I'm setting up a toilet system for a campsite and want to get some permie perspectives on the whole thing, plus I have specific questions at the end. First, some background.
Physical setting: 50+ acres of woods hours from where I normally reside; fairly remote area though there are a few neighbors within shouting distance; almost entirely forested, mostly spruce-hemlock but plenty of hardwoods around too; once regularly wet although recently precip has come more in a pattern of drought/storms; perennial stream on site near the only road access.
Usual land use: Weekend or day trips with 1-5 people; a few times a year larger gatherings for the weekend. Forestry/logging, potentially some agroforestry/forest farming. Stream water filtered or boiled for drinking/cooking, occassionally swam in.
Potty purpose: For the small groups making short trips, catholes a few hundred feet from camp and away from the stream have sufficed. The key thing being good hygiene at camp, using multiple bins and jugs and soaps to keep hands and dishes clean. For larger groups and for certain 'civilized' guests, a well-designed toilet and waste management system is desired.
Based on the above and considering some potty parameters, I've come up with the following system. I'm still hashing out some details and will share questions I have following this description; constructive criticism on my system design is appreciated.
THE SHYSTEM: Pee in the woods. Poopbucket with a platform+seat over it, in a private area and/or with a privacy tent/tarps around it. 3 buckets - one as the toilet, one full of saw-dust with a scooper for 'flushing' after each use, and one as a backup for the rotation. After each weekend trip, or as needed during each trip, the poop bucket contents get dumped & burried in a large cathole (~2ft radius, 3ft depth) in some off-the-beaten-path spot in the woods which doesn't appear especially likely to flood. If the bucket needs rinsing, used sudsy water from a dish washing bin will be carefully poured in the bucket, the bin moved away from the scene of the poo, and then the bucket rinsed with that sudsy water and leaf litter. That bucket is left to dry, and the dry bucket waiting to be tagged in gets a base layer of saw dust then put under the platform+throne for use.
So far I have a nice platform built (toilet seat on wood on cinderblocks, secured together with screws/nails/chains) and 3 buckets. I have dish washing station bins for that sudsy rinse water. I have shovel & post-hole digger, and a chain saw I'm hoping I can produce ample amounts of saw dust with (untested).
1) Is the rinse water method safe, or do I need to be more careful about cross-contamination between the dish washing bin and the toilet system? I figure the pouring from this bin will be careful, then the bin is removed from the toilet washing area; this will take place and then the bin will be left out in the open for at least a week if not months before the next use as a dish washing bin. This question itself may be over-cautious, but better safe than sick.
2) How bad is an exposed poo bucket? Right now there's a little bit of a gap between bucket & platform - not enough for someone to 'miss', but enough for insects or small critters to crawl in the bucket - do you expect that to matter much given there's no plan to leave any load exposed beyond the brief visits it'll receive? I expect this question will answer itself pretty early on in the experiment.
3) How about burrying bucket contents? I've heard many folks use a heap composting system, or a pit privy system, but both of those sound like more exposed feces than needed here. We don't need the compost output as there's a forest full of organic layer soils out there, but we do need to get rid of the feces ASAP in a way that's safe for people, water, and woods. I figure burying it should suffice - it's essentially scaling up catholes from one-time-use to one weekends worth of use for a small group + saw dust.
4) How feasible is creating saw dust with a chainsaw, or what alternatives do you recommend? There's plenty of live wood that could be removed for timberstand improvement, dead wood new and old, and scraps from logging. I'm not sure a chainsaw's practical for creating sawdust however, and I may be underestimating how much sawdust is needed and how long it takes to produce a bucket worth (at least using a chainsaw). How are other materials compared to sawdust? Plenty of leafs I could try to crinkle and crush to use instead, but I've heard that's less effective smell-wise (maybe a worthy trade-off anyway). Some folks have suggested I buy some sorta powdered chemical to neutralize oder and pathogens, some even suggested buying saw dust, but I'd rather not rely on chemical companies for this and hauling in sawdust from offsite to a forest sounds silly. Wood ash is something we generate from campfires and I'll probably throw some of that in the mix, but business as usual so far doesn't generate enough ash to replace sawdust's role in this system.
Thanks for hearing out these <insert bathroom joke here /> ideas, and thanks in advance for feedback & insight!
I'm not an expert at all but I do have two points.
1. As a woman, because of my anatomy, I really don't like peeing in the woods like you suggested. So if that was your facilities I would not come. But maybe you are having all male groups?
2. The poop and sawdust will biodegrade better with the pee mixed in because of the moisture and the uric acid content.
We do not have access to sawdust so we use the following:
At the bottom of bucket there is a layer of mulch.
After each use we use ashes from burned brush, wood, and trash.
I also save and dry out coffee grounds and add to the ash bucket.
The ashes and coffee grounds keep the smell down and the mulch at the bottom is what my husband prefers to put at the bottom and I really do not know why since mulch is not used after using the compost bucket. We have ours indoors and use a 5-gallon bucket with a store-bought, cheap toilet seat with lid. Between uses we put the bucket lid on top (between bucket and toilet seat). There is just the two of us. For urine, we both have urinals, which are dumped in the "Pooter hole" (my husbands name for the large pit that he dug, about the size of a grave, but only 4 to 5 feet in depth). It is composting nicely. We also add vegetable and fruit waste to it. We do not garden, so it is just there to break down compost. We need to dig another large pit before this one is full, but we still have plenty of time. We want two so we can alternate for composting down. We don't have trouble with insects, but again, it is inside not outside.
Edited to add: We have a wooden slatted top for the Pooter hole as we are in free-range area and do not want any cattle to fall into the hole. They think it is a cattle guard and do not walk upon it. However, if they did, it is made pretty stout and will hold quite a bit of weight.
Hi Robert. Your questions seem to stem from the very common misconception that poo makes people sick. That's not perfectly accurate. More correct to say that poo makes other people sick. As in, it's a great way to transmit diseases from person to person, but it does not generate them magically on its own. You literally can not get sick from your own poo. Nor can you get a disease from poo that the pooer was not already infected. So unless someone in your group has cholera, you're not going to get cholera.
So to that end, no, rinsing your poo bucket with the dishwater bucket will not contaminate the dishwater bucket just by being in the vacinity. I wouldn't recommend sloshing the water back and forth between the two, but if it's one way from dish basin to poo bucket, there's very low risk.
I will say, though, that rinsing out the poo bucket will probably not be enough to get it visibly clean without some pressurized water. You don't really think about it before you try this sort of thing, but the poo doesn't always fall neatly into the center of the bucket. You're will have clumps and smears on the side of the bucket that won't just rinse out with some swishing water. Plan to either get real friendly with a toilet brush that you won't get clean again, or be OK with some Klingons.
I'm also curious why you're separating the pee. As already mentioned, it's not female friendly, and if you're only going to bury the end result. There's really not much reason to separate. As a tip, I've found that starting a new bucket with wood pellets (like for pellet stoves) does a good job of soaking up a lot of the pee - more so than sawdust anyway. Then just cover with sawdust as normal.
As far as critters getting in the gap between the seat, my response is, so what? I'm assuming anyone out camping is already OK with seeing a bug or two, and more likely anything that crawls in there will be glutting themselves on the feast within, and won't want to come out.
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