So you are taking the RV out for a tailgate or camping trip. You’ve got a weekend, maybe more ahead of you, and you only have the water you bring with you in your RV. How do you make sure you have enough water to last the weekend?
Here are all the useful tips to save water while RVing, specifically in the RV kitchen, shower, and bathroom.
Why You Should Save Water While RVing
Bottom line: Most RVs hold enough water for you to make it through a weekend of tailgating.
However, you won’t make it if you treat your water supply like the never-ending supply you have at home. You will surely run out of water if you don’t make a few changes to your behavior when you are in the RV.
Many RVers are able to stretch their water supply out to 7-10 days to camp in the wild without hookups.
Now, these tips aren’t difficult and won’t be hard to implement in your tailgate.
Some of them are a holdover from our early tailgating days from before we had fancy RVs and large water tanks. Others we’ve learned by doing or talking to other RVers.
Remember how you’ve been told to turn the water off while brushing your teeth instead of letting the water run? Yeah, that’s what we are doing here, absolutely every time you turn on the water.
In any case, the only way to RV tailgate like a pro is to be able to stretch your water supply.
NASCAR Bound? Or Large RV Rallies
At NASCAR and other large RV rallies, there are often services that will pump out your black and gray tanks and refill your freshwater tanks.
But these aren’t free. In fact, they are often down right expensive.
At Atlanta Motor Speedway, the cost has been roughly $50 for a pump out and another $50 for a refill of fresh water. So every visit is roughly $100.
That’s on top of your RV camping fees, food and alcohol, and tickets. Ouch!
I’d rather spend that $100 upgrading from hamburgers to steaks.
Now, for all the useful and specific ways we have found to save water while RVing, let’s get started in the front of the house:
Bring Separate Drinking Water
Save your RV tanks by bringing separate drinking water. You can buy bottled water at grocery or convenience stores. Or you can filter water at home and put in pitchers like I do.
Advantages of bringing your own bottled water include:
- Refrigerate for cold drinking water. Reduce your need for ice and thus fresh water.
- Is the water in your freshwater tanks safe for drinking? Probably, but maybe not. By bringing separate water, you don’t have to worry about what might be in those tanks.
- Some stadiums will let you bring in sealed water bottles. Much cheaper to bring your own water in than to buy it at the game.
- If you find that you are running low on water, you can also refill the bottles from the water fountain and have more water back at the RV.
- Keep cool at hot games by freezing bottles for taking into the game. Cold water all game!
See Also: More tips for surviving hot games
All in all, we like bringing our drinking water in bottles and pitchers to avoid using the water in the freshwater tanks.
Maybe it is because I didn’t trust the freshwater tanks in a 27 year old RV that often goes long periods between uses. But I also “save” water in the tanks that can be used for showering and flushing the toilet.
Other Ways to Save Water in the Kitchen
Use Paper Products
Save water by using paper plates and cups.
I would think the benefits are obvious here, but just in case you don’t realize them: When they are dirty, you throw them out. No need to wash the dishes when you are done.
For the environmentally conscious tailgaters, you can get compostable heavy duty plates, cups (note: these cups are not for hot liquids), and even silverware. Oh, and they are typically lighter, so you can have more and not worry about your RV weight or gas consumption.
Also, if you buy paper products, you can use them as kindling on your fire if you have a wood burning fire pit. So you also aren’t producing a bunch of trash, unless you consider ash trash but it is a lot smaller in space and it is great to add to a compost pile if you have one at home.
Use Crock-Pot Liners
One of the worst things ever is having to scrape out the dried gunk on your slow cooker after it has spent hours adhering to the sides. That generally takes a lot of water to clean.
Skip the whole process with the Slow Cooker Liners.
When you are done with your chili or the Crock-Pot Dump Cake, just pick up the liner and throw in the trash. You’ll have a virtually clean Crock-Pot that may just need a little cleaning on the edges and a quick run through soapy water. Not gallons of water to scrub it clean.
