Best RV Portable Waste Tank For 2017
If you camp a lot and find yourself staying for an extended amount of time in a campsite without a sewer connection, an RV portable waste tank might be the solution for you. This will allow you to dump your gray and black holding tanks without moving your entire RV to the dump station.
Portable black water tanks come in either 2 or 4-wheel versions. 2-wheel versions have the wheels in the back which means you get the 'pleasure' of lifting and supporting, the front of a very heavy portable black water tank when it is full of waste water, all while you drag it along. Oh, let's not forget that you get to stand it up on end while you dump out the contents. Did we mention a full portable black water tank is VERY heavy?
A 4-wheel portable RV waste tank rolls along without the need for you to hold it up. When it comes time to dump, you leave the portable waste tank level with no need to heave it up vertical - a not so easy task with a large capacity tank that is full.
Why would you even consider a 2-wheeled RV portable waste tank? Money. They are cheaper. But speaking from experience, the 2-wheel portable waste tanks are a pain (in the back) to use. They are hard to drag across anything but a smooth surface. Spend the extra money for a quality 4-wheeled portable black water tank and you will be patting yourself on the back for years to come. Instead of potentially have a sore back for years to come.
So here's the golden question: Which one is the best portable black water tank on the market? We have found the answer...
Comparison of RV Portable Holding Tanks
Portable RV Waste Tank Reviews
Below you will find the best options for portable sewage tanks. We recommend that you consider getting a 4-wheel RV waste tote simply because they are MUCH easier to use and MUCH easier on your back. Having experience using a 2-wheeled portable waste tank, we can attest that they are less than ideal. Yes, they will save you money, but we feel strongly that you will regret the decision in the long run after you've potentially dealt with a sore back.
Best RV Portable Waste Tanks
Thoughts on 2-Wheeled RV Portable Holding Tanks
Camp Addict Co-Founder
When I visit my parent's house I use their 2 wheel portable holding tank to empty my trailer's grey and black tanks. I have to haul this waste tote about 60 feet to their septic tank clean out, where I dump my waste.
This isn't a great distance, but it's a pain to do because I have to haul the waste tank across pea gravel. Did I mention that the tank only has 2 wheels? Yeah. So I have to pick up the heavy (when full) front end and drag it as it's tiny, hard wheels sink into the gravel. Ugh!
I'm not that old (I keep telling myself that), but I'm not 20 anymore either. Their portable black water tank is 25-gallon sized which means it weighs somewhere north of 200 pounds when full. I have to heave the full tank into the vertical position to drain it. NOT FUN!
My back never likes me after a dump session. Fortunately, I only do it a few times a year.
The point of this story is that the situation at my parent's place is ideal for a 4 wheeled portable holding tank so my back doesn't suffer. Specifically the Barker 4-Wheel Tote-Along with its pneumatic tires would be an ideal fit for this type of terrain.
RV Waste Tank Guide
It's not just a pooper mover. There's a lot to know about getting the right portable waste tank. Let's dive right into the details!
Using An RV Portable Waste Tank
If you don't want the hassle of breaking your entire camp to dump your grey and black tanks, you can use a portable RV holding tank. These totes are on wheels for ease of use, and you can attach them to the trailer hitch ball of your vehicle to (slowly) drive to a nearby dump station.
However, you can't drive 55 down the road pulling a portable black water tank behind you. It's only made to tow very slowly. We're talking walking speed. Otherwise, you will have to have the ability to put the portable black water tank in your truck to drive it to the nearest dump station, though a full portable waste tank can be prohibitively heavy and you may not be able to lift it into your vehicle, without some sort of setup allowing you to.
As mentioned above, a portable black water tank is HEAVY when full. One gallon of liquid typically weighs 8.3 lbs. Multiply that by a fifteen-gallon tank (and that's a small holding tank) and that's about 124 lbs. Can you lift that? You will only have to lift one end if it's on 2 wheels. You can pull it behind you like a wagon without lifting an end if you get a portable waste tank with 4 wheels.
A Barker 4-Wheel Tote-Along In Use
Learning About Your RV's Holding Tanks
We think you will agree with us when we say:
"The black tank is probably one of the things newbie RVers fear the most about using their RV's."
