Building a Biodegradable Latrine

Build a biodegradable latrine for your outdoor adventures, so you can be ready to go when nature calls and do so in a way that minimizes your footprint.

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by Flickr/Green Glue Company

Handy Dad in the Great Outdoors (Chronicle Books, 2012) by Todd Davis is full of fun projects for dad and the kids to get creative in the great outdoors. Davis grew up with a family who loved experiencing the outdoors, and is now passing on these fun activities to families across the world, with step-by-step instructions to make the most of your family time outside. The following excerpt is his guide to building a biodegradable latrine.

When nature calls, you don’t have to answer in a smelly pit toilet or trudge half a mile from camp with a shovel in hand. All you need is this ecologically (and literally) green bucket. That, and a little privacy, of course.

Difficulty level: Weekend Warrior (Easy)


• 1-gallon bulk-storage container with a wide mouth
• 2 rolls of toilet paper (Look for rolls made with 100 percent recycled fiber, 80 percent post-consumer, and whitened without elemental chlorine.*)
• 1-gallon Ziploc bag
• Green 12-inch Gamma Seal screw-on lid
• Green 5-gallon bucket
• 13-gallon trash bags, either BioBag or Bag to Nature brand (BioBags are made from corn. Heat from urine may cause them to leak, so use three or four. Bag to Nature trash bags are made from 100 percent compostable, organic biopolymers. They’re much stronger, but double up just in case.)
• Ten 3-inch cable ties
• 3 feet 1/2-inch (inside diameter) foam pipe insulation
• 4-pound bag kitty litter (I prefer the Feline Pine brand.)

*These supplies will serve two people on a weekend trip. Bring more or fewer supplies, depending on your needs. No forest of any kind should be used to make toilet paper. Old proverb.


1. Fill your 1-gallon bulk-storage container with Feline Pine and seal the lid.

green 5-gallon bucket with a clear container filled with light brown pellets

2. Place two rolls of toilet paper in the Ziploc bag to keep them clean and dry. Toss the 10 cable ties in there, too.

3. Snap the Gamma Seal lid in place on the bucket–it takes firm pressure, all the way around–and remove the screw-down interior lid.

4. Place the rest of your supplies in the bucket and screw the lid back in place. You’re now ready for travel!

green 5-gallon bucket with a foam pipe, a clear container filled with light brown pellets, and a box of trash bags

5. Choose a comfortable spot protected from the sun and wind. A little group of trees will do the job. Maybe you can even find a spot with a view. For the benefit of your fellow campers, head downwind about 200 feet.

6. Did you find a spot? Great–take out your supplies and line the inside of the bucket with two to four trash bags, depending on the brand you chose.

7. Pour enough Feline Pine into the bucket to cover the bottom. A quarter of your container should do it.

person pouring brown pellets from a clear container in to a trash bag lined 5-gallon bucket

8. Attach the pipe insulation to the rim of the bucket. This will give you a comfy seat and hold the bag in place. Keep the toilet paper in reach!

green 5-gallon bucket lined with a trash bag with a ring of foam pipe insulation sitting on top and a roll of toilet paper in a ziplock bag sitting next to it

9. Did you bring this book with you? Fantastic–you’ve got some reading material! Ah . . . it sure beats sitting in a smelly old outhouse, doesn’t it?

10. Throw the toilet paper you used into the bucket and sprinkle in enough Feline Pine to cover your waste.

11. Rest the screw-in portion of the Gamma Seal lid on the pipe insulation and weigh it down with a rock.

12. When it’s time to go home, remove the lid, gather the open end of the bags together, and twist them closed as far down as possible. Tie the bag off twice with cable ties (just to be sure) and leave the whole thing in the bucket.

13. Screw the Gamma Seal lid in place. You’ll have to find another location for the rest of your supplies for the ride home.

14. Pick a spot in your car that will keep the bucket stationary and upright. Drive to the nearest legal place to throw away your waste.

15. When you get home, wash the entire bucket and pipe insulation with biodegradable soap.

16. Put all of your supplies back in the bucket and seal it for the next use. Try to use the trash bags within a year though. They tend to degrade over time.

17. Congratulate yourself on having discovered a way to take nature’s call out of the dank outhouse dungeon and into the great outdoors.

More from: Handy Dad in the Great Outdoors

Building a Solar Power Shower
Identify Poisonous Plants and Bugs

From Handy Dad in the Great Outdoors by Todd Davis, illustrated by Nik Schulz, photographs by Jared Cruce (Chronicle Books, 2012).

book cover with a person riding a plastic wave, a tent, and children working on projects on it

  • Updated on Dec 6, 2021
  • Originally Published on Apr 19, 2018
Tagged with: biodegradable, diy, foam pipe insulation, latrine