For nomadic travelers, RV living is a dream. Embracing minimalism to get closer to nature, waking up every morning to a brand new adventure, and, of course, handling the elimination of your…well…eliminations. There’s no way to sugarcoat it.
If you’re planning to carry your whole life on four wheels, that means your waste, too.
Fortunately, minds greater than mine have developed portable toilet solutions that make what could be a pretty nasty task into something surprisingly simple and mess-free. An increasingly popular option is the cassette toilet.
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What is a cassette toilet?
The defining quality of cassette toilets and what makes them uniquely convenient is their portable holding tanks. Rather than having to pull up to a dumpsite an hook up the hoses, portable tanks can be removed easily from your vehicle and dumped almost anywhere – even public bathrooms!
If you’ve never had to desperately search for a dumpsite for your black water tank, you might not be able to fully appreciate this advantage, but take our word that it’s pretty huge.
Best RV cassette toilets comparison table
We’ve rounded up some of the best cassette toilets available to start your search. Take a look at this handy chart and click-through to their Amazon listings to check out the details of the best portable toilets for RVing or van life.
|Name||Price||Flush Tank Size||BUY|
|$90-$110||2.8 gallons||Buy on Amazon|
|$90-$100||3 gallons||Buy on Amazon|
|$100-$110||3.2 gallons||Buy on Amazon|
|$70-$80||3 gallons||Buy on Amazon|
|$80-$90||2.5 gallons||Buy on Amazon|
|$130-$150||4 gallons||Buy on Amazon|
|$500-$530||4 gallons||Buy on Amazon|
Want to read more about each cassette toilet on our list? Here’s a detailed guide to our top picks.
Thetford Cassette Toilets
Thetford is the biggest name in cassette toilets, and their reputation and experience is something you can rely on. For that reason, two of their cassettes made our list, both a permanently-mounted model and the portable porta potty.
Thetford 32812 Cassette Toilet (Thetford C402C)
Waste Tank: 5.1 gallons
Dimensions: 26-3/8” x 18” x 15-3/4”
This bench-style cassette toilet provides a very comfortable seat and feels a bit more like a traditional seated toilet. And as a Thetford, you can expect them to include all the features their buyers have come to count on.
The tank for this cassette toilet is easily portable with retractable handles and wheels and features an integrated no-splash pour spout. The working mechanism within the tank is also removable, making it easy to clean out and maintain.
Waste tank ventilation can be tricky, particularly if you’re traveling to warmer climates, but this cassette toilet’s automatic pressure release vents help avoid excess pressure and any other ventilation issues.
The conveniences continue on the inside. Particularly useful with permanent models, this option includes an LED level indicator to let you know how close you are to reaching your tank’s capacity.
It also comes with a simple electric push button to flush the tank with water, and an easy-to-remove (and clean) seat and seat cover.
Porta Pottie White – Thetford Corp
Waste Tank: 5.5 gallons
Dimensions: 17.6″ x 15.2″ x 17.7″
For a portable cassette toilet, the Porta Potty White is pretty impressive. As one reviewer touts it the “Gold Standard” of porta potties, this system does seem to have it all.
Due to its total portability, this cassette toilet is commonly used in almost all settings from boats and buses to vans and camping.
As one of the taller portable cassette toilets, this requires a little less squatting than most portable units and can be a lot more comfortable for it.
This cassette toilet model boasts an automatic flush feature, but as many reviewers point out, it’s more of an automatic rinse, since you still have to open the valve to drop the waste into the tanks.
But that’s the good thing about reviews, of which this unit has plenty. With 733 reviews and almost 200 answered questions, you can reasonably assume that almost any question or issue you may have with this model has a detailed answer just waiting for you.
Waste Tank: 5.3 gallons
Dimensions: 12″ x 16.25″ x 17.5″
The premium model of this Camco cassette toilet is pretty, well, premium. Its high profile and larger-than-standard bowl make for a comfortable, permanent-feel seat. Combined with the water tank’s pump flush, this portable cassette toilet doesn’t feel that portable.
The 2.5-gallon water tank is on the smaller end, but you only need to top it off with more freshwater which is pretty easy to do on the road. Also, a smaller water tank makes this unit less top-heavy when the waste tank’s freshly empty, and anything that lessens the likelihood of a dumped over dumper is a plus in my book.
