Today we’ll talk about a big modification to our camper to make things a bit more tailored to our style of living. Fresh water and sewer capacity are our limiting factors for remaining away from services so changes were necessary!
One of the creature comforts that makes life so much more pleasant is a shower, especially for outdoor adventurers that accumulate a nice dirt patina after a few days! The indoor shower is really cramped and at 5’10” and 6′ it’s really just not comfortable at all. The Lance 815 from the factory also drains the shower water to the already small 7 gallon black water tank (most RV showers drain that to grey water). Even though we’re really conservative with how much water we use in the shower, the stock shower water configuration really limits our black water capacity in terms of number of days before finding a dump station. Plus, the 20-gallon stock fresh water tank is already small for dishes, tooth brushing, and drinking water for three.
To address our fresh water storage issue and cramped, inefficient shower issue, we designed a outdoor auxiliary water storage system with shower!
The flat bed on our truck is 9.5′ long instead of the standard 8′ so we have the extra needed room to put our water system between the camper and the headache rack. The tanks and all related hardware are separate from the camper and stay on the truck bed when the camper is removed so that if the the truck goes into town (or work or the ranger station) without the camper, it can top off with water too.
Water Storage Vessels:
A rectangular poly tank that would fit our available space retails for $300 or more so we set out to find a better option. We used 15(ish) gallon containers are 14.5″ in diameter. These food grade blue barrels can be purchased for $10-$15 just about anywhere. We bought ours at a farm supply store used (they started life as Dr. Pepper syrup containers), using three of them gives us a total of 45 gallons of extra water. Since they were used, we filled them with a dilute bleach solution, then a vinegar solution, and flushed them several times with just water. (This order was copied from several RV manufacturers recommendations for cleaning RV fresh water tanks.)
Water System Assembly:
All three barrels were connected at the bottom with 1″ PVC tubing using Uniseals then they were linked at the top with 3/8″ flexible tubing for venting. Assembling the barrels in this manner means there is just one opening for filling and one outlet for discharge. All of the fittings are 3/4″ hose so if any lines ever wear out or burst, one can be made out of any garden hose found at any store.
The water tanks are attached to a SHURflo pump. This 12 volt unit is the same as the pump in the camper so if that one ever breaks, we have a spare on board! It’s also the pump used in 99% of RVs and can be frozen. Downstream of the pump, water can be dispensed from a spigot for refilling the camper, the dogs bowl, Nalgene bottles, washing the motorcycle, etc.
Our shower is a Camp Chef Triton 5L. It will flow 0.5 to 1.5 gallons a minute and can boost the water up to 100 degrees for a nice hot shower. We use it at 0.5 gallon a minute and it is plenty of water. Although outside can be chilly, we generally stay with the warm weather, plus being clean is totally it. Its propane use is minimal and runs off our spare 5 gallon tank.
In short, our 65 gallon system works great! We don’t always carry the extra weight but can if the trip requires it. Being able to take a shower after a ride or hike is heavenly!