How to Empty Your Holding Tanks Without Moving Your RV

Boondocking RV Holding Tanks

If you enjoy boondocking or living off the grid but are stumped by how to empty your RV holding tanks without moving your fifth wheel, travel trailer or towable camper, you’ll want to check out our solution!

While we’ve figured out how to replenish our water without moving our fifth wheel when we’re boondocking, there’s still one looming stinkin’ issue that makes us have to pack everything up to head back to civilization. We need to empty our RV holding tanks.

We could stretch our black tank to last about ten days until having to empty. However, it takes about half that time to fill our gray tank because of showers, dishwashing, etc. So, we came up with a solution!

How to Empty Your Holding Tanks Without Moving Your RV

Boondocking Black Tank

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Managing our RV holding tanks at a campground or RV park

When our fifth wheel is hooked up to a campground sewer connection and our toilet starts to burp, we just pull the ole lever outside and let ‘er rip! All of our RV holding tank contents (crap and gray water) go right down through our RV sewer hose into the yucky hole in the ground and we’re done with it.

That said, when we are at a campground that doesn’t have a sewer hookup, we’d hook up our portable sewage tote to our sewer hose and empty our holding tanks accordingly. Because it was of a smaller capacity than our RV holding tanks, it would take a few trips to the dump station at the campground. And because the dump station was somewhat close to our campsite, we’d just walk it over or hook it onto our truck bumper trailer ball hitch carefully pulling it to the dump station.

Managing our RV holding tanks while boondocking

When we’re boondocking out in the desert or an off-the-grid location, we’d cringe whenever our toilet burps because it means we’d have to head to the dump; hooking up the fifth wheel which also meant all of our camping gear (chairs, table, grill, etc.) too.

In doing so, we also loathed the idea of coming back to our favorite boondocking site only to find someone else there. And we certainly don’t feel comfortable leaving all of our outdoor camping gear as our luck would have it that someone would help themselves to our stuff.

So, instead of getting the whole ship underway just to empty our tanks, we figured out how to get that dang portable sewage tote up into the RV without either of us breaking our backs or hurting ourselves. The portable sewage tote holds about 25 gallons.

First, a SCIENCE lesson…

Now, if you’re a mathematical geo-bio-jigawatt scientist, you’d know that at 62° fahrenheit, a liquid gallon weighs around 8.3 pounds which when added up, our 25 gallon honey wagon weighs in at about 208 gallons.

However, did you know that the weight of a gallon can fluctuate as will the temperature because the density of the water can change accordingly?! If you want to measure the energy, you need to measure the temperature as they are connected. When the energy increases, the temperature also increases. Add those two together and you’ll find that the weight increases as well aka ‘density’.

It’s always about WEIGHT when owning an RV

Now, to Cousin Eddie, that sounds like a bunch of biotechnojigawatt words.  However, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that CRAP is even heavier. Let’s add in about 20 more degrees and OH BOY!
So, with all that math and science, our portable sewage tote weighs in at about 210 pounds. There was no way one of us could lift that damn smelly thing into the back of our truck. It’s bulky and awkward.

Three heads are better than one!

While we were boondocking near our son’s family in Minnesota, he totally understood our dilemma. He suggested a cool heavy duty pulley system that he and his friends use to lift their dual sport motorcycles and engines into the back of their pickup trucks. Did he just hear ‘lift’ and ‘back of their pickups’? The next day, we ordered it on Amazon!

How it works…

First, Dan emptied our black or gray tank into our portable sewage tank until full and wheeled it over to the back of the truck.
Dan removes our existing bumper trailer ball hitch out of the receiver sleeve and simply inserts this contraption’s receiver piece and the hitch pin to hold it in place. He then puts the vertical column on the post and attaches the boom with the winch. It is now ready to hoist our portable sewage tote.
He attaches the cargo straps securely around our honey wagon and clasps it to the pulley system.
He then reels the sewage tote up to the truck bed.
Special note! We use TWO cargo straps. These photos were taken just for demonstration purposes only.
He then, pushes it over into the truck bed and unhooks it from the pulley system.
He then, disassembles the pulley system and stows it in the truck bed for storage and stashes our sewer hose in case he needs an extension to reach the dump station sewer hole.

About the Pulley System

The pulley system is a hitch mounted hoist that swivels a full 360 degrees that allowed us to load our RV portable sewage tank with a simple 3-piece attachment and easy installation.

Since the manufacturers design the boom/winch piece as one unit, there is no cable threading or alignment of holes or pins. There is a bracket and slot design that is amazingly fool-proof that virtually any RVer and truck owner could assemble.

It features machine pulleys to produce a high quality product that will not bind or jam. They even provide a hook for attaching our straps that cradle the sewage tank. The total weight of this pulley system is 42 pounds, so keep that in mind when it comes time to buying your portable sewage tote. Or, if you already have a much larger one, you won’t want to fill it as full in keeping with it’s specified weight limits.

