Our off the grid journey continues with our first time camping on our land and testing out our brand new compost toilet.
If you’re just joining us, welcome! This is our journey to living off grid and self sufficiently in South Africa.
In previous posts, we looked for and bought land, and started researching things like solar geysers and compost toilets. We also met with local builders in the area and started planning our first steps to building our new off grid home.
In this installment of our unfolding adventure, I try out our brand new compost toilet during our first camp on our newly bought land.
I was super excited to give it a test run, and hadn’t so much as unwrapped it yet before we left. (It had only just arrived in time for the trip from Sulvantutch.)
So, how did the experience go, you might want to know?
Short answer: Not so great.
Good Plans Go Bad
We packed an old pop up tent to act as the ablutions room, and it was here that we hit the first snag.
The toilet is quite tall in order to accommodate a large 25l bucket – there’s even a step up to the seat.
The tent, not so much.
You can see in the photo below as I tested the seating arrangement that we had to bend over an uncomfortable amount to fit on the throne inside the tent space.
Nevertheless, we figured we’d make do with the discomfort for a few days and next time set up an outside shelter.
Overall, it proved to be a bigger problem than just discomfort since it affected the angle of business, if you get my drift.
The next snag was that Sylvantutch hadn’t been able to get the 25l bucket the toilet usually comes with, which they’d let me know about and I had COMPLETELY FORGOTTEN to put on the list.
Luckily we had a largish bucket with a tight fitting lid with us that housed the dog food.
I decided to sacrifice the bucket to the world of composting.
And moved the dog food to a plastic bag until we got home.
Puddles You Don’t Want To Step In
We had a standard 5l water bottle for the urine collection and fitted this to the urine pipe.
At least, I *thought* I’d fitted it to the pipe….
The container opening and the pipe diameter were the same size, one didn’t fit inside the other as I’d imagined it would – rather they stacked against each other.
The urine separator is attached to the top lid which you can lift up to reach the bucket and pee container.
It’s quite heavy, and when down the two openings seemed to be solidly against each other.
Without having tested it out before I assumed this was how it was meant to be.
Cool, time for a test drive!
On my first pee on the throne, my elation turned to horror as I stepped off the loo into a widening puddle gathering on the tent floor.
After much swearing and mopping, I looked inside to see what had gone wrong. It seemed that the 5l container was bulging outwards, so that when I pushed the front hatch over the opening and put the step into place, I’d knocked the bottle top off the separator pipe ever so slightly.
Just enough for most of my pee to cascade out the gap and all over the tent.
Have You Tried Switching It off And On Again?
Right, with the bottle once again firmly in place and the door off so as not to knock the bottle, the throne was ready for another test drive.
Let’s just say the problem was not solved.
Duct Tape Will Save The World
I then attempted, at Russ’s suggestion, to tape the separator pipe to the 5l container. This proved to be semi-successful, with some leaks still occasionally occurring (possibly due to angle issues?). It also meant I had to untape and retape each time I needed to empty the bottle. I eventually gave up on about day 3 and joined Russ in peeing in the bushes.
On The Upside
It handled no 2’s just fine and didn’t stink at all. We even threw all our compostable kitchen scraps into the bucket! I thought I’d pushed it too far with the onion peels, but no odour at all, despite the heat and humidity with the toilet baking in the tent. Very impressed. We used wood shavings as covering from the local saw mill.
First Trial Summary
So the moral of the story is that I REALLY should have tested it out before we were in the bush for days on end. (Oh, retrospect).
The problems could have been (and will be) resolved very easily with a trip to the local hardware store.
I’m going to pick up some plumping piping and suitable containers for our next trip (and this time, I’ll test it out before we go).