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How To Find The Right Portable Camping Toilet

Last Updated: July 15, 2019
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One of the things you absolutely don’t want to overlook for disaster preparedness is your toilet. 

While plumbing often does work during power outages and small-scale disasters, it wouldn’t take much for the plumbing system to go down.

And, if it did, we could have a massive sanitation disaster on our hands. To make sure nothing hits the fan, you need an emergency toilet.  

One option is a camping toilet.

Find The Right Portable Camping Toilet For Your Next Trip

No matter where you are, or what you’re doing, eventually you’re going to need to use the bathroom.

In our day to day life, that fact doesn’t tend to cause a whole lot of problems. But in survival, traveling or camping it can present a unique challenge. Most often people dig a hole in the ground, do their business, and call it a day.

But that doesn’t have to be your only option.

Maybe you’re not so fond of squatting in the woods over a hand-dug-turd-grave.

Trying to quickly take care of business before some random hiker spots you.

You don’t have to forsake the comfort of a toilet seat when there’s no access to a bathroom, porter john, or outhouse.

You can bring that comfort with you.

You can have the peace of mind of a toilet wherever you go by investing in a portable camping toilet.

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Most Camping Toilets Are Terrible for Emergency Prep!

Before you rush out and buy a camping toilet and call yourself prepped, know that most camping toilets are terrible for emergency preparedness.

They get messy.  They fill quickly.  And where the hell are you supposed to dump it when it’s full???

I personally would recommend a portable composting toilet instead of a camping toilet, or even a DIY composting toilet instead.  You can read our picks for the best composting toilets here.

However, composting toilets are a bit pricey and you must have a compost heap to use them.  So, a portable camping toilet might make sense in some situations.

This guide will give you some good options for camping toilets and also troubleshoot all the issues with using them when plumbing is down.

#1 - Bag Camping Toilets 

On many websites, I’ve seen “bag” type camping toilets recommended for emergency prep. These are basically chairs with a toilet seat on them and a plastic bag attached below for collecting waste.

Note: This is actually how a many people in underdeveloped nations go to the bathroom.  In urban slums in Kenya, for example, people go to the bathroom in ordinary plastic bags.  Then they literally fling it away, hence the name “flyaway toilets.”  Imagine getting hit by one of those. Disgusting! (Source)

Absolutely DO NOT GET ONE OF THESE!  Why? Because…

  • The bag will break or leak.
  • You will slosh yourself when you go to empty the bag.
  • And where the heck are you emptying the bag? You’ll have to tie off the bags of waste and keep them lying around until authorities tell you how to get rid of them.

Instead of going this route, I’d recommend the twin-bucket system. 

With the two-bucket system, you use buckets (which won’t leak or break like bags).  One bucket is used for pee and the other for poo.

By keeping pee and poo separate, you eliminate all possible sloshing.  The pee can be safely dumped outside.  The poo doesn’t actually take up much space.  It can be bagged up or dumped in a latrine.

If you were completely unprepared for an emergency, you could use a bag toilet.  It would be fine for up to a few days.  After that, you’d end up with too many bags of human waste building up in your home. Gross, right?  

#2 - WAG Bags

WAG stands for “Waste Alleviation and Gelling.”  

They are made by the company Cleanwaste (and are now called the “Go Anywhere Toilet kit, but most still refer to them as WAG bags). Many backpackers are familiar with wag bags because some national parks now require hikers to pack out their waste.

How They Work

The way wag bags work is with a special gelling agent.  The gelling agent is either added to the bag or is already added to the lining of the bag.  When liquid waste comes in contact with the gelling agent, it causes the waste to become solid.  Disposing of solid waste is much easier since don’t have to worry about leakage or spills.   Thus, you can easily carry the wag bag to a disposal site.

For emergency planning, wag bags can work very well.  You still end up with bags of waste laying around your home or yard.  But the gelling agent means they won’t smell or be messy.  Once trash collection resumes, you can just toss all of the bags.

The only issue with wag bags is that they can be very expensive, usually around $10 per bag.  Even if you are only using them for #2, the cost can still add up quickly.  Buying them in bulk is much cheaper.

Disposing of Wag Bags

The chemicals in wag bags render human waste inert.  So, you can safely dispose of the wag bag in the trash.  However, you should not put wag bags in latrines or composting toilets.  I’m assuming this is because the bag won’t decompose and you’d end up with human waste festering in a sealed bag.

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Survival Hack: DIY WAG Bag

Because wag bags and gelling agents are expensive, an alternative is to make your own wag bag using cat litter.

You put a bit of cat litter in a sturdy plastic bag.  When you go to the bathroom in the bag, the cat litter will cause the waste to become more solid. I haven’t tried this personally, but I’ve heard that the wood pellet cat litter doesn’t work well.  The clumping clay type of cat litter works better.

While this method is cheaper than buying wag bags, it can smell and disposing of the bags can be problematic.


It is against the law to put human waste in the trash (even baby diapers aren’t supposed to go in the trash).  So, you will not be able to put your waste bag in the trash (assuming that normal trash collection eventually resumes).

You also won’t be able to dump the contents of the bag down the toilet once plumbing resumes because cat litter will clog toilets.  If you didn’t use cat litter, you could dump the waste down the toilet – but I don’t even want to imagine how messy it would be to empty out plastic bags of human waste!