Never fear! We are here to teach you how they work. Once you understand them a little more, you will realize that they are pretty simple, and what were you even scare about before?
Let's get down to it.
Your grey water tank is where any used water ASIDE from your toilet waste water goes. It's the water that goes down your sink drains and your shower drain. That water goes into your grey tank. Simple!
Most motorhomes and smaller travel trailers will have a single grey tank. Some longer travel trailers and 5th wheels will have two grey tanks - one for the kitchen and one for the bathroom. There are dual grey tanks usually only when the kitchen sink and the bathroom sink are far apart from one another. Having two grey tanks also usually means you'll have to drain each grey tank separately (they'll have their own drain valves).
Anything that goes down the toilet ends up in the black tank. That's it!
However, it is the scarier of the two tanks for two reasons:
1. It's pretty disgusting if it spills. Spills can and do happen. At least once in your travels... ask any seasoned RVer! Don't worry, you'll get through it.
2. It can clog easier than the grey tank. The black tank has solids in it, the grey generally does not (expect for food particles). Therefore, a tank with a lot of toilet paper (or the WRONG KIND of toilet paper), or not enough liquid, can cause solid matter buildup (clogs)
Using holding tank chemical treatments, using enough water and using the correct type of RV toilet paper all can keep your system flowing correctly.
Black and Grey Tank Sizes
How big are yours? This is something you will have to find out for yourself. The grey and black tank sizes are not going to necessarily going to be the same.
Your user manual will tell you how many gallons each tank holds. Also, you can check for it online. Usually you can get your specs somewhere online by searching for your year, make and model of RV.
Oh man, the notorious tank sensors. If you know any full-time RVers, they will all tell you that you CANNOT depend on what your black tank sensor says.
Your RV should have a panel that should tell you the levels of your grey tank, your black tank, your fresh water tank and your batteries.
Your grey tank sensor can, and might well be, accurate. Especially if you do a good job of not letting any food particles down the drain. If there's nothing but water in the tank, there's nothing to stick to a sensor inside the tank to give it a false reading. Though most probe-type grey tank sensors will eventually end up reading inaccurately due to soap scum buildup.
You also will know when your grey tank is full because it will seem like your sinks and shower are draining very slowly, and will eventually no longer drain. And if you wait long enough, a full grey tank will back up to the lowest outflow point, which is usually your shower. In other words, an overflowing grey tank will result in your shower pan filling up with grey tank water. Yummy!
The black tank is a different story. All of your 'contributions' that are not of a liquid matter have the opportunity to become stuck to the sides of your black tank. #2 and toilet paper can both stick and then throw off a sensor reading (when you have the typical probe-style tank sensors). Seriously gross, right? Deal with it. It's true.
However, the more common reason probe-style tank sensors stop working is because struvites form inside the tanks, causing the sensors to read inaccurately. See the below video for more information and learn more about what you can do about struvites in this section.
What Are Struvites?
If you can see down into your tank when you flush your toilet, lucky you. Your eyes are your best gauge. Again, gross, but it works. Otherwise, if you have a toilet where there is a curve in the pipe going down, you can't see into the tank. In that case, if your sensors aren't working, it's a matter of live and learn through experience.
If you know your tank size, you should eventually be able (and you had better learn this) to guesstimate how full your tank is. Have fun with that, but you WILL get a feel for it after a while. (Worse comes to worst, you will get to a point where the toilet will not flush anymore! But try not to get to that point of course.)
If your sensors are off, don't waste your money taking it in for repair. Ask ANYONE who has a lot of RV experience and they will say the same. (Don't ask the dealer, they just want your money) They will jam/clog up again ASAP. The typical probe-style black (and grey) tank sensors are pretty much worthless.
