Top 3 Daily Challenges of Living in an RV – 1. Gray Water

We are now in our second month of living full-time in our RV as we make our way out west (currently loving Arizona). And already, we have a pretty good feel for the ups and downs. That’s not to say we know it all as we are sure there is more yet to experience. But here are some of the things we’ve learned so far.

One of the things you learn fast in an RV is how much water you actually use as a family. It’s astonishing. We have a 60 gallon gray water tank and a 40 gallon black water tank on board. For those who are unfamiliar with these terms, gray water is your waste water from sinks (kitchen, bathroom sink, shower, washing machine, etc). It’s the soapy water. Black water is your sewage waste (all water drained through toilets).

As an example of usage, if two to three people take a shower, you wash a load of clothes or two and you use your sinks as normal, you’ve now filled up your gray tank in less than a 24 hour period and have to dump. 60 gallons of water, down the drain. Wow. If you’re staying at an RV park with full hookups, this isn’t a problem. If you’re at a state or national park with no sewer hookup, this is a massive inconvenience. So, here are a few tips.

If you’re on full hookups. One of the great things about being at an RV park with full hookups is that you can pretty much do life as you normally would in a home, generally speaking with water usage and such. You always want to keep your black tank closed and allow it to fill to prevent build-up and problems later on. But it’s nice to be able to keep your gray tank open and use water liberally (showers, laundry, etc). But an issue you may encounter is sewer gas odors coming into your RV from the park’s sewer system. Bummer. Simple solution? Create a p-trap with your sewer hose. Problem solved. Here’s a great video on how to do that.

If you’re in a State or National Park, no sewer hookups. Conserve. Conserve. Conserve. To dump your gray tank when it is full, you will need to disconnect your RV, pull in the slide outs (if any), pull up your jacks and relocate your RV to a dump station, then setup at your site all over again. Obviously, you want to do this as few times as possible. Full disclosure, we’re still learning on how far we can go on a 60 gallon grey tank with conservation methods, but at minimum, you should be able to make it 7 days using the following techniques.

  • Wear your clothes more than once and wash less. Additionally, save up for large loads and do laundry at a local laundromat if possible.
  • Take showers less often. Yep. May we suggest Wilderness Wipes 🙂 There are a few brands out there. We bought ours from REI. Or, take a shower at the camp facilities if available. And if you’re going to take a shower in your RV, cut the water off during your shower as often as possible.
  • Cook inside as little as possible. In preparation for your trip, try to cook beforehand and store up some leftovers that you can reheat. Better yet, grill outside, a lot!
  • Don’t use your dishes and glassware. Use plastic and paper goods so that you wash as few dishes as possible.

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