Our RV's Limiting Factors: Water

Our Toaster, with its ability to be off-grid and use minimal fossil fuel, may sound like a perfect rig to some…and a nightmare to others. For us it’s literally a dream come true. But as with all dreams that become a reality, it’s not perfect. (We still adore you, Toaster!) In a four part series, I’m going to go over the downsides to our RV that prevent it from being perfect for us, along with potential solutions. The posts in the series are:

  1. Water (this post)
  2. Batteries
  3. Size
  4. Heating
Our RV that we refer to as the Toaster.

WATER

This has been brought up numerous times in previous posts. Our fresh water capacity is limited to our 40-gallon tank, which allows us to stay out in the woods for one straight week (sometimes up to 10 days) without having to find a source to refill. 

Our 40 gallon water tank.

We knew this would be a potential issue before we hit the road. A solution that Jerud and I talked about was adding a new water tank in place of where the black water tank was under the trailer. But there were several reasons we decided not to:

 

Weight: This was the biggest reason why we decided not to add an additional fresh water tank to our RV. Water is heavy - a gallon weighs 8.34 lbs. If we got a 20-gallon tank, the water alone would weight 166.8 lbs., without including the weight of the tank, the additional pipes and hardware needed. We knew that even though we removed a bunch of weight from the RV (awning, A/C unit, heater, etc.), we were also adding a lot of weight back with our solar equipment and would probably be cutting it really close to the RV weight capacity. We have a total of 8 batteries, 6 more than what the RV came with. At 65 lbs. each, that’s a total of 520 lbs. in batteries. Our 4 solar panels weight a total of 200 lbs. and this doesn’t include the weight of the rack that they are on. A visit to the scales before we left confirmed that we were right: we are at the max RV weight capacity.

Cost: The new fresh water tank would have to live under the RV since that’s where the black water tank was. This meant we wouldn’t be able to get an RV fresh tank but instead would have to get a (new) gray water tank. RV fresh water tanks are made to sit on a flat surface while gray water and black water tanks are made to hang underneath an RV. A 20-gallon gray water tank costs around $240, not including shipping - which would be high due to its large size. A 40 gallon gray water tank costs $350. That’s a lot of money!

Weather: Since the additional fresh water tank would have to be hung underneath the RV it becomes a lot more susceptible to the cold. Fresh water tanks typically sit somewhere inside the RV utilizing the RV’s insulation to avoid freezing. Our fresh water tank is located inside the “basement” storage area of the trailer, below where our bed is. An additional of benefit of it being there (that was its original location) is that our inverter is right next to it. The inverter generates a lot of heat and that helps keep that compartment a few degrees warmer.

Plumbing: Figuring out how we would pipe the second fresh water tank into our water system was going to be complicated. In addition to the reasons above, it just wasn’t worth our time and money to try and add the tank to our RV.

Alternative Solution: Our solution to the water issue is that we fill whatever containers we have with water and use the gravity fill to replenish our fresh water tank. Our gravity fill is a spout that pulls out of the side of the RV and because it is located higher than the fresh water tank, we are able to pour water into the spout and into the tank. Most gravity fills on RVs are just a hole on the side with a hose connecting it to the fresh water tank. A funnel would be needed to pour water into the hole. It’s not uncommon in some RVs to have external-fill designs that you can’t just pour water in. The water has to be pushed up into the tank (using a garden hose or pump). We upgraded our gravity fill to a pull-out spout that removes the need for a funnel – except the spout is a piece of shit and leaks. But having a gravity fill simplifies things. Some things we already have with us that act as double-duty for freshwater refills are: Yeti cooler (an REI garage sale score), MSR dromedary, and Nalgene water bottles. Recently we decided to leave the cooler behind because we don’t actually use it, aside from hauling water. It also takes up so much space in the bed of our truck and is an additional expensive thing for us to worry about getting stolen (we’re more paranoid after having my Safari bike stolen). 

To replace the cooler we finally bit the bullet, after eyeing it for months, and purchased a 30-gallon collapsible water bag. We just recently used it for the first time. This water bag folds small and flat when not in use (like a giant version of the Dromedary). We can take it to a water source with the truck, and bring back enough water to get us back to ¾ full! Larger ones are available but would be hard to fit into the truck with our other stuff. 

This is what the water bag looks when it's empty.

This is what the water bag looks when it's empty.

And when it's full of water.

And when it's full of water.

Talk to us! Let us know in the comment section below if you have any solutions for our water problem that I haven’t mentioned. What do you do to overcome the size of your fresh water tank, if it’s smaller than you’d like?

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