RV Holding Tank Chemicals/Treatments
Have you ever stood in an RV supply store and stared at the selection of RV holding tank chemicals and treatments that line the shelves and wondered why are there so many and which is the best? Yeah, it can be a bit overwhelming. Here is a great primer video on the different types of RV holding tank treatments:
RV Holding Tank Treatments Explained
Learn something there? We sure did! Marshall has been eyeballing the TankTechs RX holding tank treatment that is mentioned in the above video after he learned that it can possibly cure the issue of his holding tank sensors not reading correctly. In fact, Marshall started using TankTechs RX at the end of April 2017 and we will update this page if/when he sees results. So stay tuned and we'll see if the stuff works as advertised!
You'd think that TankTech RX would be pricey stuff if it works as advertised, but it's actually cheaper than the holding tank treatment that Marshall was using before. Go figure!
The Three Ways To Dump Your Tanks
When it comes time to empty your RV's gray and black water tanks, you have three options:
- Campsite: You can dump your gray and black water holding tanks at your campsite if a sewer hookup is available.
- Dump Station: You can dump your tanks at a dump station by driving your rig there.
- Portable Waste Tank: You can drain your rig's holding tanks into an RV portable waste tank, eliminating the need to break camp and drive your rig to the dump station. You only have to take the portable black water tank to the dump station to empty it.
If you are at a campground with full hook-ups, you are set. Nothing to worry about as far as 'when' to dump your tanks. Don't forget, DO NOT leave your black tank valve open just because you are hooked up to sewer! You can leave your grey tank valve open all the time if you prefer.
Consider waiting until your black tank is mostly full to empty it. This will cause the force of the flow to be greater than if it were only 1/3 full. The greater force should guarantee that the solids get cleaned out 100%, as long as there is enough liquid in the tank.
Camp Addict Co-founder
If you are at, say, a state park that has no dump at all, you are going to have to pack everything up, hitch up if you have a travel trailer, and leave to get the job done. This is a lot of work. Also, if you are boondocking somewhere, you could lose your spot while you are away dumping your tanks. You can try leaving chairs and such at your site to 'claim' it. Still, that's a lot of hassle just to need to dump your RV portable waste tank.
This is where a portable black water tank comes in to save the day.
With a portable blackwater tank you eliminate the hassle of moving your entire house just to do this chore. Your family can happily hang in the comfort of your rig while you go take care of it. It is much less of a hassle.
What you need to know is how large your rig's black and gray tanks are. You may not want to get a portable waste tank for RV that is smaller than your rig's largest holding tank. This way you can empty your black or gray tank entirely without worrying about it overflowing when you are filling the portable waste tank.
Additionally, when draining your black tank into your portable waste tank you can use a little grey water flush after your black tank is empty to 'clean' the hose out. Hey, grey water is still gross, but it's much less gross than fecal matter+urine!
Emptying Your Black And Grey Tanks
We know, we know. This is the SCARIEST part of RVing. (Besides driving, for some folks) It REALLY gets very easy once you have done it a few times. It's a very simple process with super uncomfortable consequences if done incorrectly. 🤣
We're laughing because we have been there. And this is why we are giving you a step-by-step guide on how to do the deed.
You have (usually) ONE outlet for both the grey water and the black water to empty out of. Some RVs will have two gray tanks and each tank may have their own dump outlet. Outlets usually look the same on all rigs, something like this:
You should also see two valves or levers - one for the gray tank and one for the black tank. Where? Depends on your rig! They are on either side of the sewer outlet in the travel trailer photo above.
If you have a Class A motorhome (or even a Class B or C), they could be inside of a bay. On travel trailers and 5th wheels, they are usually on the outside under the rig. Use your user manual to find them if it's not obvious. (It usually is) The two levers should be labeled - black and grey.
We're giving you a step-by-step guide on how to dump your tanks along with a great video by Gone With The Wynns on how to dump the tanks on a class a rig.
Dumping RV Gray And Black Tanks
Step-By-Step Guide to Emptying Your RV Holding Tanks
Are you new to the world of emptying your gray and black RV holding tanks? Looking for a little guidance on the exact steps to take? You are in luck! Open up the section immediately below and we will walk you through the process of draining your holding tanks, step-by-step.
Open to get your step-by-step guide to dumping your RV holding tanks
Click here to download a printable version of the below checklist (PDF).
- Put on some disposable gloves. Trust us on this one.
- Get your sewer hose out and place it next to the tank outlet.
