When camping without the benefit of hookups, there are tips for every room in your RV that can help extend the amount of time you can spend off-grid before having to come in and reboot.
As I am generally not a fan of staying in RV parks any more than is absolutely necessary, I have accumulated quite a few boondocking tips over the years.
It’s a bummer to discover a great off-grid boondocking spot only to have to leave prematurely because you ran out of water, or because your holding tanks were getting full. While the 40 to 60 gallons of water your RV tank carries might seem like a lot, you can go through it mighty quickly if you are not careful.
I had one friend who was so obsessed with having enough water, he installed an extra water tank in his truck. While that is always an option, these tips are far simpler, easier, and less expensive.
Of course, if you are camping in a place with public restrooms, showers, or even vault toilets, use those as much as is practical. However, here I’m going to assume those are not options.
RV bathroom tips for maximum boondocking time
- Collapsible water storage jugs make it easy for you to cart 10 to 20 gallons or more of extra water along without the hassle and expense of installing an extra water tank in the truck, like my friend did. Fill up just before heading out to your remote spot. When empty, fold up and store until next time.
- Easy to install oxygenating showerheads are a game-changer. They provide increased water pressure for a better shower while using FAR less water than traditional showerheads. Be sure to choose one with a switch that lets you shut the water off while you soap up. Oxygenics is a popular brand.
- This is probably the most common of all RV bathroom tips, but it’s a classic for a reason: Take navy showers to conserve water.
- Beyond the navy shower, turn off the taps and stop the water from running when brushing teeth, scrubbing hands, waiting for hair conditioner to soak in, etc.
- Collect the water that runs while waiting for hot water to come out of the faucet. Use for cleaning, washing, or for toilet flushing.
- Using less soap, shampoo, and hair conditioner when showering or washing equals less rinsing, less fresh water used, and less water in the gray tank. Use ONLY what you need to get clean.
- Pick up an inexpensive solar shower or two and fill them with water just before heading out to your boondocking location. Set the bags out in the sun and you will have hot water for 2-3 extra showers per bag. By showering outside you’ll also save putting extra water down the gray water tank. For those who like privacy, you can pick up a portable shower stall pop-up tent to go with your solar shower.
- Use a leave-in hair conditioner instead of the usual kind that needs to be rinsed out.
- Shower less often! It may sound odd to a society conditioned to shower each and every day, but according to no less an authority than Harvard Health, it’s not at all clear that a daily shower accomplishes much. In fact, daily showering might even be detrimental to your health!
- Rinse-free body wash or bathing wipes can keep your face and body feeling clean and fresh between showers.
- Dry shampoo can save the need to wash your hair for several days longer than you ordinarily would. Spray on then brush out to clean shiny hair. Not Your Mother’s is my personal favorite brand.
- Disinfecting cleaning wipes will save you water when cleaning counters, walls, etc.
- The less toilet paper that goes down the toilet, the less water you need for flushing (and the easier your next trip to the dump station will be). I like to keep biodegradable dog poop clean up bags to deposit soiled paper in before throwing in the trash.
- If you are boondocking out in the middle of nowhere, especially with a big group or family, take a cue from tent campers and use an outdoor camp toilet in addition to your RV’s bathroom. Check this one out. The same pop-up tent you picked up for outdoor showers also makes a good private outdoor bathroom.
Do you have more RV bathroom tips that extend your off-grid boondocking time? Be sure to drop your favorites in the comments below. Happy boondocking, everyone!
Other water-saving tips: for those whose hair is more on the dry side, you can actually skip the shampoo & let the conditioner do the cleaning for you.
For some ladies, having a hot bath to soak in is a necessary luxury/joint-aid that can actually -save- water. There are small, inflatable sit-down tubs you can put in the shower that catches all that water for washing that would otherwise go down the drain. An at least once a week health treatment that can save your sanity during long boondocking.
Look for ones that provide extra layered insulation & a thicker edge ring at the top for easier getting in & getting out: https://www.sunrisespecialty.com/best-portable-bathtub
On Amazon I found a valve that replaces the faucet aerator.
Water only flows when you touch it so when washing hands, shaving or brushing teeth you are not wasting water.
We take our used TP and put it in an empty hand sanitizer container When full empty into garbage bag and toss in can Saves room in black tank and no clogging issues
Place a bowl or bucket in kitchen sink to catch water from going down the drain to the gray tank. Empty into the toilet to the black tank which fills much slower.
We installed a recirculating pump that brings hot water through all of our lines. We turn it on before we take a shower or wash dishes so that we don’t have to waste cold water while waiting for the water to get hot. It saves a lot of fresh water and space in our gray tank. One of our favorite upgrades for boondocking in the Arizona desert for the winter.
Another great article Cheri! I would love to see the facial expressions or hear the lovely comments from non-dry campers when they read about less showers or how to dispose of used toilet paper.
We do everything you mentioned and I can’t think of anything useful to add .. But I bet my wife can when she gets back from her morning run (73 years young).
There’s an easy and pretty cheap way to extend your time out there. Buy an extra knife valve that connects to your main sewer outlet. Leave that valve closed. Then open both gray and black valves and leave them that way. The tanks will then stay equal in level. Since it’s always the gray that fills up first, you’re now using the black tank’s extra capacity to store the gray. The extra benefit is that it can help keep the black tank from being really nasty.
That’s a really great idea. Thanks so much!
No boondocking for us! When we were young we had crappy tents, mummy bag sleeping bags and buckets to wash from. Now, after working our entire lives, we can afford to enjoy RV Parks that we can plug our 50 Amp into, water, sewer and still travel to wonderful locations all over the country. Many enjoy and benefit from boondock camping, it just isn’t for us.
