Having clean water is a crucial part of any successful RV outing. There are hundreds of accessories, hoses, adapters, and filters on the market and it can be really confusing. We’re here to help you wade through all of the options and share what worked best for us over our 20 months of full-time RV living.
RV Water Connection Basics
First off, let’s just take a very general look at the basics of RV water connections. Most models have one of two water inlet configurations. Your RV will either have a single inlet that handles “city water” and filling your fresh tank or it will have two separate inlets for those two things.
Regardless of how many inlets your rig has, they are standard garden hose-style connectors. Some RVs may have one or two other inlets for things like black tank flushes or winterizing/sanitizing, but we’re focusing on drinking water for this article.
Hooking Up to City Water
Whether you’re filling up your fresh water tank to go boondocking or hooking up to the water at your house or campground, you’ll need to connect to “city water”. This is basically just a fancy term for any water spigot connected to a water supply. If you’ve ever hooked up a garden hose to water your grass, that’s what we’re talking about.
So what kind of hose do you need, and how many? That’s a simple question with a pretty complex answer! Let’s cover the types of hoses first.
So Many Hoses
There are a wide variety of hoses in stores and on Amazon. The primary thing you need to look for are hoses labeled “drinking safe”. Unlike a regular green garden hose these are lined with a material that won’t leach chemicals or funny tastes into the water running through it.
That doesn’t narrow the selection down very much though. If you walk into a Camping World or head to the RV section in Walmart, you’ll find the ubiquitous white 25′ Camco TastePURE Drinking Water Hose for about $10. We started with these and carried two of them with us at all times.
They work great, but they’re the biggest pain in the rear to spool up and store. They’re so “kink resistant” that they literally fight against you as you try to put them away when breaking camp. Especially in cooler weather. After struggling with these for a few months we decided to look for another option.
The Best Water Hose Known to Man
Enter the Apex Zero-G RV/Marine Hybrid Hose by Teknor. Sure, it’s three times the price, but it’s worth ten times as much. Seriously! There’s no fighting with this hose. It goes where you want it to, lays perfectly without being stiff and flopping around wherever it wants, and the best part is when you want to put it away.
Can your hose do this?
It really is the best thing ever. If you’ve ever fought with those stiff white hoses, you’ll understand. That’s not to say that the white hoses have no use though. Let’s talk about putting together a small collection of hoses for every situation.
Not All Campsites Are Created Equal
Your water supply isn’t always going to be within 25′ of your rig, so you’re either going to need one really long hose or a couple shorter ones. Here’s our collection that covers every situation we encountered in nearly 150 different campgrounds:
We carried around those 25′ Camco hoses because we had bought them when we first launched and saw no reason to get rid of them. We recommend keeping one around for when you really need to reach for water, but more often than not the 25′ Zero-G was long enough. The 10′ Camco was a really easy hose to add in when the 25′ Zero-G was just a few feet short.
If we were starting over again, we’d get two of the 25′ Zero-G hoses and a 10′ Camco hose. There’s an argument for going big and getting the 50′ Zero-G and calling it a day. From our experience though we were within 25′ of the spigot about 80% of the time. We only needed to add in the 10′ about 15% of the time, and only had to reach farther than 35′ once or twice. Your mileage may vary – we liked having the variety instead of pulling out 50′ of hose to reach 15′.
When Jack Frost Bites
Getting water into your rig when it’s below freezing outside can be challenging. The easiest thing to do is to get a Camco TastePURE Heated Water Hose. This is basically a regular “drinking safe” hose wrapped with a heated wire inside a weather-resistant sleeve. You connect this like any other hose and also plug it into a nearby outlet to provide power to the thermostat.
This is an expensive option though. There are all sorts of DIY heated hose tutorials out there if you do some poking around, but this is a simple out-of-the-box solution.
There aren’t many ways you can mess things up when connecting water to your RV. One end of the hose goes to the spigot and the other goes to the inlet. Water pressure is a concern though, both when it’s too high and too low.
The plumbing inside your RV isn’t soldered copper piping like in many homes. Connecting directly to a high pressure water supply could potentially do a lot of damage. Just like in a house, water leaking out and soaking into your floors and walls is a Very Bad Thing.
Too Much Water Pressure
Controlling high water pressure is really easy though, and there are a lot of options available. The cheap and easy way to do it is to just add an inline water pressure regulator that is set to 40-50 psi. If you want a bit more control over the pressure, there are adjustable water pressure regulators available as well.
We prefer the adjustable model because it has a gauge that shows the pressure. You can use a small screwdriver to fine-tune the pressure up and down to your liking which is pretty handy. We set ours to 45 psi because we were happy with that pressure. Most modern RVs can handle 60 or 70+ psi, so check with your manufacturer or user manuals if you want your pressure higher.
