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Best Portable Toilet Options For Camping & Vanlife in 2024

Emily sitting in the van on the bathroom cassette toilet reading a magazine looking out the doors

Going to the bathroom is just a part of life and therefore it’s part of vanlife and camping. And when doing vanlife or going on a camping trip, sometimes just going outside isn’t the best option. Especially when you are in cities or populated areas. Whether you are on a car camping trip, vanlife adventure, or working at the job site, there is a portable toilet solution for every bathroom situation.

Always having to find public bathrooms can really get old, so having one of these portable camping toilets can be a game changer in your camper van.

Unlike RV Toilets where there is a black tank that collects all waste and then needs to be brought to a dump station, the waste in these portable toilets can be handled easier.

We are going to start with our top portable toilet options for camping and vanlife, and work down the list to free/budget-friendly best campervan toilets.

This post may contain affiliate links. Disclosure policy.

Jake sitting in the van on the bathroom toilet reading a magazine

Cassette Toilets (aka Chemical Toilets):

A Cassette toilet is Jake’s and my favorite portable toilet option for vanlife when it comes to price and ease of use. The cassette is a portable toilet that flushes and has a separate holding tank. The top portion has a toilet seat and holds the fresh water so you can flush the toilet.

Many people also refer to a portable cassette toilet as a chemical toilet because of the product you put in the black tank. In case you don’t know what a black tank is, it’s the tank that holds all the bodily waste.

When using a portable cassette toilet and you need to go #1, sit on the toilet and the liquid collects in the toilet bowl. You then open the hole to the bottom waste tank and flush the toilet so water can line the toilet bowl and wash away all the pee.

We use a chemical called Porta Pak in the bottom waste tank, so when you open the hole, no weird smells come up and waft through the van. 

There is a level indicator on the bottom holding tank to notify you when it’s ready to dump. When the bottom portion is full you detach the top “freshwater” holding tank from the “pee” holding tank. You can carry the bottom “waste tank” to any nearby toilet to dispose of. 

Jake and I only use our cassette toilet for #1 (liquid waste), and find it very convenient and never experience any weird smells when we aren’t using it. Therefore, we don’t have any experience with going #2 in a cassette toilet. Although we have heard of many people using it for both #1 and #2, there have been mixed reviews.

If you use a chemical, it is supposed to break down waste, but you will need to dispose of the waste tank more often as it will fill up quicker. But most people agree that it’s way more pleasant to just deal with liquids and no solids.

Although we don’t suggest it, you can omit a chemical, and then just dump PEE ONLY out in nature. But with a septic chemical added, we suggest disposing of it in a public toilet.

Also, anytime we have access to a hose, we try to clean the toilet with bleach.

For more information, check out: How We Go To The Bathroom In Our Campervan

Pros of a Cassette Toilet

  • Relatively Inexpensive
  • Chemical can be added to mask funky smells
  • Flushable toilet
  • Waste tank seals for minimal smells & leaks
  • No additional purchases (unless you buy a chemical for waste tank)
  • Can go both #1 & #2 (though we suggest only #1)
  • Level Indicator to know when it’s full
  • Easy Emptying

Cons of a Cassette Toilet

  • Has to be emptied regularly
  • Needs to be cleaned regularly to avoid smells
  • Not great for solid waste

Great Cassette Toilet Options:

Thetford Corp White 92820 Porta Potti 365

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Camco (41541) Portable Travel Toilet

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SereneLife Outdoor Portable Toilet

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Or if you are looking for more in-depth details on the best cassette toilets check out our guide.

Composting Toilets

A composting toilet is one of the best portable toilet solution for vanlife & camping when going both #1 and #2. A composting toilet is an eco-friendly way to go to the bathroom.

When using a composting toilet you must separate the #1 from the #2, otherwise you will create sewage (which is what smells).

There is a separate holding tank for #1, and a different tank for #2 which you fill with a composting material (either peat moss, wood chips, soil, etc.) For more information on best covering materials for composting check out The Toilet Zone.

And just to be clear, if you are using a composting toilet on a regular basis, don’t expect to be actually making usable compost.  You simply will be adding too much waste for true usable compost to be created.

One drawback is most composting toilets need an exhaust pipe, which requires electricity.

There are a few companies that have designed a toilet to separate #1 from #2, for ease of use & so no funky smells come about, but they come with a hefty price tag. But you can also DIY your own composting toilet for a much more budget-friendly option. Check out Vanessa & Adams DIY Composting Toilet for more information.

Where To Dispose of Human Waste in A Composting Portable Toilet

When emptying your composting toilet, you have 2 separate tanks. #1 can be disposed of in a public restroom like most of the other methods listed above.

Solid waste gets a little more complicated. Human waste can contain E. Coli or Salmonella, so it’s important to dispose of it properly.

