How to Dry Camp Longer
Whether you’re dry camping in the desert or just blacktop boondocking during a quick cross-country jaunt, going longer between stops at the dump station is a time saver. For decades RVers have come up with creative ways to avoid the dump station blues, but these conservation efforts rarely go beyond portable waste tanks and baby wipe baths. As a lifelong RVer, Corwin knew there had to be a better way.
“From a convenience perspective I always enjoyed going to places where I didn’t have hookups,” he told me. “One of the things that was most frustrating was having to be too conservative in taking my shower every morning. I had to come up with a way to solve that.”
Corwin’s light bulb moment occurred when he was watching a television show about tiny houses in Japan that were designed to divert used bathroom sink water into a water closet for the toilet. “I thought ‘Hmm that’s an interesting idea,’ and I said, ‘How can I adopt that for the RV industry?’”
He used his technical engineering skills to develop a revolutionary idea for RVers; the Extend Your Stay Tank Saver Kit, an innovative, fully integrated, gray water recycling system that utilizes a secondary water pump to redirect used kitchen and bathing water out of the gray water holding tank and into the toilet for flushing purposes.
Once installed, the kit “reduces the level of water in your gray tank, so it makes more room for more showers,” he explains. “The by-product is you’re not using fresh water when you flush your toilet, so you’re also saving fresh water.” As a bonus, it can also extend your dry camping days depending on your overall water consumption. And for those trips when you aren’t boondocking, a simple lever installed next to the toilet will instantly take you out of recycling and into fresh water mode.
As Corwin has actively demonstrated at RV rallies across the U.S., his Tank Saver system can be utilized by RVs of any size—even Class B rigs. These campers who typically only get one day of dry camping can get two after installing the Tank Saver system. “It doesn’t sound like much,” says Corwin, “but it means that you can go for a weekend trip. You can fill up at home, go on your weekend trip, and then get back home again.”
When it comes to the Tank Saver’s gray water recycling benefits, it’s less about the size of the rig and more about the RV’s holding tank capacities. Those RVs with gray and black water tanks that are equivalent in size (or nearly so) will benefit the most by being able to fully utilize black water tank capacity.
A DIYers Dream
The Extend Your Stay Tank Saver Kit consists of just over 60 standard and hard-to-find parts that are needed to build an RV gray water recycling system. The $275 investment doesn’t include the secondary water pump, but Corwin suggests utilizing your existing RV water pump for this modification and upgrading your every day pump to a better model with higher, continuous flow.
According to Corwin, any DIYer who is handy with a drill can install this kit in under four hours. “The instruction book is very clearly laid out and it’s step by step, you check it off as you go,” he says. “But you do have to be comfortable using a drill motor because you have to drill a hole to tap into your gray water tank. You have to be able to drill a hole here and a hole there . . . and do some basic electrical connections (but no soldering). If you’re really comfortable around tools and consider yourself a good do-it-yourselfer (what I call ‘professional installation’) you can usually do it in a couple of hours,” he says.
As a DIYer himself, Corwin understands that mechanically inclined RVers who want to try this project will already have many of the kit’s parts in their shop, which is why he authored the “Go Green, Extend Your Stay Tank Saver” book. This illustrated how-to guide not only explains the concept of gray water recycling to beginner-level RVers, but also serves as a technical manual for installing Corwin’s kit.
How to Conserve Even More
Another component of Corwin’s Tank Saver system is an optional Gray Water Recycling Calculator, which helps you determine how much longer you can dry camp based on other parameters like your dish-washing frequency, daily toilet flushes, the number of people in the RV and more.
“I understand gray water recycling extremely well. I’ve been doing it for two decades now but I still use the calculator, depending on how many people I have staying with me in the RV,” he says. “It just helps you get a good feel for what you can count on and what you can expect.” Whether he’s attending a rally or camping in the wilderness, Corwin usually ends up with unused tank capacity at the end of a trip.
Gray water recycling isn’t a new idea; boondocking RVers do it all the time using the simplest of methods like capturing gray water with a five-gallon bucket. But often recaptured gray water ends up stinking like rotten eggs, so I asked Corwin if his recycling method was any less aromatic.
“The system that we support uses a carbon-wrapped filter that does a small amount of odor reduction and does a great job at particulate removal without restricting flow,” he says. “But the thing that creates the odor is bacteria that’s growing in the tanks. You want to make sure that you’re not putting bacteria into the tanks.”
Food residue is the number one source of bacteria caused by foul odors, so Corwin’s book explains how to reduce the odors by taking steps like wiping down plates and cookware before washing dishes. “There are some habits that you need to change a little bit,” he says, “but by making those minor changes, it prevents you from getting that odor build up in the tank.”
With the Tank Saver system and a few new boondocking rituals, the old five-gallon bucket hassle can be a thing of the past. Whether you’re a full-time RVing snowbird or a part-time weekend warrior who enjoys dry camping, the Extend Your Stay Tank Saver Kit is a terrific, cost-effective way to make your off-grid journeys more enjoyable than ever.
Rene Agredano is a full-time RVer who lives and works from wherever the road takes her. She and her husband, Jim Nelson, chronicle their nomadic lifestyle at LiveWorkDream.com. You can also follow Rene’s blog, “The Full-Timing Nomad,” at rvlife.com.