The best portable loo for boats, tents and campervans depends on space, budget, and whether or not you want a flush
We’ve all been there; middle of the night, you need a pee. The marina toilet or camping block is just too far away, it’s dark, or you’re with a kid and there’s NO WAY they’re going to make it. A bucket is, of course, your emergency option. However, there are many sophisticated portable toilets on the market these days for all bottoms and budgets.
Portable loos are inexpensive, lightweight and quick and easy to set-up. The only downside is that you need to empty them by hand, and with flush loos you need to replace the chemicals after 10 days or so.
So, whether you’re weekending in a marina, alone on an anchorage, DIY-ing in a boatyard or camping with a trailer-sailer there’s a portable toilet for you.
For that extra bit of privacy you can buy a pop-up toilet tent too – but opt for one with guy-ropes as they’re otherwise tricky to get up in a breeze.
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The 5 key types of portable toilets
For this article, we’ve split the different types of portable toilets into 5 categories – click on the links below to jump to the relevant section:
- Bucket toilets
- Collapsible toilets
- Portable flushing toilets
- Portable composting toilets
- Toilet bags
Best portable bucket toilets
Green Blue GB320 Portable Toilet
Weight: 0.9kg; Dimensions: 38 x 21 x 35 cm; Capacity: 19L
The cheapest kind of portable loo is the bucket toilet. Most small boat sailors will know the expression, ‘bucket and chuck-it’, and any parent will know the joys of potties.
Bucket toilets are really just potties for grown-ups. A bucket camping toilet is simply a bucket with a toilet seat. Most designs, such as the Green Blue GB320 Portable Toilet, can be used with or without a toilet bag and chemicals.
The 19l Green Blue GB320 Portable Toilet has a lid that stays up like a regular toilet, and comes in a range of colours. At 38cm it’s higher than a lot of bucket toilets on the market, and has a handle that doubles as a toilet paper holder.
Denny International Large 6L Compact Portable Toilet Potty Loo
Weight: 1.96kg; Dimensions: 38 x 49 x 32cm; Capacity: 6L
The Denny 6l large compact toilet is a sturdy piece of kit. What’s nice about this is that it has a separate, discreet case for transporting and pouring away waste – you don’t have to take the whole thing. However, the downside is that it takes up a fair amount of space in the boot or locker for comparatively low capacity.
If space is a constraint it might be worth looking at smaller designs.
Hi Gear Travel Toilet
Weight: 1.15kg, Dimensions: 26.8 x 26.8 x 38 cm.
For a smaller bucket toilet, the lightweight Hi Gear Travel Toilet from Go Outdoors has a snap-on toilet seat with folding seat and locking catch.
N.B. Go Outdoors membership is £5 for the year, and you mostly get your money back on your first purchase.
Best collapsible camping toilets
Carplife Bivvy Loo
Weight: 2.7kg, Dimensions: 39 x 34 x 5 cm (packed) / 39 x 34 x 25 cm (unfolded)
If you’re limited on space, a collapsible camping toilet such as the Carplife Bivvy loo is a good idea, as this will fold up easily and include a seat and a waste bag.
Originally made for anglers, it’s been a gamechanger for wild campers, festival goers and overland drivers. It contains 12 compostable liner bags with sachets of powder, each capable of turning up to 2 litres of waste into manageable gel, plus 40 biodegradable wipes.
Carplife say they have customers weighing up to 21 stones (133kg). The downside, apart from the higher price point, is that the toilet lid costs £13 extra and there are reports that the sachets are not as absorbent as claimed.
Decathlon Compact Folding Dry Toilet
Weight: 2.2kg; Dimensions: 45 x 42 x 13 cm
Decathlon’s Compact Folding Dry Toilet comes with a lid and is used with a 40-50l toilet bag and sawdust (bought separately).
It’s essentially a triangular wooden seat over a textile bag, and comes with a sawdust pocket and shovel, as well as a paper holder and removable carry bag.
It has carry handles, supports weights of up to 150kg and holds 24.5 litres.
