The importance of a good RV water filter


EDITOR’S NOTE: The author, Keith Bernard, is president and CEO of CLEAR2O®, a leader in water filtration technology and products. He provided with several of his company’s CLEAR2O® RV and Marine Inline Water Filters to test. We have previously used a similar filter from Camco, but according to Bernard it does not provide nearly the filtration ability of his company’s product. The CLEAR2O® filter has worked well for us but because we do not have a testing lab aboard our RV we were unable to measure its abilities vs. the more widely known Camco product.

A Clear20 CRV2006 RV and Marine Inline Water Filter at a campground water hookup.

By Keith Bernard
Clean water. Every RVer wants it and needs it. No sane RVer would consider embarking on a trip of any length without clean water onboard – or a way to generate it. In fact, clean water may arguably be the most important item for your RV, next to your keys and a full tank of gas.

Of course, clean is a relative term. Obviously, you don’t need the same level of water purity for bathing as you do for drinking. And if you’re going to be boiling the water anyway, how clean does it need to be for cooking? It’s not just a purity issue but a financial one as well. Does it make sense to spend possibly thousands of dollars on a reverse osmosis filtration system if you are only going use it for washing your RV floor?

Therefore, depending on what you’re using the water for, the question is: How clean is clean enough?

Now that we’ve posed the question, we will admit that it’s a hard question to answer. The only use for which there are specific standards is drinking, and the standards are complex. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets legal limits on over 90 contaminants in drinking water. (The legal limit for a contaminant reflects the level that protects human health and that water systems can achieve using the best available technology.) Yet, drinking water that doesn’t specifically meet the EPA’s standards may still be safe to drink, in small quantities or for short periods of time, if no other source is available.

Given the inherent difficulty in providing data on exactly what level of water quality is ideal for each purpose, it would be more instructive to put it in terms of protection “levels”: what happens to water at various protection levels, and what purpose/function it can serve at each level. Keep in mind: These are guidelines that can help provide a basic understanding of water-quality levels. Any specific concerns about water quality should be directed to your local water department or campground management.

No protection (no filtration used)
•  RVers are completely at the mercy of the campground/location for the quality of water they use
•  Risk of poor-quality water (taste, odor, illness, etc.) for which campgrounds are notorious
•  Risk to RV for buildup of sediment within pipes, water heater, other systems
•  Cost/inconvenience of bottled water (assuming that’s the source of your drinking water)
•  Potential for sink/toilet staining from rust and other sediments/particulates

Some Protection (inline granular filter only)
•  Mostly improves color and odor, with some improvement in taste
•  Some sediment removal (depending on micron level) to protect RV
•  Some reduction in staining
•  Improved water quality for showering/rinsing only
•  Bottled water still recommended for drinking

Some Protection (“point of use” only)
•  Can achieve drinking water quality at faucet where filter is used (under sink, filtered water pitcher)
•  No improvement for showering or rinsing (unless filters are used at point of use)
•  Continued risk to RV for buildup of sediment within pipes, water heater, other systems
•  Potential for sink/toilet staining from rust and other sediments

Full Protection (1 micron inline, or canister system with below 5 micron/carbon filtration)
•  High water quality for all uses – drinking, showering, rinsing
•  RV is protected from any sediment issues in pipes, water heater, other systems
•  Eliminates staining

•  Use inline granular as primary filter for whole RV to improve overall water quality for showering, rinsing, etc., but not to drinking water standards
•  Use point-of-use system at faucet for drinking water (e.g., secondary filter with low micron rating via under-sink mount, water pitcher, faucet mount, countertop)

It should come as no surprise that it’s best to go with full protection. But everyone must determine the best method for them to achieve their water quality goals based on their usage.

There are other factors to consider as well: A part-time RVer and a full-timer will not only have different water-quality needs but also varying acceptance levels. A part-timer may be willing to accept lower quality levels for a weekend, but a full-timer will likely grow weary of substandard water for an extended period. What’s more, different RVs have different space availability. So, an inline solution may be ideal for some, while a full canister system may work better for others.

Similarly, it should not shock anyone that using no protection at all is not a sound strategy. If you could take a look inside any inline filter after a few months of use, you would witness a very ugly spectacle: a filter that started off bone-white will be severely discolored to a dark brown – a combination of sediment, contaminants, chemicals, and other nasty stuff. The amount will vary depending on the micron level (and quality) of the filter, but even the most inferior-quality inline filter is capturing a number of elements you’re simply better off without. The point is, with no filter of any kind, you’re getting those elements – like it or not.

As RVers, we all want the cleanest water we can possibly get. Depending on the level of filtration you use, you’ll get different levels of quality. The real question is, how clean do you want – or need – it to be?


Keith Bernard is president and CEO of CLEAR2O®, one of the leaders in water filtration technology and products. The company’s line of products includes filtered water bottles, pitchers, in-countertop filtration, whole-house filtration and on-the-go RV filtration systems. Learn more at its website.


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7 months ago

I use a filter, usually the blue camco one. I run it for two reasons, 1- to keep large particulates out of my rv system, so grit/rust particles don’t mess up any valve seats/gaskets, and 2-I don’t care for the taste of chlorine, so I like to remove it. The filter described above that gets down to 1 micron will also get most bacteria, if you’re concerned about that along with solids. Campsites are regulated and have to meet standards to assure they are disinfected, so its not too high a concern for me. Also, if you’re running an absolute 1 micron filter by itself and you get dirty water, its going to load up pretty quickly and restrict flow. Its doing what its supposed to, but a basic carbon filter isn’t going to load up as quickly and restrict flow.
For the folks that are concerned about variations in the water chemistry that can upset stomachs, I get where you’re coming from. But I believe I could go out and buy a lot of water jugs before I spent the money for a full on filtration/reverse osmosis system. I’m part time so its not as big an issue for me. Full timers might look at it differently.
I made it a point to say water Chemistry and not water Quality. Good drinking water can vary in what minerals are dissolved in it-hardness plus other parameters. It can still be healthy to drink, but if you’re not used to it, it can mess with you. So for those of you that have had stomach issues with different water, I get what you’re saying. And it makes sense to either buy bottled or put in additional treatment.
Source-did water treatment of various types for 40 years.

