We’ve assembled 30 tips on how to make your RV’s water supply last for a month, or maybe even longer. If your goal is to boondock in the same place for as long as possible, and save money from having to burn fuel moving your RV to a new site, then read on…
30 Tips to Make Your RV’s Water Tank Last for a Month
Making your RV’s water supply last as long as possible is a boondocker’s key strategy for saving money. It’s not so much the cost of water as it is the cost of moving your RV out of camp to refill its water tank. The less fuel your RV burns, the more money you save.
These are tips we’ve used ourselves as well as tips we’ve learned from others…
Best RV Toilet Practices
- Be Quick With the Toilet Pedal – One second is about all it takes to flush down urine. If you hold the pedal down any longer, you’re just wasting fresh water.
- Flush Your Poop With Urine – If you let your urine accumulate in the toilet bowl, you can use that to flush poop. When it’s finally time to flush, you’ll only need one to two seconds holding the pedal down, and there won’t be any skid marks left behind.
- Clean the toilet with spray cleaner, not with water. Use a couple paper towels to clean up, then toss into the trash or fire pit.
- Wipe With Wet Wipes – Instead of cleaning yourself with toilet paper, use wet wipes. Many boondockers do this because they see it as a good opportunity “wash” themselves down there so that they don’t have to spend water showering.
Water Pump Management
- Leave the Water Pump Off – You’ll be surprised how often you instinctively reach for the water faucet. This will help you get into the habit of using less water. By leaving the pump off you can train yourself to think before you react.
- Don’t Leave the Water Running – For example, when washing your hands, don’t leave the water running. Turn it on only when you’re ready to rinse. The same with brushing your teeth, washing dishes, etc.
- Fix that Leaky Plumbing– If you hear your water pump turning on and off every 30 seconds or so, it means you have a leak in your plumbing. The good news is that it’s not always a leaky pipe. It’s often a failure of the water pump itself, allowing the pressure to backfill into the intake line. However, you still need to verify this and make sure you don’t have water soaking into your floor.
- Take Navy-Style Showers – You probably already know about this tip. You should never leave the water running while showering. Turn it on once to get yourself wet, then lather up and wash. Finally, turn the water back on to rinse. This will save you a lot of water. Learn more about taking a shower while boondocking.
- Don’t Shower Every Day – Many boondockers will go a week, even longer, without showering. It’s actually healthier to take fewer showers. This is because constantly removing your skin’s natural oils will dry it out and create tiny cracks. Bacteria, viruses, and fungus spores can enter your body through these cracks. Otherwise, your skin’s natural oils traps these pathogens and keeps them suspended on the surface.
- Use a Water-Saving Shower head – This is a common piece of advice, but our personal experience is that if you master the art of the “Navy Shower”, the difference in water savings seems nominal over a new shower head.
- Capture Your Hot Water While It’s Warming Up – When you first turn on the hot water faucet, don’t let the initial cold water drain into the gray tank. Place a plastic storage tub in the shower and capture that water.
- Wash Yourself with Wet-Wipes – This is one of those “huge” tips that almost all veteran boondockers do. In fact, many boondocking women rely on this. Otherwise, they only actually shower once every 7 to 10 days.
Capture Your Gray Water
- Capture Your Shower Water – Most boondockers with smaller water tanks make a habit out of this. They place a plastic storage tub in the shower and then stand in the tub when showering. They can use the captured gray water for flushing a toilet, extinguishing a campfire, watering a house plant, etc.
- Wash Dishes in a Tub – However, don’t start by filling up a tub with fresh water. Instead, start with an empty tub in your sink. Then, use water conservatively by turning on the water to rinse, then turning off immediately. After several dishes, you will have enough water captured to rinse off the remaining dishes.
- Brush Your Teeth in a Cup – This is how tent campers do it. After you’ve finished, you can either save the water with your shower water (see above), or pour it on a thirsty plant.
- Wash Dishes in a Tub – Just like we said above (under “Capture Your Gray Water”), use a tub to wash dishes; don’t just use the running water.
- Don’t Wash After Every Use – There’s no need to wash a plate, pan, or knife with soap and water after each use. You can use a dry paper towel and wipe it off. That is, if you wipe it clean immediately after using it, you won’t have to scrub or soak.
- Use Paper Plates and Plastic Ware – Honestly, this is what most full-time boondockers eat off of. Instead of having to wash dishes, they can toss their dirty paper plates into the campfire. The same with plastic utensils. Many boondockers will reuse the same paper plates and plastic ware if still reasonably clean.
Save Your Melted Ice
- Don’t Dump That Melted Ice – If you brought an ice chest with you, and that ice has finally melted, you can use that water to wash dishes, brush your teeth, flush a toilet, or fill your pet’s water dish.
- Buy a Water Filter Jug – You can drink your melted ice water, obviously. But if you’re concerned about the specs of debris floating in this water, then buy a water filter jug. The Brita Water Pitcher (see it on Amazon) is popular for its low price point, but if you want to impress your boondocking friends, invest in a Berkey Gravity-Fed System (see it on Amazon)
Buying Bottled Water
- Buy Bottled Drinking Water – Most boondockers will buy flats of bottled water at Costco or Sam’s Club, or will buy one-gallon jugs of water, just for drinking. It’s not so much that they don’t like drinking the water in their RV’s water tank, it’s that they see it as a way to supplement their storage. They will still drink from the water tank if needed.
- Buy Jugs with Screw-On Lids – Most one-gallon jugs come with “press-on” lids, which will often pop-off if the jug falls over during transit. Also, take note of which jugs are made with thicker plastic, and hold on to these jugs for reuse.
- Don’t Dump Unused Bottled Water – It’s common to find a water bottle sitting around with a little bit of water left in it. Don’t dump this water just because you don’t know who drank from it, or how long it’s been sitting. Save it with your gray water, or use it for making coffee, or pour it into your water filter jug.
Keep Several Empty Water Jugs on Hand
- Store Your Filtered Water – Should you find yourself creating a lot of filtered water (see “Buy a Water Filter Jug” above), you can store this water for later use. Make sure to get water jugs with screw-on lids (not press-on), to ensure they don’t pop off. You can also refill these jugs at coin-op water dispensers.
Doing Laundry While Boondocking
- Go to the Laundromat – Most boondockers we’re aware of will visit a laundromat to wash their clothes. This way they are not using their own water, nor are they using their own electricity.
- Use the 5-Gallon Bucket Washing Machine – Otherwise, if you have to wash clothes at camp, pour a couple gallons of water into a 5-gallon bucket, and wash your clothes in there. A toilet-bowl plunger works best as an agitator (buy a separate plunger just for this). In lieu of using water from your RVs water tank, use water you’ve captured from your gray tank, or melted water from your ice chest.
- Change Clothes Only After Showering – If you’re going to shower once a week, then it makes sense to put on clean clothes only after showering.
- Go Naked – You’ll be surprised how many boondockers do this. They keep some kind of loose, easy-to-throw on clothes readily available if someone comes by. Learn more about nude camping.
Buy a Water Tank Bladder
- A Water Tank Bladder is an inflatable tank sold in various sizes, from 15 gallons up to 100 gallons (see it on Amazon). You place it in the back of your pickup truck and fill it up with a garden hose (such as those at dump stations). This saves you from having to pack up camp when your RV’s water tank runs out.
- You can either draw water directly out of the water tank bladder, or use an in-line pump (see it on Amazon) and hose to refill your RV’s water tank. Probably 10% of the full time boondockers do this.