7thLake portable toilet
Weight: 1kg; Size: 6cm (folded) / 30.5cm (unfolded)
The 7thLake portable toilet is also marketed as a seat, storage box and ‘vomiting bucket’, which could come in handy for seasick sailors (as the last place you want to be when feeling wretched, is leaning over the leeward rail!).
This odourless plastic bucket holds up to 200kg and comes with a roll of plastic bags and two female urination funnels. Its concertina folding design compacts to 12 inches for easy storage.
The downside to this is that the bucket isn’t waterproof, so whatever you do, don’t forget the bags!
Kinspory portable toilet
Weight: 1.8kg; Size: 7cm (folded) or 33cm x 28cm x 30.5cm (unfolded)
The Kinspory portable toilet is a similar concertina design to 7thLake, but is oblong-shaped.
We bought this using Amazon’s same-day delivery service for a camping trip after our bucket toilet just wouldn’t fit inside the boot! It really does fold up small (no bigger than a pizza box) and comes with bags but no absorbent sachets. The lid costs just £3 extra, and although it appears quite flimsy, it hasn’t broken to date.
Though not essential, you can use cat litter to neutralise smells and soak up liquid, or better still, sawdust, from a regular pet shop. That way, if combined with a compostable bag – such as these corn starch bags from CarpLife – you can dispose of your waste in a composting- or drop-toilet, which many sites have these days.
Best portable flushing toilets
Thetford Porta Potti 335
Weight: 3.3kg; Dimensions: 31 x 34 x 38 cm
At the posh end of portable toilets, you’ve got the flushable portable loo, which has a water tank, flush button or pump and a detachable seat and cover. Underneath is a waste holding tank, or ‘cartridge’, which can be detached for easy disposal.
Thetford designed the original ‘Porta Potti’ and are still the major player in portable toilets today, especially amongst RV owners, many of whom get cupboards built especially to fit them.
Space is a premium in boats and tents, so if you’re willing to squat a little lower, and empty/ fill the tanks more frequently, the Thetford Porta Potti 335 is about as compact as you can get for a flushing loo.
The smallest in the well-known Thetford range, this weighs just 3.3kg and is 31cm off the ground, and operates with a piston pump. Both its waste water and flush water capacity is 10l.
Hi Gear portable toilet
Weight: 4.3kg; Dimensions: 41.5 x 36.5 x 30 cm
The Hi Gear portable toilet from Go Outdoors is much cheaper than many of the flushable designs on the market. It takes a maximum load of 150kg, operates with a bellows pump and has a 10l freshwater holding tank and 10l waste capacity.
The seat height, at 41cm, is a decent size, so you’re not having to squat too far. However, this comes with the trade-off of being slightly bulkier and heavier to carry than a collapsible or bucket toilet.
Campingaz 20L portable toilet
Weight: 5.2kg; Dimensions: 56 x 39 x 41 cm
CampingGaz, the ubiquitous supplier of butane/propane camping gas, sells a range of camping gear, including the Campingaz 20L portable toilet.
This can take a maximum weight of 130kg. Again it has a seat height of 41cm off the ground.
Enders deluxe camping toilet
Weight: 3.7kg; Dimensions: 45.5 x 38.5 x 37.5 cm
Another popular flushable loo is the lightweight Enders deluxe camping toilet.
Some nice features include a transport roll for easy transportation when full, swivelling drainage pipe and fill level indicator.
This has a wastewater capacity of 17l and can take a maximum weight of 130kg.
Thetford Porta Potti 565
Weight: 4.9kg; Dimensions: 45 x 39 x 45 cm; Waste capacity: 21L
With a seat height at 45cm, it’s on the large side, but that could also be a bonus for extended stays and those not able to squat down low.
It comes with a toilet paper holder and option for a floor plate. Level indicators show the remaining capacity for the waste holder and flush-water tanks.
Best composting toilets
Blue Diamond Nature Calls Composting Toilet
Weight: 7.8kg; Dimensions: 52 x 32 x 42 cm
The composting toilet is an eco-friendly alternative to the classic chemical toilet. It’s a ‘dry toilet’ so requires no water or chemicals. Also referred to as a ‘urine-diverter’, composting toilets work by separating solids from liquids, directing each to a specific container for easier management and odour control.
