Finding RV dumping stations and fresh water
The lure of the open road and being able to explore it in your own time and to your heart’s content are two of the top ten reasons why most of us are drawn to the RV life. An old friend of mine used to delight in telling people that he didn’t choose the RV life, the RV life chose him when he was looking for a way to follow his calling.
And whether you’ve chosen the same path that he, and if I’m honest I did too, or you’re just looking for a way to spend your leisure time in comfort and a little style, want to see America when you’ve retired or make the most of your family vacations by going where you want to, when you want to, an RV is the perfect way to do all of those things while traveling up and down the highways and byways of this great nation
But, as the old saying goes, freedom is never free and there’s a price to pay for everything, and the liberty that life aboard an RV provides has a hidden cost, that at some point in our adventures, every RVer has accepted that they need to pay.
The price that you need to pay for the freedom that your RV will afford you isn’t just measured in gas dollars, site fees, and maintenance. It’s measured in the amount of waste that you create and knowing how to deal with it effectively, efficiently, and easily.
That word, waste, is pretty ambiguous, isn’t it? It can be used to describe a multitude of different things, but you’ve probably already guessed the particular variety I’m referring to is, because we’re about to find out where, and how you can find your nearest dump station. What do you need a dump station for?
Well, you need somewhere to empty your vehicles gray and black tanks, as they’re not going to empty themselves (even though most of us wish that they would, and are patiently waiting for the day when an enterprising RV builder develops a self-cleansing, waste management system) are they?
What Is An RV Dumping Station?
An RV dump station is a place where you can empty the contents of the gray and black tanks on your RV, and then clean them after they’ve been completely drained.
They’re usually stations that are directly connected to the main sewer system, which means that all of the waste material (and we do mean ALL of the waste material) that gathers in both of your vehicle’s tanks can be disposed of at once.
Every dump station has a sewer hook-up and a faucet with the former being used to get rid of the waste and the latter being there to help you clean both tanks after they’ve been emptied.
Why do you need to clean the tanks? You’ll need to clean them for the same reason that you need to clean an RV toilet, and sometimes a drain, to prevent odor-build and eliminate the possibility that any leftover waste can decompose and create a methane build-up in the waste system, which as I’m sure you already know can be a potential fire or ignition hazard.
I know, the chances of it happening are slim at best and the main reason why you want to ensure that the tanks are clean after you’ve dumped the waste from your RV’s tank is the smell.
If you want to keep your RV odor-free (and you know the sort of smells that I’m talking about), you’ll need to make sure that as soon as the tanks are empty, they’re cleaned before you begin to fill them again. The cleaner your vehicle is, the more you’ll enjoy the time that you spend in it.
Finding an RV dump station near me
The simplest solution to finding the nearest dump station is to just do it at whatever campsite or trailer park that you’re booked into or staying at while you’re on the road. If a site has been designed to welcome RV’s, then it’ll have a dump station.
Having said that, the site may charge an extra fee for you to empty your tanks so before you just assume that it’s included in the booking fee, always make sure that it is.
Ask the owner or staff if you can empty your tanks and they’ll always tell you if it’s included in the price of your stay or if you have to pay extra to dump your waste when you arrive or before you leave.
The answers to all of the most asked questions are just waiting for you to find them on the internet, and all you have to do is visit Google to find whatever it is that you’re looking for. Just ask the world’s biggest search engine where your nearest dump site is, and it’ll usually deliver the answer in less than a second.
And if you use Alexa on your smartphone or tablet, you don’t even have to waste your time typing your inquiry in, just ask Alexa and she’ll guide you in the right direction. She’ll even give you the address and tell you how to get there.
But the best thing about the internet as far as RV owners are concerned is that it’s an infinite source of information, and the specialist companies and sites who can actually guide you to where you need to go in order to find the nearest dump site to wherever you are at the time are usually just a click away.
To make life even easier, I’ve listed five of my favorite RV-friendly sites that’ll tell you everything you need to know from where the best place to camp is, to where the nearest dump station is. And the best advice that I can, and will give is this. Bookmark all of them, because if one of the sites doesn’t have the answer that you’re looking for, one of the others will.
Sanidumps – It’s one of the most comprehensive RV dump sites on the internet, and all you have to do to make use of its incredible database is enter your current zip code or location, and it’ll point you straight to the nearest dump station.
