Dealing with RV waste isn’t glamorous, but it’s essential. If you haven’t learned how to empty your RV’s holding tanks, start there. But if you’re comfortable with how RV waste systems work, you may want to know what an RV tote tank is and why you might need one.
What is an RV Tote Tank?
An RV tote tank is a portable waste tank. It allows you to empty the contents of your RV’s holding tanks to the nearest dump station without transporting your entire RV. It’s a popular option for full-time RVers who aren’t always at campgrounds with full hookups, especially campers that tow travel trailers and fifth wheels.
RV tote tanks come in varying sizes, but most are smaller than your RV holding tanks. That means you may need to make multiple trips to completely empty your tanks. Tote tanks are useful for extending your trip a few more days before it’s time to move your recreational vehicle.
What are the Pros and Cons of RV Tote Tanks?
There are definite benefits to the ability to dispose of your black and grey water without moving your RV, but there are also some considerations. Let’s look at them closely:
Advantages of RV Tote Tanks
- Tote tanks expand your campground options to parks without full hookups.
- Tote tanks save you money by providing the option to boondock or camp at sites with fewer amenities.
- Tote tanks help dispose of holding tank waste without hitching up and moving your RV.
- Tote tanks can extend your stays when camping off-grid.
Disadvantages of an RV Portable Waste Tank
- Tote tanks need storage space when it’s not in use
- Tote tanks may need multiple trips to the dump site because the capacity is less than your RV’s holding tanks.
Why You Might Need an RV Tote Tank?
RV tote tanks are great for many reasons. First off, always finding RV parks with full hookups isn’t a reality of RV life for everyone. If you’re a weekend warrior, you probably don’t need an RV tote tank because you’re either camping at full hookup sites or staying for such a short amount of time that hitting a dump station on the way home isn’t too much trouble.
But campers on long road trips or living on the road full-time often find themselves boondocking or staying in sites with partial hookups. The major downside of RV camping without full hookups is having to move every few days to empty your tanks.
A portable RV tote tank removes this issue and allows you to partially empty your tanks into a tote, roll it to the dump station, empty it, and be good to go for a few more days…without moving your RV.
So, if you’re a full-timer or you enjoy extended stays in state parks or campgrounds that typically don’t have full hookups, an RV tote tank is a great addition. They’re also good for full-timers, as you’ll have more flexibility of places to arrange monthly stays without needing a waste hookup.
How to Use a Portable Waste Tank for your RV
Start by consulting your tank’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendations for safe use.
Using an RV tote tank is similar to the regular process of emptying your gray and black water tanks. The tote serves as a temporary holding tank for transporting waste from your campground to the dump station without having to move your RV.
Before we outline the dump process, here’s what you’ll need:
It’s also helpful to know that tote tanks have two round three-inch openings and a small waste tank vent. The opening on top is for filling the tank and the opening on the side is for dumping the tank. The vent is required to release pressure.
Now that you’re familiar with those elements, here’s how to use your portable tote tank:
- Connect a 90-degree clear elbow to the fill opening on top of the tank
- A clear elbow is recommended for visually monitoring when the tote is full
- Attach the sewer hose between your RV’s dump outlet and the clear elbow
- Open the waste tank vent
- Empty holding tanks into your tote the same way you’d empty them at a dump station
- Black tank first, then the gray water tank
- Keep in mind your tote usually has less room than your RV’s tank capacity
- Close the tote tank’s vent
- Detach the sewer hose from your RV’s dump outlet and connect it to the dump opening on the side of your tote
- Leave the clear elbow and other end of the hose connected to the fill opening
- Transport your tote to the dump station
- Most totes attach to your truck hitch and can be towed at slow speeds (a recommended max of five miles per hour)
- At the dump station, position your tote near the dump inlet
- Detach the sewer hose and 90-degree connector from the fill opening
- Replace the fill opening cap
- Screw or set the connector into the dump inlet
- Open the waste tank vent
- Pull the handle on the dump opening to empty its contents
- As the level drops, you may need to tilt your tank to empty completely
How to Clean an RV Tote Tank
If you want to rinse your tote tank after you dump your RV, do it while your sewer hose is still connected. Keep the handle on your tank’s dump opening open and then follow these quick steps:
- Remove the tank vent cap
- Attach a female-to-female hose adapter to your tank’s vent
- Connect the dump station’s rinse water hose to the hose adapter
- Turn on the fresh water to let it flow through your tank
- Rock the tank gently back and forth
When you see clear water flowing through your clear 90-degree connector, shut the water off, disconnect the rinse hose and hose adapter, and replace the tank vent cap. Tilt your tank to remove any remaining water. The tank should be completely empty before closing the gate valve on the dump opening and removing your sewer hose.
Best Selling RV Portable Waste Tanks
If you’ve decided it’s time to add a portable tote tank to your RV, here are a few recommendations:
Camco Rhino Heavy Duty Portable Waste Holding Tank
Sizes: 15, 21, 28, and 36 gallon tanks
The Camco Rhino is one of the most popular tote tanks for full-time RVers. It boasts no-flat rubber wheels for easy transport and comes with all the accessories you need to use it safely, including a short Rhino sewer hose, two clear elbow connectors, a hose adapter, and more.
Thetford 4-Wheel Titan Tote
Sizes: 21, 27, and 35 gallon tanks
Thetford’s Titan Tote is a 4-wheeler tote tank that makes it easier to roll and maneuver into place when filling and dumping. It’s also equipped with an AutoStop gauge that prevents overfilling and improves venting to allow the tank to empty more efficiently.
Barker 4-Wheel Tote-Along Portable Waste Tank
Sizes: 25, 32, and 42 gallon tanks. Available online only.
Barker also makes an excellent four-wheel tote tank that many RVers nickname ‘Blue Boy’. It’s built with a tank level indicator to alleviate unfortunate messes and comes with four pneumatic tires with a pivoting front axle to make pulling and steering it a breeze.
Camco Rhino Tote Tank with Steerable Wheels
Sizes: 28 and 36 gallon tanks
This Rhino tote is an upgrade over the first Camco holding tank on our list. It includes all the accessories that the basic Camco Rhino Tote comes with, but it’s upgraded to feature steerable front wheels that make getting it from your RV to the dump station much easier.
RV waste is never a glamorous subject, but figuring out how to deal with it in the most stress-free manner possible helps you enjoy the rest of your RV travels. If you’re a full-timer, these portable tanks will save you the time and hassle of having to move your RV every few days to dump.
Do you have a favorite RV tote tank brand and/or model? If so, tell us what it is, and why, in the comments below!
Tucker Ballister is a Technical Content Writer for Camping World and a lover of the open road. You can check out more of his adventures and outdoor advice at thebackpackguide.com.