Ask any non-camper why they don’t fancy a tent or campervan and the answer will either be something to do with the weather or it’ll be worries about needing the loo. So…here are the best camping toilet options – tried and tested!
First, though, why would you even need a portable toilet? Well, this weekend’s camping gave us three examples.
- A campsite pitch too far away from the toilet block to make a night-time trip all that convenient
- Waking up too desperate for a wee to put some clothes on and dash to the toilets
- Wild camping close to a road where it wouldn’t have been possible to use a bush discreetly
- And you can add to the list a few other eventualities such as busy loos in peak season and nasty loos at festivals.
Of course, it’s always better to try to use the facilities provided because, unless you’re carrying a portable composting loo, all other options aren’t environmentally ideal. Going to the toilet in the wild requires some work – you need to be 50 metres away from water and you need to dig a hole at least 15cm deep (get a folding trowel). You must cover your doings completely with earth and must put toilet roll or wipes into your rubbish bag. You can read more about this subject in the Mountaineering Council of Scotland’s guide.
If you use one of the bags we mention below, you’ll be adding to the world’s mountains of plastic waste (unless you go for a biodegradable bag…read on). Nevertheless, in an emergency, here’s what we recommend.
Portable perhaps, but too bulky for most campers. These are for caravans, motorhomes and larger campervans without built-in toilets. Some even flush.
The bucket option
Bags for folding camping toilets
The folding toilets above all need bags. These, and the Disposa John bags have a sort of crystal-filled ‘nappy’ inside to soak up liquid. We think this is important because a plastic bag filled with sloshiness sounds like a disaster waiting to happen and isn’t pleasant for waste collectors. Make sure the bags (or system) you buy are biodegradable and preferably compostable.
There’s nothing to stop you using any biodegradable bag, of course but you’ll want to check it for robustness.
If you’re choosing a folding toilet that needs a bag, our recommendation would be to buy biodegradable bags plus the paper-based Peebol or Travel John bags described below. Tip the powder from the Peebol or Travel John into the bio bag and you’ve made yourself a degradable, liquid-catching loo.
Bags and portable urinals
There are some bags you can simply wee into without the need for a structure at all. Again, apart from one we’ve found, these aren’t biodegradable plastic so are only for emergencies.
The Peebol is a smallish bag with a cardboard rim designed so that women can hold it against their bodies to create a standing toilet. Men, of course, have an advantage here. It works well as the powder inside immediately absorbs the liquid. There’s a knack to positioning it and to holding the cardboard so that you get a tight ‘seal’! Best done carefully over something that can catch spills, just in case.
Travel John make bags with a special plastic top to fit to the body. Very similar to the Peebol, they contain something to soak up the liquid. There are Travel Janes, Johns, Family and Adventure options but they’re all pretty much the same. They also do a travel sickness bag.
We’re delighted to report that Travel John now make a paper version of their portable toilet bags – they use the same absorbent stuff inside and won’t leak. Now our preferred option for simplicity and plastic-free relief. They’re not quite available yet, but we’ll let you know as soon as you can buy them.
Green Elephant toilet bags hold 30 litres (oh my goodness!) and are made from plant-derived resin, vegetable oils and compostable polymers. The manufacturers suggest you bury them and let them decompose. However, breaking down a bag does take time and I’d suggest you don’t leave them out in the countryside unless you can bury them deep and a long way from where anyone (or animals) might find them. Take them home and put them in your own compost pile – and if that sounds too yukky to you, then leaving them out in the world should definitely be a no-no.
Weeing for women
When a bush or tree allows for a discreet wee, we women need a little help. Many people swear by the Shewee-type devices, which allow women to wee like a man…almost. I’ve never trusted them (something to do with my much-lauded fast weeing which seems to create too much flow-rate for the plastic tube), but they work for many. Use in combination with one of the Peebols if you’re feeling you need some help with your aim.
The choices are the reusable Shewee, which also comes with an option of an extension pipe (it really does!) and even knickers with a handy hole; the one-wee cardboard Peebuddy, and the bendable Whiz Freedom.
How can you resist something described as a “urine director”. Never did like his films! Whichever you choose, get one with a storage bag or box.
And some extras you might need:
Make your own pop-up private loo space with one of these toilet tents – or nip along to our article on tarps and see how easy it is to make a more versatile shelter. Don’t leave it till you’re desperate to perfect your pitching, though!