By Bob Difley
Containment of gray water from the shower and sink is the weak link in the chain of methods we boondockers use to lengthen our stay between trips to replenish resources or discharge waste. These trips, where we have to pack up, put all the stuff that has accumulated on counter tops and outside, back in their storage places and drive–often several miles–to a dump or water filling station, are a disagreeable disruption to our camping trip, often taking half a day or more to accomplish.
RV manufacturers, it seems, still install gray and black water tanks that are the same size, though the gray fills up much faster than the black. My guess is that they figure that most RVers plug in to campground hookups where the size of the tank is irrelevant. But for boondockers, the gray tank is usually vastly undersized. There is a way to overcome this dilemma without breaking the law (mostly, anyway) or acting irresponsibly toward the environment.
Use the following ideas with common sense. They will work while boondocking out on public lands, but are more limited in established Forest Service or BLM campgrounds, and not a good idea in private campgrounds. The main objective is to keep your waste gray water from getting into the holding tank in the first place. Location, situation, and other factors determine whether the idea is practical and responsible:
- Collect your dishwater, rinse water, and used spaghetti water in a plastic tub and carry out to a thirsty plant or tree.
- It is important that you wipe food bits off dinnerware, pots, and pans before washing so the bits do not get in your dish or rinse water and ultimately under a bush or tree where they will attract unwanted pests and wildlife.
- Always choose a different plant to dump the water on.
- Dump well away from your campsite–twenty yards or more.
- Buy a fitting for your dump cap that has a connection for a garden hose. Attach the hose and run out well away from your campsite for draining your gray tank.
- Place hose in a clump of bushes, at base of a tree, or dig a hole for the gray water to drain into. Fill hole when you leave.
- Buy a “Blue Boy” waste water container to dump your tank into, which you can then haul to the dump station.
- Collect your shower water that you run while waiting for it to warm up and use to flush toilet, cook pasta, or use as rinse water for dishes.
- If you are effective, the filling of the black water tank will be the deciding factor of when you leave. NEVER dump your black tank OR carry some off to dump away from your campsite.
- If you are still apprehensive about dumping your gray water, consult a ranger and explain exactly what you intend to do, how long you are staying, and follow his advice.
- LEAVE NO TRACE when you leave, no evidence that you have camped there, so the site is pristine for the next boondocker.
My new ebook is finished just in time for the annual snowbird migration to the desert. Check it out: Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts. You can also find additional boondocking tips on my Healthy RV Lifestyle website: