There’re a couple of ways to refill a camper tank, but the idleness of a refill technique depends on the type and design of your RV’s fresh water tank.
Most trailers, though, have a simple gravity feed system, which you simply connect to a spigot and put a drinking water hose directly into your fresh water tank. Simple.
Other campers, however, including my Taxa Outdoors TigerMoth Camper Trailer, have a pressure system consisting of a screwed freshwater hose and a tank vent.
If your camper is like mine, there’re a couple of ways to refill the RV tank during camping.
But my favorite solution is the simplest yet the best.
Pop out the little air vent, hook a funnel, and pour the drinking water on like any gravity-fed camper. The only downside with this solution is you need to hold a really heavy jug.
While I’m sure I can back up the trailer a little bit, it’s sometimes easier to do it the harder way. Simple yet effective, at least in my opinion.
Of course, depending on the trailer design, yours may lack an air vent like mine, so a funnel isn’t an option.
The good news is there’re a couple of other ways to refill an RV water tank, including using a drill pump and tank vent.
Either way, I’m a big fan of the jug can refill method because I don’t have to worry about forgetting my water pump or not powering it enough.
All I’ve to do is simply hook my funnel, power the drill, and I’m ready to head out.
However, for the physically challenged, or rather whose campers lack an air vent, it can be challenging.
But don’t worry because, in this guide, I’ll share some of the alternative workarounds of refilling your RV tank during camping.
Understanding an RV Water System
Before we look at how to refill the fresh water tank during camping, it would be good to familiarize ourselves with an RV’s plumbing system. It’s particularly crucial for beginners.
While trailer campers come in different variations, most of them have a similar mechanism to deliver clean water and dispose of the wastewater.
Typically, the water system is located on the underbelly, consisting of three main tanks. Each tank has a separate function.
Fresh water Tank
The fresh water tank holds all the clean drinking water. It stores water for your sink use, bathroom, and water faucet.
It’s the tank where all the drinking water goes when you stop to rig your camper to a fresh water supply.
Typical fresh water tanks are designed from seamless polyethylene plastic. Always ensure the plastic is rated BPA-free to avoid contamination.
Grey Water Tank
The gray water tank where all the wastewater from your shower and sinks flows after draining.
Typical grey water tanks hold 50 gallons, but the size may vary depending on the camper’s size.
Black Water Tank
The black water tanks provide the collection point for waste water from the toilet. It’s a holding point for all the toilet waste.
In special cases, however, a camper trailer may lack separate connections with a grey water tank, so all the used water from the shower and sink is drained into the black water tank.
But in most cases, camper trailers have a separate black water tank because some campgrounds allow the dumping of gray water on the grass or in the designated dumping area.
Blackwater tank waste can only be dumped in a designated and certified RV dumping spot.
RV Water Tank Capacity
Before you refill an RV water tank, it’s important to estimate the water you need.
The size of your RV tank determines the amount of water you can hold.
Usually, the size of a fresh water tank ranges anywhere from 20 to 100 gallons. My Taxa Camper Trailer accommodates 28 gallons.
To determine whether your RV tank will accommodate your family’s needs, consider the number of people on board.
Next, put an estimate of about 2-to gallons of fresh water per head per day.
This should give you a rough estimate of how many gallons and water you need for your next camping trips.
Of course, it’s vital to be conservatory with your RV water usage. The last thing you want is to run out of water while dry camping.
If you plan dry camping for an extended period, I recommend you carry extra water in jerrycans.
4 Different Ways to Refill RV Tank During Camping
1) Using a Water Hookup with a Faucet/ City Supply
Rigging your RV tank to a city water hookup with a faucet is probably the easiest and most convenient refill method.
But you’ll need to identify a location with a city water faucet.
Other than that, it’s a simple solution to filling your RV since you’ll be using the city water pressure to your advantage to quickly fill the RV tank.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to refill the fresh water tank during camping using a city water hookup with a faucet.
- The first step is identifying a city water hookup. Ensure it’s safe for drinking.
- Pull your camper trailer close to the city water hookup. The length of the drinking hose determines the distance, but getting your camper closer is better to avoid water pressure loss.
- Connect on the end of the fresh water pipe to the potable water spigot. The connection should be secure to avoid leakage.
- Connect the end of the hose to the fresh water inlet on your RV.
- Turn the intake valve to allow water flow into the tank.
- Have someone monitor the water intake progress to avoid an overflow
- Once the freshwater tank is full, turn off the water spigot, and remove the drinking water hose on both ends.
Here are some pointers I would like to pass along when using this method.
-Consider a water pressure regulator at the spigot. A pressure regulator helps avoid the risk of your RV water lines bursting from too much pressure.
-Use a quick-release connector between the water hose and the spigot. It’s not necessary, but it prevents unnecessary wastage of water through leaks while providing a secure connection.
