This portable DIY camping toilet means saying goodbye to digging holes, and/or having to explain poison ivy in strange places.
There are many reasons that camping is considered “roughing it,” but there’s one particular reason that seems to rank high on everyone’s list: questionable or nonexistent restrooms. Most campgrounds—and state and national parks—have toilets and showers. But if you prefer to camp off the grid or want to make sure you have a dependable toilet no matter what, it’s easy to create your own. All you need is a 5-gallon plastic bucket and a few supplies. (If you don’t want to make your own, there are some ready-made options on the market. We’re sharing a few of those options at the end of the post.)
But first, here’s how to make a DIY portable camping toilet.
Camping Toilet Instructions
- Plastic 5-gallon bucket with tight-fitting lid
- Foam pool noodle
- Utility knife
- Toilet paper rolls (biodegradable is best)
- Biodegradable trash bag
- Sawdust or coffee grounds (at least a few pounds)
- Make sure the plastic bucket is sturdy enough to hold a person’s weight. Place the cover on the bucket and sit down on top of it to test it out. Then remove the bucket cover and set it aside.
- Use the foam pool noodle to make a seat. Wrap it around the bucket rim to see where you should cut it. The pool noodle can wrap all the way around the rim or you can leave a gap. Make a mark to indicate where you’ll need to cut it.
- Use a utility knife to cut the pool noodle to the correct length. Then use the utility knife to cut a slit down one side of it. (Your cut should go all the way through to the hole that’s in the center of the pool noodle.)
- Attach the pool noodle to the bucket rim by pressing it into place. Make sure it’s secure.
- Detach one end of the bucket’s wire handle by pulling it out of the bucket. Slide a roll of toilet paper onto the handle and reattach the handle to the bucket. Now it’s ready to use—as long as you read the waste disposal instructions first.
With a DIY camping toilet, you have two waste disposal options. Which one you choose depends on where you’re camping, the type of waste disposal facilities that are available, and local regulations.
The easiest—and most scent-free option—is to line the bucket with a biodegradable trash bag. Place the bag inside the bucket and make sure at least a few inches of the bag hangs over the bucket rim. You can either line the bag first and then place the foam seat on top (to hold the bag in place), or place the foam seat on the bucket first and then put the bag on. (With the latter method, the bag will cover the foam seat. It’s the more sanitary option if more than one person will be using it.)
After each use, sprinkle a generous amount of sawdust or coffee grounds in the bag with the waste. This will help cut down on the smell. (If you don’t have sawdust or coffee grounds, you can also use dirt.) Then replace the bucket’s cover until its next use. When the bag is full, securely close it, remove it from the bucket, and dispose of it according to local regulations. Depending on where you are, you may be able to dispose of it in a waste receptacle or bury it.
If the DIY toilet will get limited use (either it’s a short camping trip or there are only a couple people using it), you can use the bagless method. (With this method, the toilet will be emptied and the contents buried after each use.) Before each use, toss some sawdust or coffee grounds inside the bucket. After each use, put some more sawdust or coffee grounds in the bucket and shake it a little. Then bury the bucket’s contents following the guidelines below.
Burying Waste 101
No matter which option you choose, you’ll need to deal with waste disposal. If you use Option #1, you may be able to dispose of the bag in a waste receptacle. If you have to bury it, here’s how:
- First, make sure the bag you used is a biodegradable bag, not a standard plastic bag. The toilet paper should be biodegradable toilet paper designed for backpacking or RV septic systems. (It breaks down four times faster than standard toilet paper.)
- Choose a location that’s at least 200 feet (about 70 steps) away from water, trails, and any campsites. Make sure it’s also in a location that other people are not likely to use.
- Dig a hole that’s at least 6-8 inches deep and 4-6 inches in diameter. It should be large enough that you can bury the waste and completely cover it with several inches of dirt.
- Place the waste inside and cover the hole completely.
DIY Camping Toilet Accessories
A few accessories can make an outdoor restroom just a bit more comfortable and convenient.
- Coghlan's Backpacker's Trowel: This simple, inexpensive shovel makes waste disposal a lot easier.
- Biodegradable Trash Bags: These durable 13-gallon bags come in a pack of 50. They’re made from plant starches instead of plastic so they’ll decompose over time.
- Biodegradable Toilet Paper: Quick-dissolve toilet paper works well for DIY toilets and RV septic systems.
