How Do You Go To The Bathroom On A Boat

It’s tough to appreciate the convenience of a bathroom in your home until you spend a day on a boat.  When you gotta go, you gotta go but the lack of facilities, not to mention privacy, makes doing your business on a boat challenging.

Luckily, spending hours on a boat out fishing or partying doesn’t need to be uncomfortable.  Whether you need to pee or poop, there are ways to get the job done.   To make your next boating trip more comfortable, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide for the best ways to go to the bathroom on a boat.   

Let’s face it.  You can’t hold it forever, so keep reading to see how experienced boaters comfortably do their thing without a toilet.  

Do boats have bathrooms

In a perfect world, all boats would have a toilet (a.k.a. a head) for occupants to relieve themselves.  Unfortunately, built in bathrooms are expensive and limited to larger boats designed with overnight accommodations.

Most boats under 18 feet do not have a fixed marine head.  Larger vessels with a full cabin or smaller cuddy cabin will likely have some sort of portable toilet or self-contained marine head.  

Even if you know you’re going to spend the day on a larger boat, don’t get your hopes up.  Not all boat owners want their guests using the toilet.  Marine heads are self-contained and need to be manually pumped or dumped after each trip.  It’s a smelly, messy job that most boat owners prefer to avoid.  

It’s a good idea to ask about bathroom rules before stepping onboard a boat with a toilet.  Sometimes pee is ok but poop is probably off limits.  Try to find out that information ahead of time so you can come prepared.

How do you pee on small boats

The majority of people spending their days on the water won’t be in large, fancy boats equipped with toilets.  Even on small boats, we all need to answer nature’s untimely call.  While most of us can go without pooping for a full day, it’s unlikely you’ll make it without needing to pee.

So, let’s cut to the chase.  How do you go pee on a small boat?  In truth, the answer is different for men and women.  So, we will answer the question for each separately.

For men, peeing on a boat is as simple as turning your back, unzipping and peeing in a jar, bucket or over the side of the boat.  By far, the easiest container is a wide mouth plastic jar.  Empty mayonnaise jars or a peanut butter container with a screw on lid works perfect for men.  You can do your thing discretely and then seal it up and stow it out of the way to dump later.

Women don’t have it so easy.   A bucket or portable toilet is the most convenient means of peeing.  Problem is, the idea of “dropping trou” in front of friends or family makes most women squeamish.  In that case, an FUD or “female urinary device” is a viable solution.  With an FUD, ladies can pee in a jar too without the need to expose themselves.  

As an alternative, women can wrap a towel around their waist before squatting on a bucket.  We’ll cover privacy in more detail later.

Is it ok to pee in the water

While it is not necessarily illegal to pee over the side of your boat, it is frowned upon.  In some cases, peeing in the water is not permitted.  If you are spotted by authorities peeing over the side or dumping urine from a container, you could potentially get a citation or fine.  

On the other hand, most people look the other way.  Maybe you’ve heard the saying “dilution is the solution to pollution”.  A little pee in a big lake, river or ocean probably won’t hurt much.  This philosophy breaks down once you have hundreds of boaters all peeing in the water.  

As a best practice, pee in a bucket or jug with a lid and keep it on board your boat.  Once you get back to shore, dump it in a toilet at the launch or at home.  

In addition, peeing over the side of a boat is not always easy.  Not to mention, it can be quite messy.  Depending on the freeboard height of your boat, reaching over the gunwale could be problematic without dowsing your pristine boat with urine.  It’s also dangerous to lean over the side.  Especially, in rough conditions.    

No one wants to swim, fish or play in water contaminated with human waste.  Do your part to protect your favorite places and don’t pee in the water.

How do you poop on a small boat

I guess you could say poop is the great equalizer when it comes to doing business on a boat.  Both men and women are going to struggle finding a satisfactory method of pooping on a small boat.  

By far, the best system is to use the bathroom before you get on a boat.  However, it sometimes just isn’t possible to ignore the pressure from within.  

Here is our list of possible solutions for going poop on a boat without a toilet.  