A New Way To Cook Pasta
If your tailgate meal calls for pasta, then you’ll probably go ahead and boil up a big stock pot of water to cook your pasta, right?
Well, you are doing it wrong!
This pasta cooking method can save you a lot of water, both from the fresh water and in the waste tanks: put your pasta in the pot and then barely cover the pasta. Cook it until it is just about boiled away and you should have perfectly cooked pasta!
Even better, add the sauce in with the pasta and you’ll need that much less water for cooking! And one less pot to clean up at the end. Which means less water used in washing the dishes!
Drink Your Whiskey on the Rocks
No, not on ice. Rather, use whiskey rocks instead of ice.
Added bonus, it won’t dilute your whiskey. Or your rum and Coke. Or your vodka sweet tea. Or… well, you get the idea.
The sipping stones mean you won’t need to keep turning water into ice. Even a quick rinse before popping them back into the freezer will save you more water than freezing more water for ice.
Like you needed an excuse to buy whiskey rocks, but now you have one anyways.
Save the Washing For When You Get Home
Wait until you get home to wash those dishes that you just have to use. Who wants to use their weekend tailgating or camping to wash dishes? Or for that matter, dirty laundry? Wait until you get home!
Instead of washing them immediately with the freshwater RV tanks, I place dirty dishes into a waterproof plastic tub (locking seal).
The plastic tub keeps the dishes contained and the ants away from any stray food products. It is also great to transport clean dishes and other things back to the RV.
I also have a larger waterproof tub that I store extra toilet paper and other paper products in one of the basement compartments. Another medium tub is used to store and keep beach towels dry. These things are awesome and have a lot of uses!
Saving Water While Washing Dishes
If you absolutely must wash dishes, start with easy to clean pots and pans covered in Teflon. Also make generous use of non-stick sprays while cooking to make clean-up easier.
Then, once clean up starts, scrape all the food waste into a waste bag and not down the drain. Pre-wipe any sauces, grease, or other “stuff” from your pans and plates. Use the smallest amount of soap and keep the bubbles to a minimum.
I stick with the Dawn kitchen soap, but some people recommend using a vegetable based soap so that you don’t freak about over rinsing dishes. I’m not sure I like the reasoning so much, but I’m all for the natural products. Lots of people like Dr. Bronners soaps because they are multiple use products – use for dishes and even shampoo and body wash.
Dawn Powerwash Spray
The newest thing to hit the market is the Dawn Powerwash Spray.
This stuff is absolutely awesome for the RV. You rinse the food off your dishes and then spray it with the Dawn Powerwash. If there is stuck or burnt on food, let it soak in for a few minutes. Then just rinse it off!
Seriously, no need to fill up the sink with water to wash the dishes, just use water to rinse them off!
I was impressed by how much less water I used when cleaning a full sink of RV dishes using Dawn Powerwash Spray. I now highly recommend using this product in your RV!
Anti-Bacterial Wipes and Hand Sanitizers
We also recommend disinfecting wipes.
Normally, we try to stay away from anti-bacterial products, but in this case, we think they are worth it. They are multi-purpose, meaning you can clean counters, mirrors, windows, etc. They are also great for your hands when you have grease or other stuff. You can also use the wipes to pre-clean your dishes and thus save water.
I will often use the wipes as a pre-clean on my hands when there is tough engine or exhaust gunk (perhaps from topping off the generator oil or setting up the Genturi). And then a quick water wash to finish it off.
Also, thin, disposable gloves are often useful to preventing a big mess on your hands. These are the same gloves used when emptying the black tanks.
Hand sanitizer is also useful. In the rest of our life, we use these when water isn’t available, so why not use them when water needs to be conserved?
Remember, rule #1 when tailgating is to not fuck it up. Sometimes the anti-bacterial products are necessary for food safety and when you get done emptying the black tanks.
Reuse Dirty Dish Water
Instead of using the sink and letting the dirty water go down the drain, you can use the dirty dish water in the toilet. Beginners will typically use a tub to do the dishes and then transport the dirty water to the bathroom.
