How to Fill RV Fresh Water Tank Without Hose: 4 Methods for Dry Campers and Boondockers

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Using your RV’s fresh water tank is one of the best ways to ensure you have water when you’re on the go. Whether you plan to boondock for a period or want fresh water during your travels, keeping your fresh water tank full is important. 

The traditional way to fill your freshwater tank is to use a garden hose and run water directly from a spigot to the freshwater hookup port. However, if for some reason you don’t have access to a hose and still need fresh water in your tank, there are other ways to go about filling it. 

Option #1: Gravity Filling Your Fresh Water Tank

If you don’t have a full-length water hose, gravity is the most common (and the easiest way) to fill your fresh water tank. Using this method, you rely on gravity to take water from a higher point and down into the fresh water tank at a lower point. Here’s how it works! 

Step #1: Locate the Gravity Fill Port on Your RV 

Depending on the type of RV you have, it will be outfitted with both a freshwater port and a gravity-fill port. The gravity fill port is simply a hole on the side of your RV that you can pour water directly into. 

If you don’t have a gravity fill port and only have a freshwater connection, you’ll need a small section of potable hose or a gravity fill adapter. You can then connect the hose end or adapter to the freshwater port so that you can proceed with gravity-filling the tank. 

Step #2: Use a Funnel and Water Jug

Once you have the proper adapter or hose end to fill your fresh water tank, the next thing you’ll need is a funnel and water jug. Neither of these items has to be fancy as long as they’re clean enough to drink out of. Therefore, make sure to sanitize both the funnel and water jugs or containers that you plan to use. 

Once you’re ready, insert the funnel into the end of the adapter or hose or directly into the gravity fill port (if your RV has one). 

Step #3: Elevate the Water Container

With the funnel inserted into the gravity port, adapter, or hose end, pour water from the container into the funnel. Continue emptying and refilling your water container until the fresh water tank is as full as necessary. Most freshwater tanks can hold up to 40 gallons of water, but the exact amount will vary from one RV to another. 

The key to using the gravity method is to make sure that the point where you’re dumping water into the tank is higher than the tank itself. That way, water can flow downhill, which is essential (unless you have a pump, of course). 

Once the tank is full, place the cap back onto the freshwater port or gravity fill port. This will prevent unwanted contaminants from getting into your water supply and creating health hazards. 

Option #2: Using Portable Water Containers

Hand-in-hand with the gravity method is the option of using potable water containers. This method will speed up the filling process because potable containers can hold more water than traditional containers. Here are a few options for potable containers to gravity-fill your freshwater tank. 

Using Jerry Cans

As far as potable water containers go, Jerry cans are a surprisingly popular option. Jerry cans, such as the Scepter 5-gallon cans from Cabelas, can hold anywhere from 5 to 7 gallons of water, and they’re most famously used by the military and survivalists. Scepter Jerry cans are some of the most durable and compact in the industry, making them a great option. They are typically made of hard plastic but can also be metal, depending on your preference. 

The downside of using Jerry cans is that they take up a decent amount of space when not in use. There’s no way to collapse them, so you’ll need to have plenty of storage space to spare. (That way, they don’t take up space allocated for something else). 

Using Collapsible Water Containers

If storage space is going to be an issue, you may be better off with collapsible water containers. While they will take up space when they’re full of water, you can collapse them into a flat sheet when they’re empty. There are plenty of solid collapsible water container options available, but Sol makes some of the best. 

Using Large Water Bladders

A third–and possibly better–option for RVers who need a lot of water is a large water bladder. If you’re traveling with a family of six, for example, you’ll need all the water you can get. 

Water bladders are virtually massive and durable sandwich bags filled with water. They have a handy, dandy spout on the end for easy fresh water tank refill purposes and are composed of food-safe materials. 

If you’re planning on being away from potable water for some time, this is definitely the largest option, as water bladders can hold anywhere from 30 to 50 gallons. The downside is that, even though they lay flat, these bad boys take up a decent amount of space when full. You’ll also likely need help dumping the bladder into your tank, as they weigh a ton! 

For one of the best water bladders in the industry, we recommend the Aquatank II 50-gallon tank. It’s made of durable, food-safe plastic and is one of the lightest and most portable bladders available. 

Option #3: Using Water Pumps

If you’re using a water container that’s too heavy for you to lift and dump into the tank manually, you can also utilize a water pump. Water pumps generate enough pressure to force water against gravity. Just leave your container on the ground and watch this mechanism force the water uphill into your freshwater tank.  

There are several different types of water pumps to choose from, including the following: 

Using Manual Hand Pumps

If you’re not afraid of a little hard work, using a manual hand pump is the cheapest way to pump water into your freshwater tank. Manual pumps have a primer that you turn or pump by hand to generate pressure. While these take some work, they’re a good option if you’re camping off-grid because they don’t use electricity. 