The weirdest and most out-there thing about this site though is the fact that (and don’t ask me who did the calculation, I’m assuming it was either one of their interns or the creative source responsible for putting it online) it would take the average RV owner more than fifty years to visit all of the stations that exist in Sanidumps staggering online A-Z.
Campendium – I’d usually use some trite or throwaway phrase to extol the virtues of a site dedicated solely to camping, and in Campedium’s case I think that praise would be entirely justified as it covers everything that you could ever want to know. Its drop-down search menus even include “RV Dump Stations” as a line of inquiry for visitors.
What more could you want from a camping site?
All Stays – The one-stop site with an app for anything and everything that you could ever want, or need to know about camping in your RV. Just download the relevant app, and ask it what you need to know and it’ll guide you to the closest dumpsite.
The only problem with All Stays is that it seems to have been designed by a dedicated Apple user, as the apps will only work on iPhones or smart devices driven by Apples’ iOS software. It would have stolen the top spot on the list if it had been more inclusive and could actually help Android users too, but it didn’t because it’s an Apple-only platform.
RV Share – Honestly, I didn’t even know this site existed until a friend of a friend told me about it on an online forum. It’s one of the countries largest RV rental sites, that’ll let you pick up and drop off an RV where you want to and take the sting and pain out of owning your own vehicle.
You don’t need to own an RV to enjoy everything life has to offer, you can just rent one wherever you want to go anywhere.
As well as being able to book an RV for your next vacation through the site, RV Share also features a state-by-state guide to dump sites, to help you figure out where you need to go to get rid of your onboard waste and it couldn’t be easier to use than it already is.
RV Dumps – A purpose-created site that does exactly what it was made to do and lists just about every dump station in the United States.
What makes it unique and completely invaluable to every RV owner out there is the fact that it tends to ignore campsites and RV parks and embraces the boondocking philosophy, and focuses on truck and rest stops and where you can find a dump station while you’re out there on the backroads and highways, living your best life.
It’s an incredibly simple answer to what used to be an awkward and sometimes difficult question to answer before the advent of the digital age. Where’s the nearest RV dump station? Just ask Google or one of the dumpsite-friendly sites that you’ve just bookmarked on your smartphone.
It’s also worth noting that in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, things aren’t quite the same as they used to be. It might be worth calling the dump station that you’ve been guided to before you arrive to make sure that it’s open, and if there are any special rules that you need to follow when you arrive.
In these tough and trying times, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
RV Dumping Station Etiquette
Believe it or not, there are unwritten “rules” and guidelines to using a dump station, and if you’ve been out there on the road for a while, you’ll probably know most of them. But if you’re not familiar with the code of the road and haven’t been behind the wheel of your RV for very long, they can take a while to master and learn.
So I’ve taken it upon myself to shorten the length of your stay at RVU and have put together a handy and I think indispensable guide to using a dump station that every RV owner needs to read and learn. And, those lessons are as follows…
Dump And Go – It might seem a little odd given what they’re there to do, but some RV owners seem to delight in taking their time to do what they have to do when they arrive at a dump station.
My advice? Don’t be one of those guys, set everything up, empty the tanks and just go. Get in and out as soon as you can, because, in all likelihood, you won’t be the only person who wants to use that dump station.
Clean Up – Emptying the tanks on your RV can be a messy business, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be too. Clean up after yourself and make sure that the dump station is at least as clean as it was when you arrived, if not cleaner. Nobody wants to have to walk through the waste that you left in your wake, so clean it up before you leave.
The Hidden Cost Of Dump Stations – Unfortunately, everything in life isn’t free and sometimes you’re going to need to pay to use a dump station. Especially if you’re using one at a campsite that you’re not staying at, and haven’t been booked into.
It’s a common courtesy to ask the owner or the clerk in the office whether you have to pay to dump and clean your tanks or whether you can just hook them up, empty them and be on your way.
Now that you’re familiar with the etiquette of using a dump station, I thought it might be prudent to quickly run through what you’ll need to know when you get there so that your RV can leave it a little lighter, and cleaner than it was when you arrived.
Using A Dump Station The Right Way
Okay, maybe I’m being a little harsh as everyone has their own way of doing things and likes to make sure that they follow the protocols that they’ve established and that works for them, but there are a number of ways that you can make the dump station experience a little easier, and speedier to deal with.
Because dumping and flushing your RV’s tanks isn’t exactly the most pleasant or enjoyable part of any vacation or weekend getaway.
