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How to reduce your water consumption when camping

When you are camping, you learn to be very careful with your water consumption or you run out, and its often a fair bit of effort to go and get more. In this post, we look at all of the different ways you can reduce your water consumption when camping, caravanning or living in an RV.

We’ve seen a couple of people pick up caravans for the first time, and they deplete their water storage within a weekend using water in the same way they would at home, and its certainly one way to learn quickly.

Even with a significant water capacity its so easy to run it out quickly without the right techniques:

Full water tank

You have to learn how to conserve water when camping, or you’ll have none very quickly!

Shower differently

The most amount of water consumed when camping comes from your showers. If you aren’t careful, you can easily deplete a 90L water tank with only a couple of showers, and that will hugely hurt your water consumption.

To give you an idea, we have Topargee water gauges set up to tell us exactly how much water we are consuming, and as a family of 4 we can all have a shower using a grand total of 14 litres of water. That 14 litres is probably split as 5 litres per adult and 2 litres per kid, and we repeat this on a regular basis.

Yes, the showers are nothing like what you have at home, but they are enough to get clean and make you feel a million times better than before. 

Our process is simple; get a water efficient shower head, turn it on and get wet, then turn it off and soap up, and then rinse off. The previous owners set our outdoor shower up so that its only one temperature too, so you just turn it on and its at the right temperature, and ready to use. 

Outdoor shower

Our basic outdoor shower, which works just fine

I’ve showered in my folks van before and wasted a fair bit of water trying to adjust it to the right temperature. I have heard of some people installing a setup where the water recirculates back into the tank until its warm, so you don’t waste it.

Wash off using external water supplies

Australia has some pretty amazing creeks, rivers and lakes where you can take water from that is almost pristine. We’ll often grab a bucket of water from a good water source and put it on the fire for a wash off, and you save all of your own water for drinking or use later on.

This works even better in the fact that you can take as much water as you want and have a really good shower, instead of scrimping on the water you have in your tanks!

Stainless steel camping bucket

Heating water up on a fire from a creek is a great way to have a nice warm shower without using your drinking water

Showering in the bush

You can get cheap shower pumps that just suck from a creek or bucket

One pot meals for the win

The more dishes you make, the more time you have to spend cleaning them, and the more water you’ll need. We’ve done meals where you’ve needed to fill the sink up with fresh water mid way, and you can use a heap of water this way. 

If you want to conserve water, any meals that use one pot only are a winner. This can be as simple as a stew, or stir fry, or some people even do spaghetti bog in one pot. 

Camp oven meals

Anything done in one pot is a winner

Paper plates

We rarely do this, but its common practice for those not wanting to use a lot of water (or dishes). If you are camping where you can have a fire, you eat your meal and throw the plates into the fire, and you only have the cutlery to wash, which is pretty neat.

Rinse your dishes with salt water

If we are camping near the beach and we really need to conserve water, a great way is to take your filthy dishes down to the edge of the beach and scrub them off.

You’d be surprised at what a bit of sand and salt water will remove, and this works brilliantly for gravies, or anything else that is going to contaminate your dish washing water quickly.

Once its rinsed, take it back and wash it properly in hot, soapy water so its ready for next time.

Wash your dishes once a day

Filling your sink up can use a fair chunk of water, and if you learn to reduce the number of times you do your dishes you can save a fair bit of water. A lot of meals don’t generate much in the way of dishes anyway, which means you can just stack them neatly aside, and do them when you have more.

This can be a double edged sword as it means you probably need to take more plates, cups and bowls, but it can help conserve your water considerably.

Doing the dishes

Sarah on dish duty

Wash the dirtiest dishes last

Some dishes require a fair bit of work, and will make your water filthy. We always wash our oily pots, or gravy containers at the end, so the other dishes are clean and you don’t make the water disgusting early on. 

Finish all of your meals

If you want to reduce the dish washing work, get everyone in your family to finish their meals properly. The more food, sauce and scraps left on the plate (or bowl) the dirtier your water will become, and the more chances you have of needing to dump the water.

Use a spray bottle and detergent

If you want to get really hard core, a good option is to not fill a sink at all. Simply use a spray bottle with water and detergent and wet your utensils and plates, and wipe them down. This uses far less water than filling a sink up, and is great for those who have extremely strict water consumption requirements.

Use clean creek water for your portable toilets

If you have a permanently mounted toilet, then it will generally take its flush water from your water tanks and this won’t work. However, if you are like us and have a portable toilet, you’ll have to fill the flush tank up. Ours is 20L in capacity, and needs filling every 10 – 15 days under normal circumstances.

If you are near a clean, fresh water supply there’s nothing wrong with filling your toilet up with water from a creek or river.

I wouldn’t do it if the river was dirty, or saline, but its not a bad way to reduce your own drinking water consumption.

Portable toilet

Filling your portable toilets up with clean, non potable water from a creek is a great idea

How much water do we carry?

Our Hybrid Camper Trailer has three 90L water tanks, giving us 270L of drinking water capacity. 90L is separated for showers, and the rest comes out of the kitchen sink tap.

On top of this, we also have a 50L water tank underneath our Bull Motor Bodies Canopy on the Isuzu Dmax, which brings our total to 320L. This is a fair amount, and considerably more than what a lot of people have (180L is fairly typical), but it allows us to camp off grid and need to refill far less often.

We’ve done 9 nights off grid and still come back with 100L on board, which is exceptional and gives us lots of options.

Filling our water tanks

We take a lot of water with us!

Take a water bladder with you

A great option for making your water work better is to buy a potable water bladder, and take it with you. When they are not being used, they can be rolled up and kept in a secure place, without taking up much room.

When you need extra water, you just unroll them in a suitable place, fill them up with water and take them back to camp. A lot of people will have a 50 – 100L bladder that sits on the floor of their vehicle, and they fill it up in town, then drive back to their caravan or camper and pump it across.

It’s a great light weight and compact solution to moving water without having to pack your trailer up and drag it into town.

We haven’t bothered with a water bladder as we have the 50L tank that is permanently mounted under the Dmax which does the same thing, but if we needed to move more water it is certainly something I’d consider.

Water bladder for a 4WD

Water bladders are a great way to carry more water, or to transport it back to your camper or caravan

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