Dry-toilets – the hygienic and environmentally friendly camping toilet

The category of dry toilets contains all toilets that do not rinse and work without chemicals, which makes them ideal for locations without a water or sewer connection.

A short trip into history

Dry toilets are known since the ancient and were in use in our latitudes until the end of the 20th century in villages in the form of a earth closets.

In cities without sewage disposal, outhouses were once widespread. The feces were collected in manure pits and pumped out regularly. The comfort of these toilets was largely modeled on the water closets. But it was not rinsed, instead a flap was opened at the bottom of the ceramic basin and, if necessary, cleaned with a little water from a jug next to it.

In ancient Rome, pit latrines with several seats (without a dividing wall) were simultaneously used by several people. Using these toilets was a social matter, dealers could talk about business, even today one speaks of “doing your business“. The pit latrine can be seen as a further development of the standing toilet with a horizontally mounted bar for sitting (popularly, in German “Donnerbalken”).

In poorer countries all over the world, earth toilets are still very common today.

In the rural areas of Sweden and Finland, outhouses are still relatively common. They are mainly found in connection with older buildings, which are now used as leisure homes. The Swedish name is “Dass” or “Utedass” (loo outside), which is due to the article in the German term “the house”. Municipality provides the disposal of of the feces for a fee.

How do dry-toilets work?

A dry toilet runs without any water or chemistry. The feces, together with urine, fall into some kind of tank or bucket and remain there until this is filled up and the contents are disposed of. Traditionally, the feces are thrown into a pit, which is – as soon as it is full – filled up and a new one is dug out at some distance. This process repeats cyclically (“wandering pit toilet“). Outhouse toilets are to be distinguished from other dry toilets, such as composting toilets or separating toilets.

A special form of the dry toilet is the so-called dry-separating toilet. Here, the natural separation of human excretions is maintained by capturing urine and solids separately. The urine is either discharged into the sewage system, trickled on a mud wall or, in mobile solutions, collected in a container. Diluted urine can be used as a fertilizer. The solid excrements and toilet paper are collected in a container under the toilet.

In the variant composting toilet, the feces are covered or mixed with absorbent substrates, such as e.g. Straw, sawdust or coconut fiber and composted afterwards.

Advantages and disadvantages of dry-toilets


  • No need of water
  • No need of chemicals
  • Eco-friendly
  • Independent of disposal infrastructure


  • Use of accessories such as collecting bag or straw to dry the feces
  • If feces are incinerated, consumption of power / gas
  • Higher cost in purchasing


Berger, W. (2015). Kompost-Toiletten für Garten und Freizeit, Ökobuch Verlag, Germany, ISBN 978-3-936896-79-4

Wikipedia – Bucket toilet

Wikipedia  – Composting toilet