Don has been an avid traveler and motorhome owner for most of his life. He shares his experiences along with valuable tips for RV owners.
Using Campground Restrooms Safely
If you’re an RV owner who travels with your RV and who regularly uses commercial campgrounds then you really do need to read this article.
It includes some accepted campground restroom etiquette along with some very good tips for you when you use a campground’s toilets.
It may be a boring or possibly even an uncomfortable subject for you, but there are some facts about those campground toilets that you need to know when you use them.
Sure, your RV probably has its own toilet and shower, but most RV owners, when given the option, will go to the campground restrooms most of the time; if for no other reason than the fact that the toilets and the showers are larger and roomier than what you have in your camper.
Plus, you don’t have to worry about loading up and dumping your black-water and gray-water tanks as often.
The relative Value of Toilet Paper
Today you can go to a gas station and find the cash register open and the toilets locked. They must think toilet paper is worth more than money.
— Joey Bishop
Common Campground Restroom Problems
There are some common campground restroom situations and even problems that you may run into when you use the campground’s facilities, but if you are pre-warned, you can work around these situations.
Face it, we’ve probably all been irritated at one time or another by certain common restroom problems when we go to use the campground restrooms. Some examples of what you might encounter are situations like;
- walking into a restroom and finding the toilet is stopped up,
- realizing too late that there’s no toilet paper in the stall you are using,
- finding that there are no hand towels available after you wash your hands,
- finding that the people coming in from the swimming pool have soaked the floor with pool water
- or, you might walk up and find that there’s a big OUT OF ORDER sign on the door of one of the toilets, or maybe the door of the restroom itself, forcing you to think of other options.
Of course, there are other nastier problems you might run into, like when you flush the toilet and it doesn’t—flush, that is. You stand there and watch as the water level just keeps going up until it’s right at the edge of what the bowl can hold, before it stops, hopefully.
But often, while you’re watching this happen, you’re standing there faced with either a full toilet or even worse, one that is starting to overflow right before your eyes. Then what do you do?
Or, you might walk into the restroom to find half the floor covered with wastewater and as far as you can tell, no one has done anything about the problem.
These are just some of the more common problems you might run into when you are using a restroom in a campground.
What you will learn here, are ways to guard yourself, as well as possible, against these things happening to you.
The Basic Rules of Plumbing
“There are three things a Plumber needs to know to do a good job; 1- Hot goes on the left, 2-Cold goes on the Right, and 3-Poop doesn’t run uphill!”
Understanding How Plumbing Works
First of all, let’s discuss the Rules of Plumbing that every plumber must know.
When you’re traveling the country and camping on mountains one week and on some coastline or riverside, the next, the problems you can often run into with the campground restrooms and toilets can be a result of the limitations of the campground plumbing systems themselves.
Long ago, my dad taught me a lesson that is still vivid in my mind and he used the “Three Basic Rules of Plumbing” to teach me this lesson. I won’t go into that story but let me explain these three basic rules that all plumbers know and always follow;
Campground Locations Contribute to Plumbing Problems
It’s this third rule of plumbing that makes the vast majority of coastal campground plumbing problems occur.
This is because the output from the toilets must be able to flow freely downhill to either the campground holding tanks or to the larger sewer systems of the local towns or counties.
You see, if your whole campground is only a few feet above sea level or the adjacent river, it's really hard to design the sewage lines of a large campground with a good enough angle of drop for the sewage to flow downhill to the holding tanks.
In a campground located in mountains or just hilly countryside, this isn’t such a problem, but in coastal areas, it is almost always a problem that they have to deal with as sewage backs up, and when it happens the blockages need to be cleared or pumped out regularly.
So, take note when you pull into campgrounds that are located in coastal areas, along rivers, or near swamps and are on low flatlands near these different types of water lands. These are the campgrounds that most often have sewage problems.
Restroom Designs and Your Body's Timing
Another thing a diligent camper needs to do is take a close look at the layout design of the campground they will be staying at.
