When I was growing up I could never imagine that I’d be sitting here writing an in depth review on a toilet, but here we are! This is a review of my experience with a 5 gallon bucket composting toilet with the Luggable Loo toilet seat.
I want to qualify this review before we get started. I’m a very particular person, my house is kept very clean and tidy, I have germaphobe tendencies and I work in a white collar work environment where good hygiene is a must. I say this only to give people an understanding of where I’m coming from because when I was reading reviews I couldn’t find others with similar lifestyles or standards. When I first started, I was concerned how making the shift to living tiny might impact my corporate job at the time.
With that out of the way, when I first sat down to plan my tiny house a flush toilet was a very important thing for me to have. I was dead set on having a traditional toilet. Then the real world happened. The city I live in prohibits septic systems unless you have an extenuating circumstance (read: it ain’t happening). For me to get a sewer line ran to my tiny house, permits, connection fees and labor it was close to $50,000! I was shocked.
So I started looking into options: Nature’s Head, Envirolet Systems, Sun-Mar, Incinolet and many others. The one thing that stood out to me is that they were all big, complicated and expensive. I hadn’t made a decision because whenever I’d talk to friends who actually used them in real life, they all weren’t super happy with them and many didn’t like it.
While I was trying to decide what I was going to do, I had to move into my tiny house and just needed something. So I swung by my local big box and grabbed a 5 gallon bucket ($5) and a Luggable Loo ($13) and some hamster pine wood chips ($3.50) and a roll of 13 gallon trash bags ($4). A Complete kit for $25.50, much cheaper than a $600 composting toilet or $50k for a sewer line.
The setup was simple. Take a five gallon bucket, place a trash bag in the unit with the edges hanging over the edge, put on toilet seat (which firmly clips onto the lip of the bucket) and then toss in some wood chips. The lid will keep the bag in place so you don’t have to worry about an edge falling in.
Like I said, at the time I viewed this as a stop gap, something that I was begrudgingly going to use until I could make a decision. Then something interesting happened… I really liked it!
I will be the first to admit that there was an initial ick factor to get over, but that goes with all composting toilets. But after a few weeks I realized it’s seriously no big deal. If you’ve ever had a kid and changed diapers, that’s way worse. With this setup I pop the seat off, pull the trash bag draw strings, tie it off, and drop it in the trash bin at the street. You only have to touch the draw strings.
One caveat that I do want to make here is that, as a male, since I keep my toilet outside, I just pee straight forward on the ground, I keep the liquids out of the bucket for the most part. I don’t have a diverter of any kind and if a female needs to use it, I just toss in a bit more of the wood chips for a little extra absorption and not worry about it. If I had a live in girlfriend I may look into more complicated setups.
I’ve been using this setup now for over 3 years and that means I’ve had a lot of experience in different weather, temperatures, rain, snow, etc. Here are some experiments and lessons learned:
No Wood Chips
Since I’m a guy I don’t have much liquids coming into the mix, so I thought I’d try not using wood chips at all. That was over a year ago and now I don’t use them at all unless I have company. Wood chips absorb liquids – some what – (I want to do a test with peat moss) so in reality it’s only to cover up what you leave behind and keep it out of sight. If I was using it with someone I might switch back to chips or opt for a his and her throne.
Summer Vs. Winter
I like the toilet setup much better in the winter. Since I keep my toilet outside, the weather is a factor. With cooler weather means less bugs, which means less flies and gnats. To mitigate the bugs in the summer I just empty it once a week and I never have to worry. There may be a few flies inside, but I give the bucket a kick and they fly away. If you wait a few weeks in the summer you’ll run into flies laying eggs, which leads to larvae, which are gross. Emptying it once a week means you’ll never have that happen. In truth you can get away with a few weeks, but why chance it.
In the winter I usually empty it once a month. There are no bugs to speak of in the winter and the cold of Fall and Winter make everything a breeze.
This is a very common question and here’s the truth: there is a smell. This is really why I started using this outside. Now that said, there is a smell, but it’s never worse than if you just went. I have considered adding two little fans to the cover to bring in fresh air and draw smells out. With those fans, there never would be any smell. For those of you who are skeptical, consider that I’m a very clean person and the smell has been so little of a concern I felt adding a simple fan wasn’t worth my time.
Keeping The Toilet Outdoors
I don’t really know anyone else that does this, but I am a major proponent of this. I have considered building a little enclosed area to keep it in, but living on 32 acres, I don’t really have to worry about privacy, plus the view is much better! My recommendation would be build a little outhouse, throw a little solar panel on the top and have a tiny fan always running.
Many people ask me about rain and snow, but honestly it has never been an issue. Every time it has rain I just put it under a base of a tree and the leaves shelter me pretty well. There was one time when I got very sick and needed to use the facilities very often, it also poured for several days. I just put it on my tiny house porch and it was totally fine. In the snow, which it doesn’t snow a lot here in NC, it wasn’t a big deal either. Even in wind, no big deal. I have been surprised at how little it matters when it rains, is windy or is snowing.
Going To The Bathroom Outside Is Awesome
There is something really pleasant about taking care of business when you have a really nice view or just enjoy the peace and quite of nature. If you’ve ever gone backpacking and use a toilet with a great view, it’s very enjoyable.
The Seat Of The Luggable Loo
I am very impressed how comfortable this seat is, for $13 it’s totally worth the money. The lid for me broke off after about a year and I like it better because the lid kind of hugged a tad too close in the back. The lid still works, I just set it on top and it has a pretty good fit.
The other thing I really like about the Luggable Loo is how well it snaps onto the 5 gallon bucket. It has a very positive snap on the lip of the bucket, but still leave room for you to put a trash back and lock it in place. It’s holding power on the bag is very important because it means the bag is kept in place and your business goes where it’s supposed to and stays here.
Worst Case Scenario
The setup has worked really well for me, but there was one thing I’ve always dreaded: if it tipped over. One day I came out and it was apparent that some animal had come up to it, knocked the lid off, then flipped the whole thing seat down. This mean that the “contents” literally were on the ground.
This was very unfortunate, but I figure out that I could grab my shovel, slide it under the leave on the ground, using the leaves as a barrier layer, and in one motion, flip it right side up. In the end not one bit fell out and I just bagged it and it was all good.
So far, knock on wood, I haven’t ever had a bag leak. Even if I did, I keep a few extra pails on hand and a few lids. This means if I ever have a catastrophic failure I just put a lid on the bucket and seal it all in, then toss it. Pail and a lid are super durable and at only a few bucks, you don’t care if you have to toss one.
So that’s my review and experience with the Luggable Loo 5 gallon bucket composting toilet.
- What are you planning on using for your toilet?