So now you know why you need a portable river toilet, here are my thoughts on how to go about choosing which one is right for you.
I have used three types of portable river toilets. 2 are large toilets that are needed for multi-day river trips and are secured on our whitewater raft. The other is a small, hand-made kayakers pooper.
Jon-ny Partner Toilet Systems
When I guided on the Grand Canyon we used large, fully contained steel containers called, Jon-ny Partner Toilet systems. We’d usually bring two or three of these downstream depending on how many people and how many days we’d be on the river.
They’re made of strong aluminum, weigh 20 lbs empty and can accommodate 6 people for 10 days (assuming everyone only dumps once a day).
These are great systems. They’re well-built and if you clamp the lid on well, they won’t leak. It comes with handy carrying handles which are crucial when they get near full.
They also have a pressure release valve which is really nice for trips in extreme heat. Heat and methane gas can lead to some nasty accidents if it’s not purged every now and again. Be sure to plug your nose when the purge happens.
These toilets are perfect for long trips like the grand canyon, but are probably overkill for shorter river trips. At over 500 bucks a pop you’ll only want to get this set-up if you’re planning a lot of grand canyon type trips. Even then it may be more economical to rent.
The toilet I use most of the time is the Eco-Safe toilet. It is a tough polyethylene tank which is made to fit into a “rocket box.” It comes with a toilet seat which secures to the tank once you unscrew the top lid. The screw top has the required rubber gasket which keeps it from leaking even if upside down.
The eco-toilet can take up to 50 uses, so it’s perfect for a 4 day trip with 10 or 12 people. I’ve never filled one of these on our typical 4 day Rogue river trip.
What the hell’s a “rocket box”? A rocket box is just what it sounds like a box that’s used to store rockets. Were talking army surplus here. They were used to store 20mm rockets back in the Vietnam war days.
The eco-safe toilet is made to fit perfectly into this 20mm rocket box. The rocket box is metal and can be locked shut with strong clasps on either side. It also has the crucial carrying handles.
If you buy an eco-safe toilet system you’ll also have to purchase a 20mm rocket box. The metal box will add some weight but it’s easily tied into a whitewater raft.
The eco toilet is around 200 bucks and is well worth the price. To alleviate some of the cost, split it with your river running buddies. Don’t forget: not everyone on the trip needs their own toilet, only one per trip is required, so it makes sense to go in on the purchase together.
There are also some new systems out there called, “wag bags.” They are solid human waste pouches which actually turn your stuff into some weird gel and starts bio-degrading immediately. They have been approved by the DEQ and are safe to throw the used bags into a public refuse station (aka garbage can).
I have never used these bags but they sound pretty slick. They are approved for use on the Rogue river but I would call and ask if heading to other toilet required rivers.
Portable river toilets must have these traits: be waterproof, not have bag inserts, be big enough to accommodate your group, be washable and re-usable, and have a gasket on the lid.
There are other large toilet systems that fit these criteria but I’m not familiar with them so I excluded them here.
Portable Kayakers’ Pooper
Occasionally I’ll do a river trip without raft support, which means I need to carry all my supplies in the back of my whitewater kayak. I still need to present my toilet at the put-in but I obviously can’t fit a 20mm rocket box into my kayak.
The BLM website lays out an easy method for making your own kayakers’ toilet. I’ve followed their instructions and it’s very simple and effective. So not to re-invent the wheel, simply follow the directions on the previous BLM link.