Thursday, July 24, 2014

Doing Things Differently in the Little RV

Our 10-month, 10,000 trip taken in 2012 and 2013

When we took our 10-month, 10,000 mile US tour in 2012 and 2013 we almost always stayed at full hook-up campgrounds.  

They are expensive, crowded and noisy. We have had sites where we could not extend our awning because the next RV was too close. The convenience of full hook-ups is great but sometimes the trade off is just not worth it.  

This trip we knew we wanted to do things differently. Our goals were to save on campground costs, stay in more rural areas with larger sites, take more back roads, and see places we have never seen and to do all of that slowly. Our experience has been those places seem to have mostly electric only or primitive sties with absolutely no hook-ups. The main reason we need electricity is because of the heat. There is just no point in being miserable if you don't have to.

When we arrived here on Saturday we dumped the gray tanks and took on about 80 gallons of fresh water.  We planned on staying four days.  

We use this handy little gadget so we know how much water we pump into our fresh tank each time. It counts the gallons as they run through the meter. It is called a RainWave flow meter.

We have decided to stay put here in the COE Downstream Campground for a few more days.  But we knew we would have to take the RV up to the dump station and dump the holding tanks and get more fresh water.  What we didn't know was we would have to do that last night at 7 pm when we realized our fresh water tank was completely empty.  

Going to the dump station is basically the same as moving to a whole new campground. Everything has to be put away, slides brought in, electric disconnected, appliances shut off, etc.  I think it was close to 9 pm when we finished at the dump station and returned to our site and got set-up again.  

This morning I am so glad it happened that way because I woke up to a fierce thunder storm and that would have made the whole process much more difficult.   

You may be asking yourself, what is the point of this story.  My theory is we are learning as we go.  If you are someone who is reading along and considering full-time RV travel, maybe you can learn along with us.  

We have a 100 gallon fresh water tank. I mentioned earlier that we took on 80 gallons of fresh water when we arrived. We ran out of water 4 and 1/4 days later. That tells me we used about 20 gallons of water each day.  That water use includes 2 navy showers a day, washing dishes, flushing and brushing teeth.  We use gallon jugs of water for cooking and drinking. We were cautious but not miserly.  Before yesterday, I had no clue how much water we used daily.  

Our two gray tanks each hold 45 gallons. One holds the water from the kitchen and bathroom sinks.  The other holds the water from the shower and the washing machine, this one always fills up first.  I don't use the washing machine when we don't have a sewer hook-up. *Gasp* I have been to a laundromat twice in the past two weeks.  I can use our dryer when we have 50 amp electric service so it's a quick trip when you just wash two or three loads and bring them home to dry. 

While chatting with another full time RV couple yesterday at the local laundromat they mentioned they are at the campground for two weeks and use a large water bladder to refill the fresh water tank and they use a portable holding tank to empty their black and gray tanks.  

This is an example of the water bladder. This one holds 45 gallons and uses gravity to move the water from the bladder into the holding tank. They fold and take very little storage space.  

The portable waste tank looks like this.  Barker (30844) 4-Wheeler Tote Tank - 42 Gallon capacity
This one holds 42 gallons and you can fill it and loop the handle over your trailer hitch and tow it to the dump station without moving your RV.  This takes quite a lot of space for storage but I sure wish we had one yesterday.  

We knew about both of these items but never had a need for them, until now.  I know if we purchase these they will see a lot of use this winter when we are in the Southwest because we plan to do a lot of dry camping and boondocking.  


  1. I have seen a lot of RVers using that portable waste water tank. I have never had a need for one, so far. Always get hookups, at least electric. Need electric to run my oxygen generator that I use at night while I am sleeping.

  2. Hey Juley, it's Carol from the Downstream Campground again. I don't know if you got my other post, but I wanted to tell you this also. Do you remember all that cotton from the Cottonwood trees, floating through the air like snow all day every day while you were here? Well before your air conditioner heats up and quits, you might want to go up top and look through the cowling and see if your coils are plugged with that stuff. Take a vacuum with an attachment and gingerly vacuum it all off of there.......If you haven't been up there lately, you might want to check out your caulking while you're there, because if it's cracked or peeling, it'll need to be removed and replaced. If you want to know how to do that easily, let me know. We're full of THAT information....Take care and good luck, Carol

    1. Carol! Thanks so much for the warning about the cottonwood trees. That stuff is awful. Neither of us can go up on the roof so we'll have to get someone to take a peek for us. I know the caulking and roof are in good shape because we just had the roof cleaned and inspected a few weeks ago. Thank you again for THAT information. I like it.

  3. Okay now I'm convinced you didn't get my other post.....I was telling you that BW had found a pump to pump the water out of our bladder into the RV instead of using the gravity system because that just took too long. Also so that we could put it on the tail gate of the truck instead of the roof ! Our portapotty is invaluable. We've stayed in plenty of places where there is elec & water but no sewer (except for the dump station of course). We use if for our gray water which is way simpler than unhooking. Did you know you CAN use it to do laundry in your RV long as you Leave The Valve Open. Just rig it where it dumps directly into the potty and it won't even fill it up because the washer doesn't use that much water......There is a cap for the sewer connection called a "rotating grey water bayonet fitting". All that means is you can hook a hose to it so you can put the hose down in the portable sewer tank to drain the grey! Genious! Check our our blog too if you want: Holler if we can help more. We've been doing this a long time.....Happy Trails! C

    1. OK Carol, Now you're my BFF. I hadn't thought about being able to do laundry. I'm really missing my washer. It's settled, we're getting a portable sewer tank. We are in Bismarck now and I haven't located a laundromat yet. My basket overfloweth!
      Thanks again
      PS I'm adding your blog to our blog list on the right so I can follow you.

    2. Juley, let me know if you'd rather we talked on email or not, but I wanted to say what we had for a portable sewer because I had mentioned it didn't overflow with 1 washing machine waste. We have a SmartTote by Thetford and it's 18 gal. There is 1 SmartTote smaller and 2 bigger than that. But it's good for us. We had one of those blue ones when we started out and it broke in no time. This SmartTote has lasted a long time. Longevity out weighs the extra cost believe me. Later, Carol

    3. Carol,
      My email addy is and you are welcome to use it. I've been looking at the SmartTote LX. We would get the largest one due to our tank sizes. I watched a video about it and it seems like a good quality item. Hope to pick one up soon.