How Many Campsites and Toilets Are Available
Count the number of campsites they have in the campground, and then count the number of restrooms and toilet seats they have available for the campground's population of campers.
Sometimes you will notice there an obvious potential shortage of toilets during certain hours of the day when the campground is crowded.
Face it; you, like your fellow campers, will typically need to use a toilet more often at certain times of the day, and this is usually: first thing in the morning, just before going to bed, and after eating dinner.
Think about it, and I believe you’ll agree these are the times of the day when restrooms are more crowded.
Because of these periods of the highest usage, you should try to plan your restroom breaks for other times of the day.
Restroom Checks to Make Before You Use One
If you are one of those people who are concerned about sanitation and cleanliness in the campgrounds you use, here is a list things that I can suggest you check before you use a campground toilet.
These simple tips can save you from possible embarrassment and frustration when you go to use campground toilets.
- Look for management problem warnings. As you approach the restroom, while standing at the front door, check and make sure there are no Official Warnings posted on the door itself. It’s better to find out about a problem before you go inside a restroom to use it.
- Test the drains. The sinks are almost always near the door, so walk over and run a little water in one of them while watching to be sure it is draining quickly. Remember it's attached to the same sewage lines as the toilets.
- Look for toilet paper. When you enter the toilet stall, check that there is adequate toilet paper in there for you. During rush periods of the day, this necessary accessory is often used up.
- Inspect the toilet. Immediately check that the toilet has been flushed and has clean water in it. Any residue in the toilet could be a sign of a stopped-up toilet drain.
- Test flush the toilet. Once you inspect the toilet you plan to use, flush the toilet and make sure it drains properly and quickly. Also, one trick you should use is to hold the handle down for a couple of seconds to make sure the toilet flushes properly.
- Now you’re ready to use the toilet with very little chance of there being any of the problems I have mentioned so far.
- Latch the door. Oh, and make sure you can latch the door to your toilet stall, if you value your privacy. For some reason, a lot of people will just push the door open before they even consider that someone might be in the stall already.
Report Problems to the Management
Something a lot of campers don’t understand is the fact that campground plumbing is often being used at its peak capacity during certain times of the day, and this in itself will sometimes cause problems.
Also, here’s a common-sense suggestion for any camper who sees a problem around the campground.
The campground management is often too busy to check that everything is functioning properly all of the time, so they really do appreciate it when a camper comes into the office and tells them that there is a problem in one of their restrooms.
Far too often, a person might actually be the cause of a stopped-up toilet, or a water leak, and they will just leave and not tell anyone.
When people don’t tell the management about a problem this could delay the problem from getting fixed for several hours, especially if others do the same and just walk away.
So, be a good and considerate camper, and tell the campground management about anything you see around the campground that might be out of the ordinary, especially if it’s the toilets.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on October 26, 2017:
Nancy - Thanks and I'm so glad you enjoyed my Hub. I hope others pay heed to the health perils lying in wait in many restrooms around the country.
Nancy Owens from USA on October 26, 2017:
What good advice for campers everywhere. Having a little basic knowledge and some bathroom supplies can solve a lot of problems. I would prefer to just have my husband solve the problem so I don't have to, Lol!
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on June 11, 2017:
There's a lot here to learn about public restrooms on campgrounds and other places. You give good, helpful instructions. Thanks.
Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on May 29, 2017:
Rachel I. Alba - Thanks for the nice comment, and I'm glad you think my suggestions might be valuable to other campers.
Have a great day! Don
Rachel L Alba from Every Day Cooking and Baking on May 27, 2017:
Hi Don, It's been a while! Well guess what, some of these problems exists at state parks too. We are going to one this Memorial Day and I will be remembering your advise about the restroom. Thanks and have a nice Memorial Day.
Blessings to you.
johnsmither from Sichuan, China. on May 26, 2017:
Interesting, well written article on some of the problems faced in a campground.