  • Empty before you go – Obviously, if you are regular enough it shouldn’t be a problem to use the bathroom before you launch.  For everyone else, consider drinking a cup of coffee to get the ball rolling. 
  • Return to shore – Most boating areas will have some sort of bathroom facility at the launch.  Start your day close to the launch in case you need to go.  On undeveloped lakes, head to shore and find a private spot.  Keep in mind this is not the best solution.  Remember to bring TP and follow “leave no trace” practices.
  • Portable toilet – A portable toilet is probably the best solution for pooping on a small boat.  It’s a handy way to contain waste and keep things clean and odor free.  You will either need to find a dump station back on land or you can use your home toilet to empty it.  Never dump it in the water.
  • Use a bucket – A bucket is certainly not as pleasant as a restroom but it may be your only option.  You can also get a toilet seat lid to make it more comfortable.  Just point your boat in such a way that smells won’t blow to your passengers.  Snap an air tight lid on to avoid excess odors.
  • Solid waste bag – One step above the bucket is combining it with a solid waste bag.  This can be any sort of leak proof plastic bag.  There are also toilet bags specially designed for this purpose.  Line your bucket or potty chair with a solid waste bag and clean up will be much simpler.  Dispose of it in the garbage back at shore.
  • Just hold it – Unlike pee, it’s a little easier to hold your bowels.  It’s never good to hold in poop too long but if no other option appeals to you, it may be your best bet until you get to shore.  Eating light also helps to prevent added pressure.
  • Don’t go in the water – It might not seem like a big deal to just go in the water.  Even on a huge lake or in the ocean, small amounts of fecal material can have huge health impacts for people and wildlife.  Be considerate and find another solution before pooping in the water.

Small boat privacy

Finding a container to poop or pee in is the simple part.  It’s getting some privacy that’s the challenge.  The sounds and smells associated with the process cause embarrassment for both men and women.  

On a crowded boat and lake, there is no way to avoid it.  Everyone will know what you are doing.  It’s a good idea to establish an understanding with everyone aboard that returning to shore for potty breaks is okay.

When returning to shore isn’t possible, try to setup a designated bathroom spot on the boat.  Preferably situated below the gunwale of the boat to obstruct the view of surrounding boaters.  Other people on the boat can respectfully turn their backs and you can get the job done.  For added privacy, plus a little sound proofing, wrap up with a large towel then squat on the bucket.

One clever trick I learned from a friend is to use a poncho that drapes to your knees.  You can get cheap plastic ones for a few bucks at Walmart or other sporting good stores.  Just put on the poncho before pulling down your pants.  Then do your business.  

Pro Tip:  Avoid the clear plastic ponchos or it defeats the purpose.

Best portable toilets for small boats

Now days, sanitation and environmental considerations are important.  For that reason, portable toilets are essential if you plan to spend all day out on a pontoon boat or other small boat.

It won’t always be practical to go back to shore for a bathroom break.  Check out these 3 popular portable toilets to find one that’s right for you. 

Our top pickReliance Fold-to-Go Portable Toilet

For the ultimate potty solution on just about any small boat, the Reliance Fold-to-Go toilet is tough to beat.  Its compact design easily stows out of the way when not in use. Extendable legs support over 250 pounds of weight yet it has a low profile and comfortable seat that is perfect for boats.  

The Fold-to-Go uses attachable bags to contain waste.  It makes for mess free and odor free clean up.  Boaters confined to a small space will definitely appreciate the use of bags.  Purchase the Reliance Double Doodle Bags separately for a leak proof seal when the job is done.  

Great for pontoon boats Thetford Porta Potti 135

Thetford makes some of the highest quality portable toilets available and the Thetford Porta Potti 135 is no exception.  This flushable commode is well suited for party barges and pontoon boats.  Its 2.6 gallon capacity will handle a boat full of people for an entire day.  Deodorant treatment packs keep smells to a minimum.  Combined with the bellows flush system, the Porta Potti 135 is pleasant to use.

Disposing of waste after a day on the water is made easier with a rotating spout and leak free design.  You can expect several years of reliable use from Theford toilets. 

Enjoy outings on your pontoon boat even more by adding a WolfWise Pop-up tent for privacy.  Paired with the Thetford 135, you’ll have the best bathroom on the water.

Best valueReliance Luggable Loo

Want a simple, cheap and easy bathroom solution for your boat?  The Reliance Luggable Loo is exactly as it looks.  A 5 gallon bucket with a seat and lid for comfort.  Line it with a Double Doodle Toilet Bag and clean up is a cinch.  

The lid snaps on tight to prevent odors from escaping but it is not leak proof if tipped.  Still, you can’t beat the simplicity and cost.  Try scaling down to a 2 gallon bucket for a more packable toilet on small boats.  Either way, the Luggable Loo will serve you well. 

Parting words

Every year, thousands of people spend countless hours on boats enjoying the water.  Going to the bathroom on a boat goes with the territory.  Time spent with friends on the water should be fun.  Avoid bathroom anxiety on your next boating adventure by using some of the helpful tips in this article.