- Remove the cap from the outlet. NOTHING should come out at this time... unless you or someone before you accidentally left one or both of the valves open.
- If liquid comes out, you better close the valve ASAP! Once the valve(s) are closed, take a deep breath. Wait. That's a bad idea... move away from the area THEN take a deep breath. Don't worry, **it happens. 😂 (Man, are we funny!) Attach the sewer hose and continue with the regular directions. Clean up whatever mess you now have by rinsing the area the best you can. You'll be amazed at how fast the flies will find it.
- Connect your sewer hose to your rig.
- Place the other end of the sewer hose into the dump hole. Secure it by placing a rock on top or by letting the cover of the dumping station sit on top of the end.
- Start by opening your grey tank valve just a little. This way, if there's a leak, it's much less nasty.
- Close your grey tank valve after confirming there are no leaks.
- Open your black tank valve and let it drain entirely. It's a good idea to go into your rig once it's empty and run some water through it (unless you have a black tank flush, then see #10 below) to get anything 'left' in the tank out. If you CAN see directly down into it, it should look as clean as brand new if you got it all out. Use a flashlight.
- If you have a tank flush, connect your sewer specific hose to the flush system and let it flow into the tank for about 3-5 min while the black tank is still open. When you are finished, shut off water and disconnect sewer specific hose from your rig.
- Close black tank valve.
- Open your grey tank valve. This washes the hose out so there's not fecal matter in it and its less smelly. Always drain your black tank before your grey tank.
- When finished, close your grey tank valve.
- Lift up the hose from closest to the RV to get any leftover liquid out by letting it flow into the drain.
- Disconnect your sewer hose from the RV once you are sure most of the liquid is out. Lift the end high to ensure nothing comes out of your end and to make sure all liquid drains into the dump.
- Rinse the sewer hose inside and out with water before taking the other end out of the drain hole. If no water is available, well, this is why it's a good idea to keep a gallon of water in storage so you can rinse the hose.
- Disconnect the hose from the ground hole and cover with lid or rock (either is usually there).
- Put your sewer hose back into storage. Make sure it's empty!
- PUT YOUR CAP BACK ON YOUR OUTLET AND MAKE SURE YOU HAVE CLOSED BOTH LEVERS. This is very important- crucial for your next dump so you don't have an embarrassing gross accident.
You're done! It seems like a lot of steps, but it WILL become second nature.
Camp Addict Co-Founder
True story: Just YESTERDAY, I had a minor accident while dumping my black tank in Moab, Utah. It's my, uh, fourth accident I believe? (I am, by nature, NOT a very careful person.) I was all hooked up, checked the connection to the RV, and let 'er rip. Nothing leaking at the RV end.
Then I looked back at the sewer outlet. To my horror (once again), full-on feces and urine were shooting out from around the edges of the hose where it connects to the 90-degree end connection. Crap! That's the second time this hose has come apart. Since I am not a good double-checker, I think it's time for a new hose.
The #1 Secret To Avoiding Black Tank Clogs
Here's a fantastic way to keep your tank from clogging, AND to not have to dump your tanks as often. However, some people will balk at the idea. Once you are over the preliminary 'ickyness' of the idea and try it, you will see that it's not gross or bad at all.
What's The Secret?
Don't put your toilet paper down the toilet! Put it into a trash can with a bag liner. It will NOT smell. Or, well, if yours does, put it in a bin with a lid.
Your tank is MUCH less likely to clog if you aren't putting toilet paper down into it.
Practicing this secret also allows you to use any brand of toilet paper you wish. No more worrying about what brand you purchase.
It also saves room in the tank- an unbelievable amount of room. You will come to understand just how much room toilet paper uses as you watch how quickly the bag fills up.
As an extra bonus, if you are boondocking (dry camping), you can likely stay an extra few days before needing to dump. OR, you can stay in your spot longer by getting a portable black water tank (also known as a portable grey water tank).
You Have Been Schooled!
Now you have everything you need for your arsenal against your black and grey tanks! You should be able to make a decision on whether a portable waste tank is right for you or not. Whatever you decide, just get out there and start camping more.
Camp on, Addicts!