Saturday, September 30, 2023


Can’t hold your water? Bladder tanks tote it to your RV

By Russ and Tiña De Maris

So you’ve finally found the perfect boondock spot – but wait! Now you have to move the rig because you’ve run out of water. You could run back and forth with a five-gallon container, but what a waste of time – and what a mess filling the tank.

A clever carrier allows you to bring back 45 gallons of water on the roof of the toad car, or the tow vehicle. It’s a big PVC bag that rests on the roof, and at that height, allows you to refill the rig tank with gravity. Camping World carries these puppies for less than $115 SRP. Maybe they’re really popular, because toward the end of May 2020, these were listed as “backordered” on the company website.

But have no fear, you can get an even BIGGER BLADDER (who wouldn’t want that?) on Amazon. This one totes a 60-gallon load, and costs $160 – with free shipping to Prime members. It claims to be “BPA free.”

Mind you, you won’t want to zip down the highway with a loaded water bladder on your roof, but if you’re somewhere encamped and water is available without having to be in the range of the local mounties, you may have a winner. Another caveat? If you do any serious incline climbing, you could slide this off the roof. One way around that would be to simply carry the loaded bag in the bottom of your pickup bed, or fold down the seats in your SUV and carry it in back. You’d need to use a 12-volt RV water pump to transfer the fluid, but it could do the trick for many.

We met another RVer who “went the cheap route.” He went to Walmart and bought a double-bed-sized air bed and used it to tote his water. We can’t recommend it, as his wasn’t built to meet potable water specs, but he said he simply used bleach water to rinse the bed out first, then toted his water in it. Takes all kinds.


Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña went from childhood tent camping to RVing in the 1980s when the ground got too hard. They've been tutored in the ways of RVing (and RV repair) by a series of rigs, from truck campers, to a fifth-wheel, and several travel trailers. In addition to writing scores of articles on RVing topics, they've also taught college classes for folks new to RVing. They authored the book, RV Boondocking Basics.


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Judy S
1 year ago

Fyi, the manufacturer says it’s not for use in (or on) a moving vehicle, which of course we’ll do anyway, and should have a frame around it. It comes in 15 and 30 gallon sizes, too.

Gary holt
1 year ago

It doesn’t’ matter how far you are traveling, that’s over 350 pounds on the roof of your vehicle.

Al Florida
3 years ago

I have one of these but only use it inside the vehicle so have practical experience with them. I only use it inside the vehicle (or bed of pickup).

IF you TRY to drive with one of these on the roof of your vehicle. Be very sure to strap it down with lots of straps both side to side and front to back.

The bladder is like a balloon. When you turn, stop, or start up the water inside will move to the edge of the bladder and tend to build up the height of the bladder on one side and lower on the other side. This tends to make the bladder want to roll off the roof.

When I write the bladder is like a balloon, I don’t mean it will expand as a balloon will. I mean the water will pull the fabric up from the far side and expand the height. All that weight moving to one side will want to roll the bladder off of the roof.


RV Staff
3 years ago
Reply to  Al Florida

Important info, Al! Thanks! 😀 —Diane at

3 years ago

When we fulltimed, I used an air bed from Walmart, $12.00. Using some fittings from Home Depot, I was able to transport 75 gallons to our fifth wheel quite easily. Our drinking water was filtered through a reverse osmosis system.

Don Kostyal
3 years ago

Wow. I have a roof rack that says 160lbs maximum weight. 45 gallons of water is about 370 pounds, I don’t see how this is a good idea on your roof.

1 year ago
Reply to  Don Kostyal

I agree and exactly my thoughts! Who would wanna carry one of these on their roof of a late model SUV or truck? The roof would probably collapse! Let’s see 8.34 lbs per gallon of water x 60 gallons…………

3 years ago

That is interesting. But the challenge I see is that unless you are using the outdoor shower/hose for everything, all that water is now in the full black and grey tanks. It is a good solution for those locations where you get set in a location and need to fill the fresh tank though.

3 years ago

Can the roof of my pickup hold 375 lbs of water? (I don’t know.)
What happens if I have to stop quickly? Will it move slightly while driving and scratch the paint?

I’d use a bladder in the bed of my pickup but never on the roof.

Irv Goomba
3 years ago

45 gal if water weighs 375 lbs. Might not want to put this on your roof if you have a sunroof. 😉

3 years ago

The same company that makes the 45 gal blue bladder sold at Camping world, will make a custom bladder for you. New World Mfg. in Cloverdale, CA will make any size you want with any thickness vinyl you want. Eight years ago, I had them make me a 90 gal bladder with 30 mil vinyl instead of the 20 mil they use in the 45 gal model. I had it designed to fill the space between my fifth wheel hitch & the front wall of the truck bed. It only costs about $50 more than the 45 gal bladder with twice the volume. And the full bladder, supported by the sidewalls of the truck, makes it safe to travel long distances at highway speeds in transporting it. I use a Harbor Freight water pump to transfer it into the rv. This has worked wonderfully when we spend months of a winter in the desert in Arizona, & then I just fold it up very compactly for storage when we’re travelling the rest of the year. I’ve used it in the mountains, the desert & in Alaska many times over the last 8 years of fulltiming. It’s one of the best boondocking investments I’ve made, along with my 500 watts of solar.

3 years ago
Reply to  Fred

Thanks for the info

Mike Coghill
3 years ago
Reply to  Fred

And how do you get rid of all the gray water?

1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Coghill

When we have boondocked, the first thing to run out was fresh water capacity. With a solution like this, gray water would be the next issue. That would either dictate the maximum practical fresh water bladder or require another solution.

Seann Fox
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Coghill

A blue boy in the bed of the truck and a maciator pump

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