Best RV Portable Waste Tank in 2018
(Camp Addict does NOT accept payment from any company to review or endorse their products.)
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 blackwater 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 blackwater 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 blackwater 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.
What About The Thetford SmartTote?
Best RV Portable Waste Tanks
The line of portable waste water tanks by Barker Manufacturing are really the best of the best when it comes to portable waste tanks for RVS. They have a reputation for being incredibly durable while offering ease of use that's made the ugly chore of dumping your tanks simpler.
With their large, pneumatic tires (16-gallon size has hard rubber tires) and a 3-inch sewer valve, the Barker 4-Wheel Tote-Along is the perfect way to dump your black and gray tanks without having to move your RV to the dump station.
25, 32.42 Gallon (chose size)
Continue Reading Barker 4-Wheel Tote-Along Review
The Barker 4-Wheel Tote-Along is available in 16-gallon size (has hard rubber wheels instead of pneumatic wheels) as well as 25, 32 and 42-gallon sizes.
Speaking from experience, there is nothing more frustrating than using a portable holding tank that has only two skinny wheels, which makes the 4-Wheel Barker Tote-Along worth its weight in gold. 2-wheeled totes mean you have to lift up one end that is very heavy when it is full. You then have to drag it along, with its skinny wheels digging into soft dirt or gravel. Finally, you have to heave it into the vertical position to drain as 2-wheeled totes can't be drained in the horizontal position.
The Barker 4-Wheel Tote-Alongs solve all these problems. Four wheels mean that it rolls along without you having to lift one end. Four pneumatic (air-filled) wheels (16-gallon size has hard rubber wheels) on axles that have real wheel bearings (N/A 16-gallon size) means that gravel and other softer surfaces barely slows these portable black and gray tanks down. And the 3-inch sewer valve (same as what your RV has) means the tank only empties when you want it to.
There is seriously no better portable holding tanks for RVs on the market today. Do yourself a favor and purchase a Barker Tote-Along. It will be the last portable waste tank you'll ever buy.
Barker Manufacturing 4-Wheel Tote-Along Features and Specs:
- Available in the following (gallon) sizes: 16, 25, 32 and 42
- Made from blow molded polyethylene, zinc plated steel and aluminum
- Large pneumatic (air-filled) tires allow for easy maneuverability on most surfaces (NOTE: 16-gallon size uses hard rubber wheels, not pneumatic wheels)
- Axles have ball bearings for long life and grease fittings (16-gallon size does not have wheel bearing or grease fittings)
- Included full tank indicator screws into 3/4 inch opening and gives a visual indication as the portable sewage tank is getting full so you don't have a spill
- You can empty the portable sewage tank while it is in the normal, horizontal position eliminating the need to lift it vertically (like you have to with a 2-wheeled tote)
- Comes with the following accessories: (1) 3" bayonet cap, (1) 3/4" cap, (1) 3 inch by 5 foot sewer hose, (2) 3" bayonet hose adapter, (2) 3" stainless steel hose clamps, (1) gray water hose, (1) full tank indicator, (1) heavy-duty tow handle
- Made in the United States
- 2 year warranty
- 16 Gallon Dimensions & Weight: 11.5" High x 17" Wide x 37" Long* - 30 pounds
- 25 Gallon Dimensions & Weight: 11.5" High x 24" Wide x 37" Long* - 32 pounds
- 32 Gallon Dimensions & Weight: 11.5" High x 24" Wide x 45" Long* - 37 pounds
- 42 Gallon Dimensions & Weight: 14" High x 24" Wide x 45" Long* - 47 pounds
* length is with handle removed
If you insist on purchasing a 2-wheeled portable sewage tank, then the Barker Original Tote-Along (aka Blue Boy) is your best bet. Barker is known for their quality and durability, which is what you want when you are moving black tank contents around. 😳
Chose Your Size
Continue Reading Barker Original Tote-Along Review
The Barker Original Tote-Along 2-wheeled tote is available in 10, 15, 22 and 30-gallon capacities.
Just be aware that 2-wheeled totes are a pain to move. Literally. Larger size capacity tanks can cause pain in your back since you have to bend down, grab the handle, lift up and tug it along. And you have to raise the tote completely vertical to empty it, which can be 'fun' when you have a full waste tank. (Not)
Why would you purchase the Barker Original Tote-Along (Blue Boy waste tank) instead of the much easier to handle and maneuver Barker 4-Wheel Tote-Along? Because you only need to occasionally use a portable RV septic tank and don't want to spend the extra money on the 4-wheeled version.
