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Topic: How many days to fill gray and black holding tanks???

Posted By: bowler1 on 07/24/14 05:51am

Based on your experience how many days can you go without needing to empty your holding tanks, and how reliable are your tanks guages? And of course how big are your tanks and how man people are camping with you?

I know this is relative but i am trying to get an idea.

I have 32 gallon black and gray. I am solo camping now and finishing today after 4 nights. I have used the shower sparingly. My guages show that i now have full black and gray tanks. Seems that would not be the case this quick with one person.



Posted By: WayneAt63044 on 07/24/14 06:00am

The black tank sensors get dirty easily and are less accurate than the grey sensors in my experience. If you can see the black tank level looking into the toilet, that is the most accurate. My trailer has 2 each 32 gal. grey tanks and a 32 gal. black tank. The rear grey tank which receives the shower water fills the fastest when the wife & I are boondocking. We both are very conserving of water however we only have 32 gal. of freshwater so that is the limiting factor for us. The sensor electrodes are never at the top of the tank so you always have a bit more capacity when the full light is on; seems like a reasonable safety factor to me.

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Posted By: wmoses on 07/24/14 06:02am

bowler1 wrote:

Based on your experience how many days can you go without needing to empty your holding tanks, and how reliable are your tanks guages? And of course how big are your tanks and how man people are camping with you?

I know this is relative but i am trying to get an idea.

I have 32 gallon black and gray. I am solo camping now and finishing today after 4 nights. I have used the shower sparingly. My guages show that i now have full black and gray tanks. Seems that would not be the case this quick with one person.



Matt - you will get a wide variety of answers to this (largely because everyone's usage of the RV is different) and you may be able to get an idea of a rate for you from those repsonses.

My wife and I cook daily and exclusively use our bathroom facilities while camping, seldom using the campground toilet and never the bathrooms. We navy shower daily. We have 37 gallon GW and BW tanks. We eat breakfast, lunch and dinner in our RV. We don't use disposable plates or utensils so have to wash the dishes.

Black tank usage 5 days, maybe 6 days. Grey water 3 days.

As for the tank readings - BW tank sensors can get fouled easily (e.g. crud on the sensors including but not only toilet paper) and when they do they will read inaccurately. With usage of a BW tank flush the problem would be greatly reduced. Replacing the sensors with Horst Miracle Probes and flushing the tank after each use should cure the problem. In the grey tank the problem should not present itself with proper usage (reduce grease down the drains, for example).

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Posted By: Javi1 on 07/24/14 06:11am

We have 2 30 gallon grey tanks and a 30 gallon black, the black tank will usually last the 2 of us 5-6 days. The Galley tank will usually last at least that long as we eat on paper plates and only wash the dishes from food prep. The shower grey tank will last us 6 Navy showers, which might be 1 day if the DW is running around in the summer and "glowing" (sweating to most of us)... [emoticon]

Don't really pay any attention to the gages anymore, they are notoriously inaccurate and we've learned how to tell when the tanks a getting full by the sound

* This post was edited 07/24/14 06:26am by Javi1 *

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Posted By: mbopp on 07/24/14 06:27am

37 gallon gray and black tanks in our TT, and it's just DW & me. We use regular dishes and take daily Navy showers. The black tank will go at least a week, but we'll fill the gray tank (and empty the FW tank) in 2-3 days.
But - I have a 30 gallon drum in the back of the F150 and a 12V pump. Gray water gets pumped & taken to the dump station as needed.

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Posted By: DutchmenSport on 07/24/14 06:28am

I don't use my sensors. The last 2 campers I owned, they were never accurate. So the current camper, I simply ignore the sensors.

My wife and I camp alone, with our dog and 2 cats.

Our tanks are: Fresh water 43 gallon. Black, Grey, and Galley are 30 gallon. And the water heater is 6 gallons.

With our current trailer we can take 6 navy showers.
We can use the toilet for 3-4 days (depending).
We can use the kitchen sink for a week or more (as we do most of our cooking and clean up outside).

I have a blue tote (32 gallon), and I dump the black and gray every other day if I do not have full hook-ups. If I dump every other day, I can usually dump both black and gray into the 32 gallon tote and not over fill. I back-flush the gray tank into the black tank to help swish the contents out. This saves water and prevents the tote from over filling.

Posted By: 2chiefsRus on 07/24/14 06:37am

Lots of folks concentrate on showers when trying to conserve water but washing dishes takes more water than you may think.

