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Guide to camping toilets: Dry toilet – definition, price, variants

Malicious tongues claim that campers end up talking about toilets after ten minutes at the latest. Dry toilets are a particularly popular topic of discussion at the moment. But what exactly is a dry toilet? Isn’t it the same as a privy? And what are those incinerator toilets that you see at trade fairs all the time? I admit that the topic of dry toilets is rather complex, so I would like to shed some light on the darkness of toilets with this article. You will learn about the different types of dry toilets, their possible uses and the necessary accessories.

What is a dry toilet?

The term “dry toilet” covers all toilets that do not have a water flush. The best-known variant is the outhouse, but it also includes separation or incineration toilets. Depending on the toilet, excreta is collected separately or in a single container. The faeces can then be composted, disposed of in the rubbish or incinerated. You have probably seen and even used some dry toilets yourself. They are used at festivals, on construction sites, at hikers’ car parks, in mountain huts or in many other areas. 
Dry toilets are also becoming more and more popular for camping, because they are hygienic and environmentally friendly.

Advantages and disadvantages of a dry toilet

Everything in life has two sides, and dry toilets are no exception. Which one prevails in individual cases depends very much on personal needs and preconditions.

Advantages:

  • No water is needed for flushing. 
Water is a valuable resource, not only when camping.
  • You can do without chemical additives.
  • They are environmentally friendly.
  • You are independent of special disposal stations for chemical toilets.
  • You can stand free for longer.

Disadvantages:

  • You need accessories, for example collection bags for the solid waste or litter to dry the faeces.
  • With a combustion toilet, you need sufficient electricity or gas to operate it. It is also very expensive to buy.

Although all dry toilets work without water, they differ greatly in how they are used. We will now take a detailed look at how exactly.

What types of dry toilets are there?

Not every dry toilet is suitable for use when camping. For example, a conventional outhouse. In the next section, I will therefore introduce you to the different variants and their possible uses.

Dry toilet with urine separation

These dry toilets are also called separation toilets. The excreta is collected and disposed of in different containers. The urine runs into a tank and the faeces are collected in another container. This can be a simple bucket with a bag. In a separation toilet, a separator is used to direct the excreta to the appropriate areas: liquid in the front, solid in the back. So when you go to the toilet, the urine goes through this separator insert directly through a hose into the tank and the faeces plop into a bucket. In order for the faeces to dry well, a bit of litter or bark mulch is placed over it afterwards. This has the effect of binding the odours and visually covering the faeces. Some toilets also have a built-in privacy screen.

Many people fear that such a toilet is bound to stink. But that is only the case when the excreta come together. The ammonia contained in the urine is the reason for this. However, if the excreta are separated, the formation of odour can be avoided very well. The urine tank can be emptied in any normal toilet, as it does not contain any chemicals. The solid waste can be disposed of in the residual waste or the organic waste bin, or it can be composted. Suitable bags must be used for the organic waste bin. If you want to compost the waste yourself, you should collect the toilet paper separately. This is because it takes longer to decompose than faeces.

The possible uses of a separation toilet

Separating toilets are becoming increasingly popular among campers. With a little manual skill, they can be installed easily, inexpensively and in a space-saving way.
 Other areas where they have been used for a long time are weekend shelters or garden sheds. In Scandinavia, separation toilets are also installed in normal houses and are nothing unusual there. You can find more detailed information on the separation toilet in the Camping toilets guide: Separation toilet.

Dry toilet with composter

A dry toilet with composter is also known as a humus toilet. The excreta can be collected separately or together, depending on the model. They are then pre-composted in the container before they go onto the actual compost heap. Depending on the toilet, fans, rotary tanks, heating rods and also agitators are used in addition to natural materials for covering. These serve to prevent the formation of odours and to set the composting process in motion. However, the more technology is installed, the more electricity is needed. If urine and faeces are not collected separately, the smell will develop very quickly without ventilation. For this reason, typical humus toilets tend to be used where there is sufficient electricity available, for example in a garden or residential building. While some dry toilets with composters are quite large, there are now also small solutions suitable for campers. Excreta are collected separately. There is a separate composting chamber for the excrement (Biolokus Kompakt).

The possible uses of a dry toilet with composter

Humus toilets are used less often in camping than in permanent homes. This is because the finished models are usually quite large and need electricity to operate. With good planning, they can also be used in camping areas. Tip: A lot of time is needed for the composting process. If a humus toilet is emptied weekly or monthly, there is no real pre-composting during this short phase. 
It is also important to know that in Germany it is forbidden to use unprocessed human faeces as fertiliser. Before you can use the faeces as such, you must first compost them for a year. Ideally, you do this together with garden or kitchen waste.

