Figuring out a simple way to go to the bathroom when camping took trial and error, but we have finally found the perfect potty.
One of the biggest challenges for small campers is figuring out how to potty.
My pursuit of the best camping bathroom solution has taken years of experimentation with various toilet options. It started with a makeshift bathroom in a closet, then moved outside to a toilet tent, and concluded with a hybrid solution: a portable travel toilet that fits in our tiny campervan.
It’s a happy medium that makes me a very happy camper.
As a bonus, the porta-potty also functions as an ottoman, side table, and step stool. Yes, we have a toilet that multi-tasks! (Keep reading for more about that….)
Probably the best way to explain why this toilet is a winner is to share a little bit about the other options we tried that didn’t work.
How did I choose the best camping toilet?
By process of elimination. 🤣
Our first setup seemed like a no-brainer: a portable travel toilet that resembled a regular toilet. We put this porta-potty in our trailer’s storage closet, converting it to a bathroom.
We liked having a “real” bathroom BUT, man, that toilet was hard to clean. After a fun weekend of camping, cleaning the toilet was the last thing we wanted to do. (You can read more about that here.) Also, we never managed to get it completely clean … there were crevices we couldn’t reach or rinse easily.
So we decided to move our camping bathroom outside. We replaced the toilet with a privacy tent that affectionately became known as the pee tent.
This change allowed us to downsize our camper (which we’d purchased because of the closet-bathroom space.) We sold it and bought our Vanagon, which only has 90 square feet of space. Not much for a family of five (three humans and two big dogs). And definitely no bathroom.
Solution #2, the privacy tent, was simpler but … maybe a little too simple.
It was peeing in the woods, without the woods.
Shrouded by the thin, ultralight nylon walls staked into the ground, the toilet tent could be set up anywhere. Almost.
The one place we couldn’t set it up was inside the camper, where it really would come in handy.
When nature calls in the middle of the night, I thought, wouldn’t it be nice if I didn’t have to pay her a visit in person?
I hadn’t really considered putting a potty in our old campervan because of its size.
Then I heard about collapsible toilets, which are also called folding toilets.
The collapsible toilet is basically a bucket toilet that folds down accordion-style into a disc that’s just a couple inches high and about a foot wide.
This “Frisbee toilet” comes in two variations: a soft side model that supports up to 200 pounds of body weight and has a cover that lifts off. This one is my favorite because it’s easier to set up and is lightly padded. The cover is detached from the base.
The hard side model supports more weight – up to 400 pounds, according to the manufacturer. The lid is attached by a hinge, so it remains attached when in use. I find it a bit tricky to open.
When set up, they take up very little space and are remarkably sturdy – a combination that makes this style the best portable toilet for a van.
In fact, it fits perfectly between the front seats in our Vanagon.
What about the smell?
Having such a small space, I was concerned about odor but also didn’t want to have a chemical toilet in our midst.
I found a safe, non-toxic alternative that does a fantastic job of eliminating odor.
These packets do contain one non-toxic chemical, sodium polyacrylate. It’s the same substance used in disposable diapers and kids’ science experiments to create instant snow.
In the portable toilet, these sprinkles with a lemongrass scent turn your pee into a gel.
The crystals can absorb up to 1,000 times their mass in water!
Is this porta-potty environmentally friendly?
Another concern I had was using plastic bags to line our new camping toilet. I was happy to find there are great alternatives to plastic.
These waste bags are made from plants, fully compostable, and just the right size. In fact, they are made for camping toilets. If you want to stock up, you can save by buying in bulk: this brand of bags made from cornstarch comes in packs of 80.
How to set up a portable camping toilet
Setting up the collapsible camping toilet takes just a few seconds.
- Take the potty out of the case and remove the folded side piece. It will automatically unfold into a tube.
- Place the tube on the circular base and snap into place.
- Put a waste bag in the toilet
- Place the toilet seat on top
When you’re ready to empty the toilet, you just take off the lid, tie up the bag and throw it out. There are no toilet parts to clean, no waste to siphon out.
A Stylish Disguise for Your Camping Toilet
Disguise your toilet with a cover
The only thing I didn’t like about our new portable camping toilet was how it looked – like, well, an ugly bucket.
So, I disguised it.
I sewed a slipcover and transformed the ugly gray toilet bucket into a funky statement piece for the van!
The cover helped me get used to having a travel toilet right there in our van.
After camping a few times, we found ourselves using the toilet a lot, and not just for toileting. We were setting our cups on it, resting our feet, and even using it as a step stool.
I named it the Cutie Pot. I like this cover so much, I decided to have a batch professionally sewn up and am now proudly offering them for sale!
My Cutie Pot cover is available in two colors, is durable, washable, and made in the U.S.
Want more crafty camping ideas?
Camping gear you can buy at IKEA
DIY camper bug-proofing without chemicals
How to make a shower you can use anywhere
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