- Pop-Up Privacy Tent: This pop-up privacy tent is a must-have for outdoor toilets. Just set it up and place the camping toilet inside. This tent can also be used as shower tent or changing room.
- Instant Toilet Seat: If you’d like a more sturdy seat than our homemade option, this plastic toilet sit with lid can be attached to any 5-gallon bucket.
And if making a DIY camping toilet isn’t for you, but you still want a reliable restroom, here are some options:
1. Luggable Loo: This toilet is the ready-made version of the DIY camping toilet. Bags and toilet paper are sold separately.
- Compatible with reliance's standard Double doodle bag
- Weight: 3.00lbs
- Economically priced portable toilet
- 5-gallon (20-liter) capacity
- Simple bucket style design; traditional snap-on lid
2. Portable Toilet: This lightweight portable toilet comes with a removable bucket for easy disposal and a built-in toilet paper holder.
- Make the Journey Worry-free: This compact toilet can be used indoors and outdoors without taking up much space. It's perfect for camping, hiking, boating and road trips and can provide all the comforts of a real home toilet. It can meet your emergency needs and let you enjoy nature with peace of mind.
- Detachable Toilet Paper Holder: There is a paper holder on one side of the toilet, allowing you to put paper towels on it for convenience. The detachable design allows the paper towel to be hung on either side according to your usage habits. It can bring great convenience to your trip.
- Humanized Design: The light weight and hidden handles on both sides of the toilet make the toilet easy to move and carry. The large-capacity inner bucket allows you to use it multiple times without having to empty it frequently. Thoughtful design can meet your outing needs.
- High-quality Materials & Stable Structure: Made from premium PP materials, the portable toilet is smooth, burr-free, comfortable and skin-friendly. The sturdy structure makes it have strong bearing capacity and good stability without slipping. The right height is ergonomically designed to provide maximum comfort, so it can also be used as a stool.
- Easy to Clean & Prevent Odor: The toilet comes with a removable inner bucket so you can use it with trash bags for no cleaning. The inner bucket has a firm handle for easy carrying and cleaning. The inner and outer lids can effectively seal off odors and keep the air fresh.
3. Portable Camping Toilet: If you’d prefer an option that flushes, this portable toilet comes with a freshwater and wastewater tank.
- THE ULTIMATE PORTABLE TOILET – No More Emergency Potty Runs While Camping, Boating or Traveling on the Road! Compact, Fully Functional Latrine Provides Anytime, Anywhere Bathroom Relief with All the Comforts of a Real Home Toilet
- AMAZING 50+ FLUSH CAPACITY – Built-In Piston Pump Flusher Provides Powerful Cleaning Action, No Plumbing or External Hookups Required – Features Extra Large 5.3 Gallon Waste Tank & 3.2 Gallon Water Tank for Fewer Emptying Trips
- SUPER COMFORTABLE SETUP – Unit is Made of Durable, Heavy Duty Material That Naturally Minimizes Odors & Resists Rust & Corrosion – Lightweight Yet Sturdy Seat Supports the Entire Family Including Toddlers, Kids, Teenagers, Adults & the Elderly
- EASY CLEAN CONVENIENCE – Sprayer Keeps Bowl Clean a Full 360°, While the Rotating Spout Lets You Safely & Hygienically Dispose of Contents When Full – Includes Waste Level Indicator & Anti-Leak Drain Valve to Lock In Liquid & Odors
- TRAVEL-FRIENDLY. ECO-FRIENDLY. – Complete Kit Also Features a Handy Case for Toting & Storing Your Toilet Anywhere – Green System Saves You Money on Energy & Water & Cuts Out Wasteful Disposable Liners, Inserts, Pills & Chemicals
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- Five gallon bucket with toilet seat, lid attachment, and three bag liners
- Seat snaps securely onto rim of bucket
- Easy to clean and lightweight
- Easily portable with attached carry handle
- Made of durable, UV-resistant polypropylene
- Sport Type: Camping & Hiking
- Toilet seat and cover for use with industrial pails (pail sold separately)
- Converts any standard size five-gallon/19-liter pail into a portable toilet
- Snap on feature secures seat to pail
- Dimensions: 13 by 1.5 by 14 inches (L x W x H); Weight: 1.1 pounds
- Bucket toilet seat transforms a standard bucket into a portable toilet
- Compatible with most 5-gallon buckets; includes (3) bucket bags
- Easy to attach; seat snaps securely onto the rim of your bucket
- Perfect for camping, hunting and other remote activities
- Made of durable polypropylene