More advance RVers may decide it is too much work and will install a divert line from the shower or sink to the toilet or black tank. Of course, this solution requires plumbing and electrical knowledge, so you better know what you are doing before you start. Or find a reputable RV shop to do it for you.
See Also: More Tips to Maintain Your RV Gray Tanks
Save Water in RV Showers
The next biggest consumption of water is likely your daily shower.
Why not use the nice water pressure and unlimited supply at your house instead of your RV? One of the last things that I do before hitting the road to the tailgate is to take a shower.
The Friday afternoon shower is usually enough to skip the Friday night shower. Also, save the Sunday shower until you get home. You’ll probably want one after unloading and cleaning the RV after the weekend adventure anyways.
Look for bathhouses where you can take showers. At Atlanta Motor Speedway, my group parks about a football field away from the bathhouse. That means that a lot of people are sent to the bathhouse for their showers.
This saves a bunch of water. Because remember how expensive a pump out and refill is at NASCAR events? It costs about $100, so schlepping down to the bathhouse is so worth it.
See Also: Fix Awful RV Shower Odors
Use Dry Shampoos
Some people say to keep a short hair style. That’s just not going to work for me and I’m not even going to recommend it.
Hair styles are such an important style thing that while it may be useful in saving water, it is just not practical.
I personally tried the Moroccan Oil dry shampoo for darker tones when my hairdresser got me several travel size bottles – the stuff works!
Using dry shampoo has the added benefit of not only saving water but also saving your RV power since you won’t need to use the hair dryer. Win, win baby!
PS Leave the scalp facials for when you get home or the spa!
Use Makeup and Body Wipes
We know all you Southern ladies are not going to go to the game without makeup on! We won’t even try to convince you that you should.
But when the day is over and it’s time to get ready for bed, use a makeup removal wipe instead of water and soap. I am a big fan of the Neutrogena makeup wipes. Tough enough for waterproof mascara but still gentle enough that they won’t cause skin or eye irritation. And then you can throw them out when you are done.
There are also full body wipes that are awesome for RV living! I’ve used Venture Wipes when I just needed a quick “pit stop” instead of a full shower. They are awesome and come in individually wrapped packages so you don’t have to worry about them drying out if you don’t use the whole lot of them.
Bonus, with Venture Wipes, you are supporting a fellow RVer. These guys know what you need – unscented, strong, and something that won’t irritate your skin. I give these products two thumbs up (and not only do I keep them in my RV, they are also in my plane travel kit for emergency clean-me-ups).
No Singing in the Shower
The best water saving shower tip: take shorter showers! This is not the time to spend an afternoon relaxing in the flowing hot water. You’ve got tailgating to do! So get in, get done, and get out! Your water tanks will thank you.
You’ve probably heard of Navy Showers. This is where you get in and get wet. Then turn off the water while you wash your hair, shave, and soap up. Then you turn the water back on to rinse off. Don’t leave the water running while you are doing all the work. This will save you a lot of water!
Most RV showers even have a nifty cut-off switch that will let you leave the water temperature settings but cut the flow of water to only a drizzle. This drizzle is actually good for rinsing your razor or adding more water to soap up. And it also prevents the water from scalding you when you turn the water back on. If it wasn’t slowly dripping, the water might overheat and be too hot to the touch (hot water coming in but no cold water).
Install A New Water Saving Shower Head
One of the items on my to do list for the RV, assuming I don’t upgrade the whole rig first, will be to install a new RV water saving shower head. Most RVers, including those that have recently upgraded their shower head in my tailgate, recommend the Oxygenics Bath Spa.
The shower head also has a cut-off valve that lets you temporarily reduce the water stream to a trickle while soaping up or shaving (see above).
The Oxygenics shower head has the added benefit of boosting the water stream by pressurizing the water so you get a more satisfying shower.
