How to Empty Black Water Tank When Boondocking | RV Tips

Boondocking, or camping without hookups, is a fun and budget-friendly way to enjoy RVing. However, managing black water tank drainage becomes trickier without easy sewer access. An overfull black tank can lead to nasty backups and damage your RV.

Thankfully, with some planning and effort, you can empty your black water tank safely and legally while boondocking. The key is to locate nearby dump stations, monitor tank levels diligently, and use RV-safe products to control odors and breakdown solids. You may need to move your RV to access a dump station when the tank nears capacity.

In this guide, I have shared insider tips for emptying black water tanks when boondocking. Learn how to locate dumps, transport waste, use portable toilets, employ tank-friendly products, and practice proper dumping procedures. Read on to enjoy carefree boondocking trips without the hassle of overflowing waste tanks.

How to Empty Black Water Tank When Boondocking

Step 1: Locate Nearby Dump Stations

The first step to emptying your black tank while boondocking is finding a place to legally and safely dispose of waste. Unlike at managed campgrounds with on-site dump stations, you must seek out public facilities when dry camping in the wilderness.

Fortunately, there are dump station locators to help you find dumping locations across the United States and Canada. The Sanidumps directory maps over 14,000 free and affordable dump stations, including many in national forests and public lands.

The Dyrt, Campendium, and similar camping apps and websites also list dump station locations. You can filter by amenities like potable water fill-up and wheelchair accessibility. User reviews provide helpful details like fees, hours, and conditions.

When possible, plan boondocking sites near national, state, or private campgrounds open to public dumping for a small fee. Truck stops, RV resorts, and wastewater treatment plants also typically have dump stations available.

Know your black tank capacity and monitor levels closely. When nearing full, allow enough time to travel to the closest approved dump station. Apps like SeeLeveL RV 2.0 track waste levels using tank monitors and help locate dump stations along your route.

Step 2: Transport Waste to Dump Station

Once you’ve located a dump station, the next hurdle is transporting waste from your remote boondocking spot to the disposal site. You have two main options:

Move the RV

The simplest method is to travel in your RV to a dump station when the black tank nears capacity. This works best for boondocking within a reasonable distance of a dump facility. Monitor black tank levels closely and allow ample time to drive to the dump station before overflowing.

Keep a map handy with nearby dump stations highlighted around your boondocking areas. Apps like AllStays and RV Dump Station Locator pinpoint dump sites along your route.

Moving the RV has the added benefit of agitating waste to ease dumping. The motion stirs solid waste and breaks up toilet paper to prevent clogging.

Portable Waste Transport

For more remote boondocking, transporting waste in portable toting tanks is preferable to moving the entire RV rig. Portable waste carriers allow you to empty tanks as needed without breaking camp.

Special RV toting units like Thetford’s SmartTote2 are designed for secure, spill-free waste transport. Tote tanks hook to the RV’s sewer outlet for gravity drainage from black tanks. A 20-gallon carrier with a 4-inch sewer hose allows suitable capacity for several days of two-person waste.

Secure lids and sturdy wheels keep the portable tank stable in transit to the dump station. The portable tanks are much easier to dump than the holding tanks. The smaller size also allows you to dump in any standard sewer inlet if needed, not just RV drains.

Some RVers repurpose a spare gray water toting tank for black water transport. However, portable waste carriers designed for sewage are best to contain odors and prevent leaks.

Step 3: Use Portable Toilets

For boondocking beyond the reasonable driving range of dump stations, portable toilets offer a self-contained waste solution. Composting and cassette toilets allow toilet use without filling the RV black tank.

Composting toilets separate liquids and solids into removable containers. The waste naturally decomposes into usable compost over time. Urine diverts into a bottle for proper disposal.

Cassette toilets have removable tanks that slide out like a drawer to empty into any toilet or dump station. Both options bypass the need to immediately dump RV holding tanks while boondocking off-grid.

Portable toilets are also handy for dry camping in rented RVs. For short trips, you can avoid dumped tank fees and dumping hassles using self-contained toilets.

Using portable potties reduces the overall waste volume in your RV black tank. You can extend the time between costly RV dump station visits. Just ensure cassette waste gets emptied properly.

Step 4: Employ RV Black Tank Products

Specialized RV waste disposal products help break down solids, control odors, and ease draining when boondocking. Using these RV-safe treatments allows you to comfortably extend the time between tank dumps.

1. Enzyme Treatments

Enzyme treatments like Happy Campers Holding Tank Treatment liquefy solid waste using natural biological enzymes and bacteria. Regular use prevents accumulation and helps waste flow freely through tanks and hoses.

Enzyme Treatments

The active ingredients break down toilet paper and other waste into a liquid state. This allows more waste storage before needing a dump and avoids clogs.

Look for plant-based, formaldehyde-free brands like Happy Campers designed for RV waste systems. Measure out the recommended dose for your tank size with each dumping.

2. Deodorizers

Deodorizing products help control odors from waste tanks, which is especially important when boondocking and transporting waste.

RV holding tank deodorizers like Camco’s TST Ultra-Concentrate use bioactive enzymes combined with pleasant fragrances to neutralize nasty black water smells.


