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The dirty little secret of RV ownership

I’m stunned by all the responses to the story I wrote a couple of weeks ago about my mini adventures in a mini RV. I guess that I’m not the only vintage car owner who has dipped a toe into these waters. Thank you all so much for your input—both pro and con—on RV ownership.

 

Now that you’ve convinced me we’re all friends, I’m going to drill down into the nitty gritty and write about the dark underbelly of RV use. We’re going to discuss something usually not talked about in polite company—dumping the RV. And I don’t mean leaving it behind for a nice hotel room or B&B. Although this discussion may cause you to do exactly that.

 

Read the full article on Hagerty.com:

https://www.hagerty.com/media/opinion/the-dirty-little-secret-of-rv-ownership/

 

Replies (36)

Replies (36)

I feel like people put far too much fear in to human waste. As a diesel mechanic  I'll gladly work on any sewage truck before I touch a garbage truck. Use some basic sanitation habits and enjoy your outdoor freedom without having to "rough" it. Every convenience in RVing pays a debt to physics, sooner or later that debt is paid.

Passenger

You have saved me a lot of money. Now I can cross off owning a RV.

New Driver

"That's a **bleep**load of money" is easily the the funniest thing you have written in 10 years. Sorry, but you are a lucky man and you know it.

Passenger

I have never owned an RV, but I did work in the tall ship community for a couple of years. Our days in port were pump-out days and definitely reinforced the tradition of "swearing like a sailor!"

New Driver

Just bought a "caddy" and I don't mean a Cadillac, for our little RV trailer.  Haven't used it yet, but yeah.... it will come in useful.  Hilarious and serious at the same time, this article.  Due to extremely outrageous annual tag taxes in Michigan for motor homes, we sold ours and got an ultra light RV trailer with shower and toilet.... yay.  Pay once (forever) for trailer tags, done.  

Pit Crew

We recently ‘took the plunge’ on a travel trailer. Like you, I was fascinated at first, and then mildly horrified by those wheeled plastic containers. We’ve dubbed them ‘poop cases’ and plan our trips (both to campgrounds and the bathroom) so that we don’t need one. Great article!

Passenger

I will never forget the first time my father dumped the black tank on our travel trailer. Four of us had been using the toilet for several days and the time had come to dump the tank. Dad pulled up to the dump station and positioned the tank's outlet over the receptacle.  He didn't want to get hose dirty and thought the sewage would just drain neatly into the receptacle. Wrong! He removed the cap, opened the valve and there was, quite literally, a sh*t-storm. I'd never seen my father move so fast. It was the funniest thing I'd ever seen and it still bring tears to my eyes from laughter when I think about 50 years later. 

New Driver

An easy way to keep your black-water tank clean is to put 5 or 10 gallon of water into it after emptying it. It sloshes around and cleans up the inside of the tank as you drive.

Passenger

Just one more argument in favor of AirBnB.

Intermediate Driver

That's funny right there I tell you what...  🙂

I'm with GThielen, and JLM.  I can cross off needing to own an RV.  Thank you for the public Service.  🙂 

 

 

 

Pit Crew

Look for the sewer clean outs in your front yard.  You may have to build a sogi screen around them to disguise what you’re doing the sewer plant doesn’t like holding tank chemicals. Thank god for disposable gloves 

New Driver

As a former state park employee for 27 years and the accompanying restrooms to clean, lift stations to work on, and sewer plants to run, I guess I have a stronger constitution for such things and have gotten the dumping on my little 22’ 5th wheel down to near painless. Worst story ever: new rv owner and park volunteer who was staying for 3 months summoned us to his site because his rv shower drain was backing up. Arriving at the site he related that he left both his drains open when he parked it, so he wouldn’t have to monitor the tank levels...it would just drain as things left the trailer, right? Well.....the fluid drains and the solids are left behind at that flow rate, so he learned that fully a half of the drain hose was compacted with....”sludge”.....I handed him a 5’ length of stiff wire and told him that would unplug it....or he could carefully try to load up the hose and transport it to the sewer plant. He managed to keep both ends up and sealed off with ziplock bags and bailing wire and got it safely to the treatment plant....lesson learned!

