By Dave Helgeson
I have been around RVs all my life. My family entered the “trailer” business in 1937, manufacturing their own brand of trailers, with my parents eventually running their own dealership where I was first employed. Later my wife and I started our own RV dealership, eventually closing that and producing RV shows to the present time.
Back in the BC days (before color photos) you really didn’t need a 12-volt battery in your unit (everything was manual or LP powered), and the term “RV” hadn’t yet been coined. “House trailers” only had a holding tank for the toilet, and sink (gray) water just ran freely on the ground or you dug a “gopher hole” to contain it – and often the contents of the black tank, too, via a lone sewer hose.
As a young boy who liked to play in the dirt, watching “gopher holes” being augured in the ground at Airstream rallies hosted by the Wally Byam Caravan Club International (WBCCI) was the highlight of the outing for me. Click here for a historical recap of the club including the use of gopher holes.
When we sold an “RV” at the dealership we always included a starter kit that included a non-toxic water hose, some portable tri-pod stabilizers and ONE sewer hose to get people started camping. As fifth wheels entered the scene and center baths started to become popular, we would sometimes suggest to buyers of those rigs that they may want to carry a SECOND sewer hose as most campgrounds at that time located the sewer hookup at the back of the space.
Now, I haven’t retailed an RV in 23 years, but believe I have been staying abreast with the most recent “improvements” in the RV industry via the RVs I see at RV shows and reading trade magazines both online and in print. I also haven’t been staying at campgrounds and RV parks as frequently as I once did as my preference has migrated to camping in the boondocks.
Recently my wife and I decided to join my son and his family camping in a full hookup campground, the first one we had camped at in over a year. As I was escorting my grandson around one of the campground loops on his tricycle, I was rather shocked to see some RVs using THREE and even FOUR sewer hoses! The occupant of one RV using four sewer hoses seemed to lack the concept of gravity and I was rather disturbed thinking where the contents from the black tank would settle.
Reflecting on my over-fifty years being around RVs, I began to think, is this really where advances and “modern convenience” have brought us? Would I want to deal with dumping and flushing 30–40 feet of sewer hose? Where does someone store that many sewer hoses? Are they doing so in a sanitary way or just throwing them in a storage compartment? Yuck!
In the future, maybe someone will invent a system that will instantly incinerate the contents of your gray and black tank with the push of a button – eliminating the need for sewer hoses completely. Oh, wait! They did! Fifty years ago it was called a Thermasan (marketed by Thetford), returning recently as the ThermalTreat Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) Sewage Elimination System. Neither of these products caught on or posed a threat to the venerable sewer hose.
Until the next best thing comes along to eliminate the need for sewer hoses, I think I will continue to live in the dark ages with my rear bathroom RV and one sewer hose. In the rare instance where I am in a campground where my 10-foot sewer hose won’t reach (typically when the sewer hookup is in the middle of the camp space designed for RVs with center baths), I just dump as I back into the space and then dump again as I exit the space days later.
So I ask you, the readers of RVtravel.com: How many sewer hoses does one need? Is the need to carry multiple sewer hoses really a convenient advancement in RV design or a necessary evil?
Please share your thoughts using the comment box below.