Well said .. we are opposite in our camping preferences but respect and enjoy the company of others who RV as you do.
With a 10 gal black, 30 gal gray tank on our small TT, we’re used to conserving. The fresh tank is 20 gal, but realistically, we can use around 16-17 gal of that. We carry Reliance jugs in the truck, # depends on whether the campground will have water or at least nearby, to refill with a rattle siphon..
We don’t boondock, but we dry camp in CGs from 5-8 nights, with no dump to use a tu*d taxi. We do usually use CG toilets during the day. We can stay clean and certainly don’t stink. I learned as a kid to do basin baths, daily showers weren’t a thing then. My grandmother’s house didn’t have a hot water tank until the early 70s & our cabin nearby had no running water.
Boondocking is ok until we run out of water, in 4 or 5 days, then it’s off to the campground
With so many hints concerning hair care and associated products, I’d think having shorter hair would require less care or products.
I had no idea that I was supposed to wait for conditioner to soak in. Really, I didn’t. 🙂 Thank you, but I long abandoned using the stuff. We both (DW and I) grew up with a well as our source of water. So, we took navy showers all our lives without ever knowing there was any other way to shower. We automatically revert to them in the RV. You gave me several great hints for extending the time our fresh water supply lasts as well as how to fill our black and gray tanks more slowly; thank you! 🙂
Our shower control only allows for control of temperature – the rate of flow is either open (full flow) or closed. I installed a shut-off valve before the shower head for under $10:
We can partially close this valve to produce a very slow flow rate, saving a great deal of water. When we have full hook-ups, we can open it fully and enjoy the full flow.
We never put toilet paper into our black tank. The garbage can beside the toilet holds small paper lunch bags. After going “number 2”, the t. p. in the bag is brought outside and placed onto the burning fire. Since we are at our own recreational property, it is our choice to have a small fire going almost from sunup to sundown. No paper in the black tank makes dumping easier for us.
From what I read on the above article saving water while boon docking, it seems strange to me a bit. Sound like you do not really want boon docking, you want a room at the ritz where you can shower several times a day and wash your hair the same, blah blah.
Did you ever stip and think that you really do not need to shower every day or even every second or third day of camping? Unless your daughter has brought her boyfriend and your wife has her secret lover with you, they can probably go several days without washing their hair.
I was a Grunt in vietnam and we sometimes went for weeks without having a shower or a shave, and guess what? No one died from being a bit scrounge.
I understand we all like our conveniences but roughing it doesn’t mean showering every day.
Have a good time though no matte how you rough it.
The author actually did address that in the article. She mentionned Harvard Health and that showering every day is not necessary.
Although the article talked about “showering” in her first six or seven points. Then states the Harvard Health at the end, should have just stated that to begin with. Have to agree with Bill, rough it out.
BIll, why don’t you put on your glasses, or get new ones, and read it again, but this time rather than thinking negativity and how to be the biggest snarkwod, listen to what you are reading and it will pretty much be 180 from everything you blurted out. Great job Cheri!!
Thank you so much David! <3
Yes, thank you, David. 🙂
My black and grey tanks are just 12 gal EACH 😂 so we have a rhino portable tank we use for extended stays. Our fresh tank? 😂 21 gallons. Yep! We actually have never used it. I don’t want the hassles of sanitizing the lines etc. So we just bring jugs of water
Then we fill them as needed. We shower using the bucket method in our shower and, I can shower using just a gallon of water. My hair too! We have boondocked for like 10 days straight and still had room in our black and grey tanks. We did a lot of back packing and tent camping, so had a head start. Lol
I have thing on my faucet where the aerator would be, you need to touch it to get water flow. Saves turning the handle on and off while brushing or shaving
Really great tips! Fortunately we tent camped for 30 years before buying an RV so I’m used to conserving water. We can easily make it at least a week and maybe 10 days if we really conserve. Of course we bring a lot of extra water as we only have a 51 gallon fresh tank. Our biggest problem is our 29 gallon grey tank. I have to be very careful about how much water goes down the drain. I wash dishes outside after scraping and wiping them almost clean. Additionally, I have a small bucket in the shower to catch a lot of the water. I then use this to flush the toilet or clean something in the RV. It’s a little extra work, but it allows you to stay out a lot longer.
We turn off the water to the toilet and use a 1-gallon garden sprayer to rinse after use. That system takes only a couple ounces per “flush”. Also, we straddle a 5-gallon bucket when navy showering. This catches most of the water, which we then pour into the toilet. We also pour the dish washing water into the toilet. This helps to prevent the “poop pyramid” and reduces the grey tank volume.
We started fulltiming 12 years ago, & I set up our 5th wheel for frequent & extended boondocking, with plenty of solar & batteries. The only remaining problem was water capacity. I had 85 gal fresh, 70 black & 70 grey, but I wanted more fresh water. I contacted the small company http://www.newworldmfg.com that used to make the 45 gal blue water bladder for Camping World. They do a lot of custom work, so I asked them to make me an 85 gal bladder to fit the space in front of my 5th wheel hitch. They also used 50% thicker vinyl than in their standard blue one. I then bought a water pump from Harbor Freight. It’s worked perfectly over 100 times in the last 12 years. When not using it, the bladder folds up compactly & can be stored anywhere. My 5er has a macerator, so I’m able to pump waste up into a waste tote in my truck & haul waste away on the same trip to get fresh water. I can spend months in the Ariona desert & never have to move the rv.