Passenger

Maybe it is my life spent camping or my willingness to do jobs that others won’t but you have certainly painted a very mundane aspect of camping as quite the event. Most campgrounds (at least on the east coast) have full hookup available, meaning water, electric, and sewer. Once parked you setup the sewage hose once for the entire time at the campground and empty it black then grey whenever needed. Also, I have never once needed to use a rock or foot to hold my hose in place, most screw into the threaded pipe and those that don’t I use the foam cone and it fits perfectly. And for campgrounds that do not have sewer available, most offer “honey wagon” service (which is another name for the “dump caddie” where the campground will, for a nominal fee, take care of your full tank. Heck, some campgrounds offer it for free. I would also suggest investing in some chemistry gloves instead of disposable, less likely to tear. At the end of the day the entire “process” is so mundane that it isn’t worth mentioning which is I guess what makes it a dirty little “secret”. 

Passenger

even 2-3 gallons is fine, and remember to add a good dose of dishwasher detergent that will help clean it without sudsing. There's a good story about a whole large bottle of dollar store dish soap detergent in a RV trailer tank, on a warm 200 miles drive. First time the pedal was pushed to flush, it was more like a low budget thriller-"Attack of the killer brown foam." Also, you want to keep a few oversized HD garbage bags and disposable gloves stashed away for dealing with a waste hose. After rinsing the hose, only an act of God will ever get it dry inside, so put it in the bag like a snake handler and tie it off. 

Detailer

I've had a trailer for a few years. Still look at the "for sale" ads for an older Class A -- they depreciate like luxury cars. I'm a handyman (by profession since I retired from the USAF, was in Civil Engineering doing base maintenance most of my 24 years) and would like to gut and remodel one. A Class A (or C) just isn't that practical though, as we don't go a lot and then would have to tow a vehicle for most trips, as noted. I have a sewer "caddy", but don't use it for black water, just grey. Using the public toilet on occasion isn't a big deal for me. You'll quickly fill the grey water if using the shower much anyway, takes a while to fill the black -- unless you're staying for more than a few days and only using the RV toilet. Still, it's good for two people on a long weekend even then. An RV can be like a boat -- a hole in the water (in this case in the ground) that you throw money in. Same as a vintage car -- throw money in the parking lot. You have to at least like it a lot, if not love it. The main reason I don't buy an older Class A and remodel is that I couldn't sell it and get my money back. Well, maybe... sans labor. Same thing I tell people about old cars -- don't get it unless you like it, because the only sure way to get your money out of it is to enjoy it for many years.

Intermediate Driver

Wally Byam's original concept for his Airstream trailers had no toilet, no shower, and no place to wash your hands except the kitchen sink. The gray water literally ran out of a pipe directly underneath the trailer, and onto the ground. The bathroom facilities consisted of a shovel for going out into the forest, or taking your car for a quick trip to the nearest gas station. In those days campgrounds were virtually unheard of; the idea was to simply find a quiet spot in the forest and park your trailer there. It wasn't until a lot of people started camping that a better solution had to be found. One of the reasons that I would prefer a boat to an RV is that when the boat's blackwater tank gets full you call the marina's pump-out guy and he cruises over to your boat and takes care of it all while you stay inside. Of course the downside is that a boat that has the same amount of interior room as a 28 foot trailer is going to cost you around one million. 

Intermediate Driver

I actually “lol’d” a few times reading this article. Well done.

New Driver

We had a travel trailer in the early 1970s. We kids learned very quickly that dump-station time was not a good time to bother my dad with anything. The technology apparently hasn't changed. 

New Driver

For goodness sake, didn't you ever realize that the grey plastic elbow shown in the photo of your storage bin has threads on it? Those threads are supposed to engage the internal threads on the inlet to the dump station so that you do not need to hold the hose in place or use a weight.  In the 2 years I was RVing, there were only a couple of places where the dump inlet was not threaded. Furthermore, those elbows are available in a clear plastic that allows you to watch what is coming through the hose. This allows you to hook up a water hose and flush the system until you see clear water coming through.   

