How Can We Help?
Finding Water and Disposing of Trash
My best advice to every vandweller is to simply increase your awareness and start looking for water faucets and trash cans to put your trash in. For example, one day I was shopping at my local Wal-Mart and was pushing my shopping cart into the little corral where we were supposed to return them and I noticed that every one of the corrals there had a trash can. I thought to myself how careless I was for never noticing it before because it was the perfect place to dump my trash. That’s where my trash went from then on. Here’s another example: I was living in the desert outside Victorville, CA and had never found a source of free water, so I was buying it at a vending machine. One day my friend Steve and I were filling up at our usual vending machine and we looked over beside it and lo and behold there was a faucet. Our first thought was to wonder if it was potable, but we noticed it was the line that fed the vending machine its water, so it had to be potable. Boy did we feel silly, all this time we were complaining we couldn’t find free water and it was right there in front of us.
The moral to the story is to just keep your eyes open for faucets and trash cans and usually that will solve the problem. But if you are new to this here are some specific places to start looking:
- Gas stations often have a faucet for water; you just have to be sure it is potable. It is also a good place to drop off trash.
- Vending machines that sell purified water are common across the Southwest. The reason they are so common in that in the desert the water that comes out of the tap is safe, but usually very mineralized and doesn’t taste good. As a result, many people buy their purified drinking water from vending machines. The prices vary from 15-40 cents a gallon with a quarter a gallon most common. Many desert dwellers buy it for drinking, but try to find it free for the dogs, cooking and cleaning.
- Wal-Marts often have water vending machines inside the store and most have trash cans outside for your trash
- City parks will very often have water spigots and trash cans for your trash. So when I was city-dweller I would stop and make lunch, dump my trash, and fill up my 1 gallon jugs, all while enjoying a pretty place in nature
- Rest areas almost always have water spigots and trash cans you can use.
- Generally, National Forest Ranger and BLM Stations will let you get water and dump your trash and of course are a good source of information as well.
- When I’m getting gas or buying something at a convenience store, I’ll take in a 1 gallon jug and ask if I can get water. I’ve never been refused.
- Almost all public restrooms have faucets, but your water bottle won’t fit under them because the sink isn’t deep enough. You can use a Water Bandit (more about that below) with a short hose to fill your water bottles.
- RV Parks sometimes have a spigot for public use. No harm in stopping and asking, all they can do is say no.
- I’ve never done it but I have friends that fill up at Fire Stations. It’s worth stopping and asking. Firemen/women are usually about the nicest folks you will ever meet and glad to help.
- My dog needs nearly a gallon of water a day so I keep my eye out for natural bodies of water like creeks or lakes for him. I am concerned that water could contaminate the container it’s in, so I marked a jug for untreated water only and all untreated water goes it in it and none of the others. If I am going to drink creek or lake water, I filter it first.
Four water related things I always carry:
- An RV water hose. They are specifically made for potable water and they don’t have an odd, “rubbery” taste. I carry two, one is very short and the other is 10 feet long. That way I can use the short one for inside public restrooms with a water bandit and together they are long enough to fill 5 gallon jugs left in the van without lifting it out. When done I screw all the ends together so it stays clean
- A Water Bandit. It goes over the end of many faucets and lets you fill a jug from a sink when the jug is too big to go under the faucet. http://www.amazon.com/Camco-22484-RV-Water-Bandit/dp/B000EDOSKG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1339265949&sr=8-1
- A backpackers water filter for when you are near a surface water source like creek or lake. You do not want to drink water straight out of a creek or lake without filtering or treating it first. For vandwellers I think your best choice is a gravity fed system. With these there is no pumping or chemicals. You dip a bag into the creek and hang it from a tree or the mirror of the van. There is a tube coming out of it and you put the end of the tube into your water container sitting on the ground. Gravity pulls the water out of the bag, through a filter and clean water falls into your gallon jug. It works extremely well and is surprisingly fast.
- Bleach to purify my water jugs. Sometimes I will put bleach water in the hose also just to be sure nothing is growing in there. I do it at least once or twice a year so nothing is growing in my water jugs or hose.
I have three suggestions about how to get rid of your trash:
- Whenever possible, recycle it. I know that is often impossible but sometimes it is easier than you think. Many communities have set up recycling areas where you can drop off recyclables sometimes for money, but more often just because it is a good thing to do.
- Some people who boondock set aside their paper and cardboard trash and burn it. That will often cut the amount of trash you produce by half or more. Do not burn plastics or put cans in the fire and leave them. That is just littering.
- I put my trash in Wal-Mart type grocery sacks, and collect them to throw away when I am near a trash can. That has several advantages: First, it’s cheaper, I don’t have to buy garbage bags. Second, I am recycling plastic which is a very good thing. Third it makes the bags of trash smaller so they are less noticeable and more stealthy when I throw them away. It’s hard to be subtle when you are throwing away a great big bag of trash. But no one thinks anything of it when you throw away a little bag of trash. So if I am making multiple stops on a shopping trip into town, I will drop off one bag at many different locations.
So there you have some general ideas of getting water and disposing of your trash. I have probably missed some, so feel free to comment and include your favorite ways and I will add them to the list.