RV Water

Water is the other side of the boondocking equation. At least with power, you can either crank up the old generator or go to bed and wait for daylight but with water, once your tank runs dry; you're heading on back to town.

If you're staying in campground then water is something that you really don't have to worry about too much.  A quick word of warning however, if you hook up to an RV park water supply, it always pays to keep an eye on the pressure. That’s because RV plumbing lines are a smaller diameter compared to household pipes and when you hook directly up to the RV park tap, or any outside supply for that matter, your lines and fittings may not hold up very well to full mains pressure.

The answer to that is to always carry a screw-on water pressure regulator and then use it whenever you're connecting to city water. They cost less than ten bucks and are a very cheap insurance policy against plumbing headaches. Many places will tell you that they offer low-pressure hookups but it’s not really a chance worth taking when you consider how much damage a broken water line can cause when it’s still pumping water from into your rig. If you’re not at home to catch it when it happens, it can be a real disaster. RV water pumps work on-demand so if the leak is after the pump then it will just keep flowing until you shut it off at the source.

On-demand pumps, in simplistic terms, only work when needed. They also tend to be reliable but it’s a good idea to know where your pump is located and if you have the room, to carry a spare if you find one on sale. Harbor Freight usually carries them and you can find them easily online for a reasonable price. Typically, they are in the basement storage area under the bed but wherever it is, will not be far from the fresh water tank. If you can’t find it by following the lines, then turn on a tap and listen for the noise of the pump.

When you're dry camping and can’t hook up to the mains, then you need to carry your own water. The onboard fresh water tank will not be enough to get you more than a few days so I would recommend that you grab a few of the six-gallon water containers that you can find in the camping section of your favorite big box store. My preference is for the Jerry Can style plastic containers that are taller, and store a lot easier than their square counterparts.

If you can lift them up, then pour them straight into your freshwater tank through a funnel.  Bear in mind that six gallons of water equals around fifty pounds. Once you’ve topped up the tank, all the internal goodies, like the shower and hot water system, will continue to function as normal. If you can’t lift or would rather not, then you can buy a small 12-volt transfer pump that will do all the work for you. They even come in hand-operated versions that are a lot slower but essentially do the same job.

A transfer pump can have other uses if you’re outside of town and camping near a natural water source like a river or creek. If you plan a little ahead of time, you can have an infinite supply of fresh water right on your doorstep. All you need is your pump, an appropriate length of hose, and a decent water filtration system. When I say water filter, I’m not talking about the super expensive setups sold at the RV store, nor do I mean the household type. All you need are the simple filters sold for hiking and portable use. Keep the pressure low and they’ll work just fine. Reputable brands are twenty dollars or less and some of them have incredibly long life spans. Make sure the filter goes inline before the pump because you want it to be able to trap any contaminants before they hit the pump itself. That way only clean water goes in and you can still use the pump to transfer fresh water from your containers.

When it comes to filling your water tank when you’re on the road, get into the habit of always topping up whenever you get fuel. Even if you think you don't need to, do it anyway. The couple of extra pounds won't affect your fuel economy and you'll know where you stand with water. The onboard gauge is not always accurate because the RV has to be level for it to work and it doesn't measure in the same way as a fuel gauge because it relies on sensors located at each quarter point. In other words, the gauge may say half but you really only have a quarter of tank remaining because the water level hasn't dropped past the next sensor down the line. Keep it filled.

A great idea for saving not only water but also your battery is a solar shower. If you’re dry camping in warmer climates they are yet another way to extend your time away from town and maintain one of the creature comforts that we all enjoy. Any big box store should have them in the camping section. They are very simple in design, consisting of a thick plastic bladder with a length of hose and a showerhead on the end. The basic concept is that you fill them with a couple of gallons of water and then set the bag out in the sun. A good trick is to put it out in the afternoon sun then just leave it until morning. On a summer’s night, the bag will hold onto some warmth and unless you’re an early riser, the morning sun will bring it back up to temperature. When you’re ready, simply bring the bag inside and hang it in your shower stall.

Many gas station taps, especially in the colder states, lack the screw fitting that you have on your garden spigot at home. The solution to that is another cheap must have device called a water bandit. You can get them at any RV store and they attach your water hose to just about any tap by slipping over the bib like a rubber sleeve. Pick yourself up one and it will make your life easier.

Make sure you also carry a decent water hose and if you find them on sale, pick up a spare. An RV water hose is different to a garden hose and designed for potable water. They are usually white in color with a blue stripe but that can vary between manufacturers. A garden hose will make the water taste bad and possibly will add contaminants from the type of plastic used. Always replace the washers in the hose with the ones that have the wire mesh screen. They tend to wear out fast from repeatedly unscrewing the hose but are cheap and available everywhere so make sure you carry an extra pack. Using the washers will prevent rust and other gunk from getting into your fresh water tank where it is a lot harder to clean out.

People who dry camp almost continuously throughout the year don’t like to rely solely on small water containers so they will sometimes install a secondary tank if the room is available inside their rig. Water bladders are popular, especially with people towing travel trailers with a pickup truck. The waterbed style bladders lay flat on the truck bed and provide a lot of extra capacity. They can be quite expensive and even though the manufacturers make grandiose claims about how tough they are, common sense suggests that you still handle them with care.

Water is important to life and it’s one of the greatest creature comforts. Make sure that you keep plenty of it around and all will be right with the world.