Regular use per label instructions will keep tanks smelling fresh between dumps. Always choose RV-safe brands avoiding harsh chemicals that can damage plumbing.

For portable transport tanks, try products like Lucas Liquid Tank Sanitizer

 both deodorize and sanitize waste containers. Follow safety guidelines to avoid hazardous mixing with other chemicals.

3. Black water tank treatments

Tablets or packets formulated for RV holding tanks can make waste more manageable for boondocking. Biodegradable brands like Aqua-Kem’s Holding Tank Deodorizer and Cleaner soften solid waste and control odor while protecting tanks.

Black water tank treatments

Drop one to two tablets into the black tank after each dumping. As waste accumulates, the tabs dissolve to break down tissue and waste for easier dumping. They also freshen tanks between emptying.

Avoid any products with formaldehyde or toxic chemicals. Seek biodegradable, RV-safe options for best results.

4. Tank Flushers

Another handy product for boondocking waste management is a tank flushing wand. Attach it to your sewer outlet and garden hose to power rinse the inside of the black tank.

Pressure flushing with a Camco Sidewinder Sewer Hose Flusher or similar gadget removes stuck-on debris and waste clinging to tank walls. Clean tanks also reduce odor.

Tank Flushers

Flush the tank at dump stations to fully empty waste and rinse the interior. Repeat as needed until the water runs clear. This removes any lingering debris or waste that could clog valves or accumulate during your off-grid camping.

Following the product label usage, safety, and environmental guidelines allows you to effectively and responsibly manage black tank waste when boondocking. Combining treatments and methodically monitoring levels makes dumping easy and worry-free.

Practicing Proper Dump Station Procedures

Once at the dump station, carefully follow protocol to empty waste tanks safely and cleanly. This helps prevent spills or contamination.

  • Protect the Dump Station: Cover open dump station grates with a filter donut or mesh screen. This prevents debris from clogging the sewer. Wear disposable gloves and have a trash bag ready for any litter.
  • Unfasten and Prepare Sewer Hoses: Detach and extend sewer hoses to reach the dump station inlet. Secure the hose so it won’t slip off during dumping. Keep the hose end above the ground.
  • Empty Black Tank First: Empty the black tank first before gray to help rinse out the sewer hose with gray water. Place the sewer hose end in the dump station inlet before opening the black tank valves.
  • Rinse and Flush Tank: Rinse and flush the black tank after emptying using a tank flushing wand and plenty of water. Repeat until the flushed water runs clear.
  • Empty Gray Tank: Open gray tank valves to empty and rinse the hose into the dump station. Avoid overflowing the dump inlet.
  • Clean Up: Rinse off sewer hoses thoroughly before stowing. Dispose of gloves, screens, and any litter in trash receptacles. Close valves and secure hose connections.

Repeat the process each time your black tank nears capacity while boondocking. Follow any posted dump station guidelines and leave facilities tidy for the next RV. Practicing proper procedures keeps both you and the facilities clean and functional.

With the right gear, techniques, and dump station etiquette, you can manage black tank drainage seamlessly while boondocking off-grid. Just monitor levels vigilantly, utilize waste control products, and empty responsibly. Avoid overfilling or dumping in unauthorized places. A smoothly managed black tank lets you relax and enjoy your boondocking adventures.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should I empty the black water tank when boondocking?

Empty the RV black water tank when it reaches around 2/3 full. This prevents overflowing as waste accumulates slower than gray water. Monitor tank levels closely using gauges or tank monitoring systems. Plan to dump every 4-7 days for two people, depending on tank size and water use.

Where can I dump black water if no dump stations are nearby?

Never dump waste onto the ground or any unauthorized spot. Your best option is using a portable waste tote to transport to an approved dump site. Alternatively, relocate the RV to a dump station when the tank fills. Avoid dumping into outhouses, pit toilets, or septic systems not designed for RV waste.

Is it bad to travel with full black water tanks?

Yes, it is best to empty black tanks before they reach full capacity. Weight from complete waste tanks places stress on RV components. Liquid in tanks may leak through valves or splatter out vents when driving. Full tanks are also prone to clogging and backup. Travel with tanks no more than 2/3 full.

How do I find dump stations to empty tanks while boondocking?

Use dump station locator apps like Sanidumps, Campendium, and AllStays to find dumps near your location. National forests and many gas stations have facilities. Check if nearby campgrounds allow public dumping for a small fee.

Can I add RV tank ice to help with odor and breakdown?

No, avoid dumping ice directly into black water tanks. It can damage valve seals and gaskets. Use RV-safe enzyme treatments and deodorizers instead to control waste and smells. Only add ice to gray tanks to conserve fresh water when boondocking.


Boondocking allows you the freedom to camp off-grid, but it requires some effort to manage black tank dumping. Careful planning to locate nearby dump stations, transporting waste safely, and employing helpful tank products will allow you to keep your black tank under control. Follow proper dumping procedures and use patience. With the right preparation, you can master off-grid RV waste management and enjoy worry-free boondocking adventures.

We wish you happy and safe travels as you journey to beautiful boondocking destinations. Please leave us a comment below if you have any other questions about managing waste tanks while dry camping without hookups. We’d be happy to provide any other tips to make your boondocking experiences smooth and enjoyable. Safe travels and happy camping!

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