Do portable toilets attract bears?

In this blog post, we will answer the following question: Do portable toilets attract bears? We will discuss some basic camping safety issues, but also tell you where and how to properly empty your RV’s portable toilet. 

Do portable toilets attract bears?

Yes, human waste discarded improperly from RV’s portable toilets can attract bears, rodents or deers to your camping area. While wild camping, keep in mind that your motorhome is not bear proof and that food waste and human waste can attract wildlife! 

Before explaining how to properly discard waste from RVs portable toilets, we wanted to discuss a few basic rules for wild camping:

  • Keep food out of the reach of bears. In furnished campgrounds, store all food (including your pet’s food) in the trunk of your car that you have taken care to lock.
  • If you are wild camping, make sure the food is inaccessible to bears. Hang food very high (at least four meters) in a tree, and at least two meters from the trunk of the tree.
  • Do not cook near your camper. In addition, you have to change location very often: do not stay in the clothes you wore when you were cooking.
  • Throw dishwater on a slope, so that it runs as far away from your camp as possible.
  • Dispose of your rubbish in a container inaccessible to bears. When camping in the wild, burn what you can and hang the rest of that waste with all your food.
  • At night, when you get out of your pop-up camper, use a flashlight to avoid unexpected encounters.
  • Dispose of fish scraps in a brisk current or deep water, not on the shore near your camp.

Most importantly, use your common sense. To get started, educate yourself and don’t camp in areas where you see signs of bear presence. When hiking, stay on the trail and make lots of noise to reduce the risk of suddenly falling on this animal. Sing, clap, yell at the top of your lungs to make sure you keep them away.

Do not run away if you meet an aggressive bear: useless, it runs faster than you. Walk calmly to your camper and drive!

Where to empty your RV’s portable toilet while camping

The indicated place to empty the tank is the chemical bathing area that you can find in campsites, designed camping areas and service areas. It must be taken into account that for this end, it is possible that certain hours have to be respected to empty the tank.

It is convenient to empty the tank with gloves that protect us from the chemical elements of the blue and pink liquid. It also goes without saying that wearing shoes / slippers will always be more advisable than wearing flip flops in case we have any problem with splashes.

To take the tank of our vehicle to the emptying area, it is advisable to use (many toilets already bring them from the factory) a cart with wheels so that the road with the toilet on our backs becomes more bearable.

Once emptied, the tank must be filled with water (with the usual hoses in these areas) and emptied again. This process must be repeated until the water runs clear.

Emergency emptying: In case of failure of the indicator, or in case of not having been attentive (or that the children have pulled the cistern on several occasions), it is time to take a bucket and gloves, open the tank hatch and empty it manually, taking into account all the recommendations we’ve been reviewing in the article.

Anticipate your full water and your oil changes: Don’t you want to run out of water, or to carry the cassettes of your chemical toilets full to the brim? Stop off every two or three days in a service area equipped with terminals! This step of emptying and supplying water is essential for your comfort. Without that, goodbye shower and dishes!

This is where you can fill your tank with clean water. This contains about 100 liters, or two days in autonomy for four people. This service is generally paid (around 2 to 3 euros), so you might as well choose certain areas that have a hose that quantifies the 100 liters of the tank and fills it more quickly. If not, consider traveling with a reel hose (15 meters), a 15/21 nozzle and a 20/27 nozzle which can be used and compatible in many European countries.

How to empty your RV’s wastewater

Gray water is water that comes from showers and sinks. The grey water tank has a capacity of approximately 100 litres and is located under the floor of the motorhome. To evacuate this used water, all you have to do is open the taps, valves or hatches which flow directly under the motorhome.

The service areas have a concrete emptying area equipped with an escape hatch (the size of a manhole cover) on which you will have to position your motorhome. An operation that may require a little skill during the first oil changes.

Allow ten minutes to evacuate the grey water. During this time, you can begin to detach your removable cassette from the black water.

Blackwater is water that comes only from chemical toilets. They are stored in an extractable cassette with a capacity of 10 to 25 litres (to be emptied every two to three days), which is located outside the motorhome. For ease of transport, some are equipped with a handle and small wheels. 

Then simply take the cassette and empty it using its pouring spout into the receptacle provided for this purpose. Provide gloves as you will need to lift the cover. Use two litres of water and a mixture that neutralizes bad odours to rinse your cassette.

If you have not found an area, you can always use the sanitary facilities of the campsite or a gas station provided that your chemical toilets do not contain any chemical product (blue, green, Bordeaux mixture or other). Make sure you clean everything up when you leave!

Stop illegal dumping of portable toilets and wastewater

Drain without polluting! No emptying of black water or grey water should be carried out on public roads, in rainwater outlets or in nature. Even if you use biodegradable products (dishwashing liquid, shampoo …) which spill into your grey water, you must not empty them on the road while driving or in the middle of nature! This is part of the ethical charter of the perfect motorhome operator! 

Out of good citizenship, you must be prohibited from emptying anywhere in disregard of the essential rules of cleanliness and hygiene and out of respect for the municipalities you pass through.

Before leaving the service area, remember to close your valves so that the water does not continue to drain while driving.

Once the oil changes and refuelling are done, you are ready to hit the road. However, make sure you don’t forget anything:

  1. Water pipe,
  2. End fittings, including the connection that screws onto the faucet. If you think about repacking the hose, it is very common to forget the fitting on the faucet.
  3. WC product container,
  4. Close the greywater hatch (wastewater). Otherwise, they will drain under the motorhome. It’s very bad for the environment.
  5. After these checks, you can calmly resume your journey, until the next oil changes. Allow 2 to 3 days between 2 oil changes for use by 4 people.

Final advice

To stay safe and protect the wilderness, travel with two goals in mind: limiting your impact by avoiding encounters, and managing your groceries, food smells and waste.

  • Camp in designated areas where they exist.
  • If you are wild camping, cook, eat and store your food at least 50 m from your tent, in the direction of the wind. Choose a location with good visibility, to prevent animals from approaching unnoticed. Avoid camping, cooking, or eating near streams, thick brush, animal tracks, or berry patches.
  • Eliminate odours on your person and in your camp. Keep sleeping bags, tents, and clothing worn to bedtime free from food, drink, or food odours.
  • Leave your scented products at home. . Store your toiletries and personal effects with your groceries.
  • Store your groceries, garbage, and food for livestock or pets away from your tent. Make use of the facilities provided for this purpose at designated backcountry campsites. If you are wild camping, hang them between two trees at least 4m above the ground and 1.3m from the nearest trunks and branches, or use bear-proof containers.

If you want to share your thoughts, comments or questions on the content, please let us know!

FAQ on Do portable toilets attract bears?

Are pop-up campers safe from bears?

Pop-up campers are safe from bears and as long as you will take some necessary precautions and know how to react if you see a bear while camping, you will always feel safe on your trip.

What to do if you see a bear while camping?

If you see a bear when getting out of your pop-up camper, stop and keep calm. Avoid running away. Get out your pepper spray (we strongly recommend taking one on each trip).

Is an RV refrigerator bear proof?

No, an RV refrigerator is not bear-proof and neither is your motorhome!  It is risky to leave any provisions within reach of animals at night. Faced with a huge pile of food at the end of a long day, however, the effort seems to outweigh the risk, and one may be tempted not to put away some, if not all, provisions. 


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