Ah, the sweet scent of pines and the sound of chirping birds in the morning at an unnamed, unmarked campsite somewhere off the beaten path in Idaho.
It's everything you want for car camping - scenic and secluded - except when you take a short stroll from the campsite and find a pile of toilet paper with human waste underneath it.
Sanitation is a problem at undeveloped campsites and other recreation areas where there are no facilities.
Some campers think that if they step into the woods to do their business that it will magically disappear, but it doesn't work that way. It spoils things for the next camper, as well as creating a health hazard.
Camping sanitation is a problem that can be fixed with a reasonable investment and a little planning.
There are many portable toilets on the market that make it easy and relatively hassle free to properly dispose of your waste.
A 5-gallon plastic bucket with Gamma Seal lid is a simple, inexpensive solution.
Price: Bucket, about $8; screw-on lid, $13; or you can buy a kit that includes a bucket, lid and seat for $32 at Boise Army/Navy.
Advantages: It's fairly cheap. The lid screws on tight and prevents spills and leaks. You line the bucket with a Wag bag or similar bag that contains dry chemicals.
A Wag bag is a double-bag system that uses a liner with an absorbent chemical, organic decay catalyst and odor neutralizer. The liner then goes inside a durable, tear-resistant, zip-close bag for transport. Wag bags are legal to dispose of in garbage cans, dumpsters and landfills.
Wag bags are available at most sporting goods stores for about $4.
Disadvantages: Buckets can break, but they are cheap to replace. If you forget a Wag bag, you will have a nasty mess on your hands, or be heading into the woods.
PORTABLE CHEMICAL TOILET
Plastic flush toilets similar to those found in RVs are handy and convenient, and can be found at most sporting goods stores.
Price: About $70 and up, depending on size and model.
Advantages: These are lightweight and easily portable. They include a detachable water tank and holding tank. You fill the water tank to flush the toilet, and empty the holding tank at an RV dump station. Chemical deodorizers reduce odors.
Disadvantages: May not support a large group or even a small group for an extended trip. Water tank can freeze in cold weather.
This is one of the Cadillacs of portable potties.
Advantages: It's a stable platform that is nearly leak proof and extremely rugged. Its large aluminum tank has large volume and can hold enough for about 10 people on a weeklong trip. It has a hose and kit for emptying at RV dump stations.
Disadvantages: Expensive. Large and heavy for car camping.
Seen at: cascadeoutfitters.com.
RIVER BANK PORTABLE TOILET
Another deluxe, heavy-duty, large-capacity toilet.
Price: Regular River Bank II Toilet System, $369; Mini Bank Toilet System, $230. Both toilets work well for car camping.
Advantages: Sturdy, stable full-size toilet with an outer case and removable tank that won't leak and is fairly easy to empty and clean at an RV dump station.
Disadvantages: Expensive. Large and heavy (25 pounds empty) for car camping.
Seen at: Seen at Cascade Outfitters; or go to selwayfab.com.
PETT PORTABLE TOILET SYSTEM
This toilet is designed by the same company that makes the Wag bags, so they work together.
The toilet is the same height and size as your home toilet, and the tripod legs are stable and durable.
Price: About $70 to $144, depending on features.
Advantages: It weighs 7 pounds and folds up to about the same size as a briefcase, so it takes up less space than a bucket or other portable toilets.
Disadvantages: It's useless without the bags, which cost about $4 each. Each bag is typically large enough for about a weekend for two people.
They're available at most larger sporting goods stores and you can buy them in bulk, but they're hard to find in rural areas.
This plastic toilet is manufactured to fit inside a large, metal 20-millimeter ammunition can commonly known as a "rocket box."
The system includes a 5.5-gallon holding tank and full-sized seat with lid.
Price: About $205 (not including ammo can, which is about $20 to $30). It's available at Northwest River Supply, nrs.com.
Advantages: EcoSafe is designed to fit into an ammo box, but it can also be used as a stand-alone toilet. It's sealed, stable and nearly indestructible when tucked inside an ammo can. Comes with hose and attachments for emptying at RV dump stations.
Disadvantages: It's waterless, so it's harder to keep the bowl clean than with the portable flush toilet. Large and heavy for car camping.