Use Low Suds Shampoo and Body Wash
We talked about using Dr. Bonner soap in the kitchen, but you can also use it in the shower.
The low suds feature is great because it is easier to rinse off. Easier to rinse means less water! Less water in the shower means longer tailgating trips!
Speaking of soap, use a foaming soap dispenser – it uses less soap than a normal dispenser.
This makes it easier and uses less water to wash off while still getting the job done. You can often use water only to rinse your hands and none during the “washing” portion when you use a foaming soap dispenser.
Another great product that is useful to save water is leave-in conditioner. Because you leave it in and don’t wash it out, well, you are saving a bunch of water in the shower.
Fill Basin or Tub for Shaving
This goes for both the ladies shaving their legs and the men shaving their faces.
If you need to shave during an RV tailgate weekend, save water by filling the small sink or shower tub and then turning off the water.
You can then use this water to rinse your razor as needed. Then when you are done shaving, you can turn the shower or sink water back on and complete the process with a good rinse.
Save Water at the RV Toilet
While RV tailgaters are generally a welcoming crowd, don’t think that you have to let everyone in to use the bathroom.
Check around the tailgate lot and those right around you. You may find that the schools have left nearby buildings open for restroom use.
Many schools will also put out Porta-pottys for car tailgaters that don’t have access to RV toilets.
A common rule for RV tailgaters is that only the RV owner and girls can use the RV toilets. Guys have to use the Porta-potty. In other words, don’t be afraid to say no when someone asks to use the restroom!
For those that are allowed in:
- Make sure you and your guests all use the “toilet paper cross” to make sure that solid waste can easily and cleanly be pulled into the waste tanks. Use two small strings of toilet paper to create a cross. The toilet paper will help the waste go down without sticking to the bowl and requiring a lot of water.
- The toilet brush is there for a reason. If waste does get stuck, use the brush and a small amount of water instead of letting water continuously flow until the waste is gone.
- Wet toilet paper tends to go down the drain quicker than dry toilet paper. Quicker means less water.
- Learn about the “fast flush” – just enough water to get the waste down the drain. No more, no less.
Tip for Remaining Water
At the end of the weekend, you may want to run some extra leftover water through the toilet to make sure that the solids don’t dry up.
Many people use the ice bag trick to clean the black tanks – the ice will agitate during the trip home and remove sticky toilet paper from the tank walls. That’s not going to be too helpful in the summer when the ice melts right away, but the extra water will make dumping easier when you get to the dump station near home.
Most black tank problems come because people don’t use enough water in them. So at the end of your tailgating or boondocking weekend, toss any remaining water down the toilet. Then drive around to your dump station. The sloshing action will definitely help keep your black tank in good working order.
See Also: Make Your Own Black Tank Cleaning Bombs
To Compost or Not To Compost?
Some RVers that boondock a lot (ie long periods without hookups) have converted to a composting toilet.
The composting toilet doesn’t use any water! You also end up with compost which can be great for gardens or disposed of in the trash.
No black water also means you don’t need to use a black water tank. This tank could be REPLACED with a freshwater tank for more water storage or the black tank can be converted to an extra gray tank for waste water.
One disadvantage that The Road Less Traveled noted is the time it takes for the waste to compost – about 8 months. They don’t generally recommend the use of a composting toilet. But it might work for part-time RVers that can dump the waste into a bigger composting pile at home.
Full-time RVers won’t have this choice as much although some sites may have a pile. The other option is to let the waste sit while the RV is in storage until it becomes true compost (ie dirt).
So if you store your RV during the offseason, this may be a good choice for you.
Or just throw the non-yet composted waste into a trash bin.
How do you save water while RVing?
We are always looking for more ways to keep the tailgate going.
With baseball tournaments this spring, we are looking at a lot more days boondocking or dry-camping. And it’ll be too hot to skip showers. Let us know what ways you have found to save water while RVing.
New to the whole RV tailgating or dry camping (boondocking) thing? Check out RV Tailgating for Beginners: Dry Camping Basics for more tips.
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