How to Refill a Fresh Water Tank During Camping (2022)

An RV camper.
Table of Contents

    RVs provide a fun and convenient way to enjoy the great outdoors, while still keeping the comforts of a regular home. Sometimes this means boondocking, or dry camping, for a number of days, meaning time away from any water supply. The fresh water tanks in your RV, camper or trailer fulfill many purposes such as feeding your shower and supplying drinking water, but after a few days, your tanks will start to run out. 

    Boondocking is defined as staying at free locations in your RV or travel trailer, without access to facilities. It’s also known as dry camping. When boondocking, RVers rely on the facilities within their vehicle only, there are no hookups to water or electricity, so this puts a time limit on your trip. Usually, campers are in National Forests when dry camping, but it also refers to parking in shopping mall car parks, or just empty streets, anywhere where you aren’t connected to amenities. 

    In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know about refilling your RV fresh water tank, as well as how to keep your system in good shape, and some other useful information about water usage in your RV.


    Refilling your RV’s fresh water tank from a faucet


    An RV driving down the road.

    RV’s are a great way to experience the outdoors in comfort.


    The easiest way to refill your RV’s tank is from a faucet of some kind, a water hookup, using the water pressure. This way you can simply connect a hose, and turn on the water supply until the tank is full. 

    The setup you use to refill your fresh water tanks can vary. It depends on the type of RV you own. You may either have two separate connections for hooking up to city water and for refilling your tank, or one single connection with a valve.


    • Locate a hose. When refilling your RV tank, you should only ever use a specialized RV drinking water hose. These are designed specifically for drinking water meaning they won’t add any strange taste, and of course are safe to use.


    • Connect the orange end of the hose to the campsite spigot, or alternative water source if you aren’t currently in a campsite. Make sure the connection is stable and secure, you don’t want to deal with any leaks.


    • Screw the other end (the male end) into the correct connection on your RV. This should be labeled “Potable Water Only”. If you only have one input, as mentioned before, make sure your valve is set to fill the fresh water tank.


    • At the end of your drinking water hose, you’ll find an orange adapter. This is a Pressure Regulator, and it ensures none of the pipes inside your RV will rupture or burst. Water pressure can be unpredictable, so to avoid damaging your RV, make sure you leave on the regulator at all times.


    • Turn on the water spigot or faucet slowly and carefully. It’s advisable to have a friend in the interior of your RV to check the Convenience Centre fresh water button, to monitor the filling of the tank. 


    • Your RV should have an overflow valve, so you can’t over-fill the system.


    • Once your fresh water tank is full, turn off the water at the faucet, and remove the hose at both ends.


    • Make sure you replace the cap or lid on the water intake, to ensure no debris can get inside.


    • When you’re using the fresh water tank, you’ll need to turn on your water pump, which isn’t necessary when connected to city water. 


    Refilling your RV’s fresh water tank using a pump


    If you don’t have access to any kind of water hookup, you can refill your fresh water tanks by use of a water pump. This is useful for longer dry camping trips where you may run out of fresh water before getting back to a campground or city water hookup. 


    • You’ll need an eternal container, full of fresh water of course. Many RVers bring a few spare jugs of fresh water on camping trips, in order to extend the period of time they can dry camp.


    • Connect up your drinking water hose to your RV.


    • Use a 12v pump connected to your car or van battery, using alligator clips.


    • Pump the water from your external container into your RV’s Fresh Water Tank, the same guidelines apply here as when you refill using a hookup.


    Refilling your RV’s fresh water tank using gravity

    This one’s pretty simple, and if you don’t have access to a water pump or a city water hookup, it’s your final option. Without access to an appropriate water outlet, you’ll need to use an independent water source. This could be a jug or any external water receptacle you brought to replenish your fresh water supplies.


    • The first thing you’ll need is water, for example, a full 6-gallon water jug.


    • You’ll need to find a way to hold the water source above the inlet hole. We recommend using a car or ladder to carefully climb on top of.


