Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Toilet or No Toilet for a Camper?

image from Handyman Tips
The question of "Should I bring a portable toilet with me when I camp?" seems to come down to "How icky is it to clean the toilet?" A recent post in the FB group Teardrop Camper Adventures received many responses regarding the following question: "My husband and I are looking into buying [a teardrop trailer]. Need thoughts bathroom or no bathroom? I love the look of the teardrops." So does a trailer need a bathroom/shower?

Here's what people are basically thinking:

  • Teardrops are too small for built-in toilets/showers.
  • A portable toilet and utility (shower) tent is convenient for peeing during the night.
  • During very cold (freezing) weather, a toilet with water has to be inside.
  • Dump stations are icky.

Teardrops are too small for built-in toilets/showers.

What developed out of this idea was a debate on the definition of "teardrop" trailer. In order for the discussion not to move sideways, let's consider toilets for all "tiny" trailers, thereby eschewing the "What is a teardrop trailer?" debate. Some folks clearly choose no toilet. As one FB teardrop owner said, "Of all the things I want to take camping, a box of human waste is not one of them."

Some tiny trailers have foot space inside the trailer (such as RTTC models) and are not all bed. For these, a portable toilet could fit inside the trailer if the owners weren't squeamish with the close quarters. The main sentiment for those naying toilets is that one can always arrange to be near a restroom, and that space can be better used than for a toilet. The Prolite Plus is a tiny trailer that has a toilet and shower, but at 15 feet and 6.5 wide, it certainly no longer fits the teardrop  category, although it is smaller and lighter than most camp trailers. If you'd like to learn more about small trailers with bathrooms, the blog Camper Guide posted an article "10 Small Trailers with Bathrooms (We Review the Best)," which provides a list of some small (not tiny or teardrop) campers that are available on the market. Please remember that the blog post is just opinion; for instance, Prolite is not on the list.

A portable toilet and utility (shower) tent is convenient for peeing during the night.

And for emergencies. Although there was a diversity of comment, the general consensus is that it's nice to not travel too far in the middle of the night to take a pee. This sentiment was concisely phrased by one tiny trailer owner as "If you don't camp in super cold weather, a potty tent would save you money and not take up interior space." There are several styles of portable toilets and utility tents available which have been reviewed many times on purchase pages and by bloggers.

A couple of examples of portable toilets were mentioned by tiny trailer owners. Various models and levels of complexity are available.

Shower tents, utility tents, changing tents--they have many names but are just a 4x4 standable tent, often used to hold portable toilets. Here are a couple of examples.

During very cold (freezing) weather, a toilet with water has to be inside.

Camping in temperatures below freezing has its challenges. Campgrounds shut down their toilet/shower facilities. Do you and your spouse "raise the bar" for time spent together? "Honey, can you hand me the toilet paper?" On the upside, pit toilets don't smell so bad when temperatures are near or below freezing.

Dump stations are icky.

I joked with my wife, "Isn't that why you married me, sweetie?" Personally, I approach poop patrol clean-up in the most phlegmatic manner possible: rubber gloves, Pine-Sol, and a s**t happens attitude. (I haven't yet added a face mask to my gear, although one YouTube video recommended such.) 

Ultimately, the larger question is "Why do we own a teardrop/tiny trailer?" The first two posts to this blog, "Why Such a Tiny Trailer?" and "Why Such a Tiny Trailer? Teardrop Owners Speak Out" speak to this question. What level of interaction with the natural environment do you want? What are your needs and tolerances? What makes you happy?

Here are the two basic viewpoints:

  • "I don’t have a bathroom. Don’t want one either. But admittedly I’m weird about having to get up in the middle of the night. When I do I like taking my time and watching the stars and listening to the sounds of the forest. Sometimes I’m out a good half hour or more. I find I sleep better after doing so."
  • "I was curious to see what other people would say because most teardrops don't have bathrooms. We are selling our teardrop because we are ready to upgrade to a full size travel trailer, and 99.9% of the people that have inquired about it that's the 1st thing they ask, 'Is there no bathroom??'"

Most tiny trailer owners feel more constrained by maneuvering and maintaining a large trailer that is really a mobile apartment than by dealing without some of the conveniences we have readily available at home. One thing is sure--whatever our potty needs, there is a system out there that will accomodate them. I'll leave all the details to you.

On a lighter note . . . 



2 comments:

  1. Good read. Anyone who says a potty is not at all important is lying. Especially if they have a woman in their life. That said, we do a lot of ninja camping (boondocking for my American friends). I usually just dig a pit. I have a fold up seat for comfort and the system is to put a shovel of dirt on top after each use to keep the smell down. Plus, this speeds biodegration.
    I own a porta potty and tent that packs on the roof basket. I haven't used it yet. But if we're in a semi civilized location with no facilities but with neighbors, we have that option.
    Dump stations are smelly but not the end of the world. Those porta potties dump quickly and easily.
    There's my 2 cents worth.

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  2. I think you are speaking with the voice of experience. My wife loves camping, now that she can get up in the middle of the night and just travel a few steps to our porta-potty. Thanks for the response.

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