Boondocking and running low on liquid? Bring water to your rig


By Russ and Tiña De Maris

RV boondocking brings great rewards: wonderful scenery, quiet solitude, the constant search for water. Whoa! That is one of the boondocking drawbacks – where do you get your water? In one of the great winter boondocking meccas, Quartzsite, AZ, RVers have been working that problem out for decades.

Like most boondockers, once we get our rig “settled in,” we’re not real inclined to want to move it again until it’s time to leave. Packing up the rig once or twice a week to go for water just doesn’t cut it. So we worked out our method: We obtained a 50-gallon plastic barrel, suitable for “food grade” purposes, and when it was time for a fresh water refill, put it on the back of the pickup and drove out to our water source. Perching the barrel on top of our truck bed toolbox, we filled it up, then drove very carefully back home so as to not upset the barrel, and then let a gravity siphon feed fill up the RV tank. If the trip is too scary for you, then get yourself a 12-volt water pump and leave the barrel in the bed of the truck. Back “home,” simply hook the pump up to the vehicle battery and pump your water into your RV.

Other options? Some RV suppliers sell a “roof top water bladder” that looks suspiciously like a large air mattress. The food-grade plastic bladder can be lain on top of your rig’s roof, filled with water, and gravity fed back into the RV tank. Or, use a water pump. We met one RVer in Quartzsite who simply bought an “air bed” from the Walmart sporting good section, and after “sanitizing” it with bleach water and “freshening” it with soda water, skipped the high cost of the commercial water bladder. Not sure how safe the plastic is in this, but it is an option.

Others use plastic bottles and jugs, fill ’em up, and tote them back to their rig. We found, in a pinch in Upstate New York, that this works OK, albeit slowly. In our case we simply cut a 16″ chunk of water hose, leaving the female end of the hose in place. We shoved the free end of the hose down in our water fill port, then using a hand to clamp the hose fitting onto the open mouth of a one-gallon water jug, we could quickly empty the jug with very little spillage.


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1 month ago

I use 5 gallon blue water jugs and what I call a “jiggle hose”. It has a brass fitting on one end with a ball inside.. It starts the siphon process without having to suck on the hose. NO 12 volt..NO 120 volt..Just put the jugs on my truck bed and let them siphon.. Does 5 gallons in about 2 minutes… works great…

Pat Mitchell
8 months ago

A solution that helped us extend our water usage days was the install of an additional water of 25 gallons in our Class C rig. It’s been worth it!

8 months ago

I’ve used the air bed for years and it’s works well. A little tinkering with plumbing fittings for the fill/empty port and it holds 75+ gallons. At the end of the season, I dump the bed and invest $12 for a new one.

8 months ago

I don’t know how it would hold up in the back of a pickup, but a “Water Bob” is handy to have around for Surviving any water shortage. I am certain this could be handy in some RV situations

Richard Dirksen
8 months ago

I put a 2 way valve in between the city water and the pump. Then put the second line into my clear water tank fill tube. I put a 2nd valve in on the feed side of my pump so I can suck from a jug and discharge to the tank. I have 8, 5 gallon water jugs. It only takes about 20 minutes to fill my fresh water.

8 months ago

The pump that I use to push water from my barrel is the spare water pump for my unit. I, too, have a macerator pump to drain my black and gray tanks. Once a week I dump and refill.

8 months ago

A couple comments.
First, many 120VAC water pumps are NOT OIL-FREE. If you get oil in your fresh water tank, it will taste horrible, and be VERY difficult to get out.
Second, if you are a true boondocker, and don’t want to run an electric pump, a kayak bilge pump works very well.
Third, if a motorhome does not have a low pressure “bucket fill” port, all it means it that the water-intake port has a hose fitting. It doesn’t mean you must have pressurized water to fill the tank. If you are even a little bit handy, it is easy to add a “bucket fill” port to the intake pipe just beyond the pressurized-water fill port. A tee fitting, a bit of vinyl hose, a couple clamps, and a fresh water fill fitting, and you’re there. You can buy this fitting at any RV parts place, or look for “Camco Replacement RV Recessed Fresh-Water Fill Item # CAM37221” at
You may even be able to insert the end of a shortened bamboo skewer into the existing port to prop open the anti-backflow valve, and then use a short piece of regular water hose and a funnel (or bilge pump, or whatever) to feed water into the tank.

