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How to Make a Camping Toilet

A camping toilet makes going to the bathroom in the woods easier.

Not only that, but it also makes going (especially number two) much more comfortable, far easier to clean up after, and much better for the environment.

Of course, it’s completely possible to poop in the woods without a toilet (in a cat hole, for example), but the best portable camping toilets are super cheap and pack down surprisingly small.

Better yet, you can actually make a portable camping toilet on your own for just a couple dollars – no DIY experience necessary.

Here’s exactly how to make a DIY toilet for camping.

Making a DIY Camping Toilet

Toilet Paper Roll

Making a camp toilet yourself is much cheaper than buying one from the store.

Best of all? The build process is so simple that anyone can do it regardless of your DIY experience.

All it takes is a 5-gallon bucket, a toilet seat, and plastic trash bags.

The purpose of the 5-gallon bucket is obvious – it’s the receptacle for the waste. The plastic trash bag then goes inside the 5-gallon bucket to catch the waste and keep things clean.

I prefer to use extra-thick garbage bags, like the type contractors use, but any plastic garbage bag will do the job just fine.

If you prefer something a little fancier, you can actually buy plastic bags specifically made for use in camping toilets. I like the Reliance Double Doodie Waste Bags with Bio-Gel.

Not only are these bags super rugged so they don’t break, but they utilize a two-bag system plus a gelling powder that solidifies liquid waste and helps prevent unpleasant odors.

Although these bags work very well, I typically use a normal garbage bag which I then fill with a little sawdust or kitty litter to congeal everything and mask odors.

Using a separate garbage bag for each use is also helpful as is only using your camp toilet for number two and going number one outside.

It’s possible to simply use a 5-gallon bucket as a portable camp toilet but most people also want a comfortable toilet seat.

The simplest option is to buy a 5-gallon bucket toilet seat. My favorite is the Reliance Luggable Loo Seat and Cover, although several options are available.

I like using a pre-made toilet seat because they easily snap onto a 5-gallon bucket. Plus, the lid securely snaps onto the seat for easy transport and to prevent unpleasant odors from escaping.

Remember to always dispose of human waste properly while camping. Always pack it out to throw away later rather than leaving at the campsite in any form.

Other Ways to Make a Camp Toilet

The above method is simply my go-to for making a camping toilet at home.

Although most alternative methods also utilize a 5-gallon bucket with trash bags, you do have quite a few different options regarding the toilet seat itself.

To save even more money, sub out the 5-gallon bucket toilet seat with a foam pool noodle.

Simply, cut the foam pool noodle all the way open down one side. Then wrap it around the top of your 5-gallon bucket like a toilet seat.

You’ll need to trim the ends of the pool noodle so it fits on the bucket. Most people prefer to have a gap at the front (like a normal toilet seat), so cut the pool noodle a little shorter than the diameter of the bucket opening.

Add a little Gorilla Glue between the foam pool noodle and the rim of the 5-gallon bucket for an even stronger connection, although this isn’t explicitly necessary.

My Favorite Portable Toilets for Camping

portable camping toilet in a field

Making your own toilet for camping isn’t your only option. You can also buy a pre-made camp toilet if you prefer to forgo the DIY method.

Reliance Luggable Loo

The Reliance Luggable Loo is my hands down favorite portable toilet for camping.

Although it’s very similar to the DIY camp toilets described above (it’s really just a 5-gallon bucket with a plastic toilet seat and lid), the low cost (just $20) makes it a no-brainer in my book.

The Luggable Loo is reliable, rugged, and cheap. The lid closes tight and the seat is surprisingly comfortable. Pair with Reliance Double Doodie Waste Bags with Bio-Gel for the best performance.

Cleanwaste Go Anywhere

The Cleanwaste Go Anywhere Portable Toilet is my second favorite portable camping toilet.

I love that it’s so compact. It folds down to the size of a small briefcase for easy storage. But, at the same time, it’s able to support up to 500 pounds when in use thanks to its three sturdy legs.

This Cleanwaste camp toilet is also among the most comfortable available. It sits 14 inches off the ground to make sitting down and standing up easy.

Pair the toilet with Cleanwaste Go Anywhere Waste Bags (which include a bag for waste and gelling/deodorizing agent, toilet paper, and a hand wipe) for the best results.

This camp toilet is a bit more expensive (normally around $80) than DIY models and the Luggable Loo, but it’s more than worth the extra money if you go car camping on a regular basis.

Camco Portable Travel Toilet

Prefer a camping toilet that looks and feels like the real thing?

Then the Camco Portable Travel Toilet might just be for you. Available in a 2.6-gallon or 5.3-gallon model, this camp toilet actually incorporates a real flushing tank into its design.

It’s a little bulk for car camping (but doable). Where it really shines is for van camping or RV camping. It also makes an excellent temporary toilet for home repairs or emergencies.

Accessories for Your Camping Toilet

There are a bunch of camping accessories that make the bathroom experience easier or more comfortable.

But there is one that sticks out far above the rest – a privacy shelter.

When you’re taking care of business in the woods, whether you’re at a campground or a dispersed campsite, you certainly don’t want other campers to see you.

A privacy shelter, like the Kelty Blockhouse Privacy Shelter, simply pops up around your camp toilet, giving you the perfect place to take care of business in peace.

A camping privacy shelter also makes the perfect private space for taking a camp shower away from prying eyes.

Other Ways to Go the Bathroom in the Woods

digging a cat hole for camping

Bringing a portable camping toilet is far from the only way to go to the bathroom in the woods.

Of course, the easiest option is to simply use the toilet at the campground if available. Or, to make trips to a nearby trailhead or campground if there’s not a toilet available.

You can also use the cat hole method or W.A.G. bags to pack out your waste. Both of these methods are ideal for backpacking where carrying a full-blown camp toilet doesn’t make sense.

We discuss cat holes and the pack-out method in more detail in our guide to pooping in the woods.

Just remember to always follow the Leave No Trace principles, no matter which method you decide to employ.  

The Benefits of a Portable Toilet for Camping

Here are a few of the main reasons to use a portable toilet when camping:

  • Easier – Just squat and go. No digging a cat hole, no aiming for a W.A.G. bag.
  • More Comfortable – Actually sitting down on a toilet seat is a lot more comfortable than squatting above a hole in the ground.
  • Cleaner – A camp toilet helps reduce the spread of contaminants to your hands. Of course, you should still wash your hands after, but it’s a much cleanlier process.
  • Better Waste Disposal – You’ll be packing all your waste out. No more leaving it in cat holes.

In addition to these four benefits, a homemade camping toilet costs less than $10 to make, so it’s definitely not going to break the bank.

Which Method Do You Use?

Now, we want to hear from you.

What’s your go-to method for pooping in the woods?

Do you use a cat hole, a W.A.G. bag, or a portable toilet? If you do use a portable toilet, did you make it yourself or is it a store-bought version?

We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

And, don’t forget to check out our other camping hygiene resources, like how to shower in the woods!

Happy Camping!