Too Little Water Pressure
Every once in a while the city water pressure is too low. You’ll still get water to your faucets and appliances, but it may not be enough to wash dishes or take a shower with. There aren’t any devices that increase water pressure, but your RV has a built-in solution!
It may seem weird to do this in a campground, but you can always fill your fresh water tank and use your RV’s water pump. You can’t connect the city water supply to your water pump so you’ll have to refill the tank when it runs out, but this is a great option when the city water pressure just won’t cut it.
Filter Out the Junk
You want to filter the water coming into your RV, trust us. Some campgrounds are in places with beautiful, clean water, but we’re going to say that this is the exception and not the rule. Even if you’re not drinking the water coming into your rig, it could still be bringing in particulates and other junk that you don’t want getting into your hot water heater and other appliances.
Luckily, water filters are super easy to add, and there are a variety of options. The easiest is the in-line Camco TastePURE Water Filter. You just attach this to one end of your water hose outside and call it a day. This is what we use, and with full-time use we just replace it every 3-4 weeks or so.
If you want really clean water (and don’t mind spending a bit more too), there are a bunch of canister-style options. Clearsource and Beech Lane make two popular RV-specific options. If you have the space you can always install a residential multi-stage reverse osmosis filtration system. The sky’s the limit really.
No matter what type of system you choose to filter your water, you absolutely should filter it.
Putting It All Together
So now that you’ve got all of your hoses, regulators, and filters sorted out, what’s the best way to attach them? There are several schools of thought when it comes to the order of these going from the water supply to your RV. We use two different configurations depending on the situation.
For regular everyday use, we hook things up in this order:
- Water Supply ->
- Pressure Regulator
- Water Filter
- -> RV Inlet
The regulator comes first so a high pressure supply won’t damage the hose. We place the water filter second because there’s way more room outside the rig than in the basement. The hoses we use are all drinking safe and don’t impart any taste so we like keeping clean water running through them whenever possible. Then the hose runs to the rig and attaches to the inlet.
The only time we modify this is when it’s below freezing outside:
- Water Supply ->
- Heated Water Hose
- Pressure Regulator
- Water Filter
- -> RV Inlet
We move everything inside the basement of the rig to keep it out of the cold and let the heated hose keep things flowing. This makes it very cramped in there, but you don’t want water freezing in your regulator or water filter. Not only will it be hard to thaw, it will probably do damage to them too.
A Few Extra Tips
Here are a few extra tips and tricks that didn’t fit anywhere above.
If you find yourself frequently needing an extra water spigot outside, put a hose splitter on the water supply before attaching your fresh water hose. We do this every time so we can use our black tank flush or fill up water buckets for the kids whenever we want to without having to disconnect our rig.
Flush Your Hose
When storing your hoses between campgrounds there’s a chance that bugs, dirt, or debris can find their way inside. Some RVers like to connect the ends of their hoses when storing them, but then the water inside isn’t going to dry out and could mold if it sits long enough.
Our recommendation is to hook everything up to the water supply and run water through all of it before attaching anything to your RV. This also “primes” the hose, pushing most of the air out of it. That means less water hammering when you first turn the water on and all of the air in the hose gets shoved through your RV’s pipes. While it’s not likely to do damage, it’s annoying to have all of your water sputtering out for the first few minutes of use.
Be Prepared for Anything
To wrap things up, here are a few handy accessories to add to your collection of water supplies:
- 90-Degree Brass Elbow
This is a great way to relieve strain on your RV’s water inlet. It’s also good to leave this attached all the time because your inlet is probably plastic and susceptible to wear if you’re constantly connecting and disconnecting hoses. Leaving this guy in place eliminates that wear.
- Water Bandit
This clever little device is great if you ever encounter a water spigot that’s worn out and won’t accept your hose. You can also use it to hook your hose up to a cut hose or damaged spigot. It’s tricky to get water-tight but handy in a pinch.
- Digital Water Flow Meter
When you encounter water supplies with varying pressures and flow rates it’s almost impossible to estimate how much water is going into your fresh water tank. With this meter attached to your hose you can put in exactly how much water you want. Only want 5 gallons for potty breaks on moving day? Easy! Need to fill up all the way for a weekend of boondocking? Simple!
- Dedicated “Dirty” Hose
If you have a black tank flush system in your rig or use a toilet wand to help move things along, you’ll want a dedicated hose for this. Even with a backflow preventer you’re never guaranteed to keep everything clean. Use a hose like this (brightly colored) that’s dedicated to dirty jobs to avoid cross-contamination. This is also the hose you’ll grab if you need to clean up a mess at a dump station. That’s non-potable water so you don’t want it running through your drinking water hoses.
That covers just about everything you need to know when dealing with water outside your RV. Just make sure to keep everything clean, always filter the water entering your rig, and use a pressure regulator to keep things from breaking. Water damage is no fun but it’s easy to avoid if you play it safe. Have fun!