Potty Suggestions

Capt. Mike

Transferred & consolidated from archives.

Roy and Nan Hill 10/2/99 (9:39 PM)

We are new owners of 1985 Westy and would like to hear what any of you have done to accomodate toilet facilities. Thanks

Chris 10/4/99 (7:15 AM)

Hi Roy and Nan:

We keep a squat, wide mouth, one quart rubbermaid handy in that low shoe-storage area, left of the fridge. Seals tight and works for both genders. Wherever we park, the soapy waste water from the sink collects in a juice jug and gets recycled by rinsing out the rubbermaid. Plus a daily shot of mouthwash. For more serious business, a folding shovel makes any bush a scenic rest stop. Others may prefer a porta-potty in a box, but we found in three years of living on a small boat (in the chesapeake and eastern caribbean) that when you choose private anchorages nothing stays sweeter in your living space than a well scrubbed spackle bucket. With a tight lid, the Coast Guard called it a holding tank and it stood ready all day in the tropics with three inches of salt water and a shot of clorox, and each evening we'd dump to starboard and rinse to port. Travel well, Chris. 88 westy

Capt. Mike Soehnlein 12/24/99 (11:10 AM)

We carry a full Port-a-Potti. Current is a Thetford model 265.

I built a tray with small lip, sealed it to make watertight, and the port-a-john sits in it, in case there is a leak or slosh (Port-a-johns must be vented to work, so possibility of a dribble from the fresh water tank always exists -- not the black water.) I have mounted a couple of bungee hold downs to the wall behind the passenger seat (I use nickle-plated footman's loops from Restorations Specialties now that VW has priced their 237 070 256 plastic one out of sight.) to keep it from sliding, plus it sits on one of the non-skid mats. I also have a hold down strap to the tray so it won't tip in hard curves or bumps when fresh filled and the upper tank is full while the lower empty.

Using the campground unit for most daytime excursions and a little common sense, we get an easy 3 days out of a fill. The modern chemicals are excellent without strong smells themselves. You can empty into any toilet or outhouse. Refill is pretty easy too, have even done it from a pump and buckets from a stream.

Caution! Many of the holding tank chemicals contain poisonous substances like formaldehyde. They are fine & safe for their purpose, but keep out of reach of children/pets and WASH your hands after treating your holding tank.


New member
I have just had to purchase a self-contained potty system for camping on Lake Powell in Az. Note..self-contained. Not baggies....you can find these as a "Boom Box"...good for 20 uses. In conversation with the U.S.National Parks people, the requirements to have such a system are going to get more and more common.

Up till now..a shovel has always been the systen of choice and it remains so today, except in those areas that have strict guidlines.

Gary Haupt

[This message has been edited by garyhaupt (edited 11-19-2000).]


I found a very nice portable toilet. It's called the "pett". It is very simple, but built very strong. Three fold out legs, a bag system, (a bucket or a hole in the ground can be used instead). Comes with special bags with a gelling compound. The great thing is that it folds up to 4"x14"x19", and weighs only 7 lbs. Stores nicely on the roof rack. (doesn't even stick up in the wind!) It also is stong enough to serve as a step stool.

Available on line through REI, West Marine, Bass Pro etc. Once again I bought mine localy to help keep our local guys in business. About $90. Expensive, but with the good features worth it.



New member
We bought a round plastic potty called a hossack at a Canadian Tire store for $29. It has a pail inside that holds kitchen size garbage bags and a plastic seat. You put it all together and empty it out each morning. The lid fits tight so there is no smell or need for chemicals. It's great, but does take up space. I suppose it would fit in the luggage rack....


Capt. Mike

The flaw in any of the "bag" type porta-johns is the bag. It is plastic and will not decompose. Thus burying it near campsites means a gradual accumulation that is soon dug up or disturbed by animals, eventually broken and then perhaps polluting nearby streams or the site's well water. At a minimum, attracting flies to the area. It can't be dropped into septic type sewer systems -- the most common at parks and remote areas -- as it will clog pipes, distribution lines in the buried leach fields, or you'd find them floating in the septic lagoon if that type of system is used. If dropped into a dumpster, the bag will probably break and you compound trash and dumpster leakage & smell problems with raw sewage.

Most bag units take as much space as a decent chemical porta-john, whose treatment/odor chemical actually helps when dumped into the disposal system, whether it be the toilet of a septic system bathroom in a park, a commercial porta-johns or even outhouses.

Many parks & natural areas now require you to Pack Out whatever you brought in. Are you willing to carry out a weeks worth of those bags inside your camper?

