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Old 09-30-2011, 10:05 AM   #1
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17 Gal Gray and Black Tanks Big Enough? Installing bigger?

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I'm currently looking for a mid to late 70's Sovereign or Excella 500 center bath. I understand they are configured with 17 gallon black and 17 gallon gray water tanks, but wonder if these are sufficient size to cover even, say, a week of bushwhacking or festival streaming.

Can folks offer any words of wisdom on whether 17 gallons each cuts it? The gray water doesn't concern me as much as I understand in solo wilderness situations you can either simply let the gray water drain (using organic soaps and other eco products of course) or use an auxiliary external tank on wheels, carried in the tow vehicle and dumped later. But the black water capacity I worry about.

Is it possible to replace the existing 17 gallon black water with something larger yet not worry about structural issues, especially on those long 70's models? I understand the frames got thicker to 5" after 74 or so, plus the center bath models put the tanks either right on the wheels or near them, so rear end sag shouldn't be a major issue. Any advice?

Best,

- Jim
Arlington, Virginia
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Old 09-30-2011, 10:18 AM   #2
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I'll say up front I have no practical experience with a tank that size.

But in thinking about it, I visualized one of those white, five gallon construction buckets.
Then I thought of three of those full, and almost half of a fourth one.

Can't you kind of mentally back into it from there ( no pun intended) and work out how many people for how many days, etc?

I would think four people would fill it in about a week...depending upon your chili recipe.

But basically that's about 85% of a 5 gallon bucket capacity for each of four people.
You could do it, maybe, if you really, really tried to limit the black water tank to minimal liquids. Hmm. Some people handle this differently. I prefer trees, myself.

serve more bananas?
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Old 09-30-2011, 10:40 AM   #3
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Black and Gray Capacity

When we went to Burning Man this year, we spared the rental RV tanks by using the convenient porta potties, that worked well. Gray water capacity became an issue, but fortunately the sewage guys also pumped RV tanks for a reasonable fee, so we were fine. Many RV folks actually had great evaporation "boxes" set up next to RVs and the Black Rock dryness soon took care of gray water. I could keep one of those handy in the A/S for dryer climates.

I was just looking at a cool product recommended in the forums - the Thetford smart tote. It even hooks up to a hitch so you don't have to drag the whole A/S to the dump station. I imagine you'd need to keep one of the bigger ones (say, the 27 gallon) in the tow vehicle and use a pump of some sort.

I guess leaving the original tanks in place then using the external tank is one solution (unless I'm mistaken, you can even use the Smart Tote for black water, with proper cleaning and deodorizing and such). But replacing the 17 gallon black with 25-30 gallons might be really convenient, let's see if others have experience.

Cheers,
Jim
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Old 09-30-2011, 11:27 AM   #4
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I have dry camped (single guy) solo with my Argosy which has 12 gal black water tank many times for a week without dumping or overfilling it. And that is using it exclusively, not the restrooms at the campgrounds. I am very careful in how much wash down water I use, but again, one person, one week on 12 gal.
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Old 09-30-2011, 11:32 AM   #5
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20 years ago we had a TT with tanks in that ball park and we spent a week at a time in National Parks with 2 teenagers. No hookups, we conserved wherever possible (navy showers, etc.), but we did use our facilities vs. the primitive ones the park provided. The black tank was adequate for the 4 of us but the grey tank was only good for about 3 days. We carried an 18 gal "honey wagon" to tote the grey water to the dump station mid week. We also used a 5 gal jug to keep the fresh water tank topped off. That worked well for us as we did this 2-3 times a year and the cost was minimal and no modifications were needed. Since the kids were helping tote the water to and fro, understanding conservation came easier.

Also rigged up a solution to move the battery to the TV to get recharged during the day while we were sightseeing.

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Old 09-30-2011, 11:56 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JBSVirginia
... I imagine you'd need to keep one of the bigger ones (say, the 27 gallon) in the tow vehicle and use a pump of some sort....Jim
While designed to transfer black water, we never had the need, but used it a lot for grey water. No pump needed, all gravity. You need a sewer cap with a garden hose adapter, the tank comes with a short female to female garden hose that connects between the nipple on the sewer cap and the one on the potable tank. Remove the big cap to vent tank and keep an eye on how full it's getting, then pull the GW dump valve to transfer the water. You can pull the tank like a wagon ( smaller sizes are easier) or hook the handle over the hitch ball and tow it to the campground's dump station. It also comes with a short slinky. Remove the caps, attach the slinky and then pivot the tank upright and it's empty.


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Old 09-30-2011, 12:33 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JBSVirginia View Post
I'm currently looking for a mid to late 70's Sovereign or Excella 500 center bath. I understand they are configured with 17 gallon black and 17 gallon gray water tanks, but wonder if these are sufficient size to cover even, say, a week of bushwhacking or festival streaming.
As a very rough rule of thumb, expect to use one gallon of black tank capacity per person per day, maybe less if there are other convenient facilities nearby.

Greywater tank usage varies widely depending on how much you cook in the trailer and the extent of your water conservation measures. I tend to think in terms of 10 gallons per person per day if we're eating in the trailer and everyone takes showers every day. It's possible to get by with much less.