One option is to dump in drop toilets, but that’s really just making it someone else’s problem. And park and recreation departments are already underfunded.

Another option is to dig a deep hole in the middle of the woods, but you must dig a really large hole and might contaminate that area with E.Coli or Salmonella. Follow the leave no trace principles for properly disposing of waste.

The preferred method of disposing #2 is to use a compostable bag and dispose of it in trash receptacles, which is NOT illegal. Consider how many human diapers and dog poops are already disposed of in the trash.

Waste management departments have already considered this factor into their process. For more information on disposing of human waste, check out this article by Live Small Ride Free.

Pros of a Composting Toilet

  • Can go both #1 & #2
  • Least smelly option
  • Semi eco-friendly

Cons of a Composting Toilet

  • Expensive (if purchased from a company)
  • Not as easy to dispose of #2
  • Have to purchase composting material regularly
  • Have to carry composting material with you
  • You have poop in your van
  • Can be a pain to clean

Great Composting Toilet Options:

Nature’s Head Self-Contained Composting Toilet

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Sun-Mar GTG Composting Toilet

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DIY Composting Toilet

Or you can build your own DIY Composting Toilet with the individual components below.

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Urine tank:

Check out other great composting toilet options in our in-depth guide.

Dry Flush Toilet (aka Waterless Toilet)

If you are looking for a clean portable toilet, then a dry flush toilet might be just the answer. A waterless dry flush toilet seals off any waste after each flush. The waste is then stored under the seat in a lined container.

Users should never see or smell any hidden waste due to the proprietary barrier material.

How the toilet works, is there is a liner bag, that sits in the “toilet bowl”. When ready to go, users do their business, and when they are ready to “flush” the bag expands, and seals off the waste into a separate container.

Each cartridge has about 15 flushes, or 25 uses if paired with a pee powder solidifier.

Dry flush toilets are probably best for part-time users, because the refill cartridges can be pretty expensive. But they are premium portable toilets nonetheless.

Pros of a Dry Flush Toilet

  • Can go both #1 & #2
  • Least smelly option
  • Mess-free disposal

Cons of a Dry Flush Toilet

  • Expensive
  • Have to buy refill cartridges
  • You have poop in your van
  • Each cartridge only has 15-25 uses (which is far too little for fill-time vanlife)

Best Dry Flush Portable Toilet Options

Laveo Dry Flush Toilet

Check Price:

Bucket Toilet:

The most affordable portable toilet options for vanlife & camping is to just grab a bucket, a plastic bag, and go! There are a few companies who created a bucket toilet that you can pick up and go or you can DIY your own bucket toilet. Both options are relatively inexpensive.

People often line the bucket with a plastic bag (or two) and then add a compostable product to cover the smell. And once the bag is full, you can toss it in the trash.

Do note that if this type of portable toilet has some downfalls. When you mix #1 and #2 you will be creating sewage. And because the toilet bowl is a bucket, it has the chance of spilling, funky smells, and will need to be emptied properly. 

Pros of a Bucket Toilet

  • Inexpensive
  • Easy Disposal

Cons of a Bucket Toilet

  • Can get smelly
  • Not spill proof
  • Not suggested for #2
  • Additional purchases, such as garbage bags and composting material

Best Bucket Toilet Options

Luggable Loo

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A girl holding a poop shovel and toilet paper in the forest

The Great Outdoors:

Obviously, the most budget-friendly way to use the bathroom while living in a van or camping is to go in the great outdoors. But there are a few rules you must follow. 

Going #1:

If you are going #1 at a campsite, just be respectful to where people will be setting up their tents and where people will be walking. Just follow common sense before whizzing away out in nature. Also, please dispose of toilet paper in the garbage and not around the campsite (it takes 1-3 years to decompose).

Going #2:

For #2 you must dig a hole 6-8 inches deep and refill with dirt once done. If you are near a water source you must go at least 200 feet away. Please apply the same rule for going #2 near campsites or trails. No one wants to set up their tent on your poo or have their dog dig it up as a fun activity around their campsite. 

A bitmoji of Jake and Emily Digging A Hole

We use the Sergeant Folding Shovel because it’s military-grade, folds down small when not in use, and can also double as a recovery gear shovel if the van is to ever get stuck. Also, please use biodegradable toilet paper if you are going to bury it (it will break down faster).

But the preferred method is to pack it out and dispose of it in the garbage. This varies depending on the location, so follow the rules of the local land managing agency (BLM, USFS, etc.)

PS: You sometimes get the best views when going #2 out in nature! 

Going In Public:

And if you are in public, you can almost always find a public restroom to use, whether it’s at trailheads, parks, campgrounds, gas stations, etc. Or maybe use one of the budget-friendly toilet options listed below!

