Last Updated on 04/24/2023 by Glynn Willard
When the water runs out, the party’s over!
Your first concern when boondocking should be your water management rather than electricity needs.
We can all get by fairly well in the absence of electricity, but not water.
So how much water do you need for boondocking and where do you find it?
How Much Water Do You Need When Boondocking?
The amount of water necessary when boondocking is a very subjective statement. We all have different needs.
But I can tell you what we narrowed down after two years of boondocking most of the time.
We were conservative with bathing, cleaning and cooking. But we drank as much water as we wanted.
Our family consists of myself, my wife, a nine year old and a twelve year old to put things into perspective.
Over time, we averaged 3 gallons of water per person, per day. So simply put, we averaged 12 gallons a day.
Your habits and needs will differ. The only way to know for sure is to quantify your usage in the beginning and refine as you go.
Plan a short 2-3 day trip close to home (or stay in your driveway) on a full tank. Figure out what’s left when you’re done.
If your fresh water gauge is inaccurate (like most), lengthen each trip boondocking until you run out. If that happens to be day 5, you have your answer.
Your fresh water tank in your RV is your main source (obviously).
Keep in mind, if you have a tank based water heater, you can pull additional water into your storage. Most heaters are 5-10 gallons.
I suggest keeping several Jerry cans of water or a bladder in your tow vehicle (or towed vehicle).
Make sure you cycle your external storage sources. We always maintained three 5 gallon Jerry cans in the mix. Come up with a system that works for you.
Between our 80 gallon fresh water tank, 10 gallon heater and 15 gallons in Jerry cans, we could make it ten days.
Again, keep in mind, there are four of us and we showered every third day.
Boondocking Water Supply
How Do You Find Water When Boondocking? The ease of finding water is dependent on your geographic location.
Water is easy to find in the northwest. Water is far more difficult to find in the southwest. The east can also be difficult to find potable water since there’s so little boondocking.
Our number one way to find water was through our apps, which I discuss below.
Our number two way of finding water was to simply ask others boondocking. The majority of boondockers are usually local, so they know the area.
They’re not all willing to share their source, so be friendly and move on if not.
Where To Find Water When Boondocking
Here are a few of our hacks for finding water for boondocking.
We’ve found water in the following locations (no particular order):
- Rest areas that are RV friendly.
- National Parks
- Truck stops. You usually have to ask.
- Public dump stations with a potable water faucet far from the sewage area.
- Ma and Pa laundromats.
- Boondocker’s Welcome
- One to five gallons at a time from a grocery store (expensive).
- If you have the equipment, fresh, fast moving streams at higher elevations.
You will likely never need to look beyond the above suggestions.
Should You Buy Your Water From A Campground?
I’ve always found this to be one of the safest ways to acquire water when boondocking. Call to ask if water is available to buy first.
Some campgrounds charge unreasonably high water prices to minimize their traffic.
We’ve come across a lot of boondockers who book a campground every 7-10th day to dump their tanks, refresh their water and take a long shower.
We’re guilty! Sometimes I would find a campground that charged $20 for water, but their nightly rate was $30. That’s a no brainer… stay the night.
This was usually the case with state parks.
We’ve come across several and found that being friendly earned us free water. I suppose that’s universal karma for just being nice.
So, yes a campground can be a great option to find water for boondocking.
Best Aps For Finding Water Boondocking
We use several apps to find boondocking water. Here are the reputable ones currently available:
- The Dyrt (not free)
We rely exclusively on iOverlander and Freeroam.app. Why? They’re both reliable, easy to use, and free.
Download those two and you probably will not need any other apps for finding water.
Is Water At Dump Stations Potable?
Is water at dump stations safe to drink? If the blue or green painted faucet for potable water is not accessible while dumping your tanks, it is probably safe.
If it’s right next to the sewage area, be very cautious!
It’s way too easy for someone to accidently (or lazily) to use the potable source to rinse their sewer hoses.
It’s just not worth the risk. A whole family with diarrhea while boondocking is not only dangerous, but it’s no fun!
We sadly know from experience.
Filling RV Water Tank While Boondocking
If you’re going to make a habit of bringing water to your rig while boondocking, invest in a small DC water pump.
You’ll need one if you’re using a bladder as an external source.
If you’re Jerry can has an attachable spout, that’s all you’ll need.
When our tank would get low, we would just start filling our water bottles and cooking water from the cans.
That way we reserved the water in the main tank for showers and washing dishes.
Boondocking Water Filter
For the sake of flavor, we always ran any water going into any of the tanks through a two phase filter.
Yes, the picture is an affiliate link, but it worked so well for us, there was no need to spend any additional money.
The filter system resided right next to our fresh water hoses. That way it was quick and easy. And no excuses.
It will also aid in maintaining a clean fresh water tank. You still have to sanitize it at a minimum every six months.
Rather than investing in a special filter that eliminates harmful pathogens, we only took water from trusted sources.
An inline UV water filter or reverse osmosis will have to be installed in your rig and require an electrical current. We didn’t find it necessary.
If you have plenty of water while boondocking and you notice someone who might be in need, kindly ask them.
Use your judgement. Sometimes, it’s obvious. We encountered and individual with a dog that appeared really thirsty.
He was giving his dog small amounts at a time and sipping what he had. I simply asked, “how are you on water?”
He said “I’m almost out and I don’t leave until tomorrow.” For him to leave, required packing up his whole camp since he was in a home-made truck camper.
I offered a couple gallons and he lit up! The first thing he did was fill his dog’s bowl.
Take notice of these things and share if you have excess. You don’t know when you’ll need to be on the receiving end of such kindness.
We love to boondock almost as much as we like to have plenty of water!
There are a lot of ways to find and acquire water when boondocking. Apps are the best way to start.
Our favorite places to get fresh water for boondocking are national parks.
It will take you a few runs before you figure out just how much water you need when boondocking.
But once you have an idea and regulate well, it really reduces the anxiety of finding water when boondocking.
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