The biggest downside to this portable cassette toilet is the lack of a tank level indicator, but as most people prefer to dump well before they reach capacity, this might not be an issue for you.
I really can’t mention enough how helpful listings like this one are. Thousands of reviews and hundreds of answered questions can make a world of difference when you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere at midnight and need advice about a malfunction or issue in order to go to the bathroom.
Waste Tank: 5 gallons
Dimensions: 16.5″ x 13.5″ x 12″
The Zimmer cassette toilet is a great basic model for people looking for short-term portability. It offers a surprisingly large waste tank and a great simple flush pump but with one big downside. This cassette toilet tank does not have wheels or a retractable handle, instead, it has basic holding handles on the tank itself.
This might not seem like a huge deal, but 5 gallons full of waste and chemicals can be almost 50 pounds. So either be prepared for an arm workout or plan to empty out a bit more often than you need to.
The benefit of this portable cassette toilet really lies in its smart simplicity. It’s not about frills and features, but this sturdy and compact machine will get the job done and keep on doing it.
Waste Tank: 5.3 gallons
Dimensions: 12” x 16” x 16”
The Serenelife cassette toilet combines the best features from both ends of the spectrum. Despite being designed with a more basic style and build, this portable cassette toilet also includes a convenient tank level indicator and a no-splash rotating spout for emptying your waste tank without worrying about a mess.
It also comes with a handy portable toilet bag for the unit. Though, in our experience, we’re not sure how often this will really be needed.
While the rotating spout offers ease of dumping, this cassette toilet suffers the same fate as the last. By neglecting to include wheels or a retractable handle, this tank is pretty cumbersome to lug around to and from your dumping site. If you plan to empty often enough or don’t mind the extra muscle work, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
Waste Tank: 5.3 gallons
Dimensions: 16.5” x 16.3” x 14.4”
The Vingli model is similarly designed to take advantage of the many conveniences other cassette toilets have perfected. Comparable to the Serenelife model, the Vingli unit features a rotating spout for splash-free dumping and a tank level indicator for the waste tank.
It even includes a similar to-go toilet bag for transporting the unit around.
The piston-style pump allows for a much cleaner bowl and a more efficient flush, but again, without the convenience of pull-out handles and wheels, this cassette toilet’s tank is going to be pretty difficult to maneuver for most people.
Waste Tank: 5 gallons
Dimensions: 16.5″ x 14.6″ x 16.9″
Earthtec’s big cassette toilet offering is the non-stick nanotechnology that they claim provides an unmatched effortlessly clean setup. If true, this could be a huge benefit for users, but the buyer reviews are a bit hit or miss.
Another great aspect to this company is their superior customer service, so if you have any doubts or questions, you can find answers pretty easily.
As for the features, this cassette toilet comes with a tank level indicator and a rotating no-splash spout. Unfortunately, it does not include retractable handles or wheels for convenient transporting.
How do cassette toilets work?
The way a cassette toilet works is actually pretty simple. The toilet itself can be either permanently mounted into your RV or campervan like a regular toilet or can be portable.
A portable cassette toilet is ideal for van dwellers or other people with exceptionally small spaces. In these setups, you might not have a dedicated bathroom area, so a toilet you can pull out and store away can be a huge space saver.
Alternately, permanently mounted cassette toilets can feel a lot homier and more comfortable, and most people prefer this option if they have space.
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How do you empty a cassette toilet?
Regardless of the toilet mount style, all cassette toilets have a removable holding tank. When it comes time to dump, you simply unlock and remove the holding tank.
Some tanks are removed directly from the cassette toilet wherever you have it placed, while others can be removed via exterior access.
Depending on your tank’s capacity, these can get pretty heavy, so most models include convenient carrying options like pull-out handles and wheels to make transporting your tank a breeze.
And here’s where the huge benefit of a cassette toilet comes into play. If you’re not set up at a campsite with a convenient dumping location, you can still empty your tank pretty easily. All you need is a public restroom. You can wheel your tank in and empty it right into the toilet.
You don’t need a dump station with a portable cassette toilet. Just dump it in a public restroom!
This opens up a ton of possibilities for nomadic travelers and gives you the freedom to avoid packed campsites and seek out truly remote locations.
Each cassette toilet will function slightly different, but the main steps to emptying a portable cassette toilet are pretty standard.
- First, you’ll want to close off the valve from the cassette toilet and make sure the bowl is empty.
- Then, you’ll remove the tank either from under the toilet or the exterior of your vehicle, which you’ll wheel or carry to a dump site or restroom.
- You’ll then unlock the spout and point it down the dump hole or into the toilet you’re dumping in. Make sure the spout is pointed where you want, and press the vent button.
- Then, the cassette does the rest. Once it’s empty, fill it back up with some water, swirl it around as best you can and empty again. Repeat this until the water coming back out is clear.
And that’s it, just pop it back into your system and you’re good to go!
The bad parts about using a cassette toilet for RVing or Van Life
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While the freedom of a cassette toilet might have already won you over, there are some downsides to this option you should also consider.
Cassette toilets have a small holding capacity.
A removable holding tank just doesn’t compare in size to the permanent options. That means emptying your tank a lot more often than you might otherwise.
The increased dumping options with a cassette toilet might mitigate this downside, but it’s definitely something to be aware of.
Alternately, remember you have to transport the tank to your dumpsite, so if your cassette toilet tank is big enough to carry upwards of 40 pounds of water and waste, you might be struggling to transport it.
Fortunately, design inclusions like wheels and pull-out handles mean even a pretty petite person can usually manage just fine.
Dumping out your cassette toilet waste tanks is never going to be a luxurious task, no matter what system you put in place. But some people particularly dislike dumping from a cassette toilet. With a standard black tank, dumping is a bit more hands-off.
Typically, the less hands-on you are with your waste tank, the cleaner the process will be.
Cassette toilets do run the risk of freezing in the winter due to the liquids they carry. A simple way to avoid this is preparation. There are tons of environmentally-safe antifreeze options, don’t wait to look into them until it’s too late, or an easy and cheap preventative can quickly turn into expensive and difficult repairs.
The main pros of a cassette toilet
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I cannot mention this enough, but cassette toilets provide a huge amount of freedom with the ability to dump out at any public bathroom. This can save time, money, and opens up a ton of possibilities in terms of where you want to go.
The bucket toilet is a more typical option for those seeking the freedom cassettes offer, but with one BIG difference. The smell. Cassette toilets are highly preferable in this aspect, as their chemical reservoirs break down and block the odors from lingering in your RV. For most people, this is a huge advantage.
Cleaning out a waste bucket is just about as gross as you might imagine. But cleaning a cassette toilet is surprisingly pain-free. Not only does it not require cleaning as often as a bucket toilet, but the process typically involves simply filling the tank with cleaners, swishing it around, and dumping it out.
The more often you do this, the better, but cassette toilets give you a bit more flexibility into your cleaning schedule.
Some mobile toilet options can have some hidden added difficulties. Fortunately, with a cassette toilet, the pump flush means you don’t have to separate your solid and liquid waste, like using a normal toilet.
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What to look for when choosing a cassette toilet
Here are the main things you should look for when picking the best cassette toilet for your RV or campervan.
The holding tanks in cassette toilets tend to be pretty small, as the whole thing has to be transportable. For that reason, people tend to seek out the largest size available.
Consider your needs. A solo traveler won’t need the same capacity in a cassette toilet as a small family or couple, and can get away with a much smaller tank.
Also, remember that your tank will be full when you’re lugging it halfway across a campground. That means the dry weight of the tank isn’t that important, think about how heavy it will be when it’s full of waste and chemicals, and pick a size accordingly.
A tight lock between the tanks and the cassette toilet’s lid is essential. Not only does this eliminate smell, but it can also cut down on any potential messes. And when it comes to handling your waste, cutting down on smells and messes is something every type of buyer is aiming for.
Tank Level Indicator.
Especially with larger tanks, it can be hard to see how close to full it’s getting. Some cassette toilets advertise a number of flushes you can reach before filling up, but situations vary and it can be pretty hard to keep track of over multiple days or people using the toilet. For that reason, capacity indicators can be hugely convenient.
Handles/wheels. As you can imagine, carrying 40lbs of sloshing liquid waste is a much more manageable task with wheels and a well-placed handle. Fortunately, most models come with both.
