance of Camping Toilets

Proper usage and maintenance of camping toilets ensure their longevity and effectiveness. In this section, we will cover the necessary steps for using and maintaining camping toilets, from preparing the toilet for use to cleaning and maintenance practices.

Before using a camping toilet, it is important to read the instructions carefully and follow them closely.

Before You Use

Before using a camping toilet, it is important to use appropriate toilet chemicals to reduce odour and prevent waste buildup. These chemicals should be added to both the upper and lower tanks of the toilet, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Preparing the camping toilet by emptying, cleaning, and flushing out the tanks is also crucial. This ensures the toilet is ready for use and minimises the risk of unpleasant odours and waste accumulation.

How To Use

When using a camping toilet, fill the tank with water until it reaches the fill line. It is recommended to use camp-specific tissue, designed to degrade more quickly than conventional toilet paper, to assist with disposal.

To use the flush toilet, press the flush button provided on the toilet. Ensure that the waste tank is emptied and cleaned regularly to prevent unpleasant odours and maintain the functionality of the camping toilet.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Cleaning and maintaining your camping toilet is essential for its longevity and effectiveness. It is recommended to use special detergents and dissolving agents to clean the toilet and prevent waste buildup. These agents should be applied to the lower tank or drain per the manufacturer’s instructions.

To clean and maintain your camping toilet, follow these steps:

  1. Empty the camping toilet and rinse it with water.
  2. Close the cap of the sleeves securely.
  3. Remember to insert more disintegrating products before using them again.
  4. Regular cleaning and maintenance will ensure a pleasant and odour-free camping experience.
thetford cleaning products seating on a shelve

Pros and Cons of Camping Toilets

Camping toilets offer a convenient and sanitary solution for campers, but they also come with advantages and disadvantages. In this section, we will discuss the pros and cons of using camping toilets to help you make an informed decision for your next adventure.

On the plus side, portable camping toilets work efficiently, are easy to set up and use. They are also lightweight, and understanding how camping toilets work is simple.


Camping toilets have several benefits, including low cost, compact size, and convenience. They are an ideal solution for campers who want a personal toilet without spending too much money or taking up too much space in their camping gear.

In addition to their affordability and compactness, camping toilets also provide environmental benefits. They help reduce water pollution by preventing human waste from entering water sources and minimising landfill waste. Using a camping toilet lets you enjoy your camping trip without compromising on comfort or environmental responsibility.


Despite their many advantages, camping toilets also come with some drawbacks. One of the main disadvantages is the creation of sewage, which requires proper disposal and can be challenging for campers without access to designated dump stations.

Frequent dumping and potential pressure buildup are other cons of using camping toilets. If not appropriately maintained, camping toilets can emit unpleasant odours, which can be a nuisance for other campers.

Careful consideration of these drawbacks is crucial for making an informed decision about using a camping toilet on your next adventure.

Top Recommended Portable Camping Toilets

Now that you have a better understanding of the types of camping toilets, their proper usage and maintenance, and the pros and cons of each option, let’s take a look at four popular and highly-rated portable camping toilets. These recommendations will help you choose the best camping toilet for your needs.

The Dometic 976 Portable Toilet is a great option for those who want a reliable portable toilet.

Thetford 92820 Porta Potti

The Thetford 92820 Porta Potti is a popular choice among campers, featuring a 5-gallon waste tank and a 4.0-gallon fresh water capacity. This flushable camping toilet offers a comfortable and familiar design, making it an ideal selection for camping.

With its large waste tank and easy-to-use flushing system, the Thetford 92820 Porta Potti ensures a convenient and sanitary camping experience. Its popularity among campers is a testament to its reliability and effectiveness.

Dometic Portable Toilet

The Dometic Portable Toilet is another highly-rated option, available in 10-liter and 19-liter capacities. This toilet features:

  • A full indicator
  • Carrying handle for easy transportation
  • Powerful push-button pressurised flush
  • Adult-size seat and lid

These features ensure comfort and security during your camping trip.

With its lightweight design and easy-to-clean features, the Dometic Portable Toilet is an excellent choice for campers looking for a convenient and comfortable toilet solution. Its various models cater to different preferences and needs, making it a versatile option for any camping adventure, including those requiring portable toilets.

Thetford 565E Curve Porta Potti

The Thetford 565E Curve Porta Potti is an electric camping toilet with the following features:

  • Stylish design
  • Full indicator
  • 21-litre waste tank
  • Toilet paper drawer
  • Electric flushing system (requires four AAA batteries)

This product offers convenience and ensures a hassle-free camping experience.

While the Thetford 565E Curve Porta Potti may not be as resilient as some other camping toilets, its modern design and battery-powered operation make it an attractive option for campers seeking a contemporary and convenient toilet solution.

SereneLife Outdoor Portable Toilet

The SereneLife Outdoor Portable Toilet features:

  • A highly-rated camping toilet
  • A large waste tank
  • A carrying case for easy transport
  • A 5.8-gallon waste holding tank
  • A 3.2-gallon freshwater tank
  • Up to 100 flushes

This ensures a comfortable and clean camping experience.

The SereneLife Outdoor Portable Toilet’s ergonomic toilet seat and water-saving T-flush system make it a popular choice among campers. Its carrying case further adds to its convenience, making it an excellent option for your next outdoor adventure.


In summary, camping toilets come in various types and designs to cater to different preferences and situations. Understanding the basics of how camping toilets work, their proper usage and maintenance, and the pros and cons of each option will help you decide on the best camping toilet for your needs. With the proper camping toilet, you can turn your outdoor adventure into a comfortable and enjoyable experience without compromising on hygiene and environmental responsibility.

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