Thursday, August 22, 2013

Waste Elimination, Sorry That's Waste Disposal

Bend, OR                   (Click on Pictures to Enlarge) 

Ok, it's time to address one of  the mundane, but necessary aspects of Fulltime RVing.

NOTE: If you never intend to stay in any campground or other facilities which do not have FULL (meaning, at least water, sewer, and electric) hookups, then you might want to skip today's blog.

We have been RVing in several different types of rigs since 1991.  In all of those years we had never spent any extended length of time at a campground which did not have a sewer connection at the site.  I'm not speaking about overnight stops or two or three days at events such as LOW (Life on Wheels) or such here. I'm talking about a stay of a couple of weeks (such as in our current location here at the Bend-Sunriver TT).

We love this park, but it has electric and water hookups at each site only.  We knew we intended to stay here about a month ago, so it was time to address the question of what to do about emptying the grey and black water tanks.

Our MH has average sized tanks for a MH.  Our capacities are 100 gallons fresh, 70 gallons grey, and 50 gallons in the black tank.  In deciding how we would handle the waste disposal of the tanks, be basically had 3 options.
Option #1- When the tanks were full we could bring in the slides, raise the jacks, then travel to the dump stations here in the campground.  We really didn't like this idea too much as once we're settled in, packing up again is not so much fun.
Option #2- At this park, the campground has a "honey wagon" service which roams the park several days during the week.  Just sign up, pay $20 per dump, and the tanks are emptied.  Because I'm pretty cheap, I didn't like this idea too well either.
Option #3- Look into some way to transport the contents of our tanks to the dump station on our own.  Because I'm looking at this as a way to handle future similar situations, this is the method we selected. Thus begins the topic of today's post.

When we (I) began looking at dumping totes I found that there are basically two styles to choose from. Barker Mfg. and Thetford Corporation are the two major players in the tote tank business today. I listed links to both company's products above so that anyone can take a look and make their own comparisons between the totes.

I decided to go with the SmartTote 35LX from Thetford which is their largest tote. I reasoned that if I was going to be doing the "dumping" routine anyway, then I wanted to do it as few times as possible.  Once the tote arrived, my next concern was where in the heck am I going to carry this beast when we are in transit.
Fortunately, we have a storage compartment on the PS, near the back of the rig, where it is large enough to carry chairs, a camping mat, a small fold up table, but best of all, the new Thetford tote. It justs fits lengthwise and I installed two D-ring hooks on each side of the compartment to hold everything in place while traveling down the road.  (Sorry, I haven't taken any pictures of the tank inside the compartment yet.)

We have affectionately named our Thetford SmartTote
 "Dookey Monkey".

Now on to the first use of the tote tank.

One of the reasons I selected the Thetford tote was because of its' containment of the sewer hose and short flushing hose on the unit itself.  I didn't want to lose parts or have to go searching when I was ready to drain the tanks.  The tote is rolled up near the MH's drain valve and the tote's sewer hose is attached. Just as you would hook up to the sewer connection at a site.

Next, you pull the MH's drain valve for whichever (or both) tank you intend to drain.   The Thetford has a built-in "bobber" which pops up when the tote is full. When it does, it's time to IMMEDIATELY close the drain valve on the MH.

Re-cap the tote's sewer hose, push it back into the containment sleeve on the tote, and the tote is now ready to head off to the dump station. (NOTE: When full the tote and contents weigh a bit over 300 pounds, so lifting this beast is out of the question.)

We purchased a cheap receiver which fits into our bike hitch on the Honda Fit and wheel the tote to make the hook up. This Thetford model has twin wheels at the front, so it's fairly easy to pivot the tote around.

The manufacturer suggests a maximum towing speed of 5 MPH.  I believe it!  That's one of the negatives I believe will impact the durability of this unit.  The rear wheels are 8-inch, but solid rubber on a PVC hub.  I already see that I might be trying to do some type of modification on the wheels to make them a bit larger and change the tires to pneumatics.

Once at the dump station, the disposal process is pretty straight forward. Remove the hose, the end cap, loosen the "bobber valve" cap to allow the tote to vent, and that's it.  The "mess" you see around the dump station is just water, not "an accident" from our first experience.

Impressions of the Thetford Tote and our First Experience

The tote does basically what it is designed to do.  I've already addressed my concerns about the longevity of the wheels. Also, no matter how much you tilt, lift, and turn the tote after dumping there is still a bit of fluid inside.  It's important to attach the fresh water hose to the tote and thoroughly flush the tank as much as possible.
I think we'll get a lot of use out of this tote as we intend to stay in some NPS, NFS, and BLM areas which have either no hookups, or no sewer hookups at the sites.

I know that this blog was a bit different from our normal posts, but if you have any questions at all about the subject, or are thinking about getting one of these totes, please do not hesitate to drop us an email or post a comment.

Thanks again for stopping by to take a look!


  1. Looks like a lot of work to me.

  2. I got one of those last year, as most of the places we like to stay around here only have electric and water sites available on short notice (you may remember my aversion to long term planning). That thing is awesome.

  3. Glad you're happy, happy, happy with your new "toy". Holding 35 gallons, you're going to make quite a few trips with it.

    Can't believe the $20 dump pump fee. I paid $50 in Oregon December 2011. That hurt but I was so up on blocks to be leveled out for a month long stay in my son's driveway, it was worth it.

    Nice that it'll fit in one of your compartments. I could never fit it in my Journey, I'd have to hang it off the ladder or maybe triple tow, tow it behind my toad. Wonder how long the wheels would last doing that? ;c)

    1. Paul I believe it's $20 because the honey wagon service is run by the TT folks instead of being a company which comes in from the outside.
      Sorry, I'm not a fan of triple towing. LOL

  4. Whew, I was afraid that you were going to say that you would be strapping it to the ladder.

    1. If I can avoid it, I would rather not strap anything to the ladder. I don't really trust the ladder's attachment points to put any kind of weight on.

  5. I think the $20 would have been easier?? maybe you could re-coop your money and have your own 'honeywagon' business?

    1. I would agree if it was a one time use, but we hope to use it many times in the future.
      We stayed at a city run park in NE early this year where it would have come in very handy.

  6. Wow!! Just think about all the money that you can make at Quartzsite next year!! I used to see these things being pulled behind pickups in Q.

    I guess I'm just lazy..... I only want to pull my dump valve once, and walk away. However, I am sure that this will give you more options on where you will camp, and for how long.


    1. Hey, Richard, can I pull your dump valve and walk away?

  7. We've seen quite a few people using these totes ... we had one neighbor who made daily trips to the dump ... and yes, it was slow going. We're able to go two weeks without dumping when we have water/electricity only. We'll see how things go when we get west before considering one of these, but thanks for doing our research for us.

  8. Looks like the perfect solution to your situation.