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Tips to Conserve Water and Holding Tanks While Boondocking

It's All Fun And Games 'Til The Tap Dries Up
(Or The Toilet Overflows !)

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How long can you stay in a boondocking location? These tips will help you conserve water and waste tanks to extend your stay.

  1. When you fill your tanks with water, even at a reputable source, you can't always be sure of the water quality or if it tastes "good." Carry a separate container (ours is 7 gallons) for "good" drinking water. It has a spout and is fastened in place with a strong bungee-cord.
    When we find water that's potable but doesn't taste very good, we fill our main RV tank which we use only for washing and flushing. Then we purchase water to fill our drinking water container. It's cheap - $2.00 fills our 7 gallon tank at most water filtration kiosks.

  2. Use paper towels (Viva brand is strong, absorbent, and cheaper than other comparable brands) to wipe all debris from your dishes before washing them.
  3. Trying to conserve water when rinsing your dishes? Use a safe, vegetable-based dish soap (Simplicity is one brand - available at Walmart) so that rinsing is not as important.
  4. Use less dish soap - you won't have to rinse as much.
  5. Cook in easy-to-clean pots and pans. (e.g. Teflon coated)
  6. Conserve water by steaming your veggies (in about an inch of water) instead of boiling them.
  7. Wash dishes in a separate tub (that fits inside your sink), dump used dish water outside or down the toilet since the black tank always holds way more than the grey. If you don't flush with water every time you use the toilet, it's a good way to add more water to the black tank.
  8. Showers are a luxury for when you have easy water access. Otherwise, for daily hygiene, a sponge bath or “bird bath” as some call it, does the trick quite well.
  9. If you insist on a shower, "Navy Style" is the only way. (Wet down, turn water off, lather up and wash, then turn water back on for a quick rinse.) Showering in cold (or tepid) water is a good way to resist the temptation of drawing it out (and probably more true to actual navy style).
  10. Shower outdoors whenever possible to save on waste tank capacity.
  11. Install a water-saving shower head, preferably one with an on-off switch built into it (a dishwashing spray nozzle is great) to replace your RV shower head - it gives far greater control.
  12. Wash your hair using a non-shampoo method. (Try Dr. Huldas Clark's recommendation of Borax followed by a citric acid rinse which we've been using for 12 years). This conserves water because it won't require as much rinsing plus washing your hair outdoors won't harm the environment.
  13. Wear your hair short - it takes less shampoo and less water to wash and rinse it.
  14. While waiting for hot water from the tap, catch the running water in a clean jug to reuse it. If you're about to do the dishes, you could put the first (cooler) water in the rinse tub.
  15. Turn off the pump and don't use water to flush the toilet after every use. Instead, clean the bowl with a toilet brush and a spray disinfectant once or twice daily. If you insist on flushing with water, keep the pump turned off, and keep a jug of (already used once) water by the toilet. Catch water when you shower, or from washing your dishes for this.
  16. Don't run the tap while brushing your teeth. To wet your toothbrush, shave, or wash your face or hands, conserve water by turning the tap on to just a slow dribble.
  17. Use public toilets when available. In the desert or forest, unless local regulations don't allow it, go for a walk with a small camper's shovel in your pocket. Bury your waste at least 6 inches deep. Don't bury toilet paper because animals will dig it up. (Tent-campers do this, so why shouldn't you?)
  18. Even when you use your RV toilet, don't flush toilet paper. Instead seal it in plastic (keep used sandwich baggies or bread bags in the bathroom) and put in your garbage. This also reduces the amount of chemicals you need to add to your tank.
  19. Here's a novel idea: buy reusable plastic ice cubes - they conserve water by reusing the same water again and again and have an added bonus - chilling your drinks without diluting them.
  20. If parked near a creek or lake, conserve water by using clear stream water to flush your toilet. (I include this hint with a caution...you don't want any unseen, unknown "critters" invading your tanks.)
  21. Don't ignore a water drip or leak - repair it immediately.
  22. Laundry - small items like socks or underwear can be soaked (the longer the better) in a 5 gallon pail, then use your toilet plunger to churn them until clean. Otherwise laundry requires too much water and is best saved for a laundromat. Some RV catalogues sell a washtub called Wonderclean ($35.00). You fill it with water, add clothes and detergent, close it, and churn by hand. Reviews from other RVers say: "Don't buy it." Your clothes come fairly clean but it takes a lot of water to rinse the clothes and still more to clean the grime out of the washtub afterwards, and then there's the challenge of wringing the clothes out....
  23. Carry some (collapsible) water containers in your travel (toad) vehicle at all times. You may run across a water fill where you least expect it.

How Long Have You Stayed In One Boondocking Location?

And how did you conserve water and space in your waste tanks to do it?

Have some great water-conserving tips to share?

I compiled the above list from our own experience plus some suggestions from other RVers. Do you know of other unique ways to conserve water or waste tank capacity while boondocking? If so, we'd love it if you shared your tips with us and other visitors to the website.