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Posted By: korbe on 07/24/14 06:39am

2 people, 40 g black, 40 g gray, 6 days


Posted By: travelzoo on 07/24/14 06:41am

We have two 45 gallon tanks and 2 of us. We usually get about 10 days with average use. We use campground showers when possible but rare to use campground toilets. I have external sensors on my tanks that seem to work rather well. We try not to skimp of water in the black tank. The more water you keep in it the better it dumps and stays cleaner. When we leave to come home I usually dump my tanks and add about 1/4 tank of water to the black tank to slosh on the way home and have a dump station here at the house to dump in when we get home.

Posted By: naturist on 07/24/14 06:58am

As others have noted, the sensors are widely known to be more or less useless. The gray tank is designed to overflow into the shower when full, the black tank will be truly full when you can't flush the toilet.

How fast they fill up is so widely variable that estimates from other peoples' data will be equally useless. Just as an example, we normally dump the tanks every 3 or 4 days whether they need it or not. Our small rig has a 15 gallon black and a 25 gallon gray tank. We've gotten 6 days out of that gray tank, and we had our daughter visiting us once, and she volunteered to do the dishes after dinner, and filled that gray tank in a matter of about an hour, bless her heart. In her defense, she knew we were on city water, and thought that the sewer line was left open.

Everybody I know requires several trips and a certain amount of experience to figure out how often they need to dump those tanks. Good luck, and camp more/worry less.

Posted By: dbbls on 07/24/14 06:58am

Are you using the fresh water tank? Manufacturers usually size them so the waste tanks will hold all the water in the fresh water tank.

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Posted By: APT on 07/24/14 07:02am

My family of 5 managed 7 nights on our 35 gallon fresh (plus 6 for water heater?) and 35 gallon grey tanks. It took a couple years to change our habits to accomplish that. We use house water for teeth brushing, washing hands, and washing dishes. We use campground showers and bathrooms except for middle of the night emergencies. Our first trip we only lasted 2 days. It sucked packing up to take TT to dump station just to repark and set up.

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Posted By: coolbreeze01 on 07/24/14 07:28am

Dump measured water (5gal buckets) down your shower and toilet. You will know how much more capacity you actually have with gauges reading full.

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Posted By: HappyKayakers on 07/24/14 07:34am

Never mind the gauges. After a few trips you'll get a feel for your usage.

When water backs up into the shower, time to dump gray. When toilet burps at you while flushing, time to dump the black. If you try to dump black too frequently or before it's at least half full, you'll accumulate solids in the tank.

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Posted By: Golden_HVAC on 07/24/14 07:44am

Normally the grey tank is fairly accurate in my RV. The black tank is never very good in any RV, as a little TP and it can short all the electrodes inside, showing water is covering all of them. When there is liquid that conducts electric from the base ground probe to the second one up, it shows 1/4, the next probe 1/2, the 4th probe 3/4, while the top one shows full, even though my probe is about 2" from the top of the tank. So I have a little wiggle room.

The problem might be that once the tank is 100% full, some can drain up into the shower pan, and that can smell. Or even when 90% full, and driving can lead to some showing up in the shower pan. I have a tub/bath, so even if 10 gallons shows up there, I will not overflow onto the floor. Be careful doing dishes, as the water will go down the higher elevation sink, and show up in the shower pan.

Many times to save grey tank space, I would use a dishpan for dishes, then toss that water onto some nearby thirsty plants or the grass, much like all the tent campers might do. Also taking a shower, I can plug the tub drain, then use the dishpan to put extra water into the toilet, I have a 59 gallon black tank, and 42 grey. Not all the water, but say more than 50% will go into the toilet.

Also to save both fresh and grey water space, I can put 1 gallon or so of dish or shower water into a used 1 gallon jug, and use that for flushing at night.

I can camp solo for about 3 weeks without overfilling the grey tank, and a couple of months while living on a ranch without draining the black tank. Many times I was dry camping in areas where the bushes needed some water, so I would dig a hole, and drain the grey down into a 15" deep pit, then bury it by night, so no bug problems.


Posted By: dahkota on 07/24/14 07:54am

We have 47G Fresh, 32G black, 32G shower gray, 32G galley gray.
At 5 days/4 nights, we run out of fresh. If we get more fresh water, we can go 7 days/6 nights before at least one tank almost full.
For the shower, the first gallon is always cold. We have a bucket in the shower where the first gallon goes to dump in the toilet.

