3 Year Review On The Luggable Loo

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.

how to setup composting toilet

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.

pee diverterOne 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.

The Smell

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.

Your Turn!

  • What are you planning on using for your toilet?
  1. Your set up sounds like something we commonly used in the Arctic. We called it a “honey bucket” and in some villages everyone used them. I’ve been using a Sun-Mar space-saver for 2 years and I’m not thrilled either. Expensive and maintenance is disgusting. Plus I have the ubiquitous and continuing problem of fungus gnats because the composting is accomplished via a fungus. These are everywhere in nature and being tiny they end up in my composting in-door toilet. Over the past year I’ve come up with a way to control them but not eliminate them because they ARE ubiquitous. But I’ve reached a truce with them. My fondest dream is to someday flush again! In 5 years I’ll be a 68 year-old woman moving my house from NC to New Mexico. Your experience though is a viable alternative when I return to my desert homeland. And I’ll still be able to provide lots of compost to my desert plants just as I do my NC plants now. Thanks!

  2. I have a similar set up, just a home made seat set up. (Esthetics) I use saw dust though as this is in my work shop. I find using fine sawdust stopped any smell as soon as you get your deposit covered. This keeps my wife happy when she uses it and me happy since it’s in my shop. If I had 36 achers I might have one outside also, but I love not having to go out side in inclement weather.(being a little older, lol)

  3. Anyone out there ever tried or currently have an Incinolet incinerating toilet? I’m abandoning my Sun-Mar after 2.5 years. A broken foot made maintenance a nightmare. Especially when I discovered my evaporation chamber was hosting a primordial soup of fungus gnat larvae. SO! I’m looking for input ASAP. I’m going to buy an Incinolet, model CF. It’s electrical…I’m tied into the electrical grid and this puppy only pulls 2000 watts when burning for a 75 minute cycle. Looking forward to no more flies!! But would like to know what pitfalls you’ve discovered. I drank the kool-aid, so to speak, on the Sun-Mar, and would like to be more informed for what might be ahead with this one. Thanks.

  4. Hi there. A couple of things: this shouldn’t smell, actually, if you have the right cover material and everything gets covered. If you are just pooping then you should have no problems with smell. The urine is the thing that really makes things smell. Peat moss with coffee or just sawdust usually takes away everything, provided everything is covered. No need to conserve on covering. Also, have you seen the box that the Luggable Loo can be inserted in? It is on the Humanure website (the guy who created the loo and wrote the book on composting). Just curious why you don’t compost it since you have 32 acres? None of this is supposed to come across as judgemental or preachy–it is very hard to assess tone online. I am just adding to the conversation and think it’s really cool that everyone finds a way to do this.


  5. I want to buy this exact urine diverter, but all i see are not the same, can you help me, where can i buy one like this thank you!

  6. I want to buy this exact urine diverter, but all i see are not the same, can you help me, where can i buy one like this thank you!

    I’m not off the grid but am going to try making a composting toilet, I’m 55 years old, and I’m trying to convince my husband off the grid is the way to go, but one step at a time.

  7. Please help! I want to buy this exact urine diverter, but all i see are not the same, can you help me, where can i buy one like this thank you!

    I’m not off the grid but am going to try making a composting toilet, I’m 55 years old, and I’m trying to convince my husband off the grid is the way to go, but one step at a time.

  8. Hi. I’m Barbara, posted in Dec. 2017 looking for input on anyone’s experience with incinerating toilets. I had a composting Sun Mar space-saving unit for 2.5 years. My composting toilet had a variety of issues two of which were why I was ridding myself of it. FIRST: fungus gnats SECOND: I needed more and more flower garden space to put the “compost”. THIRD: not at all easy to clean. I researched everything I could find (I’m a scientist) and tried every method of resolving the fungus gnats, that everyone suggested. Nothing worked, except a Dawn detergent solution, sprayed throughout the bathroom and into the toilet every darn day I had it. Had to hit the gnats with WET spray. Always only 1 step ahead of a gnat population explosion! I got an electric Incinolet from a Texas company. I love it. REALLY is easy to maintain. Had it since January. Every 6 months I open the machine and wipe out the inside to clean off any ash remnants using 409 spray. I line the bowl with a waxed liner paper, poop, and depress the foot level to dump it into the incinerating unit. Push a start button to engage the burn coil and everything is reduced to ash within 75 minutes and no, I don’t need to stay home while it is burning. Once a week I remove the burn chamber and put the ash into my kitchen garbage can. Takes about 4-6 minutes. You also piss in it and follow the same instructions. I have no smell, no need to buy and store cedar chips, special compost, special “rakes”, whatever! Should have gone with this from the start….it also was about $200 less than my SunMar. And according to my lot mate, she has seen no increase in my electric use, I suspect that’s because I no longer have a unit running a continuous noisy fan! My toilet is only using electricity when it’s burning. Everyone should at least compare/contrast incinerating vs. ANY composter before you commit to any toilet!

  9. It seems, sir, that you are in this for the bucks. You have found a Great Product, in that urine diverter, yet have NOT answered any requests for the link to said piece. I’m not going to spend the $2.50 you ask for a phone call to get the answer. I am going to PRINT IT – 3D-wise (then offer the scheme (FREE). You must be a graduate of TRUMP UNIVERSITY.

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