Wednesday, September 27, 2023


How to handle water needs when boondocking

Here’s a question from a reader of about boondocking. 

Hi Bob,
We enjoy boondocking (both dispersed and in no-hookup forest service campgrounds), but it seems that every time we go, we run out of water first, and then we have to pack up and put away everything and head for the nearest waterhole, which puts a crimp into our long weekends. There must be some simple remedies that we can do to make our water last longer. Do you have any suggestions? —Curtis and Amy

Hi  Curtis and Amy, 
This is a question that gets asked often. The simplest way to save water, you might conclude, is to stop showering and washing hands and dishes. But that would likely make your boondocking trip worse than packing up and heading for the waterhole. But there are other ways you can stretch your water supply that do not mean avoiding showers and using all throwaway plates and utensils. Therefore, when available, try these simply water extenders:

• Use campground showers and restroom facilities instead of your onboard facilities whenever available.

• Wash dishes in a dish tub and discard the dishwater into a campground gray water receptacle or (if dispersed camping) onto a thirsty plant.

• Fill dishwashing tub from outside water supply, like a forest service hand-operated pump (photo left). 

• Drain gray water into a Tote Tank which can be rolled away and dumped into dump station or toilet.

• Carry an extra hose(s). Maybe you can connect and run them long enough to reach the campground water supply.

• Carry a five-gallon water can (or two or three – photo right))  and/or a couple of collapsible water containers (they stow easily when empty) that you can dump into your water tank when you run low. Fill all those empty half-gallon or gallon plastic milk jugs with water and stow wherever you can find room as emergency supplies also. 

• If you go exploring in your toad take your empty jugs with you to refill at any available water supply.

• When using RV-supplied water for washing or showering, turn the water on to wet down, then turn off. Soap up, then turn water on to rinse off. You will save a lot of water – and pump running time – by not letting the water run. And don’t leave the water running when brushing teeth.
The need to move temporarily from your campsite to dump and fill holds to “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” axiom. If you still have half a tank of fresh water but your holding tanks are full, that puts a definite crimp in how long you can extend your stay, and the farther away you camp from facilities, the more practical it becomes to practice water stinginess.

You should NEVER stretch out your stay, however, by dumping your holding tanks – not even your gray water tank – on the ground. Always use an approved dump station. But here’s the caveat: If you have filled your gray water tank and it is sloshing up into your bathtub, dig a hole as far away from your campsite as your dump hose will reach and dump only as much gray water as you have to so you can drive without a tsunami in your bathroom. Then let the water seep into the ground and refill the hole. But you should plan better so you can avoid having to take this emergency measure. 

Read more about boondocking at my BoondockBob’s Blog.
Check out my Kindle e-books about boondocking at Amazon.

Do you have a question for Bob? Email him at bob.rvtravel (at) .

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  1. Many good ideas of how to add fresh water but boondocking for us is about conserving it. To that end we heat water on the cooktop in a pot (we don’t use the hot water tank) and use it in a tub-type container to have a spongebath or do dishes that have been dry-wiped to remove most of the food. Then that gray water is used to flush the toilet. The pump for the toilet is normally switched off so that fresh water isn’t “flushed” away.

  2. These are the oddest and most inconsistent boondocking water recommendations I have ever seen. Five stars for confusing everyone.

  3. ATV sprayer tank and pump is great idea. To handle waste I use a macerator pump (alligator clip to batteries) to fill sewer tote resting on truck bed. Pick the tote size that works best for you. Easy to dump tote – just attach your sewer hose and dump at appropriate facility.

  4. I’m surprised no one mentioned the plastic cube livestock water tanks at farming stores, at least for pickup/TT rigs. They are light even empty, fit in half the bed of your pickup and carry several hundred gallons. Since they are higher than your RV tank, gravity fills the rv without a pump.

    Get a second one and a macerator, and you’ll have outgoing water handled as well.

  5. Camping world sells a 45 gal vinyl bladder for carrying fresh water. It can be put in a car trunk or on the roof for short trip from the water source. For my set-up (fulltimer with 34ft 5th wheel) I contacted the company that makes the bladder for Camping World (New World Mfg, of Cloverdale, CA) & had them make me a custom bladder to hold 90 gal & perfectly fill the space in my truck bed in front of my hitch. It was a reasonable cost & they used 50% thicker vinyl, 30 mil. They will make any size or shape you want. I’ve used mine for 5 years & it’s still in perfect shape.

  6. I bought a 25 gal ATV weed sprayer that included the 12 volt pump with a long wire and alligator clamps. It is in our basement and if we are boondocking I fill it. The hose from the basement reaches the water inlet and the wires reach our batteries. Wala. An extra 25 gal

        • Yeah, no one seems to know that they really mean “voila,” the French for “there it is,” or “there you are.”

          • Hi, Lee,
            That’s true. I just left it as he wrote it because that’s how a lot of people pronounce it. But it reminds me of all the times I see people put “voila” into a comment as “viola.” Cracks me up every time! 😀 –Diane at

          • This reminds me of a classical musician joke. What’s the difference between a viola and a violin? Answer: The viola takes longer to burn…. Don’t ask me why, but every classical musician I know loves to joke about violas. Voilà!!!

    • I agree with Mr. Fitch! This is genius!

      We HAVE been using a piece of PVC with a hose connection attached, which in turn attaches to a hose that attaches to a small pump that attaches to my cordless drill. We set the six gallon water container on a folda-table about even with the fresh water tank inlet and pump in the water in fairly short order.

      But NOW – I think we’re gonna switch to this weed sprayer stroke of genius – ha.

      I’ve had one of those weed sprayers for years, but only used it for – get this – spraying weeds. Not sure if I could sanitize that enough for this use so I guess I’ll be getting a new one.


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