These luggage-like handles and wheels can mean more than just added convenience but the ability to bump up a tank size or two.
|Name||Price||Permanent or Portable||Tank Level Indicator||Waste Tank Size||Flush Tank Size||Dimensions|
|Thetford Cassette Toilet||$500-$530||Permanent||Yes||5.1 gallons||4 gallons||26-3/8” x 18” x 15-3/4”|
|Porta Pottie White||$140-$150||Portable||Yes||5.5 gallons||4 gallons||17.6" x 15.2" x 17.7"|
|Camco Portable Toilet||$80-$90||Portable||No||5.3 gallons||2.5 gallons||12" x 16.25" x 17.5"|
|Zimmer Cassette Toilet||$60-$70||Portable||No||5 gallons||3 gallons||16.5" x 13.5" x 12"|
|Serene Life Toilet||$100-$110||Portable||Yes||5.3 gallons||3.2 gallons||12” x 16” x 16”|
|Vingli Camping Toilet||$90-$100||Portable||Yes||5.3 gallons||3 gallons||16.5” x 16.3” x 14.4”|
|Earthtec Portable Toilet||$105-$150||Portable||No||5 gallons||2.8 gallons||16.5" x 14.6" x 16.9"|
Best practices and tips for using a cassette toilet
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Figure out a gameplan with your cassette toilet
If you ask around about cassette toilets (which might be a weird thing to do, so maybe just keep reading instead) you’ll find there are two pretty divided camps of thought.
While cassette toilets are designed to handle both liquid and solid waste, some users recommend keeping to the liquids. This will minimize how often you have to dump and will cut way down on cleaning time, but with a pretty big drawback.
To other users, this would negate the benefits of having a cassette toilet in the first place. If you’re planning to number two, it might be worth updating to a piston or pump flush and make sure to stock proper cleaning supplies.
Manage your toilet paper usage.
There are quick-dissolving toilet paper options that will help avoid clumpage, or you could have a separate receptacle for paper and avoid flushing it in the first place. This will also help save tank space and cut down on dumpings.
Dump more often than you need to.
This is definitely not necessary and some tanks can go days, even weeks without requiring a dump, but even the most leak-free models will start to leak out smells eventually.
The more often you dump, the cleaner your system will be (and smell) so we recommend dumping out every couple of days.
Close the lid.
Close the lid on your cassette toilet before opening the valve, close the lid before checking the tank, close the lid before filling the water hold. Just close the lid. These units can build up pressure and altitudes or temperatures can flux things, the last thing you want is a spray to the face when things go awry.
I’ve also read a few chilling reviews from people who’ve been a bit over-excited in opening the lid on their cassette toilet and were rewarded with the dreaded face spray. It might be once in a million, but is it worth that? I don’t think so.
So be cautious when opening the lid, particularly if you’ve recently changed climate or altitude.
Keep things clean.
There are tons of options out there from pre-made products to homemade solutions you sort through. Most of them work. Chemical-free formulas for your cassette toilet can be surprisingly effective but might require more diligent cleaning than other, stronger solutions.
Whatever method you choose, keep up with it. And always keep some spare cleaning supplies stashed away.
A little cleaning here and there and a solid rinse with every dump will help you avoid the worst kind of elbow grease down the line.
Cassette toilet accessories
Cassette toilets are pretty come-as-you-are, but there are a few add-ons that might help improve your experience.
Ventilators. These are pretty simple attachable fans that help ventilate the area around your cassette toilet. While small and simple, these can make a big difference in the smell and comfort of the area, it’s amazing what a little airflow can do.
Toilet seat raisers. One of the biggest issues users have with portable toilets is the “squat” factor. If this is particularly bothersome to you, consider purchasing a toilet seat raiser to lift your seat to a more comfortable height.
Conclusion on the best cassette toilets
Cassette toilets are an awesome option for travelers looking to bring a little convenience along with them into the outdoors. Not only can you extend the length of your trips, but with the unique cassette design, you can enjoy experiences off the beaten path (and away from family-packed campgrounds).
It goes without saying that quality can go a long way in this department, and you want to purchase something you can count on to hold up.
Fortunately, cassette toilets are actually surprisingly affordable, even for the nicer, better-reviewed models, so it’s easy to bump up to a higher quality bracket.
Hopefully, this article helped you narrow down your choices and get a better idea of what will work best for you.
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