Water management is a big deal for long term boondocking. Water is almost always the resource to run out first unless you happen to be camping next to a pretty clean water supply and take advantage of it. In this article, we will look at a few things you can do to make the most of your water resources during an extended boondocking trip.
Many people extend their water supplies via jerry cans or large water tanks. It’s a quick and easy way to get a bit more water for your trip. You may even want to invest in collapsible water jugs so that they take up less space when empty. This method also means that if you have a vehicle besides your camper, you can run into town and fill up your water jugs without moving the rig. If you go this route, you will still need to think about how you are going to handle gray water.
My favorite method of water management is plain old conservation. There’s nothing flashy about it, you just need to realize that water is going to be what makes you pack up the campsite and head back to town and then try to handle it accordingly. For many people, the biggest drain on their water supply is bathing. Now, I’m not saying you need to go without a shower until the ranger can locate you by the smell, but if you don’t smell bad enough to run your spouse out of the camper, maybe you can skip the second shower of the day.
Alright, I get it. You don’t want to stink. Well, if you really must shower, learn to take Navy and Army showers. Navy style showers consist of turning on the shower long enough to get wet and turning the water off. Next, you lather up and scrub without running water. Finally, you turn the water on and rinse the soap off. Easy as can be, but you save the water that most people would just leave running in their home showers.
Army showers use even less water. You fill up your helmet (or your bathroom sink) and that is how much water you get to use for your ‘shower’. It’s the same basic principle as a Navy shower, except you don’t use the ‘getting wet’ phase. You do that with a damp soapy rag. It’s best to use one rag for lathering up and a second for rinsing the soap off so you don’t get too much extra soap in your ‘helmet’. With a bit of practice, even long haired folks (take note hippies!) can wash their hair and body in a gallon of water. You might not be Sunday-go-to-meeting clean, but you probably won’t be mistaken for Bigfoot… at least not by the smell.
After showers, dishes are one of the things that tend to take a lot of water. My favorite method of doing dishes (I don’t think I ever expected to use THAT phrase) is pretty good on water conservation. First, find the biggest dirty pot you have. Fill it halfway with hot water and dish soap. Now, use a sponge or dishrag and wash the rest of the dishes over that pot with the soapy water. Rather than rinse them right away, pile them up in the clean side of the sink. Once you have a sinkfull, rinse them using just a trickle of water. If you rinse a dish above the other soapy dishes, the run off from that dish will help rinse the ones below it, requiring less water for those.
One final topic of water conservation is using the toilet. First of all, use as much water as is required. Trying to unclog an RV toilet is considerably worse than trying to unclog a household toilet as they are rarely airtight and a plunger won’t do anything but make a mess. The best way to cut down on water usage is to use only as much toilet paper as is required. The more paper in the toilet, the more water you need to flush in order to prevent clogs.
A common source of toilet water usage is rinsing the sides of the bowl. Many people will hold the lever open until enough water has run through to remove any stains. We have found that a better solution to this is to keep a small spray bottle full of water in the bathroom. A directed squirt does more to clean the sides of the bowl than running water through the toilet and takes both less water and electricity for the water pump.
Some folks even use spray bottles for showering and dishes. If you happen to find a good pressure spray bottle, it’s actually a great way to conserve water. It’s much easier trying to take a shower when you can pump up the bottle rather than having to squeeze the trigger constantly. Small bottles are great for this, but a ‘bug spray’ type bottle works fairly well.
Of course, when heading out to the woods, make sure you have empty wastewater tanks and a full white water tank! If you happen to be camped near a free dump station with water and are only going to stay a few days, go nuts showering and cleaning, then fill ‘er up again.