We’ve absolutely love not having to pull in the slides and hitch up our fifth wheel just to take her to empty our RV holding tanks. This solution allows us to stay off the grid longer. We also incur less stress trying to find a dump station for our big rig fifth wheel.

So, if you boondock for long periods of time, here’s the perfect solution of how to get rid of your crap without moving your RV!

2/27/18 EDIT:

We came in to edit this post with this note because we received a lot of negative responses of why we didn’t seek other measures or solutions ‘instead’ of this one (i.e. macerator, composting toilet). We do what works for US. While yes, we ‘could’ go with other options, those are/were not viable solutions for US for the time being. If something works for you and your situation, we’re happy you’ve found your solution. We all do things a little differently and unless they are deemed unsafe to others or ourselves, we should all be left to our own decisions respectfully. Thank you.

Other blogs about boondocking that may interest you:

How to prepare your RV for Boondocking

Aqua Tank II Water Bladder – Product Review

WEN 56200i 2000 Watt Generator – Product Review

10 Solar Friendly Tech Gadgets for Boondocking

Water Conservation During Boondocking



We recommend reading all instructional information by the manufacturer for proper and safe use. We were not compensated to write this product review.

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20 Replies to “How to Empty Your Holding Tanks Without Moving Your RV”

  1. I don’t know who got all bent out of shape about this article as indicated by your edit, but I found it thoroughly entertaining and helpful. If those were your goals, you nailed it. Thank you for sharing. I’m heading out to get a honey pot and a Rack Jack this weekend.

    1. Thank you for following along! So glad our blog post on the Rack Jack was useful. Let us know how it works for you! Safe Travels!

  2. Is there a weight limit to the lift? This system looks like something we have been looking for. Thanks for sharing the information.action. Hope to meet up with you in Q artists.

    1. Hi Ken, thank you for your interest! The weight limit set by Rack Jack is 300 pounds. Remember each 1 gallon of water = 8 pounds. Don’t forget to add the weight of the tote. Ours is about 10-15 pounds empty so make sure you consider that in your weight. Larger totes will of course weigh more. -Dan

  3. This would be great for this Single female camper. I appreciate your post.
    (Some people ruin it for everyone. To quote my Dad, there’s more than one way of doing things! ) l for one like your idea!

    1. Jennifer, great for you to be out there solo!! Thank you for taking the time to read our blog. We certainly hope some, if not all, of our recommendations help make your journey easier and less stressful on the road. Safe travels and enjoy the road!

    1. Hey Izzie, I don’t think we’ve ever run into that issue. Perhaps tip it a little so it dumps through the sewer hose? Just be careful that nothing falls out (if you know what I mean! LOL). Good luck! Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook page too!! -Dan & Lisa

  4. My husband and I are not getting any younger, which means getting the 5th wheel hitch out of the truck is way too much for our old bodies. We use a rack similar to the one your using to get the hitch in and out of the truck bed….works great, and our old bones thanks us.

    1. Hi Liz, glad you both found a similar remedy. Those hoists can be a back saver for sure!!! Safe travels and enjoy! Thank you for reading!

  5. Here’s something else to help with your water refilling at unkown sources. We bought a filter that hooks to the hose and to the filler end that goes into your spout for the tank. Works great. Cameo EVO water filter 40631, available at Walmart, Amazon, RV stores.. love the jack idea, was going to get ramps to wheel our generator into truck bed but then it take up more room.

    1. Hi Holly, we are glad this helps. Just be aware that if you have RVs and campers waiting in line behind you as you fill your RV with that filter, it slows down the flow which may make some unhappy campers who are patiently waiting to fill their’s. We’ve seen some filling stations that disallow using filters for this reason. But yes, we appreciate filtered water too!

  6. New to RVs and here to learn. Are you able to connect the honeypot in the bed of the pickup to empty it, or do you have to find a way to lower it out of the truck first?

  7. Great idea but late for us. We traded our TT for a new Lance 1172 truck camper. No place for our blue tank, our idea of roughing it is no sewer hook-up. The hoist looks great for field dressing deer, moose, and elk.

    1. Hi Danny, thanks for reading and yes, that hoist is actually designed to lift big game into pickup truck beds. This setup we blogged about is geared more towards big rig fifth wheels and travel trailers who intend to boondock for extended periods of time. Safe travels and enjoy your new truck camper!

    1. Hi Jackie, thank you for reading. Not having a truck with a trailer hitch does present a different scenario. Our suggestion is boondock with a friend that has a truck and you both can lift the sewer tote into the truck bed. There are commercial pump trucks but I’m not sure they’d be up to going far out to pump your motorhome out. Just monitor your intake. Make the guys pee outside! LOL

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