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Posted By: dadmomh on 07/24/14 08:12am

When we picked up our brand new TT, the black tank read much for accuracy. Believe our ROO HTT was 30 gallon capacity for each tank. The TT is more, but I don't fret about it as we always camp with at least water and electric and FHU when we can. For the 2 of us, we've only had the grey back up into the shower 1 time and that was when a friend insisted on "helping" wash dishes the night before....lots of water.

The general rule of thumb is to let the black tank get about 2/3 or more full before dumping, but we've just always dumped and thoroughly rinsed at the end of each weekend or if a longer trip, about 3 days. Main reason is we just don't like to haul around the extra weight. With the black tank, you need to be VERY generous with water to help make dumping more complete and the system work better in general. If we're going to be gone for more than a weekend or so, we do take the blue tote along just in case.

Re the grey tank backing up into the shower, if you notice the kitchen sink draining slowly, stop and check the shower. I was literally within about an inch of overflowing the shower when that happened and I'd not heard about it before. What a mess we would have had!

Re the black tank - when I do our Sunday morning cleanup - or whatever is our last day - I'm overly generous with water into the black. Just sometimes put a count of about 30 seconds of water running into the toilet a few times that morning...then I know there is plenty of water. If you don't have a clear fitting for your black tank hose, suggest you invest in one. A huge help in seeing when you're really finished dumping and if you have a clog somewhere in the line, you'll know it when virtually nothing is coming through.

So the answer to your question is that there really isn't an answer....depends on you, how you use the facilities, length of time you're out there, number and length of showers, how much dishwashing. Probably safe to assume you're good for 2 - 3 days with reasonable use, but you'll know after a few trips what your limits are. Happy Camping!

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Posted By: pianotuna on 07/24/14 08:13am


To get a better idea of how much fresh water you have, fill the tank, then run the pump until the tank is dry. Mine takes about 24 minutes to go from full to empty. I have 66 gallons of fresh water.

If I pee in the toilet, I pressurize the water system, then turn off the pump. That is enough water to "clear" the bowl of urine.

The sensors are pretty much a joke except for the fresh water.

I urban dock a lot, so McDonalds and the like provides me with toilet facilities.

I extend my water by using bottled for cooking and drinking. Paper plates are
much better than they used to be. I try to find recycled paper products.

I tend to NOT stay in campgrounds. With one shower per day I can go for 3 weeks.

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Posted By: fla-gypsy on 07/24/14 08:40am

Being conservative my wife and I will fill the 38 gal gray tank in 2 days with showers. Black tank will go 5 days. The gauges are worthless

This member is not responsible for opinions that are inaccurate due to faulty information provided by the original poster. Use them at your own discretion.

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Posted By: 2012Coleman on 07/24/14 08:51am

Your camping solo, and after 4 nights your black tank sensor is showing full on a 32 gallon tank. Don't think one person could create 32 gallons of waste including flush water in that time. As stated, look down the toilet while flushing.

Just got back from a 6 night trip with DW and 6 year old. My black tank started showing full on the indicator after 5 nights, but I couldn't see it - so didn't dump black until leaving.

Gray water is another story. We will use the CG facilities if clean, and take navy showers if using our TT's shower. We wash dishes and pans, but use paper plates until we run out of them. I had to dump the gray water every other day - use my portable tank and haul it to the dump station with the TV.

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Posted By: chr$ on 07/24/14 09:02am

...How much beer do you drink?

Seriously though, it all depends on size of tanks and how many people are using the coach. We get 3-4 days, two adults, 40 gal's each tank. If beer is being consumed in mass quantities, I use public facilities if available and clean for the returning of said beer to prevent too much usage of the black tank, but I have never filled my black tank.

You can help keep the black tank sensors working by flushing your tank every time you dump, not always possible though.

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Posted By: Drew_K on 07/24/14 09:06am

It's just the wife and me, and our TT has a 30 gallon black tank and 60 gallon grey tank. We don't use the campground facilities, so all of our water is used in the TT.

Our black tank usually gets to around 2/3 full in 4 days, although we flush with plenty of water to help the tank flush properly when we dump. I think we could easily go 6+ days if we cut back on the flush water, although I'd flush the black tank well when dumping.