Be a good camper -- use a chemical porta-john. Two people can go over a week easy on one -- without odor problems! Refreshing the chemicals seems to increase the time signifigantly. During hunting season, my (admittedly light use by one person) goes two months with just one refresh of the chemical.

Capt. Mike

In response to an off-site query on porta pottis and capacity:

I have a Thetaford Porta Potti 275 which has a 3.75 US gal clean water tank with 5 US gal holding tank. It's tall enough to be comfortable and capacity exceeds our needs. Two can easily get a couple weeks out of it if used with any common sense. Apparently, from their website Thetford, it's been discontinued and the current equivalent is the 555. The 155 is close. We had the equivalent to a Porta Potti 135 when we first went to a chemical porta potti and it was quite adequate for 2 for a week, but I made the mistake of leaving water in it while stored for a year and the pump mechanism clogged from algae & deposit build-up. Now I know to empty and thoroughly dry the unit before long-term storage. I bought the 275 replacement, thinking bigger was better. Not necessarily so. Also check height to be sure the seat will still swivel around.

When I say common sense, one has to understand porta potti limits. The amount of water for a flush is small and low velocity. Thus I find a "pusher stick" essential for handling toilet paper. I took an old oval sledge handle, cut down to about 2' long. Beveled & sanded the ends smooth, then painted 4" of one end black and the other white. The way to use a Porta Potti without emptying the water tank in a day is to put 2-3 flush pumps into the closed bowl, which then gives a pool of water to soak into the toilet paper. Also reduces 'skid marks' & residue. The black & white end of the stick remind us which end is which. Then, after use, open the valve plate and use the pusher stick to push the paper mass into the holding tank. Then a flush or two will clear the bowl. This is actually quite sanitary because you are pushing on the last, clean paper, not the waste itself. Rarely is there anything on the pusher stick that doesn't just rinse off with a flush.

So with two persons, a fill will easily last over a week. Again, a little common sense -- we'll use the gas station on the road and maybe the campsite john some, if available. When I use it for hunting season, with just the morning use and dumping the stand P-bottle, capacity is sufficient for the whole 2-month season. One can always top off the water tank. I've never had the holding tank get anywhere close to full. The 235 & 555 have a holding tank gauge. In both cases, it may be necessary to refresh the deodorant dosage (always use a commercial chemical specifically for porta potties). Usually the day's driving will slosh things around and start the decomposition of solids & paper in the holding tank over the day. If not, paper may pile in the center and you have to give it a shake or lift into the carry position to drop the waste clear of the center hole. I don't find the special (read expensive) degradable paper worth the expense. All paper degrades -- the regular just slower. However do not allow the female gender to use it for sanitary supplies, I don't give a darn what their box says!

The DISADVANTAGE of all, and the larger the capacity the worse, is their tendency to be top-heavy with a freshly charged water tank and empty holding tank. It's easy to tip one over on a sharp curve. This isn't the disaster you'd think because both tanks are well sealed, but you risk damage. What I've done is to make a wooden tray. Plywood bottom, with ½"x½" lip edge. Painted white, it's quite attractive; silicone seal the seam and it's water-tight. I put a set of footman's loops (the tie down cleats like in your luggage rack) on either side for a tie-down strap made from 1" webbing and a quick-release buckle from the local REI. I suppose a bungee would work. I have another strap that ties the porta potti to a footman's loop on the back of the front seat well, which secures it against the roughest off-road terrain. Once there is some weight in the holding tank, this becomes less of a problem. I actually made my tray sized for the bigger base of the first toilet and then just inserted a set of wood strips to match the smaller bottom of the new toilet, which had been great because it gives me a couple inches of tray either side for more stability and storage of the pusher stick. There is a photo on the Tech Drawings link. The photo reminds me I might be due for a paint job -- but it's still going strong after 30 years!

Emptying is not the problem everyone thinks. I have an outside dump pipe stubbed out in the parking pad at the house, but into a toilet or outhouse is just as easy. The new ones have an emptying nozzle that gives reasonable aim & control. I usually put another gallon of water in and reslosh for a 2nd rinse, but it's not critical except for long term storage. When cleaning for long-term storage, I may put an oz. (no more) of bleach in the water tank, slosh around and pump some through before emptying. Ditto the final rinse of the holding tank. I'm on a well, as are many camp sources, so there is no chlorination of the fill water, thus it may eventually get algae growth. Be sure and pump the fill tank dry so none is left in the lines & pump bellows.


New member
Recently bought 86 Weekender & added Thetford "Curve" behind passenger seat. It has TP roll storage & pushbutton flush. Runs on AA batteries, which are supposed to last a year - we'll see. It's optional bracket is screwed to a plywood base that is hinged to floor so removing potty & flipping up base allows full door width loading.