Quote:
Is it possible to replace the existing 17 gallon black water with something larger yet not worry about structural issues, especially on those long 70's models? I understand the frames got thicker to 5" after 74 or so, plus the center bath models put the tanks either right on the wheels or near them, so rear end sag shouldn't be a major issue. Any advice?
In general it's an enormous project and you're probably better off working within the capacity constraint of the black tank (you can always move the trailer to the dump station every week or so if you need to) and adding some sort of external tank for greywater. I have in the past hauled greywater in the pickup bed and used a pump to transfer it there, and it's possible to set everything up right so this can be done easily.
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Old 09-30-2011, 01:04 PM   #8
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Good advice; dump etiquette question

Very cool, thanks all! In researching the easy supplemental tote options and hearing the warning about the major work needed, sounds like simply using a handy wheeled external tank is a practical and cost-effective way to go. Indeed, my daughters are 9 and 5 and making grey water hauling a chore every evening sounds like a good solution.

On the black water tank, I guess if it ever got critical, we could use a well made external tote, follow with grey water, then sanitize it when you reach the dump station (the usual bleach water solution? or the cleaning products they sell?).

Since I'm a newbie streamer, can I ask an etiquette question? Is it kosher in a camp site with porta potties to use an external tote for black water then dump it in the porta potty? Or in an outhouse type structure in a national park? Watching of course not to overflow them. Is this acceptable or should any totes (like the RV tanks) be dumped only in official dump stations?

I guess another trick might be to just catch the sanitation service guys as they are cleaning out the porta potties and tip them for a quick tote pump out.

Best
Jim
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Old 09-30-2011, 01:43 PM   #9
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We stay on the road a lot and camp at of
Natl Parks, BLM, NF, WMRs and state parks etc. Only at a RV park with "amenities as a last resort. So when not at hookups and need to dump, We use a Flo-Jet Portable macerator pump (12v) that attaches to the regular trailer dump connection and a couple of 6 gallon plastic "Gerry" cans to dump black & grey water.

Process is simple and clean, cans are easy to carry. Also have 100' of 1" hose that lets us dump directly from pump to any dump station within that radius.

Have used it for several years with no problems at all; put a plastic "rubbermaid" type pan under dump valve when disconnecting, just to catch gray water still in connection as pump removed, usually about a pint is all that is left. Just pour it back down toilet.

We use about 10-15 gal water every 2-3 days of which BW is never over a couple of gallons or so. Since BW use is small we wait till the BW tank is about half full to pull any out of it to keep solids from accumulating on tank floor, and also use the tank rinse system as often as possible.

Works for us.
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Old 09-30-2011, 02:31 PM   #10
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We boondock most of the time. With careful use figure about one gallon of black water per person per day.. We actually usually get 6 days out of a ten gallon black tank.
If careful with water and using "helmet" baths we get by on 5 gallons of grey per day for 2 people.
If need be we will transport sewage to a portapotti at 2 day intervals with a 5 gal blue tank, or every 4 days to a dump station with a ten gallon tank.
Our rule is the blue tank must be small enough to lift into the truck in case it might have to be moved a long way..
If no one is looking we have been known to dig a hole and deposit waste there.

Gopher holes were common in the early days of trailering.
Best not to use a real gopher hole as it tends to irritate the gopher
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Old 09-30-2011, 03:03 PM   #11
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You don't say (or I didn't see where) how big your fresh water tank is. My guess is around 30 gallons - which would make the 34 gallons of combined grey/black more than adequate. Our black tank is 11 gallons and we (2 adults) get along fine for 4-5 days, no problem...I'm sure we could even go longer. Our biggest usage is grey water though...which is easier to deal with.

Shari
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Old 09-30-2011, 03:14 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JBSVirginia
... can I ask an etiquette question? Is it kosher in a camp site with porta potties to use an external tote for black water then dump it in the porta potty? Or in an outhouse type structure in a national park? Watching of course not to overflow them. Is this acceptable or should any totes (like the RV tanks) be dumped only in official dump stations?...
The portable outhouses have a limited capacity and are serviced on a schedule. I would consider them as off limits for dumping a tote. You may not fill it up, but it may become unusable for others before it is scheduled for service. The permanent vault type outhouses typically found in state and national parks may post a prohibition on such a practice. Purpose built totes similar to the one I posted a link to earlier are designed to be emptied at ground level, they are too heavy and awkward to handle differently when full. Nearly every public and private campground provides a dump station for emptying holding tanks and they are typically located near the entrance. They are nearly always tied to a septic system that is designed to handle all that water.

You youngsters are at the age where they will really enjoy these adventures and will have memories for their lifetimes.
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Old 09-30-2011, 03:25 PM   #13
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Angry Really BAD etiquette...

Quote:
Originally Posted by JBSVirginia View Post
Since I'm a newbie streamer, can I ask an etiquette question? Is it kosher in a camp site with porta potties to use an external tote for black water then dump it in the porta potty? Or in an outhouse type structure in a national park? Watching of course not to overflow them. Is this acceptable or should any totes (like the RV tanks) be dumped only in official dump stations?
No, it's never good etiquette to do this...

Quote:
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The portable outhouses have a limited capacity and are serviced on a schedule. I would consider them as off limits for dumping a tote. You may not fill it up, but it may become unusable for others before it is scheduled for service.

<snip>Purpose built totes similar to the one I posted a link to earlier are designed to be emptied at ground level, they are too heavy and awkward to handle differently when full.
There is NOTHING WORSE than going to "use" a vault or porta-john for it's intended purpose, only to be surprised when you open the door and somebody else has failed to control their tote while attempting to empty it into the toilet. Not just overflowing it, but missing the hole completely...they can tend to be a bit unwieldy. What a mess! I can't tell you how many times, I have seen this at campgrounds and rallies alike. BAD camper, bad, bad, bad...

Shari
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Old 09-30-2011, 03:37 PM   #14
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When we need to stretch out our holding tank time we move into our "water conservation" mode - the dishes get done on the picnic table, use the campground showers and toilets during the day. Not at all hard to get a week out of the tanks this way.

Jay
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