Letter Re: Toilet Facilities for Plan B

James Wesley;
In building our retreat, we will have multiple modern bathroom facilities in various buildings. The septic system was recently installed. However, we are thinking for long-term situations that a more primitive back-up would be desirable just to have on the property. So, the question is: Which is better: An outhouse that could utilize fireplace and oven wood ashes and simply relocate as time dictates or a composting toilet? We have researched both outhouses and composting toilets. We can see reasons to have either.

Interestingly, this old property only ever utilized cesspools. They are dried up and have composted all material that was ever in them.

I know there is a wealth of knowledge in the SurvivalBlog readership concerning both methods. Over the years, readers have submitted articles on outhouses and composting toilets. My question is, from personal experience, do people have a preference and why?

Thanks! – S.A.

JWR Replies: I can answer that question, but perhaps some readers will want to chime in.

Because composting toilets use an ongoing “live” process they are not suitable for infrequent use.  If you stop using one for more than a few days, the good bacteria die and you often end up with a clogged, stinking mess. So they are only really suitable for continuous use.

They also require a ventilation fan, and that represents a daily drain on your alternative power system.  For that reason alone, I would recommend using a traditional outhouse for backup, with sprinklings of slaked lime powder, or ashes to control odors and insects.

Outhouse construction and operation has been discussed at length in SurvivalBlog, most recently in the October, 2013 article: Your Retreat’s Privy, by Stephanie M.