Compost Toilets: Green Technology for Camping and Preparedness | Survival Gear Systems
Compost Toilets for Camping & Preparedness

Adventures in wild places (or wild situations) mean handling bathroom business in sometimes creative and often gross ways, but there’s an inexpensive, low-tech way to solve this problem that you may not know about.

September is National Preparedness Month and if you dig into it, you’ll see a common theme paying lip-service to topics like having extra batteries and flashlights on hand, maybe some talk about canned goods or the typical evacuation plan discussion. You know what people usually aren’t talking about? Poop.

Not a sexy topic to be sure, but one that’s very necessary nonetheless. From adventures in remote places to surviving a water crisis, if you don’t have a plan to deal with waste, life gets pretty gross, pretty fast.

We often take for granted the water that flows from our faucets every day. Even when the power goes out, the big water tank on the hill provides gravity flow to our houses (if you’re in town that is). But what happens when the tank runs dry? Storing enough water to keep the toilet flushing is unrealistic and unnecessary.

Cat litter and trash bags are one option for dealing with the toilet problem, but that gets expensive and the full trash bags are going to pile up and become a bio-hazard over time. You could dig a deep hole in the backyard and set up a cute little outhouse, but in a disaster situation, I’m going to bet you won’t have time for that. So what’s the solution to this smelly poop problem?

Enter the compost toilet. There are several companies like Sun-mar and Nature’s Head that have tried to church-up the process of composting waste, but the simple bucket method introduced in the Humanure Handbook is tried and true, not to mention the cheapest. In the military, we have acronyms for every circumstance and the one that comes to mind is KISS=Keep It Super Simple.

So here’s the premise: You use a 5-gallon bucket, affix a toilet seat to it, add a little peat moss (or sawdust), do your business, then cover it with peat moss. After the bucket is full, you dump it in a designated composting area outside. After about a year, this material is rendered into a product that is safe enough to handle with bare hands and even use in your garden (if you’re that motivated).

Compost for Emergency Toilets

A huge bale of peat moss costs about $15, and you can buy a snap-on toilet seat lid that fits the bucket if you’re not the DIY type or start with this kit which includes other essentials. Side note: If you are the DIY type, there are instructions on how to build your own compost toilet set up in the book.

Don’t forget these other sanitation and hygiene necessities when building your kit:

• Hand sanitizer

• Toilet paper

• Wet wipes

• Handled scoop for peat moss

• Rubber gloves for dumping buckets

Water filter/purifier

• Hand soap

This method is perfectly safe to use indoors and I can tell you first hand that it doesn’t stink and there are no flies.

This is life-changing really. Think about it- no trips outside in the cold to do your business. Leave your shoes off and your coat on the hanger. You don’t even need to use the stinky pit toilet in the campground with the cheap toilet paper that won’t spin off the spool and is locked to the wall! I’ve even used this toilet set up in an enclosed van on road trips with no ill effects on other passengers!

If you’re part of the “squat to pee” club or just a camper that believes there is a better way, this method will make your backwoods adventures so much more tolerable. The point here is that the compost toilet can improve your life now (camping/road-trips/lake-house/etc.) and if you find yourself putting preparedness to the test in a grid-down scenario.

Editor’s note: JD (Jared Douglas) is founder of His site is dedicated to a wide variety of skills that improve survivability in emergency situations as well as everyday life. He is a retired Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) Specialist with 20 years of active duty service teaching aircrew and special operations personnel how to survive, evade, resist and escape at the U.S. Air Force Survival School located at Fairchild AFB, Washington.

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