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Thetford portable chemical toilet - Porta Potti
Monday, 03 November 2008
It’s probably not the most popular subject of long distance overland travel, but having a portable toilet on board is quite a luxury. Specially in situations not very friendly to women, it’s quite a relief to not having to search for a toilet, especially in cities. A portable toilet comes with the issue’s of cleaning, maintenance and a few innovations. Here’s our story with a Thetford portable chemical toilet in continuous use for 3 years.

Thetford C200 Portable Cassette Toilet
Thetford C200 Portable Cassette Toilet
In European markets, the Porta Potti from UK based Thetford is quite a well known brand for chemical toilets in the consumer recreational market. Basically the potable toilet is designed for use during a few weeks a year during holiday times and can last for many years. So how does it do when used for over 3 years day in day out?  

We knew about Porta Potty’s from our previous 4x4 camper unit – a fully portable chemical toilet which can be taken out the camper unit completely. It’s small – with limited water and waste reservoirs. With a bit more space in our 10 ton 4x4 truck we looked for a semi-portable toilet – meaning a fixed installation with a removable waste reservoir.

Thetford Cassette C200 CW portable toilet

We chose a Thetford Cassette C200 CW model with revolving seat and 7 liter water reservoir, resembling a normal porcelain toilet of normal height. It’s a simple model with water handpump, waste release handle and a water reservoir full indicator. We added the optional ventilation kit to air the waste reservoir through the outside hatch.

Portable Toilet Installation

During installation the tricky part was installing the hatch for emptying the waste reservoir. It took a full day to get it right cutting through a wall of aluminum bodywork, wood and aluminum support frames. The cutting had to be first time right, no 2nd chance.

Portable Toilet Chemicals

Thetford Cassette ventilation kit
Thetford Cassette ventilation kit
From the start of our journey we started to get used to handling the toilet without the Thetford chemicals marketed in Europe. This chemical stuff (Certisan, Aqua Rinse, Yachticron, AquaKem) is unavailable from Greece and onwards so it makes no sense stocking up too much of it. We tried several normal household cleaning solutions with like bleach, toilet cleaners and so on. Nothing really did so well as Dettol – which we first found in Pakistan – Islamabad. A strong disinfectant lasting longer than other chemicals we used.

Thetford Portable Toilet experiences

After a year or so we lost the cover flap of the waste reservoir. And a few near misses with the water reservoir cap – almost loosing it in sewage pipes. Although we’ve been lucky, we could have easily taken an extra waste reservoir cap with us. Same for the cover flap of the waste reservoir.

Thetford C200 waste reservoir
Thetford C200 waste reservoir
Next the rubber seal of the waste canister started to loose it’s flexibility, causing smelly air leaks and embarrassing fluid leaks when carrying the waste canister.  We didn’t envision taking a spare, so we had one sent to Pakistan - just in case.

In the 2nd year the optional ventilation kit breather switch of the waste canister started leaking. Somehow it got clogged and needed cleaning. The breather switch contained a rubber seal of which we had no replacement. Luckily the rubber was in good shape.

In the 3rd year the handpump started to loose it’s pumping pressure. The mechanism is hard to reach without removing the whole toilet. We left it like this, with the added advantage the waste canister doesn’t have to be emptied that much. It was probably because of the cold in Iran and dirt in the water the rubber ring of the hand pump started to fade.

A strange solution from Thetford is the water canister filler cap with hinge on the bottom side of the flap. In several cases it nearly broke during filling, because it sticks out too much in an vulnerable position.  For rogue use it’s better to have the hinge on the left or right side, so it can be opened fully with a 180 degree angle.

Thetford portable toilet review

After 3 years we felt lucky the Thetford C200 lasted so long – we could have lost, broken many parts already, which we didn’t by sheer luck. Just in this week of the writing of this text we used our only spare part – the rubber seal of the waste canister. The old one started leaking too much causing the closing flap to open a little during driving.

It’s a pitty the waste canister is non-servicable. It just doesn’t open without ruining the reserovor. Making it serviceable would make it more reliable in rogue conditions.

Looking back we could have taken a few spare parts with us, however what parts to take and what not without really knowing the inns and outs of the Thetford C200 semi-portable toilet. Well this would be our spare parts list when we could have a 2nd go:

-    Two waste canister caps, Thetford order number: 25810 Measuring cup — Yellow
-    Two rubber waste canister seals, Thetford order number: 33361 Lipseal
-    One waste canister closing flap, Thetford order number: 33203 Sliding cover — Moon gray
-    One waste canister vent. Thetford order number: 33210 Automatic vent — Moon gray

Would the Thetford C200 portable last for another 3 years? Probably, but not without replacing the waste canister, the water handpump and likely the waste release handle. All mechanisms are made from plastic, probably to save on weight.

A new portable toilet would surely be one with a portable waste canister. Could be a Thetford again, however we would have a closer look at which parts to take on a long distance overland journey. Less seals, less mechanical parts and specially a more service waste canister.
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