    • Now simply pour the fresh water inside the hole.


    • If your water jug doesn’t have a spout which fits inside your water connection, attach your fresh water hose to the RV.


    • Use a funnel to pour water into the other end of the hose.


    • Remember, your water source needs to be at a higher level than the inlet for this to work.


    This method allows for much more versatility than filling your fresh water tank using pressure, but be aware it also allows more opportunity for debris to get in the system.

    Whichever method you’re using to fill up your fresh water tank, one tip is to turn on your water pump and run a hot faucet. You should do this once the tank is partially filled, and this way the hot water tank in your RV will fill as well, giving you an additional 6-10 gallons of fresh water on board.


    RV water filters

    Any water you use in your RV, be it city water or from your tank, should always be filtered. Its recommended to have a good quality RV Water Filter attached to your hose, so you know all the water entering your system is clean. The best water filters will help to remove any sediment in the water, as well as helping to eliminate strange tastes, and should be changed around every 6 months.

    Some RV’s also use separate filters in the kitchen sink, and sometimes the bathroom too, and it’s advisable to change these every 6 months as well. 


    Sanitize your RV’s Fresh Water System


    An RV in the woods.

    A little like a home on wheels, RVs can be a outdoorsman’s best friend.


    There are a few steps you can take to keep your RV’s fresh water system in tip-top shape and make sure it’s safe to use. Your RV water system provides all the water you use for drinking, showering, and doing the dishes. Unlike your water pipes at home, it’s not safe to assume the system will always stay clean and fresh, so it’s recommended to sanitize your system, to make sure you’re staying safe. If you never drink the water out of your RV’s system, you may think you don’t need to bother sanitizing it. However, if you’re using it for any purpose at all, you should still periodically refresh it.

    Contaminated water can be extremely dangerous. Any time you take your RV out of longer-term storage, or you notice a strange odor in the water system, you should take the time to sanitize the system. It’s worth putting in the effort, as it can help you avoid some major health issues that can be caused by contaminated water. Every time you connect your RV to a hookup or refill the fresh water tank in another way, you’re connecting your RV to a new, unknown water source. Although you should always strive to use water you know is safe for your RV, you can never be too careful. Always use a water filter, and sanitize your system when the time comes. At a minimum, you should do it once every 6 months; it’s an important part of your RV’s maintenance schedule.

    Sanitizing your RVs fresh water system is easy, but it does take a little time. The most important thing is to make sure you wait long enough that the process has its full effect. You’ll need a good 12 hours to complete the job.


    • Start by draining the water heater. Locate the drain plug, or petcock, and remove it. Release the pressure valve on top, this will assist with the draining. You should never drain the water heater while it’s hot or under pressure. 


    • Next, you’ll need to locate the low point water line drains, there should be one for hot and one for cold water. Open these up and let the water drain out.


    • Find the drain for your fresh water tank and empty this too.


    • Now you can turn on your water pump to force out the last of the water in your system. Don’t let the pump run any longer once the water stops draining.


    • Close back up all the drains, there should now be little to no water left in your RV’s system.


    • Take a quarter cup of household bleach for every 15 gallons of water your fresh water tank holds. For example, if your tank is 60 gallons, you’ll need one full cup of bleach. 


    • Mix this with water in a one-gallon container and pour it into your fresh water tank.


    • After that, fill your tank completely with fresh water (using any of the methods we’ve outlined).


    • Turn on the water pump in your RV, and open all hot and cold faucets.


    • You should run the water until you can smell bleach coming out of each faucet, then close them.


    • If possible, drive around a bit in your RV or motorhome, so the water will move around in the tank to clean it more efficiently. 


    • Then, let it sit for at least 12 hours.


    • Drain the entire system once more, and then refill your tank with potable water.


    • As a final step, open all your faucets once again to rinse out any remaining bleach.


    • You should repeat this process until you can no longer smell any bleach in the system, as you certainly don’t want to ingest any.


