Black tanks: The place your poop goes when you live in an RV. For us, our black tank became the bane of our existence. So, we decided to remove our RV’s toilet, and replace it with something easier to maintain, that didn’t require us to batten down the hatches and drive down the freeway to a dump station three times a week.
Luckily, there is a wide range of RV and camping toilets to choose from, and we tried a number of them (so you don’t have to!), including: The Luggable Loo, bottles, an incinerating toilet, and a camping porta potti. Keep reading to see what we decided on…
Now… I’m going let you in on a secret: If you’re squeemish just skip to the next paragraph. Sticking around? Okay…
Living in an RV, van, or car, you will probably pee in a bottle at some point. And if you’re someone like me who hated packing up everything just to drive a few miles down the highway to dump a tank, well, you’d be peeing in bottles most of the time.
Because we could go 2-3 more weeks before we’d need to dump again.
And while we’re peeking behind the curtain: I’ve also pooped in bags. There were garbage bags. There was scented cat litter. There was a little shame.
But I was desperate to find ways to avoid the dreaded Dump Station Day, so these seemed like viable options at the time.
Luckily, RVers are not relegated to just black tanks and litter-filled garbage bags, so we experimented with various options before finding the campervan toilet solution that best suited us.
Experiment #1: Luggable Loo
The Luggable Loo. Our first impression was it seemed simple enough and would suit our needs: A plastic tub, a toilet seat, and a bag for our “business”. What could go wrong with something so easy? At a price point of less than $28 bucks, we figured we’d be fine with the set up.
Au contraire mon frere.
When pooping and peeing in a bag, one becomes uniquely attuned to the inner workings of one’s bladder. We learned- quickly- just how much we were going to the bathroom.
We also learned about the magical world of bacteria: When your Number 1 and Number 2 love each other very much, and mix around together in a plastic bin, those two excrement loverbirds make it real smelly, real quick.
Cat litter did soak up the urine, but the weird litter-fragrance mixed with bodily secretions was too much.
With the Luggable Loo, we were throwing out our “business bags” daily to avoid The Smell; and dumpster adventures became so tiresome that after a month we abandoned the Loo and continued our search for another option.
Experiment #2: Bottles (…yeah, I know.)
Bottles and the Great Outdoors. We drink a LOT of glass-bottled drinks in our RV: Coffee, kombucha, whatever. This makes for a lot of empty bottles and overactive bladders.
Personally, I figured this was a win-win. Bottle it up, go outside, feed the flowers and be one with Nature (Fun Fact: Urine is high in ammonia and helps plants grow!).
But this, too, required too much effort. Bottles also didn’t help with the poop part of this equation, so it wasn’t the panacea we were hoping for. On went the RV toilet search…
Experiment #3: Incinerating Toilet
Setting our poop on fire. People smarter and far better than we have concocted all sorts of ways to dispose of poo, including burning it down to ash in an incinerating toilet.
Taking care of our waste in this way was intriguing: Place a paper liner in the bowl, do your “business”, press a foot pedal, and your waste falls to the bottom of the toilet.
All that’s left to do is press a button that electrically heats up what’s inside until it’s whittled down to ash (on average, urine takes about 10 minutes, the other takes about 30 minutes).
Ashes left in the bin can be thrown out in the trash. Research told us that there would be no smell, so the benefits of an incinerating toilet were tempting.
First, the price for these units are around the $2,000 mark. For that cost, we assumed the toilets would be gold-plated (alas, they are not).
Second, they require the consistent purchase of paper liners ($40 per one box of 400).
Becoming intimately attuned to the inner workings of our bowels while living in our RV, the on-going cost of paper liners didn’t seem like a good investment.
Lastly, incinerating toilets require a lot of power to run, and cannot run off of standard sized solar kits. We knew we wanted to add a solar array to our RV in the future, so these units didn’t fit our RV lifestyle.
And so, our search for the best portable toilet continued.
Experiment #4: The Winner! Thetford Porta Potti
Finally, the Best Campervan Toilet Solution (for us)! After a few more months of scouring the internet and reading reviews, eventually we did find the winner: The Thetford Porta Potti 135. We ordered it off Amazon, and in two days it was delivered- in all it’s plastic glory.
Opening the box, this mobile toilet was already 99% assembled. There are no screws, no batteries, no need for the instruction manual. What you pull out of the box is what you get. The simplicity is great.
Watch my FULL Thetford 135 Review and How-To video HERE
+Easy to Clean + Use
+No Dump Tank Hoses Needed
+No more Dump Stations!!! Ever!
+Can Dump & Clean in Any House, Gas Station or Public Toilet
+CHEAP (under $100)
-Need to Dump More Frequently (ie 1x-2x/week for the two of us VS 1x every 1.5 months with a 40 gallon black tank)
-Low to the Ground, Tall People May Need to Adjust
-Can Get Gross + Smelly If Bleach Rinsing Neglected
-Need to be Able to Access a Toilet for Dumping (unlike a composting toilet, camping toilets use portable toilet chemicals in the water and must be dumped in an appropriate area)
-MUST Use RV toilet paper (just like a RV black tank: Never use regular toilet paper lest you get clogs, smells, and other unwanted happenings!)
Now that we’ve replaced our RV toilet with the Thetford porta potti, what’s our final verdict? We’ll never go back to the Dark Days of Black Tank Dumpage. Or garbage bags with scented litter. Or glass bottles.
The Thetford camping toilet is one of the best purchases we’ve made for RV life, hands down. If you’re considering RV / Van life and aren’t fans of black tanks, know that you can find the right option that fits the lifestyle you want.
When living in an RV full-time, the little things (like how to take care of your poop) really start to matter.