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How to Properly Use an RV Portable Waste Tank

Some of the best campsites are the ones without hookups. Whether you’re boondocking in the wilderness or dry camping in a campground, there’s not much worse than realizing you have a full wastewater tank and need to dump. However, when you have an RV portable waste tank, you don’t have to pack up and find a dump station. These valuable tools make emptying your wastewater tanks incredibly easy. Let’s take a look!

What Is an RV Portable Waste Tank? 

Whether you call it a “honey wagon,” “blue boy,” or another clever name, a portable waste tank can be an excellent tool. It means you can empty your RV’s wastewater without packing up camp.

After connecting a portable waste tank to your RV with a sewer hose and the appropriate hose attachments, you can fill the tank. Keep an eye on how full it gets, as you don’t want to overfill it and have a sewage spill! 

These tanks come in varying sizes but have wheels that make it easy to transport wastewater to a nearby dump station.

When Would You Use an RV Portable Waste Tank

A portable waste tank is exceptionally convenient when you’re camping without full hookups. Whether you’re boondocking, mooch docking, or simply in a site that doesn’t have a sewer drain connection, it can save the day. Instead of packing up camp to tow your RV to the nearest dump station, you simply take the compact tote with you.

How to Use an RV Portable Waste Tank

Knowing how to use one of these tanks properly is essential. Improperly utilizing a waste tank will leave you with quite a mess on your hands–literally.

Connecting to Your RV

After positioning the tank near your RV’s sewer drain connection, use the shortest sewer hose available. There’s no need to use 20 feet of sewer hose when you only need a few inches. 

Filling RV Portable Waste Tank

Before filling the portable tank be sure to open the vent cap. This is usually located at the opposite end of the sewage fill. This needs to be opened to allow air to get out of the tank while filling.

Using attachments to connect your sewer hose and waste tank can simplify this process. A clear elbow lets you monitor the flow into the tank. Also, close the wastewater valve occasionally throughout the process to keep an eye on the tank’s remaining capacity.

Overfilling your tank can be awful, especially if it’s black water. If you overload your waste tank, you’ll likely end up with sewage on the ground. Once your RV tanks are empty, or the portable tank is full, close your RV’s waste valve and return caps or covers. Don’t forget to close the vent cap as well.

Transporting Portable Waste Tank to Dump Station

Larger portable waste tanks can weigh a couple of hundred pounds. Whether your tank is pulled by hand or via your vehicle’s hitch, you’ll want to take it slow. Avoid bumps in the road or potholes that could damage your tank. Manufacturers often suggest limiting speeds to 5-10 mph when transporting to a dump station.

You can transport your tank to a dump station several miles away if needed. The most challenging part of this type of process however is getting it loaded into the bed of your truck. 

Barker Tote-Along vs Camco Rhino Tote Tank Waste Tote Review (RV Living Full Time)4K

How to Empty an RV Portable Waste Tank

First, connect the sewer hose to the dump station sewer drain using the appropriate attachment. Place a rock or heavy item to keep the sewer hose snuggly connected to the sewer drain.

Once you confirm your connections and use something to hold the hose in place, you can open the valve. Some tanks may not have valves and need to be lifted from one end to get them to empty. Because emptying a vacuum will build in the tank, creating a suction. You again will need to open the small vent hole to allow air flow while emptying your tank.

Cleaning Your Portable Waste Tank

If you begin to notice smells coming from your tote, it’s likely overdue for a cleaning. 

Many of these portable tanks have connections that make them easy to clean or you can just fill through the sewer port. Fill the tote multiple times with water. Each time the tank is full, empty the tank into the sewer drain connection. Once you’re satisfied with the results, your task is complete.

You can also partially fill the tank with RV tank treatment and water before your next travel day. The treatment will slosh around while you travel down the road and help clean and treat the particles left behind.

How to Store Portable Waste Tank on RV

Because these tanks often contain bacteria-filled water and other unsanitary contaminants, you won’t want to store them inside your RV. These large-bulk portable tanks take up a significant amount of storage space. 