    Once all these steps are complete, you have a fresh, clean, and safe to use RV water system. 


    Water conservation

    When using your fresh water tank, rather than being hooked up to city water, you’ll be surprised about how quickly it runs out. There are however a few ways you can make your water tanks last longer when you’re out in the wild, and these can make a difference in extending the length of your camping trips.

    One of the fastest drains on your supply is the shower. When dry camping or boondocking, make sure you and anyone else using your shower know that water is limited, so be as fast and economical as possible. Another big water-user in your RV is doing the dishes, so this is another area where you should pay attention to your water usage, and conserve as much water as possible. Also, we tend to run the water in sinks or showers before actually using it, to allow it to warm up. You can try to avoid this as much as possible, but when it’s necessary, simply use a bucket or bowl to collect the water that would otherwise be wasted, and use it for a different purpose. You could add it back into the system, or else use it for drinking or cooking. Always turn off the faucet or shower as soon as you can, don’t let the water run for longer than necessary, it’s just needlessly wasteful. 

    The longer you can make your water last, the longer you’ll be able to camp off-grid for, waiting longer between searching for hookups. 


    Grey and black water tanks

    When you’re at a full or partial hookup site, its advisable to leave the valves closed on your grey water and black water tanks. Instead of letting them drain constantly, open the valves once a day to drain into dumping sites. We recommend emptying your black water tank (toilet water) first, and then the grey water tank (from the sinks and shower). This method will actually help rinse out your hose and keep it clean, lessening the likelihood of bad odors. 


    Water heater 

    When using your RV, you’ll likely need hot water at some points. There are two methods you can use to heat your water while camping.


    • If you’re hooked up to electricity, you can turn on the electric water heater on your convenience panel. You should switch this on about 20 minutes before you need hot water. This method will provide you with about 10 gallons of hot water before it starts to run cold again, which is just enough for a quick shower, or doing the dishes. This is the preferred way to heat your water, as it just uses AC power at the press of a button.


    • If you’re boondocking or do not have access to AC power for some other reason, you’ll need to heat your water using a Propane Gas Tank. For this, you’ll press the Propane Gas Water Heater button on your console. This heats the water in the same way as with electricity, but just be aware of your limited supply of propane gas.


    Final Verdict: 

    We hope this article has provided you with all the information you might need about your RV’s water system. Having access to a true water supply, with faucets, sinks, and showers, is a huge benefit of camping in an RV. You can refill your fresh water tanks using a water hookup, or alternative faucet. This is the easiest way to fill up, just using the water pressure from the source. Alternatively, if you don’t have access to a hookup, you’ll need to use an independent water supply. These could be gallon jugs, or a water bladder, anything you brought with you to replenish your tank. If you have the electricity, you can use a 12v water pump, and if not, you’ll have to get a little more creative and manually top up the system. In our opinion, the best way to refill your fresh water tanks is via city water hookup, as it’s the most efficient and also the safest.


    Some final tips, just to recap:


    • Try to make sure your water is coming from a reliable source.


    • Plan ahead; if you know there’s no access to hookups for your trip, bring along some extra fresh water.


    • Always use water filters, and replace them regularly.


    • Clean and sanitize your RV water system at least every 6 months. 


    • When manually refilling (using gravity) be careful of debris getting into the system.


    • Always keep your water hoses in a clean place, try to never let them touch the ground outside, you don’t want to get any soil in there. 


    • If you’re planning a longer dry camping trip, conserve water. Quick showers are key!


    • If you aren’t going on an extended dry camping trip, it’s not necessary to keep your tanks full all the time. The only thing you’ll gain is lower MPG (miles per gallon) because of the extra weight.


    Now you’re ready to enjoy your next camping vacation, and your RV is fully prepared to take you on the road to the next destination. If you’re searching for a new location to try out, check out some of the best camping spots in Florida, you won’t be disappointed. 

    We wish you safe travels and happy RVing!



    See more:

    Riley Draper

    Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.