Conserve resources to extend boondocking days


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By Bob Difley

Most fulltimers spend the majority of their nights in RV parks and resorts. But as fulltimers become more experienced, they start to spend more time boondocking, just to be distanced from neighbors close by, campground noise, and to enjoy the scenery and solitude of more natural areas. And as they become more comfortable with boondocking, you begin to ask:”How can I spend more days where I am before having to dump my waste tanks, fill my freshwater tank, and recharge my batteries?”

The top three reasons — maybe four — why you may have to abandon your boondocking campsite are all the result of diminishing resources: (1) Your freshwater tank is sucking air, (2) Your black water holding tank is backing up into your toilet, (3) Your gray water tank is backing up into your shower, and (4) Your house batteries are flat dead.

Numbers (1), (2) and (3) are somewhat related. Most boondockers soon realize that (2) happens long after (1) and (3). So let’s forget number (2), since the alternative of filling the black tank is doing what bears do, but boondockers don’t.

So … common sense dictates that if you use less fresh water (1) then you can delay (3). Here are some ways to be stingy with your freshwater:

  • Collect running water while waiting for it to get hot in a plastic bucket or tub to use for rinsing dishes, cooking pasta, flushing toilet, etc.
  • When showering do the Navy shower: reduce flow rate, wet down, turn off, soap up, turn on, rinse off.
  • Rinse dishes in a plastic tub of water rather than under running faucet.
  • Turn off the faucet when brushing teeth and washing hands and face, then turn on to rinse.
  • Carry extra water in a 6-gallon Jerry jug to replenish your tank. Or buy a water bladder at a camping or marine supply store.
  • Stow the empty Jerry jugs in your tow or toad. When you drive it out for supplies or go exploring you can refill them at any water source.
  • Use a Sun Shower filled with stream water and placed in the sun to heat. Hang from a tree and use for showers and washing hands.
  • Rig up a rainwater collecting system that will feed water into your holding tank.

You will notice that even though all the above will save you water, the water used will still drain into your gray water holding tank. And I would bet that your gray tank is smaller than your fresh water tank, which means that if you don’t prevent some of that water from going into the gray tank, then that is what will determine when you have to leave. Unless you …

Collect your dishwashing and rinse water in plastic tubs and dump on thirsty plants well away from your campsite. HOWEVER: Do not do this in an RV resort or tightly spaced campground, only when boondocking or camping in primitive, well spaced out Forest Service or BLM campsites — and dump it well away from the campsite. Wipe plates clean of food bits before putting in wash water (food bits where you dump the water will attract rodents).

If you do accidentally fill your gray tank before you are ready to leave, run some of the excess off into a bucket and dump that on plants  — again, twenty yards or more away from the campsite, and change to a different plant each time you pour the water out.

You can find Bob Difley’s RVing e-books on Amazon Kindle.