Question Of The Week

Conserving Water on the Road

This week’s Question of the Week was, “How do you conserve water on the road?”

“On weekend trips, we use paper/plastic ware, and only wash the pots and pans we will need again.  We take it all home and run it through the dishwasher.  We take very short showers and use Pam spray in the toilet bowl.  Pam helps things slide down with less water.” – Ron Williams, 1997 Ford F-250, 2003 Lance 1010

“I boondock at my worksite four nights per week, eating dinner, sleeping, and showering in the camper for those four days.  The main limiting factor is grey water storage.  I have a thirty gallon fresh water tank, plus six gallons in the water heater, so that easily gets me four carefully metered on/off (wet down/soap up/rinse off) showers, which can be stretched to five if needed.

To save water, I use paper plates and plastic utensils, so there is no need to wash dishes.  I carry bottled water and cheap store-brand sodas in the refrigerator, so there is no need for drinking water.  I wash my hands with baby wipes, so there is no need for water there, either.  The fresh water only gets used to brush teeth (on/off/on/off, as before), flush the toilet, and take showers.

Grey water capacity is something like five to seven gallons or so, and it needs to be dumped every couple of days.  Black water capacity (five gallons) easily lasts two weeks in the cool weather, but odors force weekly dumping of the black tank when camping in summer heat, regardless of the many different types of toilet treatments I’ve tried.

To avoid a long midweek trip from my work site to the RV dump spot (which I normally do now at the end of each week, along with a fresh water fill-up), I reluctantly dump just the grey water tank in a wooded off-road area on the worksite mid-week, so the grey tank doesn’t overflow.  All that’s in there is a little hand soap, shampoo, and crème rinse in that water, so I don’t feel too guilty.

I haven’t noticed any impact on the flora where I dump.  Do others do the same?  When I bought the camper, the dealer told me to just leave the grey water tank valve open all the time in the winter anyway, providing continuous drainage in rural campsite settings and, of course, preventing valve freezing.  To me that crosses a line!” – Reed Prior, 2007 GMC Sierra 2500 HD, 2000 Travel Lite

“I am glad you have this question this week as this is something we could get better at.  Our Host has forty gallon fresh grey and black tanks.  We can go about three days before we need to empty the grey tank unless there are showers involved.  We also run the water from the shower at start up to fill our dogs fresh water bowl, we use the on off at the shower head each time.

When I do dishes, I use a tub or one side of the sink for my rinse water so the water does not run all the time.  I also use jugs of water from home for the coffee and cooking.  Then we use the empty containers bottles for hikes or the days activities.  Also, you can use the outside shower for some things to save the grey tanks.  I am looking forward to reading the responses.” – Brent and Patti Portschy, 2005 Dodge Ram 3500 DRW, 2006 Host Tahoe 10.5

“Like many, when getting water up to temperature, I save that colder water for later use.  I run low flow unless I want a large volume of water.  I rinse or wash using available restrooms or streams, as appropriate.  Rather than constantly use a stream of running water to rinse dishes, I fill a rinse tub.
Dust build-up when camping can happen quickly.  I use my dish wash or rinse water to wash surfaces off regularly.  I take a Navy shower.  I get wet, turn the water off, lather up, and rinse off.  Any time I have leftover water, I save it for another use.  As additional information, I shower every night and mostly dry camp.” – Harv Keene, 2002 Northern Lite

“I use hand sanitizer or wet wipes to clean my hands.  I use paper plates and disposable cutlery.  I line pots and pans with aluminum foil for easier cleaning.  I use a low flow aerated shower head and wet down, turn off water, soap up, and rinse off.  I prefer using the campground facilities, where available, as long as they are reasonably clean.” – Maaja, 2012 GMC 2500, 2015 Northstar Liberty

“In our pop-up camper we only use a porta-potty and bring several gallons of our local spring water for drinking and cooking.  We usually shower at campgrounds and empty our porta-potty there before our journey home.  We have never used our fresh water tank.” – Jody Herman, 2001 GMC Sierra, 2007 Palomino Bronco

“First, the obvious; we take Navy showers.  Otherwise, we try to conserve in other ways. When doing dishes and waiting for the water to heat up, we use cold water to wash dishes, and rinse with hot water.   We also wipe off the dishes with a paper towel prior to washing.