If you want a hand pump that looks as good as it operates, consider a Uline Drum Pump. This pump is easy to use, lightweight, and corrosion-resistant, making it one of the best in the industry. 

Using Drill Pumps

Alternatively, if you have a drill on hand, a drill pump might just become your new favorite gadget. Drill pumps are compact and efficient and generate pressure using the power from your drill. Just connect the hoses, place the intake hose into your water container, and let the drill do the heavy lifting

We recommend using the Hammon 750 GPH if you decide that a drill pump is the way to go. This pump is lightweight, portable, and highly affordable, in addition to being easy to use. 

Using a Spare RV Water Pump

Another great option for filling your fresh water tank is to use a spare RV water pump. If you don’t already have one, investing in one is a great idea. They typically cost less than $100, and you’ll surely wish you had one if your current pump goes on the fritz. 

Speaking of RV water pumps that cost less than $100, we recommend the 33 Series RV Fresh Water Pump. This bad boy is very affordable and easy to use. As an added bonus, it comes with every tool and accessory you need to get the job done. 

Save up to $1,200/year on RV storage & parking

Option #4: Finding Water Sources On-the-Go

While most of the RV refill freshwater tank methods we’ve discussed so far are solid options, it’s always best to use a freshwater hose and potable water supply. If you aren’t sure where to find fresh water to pump into your RV near you, here are a few places to look. 

Campgrounds and RV Parks

Average cost: $5 to $15

The most common and convenient water sources for RVers tend to be campgrounds and RV parks. Water is readily available at most campsites, and you can easily fill your water tank before heading out on your next adventure. 

Or, if you’re simply passing by an RV park and want to fill your fresh water tank, simply stop in and ask for permission to do so. They will direct you to their filling station and charge a very reasonable fee for their service. 

Rest Stops and Travel Centers

Average cost: Free if available 

Although they aren’t available everywhere, certain rest areas and travel centers offer water refill stations. The most common of these options are larger rest areas and travel centers where RVing is common. 

National and State Parks

Average cost: The cost to enter the park 

As a general rule, state and national parks don’t offer full hookup sites with water spigots at their campgrounds. They do, however, have a communal water and dump station where you can refill your water tank. This service is free to anyone who has paid to enter the park, and is included as one of the park’s campground services. 

Safety and Sanitation Tips When Filling Your RV’s Freshwater Tank

Illustration of safety and sanitation tips for filling RV's fresh water tank

While filling RV fresh water tanks is fairly easy, it’s easy to be negligent or forgetful and create a safety hazard with your water. Here are a few helpful tips to ensure safe and sanitary conditions while refilling your water tank. 

Tip #1: Sanitize Your Water Containers

You should sanitize your water containers after every couple of uses. The same holds true for your other water refill equipment, including your potable water hose, funnel, adapters, and more. You should also sanitize your freshwater tank on a regular basis to ensure safe drinking water. 

Tip #2: Actively Prevent Contamination

Next, it’s essential to prevent contamination by wisely choosing your water sources. Before putting water into your tank, it’s important to be aware of the bleach and chlorine content. You should never use water from a dump station to refill your freshwater tank. It’s also a good idea to run your water through a water filter before letting it enter your tank. 

Tip #3: Complete Regular Maintenance

Last, but not least, you should make freshwater tank maintenance part of your regular RV maintenance schedule. That means cleaning and sanitizing the tank and water lines, inspecting the system for leaks, and cleaning the fresh water inlet. 

Troubleshooting Common Issues

As with all parts of your RV, you may run into problems when refilling your freshwater tank. Here are some of the most common problems to watch out for and how to fix them: 

Issue #1: Dealing with Slow Water Flow

The most common reason for slow water flow is a clog in your water line. It’s also possible that your RV water hose is kinked or has dirt in it, preventing water from flowing freely. Since the hose is readily accessible, start by checking it for problems, then proceed to the water inlet and lines. 

issue #2: Fixing Leaks

Another common problem is for your water refill process to develop leaks. Whether there’s a leak with one of your hose connections, your potable water containers, or the freshwater tank itself, it’s important to detect and fix leaks as quickly as possible. 

Final Thoughts

In addition to taking care of your freshwater system while you’re using your RV, it’s also important to protect it while your rig is in storage. This is important because critters, pests, bacteria, mold, and other contaminants can get into your freshwater tank if your RV is stored improperly. 

If you don’t have a good place to store your RV at home, consider using Neighbor to find RV storage near you. Neighbor is a peer-to-peer storage marketplace with hundreds of safe and affordable RV storage locations across the country. 

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