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Off-The-Grid Bathroom Solutions

Off-The-Grid Bathroom Solutions

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Waste disposal when living outside of the mainstream can be easy with the proper preparation. There are several sanitary and practical approaches to human waste management off the grid. It becomes second nature it is once set up and maintained.

Toilet paper wasn’t commonly available in the U.S. until the late 1800s.  Splinter-free toilet paper didn’t come out until the 1940s. Yes, splinter free—the early process of production often left tiny pieces of wood. So think about what people over thousands of years did without modern toilets and splinter-free toilet paper.

Makeshift Toilets

A five-gallon bucket with a heavy-duty bag in it will work in a pinch. Double or triple-line the bags, and replace a new bag each time it gets used about three to five times; also, use an unopened bag over the top and under the lid to seal in the smells until you are ready to use the toilet each time.  Toilet seat tops exist and aren’t particularly expensive, which may make an excellent second “bathroom” or one for indoor usage. Remember to use caution when burying the contents of the bags/bags.

The Outhouse

The most common plan is to build an old-fashioned outhouse. With a little planning, you don’t have to worry about wild animals or nesting birds. There are a few considerations to decide before grabbing a shovel and digging.

Consider that you will be visiting this place day and night, in good weather and bad. It shouldn’t be so close to the sleeping quarters as to allow odors to permeate the cabin, but not so far away that you might get lost on a dark night. Down wind is probably a good choice.

After a rain, bacteria can travel underground. Your privy needs to be at least 150 feet away from any water source or well with no connecting water potential (i.e. flooding, etc.).

The hole will need to be six to eight feet deep. There is no absolute, but the shallower it is, the faster and more often it will need to be moved and the hole remade. If possible, select a location without a lot of rock.

Consider choice of materials. What creates persistent odor is the excrement saturating wood over time. Any other available material that can be used may be able to be cleaned better and smell less and is generally preferable. If possible pour a concrete floor around the hole or use block, shale, or other stone. For the seat, there’s no reason not to use plastic (if available) or metal sheeting. If not, try to line a wooden seat with something that can be scrubbed.

An outhouse needs fresh air, so try not to build a tightly closed box.

Some light source will be necessary. Plan for a skylight or some permanent battery-operated lamp.

Keep out of the direct sun unless you find that odor appealing.

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Shorty Dawkins



  1. Plant ” Wooly Lamb’s Ear ” near your outhouse. When the TP runs out, take a look at those soft leaves. You’ll know what to do. That’s what we have at our camp in the woods.

      1. However: The whole plant is medicinal as an alterative, antibacterial, antipyretic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, diuretic, febrifuge, hypotensive, stomachic, styptic, tonic, vermifuge and vulnerary. A cold water infusion of the freshly chopped or dried and powdered leaves makes a refreshing beverage, while a weak infusion of the plant can be used as a medicinal eye wash for sties and pinkeye. It is taken internally as a medicinal tea in the treatment of fevers, diarrhea, sore mouth and throat, internal bleeding, and weaknesses of the liver and heart. –Wikipedia

        Also: Lamb’s Ear leaves make a good field dressing for injuries. With its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and super absorbent properties, it makes a perfect make-shift bandage.

        Also: It was used for centuries as a “women’s comfort” for hemorrhoids, menstrual flow, birthing, for nervous tension, and as a skin aid.

        1. Mullein, which is sometimes referred to as the “Cowboy’s Friend” is a great substitute for TP, as it has large, soft leaves, (like velvet). It grows wild, and has a variety of other uses.

          Shorty Dawkins

  2. Dug privies are basically perennial toxic sumps, especially when placed on shale ledges, as in New England.
    Dual bin composting privies are used on the AT in New England and in the south in the Carolina’s and Georgia. They are permanent, large capacity, low maintenance and safe. The bin is 4′ X 8′, made of landscape timbers and screened inside. One half is covered, the other half is for the privy. The privy is what you need for where it’s at and how fancy you want to be. Your “organics” are mixed with other organics and composted. When one side gets full the privy is moved to the other side and the original is left to compost and when finished is used for non-human produce fertilizer or pitched into the woods.
    From USFS research out of the Laconia, NH research station conducted by Ray Leonard, PhD

  3. Use a metal roof steep enough so that it will shed snow. Place a gutter just below the fall line to catch rain water that is plumbed via the down spout into the poop basin. This will assist in the break down of TP etc. and also prevent petrification and piling. Use lime (easy purchase in 50 ib bags) to assist in oder control and disintegration. Install coat hangars and a lipped shelf for your hand gun, you don’t want to accidentally lose it down the hole and have it handy should you suddenly have a grizzly or other unwanted “predator” at the door. Think security as you are very vulnerable on your thrown.

  4. Interesting article. I remember years ago when my brother went on a camping trip and used leaves to wipe with. It was his misfortune to have grabbed poison sumac. Needless to say, He was very difficult to live with for a few weeks.
    Nice picture of Chuck shumers office. Looks like he has stepped up a bit.

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