New Driver

Oh this was funny!  We owned a Tiffin motorhome for about 10 years.  Towed a off-road loving and built for, Jeep Wrangler.  Oh yeah- - - we know all about looking for dump stations.  Fortunately our motorhome had a system that we could hook up a hose (not the one used for freshwater) and flush out the dreaded sewer hose.  When we bought it, used, no one gave us any information regarding the "Dumping".  Learned the hard way, but by watching others and the movie, "RV" I did learn rather quickly!  Anyone thinking about an RV ought to watch the movie, its hilarious!  Now I thinking I need a "Teardrop" trailer to pull behind my 1932 Ford Coupe highboy.  Yeah, its a "Hotrod"!  

New Driver

RVing is just like boat ownership as far as holding the dump id concerned,  only you normally have to pump (suck) it up to get to the final depository.  This is especially true in areas that are "No Discharge" and most marinas where the transfer route is down a wooden dock to a pipe located on the side of the office and you get to use a hand pump both locations.

Passenger

"So, we, um, share the load."  Indeed.

Pit Crew

I think you’d be surprised how many truck campers have full bathrooms in them. 

Passenger

Then, there's the drain hose that begins to leak,, at the worst time..... OH S....T !! 

Passenger

Hope you never see where a good Porterhouse steak comes from 😉 The more one writes and reads about human waste systems, the more upset the uninitiated will get. Maybe that's why you don't see many (any?) long articles in Hagerty about human waste IN humans, and where it's stored, exits, and what's required to keep the orifice(s) clean 🙂 

BTW, many larger RVs have 4 tanks (Black, Gray, White handles + "fresh" water) and you don't want to drink straight from any of them.

Detailer

A quick note about chemicals used in black water tanks. Many States prohibit them. We just add five gallons or so of water after dumping and put about a quart of a non-foaming soap solution. It’s legal and it costs a fraction of the chemicals. 

Passenger

We have officially owned our very first RV for 4 days. The timing of your article couldn't have been better. Can't wait to share with the wife! 

New Driver

Rob, you need to get a macerator.  It connects to the bayonet connection and makes the job much neater and tidy.  Just remember to take the cap off the hose first, otherwise things can get ugly.  The method you describe is primitive.  And the macerator doesn't care about gravity - it would even work on the moon.

Passenger

Its not that bad. Put it into perspective. I do not know how many toilets you have in your home but if it is like mine where we don't have a housekeeper it is up to yours truly to clean each and everyone of them on a regular basis. So dumping RV tanks is not that much more difficult to confront. 

In the picture of your RV sewer hose it does have a 90 degree angle fitting on the end that is  sized for different diameter hook ups. Most RV park connections have a threaded plug that is removed when attaching your hose. The threads on the angle fitting screw into the sewer pipe and will stay there with just a couple of turns of the fitting. No need of a rock or cinder block to hold it in place. At most dump stations the hinged bronze lid  or a threaded pipe connection will also hold it in place while you dump. No hands needed. You might want to look at replacing the sewer hose with a higher quality piece. The one you get from the manufacturer of the RV or the RV dealer is generally pretty cheap. Better hoses do not have the rough corrugations inside that collect detritus and they flow much better. We also have a clear angle fitting on the end so it is easy to see when  the tanks have emptied and how clean the flow is.  

 

Yes, generally the larger the RV the larger the holding tanks. We have a 21 foot travel trailer and the grey water tank will fill long before the black. It is something that has to be monitored and plans made accordingly. Small tanks with no hook up probably means a one or two day stay if other facilities are not available. Most homes have a large sewer cleanout fitting located in the main line. Being in Boston yours might be in the basement if you have a basement. We repurposed the one at our home so that is convenient to the trailer location making it easy to dump.  In years past we  purchased a RV sewer cap that had a garden hose fitting. Hook up a hose and water the lawn and garden with grey water. There also is a RV sewer hook up available that has a built in macerating pump that discharges through a smaller diameter long hose that you can either put directly into a sewer or a toilet. Last time I Iooked it cost less than $50.  

Pit Crew

as a boat owner;

1) i don't see an RV as anything much different than a landlocked boat, and one is enough, so i stick to my boat

2) #1 is easy enough to get rid of. in the boat world, #2 can generally be handled by a bucket with a trashbag in it and some quick response time. anyone depositing #2 in a boat toilet tends to not be invited on the boat anymore

Pit Crew