Dry toilet with combustion

Combustion? That sounds pretty adventurous! But things are not quite so wild in incineration toilets. Excrement and urine are burnt in a combustion chamber directly after going to the toilet. The exhaust gases are led outside via a chimney pipe. All that remains is a little sterile ash. A combustion toilet weighs about 20 kg. Compared to others, this is quite a lot. Special paper bags are needed to operate them. These protect the trap door from contamination by the faeces. To burn the waste, the toilet needs sufficient electricity or gas. If the power supply is not reliable, the toilet may not work properly. The purchase costs of an incineration toilet are very high compared to other dry toilets. You have to calculate almost 4000€ for this.

The possible uses of an incineration toilet

Combustion toilets can be used in a camping vehicle that – in addition to enough electricity and/or gas – has sufficient space. More often, however, they are used in fixed accommodation. Whether it is worthwhile to use them in camping is difficult to answer and must be decided individually. If you often stay at campsites and use the sanitary facilities there, you probably don’t need one for the few exceptions. However, for those who are often self-sufficient and want to be independent of any waste disposal, a combustion toilet can be interesting.

Dry toilet for on the road

Yes, there are also mobile dry toilets. After all, not every camping vehicle has enough space to install a fixed toilet. The mobile solutions are small, light and usually easy to stow away, for example the folding toilet. With mobile dry toilets, all waste is collected in a bag and covered with litter if necessary. 
Some people might say to themselves “I could just go into the bushes”, but others would rather sit down and not squat behind a tree.

The possible uses of a mobile dry toilet

Since they are mobile, their versatile application possibilities are basically already explained. Whether camping, on boats or as an uncomplicated solution for the garden shed, these toilets are a good and flexible option.

Dry toilet supplier

Kildwick

The composting toilets by Kildwick originally come from Great Britain, but are handmade in Germany from birch plywood. The manufacturer offers you two different versions: a self-assembly composting toilet kit and ready-assembled models that are ready for immediate use. Kildwick recommends painting, oiling or glazing the exterior of the wooden enclosure to protect it from rapid ageing. You also have the option of painting the body to your taste. Model: Camping toilet/ Composting toilet MiniLoo The special feature of this toilet is its low weight of 7.7 kg and the fact that the divider is attached with neodymium magnets instead of screws. This approach makes it possible to easily remove the canister from above. Especially in confined spaces, it can be a great relief not to have to open the toilet from the side to empty it. Information on the function:  The MiniLoo works with a separator insert from Kildwick that collects liquid and solid separately. The canister for urine and the solids container each hold 9.5 litres. The scope of delivery includes the body made of birch plywood, a solids container, a canister, the MiniLoo separating insert, a toilet seat made of birch wood and magnetic holders. The toilet can be loaded with up to 200 kg. Dimensions and weight: 

  • Length 38.30 × width 33.50 × height 44.50 cm
  • Weight 7.7 kg

Cost: 549 € The MiniLoo is delivered fully assembled. A cheaper alternative at 299 € is the EasyLoo self-assembly kit.

Model: EasyLoo

With this model you have to do the assembly yourself. However, the kit contains everything you need:

  • Pre-milled components made of birch wood
  • Container with 16 l capacity for solids
  • Canister with 9.5 l capacity for urine
  • Separation insert
  • Toilet seat with lid made of bamboo
  • Galvanised steel nails
  • Allen key 2.5 mm
  • Wood glue

The EasyLoo is loadable up to 140 kg. Dimensions and weight:

  • Length 44.50 × width 42.20 × height 47.50 cm
  • Weight 13.00 kg

Cost: 299 € If you don’t want to assemble the EasyLoo, you can also buy the ready-assembled version for 449 € or with an additional fan for 539 €. Model: Premium Composting Toilet FancyLoo Capture Unlike the other models, you can choose between three colours: cream, light grey or stone grey. Carrying handles are integrated into the body and the surfaces are sealed with melamine resin. The FancyLoo can bear a load of up to 200 kg, the toilet lid up to 100 kg. The solids container holds 16 l, the urine canister 9.5 l.The divider insert is very easy to remove as it is attached with a magnetic holder. Dimensions and weight:

  • Length 44.00 × width 43.00 × height 48.00 cm.
  • Weight 16,5 kg

Cost: 879 € Kildwick also sells accessories for separation toilets, such as solid fuel tanks, litter or detergent, as well as kits and separation kits.

Airhead

Airhead calls its toilet the world’s most compact composting toilet. It also works according to the principle that liquid and solid are separated. You can find various Airhead partners in Germany who can help you with the installation. Alternatively, you can order the toilet and install it yourself. Information about the function: The urine flows into a 7-litre canister, the solids end up in an 18-litre container. Coconut fibres are filled into this container before the first use. After each visit to the toilet, you then operate an agitator that mixes the faeces with the coconut fibres. A built-in fan ensures that the solids are constantly aerated and thus dry. This prevents unpleasant odours. The solids tank is emptied approximately every six to eight weeks when used by two people. The urine tank must be emptied approximately every two days. You can pull it out to the front without having to lift or remove the toilet bowl. The toilet is available in two different versions: Standard or Marine. The standard version requires a little more space, while the marine version is suitable for very confined spaces. Dimensions and weight:

  • Standard: length 48 cm x height 50.5 cm x width 48 cm.
  • Marine: length 39.2 cm x height 50.5 cm x width 45.3 cm
  • Weight 8,5 kg

Cost: 1150 €

What accessories do you need for dry toilets?

You don’t need water for rinsing, but you do need some accessories. However, these are kept within a very manageable range.

Toilet paper

Whether you use a dry or a chemical toilet, you always need toilet paper.
 For a dry toilet, you can use normal toilet paper, as usual. How you dispose of the paper depends on what you do with the faeces.
 If you want to compost it, you should collect it separately.

Bag

You can use plastic bags as bags, but also compostable organic bags. These can be composted because they are 100% biodegradable and therefore more ecological. Unfortunately, they decompose more quickly when they get wet. For this reason, you need to change them more often than plastic bags.

Bedding, granules, bark mulch

Most dry toilets require the addition of litter to compost or dry the faeces. 
There are different variants here:

  • Bark mulch
  • Sawdust or small animal litter
  • Cat litter
  • Humus

You can get sawdust from carpenter’s shops, also abroad. We have had very good experiences with it in our separation toilet to avoid odour formation. Humus or bark mulch are useful if the faeces are to be composted. If you use ecological cat litter, you can dispose of the faeces in the organic waste bin, otherwise in the residual waste.

Fans

If you want to be sure to avoid odours, you can install a 12V fan with a vent pipe or a SOG system. The power consumption for this is minimal and hardly makes a difference. Of course, the actual consumption depends on its performance and the running time.

Disposal at home and on the road

The big advantage of a dry toilet is that it is self-sufficient for longer and easier to dispose of. Whether you compost the faeces at home or dispose of them in the rubbish bin on the road depends on the duration of the trip, but also on the size of the collection containers. The following information can only serve as a guideline. After all, the volume of excreta depends on eating and drinking habits, but also on other factors.

My experience with a separation toilet:

For two people, a container with a volume of 30 l is sufficient for solid excrements for about eight days. Although the faeces lose volume during drying, the litter is added. 
A urine tank with 14 l lasts about three days for two people. With a tank of 35 l, two people can manage for about a week.

Build a dry toilet yourself

The most common version for do-it-yourself construction is the separation toilet. It is also possible to collect the excreta together, but the odour builds up more quickly. In terms of construction, both are ultimately similar. With the separation toilet, only a separation insert – like the Privy 501 – is used to direct urine and excrement into the appropriate containers. You also need wood for the frame, a bucket, a urine canister and hoses or pipes. Make a box out of the wood and put the bucket in it later. If you want to collect all the faeces together, all you need now is a toilet seat.
 If you want to build a separation toilet, you also need the separation insert. From here you lead the hoses to the urine canister. When building the toilet, remember that you should be able to remove the bucket and the urine tank easily later to empty them. Building a dry toilet yourself is not witchcraft. If you want to save money and are a bit handy, you can achieve a good result with simple means. Another advantage is that you can align the toilet exactly to the available space.

Costs for a dry toilet

How high the costs are for a dry toilet depends on the respective variant. A mobile folding toilet is of course cheaper than a combustion toilet. Thus, prices vary from 15€ for a mobile dry toilet to 4000€ for a combustion toilet. The most commonly used version in camping is the separation toilet. Here, the prices for a finished model start at about 499€ (Separett Weekend 7010) and rise to about 999€ (Nature’s Head Compact Composting Toilet or Separett Villa 9010). If you want to save money, I recommend building the toilet yourself. The material costs here are around 200€ and depend, among other things, on the type of wood you choose.

The most important components for building a separation toilet

  • Wood for the frame construction, price from approx. 35€ (glued spruce).
  • separating insert, from 90€
  • a bucket, from 7€
  • a tank, from 29€

The running costs include

  • Bin liners with drawstring (60l/ 20 pieces) cost approx. 5€.
  • Compostable bags (40 pieces) cost approx. 19,90€
  • Small animal litter (60l) costs from 1,99€. 
Alternatively, you can ask at a carpenter’s shop if you can get sawdust, this is usually possible free of charge.

Here you can buy dry toilets

If you have decided to use a dry toilet, you can buy it as a ready-made kit on the Internet. 
The advantage: everything you need for installation is already included. Separating toilets and composting toilets

Incineration toilets

Mobile dry toilets

Conclusion on dry toilets

Dry toilets are on the rise for good reason. They are not only hygienic, but above all ecological, as they require no water and no chemicals. More freedom, self-sufficiency and closeness to nature are the wishes of many campers. For those who do not want to do without their own quiet place, a dry toilet is a very good solution.

  Cover picture: (c) labrador / Depositphotos.com Photos in text: (c) CamperStyle | (c) Nima Ashoff

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