If you love remote or dry camping, you’ve probably had your fair share of trips to RV watering holes. You may have visited them while camping in National Forests, where you don’t encounter another person for weeks, or in a state park where the sunrises and sunsets are magical. It’s challenging to camp in these scenic areas without water. So let’s take a closer look at RV fresh water tanks and the locations of RV watering holes, where you can fill up before your adventure! Let’s dive in!
What Is An RV Fresh Water Tank?
There are several tanks in an RV. One is the fresh tank, holding clean, drinkable water. The RV’s water pump sends potable water through your pipes for washing hands, cooking, showering, and flushing the toilet. It’s essential always to fill up the fresh water tank with potable water. Otherwise, you’ll contaminate the tank and need to undergo a sanitation process.
The other tanks in an RV include the black tank and gray tank. The gray tank collects all the water from the sinks and shower. The black tank collects the waste from the toilet in liquids and solids.
Who Needs to Fill An RV Fresh Water Tank?
Some RVers have never used their fresh water tank. They’ve always hooked up to a water spigot at a campground that sends water through their pipes and provides water for drinking, washing, and cooking.
However, even if you’re at a campground with hookups, it’s always a good idea to put some water in your fresh tank. There could be a leak or a broken pipe, and the campground may have to shut off its water for several hours. If you plan to cook dinner during that time, you’ll be without water. In this case, you can flip on the water pump switch and use the water from your fresh tank to supply your needs until the water at the campground returns.
People who camp in frigid temperatures during the winter should also keep their fresh tank about two-thirds to three-quarters full. Then they don’t have to run a hose outside to a water spigot. This prevents the hose, the water at the spigot, and the tank from freezing because of the large amount you’re storing. Sometimes campgrounds will also turn off the water when the forecast is below freezing to prevent busted pipes.
Finally, dry campers will use their RV’s water pump and fresh water tank because it’s their only water source. Dry camping means camping without hookups. If you enjoy this type of camping, you’ll use your fresh water tank daily since you don’t have access to a water spigot.
Tips for Filling Your RV Fresh Water Tank
When filling your RV fresh water tank at watering holes, there are a few things to remember. First, always ensure the water is designated as potable. Putting non-potable water into your fresh tank will ruin it. You won’t be able to use it for fresh water again unless you sanitize it.
It’s a good idea also to use a designated hose, one that you don’t use for anything else. This means only potable water has run through the hose. Use another hose to wash the RV or connect to a water spigot at a campground. When you fill your fresh water tank, have a hose only to keep things sanitary.
Some RV water tanks can also be damaged by filling them too quickly. If air cannot get out of a tank faster than water that goes in the tank will become pressurized. This is a bad situation that can lead to a leak or even a tank explosion.
Finally, it’s also best to always use an inline filter and a water pressure regulator. Although these aren’t requirements, they are safety precautions. The filter will further protect you from harmful bacteria and minerals. A regulator will keep water from blasting through your RV’s pipes, preventing possible damage. You can set the regulator to a certain psi to ensure you’re safely putting water into the tank.
Pro Tip: Use one of these 7 Best Drinking-Safe RV Water Hoses for Fresh Water to make filling your fresh water tank quick and easy.
Where Are RV Watering Holes?
You may wonder where these RV watering holes to get potable water are. Do you have to drive to a specific place to fill up? Although several sites are offering this service, you want to do your research when you plan your camping trip to ensure you know where the closest RV watering hole is.
One of the most accessible places to fill up is at a campground. Whether you’re staying the night or passing through, there are potable water spigots you can use. Stop by the office or call ahead to ask to fill up if you’re not staying on the property. They may have a fee, or water may be free.
If you’re staying at the campground, you can pull into a campsite and use the hookups to fill up your freshwater tank. Some campgrounds don’t offer water at the campsite, however. You’ll need to find the potable water station within the RV park’s boundaries to fill up before you set up camp.
Travel Centers/Truck Stops
National chains are more likely to have potable water fill-up stations than small, local fuel stations. Love’s, Flying J, and Pilot commonly have potable water. Some states have large travel centers off the interstates. You might find RV watering holes at these locations, too.
Keep in mind that access may not be big-rig friendly. Getting fuel is the primary focus, so there should be no problems getting in and out to fill the fuel tank. However, filling up the fresh water tank may be a challenge.
Like truck stops, not every rest stop will have potable water. If you’re looking for a rest stop with this service, call ahead or check an app like AllStays that lists services at different locations. Always ensure the water is potable.
Pro Tip: Feeling sleepy while at a rest stop? We took a closer look at Can You Legally Sleep at Rest Stops?
Public parks like state parks, county parks, and city parks are also excellent options for RV watering holes. These locations tend to have a dump station on-site. Potable water is usually also here. Call ahead to get permission. Like campgrounds, these locations may charge a small fee if you don’t have a reservation.
If you’re getting your RV serviced and need to fill your fresh water tank before leaving, you can ask someone at the dealership to fill up the tank. If you’re passing through an area with an RV dealership, you can call ahead to see if they’ll allow you to fill up your tank. As busy as dealerships are, though, don’t be surprised if they say no.
Finally, not only does Cabela’s carry some excellent outdoor gear, but some locations also provide a water fill-up station. These locations tend to have RV parking and easy access on and off major highways. After you’ve filled up, go in as a “thank you” and find something to take with you on your journey.
How to Find RV Watering Holes
Apps are an RVers best friend. There are apps to help find free camping sites, dump stations, and local campgrounds. Most apps offering these services also provide locations for RV watering holes. Download The Dyrt, RV Trip Wizard, AllStays, or Campendium to help locate services along your route.
Should You Travel With a Full Fresh Water Tank?
If you’re dry camping, you don’t have a choice but to drive with a full fresh water tank. However, you want to limit the number of miles you do. Water is weighty. If you’re already close to your maximum weight limit, it’s not a good idea to travel far with a full tank of water, a full gray tank, or a full black tank.
Every gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds, so a full 100-gallon fresh water tank adds 834 pounds to your RV. But even if you’re not close to the GVWR, traveling a hundred miles with a full fresh water tank puts stress on the tank and RV frame. No one wants to hear a loud crash and see their tank rolling down the highway.
Is It Safe to Drink Out of Your RV’s Fresh Water Tank?
As long as you always fill up with potable water, you shouldn’t worry about whether the water is safe to drink. However, if you notice one weekend that your water has an unusual odor or tastes funny, you need to stop using it immediately and sanitize the RV water system.
Bacteria can breed when water is sitting in the tank. This is especially true in warmer climates, where many RVers like to travel. So flushing out the current water, cleaning the tank and lines, and then filling the tank with fresh water will ease your worry.
Visit An RV Watering Hole Before Boondocking
RV watering holes are all over the United States. You shouldn’t have much trouble locating one along your route. However, it’s crucial to do your planning ahead of time. Make your travel days stress-free by knowing where you’ll get fuel, where you’ll stop for lunch, and where you’ll fill up your RV’s fresh water tank. Then head out to that perfect dry camping spot and watch the sunset.
Where’s your favorite location to get potable water? Tell us your tips in the comments!
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