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Boondocking Basics

Boondocking Basics- Making It Work

by Paul Bernhagen

Part 3 ...

Does Water Always Flow Downhill?

Use 6-gallon water jugs, large tanks or bladders to carry water.

Run water slowly to conserve.

A 6-gallon water heater is more than enough.

Water heaters with a continuous pilot light will keep the water warm with just the pilot light.

Find out where your water pump pickup is and tilt your RV that way to get the last of your water.

Avoid RVs with multiple dump locations. Multiple tanks should be plumbed together.

Some places allow you to dump gray water on the ground. If it is allowed and you plan to dump gray water, do so daily to hold down the smell.

Important: Flush the black tank with the gray tank when dumping. Once you have dumped the black tank, hold the hose up high so that the gray tank water is forced into the black tank when you pull the gray valve. When the water stops rushing close the gray valve and put the hose down to allow the black tank to drain out. Do this two or three times.

Drive carefully with full holding tanks to prevent a rupture.

Water is heavy (8.3 lbs/gal). Fill up close to your destination or haul water after you are parked.

Select an RV that does not require pressure for filling the fresh water tank.

Buy another demand pump to fill the water tank if yours requires pressure to fill the tank.

Note: Avoid tankless instantaneous hot water heaters. They require a fair amount of water to run before the heater starts to work. Also, when the pump cycles on and off you get hot and cold bursts of water.

Don’t leave water running while brushing your teeth.

Only run the water heater as needed.

Select an RV with large tanks. Recommended minimum sizes: 50 gallon black, 75 gallon gray, 70 gallon fresh.

External tank monitors are precise and can be added to most RVs. Stop guessing how full your tanks are.

Can Water Hit the Shower Walls?

If you do not have a thermostat on your water heater, you may wish to time how long it runs. With just a small amount of practice you can figure out how long to run it, in different climates, to get the water temperature just right to take a shower running only the hot water. This eliminates both wasted water from adjusting the faucets and cold bursts when turning the water on and off.

Catch water while waiting for the hot water to reach tap. This water can then be recycled to the fresh water tank, used for drinking, cooking or watering pets.

The water heater should be as close to the bathroom as possible.

When showering run water only long enough to get wet and rinse off.

Catch shower water with a dishpan. You can stand with one foot in and one foot out of the dishpan as you shower. The water you catch can then be used to flush the toilet.

Set adjustable showerheads to minimize the water output.

Don’t waste water rinsing shower walls.

On/off valve on shower hose allows you to turn the shower on and off without adjusting the faucets each time.

Shower less often.

Baby wipes are great for washing faces, taking sponge baths and cleaning spots out of clothing.

Take showers back to back when more than one is showering. This reduces the time your water heater needs to run.

How Does the Dishwasher Work?

Use paper plates to reduce dish washing.

Wash dishes only when needed.

Wipe dirty dishes with paper towels to minimize water usage.

Pocket meals reduce dishes. Pocket meals are meat and vegetables wrapped in foil and placed on the grill. Wash dishes after showering to minimize the water heater run time.

Heat water on the stove for dishwashing.

Wash dishes in a dishpan. Dispose of or recycle the water for toilet flushing.

Wash all dishes, then rinse all at once under slow stream of water. Catch this water for flushing.

Do You Know How to Flush a Toilet?

Install a water shut off valve on the toilet and flush with jugs of water. This can cut water going into the toilet by up to two-thirds.

Use rinse water from dishwashing for flushing.

Catch and use shower water for flushing.

Use lake, stream or rainwater for flushing.

Don’t Touch That Thermostat!

Furnaces pull lots of power.

Use ceramic, blue flame or catalytic heaters. Vented models pull power. Un-vented models can be vented by cracking windows. By code, RV manufacturers cannot install un-vented heaters. If you install one, be sure to crack the window when running it.

 Catalytic Heater - Click for more information

Orient RV for warmth or coolness. If the weather is chilly, park so the sun comes in the windows. If the weather is hot, park so the sun does not come in the windows or so awnings minimize the sun coming in.

Use awnings to keep the RV cool.

Fantastic fans pull little power and are very effective.

Add another blanket rather than run the heater all night.

Dress warmer or cooler to conserve energy.

Move north or south to stay in a better climate.

Not All Refrigerators Are Created Equal

If your refrigerator has a humidity switch, turn it off.

Refrigerator electronics pull power even when switched to gas. If batteries die so does the refrigerator.

To our knowledge the manufacturers no longer make a manual refrigerator, however, some repair facilities will convert electronic refrigerators to manual refrigerators. While you may not want to do this while the refrigerator is still under warranty, if the electronics fail after the warranty expires it may be less expensive to convert it to a manual refrigerator than replace the electronics.

Extreme Ideas

Paint jugs black and set them in the sun to heat water.

Black Bag Click for more information.


Use a weed sprayer to shower with.

Use a solar hot shower.

Cool off with wet T-shirts in front of a fan.

Copyright – 2001-2014 Paul Bernhagen

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