Black First, Gray Second – Remember when you were little and your grandmother used to tell you to eat the vegetables that you didn’t like first so that you could have something nicer to look forward to? The same principle applies to emptying the tanks on your RV.
If you empty the black tank first, the wastewater from the gray tank will wash away any of the nastier waste that might get stuck to the sewage inlet and will also get rid of the smell far more quickly than if you make the mistake of going gray first. Always remember, black first, and then gray to wash it away.
Check Your Connections – Make sure the seals are tight and that nothing can get out of the sides after you’ve connected the tank to the dump station. Once you’re sure that nothing is going to space from those seals, then and only then, let the contents of the tanks loose.
Anything that leaks is going to smell, and the only person that’ll have to clean it up if it does leak is you. Make sure the seals are tight before you empty the tanks and you’ll save yourself a lot of misery.
Cleanliness Is Next To Godliness – It doesn’t matter if you’re a believer in the good book or a committed atheist, after you’ve emptied your RV’s tanks, flush them and then wash anything and everything that might have spilled away. Clean up before you leave, and don’t be the RVer who leaves others to do their dirty work for them.
Don’t Drink The Tap Water – Don’t drink the water that you use to clean your tanks, that isn’t what it’s there and it wasn’t and isn’t meant to quench your thirst. In fact, and even though some stations do have potable (drinkable) water faucets, I wouldn’t recommend that you take even the smallest sip of water from them.
Why? Well, it’s a simple matter of personal hygiene. Some of the people who might have used the dump station before you might not have washed their hands between the time they emptied their black tank and turning the potable faucet on. And you know what that means, don’t you?
All of those black tank germs might be hanging around the potable faucet of the dump station, and the last thing that you want when you’re cruising down the open road in your RV is to get sick because the person who pulled up to the dump station before you forgot to use the soap.
Filling Your RV’s Water Tanks
As tempting as it can often be to fill your RV tanks with potable water that you can use for washing and drinking while you’re at a dump station it isn’t something that I’d recommend that you or anyone else does.
And it’s all because you don’t know who used the station and faucet before you and whether or not they actually washed their hands between the time they emptied the waste tanks and filled the freshwater ones.
It might sound like I’m being overly cautious, but as we’ve just lived through the worst pandemic in a century, we know how easily germs can spread and how devastating they can be, so again, I’d always advise you to stay clear of any potable water faucet on a dump station.
I wouldn’t even use that water to shower in, and again I might be a little (or a lot depending on your point of view) overly cautious, but if COVID has taught us anything, it’s that it’s better to be a little too cautious than it is to be sorry later on.
Besides, most campsites and RV parks have a separate freshwater supply that you can use to fill your RV tanks up before you leave, which should keep you in potable water until you reach the next destination on your RV adventure.
Potable And Freshwater – What’s The Difference?
If you’re scratching your head and wondering what the difference between potable water and freshwater is, don’t worry the former wasn’t a term that I was familiar with until I started my RV life, and now I find that it creeps into my everyday vocabulary with increasing frequency.
What’s the difference between the two? Absolutely nothing. Potable is simply another term used to describe water that’s safe for drinking and food preparation. This means that the potable supply at any campsite or RV park (except for the faucet located on the dump station) can be used to fill the water tanks on your RV to bursting.
Well maybe not quite that full, as the extra weight that overly full water tanks can add can completely wreck your gas mileage calculations. Besides, three-quarters full is more than enough for any journey and should help a tank of gas to get you a little further down the road.
Finding The Potable Water Supply
One of the questions that I get asked a lot by new RV owners is “How do I know if water is potable or not?” and I always tell them the same thing. The faucet will let you know.
If a faucet is attached to a potable water supply, it’ll be either green or blue, which means that the water that comes out is perfectly safe to fill your tanks with. If the faucet is red, avoid it like it’s on fire as that color indicates that the faucet is drawing its water from a non-potable supply. Green and blue are good, red is bad.
Fresh Water Fill Up – The Do’s And Don’ts
I’ve already mentioned the one rule that every RV owner should follow to the letter when they’re filling the tanks of their vehicles up, but there are a couple of others that you should probably heed if you’re planning on filling up at a camp-site or an RV park.