The grey water tank will last 4-6 days, showering using Navy method. We also adjust our usage habits based on how long we're going to stay somewhere. If we're only staying somewhere for 2 nights, we tend to use more water when showering, washing dishes, etc.

Couple of tips to save water:
* Navy method for showering (huge savings here)

* Minimize washing dishes (huge savings here also) by using paper plates and plastic cups. I'll wash dishes outside if we're staying somewhere 5+ days.

* Buy a small 1 gallon bucket and use that to hold water for certain tasks, then throw it outside. For example, when first turning on the shower to get hot water, I run the water into that bucket until the water is hot, then the bucket gets drained outside after the shower. In my TT, that saves around 1/3 gallon each shower.

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Posted By: Lantley on 07/24/14 09:25am

Wife and 2 kids we can go a weekend with no conservation methods. 40 gallons tanks Longer stays we use Barker tote for grey tank and can last indefinetly

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Posted By: PAAK on 07/24/14 11:12am

The gray tank will last 4-5 days with me, wife, and son. The black doesnt usually get to half during that time, and the galley will get to 2/3, we only wash pans and normal cleaning, as we use plastic ware and paper plates while camping.

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Posted By: BubbaChris on 07/24/14 11:25am

We only have 27gal tanks for fresh, gray, and black. And we're going on our second-ever dry camping trip this weekend. So it's fun and useful to read this whole thread to get ideas from more experienced campers.

On our last (dry camping) trip, we saved our breakfast and lunch prep tools until after dinner for cleaning. And for minor things, we used wet wipes to clean our hands instead of using the sinks.

We're also in the mode of trying to divert as much gray water as possible to the black tank (shower warm-up water, kitchen rinse water, etc.)

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Posted By: Opie431 on 07/24/14 12:56pm

Our senssors were accurate until a year ago. Now I just look on them as habitual liars.

Posted By: wmoses on 07/24/14 06:00pm

2chiefsRus wrote:

Lots of folks concentrate on showers when trying to conserve water but washing dishes takes more water than you may think.

Not the way I do it. [emoticon]

I have no more than 2 - 3" inches of soapy water in the wash sink and nothing initially in the rinse sink. Then I rinse with a trickle over the rinse sink until the water gets to about 2" then rinse with that water. Witth that approach I can even do dinner dishes.

Posted By: myredracer on 07/24/14 07:40pm

With the black tank it will depend also on how much water you put in before you use the tank (4-5 gal. recommended) and how generous you are with water when flushing #2 down. We don't skimp on water anymore and it really makes getting the tank clean after dumping easy and we don't dry camp so dumping more often doesn't matter. For us (party of two), how long it lasts is less important to us than cleaning it.

The grey and galley tank just get dumped when the black is full. The grey tank (bathroom) is only a problem if we take too many or too long showers. The galley tank always lasts the longest.

Posted By: PAThwacker on 07/24/14 08:19pm

36/30/30 tanks and a family of 4. One day drain of fw/fill of gray water is very common.

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Posted By: PAThwacker on 07/24/14 08:23pm

I go to state parks with a 25 gallon gray tank, macerator pump, and 7 gallon aquatainer. I pump the gray into the back of our sub, and dump it via the camper's slinky at the dump station. I have 40ft of transparent 1 1/2 inch hose. Its a ***** to drain that water out of the hose, and do not dump black via the macerator while camping. At home I use a 50ft 3/4 hose for black dumping into my septic.

My camper is 25ft long, and the 40ft is perfect. The problem occurs once you kill the flojet, you have 40ft of stinky water stuck in the hose. Remove hose from flojet, elevate and try to get that water into the gray tank.

Posted By: dodge guy on 07/24/14 08:32pm

I have 38 gallon tanks. the black tank I can stretch to 6 days which is pretty good considering it gets used quite well! the grey can go anywhere from 1 day to 3 days max. depends on how vigilant we are with not running the water too long.

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Posted By: tenbear on 07/25/14 04:51am

Fresh water - 35G
Grey water - 21G
Black water - 25G
Water heater - 6G
People - 2
Bathroom sink plumbed into the black tank.

With FHU sites I dump about every 2-3 days, but without hookups, when we go into full water conservation mode, we have gone 5 days before dumping. I don't trust my gauges but I can see my fresh water tank and I figure if there is still water in the fresh water tank, the other tanks are not full yet.

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Posted By: xteacher on 07/25/14 08:22am

We just bought a small TT with tiny tanks (15 gray, 9 black). We also bought a 15 gallon overflow tank, since we know we'll be needing it at non-full hook up campgrounds - probably daily for grey water.