If you are going to be using the portable RV dump tank on a fairly regular basis, do yourself (and your back) a favor and go with the much easier to use Barker 4-Wheel Tote-Along. You'll thank us later! 😉
A 15 gallon Barker Original Tote-Along In Use
Barker Manufacturing Original Tote-Along Features and Specs:
- Available in the following (gallon) sizes: 10, 15, 22 and 30
- Made from blow molded polyethylene and zinc plated steel
- Extra large, heavy-duty wheels
- All sizes come with the following accessories: (1) 3" bayonet cap and (1) 3/4" cap
- 15, 22 and 30-gallon sizes come with the following additional accessories: (1) 3 inch by 5-foot sewer hose, (1) 3" bayonet hose adapter, (1) 3" stainless steel hose clamps,(1) gray water hose, (1) tow bracket
- Optional full tank gauge to alert you when holding tank is getting full so you don't have a spill
- Made in the United States
- 2-year warranty
- 10 Gallon Dimensions & Weight: 8.75" High x 15" Wide x 30" Long - 11 pounds
- 15 Gallon Dimensions & Weight: 11.25" High x 15" Wide x 37" Long - 13 pounds
- 22 Gallon Dimensions & Weight: 11" High x 20" Wide x 37" Long - 16 pounds
- 30 Gallon Dimensions & Weight: 11.75" High x 24" Wide x 37" Long* - 19 pounds
* length is with handle removed
The 4-wheeled Tote-N-Stor, which comes in 18, 25, and 39-gallon sizes, is a good choice if you don't need to roll your tote on anything but a hard surface. It's small diameter, narrow wheels mean that if you venture off of a concrete or asphalt surface the wheels will likely sink into any relatively soft surface, making it really difficult to move the portable sewage tank when full.
Continue Reading Tote-N-Store Review
This portable RV waste tank is available in 18, 25 and 38-gallon capacities.
The 4-wheel Tote-N-Stor is by far a better option than a 2-wheeled RV tote tank since you don't have to lift up one end to move it and it can be dumped in the horizontal position. While the Tote-N-Store is less expensive than the Barker 4-Wheel Tote-Along, the Barker is an overall better choice as its superior wheels allow you to maneuver the tote on all types of surfaces - not just hard, smooth roads.
There have been some consumer reviews indicating that the front wheels of the 4-wheel Tote-N-Stor are not very durable and can come off. These front wheels are just small diameter, hard rubber caster wheels that are suitable only for smooth hard surfaces so it is easy to see that if you take this portable blackwater tank 'off road' these small wheels may have issues.
Why would you purchase the 4-wheel Tote-N-Store over the Barker 4-Wheel Tote-Along? If you are certain that you will only be using your portable waste holding tank on hard surfaces (concrete and/or asphalt) the Tote-N-Store is a cheaper option than the Barker 4-Wheel Tote-Along.
The Tote-N-Store is a MUCH better choice than a 2-wheeled tote (which you have to lift one end to move and dump), but you need to be certain that you ever need to take the tote onto a soft surface. If you do, go with the Barker and make your life easier.
Tote-N-Stor Features and Specs:
- Available in the following (gallon) sizes: 18, 25, and 38
- Made from polypropylene
- Skinny, hard rubber wheels - very small diameter in the front which will make moving tote through gravel very difficult
- Translucent drain pipe acts as sight tube (when in stored position) so that you can tell how full the tank is getting as you are draining your gray and/or black tank into it
- Able to empty portable holding tank while in horizontal position
- Comes with the following accessories: (1) 3" bayonet cap, (1) 3/4" cap, (1) 3 inch by 3- foot sewer hose, (2) 3" bayonet hose adapter, (2) 3" stainless steel hose clamps, (1) gray water hose
- Made in the United States
- 3-year warranty
- 18 Gallon Dimensions & Weight: 14.5" High x 27" Wide x 33.5" Long - 38 pounds
- 25 Gallon Dimensions & Weight: 14.5" High x 27" Wide x 41" Long - 40 pounds
- 38 Gallon Dimensions & Weight: 14.5" High x 26.5" Wide x 51" Long - 44 pounds
A Better Portable Holding Tank Hose
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.
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).
What Size Portable Holding Tank Do I Need?
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.
Can I Leave My Tank Drain Valves Open?
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!
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 blackwater 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.
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.
Kelly's words of advice:
If your RV sewer hose ends are able to come apart, check them EVERY TIME you hookup to make sure the connection is secure.
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 black water 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 black 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!