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Do Campervans Have Water Tanks?

Do Campervans Have Water Tanks?

With more than 13 million and counting #vanlife posts on Instagram, it’s clear there is a huge interest in the lifestyle. If you’re considering jumping into van life, you may have a question or two about staying comfortable. One of the most frequently discussed topics is whether campervans have water tanks. And if they do, is it large enough? How can you make a camper van water tank last longer?

Today, we’re tackling some of the most frequently asked questions about campervan water tanks. Let’s get started!

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Do Campervans Have Water Tanks?

Not all campervans have water tanks. Many vans are custom-built, and some people choose to forego the plumbing necessary to add water tanks. Instead, they opt for bottled water and jugs, use public showers and restrooms, and use portable toilets that avoid the need for waste tanks.

However, many DIY builders, conversion companies, and RV manufacturers include traditional RV water tanks in their campervans.

How large the water tanks are will depend on the specific camper van. However, they typically range from 10 to 20 gallons. Those traveling in a camper van will often use the fresh water in their tanks for drinking, showering, using the restroom, and cleaning. 

Once the water goes down a drain, it typically goes into a black or gray water tank. Black water is anything that goes down the toilet, including raw sewage, while a gray water tank is typically anything that goes down a shower or sink’s drain. Gray water is typically a generous amount of soapy water. However, it can be equally as disgusting as the black water tank if left to sit.

Close up of a campervan water tank
You may need a water tank in your campervan to ensure you have water to drink, shower, and to use the toilet with.

What Size Water Tank Do I Need for My Campervan?

What size tank you’ll need for your campervan will depend on where and how you plan to use it. If you plan to move from one campground to another, you’ll likely be able to get by with a small 10-gallon tank. You’ll probably have access to a supply of water in the campground and not have to worry about how much water you’re consuming.

On the other hand, if you want to spend as much time outside campgrounds and be as self-sufficient as possible, you’ll want the largest water tanks possible. This will allow you to spend as much time as possible in remote locations without stressing about conserving water. We’ve seen some camper vans with larger 35-gallon tanks.

If you’re somewhere in between, having a 20-gallon to 30-gallon water tank can be sufficient. While it may not seem like much, you’ll quickly learn some unique ways to conserve water to make your campervan water tank last as long as possible.

Pro Tip: Check out Our 5 Favorite Places to Dump Our RV Waste Tanks that you can use to empty your campervan water tanks.

Refill your campervan water tank at any site that offers a potable water connection.

How Do You Fill a Camper Van With Water?

Many campervans have a city water connection on the rear or side of the vehicle. To fill the tank, you simply connect a drinking hose to a potable water connection. Depending on the size of your tank, it can take anywhere from a few minutes to 10 to 15 minutes to fill it. Some tanks will have an overflow system, which will drain any excess water out of the overflow to help avoid issues from overfilling the tank.

The filling systems on camper vans can be as unique as the camper van itself. Familiarize yourself with how to fill your tank correctly and efficiently. The less time you spend filling your camper van’s water tank, the more time you can spend on the road adventuring.

Interior of campervan bathroom with shower and toilet
While campervans might seem like small living quarters for some, they often come with a shower and toilet that work thanks to a campervan water tank.

Where Do Van Lifers Get Water?

Van lifers can find some rather interesting places to fill their water tanks. While there are mundane places like campgrounds and RV parks, various locations provide the water you may not have considered. Gas stations, rest stops, and even grocery stores are all places we’ve heard of van lifers finding water. 

You can use resources like Campendium and iOverlander to scout places near you to fill your freshwater tanks. It might surprise you how readily available water stations can be in some places.

How Do I Keep My Campervan Water Fresh?

To keep your campervan water fresh, you’ll want to sanitize your freshwater tank and the water lines regularly. This involves running a bleach-water solution through the water lines and fixtures for several hours.

The solution kills any bacteria growing in the system. It’s a good idea to sanitize your entire water system about every six months. However, if you fill from municipal chlorinated water supplies often, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about sanitization. If at any point your water smells funny or you had to leave it sit for a long period of time, we suggest sanitizing to be safe.

Pro Tip: Make sanitizing your campervan water system easy by following these 7 Easy Steps to Sanitize Your Water Tank.

Close up of campervan shower water tank
Use a propane or electric water heater to ensure you always have a hot shower while living the van life dream.

How Do You Heat Water in a Campervan?

There are several effective ways to get hot water in a campervan. The most obvious method is to heat it on a propane stove. This can be very useful for cooking and sanitizing items. However, if you want to shower, you’ll need to consider other options.

Many campervans have propane or electric water heaters that can store several gallons of hot water. You likely won’t have unlimited hot water, but it’s typically enough to take a quick shower or two. You may have to turn on the water heater and give it time to heat the water in the tank. However, there are tankless water heaters that provide instant hot water. 

Where Does Waste Water Go in Campervan?

Not only do campervans often have freshwater tanks, but they also have waste water tanks. These tanks hold the waste until the nomads can find a dump station to empty it. A common toilet type we see in most manufactured Class B campervans is a cassette toilet which will hold several gallons worth of wastewater before you need to dump them.

Many van lifers will use composting or portable toilets during their adventures to eliminate the need for any black water tanks. These tanks can vary in size depending on the campervan. However, no matter how large they are, when they’re full, they’re full.

➡ There are 6 main RV toilet types. Learn the differences and which one fits your lifestyle.

RV Faucets and Filters That Will Effortlessly Save & Purify Water - RV Touch Faucet

Is a Campervan Water Tank Worth It?

Water tanks in your campervan are very beneficial if you want to spend a decent amount of time in it during your adventures. However, you don’t want to get too large of a water tank in your campervan that it takes up more space than necessary. 

If you’re doing a campervan build, make sure you think through how you’ll be using your camper van so you size your water tank appropriately. If you size it right, you can enjoy the freedom of self-sufficiency while traveling without the stress of managing your water usage.

Are you ready to take on the #VanLife lifestyle? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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