How to Refill a Fresh Water Tank During Camping

How to Refill a Fresh Water Tank During Camping

There are many ways to fill up a camper water tank, such as from a faucet or with a water pump. If you don’t have access to either of those, even a hose can work, and also you could always just use gravity to do the work for you.

There are only those three main methods to refill your container, but there’s also plenty more you should know, such as different types of water containers, keeping your fresh water tank system clean, and some other tips regarding dry camping.

How to Refill a Fresh Water Tank During Camping

From a Faucet

The first method we’re going to discuss is the easiest and fastest: from a faucet.

The most important thing to note here is that you must have separate hoses, and one needs to be dedicated solely to your freshwater system. Don’t use that hose for anything else, like cleaning out a septic hose, or even for washing your RV. Otherwise, you run the risk of contaminating your drinking water or adding a strange taste.

It’s good to have your own hose because not all motorhome service stations have one on hand, and you will also need a ½ inch or a ¾ inch adapter to connect your hose to the faucet. Always wash your hands before touching your fresh water hose and keep it off of the ground.

Fresh water hoses typically come in white or blue, which is great because it can help us to remember.

The setup you use to refill your fresh water tank can vary depending on the type of RV you have – you either have two separate connections or a single one.

What you need to do is to connect one end of the hose, which is typically orange, to the campsite spigot and make sure that the connection is secure and stable so that no water gets wasted.

Screw the other end of your hose, which is known as the male end, into the correct connection on your RV. This is usually labelled ‘Portable Water Only’, but if you only have one input make sure your valve is set to fill the fresh water tank.

At the end of your hose there should be an orange adapter – the pressure regulator. This ensures that none of the pipes inside your RV rupture or burst. Always leave this regulator on because water pressure can be unpredictable and could damage your pipes.

As you turn on the faucet slowly and carefully, it is ideal to have someone inside the RV to monitor the tank as it fills.

Most RVs have an overflow valve, so it’s not possible to over-fill the system.

Once your fresh water tank has refilled, simply turn off the water and remove your hose at both ends.

Make sure you close the lid of your water tank as soon as it’s full so as not to let any dirt get inside.

With a Pump

By using a water pump, you don’t have to rely on any kind of water hookup and can boondock for longer.

You will need some extra water containers filled with fresh water and a water pump that is rated at about 12V.

Simply connect the containers to your RV’s freshwater tank with your drinking hose and connect the water pump to your van’s battery with alligator clips.

Once you power up the water pump and your fresh water tank starts to fill, all the steps from here on are the same as the faucet method.

How to Fill RV Water Tank Without a Hose (Using Gravity)

If you are new to this, you might have been under the impression that there’s no way to refill your water tank without a hose, but that is not the case.

Thankfully, there is one other option if you don’t have access to a water hookup or pump. You will need an independent water source, such as a full 6-gallon water jug filled with fresh water.

Although you could still use a hose for this method, especially if you are using a jug that does not have a spout that fits inside your water connection. You would need a funnel too to get it into the hose. So, choose your jug carefully depending on whether you want to use a hose or not.

You will need to find a way to climb up to a level where you can access the fresh water tank opening. The easiest way to do this would be with the use of a ladder or a chair, although I have seen some climb on top of and stand on a car to get the job done.

Then, all you need to do is pour.

Although doing it this way is the most simple and straightforward, compared to the others, there is a downside – there’s a higher chance that dirt gets into the water tank.

No matter which method you choose to refill your tank, you should always turn on your water pump and run a hot faucet inside the RV. This should be done when the tank is almost full, so that the hot water tank in your RV also gets its fill which gives you an additional 6-10 gallons of fresh water.

Water Containers

As mentioned previously, you might need to keep water in external containers. There are many types of containers that you can use for this particular purpose, so let’s go through some and discuss the pros and cons.

Jerry Cans

The classic jerrycan container is the most popular, and they can hold up to 7 gallons of water. They are good because they’re very durable and reliable, but they take up lots of space. Most people only keep one or two with them, as it’s just too much of a waste of valuable space to have more.

