How to Refill a Freshwater Tank in an RV During Camping

How to Refill a Freshwater Tank in an RV During Camping

Using an RV or travel trailer to go camping gives many people the ability to stay longer and more comfortably in the outdoors. They provide people with a comfortable shelter that they are able to cook, sleep, and relax in. Additionally, people are able to use their RVs to take care of a basic human need which is to have sure access to water. 

If you’re camping at a campground that comes with full hook-ups, you really don’t need to worry about running out of water. However, these sorts of spots are few and far between, which means that the majority of campsites don’t come with full hook-ups. It’s also rather expensive to reserve a full hook-up site, so if you’re on a budget, it could be difficult to afford one of these spots for several nights! So how do you make sure that your most basic need is taken care of?

Well, there are 5 ways that you can easily refill your freshwater in your RV while camping. They are:

  1. Using a travel center fill-up
  2. Stopping by an RV dump station
  3. Utilizing the services at a US Forest Service site
  4. Bringing along water cans to fill up
  5. Posting an ad near the town where you plan on staying at to fill up at someone’s house
Travel Center

If you have ever gone on a road trip through the US, you are absolutely familiar with these. Travel centers are basically large gas stations. They allow people who are going on long road trips to stop, get a bite to eat, use the bathroom, fill up their gas tanks, and even shower if they need to!

Travel centers also usually have areas that you can use to fill up the freshwater of your RV or travel trailer. Usually, the freshwater area is clearly marked. Drive along side of it, read the instructions of whether or not you need to pay for the water first, and then begin filling up your tank.

If you’re unsure about where the water station is, don’t be afraid to go inside and ask the attendants! They are friendly and very helpful, so it’s safe to go ask for help if you need it. 

Be sure that when you are done using the fill-up station at the travel center to put the hose back properly. Roll up the hose so that it is neatly put away and off of the ground. That way, the next person who needs to use it doesn’t accidentally run over the hose and cause damage to it, which would be very unfortunate for the next person to use it (and that very well could be you!). 

If you are lost in trying to find a travel center, use your smartphone to search up a travel center near you. Common travel centers are Loves, the TA, and The Flying J. You’ll most likely run into them along major roadways like interstate highways!

RV Dump Station

RV Dump Station

If you aren’t near an interstate highway or travel center, you’ll likely be near an RV dump station. RV dump stations are where you can safely and legally remove the waste that you produce while camping in your RV. 

RVs have grey water and black water tanks that house the wastewater, in addition to the freshwater tank. After spending time in your RV, you’ll need to dump those tanks in order to continue to stay in your RV. Otherwise, wastewater will literally come out of the places that you are putting it into!

When you come to a dump station, be on the lookout for a freshwater hose. These are usually found nearby where the dump site is. Now don’t worry! They are usually hanging up above the ground where wastewater can’t get to it. If you don’t see a freshwater hose hanging near the dumpsite, keep an eye out for a freshwater spigot nearby. The challenging thing with the water spigot vs. the freshwater hose hanging nearby is that you’ll likely need to furnish your own hose to connect to the water and fill your freshwater tank.

At any rate, whenever you stop at a dump site to fill up on freshwater, be sure to empty your black and grey tanks as well! It’ll allow you to continue to stay in your RV for longer than if you hadn’t dumped your wastewater and you’ll also save on weight, which will help save you gas, and ultimately money! And who doesn’t like to save money!?

Where you’ll likely end up finding a dump station will be in a National Park or a State Park. Be sure to look up dump stations near you before venturing out though so that you can save yourself some time and gas!

US Forest Service Sites

Utilizing the services at a US Forest Service site

If you’re unable to find a State Park or National Park and/or you don’t want to pay the fees to enter one, no worries! The US Forest Service has plenty of land throughout the US that has access to water spigots that they allow people to use for the low price of free!

What makes these challenging is that the spigots are often not friendly to using hoses, which can be a bit of a problem when trying to fill up your RV’s freshwater tank. In order to tackle this issue, here are a couple of solutions so that you can successfully refill at a National Forest campground.

Bring along water jugs and a funnel.

This option is obviously going to take a long time, as you’re only able to fill up your freshwater tank at the rate at which you’re able to fill up the jugs and pour them into your RV. But, if you’re in a pinch and need to fill up just a little bit of water, this method is easy and straight forward. 

If you’re really needing to fill up the entire freshwater tank, see about bringing along a few water jugs and enlist the help of a few friends. You can easily rotate full jugs with empty jugs, which will in turn make the process go much quicker.

But if you’re all alone, just be aware that you’re going to need to go at a nice easy pace so that you don’t end up getting injured in the process of moving the heavy water jugs back and forth! Water weighs a little over 8lbs a gallon, so if you’re working with 5-gallon jugs, you’ll end up moving over 40lbs every time you fill a jug and dump it into your freshwater tank!

Bring a threadless spigot adapter

If you don’t have the patience, strength, or stamina to move all of those water jugs into your RV’s freshwater tank, no worries! One of the easiest ways to deal with filling up your freshwater at a spigot that doesn’t have threads to hook a hose up to is to use one of these

They are great, because they allow for you to hook up a hose to all sorts of spigots, regardless if they have threads or not! It’s definitely a smart thing to keep inside of your RV for a just in case scenario, especially since they are so inexpensive and easy to store.

Threadless spigot adapters work by attaching your hose to the threaded side of the adapter and then sliding the rubber end onto the threadless spigot. Now, the side of the adapter that goes over the spigot isn’t held on by anything other than the grip of the rubber that makes up the connection end. With that in mind, go easy on how much water you allow to go through the spigot by opening it slowly so as not to cause the adapter to go flying off of the spigot right away.

A way that you can deal with this issue is by holding onto it by hand so that it doesn’t go sliding off, while your camping partner holds the hose that is feeding water into your RV to keep it from falling out of the tank. But, if you’re on your own, that idea probably won’t work!

If you’re by yourself, you could potentially duct tape the adapter onto the spigot to help it stay on the spigot, regardless of how much you open the valve. By doing this, you’ll free yourself up to hold the end of the hose that is filling your freshwater tank yourself, keeping all of that water from spraying all over the place.

Just be sure to clean up the spigot when you’re done by removing all remnants of duct tape from the spigot before leaving. Always leave the things that you use on public lands better than how you found it!

Water Cans

Water Cans

If you’re only planning on being out for a few days, but you want to ensure that you have plenty of water along with you, water cans might be the best option for you. You can carry as many or as few as you like (or can fit!).

Water cans can be made out of a variety of materials and have different volumes of water that they can carry, depending on the size of the can you buy. The most common size for campers to buy is 5-gallons. But the materials differ, based on what your needs are!

The most common and universal 5-gallon water can is usually tall and rectangular in shape. They are nice to have along, because they save on space inside of your RV’s storage area, or in the back of a pick-up truck if you’re towing a travel trailer. What’s even better about these types of water cans is that they usually come with a cap that you can transform into a pouring spout! 

Hidden pour spouts are great, because they protect a pretty delicate part of the water can from being damaged when not in use. This allows for the spout to last for a long time, while also keeping your water from escaping the water can as a result of a busted spout! 

The main downside about these water cans is that they tend to be rather bulky when not in use. So, if you’re low on space as it is and want to be able to free up more space when you’re done using the can, you might want to go with a soft sided collapsible water can.

Collapsible water cans are awesome because they can carry the same amount of water as their hard sided counter parts, but when you’re done pour out their water into your freshwater tank inside your RV, you can smash them down so that they can be easily stored and transported. 

The biggest downside of soft sided collapsible water cans is that they can easily be punctured by sharp objects. This can cause a pretty significant leak if not quickly addressed, which you definitely don’t want when you need that water to use inside your RV! 

They’re also a bit awkward to carry compared to the hard sided water cans. Due to the flexibility of the material, the water tends to slosh around more in a soft sided can and can make filling it up and walking it around difficult. 

In either case, you’ll want to calculate how many water cans you need to refill your freshwater in your RV. RVs come with a variety of freshwater tank sizes, so you’ll need to consult your owner’s manual to gauge how many cans you need to take with you. 

A general rule of thumb is that every person that is going to be staying inside of the RV on a given trip should have 2 gallons of water a day allocated to them. So if you’re going camping with a family of 4, you’ll want to budget about 8 gallons of water per day to adequately prepare to meet everyone’s water needs. If you have a freshwater tank that holds 20 gallons of water, you’ll end up running out of water after 2 days of camping with your family of 4. In order to safely extend your trip, you should plan to bring along at least an additional 2 5-gallon water cans per day that you plan on going camping.

Filling up at a Local’s House

Posting an ad near the town where you plan on staying at to fill up at someone’s house

If you’re really desperate for water and you have exhausted all of your options, it’s time to get a bit social to solve your problem. Wherever you decide to go camping, there is usually a local town or city nearby that have friendly people who are happy to help those that are stuck in a pinch. 

A great way to do this is to go to a grocery store or gas station where you are camping and ask people if you can fill your freshwater tank at their home. Definitely offer to pay for the water to help them be more inclined to help you if you’ve asked several people but haven’t gotten any traction!

At the very minimum, offer to do something for them in return for their kindness in letting you fill up at their home. Do some chores around their place, offer to help them with their groceries, or make them a meal! In any case, extending a small kind gesture can go a long way after someone has helped you out. 

And who knows! Maybe you’ll make a friend that can help you discover awesome spots to check out in the area that no one else knows about!

Final Thoughts

Filling a freshwater tank while you’re out camping can be an easy task, or a difficult task based on the resources you have around you. If you’re able to, always fill up at an established location like a travel center or a dump station. They are reliable sources for freshwater and easily accessible for all types of RVs.

If one of those aren’t available, begin searching for US Forest Service campgrounds as they often have water spigots available to fill your water tanks. To hold you over, remember to bring at least 1 or 2 5-gallon water cans. 

And if all else fails, don’t be shy and ask locals in the area that you’re camping if they might allow you to fill up your freshwater tanks in exchange for money, a service, or a meal!

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Picture of Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.
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