Where to Get Water for Van Life
Living in a campervan does strange things to your lifestyle. You begin to fret over all sorts of problems that would never have occurred to you in everyday life. For example: where do you cook? do you need a gas supply? how do you get water for van life? In an apartment or house, these questions are never considered. You cook in the kitchen using a gas burner and water comes out the tap, problem solved.
However, when you are an overlander, a little more thought goes into the process. You need to be more proactive with your supplies to ensure all your facilities are stocked up. Water, in particular, has a surprisingly high usage when living in a van. Unfortunately, simply paying a monthly water bill and expecting the taps to run forever isn’t going to cut it. You need to monitor the water tank levels in your vehicle and get them refilled whenever they run out!
When do You Use Water for Van Life?
Using water for van life is a crucial part of overlanding. Whenever you need a glass of water or a cup of tea, you must have access to clean, filtered water to drink safely. Water is also used in cooking which often requires multiple litres even for a basic meal.
Water is also used to maintain general hygiene rather than for direct consumption. After you cook, you will need to boil water to sanitise and wash up your dishes. If you have a large RV or campervan, you might be lucky enough to have a toilet with flushable water and a shower. Even if you have a smaller converted van, you might still have a solar shower that often needs refilling. As you can tell, water consumption stacks up!
Grey Water and Wastewater
Campervans are a closed system. You can’t just pour things down the drain and forget about them. If you use water for van life, you need to consider the wastewater that will build up too. Again, depending on the scale of your vehicle or conversion, the amount of wastewater will vary. Most vehicles will have a clean (potable) water tank hooked up to the tap for washing up, brushing teeth, drinking, and cooking.
Beneath the sink, there is usually a grey water tank put in place. This collects all the wastewater that flows down the drain. Whenever this gets full, it needs to be emptied at a waste disposal centre or poured down a plumbed-in drain. If you have a toilet and shower in your van, this sewage and wastewater tank, also called black water, will need to be emptied regularly.
Where to Get Water for Van Life
The size of your tank and your water consumption will affect how quickly your tank runs dry. In some vehicles, two or three showers will empty a tank. If you use potable water mainly for drinking and cooking, your tank will last a good deal longer even if it is small. If you don’t want the hassle of installing a tank into a converted van, purchase large bottles of water from a superstore and use a manual or electric pump to access it instead. These bottles can then be returned or recycled when they run out and a new bottle can be bought.
This is probably the most time-consuming and expensive method to get water for van life. If you install a proper tank into your vehicle or if you have an RV that has one already fitted, you can get a cheap water top-up from campsites, garages, or designated water refill stations. Make sure to use the white hose and don’t cross-contaminate with black water hoses. The potable tank often has a nozzle on the outside of the van with an attachment to help when refilling your water.
A lot of these water refill stations also have a sewage dump or a sink to empty grey water. Try timing these jobs together so you can do them at the same location. This is mainly for the sake of efficiency, and it will save you time in the long run.
Alternative Water Methods
If you love living off-grid in your camper and don’t want to drive into urban areas to constantly refill your tank, there are options for you. Collecting rainwater or lake/river water is a simple nature-based solution. You can gather this water to refill your solar shower without needing to filter it. However, if you need drinking water for van life, you can attach a pump with a built-in filter to your tank. That way, you can collect unfiltered water and ensure it is safe for drinking by filtering it yourself.
When using water for van life in off-grid settings, you need to be careful about handling grey water and sewage. Occasionally, you can go to the toilet in the wilderness but it’s best not to make a habit of it. Pouring water from a saucepan into the ground is okay but washing up liquid and any other chemicals are not. Use your best judgement and from time to time, head back into town to empty your waste tanks and top up on some fresh water!
Monitoring water for van life may seem like a lot of hassle but it truly becomes second nature. After a while, filling up water is as common as going out for groceries. The better you manage your water levels, the easier the job becomes. If you head into the middle of the Scottish wilderness in your campervan only to find you’re low on drinking water, you’ll have to make a frustrating detour.
As with many tips for van life, simply run through a quick checklist before embarking on your road trip: do I have food? do I have gasoline? do I have water for van life? After the admin is out of the way, you’re all stocked up and free to hit the road to enjoy your four-wheeled adventure!