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Outhouse Toilets

Nothing to Worry About!

If you are a new camper, you may be feeling uneasy about using outhouse toilets. You may have even decided that you won't use them, ever!

I'm happy to be able to tell you that using a modern biffy is not a big deal!


modern outhouse


I'll tell you everything I know so you won't have any surprises. Then you can decide if using an outhouse might be an option for you.




Why use an outhouse?

If you stay only in full service campgrounds, you'll probably never need to use an outhouse.

But if you want to get off the beaten track, you'll sometimes find yourself with no other option.

Being willing to use outhouse toilets means that you can camp in any campground, anywhere.


outhouse in the desert


You'll be able to camp in remote locations, and enjoy more solitude than in a crowded full service campground.




Here's the good news:

Many outhouses are very comfortable - and completely sanitary.

Modern outhouses are designed to be easy to clean and almost odor-free.

Outhouse toilets in established campgrounds are cleaned regularly, just like regular bathrooms.


outhouse in an orchard


Modern outhouses may be fully accessible.


accessible outhouse


Occasionally, you might find what looks like an outhouse - and discover that it contains a flush toilet! Enjoy the unexpected luxury, but don't count on finding those everywhere.




There are different types of outhouses.

Outhouses can range from the truly awful to the ordinary to the almost luxurious! I especially like the ones with clear plastic roofs.


outhouse with clear roof


I won't discuss the truly awful ones. You probably won't encounter one of those in an established campground. If you do, find another campground, quickly!


two outhouses


I particularly like open air outhouses. Not only do they stay relatively odor-free, but they come with a view!

Check out this great outhouse! Not only is it roofless, but it doesn't even have a door! Privacy is maintained by hanging up the "occupied" sign across the entryway.


roofless outhouse


I was apprehensive about using this outhouse at first - until I reminded myself that no one wanted to walk in on me any more than I wanted to be walked in on!

During my visit, I enjoyed watching lizards climb the walls. I liked the view of the sky, too. I wished I had brought my sunhat!

Here is the ultimate in open air outhouses. It has no roof, no door, and no walls!


open air outhouse


I wish I had thought to take a photo from my place on this throne to share with you. You'll have to take my word for it that the view was inspiring.




Tips for using outhouse toilets.

Here are some tips for making your trip to the outhouse as pleasant as possible:

Take your own toilet paper.

 There may be a roll there - but there may not.

Here's a cool way to carry it!

toilet paper dispenser


You don't want to be unprepared.

Bring a headlamp.

 Some outhouses are brightly lit, but others are dim and shadowy.


wooden outhouse


It's nice to be able to see where you are going to sit!

You can read about headlamps here.




Outhouse etiquette

  • Never put anything down the hole except what it's intended for. If there is no garbage can (and there probably will not be), take any garbage - including sanitary supplies - back to your campsite and discard them in your garbage.
  • When you are done, put the seat down. This reduces insect issues.


outhouse toilet with seat down


  • If a latch is provided on the outside of the door, fasten it when you leave.


hook on outhouse door


This will keep animals from entering the outhouse.




What if your child refuses to use the outhouse?

Our kids went through a phase where they didn't want to use an outhouse. That's perfectly understandable. That gaping hole can be scary!

rustic outhouse in the woods


Don't force the issue. Wait until your children are older and are ready to give it a try.

In the meantime, have another plan. Bring along a portable camping toilet - or make your own. We took along our kids' potty seat from home and placed it on a basin lined with a plastic bag. Set under a tree, this made a comfortable and familiar toilet.




The "bottom" line


If you're able to step outside your comfort level and give outhouses a try, you'll open up a whole new range of camping options. You might even find some great surprises - like this outhouse with a funky mural on the wall, reading material in a basket beside the toilet and recycled rearview mirrors above the sink!


mural on outhouse wall


You may even decide that you like using outhouse toilets! I do - as long as they meet my standards. Using an outhouse reminds me that I am really camping!


If you really don't want to use outhouse toilets, click here to learn about another option: the comfort station.


Do you have more questions about family camping? Click here to go to The Camping Family home page.







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