Pack It In, Pack It Out:

If you can’t get at least 200 feet away from a water source (such as in a canyon like The Narrows in Zion), there are often special rules. The most common rules are for #1, pee right into the water source and for #2, you must use a Human Waste Bag and pack it out all human waste and TP with you.

Emily's bitmoji Holding a pile of Poop

Pros of Going in the Great Outdoors

  • Free
  • No holding tank needs to be disposed of
  • Get to poop with a view

Cons of Going in the Great Outdoors

  • Sometimes bad weather or after dark.
  • Can be challenging if camped near a water source
  • Lack of privacy (Not a great option when camping with a group)

Lined up is a Nalgene bottle, laundry detergent bottle and water jug to show the different bottles someone can urinate in for vanlife

A Pee Bottle:

A pee bottle is an inexpensive portable toilet option for vanlife and camping because you probably have an old bottle laying around. The pee bottle of choice for most vanlifers is a laundry detergent bottle, because they are opaque with a wide mouth.

But an old Nalgene water bottle, water jug, etc can work too. This option seems to be a better fit for men than women. But women can use a wide-mouth bottle and pair it with a Go Girl, for more accurate aim.

If you are on a budget and have good aim, then this is a viable option for you. It’s easy to empty in a public bathroom and reusable. If you want to keep odors down you can mix in a chemical like Porta Pak or use distilled white vinegar.

Pros of a Pee Bottle

  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to carry and empty

Cons of a Pee Bottle

  • Can get messy if don’t have good aim
  • Small, can’t hold a lot of pee
  • Can get smelly
  • Not for going #2

Accessories For Toilet Options For Vanlife:

Folding Shovel:

A shovel is super helpful when digging a hole in the great outdoors. The Folding Shovel is military-grade, compactable, lightweight, and portable, making it the best shovel for going #2 in the great outdoors. Sergent also has a lifetime warranty and 100% satisfaction guaranteed policy!

Go Girl:

A funnel urination device is designed for females so they can stand when going #1. The Go Girl is often used in the great outdoors, in porta-potties, or public restrooms. The device is made with medical-grade silicone, germ-resistant, and reusable.

Biodegradable Toilet Paper:

If you are going to the bathroom out in nature or in a composting toilet, be sure to use biodegradable toilet paper. Regular toilet paper can take 1-3 years to decompose. Biodegradable toilet paper is designed to break down faster making it your best choice when using it out in nature or in composting toilets.

Although for TP used for #1 we suggest just disposing of it in the trash can.

Portable Tent:

If you have a portable toilet option for vanlife and camping outside, you might want some added privacy. So pair your toilet option with a portable tent so no one can see you doing your business. 

Porta Pak:

Porta Pak is the chemical we use in our cassette toilet. It is biodegradable, formaldehyde-free, breaks down waste, and has unbeatable odor prevention. From our personal experience, these work the best for odor control.

Note: Because our holding tank only holds 5 gallons, we dilute the porta pak in 1 Liter of water so it can last multiple uses. 

People also use Aqua-Kem Treatment or Camco Drop-In Treatment, or distilled white vinegar.

Human Waste Bags:

Human Waste Bags are for specific outdoor areas where solid human waste must be carried out. These are also commonly referred to as “wag bags”. These bags are for the purpose when you can’t properly dig a hole or get 200 feet away from water sources.

This is becoming more and more common in high-traffic areas like National Parks. Or when traveling in remote areas where a water sources is too close by.

How these bags work, is it is double lined. There is one opaque zip lock bag, and a liner bag inside. The liner bags are filled with a product that makes liquids a solid and a deodorizer.

We feel it is a good idea for van lifers to have wag bags or Go Anywhere Toilet Kits as a backup in case of an emergency.

a bitmoji of a girl popping out of a toilet and the guy being concerned. Which is an example of a portable toilet joke.

Takeaway | What Is The Best Portable Camping Toilet

Having your own portable toilet in vanlife beats going in a pit toilet or porta potty any day.

While you can find a public restroom in grocery stores, truck stops, gas stations, or coffee shops that you frequent, you might not always be ready to do your business when you are there. We can honestly say we love having a cassette toilet in our van. It’s the one item that really makes it feel like a home rather than just out at the campsite.

Having a portable toilet is especially great for those days when it’s raining, super cold or dark in the middle of the night. During the day we try to find public toilets or go in the great outdoors as much as we can. But it’s nice to know we have the security of a toilet we can use whenever we are in a public place or don’t want to go outside.  

Save these ‘Best Toilets for Van Life’ on Pinterest!

a girl sitting on a cassette toilet with words overly saying best portable toilets for camping & vanlife
2 photos, the top: is a girl walking into the woods with a shovel and toilet paper, the bottom: a cassette toilet in a camper van with words overlay saying est portable toilet options for vanlife & camping

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