Portable Grey Water Tank; options, requirements and more

There seems to be a big obsession with collecting your grey water these days, and more and more people are installing permanent grey water tanks on their caravans, camper trailers and RV’s.

The thing is though, the majority of camp sites have no need for you to collect your grey water, and on the rare occasion that they do, you can do it in a portable grey water tank if that suits your setup better.

Grey water collection
A 20L square container turned into a portable grey water tank under our kitchen

What is a portable grey water tank?

As the name suggests, this is a small, portable container that you can use to collect your grey water. There’s a heap of different ways you can go about it, and different products that you can purchase.

A normal Caravan Grey Water Tank is permanently mounted, and always in use (although you can install a bypass for them, which is a good idea).

Cossack grey water collection
It’s a portable tank that will hold and contain your grey water

Why would you want a portable grey water tank?

I guess the main thing to start off with is what benefit there is to getting a portable grey water tank, instead of just using a permanently mounted one.

There’s a number of reasons that people go down this path, and we do it too, on the odd occasion that we need to collect our grey water.

You can use all of your tanks for fresh water

When you purchase a caravan, camper trailer or RV it will usually come with a couple of tanks. In many circumstances, you’ll get the option of choosing what they are for. Some people use them all for fresh water, and others decide that they want one of the tanks to be for grey water.

That’s fine, and its a personal decision, but it means you lose the capacity to carry more fresh water, which is one of the first things you return to town to get.

Yes, you can install more tanks, but that’s subject to weights, real estate and your budget, so choose wisely. A portable grey water tank allows you to use all of your tanks for fresh water, which is hugely appreciated on the road.

Fresh water
The more fresh water storage you have, the better

Permanently mounted grey water tanks can stink

Grey water stinks after a while, and when you have a grey water tank that constantly has fats, food scraps and sand/dirt getting flushed into it, the result can be a pretty pongy tank.

There are ways you can clean these, but grey water tanks often smell, and not having one on your van removes that smell.

If you do have a permanently mounted grey water tank, a bypass is a fantastic option, for the times where you want to let your grey water out in a responsible way; it doesn’t even enter the tank, and you reduce the chance of it smelling.

Caravan Grey Water Tank
Grey Water tanks can stink and need regular cleaning

You can leave the weight behind on trips where its not needed

There’s a lot of overweight vans on the road today, and anything you can do to reduce the weight you are towing is a good thing. Not only will it save you on fuel, but it will make your vehicle happier and often tow better. 

A portable grey water tank can be taken when you need it, and left when you don’t, saving space and weight.

Weighing our Dmax
The lighter you keep everything, the better

The cost of a grey water tank and installation can be quite expensive

I’ve seen people quoted $600 – $1000 for a grey water tank to be installed, and that’s a fair chunk of money. A lot of people do the installations themselves, but not everyone has the skills or tools to do a good job.

You can buy a portable grey water tank for $100, brand new, or you can make one for virtually nothing with items you have laying around your house.

Grey water tank guard
Grey water tanks can cost a decent chunk of money to purchase and install

DIY portable grey water tanks

On our 6 week trip up north, when we knew we’d be staying at Cossack (which requires grey water collection), I decided to make my own grey water tank up. I took a 20L square water container from work that was going in the bin, and I drilled a hole in the lid, to suit our grey water hose.

I then cut a short piece off our grey water hose, and when we wanted the DIY portable grey water tank, I just slid the camlock on, pushed the hose into the tank and let the grey water run into the lid.

I had a spare lid to put on for when we were done, so we could transport it away to a suitable location and not have any spill, but it was really basic.

I don’t have any photos of this, and have since thrown it away as we hardly ever needed it, but it doesn’t have to be overly complicated, or difficult. As long as it collects the grey water, and cannot spill it anywhere, you are good to go.

I will admit to not being able to collect our shower water, so we didn’t shower for the night that we stayed there. If you have an camping shower set up collecting grey water becomes much harder, so we just avoid any sites that require it.

Off the shelf portable grey water tanks

Fiamma, Outback Equipment, Weisshorn and a number of other places sell off the shelf portable grey water tanks, and many of them come with castor wheels so you can wheel them to a suitable dump point instead of having to lug it around and break your back.

If you feel the need to have a grey water tank, know that it is possible to get a portable one and you aren’t necessarily locked into buying a tank and installing it.

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  1. Hey Adrian,

    I’m not surprised in the slightest. If you are going to install a permanent one I’d only do it with a bypass, so you can avoid using it unless you absolutely have to. My folks have one on their van and it reeks. I was actually looking up chemicals to clean them the other day, so good timing.

    We’ve just grabbed a cheap 20L container that we’ll use on the very rare occasion you need it, and we can chuck it at when its no longer any good

    All the best

  2. Adrian Martin says:

    I recently asked a local caravan maintenance place if l could have a grey water tank installed He refused because too many previous clients have come back complaining of the smell and maintenance Several asked for them to be removed He suggested keeping a 20 litre container that was eventually disposable He said clients who have a dedicated portable unit also complain to him that they just can’t flush out the smell and stop taking them on their trips