Whilst the urine will need to be emptied frequently, the solids can stay in-situ for anything from 4 weeks to a year. If you don’t have access to land for composting, and have small infrequent amounts of waste, you can double-bag the dry solids and dispose in appropriate wastebins.
The robust Blue Diamond Nature Calls Composting Toilet takes loads up to 200kg. It has an integrated composter under the seat, which collects solids and allows them to decompose and slide downwards, to be removed via a flap as compost.
This separation prevents the need for water or chemicals, and combined with coffee chaff or sawdust, both dries out the waste and masks the smell. Toilet paper should be kept separate as this takes longer to decompose.
Air Head compost toilet
PBO reader Stefan Leschner says ‘Air Head’ is the way to go. The Air Head compost toilet is a durable, waterless toilet suitable for canalboats, campervans, caravans, yachts and motorhomes.
The standard version has a full-size toilet pan, and the compact is shorter and fits almost flush against the back wall. When you go to the toilet, urine drains automatically to the front, whilst solids drop through afterwards. You turn a handle to mix your deposit with the existing contents.
Because the solids remain dry, odour is limited, then further extracted by the use of coconut coir (husks from the inner shell) and the 12V fan, which you wire into the 12V electrical system, drawing 2W or 0.17A.
The 7.5l urine container should be emptied daily where possible – not in inland waterways where the nitrogen acts as food for algae. The time taken to fill the solids tank will vary with use. On weekend boats, the solids tank might last a season. On liveaboard boats it might need to be emptied every three to four weeks.
Simploo Waterless Composting Toilet
If the Air Head is on the large side, another option, recommended by boat owner Andrew Polson is the Simploo Waterless Composting Toilet, which is made in the UK.
“Urine gets pumped out with a diaphragm pump but could go to a bottle if in a boatyard. Poop goes to separate container with bag and I use sawdust. No smell and easy to use and dispose of,” says Andrew.
Odours are removed with a 12V fan which can be powered by a 12v battery, solar panel or plugged in to the mains with a 230v adaptor.
Best toilet bags
If you already have a boat toilet (but no holding tank), a porta potty or even just a bucket, a simple option is to fit a bag to catch your waste.
Some brands, such as Toilet in a Bag come with absorbent crystals and a scoop.
“They are supplied in boxes of 20 and work out at just over 50p per bag,” he says. “The liner fits perfectly around the rim of the toilet bowl and comes with an absorbent gel pad which will absorb up to 600ml of urine.”
The bags are sealed afterwards with a drawstring. He then double-bags them and keeps them in an old flare box until he’s ashore and can dispose of them in the household waste – as you would a child’s nappies.
Abena also make urinal bags for men
Frequently asked questions about portable toilets
How does a portable flush work?
A bellows pump is the most common portable toilet flush design. This uses a piece of concertina-like tubing which releases water when you push it up and down.
With a piston pump, you pull the pump up to suck in water from the freshwater tank and when you push it back down it releases water via a nozzle into the toilet bowl.
Some designs combine a piston pump (to get pressure into the tank) with a push button to release the water. At the top end of the market, you get battery operated, or ‘electric’ toilets.
Why do portable toilets need chemicals?
Portable flush toilets need chemicals. You need pink chemicals for the flush-water tank to remove grime and eliminate odour, and blue and green chemicals in the waste tank to break down waste and remove gas build-up.
‘Green chemicals’ don’t contain formaldehyde so are safer and more environmentally friendly than blue. The chemicals come in bottle or tablet form, and need changing after around 10 days.
Do you need special toilet paper for portable toilets?
You can buy ‘quick dissolve’ toilet paper which might be a good idea if your family uses a significant amount of paper, but standard toilet paper is fine.
Note, as some brands of portable toilet are low to the ground, women may find a portable urinal style device easier than sitting, especially in a rolly anchorage.
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