There are lots of ways to solve this problem.

David Kendall
8 months ago

My concern is what do you do with black and gray water. For every gallon coming in, nearly another gallon goes in the drain. Please explain that.

Tommy Molnar
8 months ago
Reply to  David Kendall

Generally, you have one fresh tank. You have two ‘wastewater’ tanks. Most water goes to the grey, and some goes to the black. You’re dividing the fresh, though not evenly. It works. Trust me.

8 months ago

9 years ago, I contacted the company that makes the blue 45 gal fresh water bladder for Camping World, & had them make me a custom sized bladder for my truck bed in front of my fifth wheel hitch, that would hold 90 gal., twice as much as their standard blue one. They also used 30 mil vinyl instead of 20 mil. They put the fill & drain valves where I wanted them & they have internal baffles to prevent sloshing. I paid $165 then, but a guy in the desert near me right now, in The Imperial Dam LTVA north of Yuma, saw my bladder & liked it, so he called the company, New World Mfg in Cloverdale, CA two weeks ago, & ordered the same size for himself & paid $180. I bought a 120V water pump from Harbor Freight to pump the water into my rv’s tank. We do a lot of boondocking & this system has worked perfectly for me for over 8 years. The 90 gal bladder folds up to about 12″x18″x6″ when not in use & the water pump is only about 12x6x6.
The 55 gal drums only work well for long term stays in the LTVA desert areas, but not for normal boondocking. Their too cumbersome to carry year around & many people pay a yearly strorage fee to store them nearby from year to year. The vinyl bladder takes up little space & is available for use any time I want it. I can decide, on the spur of the moment, to spend a couple of weeks boondocking in a special area we come across in our travels, & not have to take the rv to fill the fresh water.
I know you’re asking how do I dispose of my waste water when boondocking long term. I have a 35 gal waste tote I carry in the back of the truck bed, behind the 5er hitch & my rv has a macerator that pumps the waste up into the tote, for carrying it long distances to a dump station. The whole system works incredibly well & has enabled us to experience some wonderfully memorable times in remote areas around this beautiful North American Continent for the last 10 years & hopefully many more to come.

M. Will
8 months ago

I have 6 – 5 gal. water jugs. Go and get water while the jugs are on the back of the pickup truck bed usually using a hose to fill. Bring back to travel trailer and use a 12 volt inside water pump outside that I hook to one of my batteries and with a couple of hoses pump the water thru my two filter setup and then into the trailer onboard water tank. Don’t have to lift any heavy water jugs. To old for that stuff!!

Eric Kaminsky
8 months ago

There are lots of ways to get water into the RV. At the very least, one can simply fill a bunch of one-gallon jugs and put them on the sink and by the toilet. We boondock a lot and my biggest worry is filling the black and grey holding tanks. There is not a lot of ways to empty them.

We have learned to conserve water. Using less water means less water into the black and grey tanks. When we boondock we use paper plates and plastic utensils (dishwashing is the greatest user of water). Our cooking regimen is designed to use as few pots and pans as possible so less water Is needed to clean them. We try to be careful about how much water volume we turn on when we turn on the faucet as every drop of water not touching your hands when washing, etc. is wasted water that goes directly into the holding tank. On my last boondocking adventure we went eight days with no problem. At the end of that time we still had plenty of water in our water tanks and room in our holding tanks. This may be an unfair comparison to others as we have a Class A with pretty big tanks, but the concepts will work for all.

I invite others to give their ideas.

Eileen Brown
30 days ago
Reply to  Eric Kaminsky

Eric, we are the same. I try to cook most meals in my cast iron pan, which gets wiped out with little water. We also keep a cup of water in the bathroom for moistening toothbrushes, and when showering (navy, obviously), I catch water in a bucket which is then used to flush the toilet.

