Tag Archives: portable river toilet

Portable River Toilet Accessories (part 3)

This is the third installment of all you need to know about portable river toilets. Previous posts are, why you need a toilet, and what kind of portable toilet .

Now you know why you need one and which kind you should have, it’s time to discuss accessories you should consider to go along with your portable river toilet.

River toilet
Creative Commons License photo credit: batschmidt

Think about what’s in your bathroom at home. You need some basic necessities like toilet paper but you also need some products you wouldn’t ordinarily need in your home bathroom.

Here’s a list of suggested accessories for your portable river toilet.

  • A medium-sized box to carry all your accessories. You need to purchase some kind of container for all your various toiletries. It should be big enough to accommodate your toilet seat and plenty of toilet paper. It’s a bonus to have a waterproof container, but not essential. We don’t have a waterproof container, but we keep our toilet paper dry by keeping it inside a large Ziploc baggie.
  • Hand cleaner is a must. Bring along either a soap dispenser or a hand sanitizer. If you opt for the soap you’ll need to set up a washing bucket too. This is easy: simply fill a bucket with river water and place it next to the toilet. It’s useful to have a cup for scooping the water onto your hands after soaping up. If you only have hand sanitizer you can skip the hand wash station at the toilet. You should have a soap and water hand-washing station setup at the kitchen area of your camp anyway.
  • A small bottle of dry bleach. When you’re breaking camp and taking down the toilet system, take a tablespoon of bleach and sprinkle it over the poop. This will keep sanitation up and stink down. Don’t put too much bleach in though, you don’t want to create a noxious, possibly combustible concoction.
  • Reading Material. Just like at home, it’s nice to peruse a magazine or some kind of bathroom book while making your morning deposit. However, simply looking at the river flowing by may be enough.
  • Small trash can sized plastic bags and one brown paper bag. If you’re on a longer trip and you’re trying to save space in your toilet, line a paper bag with a trash bag and encourage people to put their used toilet paper in it. I know this sounds gross, but it saves a lot of space and makes cleaning the toilet at trips end much easier. When done, roll up the plastic trash bag and put it in your normal garbage, or store it in a Ziploc in the accessories box. Just don’t forget to take it out at trips end. The paper bag can be used over and over as long as it stays clean.
  • A poop tent. This is certainly not mandatory and I’ve never been on a river trip where one was employed, but some people insist on total privacy when they visit the toilet. They do sell little tents specifically made to house portable river toilets. Be careful where you set them up though, they don’t look like they’d stand up too well to a strong wind.

I’m sure there are more portable river toilet accessories I’m overlooking but this basic list will get you grooving on the river pretty well.

If anyone has any other suggestions to make their daily dump more pleasant on the river, please feel free to comment.

Portable River Toilet: Part (2) doo, Choosing the Type

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.

Eco-Safe Toilet

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.

rocket box
20mm rocket box

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.

Wag Bags

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.

Basic Requirements

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.

Portable River Toilets: Part 1 Why you need one

Most multi-day river trips require the use of portable river toilets. Even if you’re floating a river that has outhouses or doesn’t require a portable toilet, you should still carry one.

As a General rule: If you’re doing an overnight river trip someone in your party should bring along a portable toilet whether it’s required or not.

On most wild and scenic or government controlled rivers they’ll check to make sure at least one portable toilet is with the group. They won’t allow you to put-in without one.

Typically when you check in at the ranger station to pick up your permit (if it’s a permitted river) they’ll check to see if you have a toilet. For the Rogue river all they really care about is whether or not the lid to the toilet has a rubber gasket. I guess this assures them that it won’t leak into the river if you lose it.

I’ve even had random toilet checks once I was on the river. A BLM raft will float into camp and demand to see your toilet setup. On the Rogue river they’ll do this even if you’re camped at a place with an outhouse.

But if there are outhouses why do I need one? You need one in case you’re forced to camp somewhere other than the designated campsites with outhouses. Don’t rely on the outhouses, they could be closed for repair, closed for cleaning, too nasty to enter, whatever, bring your own and you’ll never have to worry.

Don’t be the raft trip that ends up digging a hole behind a rock and burying your poop. Sure, you won’t be affected, once your done with camp you’ll float downstream and forget all about the mess you left, however the next group will notice.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across nasty toilet paper gardens despoiling otherwise beautiful riverscapes. No matter how well you’ve covered up your deed, forest animals will dig up the hole and spread the nasty stuff all over. It’s disgusting and easily avoided, bring your own toilet.

Continue reading Portable River Toilets: Part 1 Why you need one