7 months ago

This article is not very helpful. While it is instructive for those not familiar with how water filters/purifiers work, it makes no recommendations, it offers no comparisons, nor does it provide any helpful information as to what acceptable brands are available. I would prefer a list, review, and recommendation from what is currently on the market. Even a comparison of products from the two companies mentioned would have been more useful.

7 months ago

Hmmmm. I agree with the general conclusion but am loyal to the RVwaterfilterstore who has been around along time. This company provides nothing that is not already available. Omnipure filters and a sink faucet works for me.

Stuart Sachs
7 months ago

I’d much rather read an industry evaluation of counter-top, under-sink, and systemwide water filtration than one manufacturer’s opinion piece. Amazon has over a dozen counter-top pieces of equipment for sale. Even your spokesman’s product is listed… BUT at $20 less on Amazon than on the company’s link that you provided to their site. Granted you’re likely to get a sponsorship fee, but the overall article linked to their pricing lessens your credibility.

7 months ago

Some places camping had such rusty, hard water which was hard to drink and bath. Loading up our travel trailer with water and 2 bikes from home introduced trailer sway. So I decided instead to buy a RV softener and fill up the water tank or hose direct wherever we camped with the water there. Best decision for water ever made. Showers are so nice. For drinking water I bring some jugs of reverse osmosis water from home. My new motorhome has a built in filter which I change every season. I’m sure it helps some so I will just leave it there.

Keira Bianchi
7 months ago

Always nice to publish an article where a manufacturer writes about their own product and how great it is. Even better when it is written so that it sounds like a factual scientific paper. Great way to advertise.

RV Staff (@rvstaff)
7 months ago
Reply to  Keira Bianchi

You can get the information from it and skip the product name. They don’t advertise with us but supplied useful information, so we give credit where credit’s due. —Diane at

7 months ago
Reply to  Keira Bianchi

You should read the article again with an open mind. I didn’t see the writer reference his specific products. I found it to be informative

7 months ago

If you stay where you’re on a municipal water system you shouldn’t need a filter- unless you’re trying to cut down chlorine taste. Exceptions would be anywhere in the south west or someplace that’s fed by well water. We don’t use filters at the house….why then with the rv?

Brian S. Holmes
7 months ago
Reply to  Drew

water from different areas can affect your stomach ( wifes issue ) and can ruin a trip even if it’s from a municipal water system. We have a 1-micron sediment filter to a 5-micron charcoal filter to a On the Go water softener to a 6 stage Reverse Osmosis system to the kitchen sink for drinking -cooking. We shower off the Reverse Osmosis bye-pass. We did stay at a campground that turned our sediment filter brown after 1 shower, think about that one……. Full filtration where ever we go, she’s happy.

Primo Rudy's Roadhouse
7 months ago

so…. which one should I buy? I have only seen the blue one for sale.

Jeff Arthur
7 months ago

I think it makes more sense to regulate ( pressure)AFTER the filter system . Photo shows otherwise.
Good article but filtering water can be a complicated game

Jeff Reck
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Arthur

Just wondering why you feel that is preferable? It doesn’t seem like it should matter which side of the filter you place the regulator.

7 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Reck

If you wish to keep sediment from your water system then you use the filter before it contaminates any of the system. Water faucet, water filter, pressure regulator is my opinion.

7 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Arthur

What’s the concept of using, having a regulator? So why have the filter attached first, then the regulator second?

Randy Shrimplin
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Arthur

I have seen those blue in line one blow up from over pressure so I respectfully disagree

Jeff Arthur
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Arthur

The filter itself reduces flow. I want the most safe pressure I can get . Also keeps contamination out of regulator. I don’t use the blue filter. I run 10” home system clear bowl filter. You have many choices of filter media & the ability to actually see the water color. And filters last longer.

7 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Arthur

Jeff, I do the same thing. There is a pressure drop across the filter, so I prefer to regulate the pressure that’s ‘left over’ once its passed through the filter. If the pressure is so high that the filter housing ruptures as mentioned below, then it’d make sense to have it first. Although I find it surprising any place has that high a pressure; makes me wonder if the housing was bad to begin with.

7 months ago

For a part-timer, how do you store a filter between trips? Do you drain/empty it? How long can the filter be idle between uses? How often should the filter be changed?

7 months ago
Reply to  Les

Most quality Water Filters, like the ones CAMCO produce, have a chemical or product in them called KDF! KDF helps to keep mold and other bacteria from developing if you store your filter for long periods.

You should always, RINSE your filter, by running several gallons of water through it, before hooking up to your RV. This will help remove any sediment and or other impurities that have developed while in storage.

And (very important) Always Flush Out new Filters. You will see the Black Activated Carbon come out and again, run seveal gallons through, till the water is clear.

Hope this helps.

7 months ago
Reply to  Les

To piggy back on Jeff’s comment regarding Camco filters, the packaging/box has instructions on storing between use.

6 months ago
Reply to  Les

I just set mine in the kitchen sink between trips. That way any water that drains out just goes down the sink. While in motion I stuff a hand towel in the sink to keep it from rolling around.