Wilderness Bathrooms

One of the least talked about issues in backpacking and paddling is bathroom facilities. Years ago, it was considered OK to "go off into the bushes" when nature called. Today that's unacceptable everywhere and it has become illegal in most places. Our national parks and recreation areas require ALL waste to be packed out. No more burying it off the trail in the woods.

There's an entire industry to handle the issue both for recreation and for work place sanitation. Consider that the work place for many people is outdoors, far from any established facilities. Consider that a paddler, even in an urban environment like DuPage County Illinois, may find, on an all-day river paddle, only one or two stops with public facilities. These new products are simply bags containing polymers that gel & deoderize liquids & solids put into the bag. There are small bags for liquid only and large bags for solids. Most of them are double layer bags with one-way valves and leak-proof seals. All the brands I've found claim to be EPA approved for disposal in normal trash-to-landfill systems.

There are three product categories to consider:
Liquid containment bags
Solid containment bags
Portable seats & systems

the PETT formerly by Phillips Environmental Products, now called Cleanwaste. They make solid containment bags - the Wag Bag (now called GO Anywhere) - and portable seat and tent systems meant for group, campsite and worksite use. The portable commode is a fairly large, plastic seat that folds into a small suitcase - not very suitable for kayaking though you could strap it on the deck.

American Innotek makes both liquid and solid containment bags for industrial/commercial use (Brief Relief and Disposa-John) and for the consumer market - the Restop product line.

TravelJohn makes both liquid and solid containment bags, privacy tents and complete, portable systems. They offer a folding commode made of tubing and canvas much like the popular lawn chairs you find at discount retailers which could be carried in a large kayak and a standard 5-gallon-plastic-bucket type commode which is not suitable for kayaking.

OutBack Pack makes a folding, cardboard commode. It's not waterproofed and is suitable only for indoor, emergency use. They make no containment products.

Update 2008 - The OutBack Pack has been licensed to Global Sanitation Solutions, Inc. and is being sold under the "Chemisan" name as the "GottaGoToilet". They are promoting it as a solution to water contamination problems in the third world.
Update 2013 - The Chemisan.com domain is up for sale. Global Sanitation Solutions is now marketing products under the GreenToilet brand. Guess the third world thing didn't work out.
ECO-Safe by GTS, Inc. is an interesting product. It's simply a plastic tank with a seat that fastens on top that functions much like the "holding tank" systems in RVs. You must provide any odor elimination product yourself. This system would be even less suitable than the PETT for kayaking as it is simply too bulky to carry in a kayak.
The marketing of this system is also interesting. I first found it at NRS under "Camping and More". On searching for other sellers, I found that most outdoor retailers that sold it listed it as the "NRS ECO-Safe" system. I don't know if NRS has some close ties to GTS, Inc. that would make NRS the "wholesaler" of the system leading other retailers to list it as an NRS product.

The Packit Toilet from The Ultralight Wilderness Toilet Co. was meant for the backpacker. It was sold with bio-degradable bags and a digger with the intent to bury waste. This is becoming less of an option as regulations become more restrictive and protective of the environment. Fortunately, the folding commode works well with any of the solid containment bag systems listed above. It was a bit pricey at $55 (shipping included) but that was cheaper than three of the cardboard OutBack Packs which wouldn't survive getting wet even once. They did sell it without the bio-degradable bags & the digger - just the Packit for $41, shipping included. I carry a Packit in my Folbot, my Willys and now my "new" Aliner at all times regardless of trip length or anticipated facilities. You never know.
Update Sept 2010 - the web site is not just down, it's gone.
I bought containment bags from whoever had the best price. I ended up with Wag Bags from REI and Travel-Johns from Outback Toilets.

Outback Toilets (no longer online) carried the PETT system, TravelJohn and the OutBack Pack
Backcountry carries Wag Bags and the Restop line - look under Camp/Hike / Summer Accessories / Food and Waste Storage - well as of 2017 - no longer
Drugstore.com (now Walgreens) carries TravelJohn
NRS carries the ECO-Safe and the PETT
There are many others - and they're changing constantly. Google is your friend