Grooverology: The Complete Groover Guide

Grooverology: The Complete Groover Guide

Matt Gerhardt

As part of the Leave No Trace ethic, it’s protocol to pack out all waste, including of the human variety. Camp toilets, or “groovers” (don’t worry – these were only aptly named until a seat was added) are plastic, toilet-height, holding tanks for waste which are highly portable for moving from camp to camp. Originally named for the marks the can left on your rear before a seat was added, “groovers” have evolved to become quite the cushy luxury as far as outdoor sanitary solutions. They are often required for permitted stretches and are especially handy for longer trips and large groups. Pay attention to the capacity of the groover you bring and make sure other groover owners are on your invite list if you’ll be needing more than one. We recommend the Portable Camp Toilet System, rated for 60 uses (most groovers will be rated for around 50).

Groovers vs Wagbags

For large groups and long trips with ample boat capacity, you can't beat the comfort and holding tank capacity of a proper groover. Smaller options like the Boom Box have the same functionality with slightly less capacity and fit conveniently into an ammo can, saving lots of space with it’s squared off shape. For self-supported kayak trips and pack rafting, look into bringing a Wag Bag system, which wins a higher score for packability. The bags are biodegradable, double-bagged, and deodorized for water-tight, smell-proof waste collection. They’re sold in packs of 12 and single use options so you can buy what you need for the length of your trip, and have the option of a briefcase-sized, folding Clean Waste Toilet Stand if you have the space. Use a rigid, waterproof container like an ammo can to pack out the used bags. When using a wag bag system, check the rules and regs on your permit or of the wilderness area where you’re headed to ensure your setup is approved for use.

Loo with a view

When you set up camp, find a secluded, accessible place with a great view of the river to set up the loo. Along with the groover, have plenty of TP in a rainproof container within arm’s reach, along with a trash receptacle, and hand sani. A handwash station set up with antibacterial soap is handy to have in the social area near the groover path, where folks can properly wash up on their return.

Stay on the trail

You’ll want your lav locale to be secluded but careful not to make it a Mensa-level mind puzzle. This not only helps to avoid emergency, late night groover hunts but sticking to a pre-worn path also minimizes the impact on the landscape.

Groover log

It’s not what you think! Keep a logbook near the camp toilet and capture the thoughtful musings, nature sketches, or eccentric graffiti of your crew during their time on the can.

Number 2 and TP only

Pee is heavy! Keep your groover use to #2 and TP only for easy transport. For boys it's easy to pee in the river. For girls, it is key to have a Pee Bucket, a 5-gallon bucket next to the groover to pee in before you go #2. Simply throw the pee into the river when packing up in the morning. If we all went behind the nearest bush, our campsites would start smelling like a third-day-of-Bonnaroo porta-potty pretty quickly...

“The Solution to Pollution is Dilution" 

Although this mantra is thankfully outmoded when it comes to large-scale waste management in our oceans, the idea still holds up on a smaller scale. Our rivers are often located within fragile, dry ecosystems in areas that don’t see rain for long stretches. So to not leave a urine-scented scar for months or years to come, do your thing in the river or on wet sand on the river’s edge where it can be diluted and washed downstream. If the river isn’t easily accessible from camp, keep a pee bucket near the groover to be emptied into the river in the morning (so no TP, please!). The Coyote Toilet System seat fits well on a 5-gallon bucket, so it can be easily moved back and forth based on the user’s need. If your beer intake might call for more than a few late-night whiz seshes, consider bringing along a collapsible dog bowl or some other container that you can go in by your tent throughout the night without having to frequent the dark groover path.

The key

Establish a “key” such as a paddle to let people know when the groover is ocupado. Use a paddle as a door, if the paddle is obstructing the path, the groover is in use. If not, you are free to take care of business. 


Feminine products do not process well in groover cleaning and must be disposed of separately. A brown paper bag inside of a ziplock works well, and even better if you put some baking soda inside the bag. Ladies, be prepped with your own Pon Box for when you’re out on the river and not at camp. The Pon Box is your own personal supply of tampons, wipes, the aforementioned ziplock bag, and hand sanitizer – The essentials for having Aunt Flo join you on the river!

“Last call!”

Give your group a solid heads up before the groover gets packed in the morning. Last call is usually synonymous with groover rush hour. Try to schedule your groover use for any other time than right before jumping in your boat.

Potty training

If your group is new to boating, have a session when you first drop camp to cover the above to avoid any messy mishaps.

Boat placement

Disperse your groovers and groover supplies across multiple boats so your group’s needs will be hopefully be met even in a worst case scenario. Pack the groovers away from food supplies and water jugs. Especially on long stretches and hot days, even the tightest sealed groover can smell less than pleasant and may be a good candidate for riding in the back of your boat, furthest from your passengers.


The 4Corners Riversports shop offers cleaning services for a nominal fee if you’re in the area. If you hail from another part of the world or fancy yourself a DIY-er, grab the appropriate plugs and hoses, latex gloves, and disinfectant of choice, and head to the nearest RV dump station. With a bit of luck, especially on stretches in Idaho and Montana, your takeout may be equipped with a SCAT machine, specifically designed for groover clean up. Bring cam straps to strap in your groover, insert a few dollars cash, and the machine takes care of the rest. Bring a good supply of dollar bills or quarters as you may need to run it more than once.

In the end...

It's all about being as comfortable as possible while also protecting our beautiful natural lands. So take a seat, enjoy the view, and enjoy the rest of your trip!

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