RV dumps – the dirty little secret of living in a van

Better to bury it yourself

Knowing where to legally dump wastewater is an important part of living in an RV, especially for dry campers, a.k.a. “boondockers.”

If you prefer remote natural settings to developed campgrounds your choices are either to dig a hole, or to dispose of your waste legally at a later date.

State campgrounds in the US charge a day-use rate, usually between $5 and $10. This allows RV owners to empty their holding tanks, fill a fresh water tank and take a hot shower.

What if, however, you discover there are no open RV campgrounds or the local highway rest stop has closed its dump station? How do you find one while traveling?

“It’s pretty easy,” said Natalie Vartanian of “Girls Gone Moto” (www.girlsgonemoto.com). In 2011, Vartanian, Sally Hope and Kathryn Lejeune of the San Francisco Bay area, traveled throughout the U.S. in an almost vintage motor home, primarily staying at highway rest stops and Wal-Mart lots. Once a week they would find a dump station that also supplied potable water for their 34-foot-long 1984 Fleetwood Southwind.

“We would literally Google ‘dump station’ and the nearest city, and results would come back. We found the most comprehensive web site was SaniDumps.com,” said Vartanian.

“When RVs have to go,” said John Clarke, publisher of SaniDumps.com, “we know where to go.”

Clarke and his wife, Chris, started the web site from their home in Kelowna, BC. The site has grown to include more than 17,000 dump stations in 13 countries. The list features private and public parks, non-park, free, pay, donation and commercial locations for dumping gray and black RV holding tanks.

Each year there are thousands of updates to the listings. “As more and more people learn about the site they send in more and more locations,” said Clarke. Because Internet connection is not always available while traveling, SaniDumps.com has e-Books available to download directly onto your computer for the U.S., Canada or Australia, each for around $20. There are also apps for Android smartphones.

Other resources

Another online site, RVDumps.com (www.rvdumps.com) is run by Roundabout Publications, and lists locations of many dump stations across the U.S. There is the “RVers Guide to Dump Stations” e-Book for about $6. If you do not have computer access, there is a 2011 paperback edition for around $12. Contact Roundabout Publications, P.O. Box 569, LaCygne, KS 66040; or call toll-free (800) 455-2207.

RVers who travel the Interstates can frequently find fee-based RV dump services at many of the 150-plus Pilot/Flying J Travel Centers (www.pilotflyingj.com). Expect to pay $10; or $5 with an RV Frequent Fueler card. Some Love’s Travel Stops (www.loves.com) offer dump facilities for $5. Both Pilot/Flying J and Love’s offer free locator apps on their web sites.

When open, most county, state and federal parks with developed campgrounds have sanitary dump facilities available to guests for free, and charge a nominal fee for dump station use only. Many county fairgrounds also offer dumpsites for a small fee or donation.


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