The only way to safely dispose of DIY wag bags with cat litter in them is to bring them to an official dump station.  Or, if you used a compostable bag, you will be able to put them in a latrine.

Because of how complicated it is to dispose of DIY wag bags, they are not recommended for emergencies.  Choose another option or invest in some wag bags with gelling agent.

#3 - Portable Camping Toilets

These types of toilets are often found on boats or RVs without built-in plumbing systems. The upper part of the toilet contains a bowl, seat and cover.  There is also often a top tank which contains clean water or chemicals.  This allows you to flush the toilet to clean out the bowl.

The bottom part of the toilet is the waste-collection tank, or “cassette.”  This is where all of your waste goes after using the toilet.

How They Work

Cassette toilets are designed so you won’t come in contact with human waste. When the tank fills up, you remove the tank and empty it.  It varies by model, but there is usually a release valve or screw mechanism for opening the tank so you don’t have to get your hands near the waste.

There will also be vents which can be opened when dumping waste.  This reduces the likelihood that splashing will occur as the waste drains.

Where to Dispose of Waste

Virtually all campgrounds will have a dump site for waste.  If you used chemicals in the top tank of the toilet, then you’ll have to dispose of waste in one of these sites.  You can’t dump toilet chemicals in the normal sewer system.

If you just used water for flushing, then you can empty the toilet tank in any normal toilet.  However, this can be very messy! The tank is often larger than the toilet bowl, meaning that the bowl can overflow.  So, don’t let the tank fill completely before you empty it in a normal toilet.

But what about during emergencies when plumbing is down?

You’ll have to find or dig a latrine for dumping the waste.  Or, you’d need to have multiple cassettes so you could switch to another cassette once the first got full.

Top 5 Best Portable Camping Toilets

Many companies make camping toilets. Some toilets are big; some are small, some are odd looking. But they’re all different in some way, shape or form.

Here’s a list of some of the highest rated and most popular portable camping toilets available today:

1 – Emergency Brand Snap-On Toilet Seat

This is one of the most straightforward, most versatile options out there.

This simple snap-on toilet seat can be attached to almost any regular 5-gallon bucket or pail.

It transforms any receptacle into a toilet!

And it’s about as minimalistic as these things get. Just snap your Emergency Brand toilet seat onto a bucket, do your thing, and once done, tuck it back into storage.

2 – Folding Commode Portable Toilet

This option is slightly more involved than a snap-on toilet seat.

This folding commode consists of a seat and a folding 4-legged frame that can support a body-weight of up to 450 lbs!

At only 3.5 lbs itself, it’s very lightweight and easy to pack into a small space. To use, place a receptacle under the seat and get to it.

3 – Reliance Hunter’s Portable Camouflage Loo

This camping toilet was designed with hunters in mind (hence the camo).

When you’re sitting on this bad boy, you’ll blend into the foliage. But to stay hidden, you’ll need to keep quiet as well, which can be a challenge for some of you out there.

This is a very affordable option as well – especially if you’re not keen on spending much on something you’re just going to crap in any way.

And with a 5-gallon capacity, you never have to worry about not having enough volume to handle your waste. Even if your out hunting with a few buddies.

4 – Black Pine Sports Turbo Toilet

This popup design makes it perfect for all outdoor adventures including camping, hiking, boating or even long road trips.

Just remove the entire system from the zippered storage bag and pop it open. It has a surprising maximum weight as well at 330 lbs.

It also has odor control and can handle up to 2 liters of waste.

5 – Leopard Outdoor Directional Portable Camping Toilet

Here’s where luxury meets minimalism and utility in toilets.

This futuristic portable toilet features:

  • a comfortable seat
  • a 3-gallon storage capacity
  • and a three-way flushing system!

It’s genuinely a portable toilet of the future.

But, that technology comes at a price:

  1. First, it’s not as light as other models, weighing in at 11.3 lbs.
  2. It also costs a fair bit more than the minimalistic options on this list. But you’re paying for higher-quality and technology.
  3. It also doesn’t store as easily as the foldable options, but again, it’s a tradeoff.

What to Look for in a portable camping toilet

  • Waste tank capacity: You’ll want a tank which can hold at least 3 gallons. Otherwise you’ll be emptying the tank very frequently.
  • Fresh water reservoir capacity/number of flushes
  • Non-electric flush: If you get a camping toilet which has a battery-operated flush, make sure it can also be flushed manually. Otherwise, you won’t be able to use the toilet if the batteries die.
  • Integrated toilet paper holder
  • Mess-free pour spouts: The pour spout should have a vent so no sloshing occurs when you empty the waste tank.
  • Water and waste level indicators: These are crucial so you don’t accidentally overfill the tank.
  • Easy cleaning valve: This allows you to pour clean water into the top of the waste tank to flush it out.
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For some, this might seem like an absurd option, but to others, it may be the first sensible one on this list. To each their own.

Few things will change your remote camping experience more than a quality portable camping toilet.

It brings the comfort of a toilet into the wilderness. It eliminates the need to crap in the woods like a barbarian.

Stay civilized, stay regular, stay classy – buy yourself a camping toilet. Trust me, this is one piece of camping gear you won’t regret buying.

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