How Much TP?

One of the biggest dilemmas for almost every boat provisioning to head to wherever, is how much toilet paper to stock aboard.  After all, short of running out of rum, there could be no bigger tragedy than running out of toilet paper! Skip down if you just want to know how much to take with you & avoid the story…

The teak “door” to the right in the photo is our access to our mast enclosure. We unscrew all the screws, take off the door, stuff the space FULL of TP & paper towels & we’re good to go for at least six months!

When we initially provisioned to leave the US and sail from the Dry Tortugas to Mexico, through Belize and end up in the Rio Dulce, Guatemala – a six month cruise – I had read all the books.  I knew that I couldn’t buy toilet paper in other countries, particularly Central American countries, so I was ready.   I bought case after case of toilet paper (and paper towels) and stuffed them everywhere I could find a spot.  The largest stash was behind the cabinetry containing the mast — now THAT was a HUGE space!   And luckily dry.  I also stashed about 24 rolls in a cabinet in the head – every time I’d start to run low in that cabinet, we’d dismantle the mast enclosure and restock.  Our own built in store!

But after being out cruising for that first season, leaving the boat in the Rio Dulce, Guatemala,  I quickly discovered that in true commuter cruiser fashion, our return bags were filled with all kinds of boat parts and very little clothing.  But we simply had NO room for toilet paper to take back to the boat!  What do do!

We found that US brands were available in most of the major re-provisioning markets, albeit at a “special” price … i.e. you’d need to win the lottery to continue to restock US brands!  But then Scott came out with toilet paper that was almost as soft and comfy as Northern or Charmin and half the price, and only available in Central/South America — we’ve seen Scott bathroom tissue in the US, but never this particular type.  Hmmmm….

So we switched and I still stuffed the mast enclosure and my bathroom cabinet with TP.

It IS true you can get TP almost everywhere — even in the little Kuna tiendas (often out of the front room of their bamboo house) — in the San Blas Islands.  BUT you might be happier restocking in a major re-provisioning port — Cancun; Belize City or Placencia, Belize; Guatemala City (or sometimes Fronteras); Roatan; LaCeiba, Honduras; Panama City, Panama (or sometimes Colon – be careful, can be dangerous!) or Cartagena, Colombia.  Major re-provisioning ports usually have US brands, again, for a price; and also some alternatives that are just as satisfactory.

Think UP — don’t just put one layer – on this shelf in my head cabinet, there are 5 rolls across – one front and one back for a total of 10. Then there’s another layer. That makes 20 rolls. AND there’s still room on top to stuff 4-5 more rolls horizontally as you can see here. 24 rolls – in one small space. These are Cottenelle big rolls, not the small dinky ones.

When trying out a new brand of TP – local or Scott, buy one roll — or maybe a couple.  Try it out & see what you think.  If you like it, go back and stock up.  Believe me, they are NOT created equal!   🙂

The very best way to KNOW how much TP you’ll need is to do an inventory before you move aboard — or if you’re already living aboard, albeit not off cruising yet, do it aboard.  Literally count EVERY roll of TP you use in a week for a several week period.  That way you’ll know how much TP it takes to supply your families’ TP habit.    🙂

For our Bahamas cruise last winter we stocked 24 rolls of TP for 3 months or 12 weeks – average of 2 per week.  We actually were only gone 7 weeks, and came back with plenty, although I didn’t actually count rolls when we returned.  The nice thing about only stocking 24 rolls, is they all fit in my head cabinet and we didn’t need to dismantle the mast enclosure for storage!

In a larger shot, you can see that there’s plenty more room on the lower shelf for more TP, but instead we keep extras down there — extra soap, extra shampoo, extra ibuprofen, extra toothpaste & deodorant, etc.  Oh, and the hair dryer which is used for defrosting the fridge!

The BAD thing about putting all 24 rolls in one place … IF that compartment developed a leak, we could have 24 rolls of soggy unusable MESS and NO available toilet paper.  However, since that compartment has never leaked, we’ve become complacent.  If you want to do it RIGHT, distribute your toilet paper to two or three different storage locations so that if you happen to take a stray wave that forces it’s way into a normally dry spot, you’ll still have alternative TP!

Look on the bright side, you could be living with a “TP Ogre” — one boat we knew insisted upon never using more than 4 squares — 4 SQUARES!   Now that’s a TP Ogre!!!   🙂   Of course, I live with an “Amp Ogre” and I guess I prefer that to the TP Ogre…   most days….





  1. When storing TP had you considered flattening the rolls to increase storage capacity or purchasing the paper with out the centre cardboard tube.


  2. I was wondering if you couldn’t store them in a space bag to remove all the air and add the waterproof factor? As a last resort there’s always the bidet concept – a squirt bottle filled with water like the Europeans.

    S/V Kintala

  3. Do you use household toilet paper aboard? I always use special boat/RV toilet paper on our boat and use Scott one ply at home to protect my septic system. Have I been missing out on using decent TP all these years?

Speak Your Mind