We have gone 6 days in a TT with small tanks, and are now in an A with 80 fresh (we don’t believe that, our meter ends up reading 50 gallons when we fill), 40 grey and 40 black. BUT – are heading out from ND across the Upper Peninsula, and already know all the state and NP campgrounds we are booked into for the next three weeks will have shut off water and dump. We are going into EXTREME conservation mode! Social distancing? No showers! 😂

8 months ago

MOST, and I repeat MOST motorhome units do not use gravity feed designs for on-board fresh water connections. Water can most times, ONLY be added under pressure with a screw on connector hose like when you connect to campground water.
Gravity feed is not the answer for everyone.

Mark B
8 months ago
Reply to  Ken

A fresh water holding tank can be filled with gravity feed. Some people have reservations about using their fresh water tank. A tablespoon of bleach per 20 gallons and you’ll have water that is safe.

8 months ago

Our 5er has a clear hose attached to the onboard water pump, turn two valves to fill from 5 gallon jugs. It’s called country fill, same valves that you would use to winterize your rig with antifreeze. Check your owners manual before buying another pump.

8 months ago

Well I’m new to this RV, but with a 40 gallon black, gray & fresh water tank the 2 of us can boondock 4 nights, then even if we’ve got more water the black and or gray tanks are going to require a dumping so your going into town.

8 months ago
Reply to  J.P.M.

I’m pretty sure they have a mobile sewer truck that services all the snowbirds in the desert, same for propane, so other than needing fresh water, they have no need to move the rig until they head home.

tom hughes
8 months ago

do you know if there are?
any fresh water trucks that could or would do the same thing

8 months ago
Reply to  J.P.M.

We were just in Quartzsite during the show with those size tanks. They lasted us over a week and a half.

fred ford
8 months ago

we cure the problem by having a 24′ rv that we can drive about anywhere anytime. different styles i guess. in 40 years of rving we have never gone from point a to point b and set up for more than a week. this country is to big and to much to see for us to be still long. we filter all our cooking and drinking water with a travel berkey we carry everywhere. that and taking navy showers we can go a few days in the wild. our greatest newest tool is a 8 qt. instant pot. with the gen running about an hour we can cook and freeze multi meals for future use. i put this off for a long time but it has been a super tool on and off the road. happy trails.

Sink Jaxon
8 months ago
Reply to  fred ford

LOVE the Instant Pot!!

Tommy Molnar
8 months ago

After years of fighting to hold up the six gallon white water containers (whew!) to drain into the freshwater tank on our travel trailer, I took a chance on a 120v water pump from (dare I say) Harbor Freight. Our trailer always has 120v ac so this worked out fine. With some short freshwater hose and some PVC I came up with this simple solution. Now transferring water is a piece of cake. See our video.

Ronald Payne
8 months ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Good job,like you said,make it easy!

Alan Goldberg
8 months ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Love Harbor Freight. Good stuff cheap. I have tools and over ten years old and there still working as good as the expensive ones only difference is I had money left over to buy more stuff at HF.

Sink Jaxon
8 months ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

I do the same thing but with a 12vdc pump. I have clamps that i just attach to my batteries which are near my fresh water fill. Have four 6 gal. water jugs, pumps 24 gallons in a matter of minutes.

Bob p
8 months ago

Our motor home doesn’t have a fill port into the tank, ours is filled by pumping water into the fresh water hose connector through dual filters via a selector valve for tank or city water. I guess I would buy another rv water pump installed just to transfer from the barrel through the fresh water connection into the tank. Since my wife enjoys the comforts of rv parks I guess I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing the last 3.5 years.

Larry H Lee
8 months ago

I used 5 gallon approved water containers and a small submersible battery powered water pump with clear plastic tubing to reach from the pump to the tank inlet. Of course, the pump has to be small enough to fit into the 5 gallon container. About 5 minutes later it’s done. Eliminates lifting heavy water jugs to pour them into the water supply tank.

Jim Langley
8 months ago
Reply to  Larry H Lee

Could you please tell us what pump you bought, Larry? Thanks!