Collapsible Containers

I think these are way better than jerry cans because when empty they can be folded flat and take up little to no space at all. You can easily store several of them when empty.

These containers typically hold 5 gallons, which is pretty good.  

Water Bladders

Water bladders can hold large amounts of water – so much so that you could refill your fresh water tank. When empty they also fold up quite small and compact, so they are seemingly perfect.

The only problem arises when they are full as they take up a lot of space and are heavy, making one very difficult to transport.

Water bladders are only ideal for those who have travel trailers or fifth-wheel RVs.


Now you know the ins and outs of refilling your tank. There are more things that you should know though, like how to keep your fresh water system clean and preserve water.

Sanitize Your Fresh Water System

You cannot just assume that your fresh water system will always stay fresh and clean like your water pipes at home. Even if you never drink the water out of your RV’s system, you still use it to shower and wash your dishes so you should sanitize your system every six months at least.

Contaminated water is no joke, and you shouldn’t leave cleaning out your system long enough that you notice a strange odor or taste.

Even though we always strive to fill our tank with fresh water that is safe, at the end of the day you are connecting your tank to an unknown water source each time you refill and you can never be too careful. You should always use a water filter as well as routinely sanitizing the system.

It’s an easy process, but it takes time. It is absolutely essential that you wait long enough so that the process can take full effect; it takes at least 12 hours.

The first step is to drain your water heater by locating the drain plug, or petcock, and remove it. To assist the draining, release the pressure valve on top. Never drain your water heater when it’s hot or under pressure.

You will need to locate the low point water line drains next, there’s usually one for hot and one for cold water. Just open them up to let the water drain.

The next thing you need to drain is the fresh water tank. After that, you can turn on the water pump so that the remaining water gets forced out. Make sure you don’t let the pump run for longer once the water has stopped draining.

Close all the drains back up, and take a quarter cup of household bleach for every 15 gallons of water that your fresh water tank holds (e.g., 60 gallons = one full cup)

Mix the bleach with water in a one-gallon container before pouring it into your fresh water tank. Fill the tank to the top with regular fresh water. Now you can turn on the water pump in your RV, and don’t forget to open all of the faucets (both cold and hot).

Don’t close the faucets until you can smell the bleach coming out from each one. If you are able to, go for a little drive meanwhile so that the water gets a chance to move around inside the tank.

Here comes the wait. Let the water sit for at least 12 hours.

Once the 12 hours have passed, proceed to drain the entire system again and refill the tank with drinkable water. Make sure you open up all of your faucets and let the water run for a bit to rinse out any remaining bleach. Keep doing this until you can no longer smell any bleach in the system.

That’s it really. As I said, not a very difficult process but it takes quite a chunk of time. It’s completely worth it though.

Conserve Water

As a tip, you should always be aware of how much water you are using and how much is being wasted. We never want to waste water, but especially not when we’re boondocking.

I would like to give you a few tips of how you can conserve water because if you ask me, knowing how to maintain your fresh water tank and also knowing how to conserve the water in it go hand in hand.

Limit Showers

Showering is the number one biggest water waster – not because of the act itself but rather things that we are doing, possibly without even realizing it.

Limit showers to once a day, and not more than two gallons of water for every shower. If two people are sharing an RV, a 40-gallon water tank should last at least 14 days.

Always be quick and as economical as possible when showering. It’s a small price to pay for the joys of dry camping.

People tend to let the water run from a faucet or shower before getting in, giving the cold water a chance to pass through until the warm water comes. This should be avoided, but at least if you need to do it then let the water run into a bucket or bowl so that you can use it for another purpose or even add it back into the system. Never let water run for longer than necessary.

Use Less Dishes

If possible, only cook one-pot meals and do whatever you can to use less utensils and such. If that means using paper plates because that’s what works best for you, then so be it. Just do whatever you can so that you can save more water from having less to clean.

Also, while we’re on the topic of dishes – use a bucket to clean everything instead of doing them in the sink.

It’s actually a very common thing for British people; most keep a plastic basin in their sinks at home as a way to conserve water. Why not adopt this method while RV camping?

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