To maximize the length of use between emptying the tanks, we have done the following, as necessary:

*use campground facilities during the day to help the black tank last longer, and we also only do #1, never #2 unless it's an emergency, in the camper toilet (sorry if TMI).

*strictly limit the amount of toilet paper used, which helps both with making the tank last longer, as well as keeping the sensors from gumming up as quickly. *flush the black water tank (some campers have one built in when emptying the tank for last time; we have a simple wand sprayer that we attach to a hose and stick down the toilet - NOT the drinking hose!!). This has worked pretty well in every camper we've had so far in keeping the sensors relatively accurate (as well as the bathroom habits listed above).

*don't empty the black tank unless full or nearly full. Add water, if necessary, if you need to empty before it's full.

*take Navy showers to limit water going into grey tank. We use the campground showers if they're clean and have a/c in the summer. With kids, I'd definitely do this!

*wash dishes outside like tenters do, if necessary. If you have an outside shower, this is very easy. Set up a small folding table and use 2 dish tubs on it - one for soapy water (only an inch or two is plenty) and one for draining dishes with an rv size dish drainer in it; use the sprayer to rinse dishes into the soapy water tub. If you don't have an outdoor shower, attach a second hose to your water connection with a Y connector. Good for rinsing dirty/sandy feet off, too.

When we had a larger TT with 30 gal. tanks, the black tank lasted a week using the above methods, and the gray lasted about 3 days. There were only 2 of us, so that makes a big difference, compared to having a family/kids.

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Posted By: dave17352 on 07/26/14 07:28pm

We just got back from a eleven day trip all over the canyon area and I did a little experimenting with my holding tanks. We camped 8 nights without hookups and several of those with no water either! We have a 46 gallon fresh water and 22 grey and 26 black tank. We were able to go 4 days no problem with both of us taking navy showers each night. The biggest waste of water is washing dishes. I say use disposable everything except what you cook in. Literally do the dishes once every couple days. There isn't to much to wash if you use paper plates paper bowls and plastic utensils. Also I bought several rolls of paper towels, they work great for sandwiches and for dish rags. On this trip I bought six big rolls of bounty and think we used 3.

I also did the old equalizing the grey and black tanks by leaving the cap on and opening first the grey and then the black valve. Works great. When I dump I just remove the small hose cap on the end cap and let that go down the hose first and then hook up and dump as usual. I know some people think this is gross but that is silly. In fact two of my fishing buddies are Master plumbers and they both see absolutely no problem in doing this.

I am not sure if it was in this thread, but somebody mentioned lots of times they make the holding tanks capable of holding the volume of fresh water you can take on board. In my case this is the true.

Any this is all JMHO.

PS I still can't get myself to throw out all the plastic forks, knives and spoons there just so easy to wash with the pots and pans!

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Posted By: ktmrfs on 07/26/14 10:28pm

bowler1 wrote:

Based on your experience how many days can you go without needing to empty your holding tanks, and how reliable are your tanks guages? And of course how big are your tanks and how man people are camping with you?

I know this is relative but i am trying to get an idea.

I have 32 gallon black and gray. I am solo camping now and finishing today after 4 nights. I have used the shower sparingly. My guages show that i now have full black and gray tanks. Seems that would not be the case this quick with one person.



our trailer has two 32 gallon grey and one 32 gallon black tank. DW and I can go two weeks and still have some room in the tanks. quick shower every other day, carefull with dishwashing, get a big load, use paper plates/cups etc for quick meals. Makes good firestarting material anyway. On the occasions where it is just me, I don't even fill one grey tank in a week and the black is only 1/3 full.

With us, two grandkids, daughter and SIL, we can go 5-6 days before I need to do something with grey water. Even in this case black isn't full, but close.

In general, meals that work well in paper get paper stuff, if it doesn't we use regular dinner ware. Probably a 50/50 split on average.

Everyone has ONE drinking glass they need to use ALL day, no grab one, drink, toss in sink grab another etc.

We use the oxygenetics shower head with the push button shutoff, probably can shower with a gallon of water that way,

It's all careful water conservation. And in all the cases above we haven't needed to use (a) campground toilet facilities or (b) the campground dishwashing disposal dumps for any water either.

* This post was edited 07/26/14 10:35pm by ktmrfs *

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