Yes, composting toilets are allowed in LTVAs as long as you camp within 500 feet of a restroom facility, or have an additional permanent waste holding tank of at least 10-gallons in size. Only a few of the Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVA) operated by the Bureau of Land Management have restroom facilities. Otherwise the rule for all LTVAs is that each vehicle be self-contained.
Are Composting Toilets Allowed in LTVAs?
If your vehicle does not have a permanent waste holding tank for raw sewage then you can only camp within 500 feet of a restroom facility. This is a rule adopted by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for all of its Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVA).
Only three (3) LTVAs currently have restroom facilities: La Posa, Mule Mountain, and Imperial Dam.
Therefore all other LTVAs do not allow vehicles without a permanent waste holding tank.
The Self-Contained Camping Unit Concept
The Bureau of Land Management requires that all visitors staying at an LTVA camp inside of a “self-contained camping unit”. This is effectively a vehicle such as an RV, van, or car, that has a “permanent waste holding tank”.
The idea behind this goes back to 1983 when the BLM launched the LTVA program. Portable toilets and composting toilets were uncommon in vehicles back then. The BLM did not want people pooping in holes or peeing in bushes at their LTVAs. Thus became the rule. It’s unlikely the BLM will make any accommodations for composting toilet users because they are slow to adapt to progress in RV technology.
What is a Permanent Waste Holding Tank?
It’s a tank that is permanently fixed to the vehicle itself, and not the toilet.
Toilet Does Not Have to Drain Directly Into the Tank: The way the BLM wrote the rule, the toilet does not have to drain directly into a permanent waste holding tank. It only says your vehicle has “must have” a permanent waste holding tank. This means you can still have a composting toilet as long as you have an additional tank to store sewage, and can demonstrate its ability to accept sewage and store it in a way that doesn’t harm the environment.
Here is the Actual Rule From the BLM
17. Self-Contained Vehicles. a. In Pilot Knob, Midland, Tamarisk, and Hot Spring LTVAs, you may camp only in self-contained camping units. The La Posa, Imperial Dam, and Mule Mountain LTVAs are restricted to self-contained camping units, except within 500 feet of a vault toilet or rest room.
b. Self-contained camping units must have a permanent affixed waste water holding tank of 10-gallon minimum capacity. BLM does not consider port-a-potty systems, systems that utilize portable holding tanks, or permanent holding tanks of less than 10-gallon capacity, to be self-containedLong Term Visitor Areas, Supplementary Rules, BLM
If I Only Have a Composting Toilet, Can I Still Camp at an LTVA?
Yes, but only in the following situations…
- You are camping at an LTVA that has a restroom facility. This could be a permanent restroom facility, such as a pit toilet, or a porta-potty. However, you will be required to camp within 500 feet of that facility.
- Attach a storage tank to your vehicle for the purpose of holding composting waste. The tank has to be at least 10-gallons in capacity, and it has to be permanently attached. This could be as simple as a garbage can bolted into the bed of your pickup truck. We don’t know of anyone who has done this, but if the camp host approves it, let us know.
Can I Still Get Away With a Just Composting Toilet?
That’s tough to say. When you arrive at an LTVA, you are required to check-in with the camp host. One of the questions the camp host is required to ask you is if your vehicle is self-contained. If you answer “no” and explain that you have a composting toilet, they are required to turn you away.
However, we’ve camped in LTVAs before and we have witnessed many vans being accepted in. Our assumption is that they told the camp host “yes”, that their van is self-contained, though we tend to think they lied.
It’s probably also depends on camp hosts themselves. Some may be very militant about enforcing the rules, while others may be much more lenient.