2) Using a water pump
The second method of how to refill the fresh water tank during camping is through a water pump.
It’s a great refilling method, especially if you often boondock and don’t have access to a city hookup or anything.
The pump method is also handy for trailer campers with a pressure fill (threaded hose).
But since you don’t have access to free-flowing water from a water spigot, you need to bring water in water jugs.
There are a couple of different ways to use pump water to refill your RV tank.
Some of the popular methods are:
Drill Water Pump
A drill pump is a simple, quick, and easy way to decant water from one area through to another.
Typical drill pumps have a shaft at the back connecting to a power drill. It’s easy to connect and simple to use.
There’s also an extension on both sides, where you can plug the inlet and the outlet fresh water hose.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to refilling your freshwater tank using a drill pump:
Connect the drill pump to the power drill through a shaft at the back.
Plug the inlet fresh water hose into the drill pump.
Ensure the other side of the inlet pipe is submerged in water.
Attach the outlet hole to the other side of the drill pump.
The end of the outlet hose should be directed to your RV’s fresh water tank.
Pull the trigger on the drill to decanter water from the jug to the RV’s tank through the drill pump.
Change the flow rate by altering the speed of the drill.
The good thing with the drill pump method is that it also works well for mobile water containers, fish tanks, jacuzzis, and so much more beyond refilling the tanks.
I can even connect it to my garden hose pipe when I need to clean my camping gear.
RV In-build Pump
Some RVs, such as our Tiger Moth, have an in-built pump in the utility areas to connect water.
The in-build pump is nothing fancy and not any different from the typical pump, only that it’s fitted or retrofitted in an RV.
Typical in-build RV pumps consist of a short hose, which with the turn of a valve, can siphon or decanter water from a water jug, or container into a fresh water tank.
Here’s a step-by-step method of using a build-in RV pump to siphon and refill your fresh water tank:
- Fill your water jugs with water
- Put one end of the pump into the water jug. If you opt for a portable water pump, then attach one end of the drinking hose line to the RV and the other one in a jug.
- Connect the pump to your RV battery, shore power, or any other power source using alligator clips
- Start pumping
3) Refilling Using Gravity
If you don’t have access to a fresh water hook or a pump, you can go the traditional way and choose gravity to help refill your tank.
Most of the old Class B campers have a gravity fill system. The small travel trailers similarly share this fresh water refilling method.
Using gravity is by attaching a funnel to the fresh water tank inlet hole and then pouring water from a one-gallon container.
I’m a big fan of the gravity fill method because it doesn’t require any tools or power.
The only downside is the inconvenience of lugging and lifting your water container to ill the tank.
Also, you need to ensure the water jug is higher than the RV inlet so that gravity can work its magic!
4) Tank Vent
The tank vent is simply an air hole that allows air to escape from the fresh water tank when filled through a threaded connection.
Now, if air can leave the fresh water tank, water can get in.
So, you simply need to pop out the mesh on the vent and insert a plastic funnel. Alternatively, if the vent is large enough, you could even direct a freshwater pipe inside the tank.
Next, fill your water tank by pouring water through the funnel.
Options to Replenish your Fresh Water Supplies
Before I share some of the fresh water sources for your camper, let’s look at some of the popular camping mobile water containers.
The water jugs are quite handy for holding your water, especially when you don’t have a water hook up.
A jerry can is probably one of the common containers and can hold as much as 7 gallons of water.
While jerry can provide a convenient way to hold large amounts of water, they can gobble up a lot of RV space, especially when empty.
Collapsible Water Container
These containers are growing in popularity because of their ease of storage.
They can hold up to 5 gallons, but what makes them unique is they fold down when empty for easy storage.
The water bladders are a popular aqua tank, perfect for holding lots of water.
Some have a generous capacity of up to 30 gallons.
The water bladders are also foldable for easy storage when empty.
My only concern with the water bladders is they are bulky and quite heavy to move, especially when full.
5 Fresh water Sources for RVs
When planning to camp, it’s a good idea to know exactly where and when you’ll fill your fresh water tank, even before leaving for the trip.
It’s also a good idea to have multiple locations or backup plans if one fails.
That said, here’re some of the fresh water sources for your RV.
1) Campground fresh water hookups
If you’re camping in a registered campsite, you might access a city hookup.
These community freshwater hookups might be as simple as a hand pump sticking out of the ground in different locations or a hookup at each RV parking spot.
Some of the campsites even offer full freshwater hookups, with plenty of other amenities such as sewage lines and electricity, but these are a bit expensive.
2) RV dump stations
RV stations are simply designated locations for dumping your RV wastes.
They’re a great water system solution for dry campers and those that don’t want to pay for overnight campground access.
While the dump stations are primarily for waste dumping, some have city hookups for refilling your RVs fresh water tank.
