Here is an assortment of things we use, or ways we manage the systems on board the RV. It is intended to offer a few tips on a way of doing things that works for us (and most times a reason why), keep in mind there is no one right way for a lot of this but many right ways. Depending on objectives and how you roll, there may be a better way for you. I will try to identify WHY these are the ways we do what we do for your consideration.
When we started our journey as Full Timers our thoughts were leaning toward a lot of dry camping, out in the wilds of the desert bush in the Southwest and Western part of the USA. We had prepared for that with an eye on those things that would make life easier in an undeveloped campground. For the fresh water and waste water that required a bit of equipment and some thinking of what we would be faced with. Our ‘style’ has evolved differently than that first bit of thinking but we are mostly ready and able to dry camp anytime and anywhere we want and not miss a beat. We do not yet have a solar system, time will tell if we take that next step or not. The following will tell the story: The FRESH tank
Our on board fresh water tank in the 5er is 80 gallons. We use it exclusively. We never connect to the ‘city’ water connection at an RV park or anywhere else. Why? Water pressure can vary wildly from one location to the next. We know of too many instances where a water line in the rig has been blown apart and you end up with a real mess. I know there are regulators that take care of the problem but why mess with it? More stuff. No thanks. There are many reasons to use the fresh tank as we do and I know a number of FT’ers who do the same.
Here is a summary of those reasons:
- Keeps the tank fresh
- Use keeps the pump working
- The pump can serve as an alarm – if it runs when it is not supposed to, you have a leak.
- Filling the fresh tank is a good way to keep track of when to dump waste tanks, more on that later.
- No need to have any heated hose. You do have to fill in the cold if you are in the cold but we try to avoid being – in the cold. LOL
- Not connecting to ‘city’ water completely avoids the catastrophic mess that can happen when water lines are blown apart from the pressure being too high. I like avoiding catastrophes.
So if you are dry camping you only have the fresh tank to rely upon, there is no hose bib out in the bush. We also planned so that we did not need to move the rig in order to get the tank filled. Here is how: 25 gal portable fresh tank in the back of the truck.
We have a 25 gallon tank outfitted with a 12 volt pump. This tank is just in front of the hitch in the back of the truck. We filter water going in and can pick up a load of water when we go get supplies or on a sight seeing tour etc. Pump it into the 5er when we get back or when ever we need to. This works great and eliminates the need to move the 5er when we need water. Great if you are out in the middle of lonesome and all settled in. The filters
I have these filters we picked up at the hardware store. Outfitted them with hose connections in and out along with caps to keep dirt out when not being used. The first in line is a string filter, the second is charcoal. They go with me when we fill the portable tank. Remember to drain them if you ever think it will not get cold enough to freeze. I thought that once and had to replace them the next day! That’s the story on the fresh water. Works for us. _________________________________________________________________ Waste water – the GRAY tank
Here is a topic that gets a lot of chit flying every time I see anything about it posted on Facebook. If you don’t agree, OK, but here is how and why we do what we do. And keep in mind – it works. Gray water first, we dump gray water every time we add fresh water. We NEVER leave the valve open and let it drain as we use it. Food waste gets in there and can accumulate and dry out causing problems over the long run, so we treat dumping the grey tank the same as the black tank, ALWAYS dump when nearly full. There are some areas that have no problem with dumping gray water and it is OK to do. Gray water is actually good for the soil/plants etc. We do not use any harsh chemicals in either waste tank so there are no poisons or toxic waste being discharged which would be a concern if we did use that junk. Now I am not saying we do discharge anywhere we have only discharged the gray tank when we were in the boonies and there were no prohibitions on that practice.
The BLACK tank
Here is where the chit really hits the fan on FB! We follow the logic that if we did not eat it, it does not get flushed. A can with a lid and can liner is the answer to the waste paper issue. Reason is that there are way too many examples of folks who have had clogged pipes and tanks from paper. EVEN if you are doing things ‘right’ it is something that can ‘sneak’ up on you and bite you hard. Little bits are left behind and if they are left behind after the valve outside the tank, they dry to a hard mass. Those dried hard masses grow every time you dump the tank. Eventually it will build up and be a plugged up mess. We don’t invite those messes. So in a nutshell, always start the black tank with 4 to 5 gallons of water after you dump. More water is the key to avoiding problems, especially if you choose to flush your one or two or what ever ply paper… Never dump the black tank until it is at least 3/4 full. When you dump, if there is sufficient water it will carry the bulk of solid waste out of the tank leaving very little behind. If you dump a tank that is not very full there will be a much reduced flow and less of the solids will be carried out. Using the fresh tank as a gauge of sorts, I will dump the black tank on average one time to every five times the fresh tank is filled.
Emptying the tanks and Dry Camping
Well this applies to dry camping for sure but there have been many many times we were in a campground and have used some combination if not all the same resources as if we were dry camping. Here is how: The Honey Badger
In the days we were planning for FT, I knew that I wanted a macerator pump. I had replaced many 12 volt pumps on the boat and just did not want to deal with that so after thinking of possible alternatives this is what I came up with. Simple, a brass hose bib at the discharge. A clear 45 degree fitting on the inlet, attached with self tapping bolts and a dose of plumbers putty around the seal. A 6” flex hose made up with proper fittings and you’re in business. This will pump at least 6’ uphill and that is through a 1” 50’ garden hose. Since we carry a generator we are self sufficient and can use this even when boondocking. As I said there were many times when we needed it in a campground. Either there was no sewer connection at the site or the blue boy was too big and not ‘downhill’ enough to work. You ask ‘OK where do you pump it to?” Watch this: As with the fresh tank in the back of the truck, we always have the blue waste tank in the back of the truck also. It is a Barker Tote Along 27 gallon tank and fits nicely just behind the hitch. We do have a full size bed (long box). A replacement cap with a hose fitting and a female to female fitting on the end of the hose we can pump from the 5er to the blue tank with no problems. Drive to a dump station and we’re done, 27 gallons at a time, and since our waste tanks are 40 gallons each it does take a couple of trips to completely empty. We simply take a load every time we go someplace if we are dry camping. Works great. By the way I have since learned the problem with the 12 volt pumps wearing out so often on the boat was probably due to a weak battery. Keep your batteries charged in order to not burn out electric motors! As far as chemicals go, all we use is Dawn dish soap, Calgon and once in a while some Rid X. You don’t want to use bleach as it will dry rubber seals and also will kill natural enzymes that help digest solid waste. We never buy the treatment chemicals sold by RV stores as many contain Formaldehyde which is poison and that as well as many other harsh chemicals are causing problems (from the EPA) for campgrounds and municipal treatment systems, why add to that. This is not to mention the high price of the chemicals also. Dawn and Calgon work great.
For a great and more detailed look at the use of Dawn and Calgon, check what the folks over at Wheeling It said a while back.
RV Digest It is a product that can help unclog a fowled tank if you are ever in need of a solution to that problem. Link has been added below.
That pretty well sums up the story on our approach to water systems management in the FT RV lifestyle.
This post will soon be converted to a page (if I can figure out how to do that) and I will add to it with a post on our approach to Electrical issues next. I’ll need to get all charged up for that one, (get it)!!
Till then, remember TurnWhenTheRoadDoes.com
I forgot to mention the shower head, it’s a water saver but you would never know it!!!