Manner Cost Nothing, Patience Is A Virtue – You don’t have to push your way to the front of the line, and waiting until it’s your turn to fill up won’t hurt or unduly delay you. And, it isn’t like the faucet in question is going to run out of water before you get to the front of the line, is it?
Don’t Assume, Always Ask – Don’t just assume that the potable water is going to be free. Some sites, parks, and stations will charge a nominal fee for you to fill your vehicle’s tanks up, so always make sure you ask if there is a charge for filling up before you turn the faucet on.
It’ll take five minutes out of your day, and you won’t have to worry about upsetting anyone or even being reported to the local sheriff if you do fill up and just drive off.
Fill Up And Go – Filling your RV’s water tanks is like filling up with gas. No one wants you to hang around and make small talk and the chances are if you do you’ll end up being responsible for a long line of disgruntled RV owners who just want to fill their tanks and drive a little further down the road.
Don’t Get In The Way – Most RVs aren’t exactly small, so while you’re filling up try to make sure that you don’t get in any other vehicle, or pedestrians’ way. It’s rude, and the last thing that you want to do while you’re just trying to get from A to B with everything that you need is upset another camper or cause any bad feeling or ill will.
Try to park as considerately as you possibly can while you’re filling up with potable water.
Where Can I Fill Up With Potable Water?
My advice to every new RV owner is always the same. Make sure that you fill your tanks before you leave home, top them off whenever you get where you’re going, and always fill them again before you leave.
Again, it might seem like I’m being overly cautious but if you’ve ever been in the (relatively speaking) middle of nowhere when your tanks run dry, you’ll know what I’m talking about. It’s always better to be careful and plan as far ahead as you possibly can.
There are, however, moments when even with the best will in the world, no amount of planning can stop disaster from striking and you might find yourself running woefully low on water without a campsite or an RV park in close driving distance, and when that happens you’ll need a plan to fall back on and know where to find potable water to fill your RVs tanks up with.
Don’t worry though, as I’ve got you covered and if you remember the solutions to any potential water tank problems that I’m about to tell you, you’ll never have to worry about your tanks running dry ever again.
Truck Stops Aren’t Just For Truckers – Truck stops are an RV owner’s best friend. They’ve got more than enough space for you to navigate and drive freely around without having to worry about hitting another vehicle, and most importantly they’ve almost always for a potable water supply that you can fill your tanks with.
I know, a truck stop can seem a little intimidating when you pull into them the first couple of times, but most long-haul drivers are incredibly friendly and if you ask them they’ll usually tell you everything that you need to know about filing up at that stop, and how to do it.
Garages – It used to be simple to fill an RV’s tanks with potable water. You just pulled into the nearest garage, asked the clerk if you could fill your tanks and they’d usually help you do it.
But times have changed, and with the price of gasoline rising at an exponential rate, garage owners are looking to try and make as much profit as they can from anything that they can as gas profits (for garage owners at least) continue to plummet.
That means that if you’re planning on filling your RV’s tanks with fresh water at a garage, it’s probably going to cost you a few bucks to do so, and you’ll need to ask the clerk before you can turn the faucet on.
Churches Aren’t Just For Praying – Almost every church still thrives on the idea of charity and helping their fellow human beings in times of crisis, and as long as you ask the priest or reverend whose church it is, and give them a few dollars for their collection plate, then they’ll let you have as much fresh water for your RV as it can hold.
National Parks – If I was a betting man, I’d probably hazard a bet that at some point you’ll travel to a National Park in your RV just to soak in the sights and spend a couple of days enjoying the view and relaxing in some of the most beautiful scenery you’re ever likely to see.
If you do, the good news is that you’ll not only be able to fill up the water tanks on your RV, you’ll also be able to empty your black and gray tanks, as well as every single National Park, has a dump station and a separate potable water supply that you can use.
The bad news though, is that it isn’t always free to use these facilities, so even though you’ve already paid an entrance and camping fee, you might need to pay a little more to empty and fill your tanks. And the easiest way to find out if you do need to pay to fill up and dump the contents of your RV’s tanks is always the same.
Ask a Park Ranger.
The Final Word On Dump Stations And Filling Up
It used to be notoriously difficult to find the information that you needed to ensure that you could always drain and fill your vehicles’ tanks when you needed to, but thanks to the internet and the world gradually becoming more and more RV friendly, it’s now incredibly easy to enjoy owning and driving an RV without having to worry about water or waste.
The times, as Bob Dylan once sang, really are a-changin’.