Many RVers choose to attach these totes to their roof ladder via a secured ratchet strap on the back of their rig. If you’re uncomfortable with attaching the tank to your RV ladder, you can store the waste tank in the bed of a truck, if available.

Benefits of an RV Portable Waste Tank

Using an RV portable waste tank can be tremendously beneficial. Let’s look at a few of our favorite benefits of owning one of these convenient tanks.

Extend Boondocking Length

Many boondocking sites are first-come, first-served, meaning you don’t want to leave once you get into an epic spot. You don’t want to be packing up camp every few days to empty your RV’s wastewater tanks.

Having a portable waste tank lets you stay in boondocking locations longer. A waste tank can help you manage your tank levels while boondocking or camping off-grid. Extending your boondocking trips is always a plus in our book!

Top Tips for Preparing to Go Off-Grid "Boondocking" in an RV - Mondays with the Mortons

Expand Waste Water Storage

Disposing of your wastewater is incredibly important. If you find your black or gray tank full, you’ll need a way to expand your capacity. There are portable waste water tanks capable of holding as little as 15 gallons and as large as 36-40 gallons. With this additional storage source, you’ll be able to hold a generous amount more wastewater.

Makes Camping Easier When You Don’t Have Full Hookups

Boondocking in an epic spot isn’t the only camping style that could benefit from having one of these tanks available. While many RV parks often have full hookup sites, you’ll likely struggle to find many campgrounds, state parks, or national parks that offer campsites with full hookups.

A typical campground without full hookup campsites will likely have a dump station near the campground’s exit. These dump stations offer a place for RVers to empty their tanks on their way out. A portable wastewater tote means you can leave your campsite set up and unload your tanks during non-peak hours.

Our Top 3 Picks for Best RV Portable Waste Tank

When looking for a portable waste tank, you don’t want to settle for a run-of-the-mill product. You want the best product that will last a long time. Luckily, we’re going to share our top three picks with you. Let’s get started!

1. Camco Rhino Heavy Duty Portable Waste Tank

Camco is one of the most prominent names in the RV accessory industry. They create a wide range of products to enhance your camping experience. This waste tank has heavy-duty wheels with bearings that make for a smooth and effortless trip to the dump station.

Camco Rhino 36-Gallon Portable Camper / RV Tote...
  • SIMPLIFY RV WASTE DISPOSAL: Make waste disposal hassle-free with...
  • EFFORTLESS TRANSPORT: Haul your waste with ease with no-flat...
  • TOUGH & RELIABLE: Measuring 15 ½″ (L) x 25″ (W) x 46″ (H)...

The Rhino portable tanks come in varying sizes, depending on your needs. You’ll have 15-36 gallon options, as well as two and four-wheel options. Whichever model you choose, it’ll come with a ladder hook. This hook makes it incredibly easy to secure your portable tank to your RV’s ladder when traveling to and from the campsite.

2. Barker Portable Waste Tank

If you want a four-wheeled portable waste tote, Barker has a few options for you. These waste tanks come in a 25, 32, and massive 42-gallon version. The four wheels and heavy-duty handle make this tote easy to pull by hand or use a vehicle’s hitch.

Barker 4-Wheeler Tote Tank - 32 Gallon Capacity...
  • Constructed from blow-molded polyethylene, zinc-plated steel and...
  • Front-mounted double wheel-swivel engineered for easy maneuvering...
  • Designed to be a quiet and smooth rolling tote tank

While many other brands use solid plastic wheels, Barker uses 6” and 10” rubber tires on their waste tanks. These wheels provide a stabler and smoother ride when towing your tank.

When you choose a Barker portable tank, you’ll also appreciate the full tank indicator. You’ll no longer have to pause and look into the tank to see if you’re nearing capacity—an incredibly convenient and revolutionary feature when it comes to portable waste tanks.