The RV dump stations are spread across the country, but you can easily identify one closer to you at BoondockersGuide.
Another thing to know about the RV dump station is the potable water spigots are colored green, while the no-potable water spigots are colored red.
3) Highway travel stations
An increasing number of highway travel centers are now offering RV camping amenities at a fee.
The centers offer water hookups and dump stations. Some even go to the extra length of providing washroom amenities and gas filling services.
But understand traveling with a filled hot water tank in your RV will lower your RV’s energy efficiency and fuel consumption.
4) National forests
Parks and forests are also great sources of fresh water.
Usually, most national forests have campgrounds for hosting RVs, which may also have water fill stations.
5) Bottle water
Bottled water might not be the most practical idea for filling your freshwater tank, but you can use bottles to hold water and decanter them in your RV’s freshwater tank.
Tips to Conserve Water While Camping
Fresh water tanks can only hold so much water, so if you plan to dry camp, you also need to know how to conserve it.
Of course, learning how to refill fresh water tanks during camping is an indispensable skill, but you also need to know how to save water.
Here’re some of the tips that I use:
1) Limiting my showers
I shower once a day, and I don’t use more than two gallons of water while at it.
2) Using less water in my kitchen
Consider using paper plates, which are disposable after use. They’ll save you from the need to use water to clean them.
Also, I only cook one-pot meals to save the need to use a lot of utensils.
3) Washing utensils in a bucket
Using a faucet in your kitchen for dish washing consumes and wastes a lot of the city water supply.
Instead, I’d suggest bringing a bucket with you, where you can clean the utensils.
4) Turn the water off
If you’re brushing your teeth or shaving, don’t allow the water on the faucet to run for a long time.
Instead, use a cup to brush or a damp cloth to clean up.
5) Find alternative shower methods.
If you’re not too dirty for a full shower, consider alternative methods such as cleaning up yourself with a wet towel or even baby wipes.
Cleaning a Fresh Water Tank
Learning how to refill the fresh water tank during camping is an important skill, so is regular cleaning and sanitization to remove any harmful organisms.
Before looking at how to clean your RV’s fresh water tanks, let’s first see when you need to clean them.
When to Clean RV Fresh water Tanks
Here’re instances when you need to sanitize your RV’s fresh water tanks;
- Immediately after purchasing your new RV tank. A new RV may have sat in the RV yard long enough for bacteria to start forming, So it’s good to flush out the organisms. Used units should equally be cleaned to mitigate the risk that the previous owner never did.
- Clean your freshwater tank if you notice a foul odor coming from the kitchen faucet or bathroom drains.
- When di-winterizing your RV. It’s good to sanitize the RV tank before you pull it for use after a long stay.
- After an extended stay, I’d recommend sanitizing your tank every six months, but the frequency will also depend on how you regularly use the tank.
How to Sanitize an RV Fresh Water Tank
Generally, sanitizing a trailer tank isn’t a challenging process, but it’s a maintenance task you can’t just shirk.
Ideally, you should sanitize your camper following the manufacturer’s manual.
But here’s an overview and a helpful guide with tips on what to do and what not to do when sanitizing your trailer tank.
1) Fill RV Water Tank
First, drain all the water inside your tank.
Next, fill the RV water tank up to ¾ capacity while adding a half cup of bleach for every 30 gallons.
Open the cold faucets and shower for a few minutes to ensure the mixture’s full circulation.
Then turn everything off, and wait for the bleach and water mixture to sit in your tank for 12 hours.
I usually drive my RV during the sitting period to ensure the mixture sloshes the entire tank and thoroughly coats everything.
Finally, open the faucets and drain the water.
Then, add a fresh water supply of water and rinse the tank. You may have to repeat the rinsing a couple of times to eliminate all the bleach.
*TIP: Use a water filter when refilling your RV fresh water tank, even when using potable water sources. A filter eliminates the harmful bacteria and contaminants before reaching your tank.
How to Refill Fresh Water Tank During Camping Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: How do I tell my RV fresh water tank is full?
A: There’re a couple of ways to tell if your freshwater tank is full.
You can watch the water-level gauge in your RV’s dashboard, listen to the water coming in for an overflow, or watch the water supply splashback (gravity-filled RVs).
If you see the water tank, you can fill it to whatever level you want.
Q: Can I fill my water tank from the bottom?
A: It’s possible to fill a water tank from the bottom. Bottom-feeding reduces energy consumption and is much faster.
Dry camping is fun, but nothing can cut your fun faster than dry taps.
The good news is I’ve shared with you a couple of ways how to refill fresh water tank during camping.
Still, even with the knowledge of refilling your tank, you must understand how to conserve water, especially while dry camping.
And more importantly, how to sanitize your camper to save you from the effects of harmful bacteria and microorganisms.