Australia is a beautiful place. There’s nothing else quite like it, and the freedom to access so many amazing places is second to none. That means we need to look after it, and one thing that really makes my blood boil is seeing toilet paper, and sometimes what’s accompanying it, left visible in the most pristine places all over Australia.
For years, we would take a shovel and toilet roll, dig a hole at least 30 cm deep away from any water sources, do our business and then cover it all up. There’s nothing wrong with that, unless its a heavily used location and then you end up with human land mines everywhere.
A few years ago now though, we finally committed to buying a portable toilet. You see, we’d been filling a mates up for some time on the odd trip away and began to feel a little guilty about it. That and with some solo trips planned it made sense to have one.
There are a lot of places now where you cant camp if you don’t have your own on board toilet. Its going that way, because people have a lack of respect for how to go to the toilet in the bush, and its easier to just make people bring their own toilets in.
Also, some places like Kalgans Pool are entirely rock, and you’d never be able to dig a hole even if you wanted to.
So, we purchased a Thetford Portable Toilet (officially called a Thetford Porta Potti), with a 21 litre waste tank and 15L water tank for flushing. We’ve been using this same toilet for more than 4 years now, and have a bit of a love hate relationship with it!
What’s good about it?
Being able to sit on a toilet and do your business without having sand blowing everywhere, and not worrying about falling in a hole you’ve just dug is pretty good. Yep, its not the highest off the ground (but its better than the smaller units!) so not quite the same as your toilet at home, but its much nicer than doing the old bush squat and hoping the hole you dug doesn’t collapse mid squeeze.
It makes access into places that need chemical toilets on board possible, keeps the wife (and now kids) happy and does what its supposed to.
Places like Warroora Station and Cossack (and hundreds more) now require you to have a chemical toilet on board. Some require a grey water tank too, but that’s a story for another day.
It works, and reliably
We’ve been using the same toilet for more than 4 years now, and it just works, with no problems at all. Thetford are probably king of camping toilets (amongst other things) and they’ve got a solid product that is user friendly, and reliable.
It’s got a decent holding tank
The Porta Potti 365 has the largest holding tank of the portable units, and that’s important when you have more than one person using it. I have friends with the smaller holding tank options, and they have to empty the tanks far more often.
For our family of 4 (only 3 using the toilet), we can generally get between 4 and 7 days out of a 21L cassette. We are considering getting a spare holding tank so we can swap it around, as having to leave camp to find a dump spot is inconvenient, and annoying.
What do I dislike about the portable toilet?
When the waste tank is full, the toilet weighs around the 25kg mark. You can get much smaller ones, but then you are forever emptying the cassette.
Even when the toilet is empty, the water tank usually has 10 – 15kg of water in it, so its still not the lightest thing in the world. Of course, you can add less water and just top it up more often.
It can smell
If you use the recommended Thetford toilet chemicals, smells are kept to a minimum, providing the waste is kept relatively cool. If it gets hot (like inside your camper trailer storage hatch, it can start to stink pretty quickly.
However, there is always going to be some smell, and if you have a queasy stomach, consider it! We are also testing out some new portable toilet chemicals which are supposed to be the best out there, so lets see how that goes!
Please know that the smell issue is not specifically related to the Thetford portable toilet. It applies to all types of camping and caravan toilets on the market!
It needs emptying
When you have filled the toilet, you have to empty it. If you’ve not emptied one before, you aren’t in a position to comment, but its not the most glorious job.
Even if it doesn’t smell, the idea of pouring liquid waste into a dump point is not the most enjoyable experience, and there are plenty of funny videos on YouTube showing exactly this.
You have to find a dump point, carry the cassette over and then drain it out. When you’ve done it hundreds of times it becomes second nature. It’s quick, easy and you are back on the road enjoying what you came out to do in the first place.
For those of you who don’t know, you can press the white tab down when emptying the toilet cassette, and it allows air to enter while you tip out, which means it flows out smoothly and doesn’t splash! After about 3 years of using the toilet cassette we were finally told!
Privacy is harder to have
Being able to carry the toilet around isn’t very easy, to you end up having it close to camp. This is fine when you are out in the middle of no where, but if you are close to others, its needs to go inside your tent (which most people don’t want), or you need to take a separate toilet/shower tent. More gear, more weight, and more time to set up.
For us, we now have a Quickpitch ensuite that folds out off our Reconn R2, which can literally be set up in under a minute, and packed away in about the same time. We just pull the toilet out of the storage hatch, drop it onto the floor where the tent comes out, and set it up. If we are remote we won’t bother with the tent, but its useful to have.
Getting a Canvas Toilet Bag
Not long after getting the toilet we purchased an Oztrail Canvas Bag, which was quite light duty and the zip broke after only a few trips away.
Since then, we’ve replaced it with a Blacksmith Toilet Bag which is built like a brick, made in Australia and we highly recommend (full disclosure; they did send one to us free of charge, but I’d happily pay for one too).
Other Thetford toilets
Thetford make a huge range of toilets. You can get permanently installed toilets (like in a caravan), and then a range of different Porta Potti sizes. Some of the Porta Potti’s have tiny holding tanks (and large flush tanks) which is a daft solution as you’ll be emptying it really regularly.
Our Thetford Toilet Review
Overall, we are really happy with our Thetford Toilet. It’s as good as it could possibly be, and despite the fact that having to deal with a portable toilet is annoying, there’s no better option out there. If you are in the market for a camping toilet, consider the Thetford range (but also check out the other brands too!).
Do you have a portable toilet? What do you think of it? Is there any other options?