Enter a title for your tip here.

What Other Visitors Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

The Bucket 
Take advantage of rain. A small plastic sheet and a bucket can provide an extra water source. I would not use for drinking (except in an emergency) but …

Think BBQ 
When water/waste water tank capacity is a concern, consider meals that BBQ and take no pans to clean. I wrap up the veggies & potatoes/bread/precooked …

2 Comments on Water-Conservation Suggestions 
1- Somebody suggested saving the water that runs when you're waiting for the hot water to come. We suggest to disconnect your hot water heater altogether! …

Bottle Shower 
Get 1 or 2 pop bottles (2 ltre.) In the daytime (when the sun is shining) lay these on the dashboard of your camper. To make a shower head, use an extra …

Washing Clothes 
We use a five gallon plastic cat litter container that comes with a lid. We put our dirty socks,underwear and a shirt or two, some soap and water into …

Flush Toilet With Grey Water 
Consider connecting an RV water pump to dump cap with a hose connection. Route a small water line to T at the inlet to your toilet, install one on/off …

Safe Drinking Water.... 
Hi Marianne, I enjoyed reading your advice and, yes, I had an experience which taught me to be careful where you drink the water on the road. I did …

Fighting Mold Problems 
We have had ongoing mold problems with our small fiberglass trailer after retreiving it from indoor but dampish winter storage each year. Spring ritual …

Boondocking Laundry Help 
While boondocking in NZ for 5 months, we met a man who customized RVs. One thing he added to units made us chuckle but was oh-so-sensible for long-term …

Campground Showers 
We usually forgo hook-ups, even when they are avaialable, but we NEVER pass up a chance to use the campground's showers. Besides conserving our own water, …

Handwashing Tip 
Every morning I put 2 or 3 inches of soapy water in a small plastic container and use it all day to wash my hands. This saves water as well as soap. Setting …

Cleaning the dishes quickly & using the least water 
Keep a spray bottle with white vinegar spray the dirty dishes with it, wait 30 seconds, whip them of with a paper towel; chances are that you will not …

more toilet tips 
We got a conventional toilet seat and a small folding camp stool. Combine the two and use a garbage bag over the seat to catch the waste. When you have …

Clean Hands and Face  
Baby wipes work great and can be burned in the fire.

Save Space in your Waste Water Tanks 
When boondocking, we can go two weeks before having to dump our tanks. How? Wash the dishes in a tub rather than the sink, dump the water on nearby …

Laundry Soap 
We lived off the grid on our sailboat for 14 years and are now on our RV. While on the boat, I used a toilet plunger dedicated to laundry as you suggested. …

Thermos Cooking 
Especially useful for pasta - Google "thermos cooking" for cooking rice/beans/grains with minimal water and energy. Need a quality stainless steel thermos, …

New (No-Wash / Save-Water) Pans 
Just recently I bought (at Winners and a good price)a CERAMIC fry pan. This one in particular, is made in Canada by Paderno and is non stick and non toxic. …

Plastic Spray Bottle - Paper Towels 
Use fresh drinking water in a plastic spray bottle to rense dishes, hands after soaping up, to cool down by spraying your face, put some dish washing soap …

Wonderclean? Yes! Yes! 
I used my Wonderclean weekly for 3 months this year, boondocking in Quartzsite. The key is to cut detergent down to 1/4 what you usually use. Don't use …

Extending the Power of Water 
Travelling, camping, boondocking all use so much water that we have to find, carry and monitor. To make that water go farther and do more, consider …

Help for Greasy Pans 
Greasy fry pans seem to take so much precious water to get them degreased and clean again when camping. If you sprinkle ordinary table salt in that …

Water Miser Pasta 
We love pasta while camping/boondocking but hate the huge use of water needed and the steamy fog created in out small RV. Years ago, I found this solution …

Free Hot Water 
Those solar showers are amazing! If you have a place to secure the bag of the solar shower on the top of your RV (roof rack with short wind protection …

Click here to write your own.

Spray Bottle Magic and Happy Feet 
TIP # 1 Seems hard to beleive but one can use a spray bottle (dollar store new or recycled windex type) containing clean cool or warm water to do an anytime …

Purifying water 
Water purification We've tried a number of purification systems. Most are expensive, bulky, heavy, complicated and output very little. Worthless and, …

Conserving Water 
1- You can fill your tank with water from just about any source, then sanitize it by adding 5cc of chlorine bleach per 10 gallons. When you want to use …

Check for Water Before you "Go". 
Am I the only one who has had the experience (in a johhny-on-the-spot or an airplane toilet) where I'm frantically pumping the foot pedal and flushing …

Showers And Laundry When Boondocking? 
Q. You're my heroes !!! I love your site. I'm almost 65, recently widowed and still working full time. Hope to retire to your lifestyle by the end of …

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