How Do Campers Use the Bathroom Off-Grid?

When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. However, using the bathroom is one of the challenges many campers face when enjoying off-grid camping. Whether you’re curious or want to try this camping style, you may wonder how campers use the bathroom off-grid. It’s a logical question and one that we can easily answer for you today. Let’s get started!

Little girl scared after falling into the toilet

What Is Off-Grid Camping?

Off-grid camping is nothing new and is a type of camping that has been around for practically all of eternity. This camping style involves individuals having no connections – no water, sewer, or electricity – while camping. They must be entirely self-sufficient for the duration of their trip.

This camping style goes by several different names. Many refer to this as dispersed camping, dry camping, or boondocking. No matter what you call it, it’s off-grid camping. This is often done on public lands owned and maintained by the government. However, there are some campgrounds with off-grid camping options.

Can You Have a Flushing Toilet Off-Grid?

Many RVs come with flushing toilets that are perfect for off-grid camping. These toilets utilize a water pump to move water from a freshwater storage tank to the toilet as needed. RV water pumps require minimal power, so they can easily run off an RV’s 12-volt battery bank.

Is There a Toilet That Doesn’t Need a Septic Tank?

There are several types of off-grid toilets that don’t require a septic tank. Some available options include pit toilets, incinerating toilets, and composting toilets. Just because you want to spend time off-grid doesn’t mean you need to make the large investment in installing a septic tank.

Composting toilets are some of the most popular options for RVers looking to spend significant amounts of time enjoying off-grid camping. We’ll go into more details about why this is the case later, but know it’s not nearly as messy, complicated, or smelly as you likely think. Many find the process is significantly easier than they had imagined. 

Worried that composting toilets may be dangerous to use? Find out if you should be concerned!

Camper van bathroom interior with toilet and sink

How Do Campers Use the Bathroom Off-Grid?

You can only hold it for so long before you’ve got to answer mother nature’s call when you’re in nature. So how do campers use the bathroom while off-grid?

Dig a Hole

One of the most straightforward ways to deal with human waste is to dig a hole. If you’re new to off-grid camping, dig the hole first. You want to use a trowel or shovel to dig a 6-inch to 8-inch hole in the ground before you begin using the restroom. Whether or not you have a good enough aim is irrelevant. The bottom line is waste needs to find its way into the hole. 

You should use as little toilet paper as possible to get the job done and place it into a waste bag to take with you. Burying toilet paper is forbidden on most public lands, so it’s a good idea to take it with you. Practicing “Leave No Trace” is essential while enjoying off-grid camping.

Use a Portable Camping Toilet

There are some occasions when campers can easily bring a portable camping toilet with them. They often use disposable baggies with a powder coating inside them to help accelerate the decomposition of waste. These may not be ideal for carrying if you’re hiking miles into the wilderness for your campsite, but they can do the job in some situations. Once a baggie is full, you simply tie it closed and find a place to dispose of it safely.

Get a Compost Toilet

A composting toilet is one that uses aerobic bacteria to quickly and efficiently break down solid waste. When done properly, a compost toilet will have an ideal moisture level, carbon-nitrogen balance, and temperature. When conditions are right, it will produce little odor and be a pleasant experience. However, when done incorrectly, it’s not so lovely when emptying your compost toilet.

You use the toilet like normal, but it separates the solids from the liquids. The solids get mixed in with materials like peat and coconut fibers to help break down the solids. When kept between 60 and 100 degrees with proper moisture levels, the aerobic bacteria thrive and accelerate the decomposition of the waste. You can dump urine into the nearest toilet and empty the compost toilet into a trash bag to dispose of in a dumpster or trash can. 

Man looking out from hole in outhouse door

Use a Bucket Toilet

You can’t get more low-tech than a bucket toilet. However, you can purchase toilet seats that fasten to the top of a bucket and are just as comfortable. However, it’s a good idea to label the buckets for “#1” and “#2.” You’ll want to empty the “#2” bucket more frequently.

The “#1” bucket is easy to dispose of by finding a nearby toilet to dump it into or finding a place at least 100 feet from your campsite or water source. Use a plastic baggy with your “#2” bucket to make disposing of your solid waste easy. Some bucket toilet users will place kitty litter or other material in the bottom of the bucket to help absorb any liquids that might find their way into the bucket’s base and provide a fresh scent. 

Find Off-Grid Outhouses

Americans have been using outhouses for more than 200 years. Some camping locations will have outhouses available in camping locations. If you’re looking for a truly rustic camping experience, this is about as good as it gets. These toilets are built over a 4-foot hole in the ground. Both solid and liquid waste goes into the hole and eventually breaks down.

If you’ve ever had to use an outhouse, it will likely not be your favorite bathroom experience. However, we’ve encountered an outhouse or two that was cleaner than some gas station bathrooms. So don’t dismiss an outhouse just because it’s an outhouse.

We think Vault Toilets (aka Outhouses) Are Gross. But our reasons why may surprise you.

Interior of portable toilet bathroom

How Do Campers Shower Off-Grid? 

RVs, yet again, are some of the best options for taking a shower while off-grid. It’s no different from a shower in a residential home. However, since you’re likely to want to conserve water, you’ll want to take a quick shower and shut the water off when not actively rinsing the soap off your body or shampoo out of your hair.

Solar showers are another great way to take a shower while off-grid. These showers utilize tanks to store the water, and heat from the sun warms up the water. Solar showers often use gravity’s assistance to help with water flow. You’ll need to place the water at a higher level, open a valve to release the pressure, and let gravity do the rest.

Is It Difficult to Camp Off-Grid Without Amenities? 

Off-grid camping requires campers to make adjustments. Getting more water isn’t always easy or possible, so you need to make your supply last as long as possible. This may mean skipping a daily shower or finding alternative ways to stay clean. You’ll also find creative ways to prepare meals to minimize the need to use water for washing dishes. The more you can go off-grid camping, the better you get at it and the easier it can be. 

Does having to go to the bathroom when camping off-grid stress you out? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

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