3. Thetford RV Portable Waste Tank

The SmartTote2 from Thetford is one of the latest “smart products” to hit the market. This incredibly rugged waste tank has an autostop gauge that prevents overfilling. The intelligent system also provides optimal venting to help speed up the process of filling and dumping your portable waste tote.

SmartTote 2 SmartTote2 RV Portable Waste Tote Tank...
  • [VERSATILITY]: SmartTote2 waste tote tank can be used with any RV...
  • [DESIGN]: Rugged 35-gallon tank, easy to use and fast emptying
  • [FUNCTIONALITY]: Retainer strap holds the heavy-duty sewer hose...

The SmartTote2 comes in 12, 18, 27, and 35-gallon models. An optional tote strap is available for effortless towing to the dump station. With this tank, it’s clear that Thetford is pushing the limits by introducing new technology to the RV market.

Ultimately, using an RV portable waste tank will enhance and extend your RV adventures. You can stay longer and in new and exciting locations just because of this handy tool. 

How has an RV portable waste tank enhanced your RVing adventures? Drop a comment below!

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About Cait Morton

Co-Founder, Logistics Queen, Business & Content Manager, and Animal Lover

An Upper Peninsula of Michigan native (aka a Yooper), Caitlin is the organization, big-picture, and content strategy queen of our operation. She keeps everything orderly and on track.

With a background in Business Management, she supports and helps channel Tom’s technical prowess into the helpful content our readers and viewers expect. That’s not to say you won’t find her turning wrenches and talking shop – RV life is a team effort. She keeps the business and the blog moving forward with a variety of topics and resources for our audience.

Believe it or not, she is rather camera shy, though she co-hosts the Mortons’ personal videos and The RVers TV show.

Caitlin’s passion lies in outdoor recreation and with animals. Some of her favorite things to do are hiking, biking, and getting out on the water via kayak, SUP, or boat.

She also loves the RV life due to the fact that you can bring your pets along. Sharing information about safely recreating outdoors with your whole family – pets included! – is very important to her. Because of this, Caitlin spearheaded the launch of HypePets in 2023.

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Samantha Nichols

Tuesday 30th of November 2021

Worth article to read. Your article is really interesting and helpful for me. Thanks so much for sharing!

Samantha Nichols

Saturday 20th of November 2021

VINGLI product we purchased to empty our travel trailer's grey tank when we are not near "hookups". The quality of the construction is excellent, with giant wheels for easy movement, and the price is less than half of other brands we looked at. It is easy to unhook from our sink and roll outside to empty. We pour a little bleach in each time we empty to keep cleaner

Dalton Bourne

Saturday 25th of September 2021

These were the best accessories I ever put on my 30 ft RV, which is the Camco Cyclone Rotating Sewer Vent. This product uses surrounding air to ensure foul odors get vented out because this model follows the wind’s movement through rotating an incredible 360 degrees. This cyclone RV vent has an easy installation process. I can instead attach this product using a sealant. I was thrilled to see this product offer some choices concerning its color scheme. It ensures buyers can choose an option capable of meshing with their rig’s roof without issues.

Dalton Bourne

Sunday 26th of September 2021

The sealant issue shouldn’t turn anyone away from this product. Its performance abilities and features are way too impressive to take it off your consideration list.

M. Apple

Friday 20th of August 2021

We have a portable tank, the only thing I don’t like is we cannot find a fitting that will allow for an appropriate dumping of our grey water, like an elbow that is long enough, to attach so we don’t have spillage. I’ve seen one online; however, comments indicate that the part that goes into the sewer hole is too short. Are there any other suggestions? The ones we use for regular dumping have the same fittings, so they cannot attach.

George Colt

Tuesday 22nd of June 2021

How about a macerator to go with the portable tank? Instead of towing, I'd like to put the tank in the back of my truck to go to the dump station. (a la Quartzite - long trip :-) ). A good macerator would allow pumping up into the truck so I don't have to try and lift 400+ lbs up into the truck.


Mortons on the Move

Friday 25th of June 2021

Interesting idea! We wrote an article about RV macerator pumps recently. You can read the article here: