Mark Wallace's Black Skiff

Sunday, June 19, 2016

What's Done Daily but Seldom Discussed?

Except with your Urologist or Gastroenterologist…

In April, we asked for how do you dispose of #1 and #2 in a small cruiser… Many answers, ranging from the delightful to the unprintable.


  • Only poop at night.
  • Go behind a sand dune and dig a hole.
  • Use a curtain (in a boat with a cabin or shelter).
  • Use a poncho to cover yourself while ‘sitting’.


  • Rather than using toilet paper, use bio-degradable baby wipes. 


  • “Cat hole”

When in a remote area, one can dig a 6” wide and 6” deep hole down wind and downhill (at least 200 feet (60m) from any camp ground). One respondant said he does this, but brings WagBags to prove to any ‘park ranger’ that they are not using cat holes.

  • Portable Toilets

An example from Walmart. There are a wide variety of alternatives. But then you have the delightful time of emptying and cleaning the ‘storage tank’.

  • Buckets, used with the three alternatives below.

Three-gallon or Five-gallon buckets available at Amazon, Walmart, Home Depot, etc. The 5-gallon bucket is 12” (305mm) in diameter and 14.2” (361mm) high. The 3-gallon is also 12” in diameter and 11” (279mm) high.  
The tops that come with these buckets do NOT provide a tight seal. It’s recommended to use a Gamma Lid that easily and securely seals the bucket. 
To provide a comfortable seat for the bucket, use a Luggable Loo.

  • ‘Bucket and Chuckit'

This is only applicable in the open ocean and is used by ocean-crossing /off-shore cruisers. One ocean-crossing rower responded to a critic of this method by saying that the amount of ‘material’ deposited in the ocean in the complete voyage did not equal that deposited by one whale in one day.

One respondant said that he found the WagBags still smelled in spite of the seal and deodorizer.  

  • Composting Toilets

Not the commercial composting toilets, but one you can make yourself using a bucket and composting materials. 
  1. Line the bucket with a strong plastic bag. This will remain in the bucket until you are ready to dispose of the ‘results’ (half to three-quarters full). Tightly seal the bag and deposit in a trash container along with all of the doggy poo bags, and dirty diapers. 
  2. To use, put a layer of “compost material” in the bottom of the bucket/bag. Deposit the human waste and immediately put another layer of compost material on top. Seal the bucket ready for next use.
  3. “Compost material”. Respondents provided four alternatives:

  •  Slightly damp mixture of wood shavings and sawdust (the dampness speeds up the composting process). 
  • Cedar shavings available in pet stores for lining bottom of (e.g.) Hamster cages.
  • Kitty Litter, no respondent used it, but many had heard of its use.
  • 50/50 mixture of peat  moss and wood shavings.

Two articles available in Duckworks describe in detail how to make and use a composting toilet. If you intend to use this method, read these: 
Rob Rohde-Szudy   
Roy Schrever 
Note that both authors state that there is NO SMELL with these composting toilets. Here’s why: When water is added to human waste, "anaerobic digestion"  occurs, which produces methane (the smell of open sewer) and carbon dioxide…. Composting toilets, on the other hand, use “aerobic decomposition”, which does NOT produce the ‘open sewer’ smells. See for detailed technical information.

Other alternatives for handling #1

Alternative solution(s) and experiences you’ve had? Please let us know in the Comments below.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tom, just a note on the composting toilets, and "composting materials" specifically...We do not separate liquids and solids in our simple system as it adds complication with little added benefit. Also, while I have used bags, I find they trap air when you stretch them around the bucket lid and take up valuable space (in the bucket). They can work if you are able to dispose of them but in the wilds they don't work. The pail alone works best! The materials used to cover our deposits is key. I comment as I've tried all the above while experimenting for a full year, to get it right. Sawdust alone works ok, hiding the solid's smell but the urine still ends up having a high odor! This is why many insist that compost toilets need to separate the two waste products. Cedar from the pet stores seems worse in this regard to me as they use "aromatic" cedar, which itself has a strong smell! Many like it but when added to the mix I find it just adds to the problem. Works for Rabbits and Hamsters you say...Have you ever been around a cage that is not cleaned regularly? As we are not dumping our pail until it is full, it will smell the same, BAD! Kitty Litter works well but starts to get expensive as Dianne is a very big kitty!Lol! This is why I will attempt to steer your readers to a 50/50 mix of wood shavings (sawdust works as well but is a bit messy) and Peat Moss. I place a couple scoops in the bottom to start thing off and simply add a couple more over each deposit. All you will smell is the initial "fog", which we have a spray for and a port open, just like home. We have had guests in our boat, with a full bucket and there is no odor! When opening the toilet seat (does not have a tight sealed seat) all that one sees is damp soil and if there is a smell in putting your nose so close, it is that of damp soil. Nothing gross!!! To clean I walk into the woods with a shovel, dig a small hole, and dump. I "dry" clean the bucket with a nearby stick and leaves from the ground and dump again. Cover the hole and you're almost done. The interior of the pail still needs wiping but just the top section. Some toilet paper from my pocket does the job and toss it into the pail when finished. No need to rinse it in the lake, while friends swim nearby!!! Start again with your peat moss (this is why you never need to clean the bottom perfectly) and you are good to go. Just note that Plastic pails will start to smell on their own after some use! Fill the pail with water and bleach after each trip and let soak! If the proper materials are used (50/50 wood shavings and peat moss) there is no need for a complicated system and the focus can stay on the less "crappy" parts of your great adventure! Best/Roy