We use the gel hand cleaner during the day to wash our hands.  At night, prior to going to bed, we turn off the water.  If the toilet is needed at night for number one we do not waste water flushing.  The first one up in the morning flushes the toilet with water after usage.  During the day we drink bottled water.  With forty-six gallons of water we can easily manage a week for everything without re-filling.” – Warne Todd, 2000 F250 crew cab 7.3 diesel, 2005 Lance 981

“Our twenty-four foot boat does not have a water heater and, over the years of cruising remote areas of Lake Superior, we used a two quart tea pot for doing dishes.  That concept rolled right over to our truck camper.  I put a small amount of dish soap in a dirty bowl, cup, or pan.  Then I add some hot water and wash up the dishes.  Then drizzle rinse them with the tea pot.  A days worth of dishes usually takes two quarts and, if I need a bit more water, it is really easy to heat up some more.  I don’t use too much soap because I waste water rinsing all the soap off.  We do not use paper plates as a rule to keep the garbage waste down.

To keep garbage waste simple we have a three liter plastic cereal container with a large pour spout.  We line this with a one gallon baggie and it will usually hold at least one days worth of garbage.  When it’s full, we remove the bag and seal it with a twist tie. The next trip past a dumpster we toss it or, if boondocking, we put the small bags into a larger garbage bag.  This way the smell and drips are better contained for later disposal.

I bought a remote kitchen thermometer and inserted the remote probe under the foam on the water heater.  This way I can tell what the temperature of the water is and shut off the water heater when it gets to the right temperature for a shower.  It doesn’t save water, but it saves gas.  Our water heater is right next to the shower so we have hot water right away.  It does take awhile for the hot water to get to the kitchen sink though because it is on the other side of the camper (a thought for manufactures; keep the runs short if possible).” – Dave Miller, 2015 Ford F350, 2003 Bigfoot 10.6E

“When I had a truck with a shell, and it had no built-in bath or kitchen.  It did have a floor drain and run off pipe that made it easy to catch used bath water in buckets for disposal in the proper areas.  I warmed water over a fire or on the stove in big teapot.  I used a bucket to sponge and soap clean, and then jugs for the final rinse.  Dishes were done in pans, and the water was disposed of in proper places.  Drinking water was stored in jugs in lower storage areas, until needed.” – Alice Ann Lincoln, Not applicable, Not applicable

“A premise I use is that paper towels equal water.  This especially applies in the kitchen.  For example, if you use a paper towel to cleanly wipe off a plate before washing it, you can then wash it with as little as a few drops of water.  The same thing works for cleaning knives, forks, spoons, and other utensils.  Wipe them off first with a paper towel and then you can pretty much clean them with a damp, soapy sponge and use just a few dribbles of water to rinse.

A bottle of windex or similar cleaner is also helpful in replacing water for little clean up jobs.  For example, use windex and paper towels to clean your bathroom or kitchen counter and sink.  Paper towels equal water!” – Tim Kirk, 2010 Dodge 3500, 2011 Lance 850

“Although it is nice being self-contained with thirty gallons of fresh water and fifteen gallons of grey, we still manage our water like we did before our truck camping days.  We do almost all our cooking and washing outside and use a five gallon Coleman water container that we fill at the camp at a fresh water source after we arrive.  The container fits nicely on the floor of our wet bath while in transit.  That leaves lots of water for occasional Navy showers and other miscellaneous interior sink uses.” – Dave and Carolyn Thalman, 2013 Ram 2500, 2013 Northstar 850SC

“We wash dishes in a dishpan that fits in the sink and use biodegradable soap so throwing it out is not a problem.  The shower is plumbed into the black so the P-trap drain is plumbed through the bottom of the camper.  The shower head has a shut off to save water.” – Rod Fosback, 1999 Ford F350, 2008 SnowRiver 10’8″

“When we are boondocking we still take a shower every day, so we conserve water where we can.  When taking a shower we quickly get the water to the temperature we like by running water into a bucket for later uses; for the toilet or whatever else we need.  We wet ourselves down and then fill the sink to the amount of water we need to rise off.  Then we shut the water off.  We shampoo, soap up our bodies up, and scrub.  Then using a glass we dip water out of the sink and rinse ourselves off using this water.  This way we only use the amount of water in the sink and that is all that goes into the waste tank.

When we wash dishes we run water into a pot and put it on the stove to heat up.  We do this instead of waiting for the water to run through the lines to get hot from the water heater to the kitchen sink.

  Our camper has thirty-six gallons of fresh water plus a six gallon water heater.  We can go a number of days on it.” – Butch Evans, 2013 Ram 3500, 2012 Northern Lite 10-2 CDSE

Truck Camper Chooser
To Top