Where to get water

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Feb 22, 2013
We have just purchased a Coachman Freedom Express 29' travel trailer and are doing some short trips in the spring to the beach (to "practice and get warm) - then we are off to our big adventure to Yellowstone, Deadwood, Mt Rushmore and a few days at the Custer State Park later in the summer.    All the Campground we are staying at until we get to Custer have full hook-ups, but we are really the "in the woods" kinda people so looking forward to the staying at Custer State Park.  It does not have full hook-ups. 

Here is my question:  When boondocking, or dry camping, where do folks fill up the water tanks?  The advice we have been given is empty tanks and not to carry water on the road... so prior to getting to you location, where do you get water?  (not looking for specifics for Custer... just in general...where do you guys get your water?) 

We will be carrying fresh drinking water/bottled water for coffee etc... 
Most of the campgrounds will have water available, just not at your site.  Fill your tanks from the common potable water hook up then go to your spot.

If you know that you are going to a truly dry spot, fill up the day before, travelling with a full tank is not always a bad thing.

careybeth said:
Here is my question:  When boondocking, or dry camping, where do folks fill up the water tanks?  The advice we have been given is empty tanks and not to carry water on the road...
I don't agree with the advice you have been given. There is no reason not to fill up your tanks or to carry water on the road. In fact there are a few reasons why you should carry water on the road. A full tank should last you at least a week when boondocking or you are not conserving water properly.
I typically travel with my tank at least half way full, if I know I will be dry camping, I fill it up before I leave, there is not real issue with traveling with your tank full as far as I know...certainly I have had no problems. I can easily last 3-4 days on my tank. BTW - I typically buy a couple 2.5 gallon jugs of water for drinking...I don't use the water in my tank for drinking or cooking, unless it has first been run through my Brita water filter which I have a 2 gallon container....

My water tank is for washing dishes, flushing the toilet etc....I have gotten some pretty "rough" water at some campgrounds....

Fill it before you leave...


    As Jim and Tom stated, you should always carry some water in your fresh water tank, unless there is a risk of a heavy freeze.  The only reason most people don't travel far with a full tank is the weight and resulting loss of fuel economy, but to be honest I have not seen a whole lot of difference, plus unless we are hurrying to get somewhere, we rarely travle more than a couple of hundred miles, which isn't a long way to have the extra weight.

I have a 100 gallon tank fresh water tank. Water weighs about 8 pounds per gallon so that is 800 pounds. People who tow a 3000 pound vehicle report that their gas mileage drops about a half a mile per gallon. So a full water tank won't affect your gas mileage enough to worry about.

The advantage of a full tank is that you don't have to worry about finding a safe source of water once you get near your destination. You might have to drive a few miles out of your way to find it so the money you saved on gas would be lost, not to mention the inconvenience. You need to have water on board in case you want to use the bathroom or take a shower along the way. Or if you have a problem and are forced to stay in a Walmart parking lot for the night then you won't have to worry about finding water.
Well then, its settled!  I think the advice was due to weight, but as you all have pointed out, it won't have much impact.  Better to have water ;)  Thank you all very much for your responses. 
All that said, it might make some difference in how you load your "stuff" depending upon where your fresh water tank is located - ahead or behind the axles.
A lot depends on your tank placement and shape.  Like Tom said, water weighs about 8 lbs per gallon, so a full 100 gallon fresh water tank will contain 800 pounds of liquid.

Weight distribution is particularly critical in a travel trailer, which only has 10-15% of it's weight on the hitch.  That's one reason travel trailers tend to have smaller fresh water tanks.  Weight shift is less critical in a 5th wheel, which starts out with much more hitch weight.  Motorhomes are likewise relatively insensitive to changes in weight distribution.

The extra weight of a full tank of water probably won't affect the handling of the trailer if the tank is located forward of the axles.  But sometimes you'll find water tanks in the convenient space under a rear bed.  That's the worst place to add weight from a handling standpoint.  If you fill the tank all the way you affect the balance of the trailer and shift significant weight off of the hitch. 

You also have to be aware of the sloshing potential.  Sloshing in a lengthwise tank, with it's short axis across the trailer will affect the handling less than a tank that's mounted with it's long side crosswise.  RV water tanks aren't baffled, and a half a tank of water is the worst for sloshing force.  Tanks that are less than half full have less weight to slosh back and forth, and tanks more than half full slosh less.  Full tanks won't slosh at all.

I was pleasantly suprised when I saw the freshwater tank in my Damon motorhome.  It holds 100 gallons but it's located next to the rear axle so the extra weight has minimal effect on the motorhome's handling.  And instead of being rectangular, the tank is shaped like a sideways L, with about half of it's capacity in a "saddlebag" that fills a side compartment.  If I fill the tank up to the point where it widens out and crosses the width of the motorhome, I'll have about 50 gallons of water in a compact, low slosh container to use on the road.  Then I can fill the rest of the tank when I'm near or at my destination and have the full capacity for boondocking.
The guys summed it up pretty well...

I too run with a full fresh tank.  It's at the very front of the trailer and adds tongue weight, and it's there if I ever need it.  You never know....you get to your campground and their well is down for a day or two.  You run into bad weather and have to stay somewhere with no hookups for a night.  Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
I go on the basis that I can drycamp  a week between water fillup
and tank dump.  that said, coming across country slowly staying
in national parks and forests,  kept looking at where things were
available and took advantage where I could.  every now and then
we did stay at a park with full hookups.  prior to leaving, we always
filled up.
I seldom ever worry about carrying the extra weight of the full water tank. I always drain my black and grey water tanks before travel. I dont know about in the states, but here in Ontario, almost all public water treatment plants have a potable water hose out front you can use for free. As well I know of quite a few fire halls that provide the service as well. In any given area there are bound to be people with poor wells and I think most towns provide this service to some extent.
Everyone should keep in mind the OP has a travel trailer and not a motor home or 5er.  Carrying water in a TT is not the same as other vehicles and needs a bit more consideration.
I wrote this in a previous topic on the impact of weight on gas mileage - and still hold that point of view . . .  :)

Most are OK w/a full water tank when traveling -- whereas I only fill mine 1/3 when starting a travel day. The need or potential need for water is not the issue w/me, but rather is it OK with my rig.

My rig is a gasser and close to my weight limit - so, IMO, adding hundreds of pounds is not a wise thing for me to do. When sitting still, the weight is a dead weight whereas when traveling it become a live weight that impacts at a greater load. Location of the tank on some rigs is behind the rear axle that makes handling an issue as well. However, if the rig handles the same w/or without a full tank, is well within the weight limits I see no need not to fill the tank. Extra water is always a good thing as many have already mentioned.

As to MPG, the laws of physics disagree with my friends that believe weight has no effect on mileage. Isaac proved that once up to speed, weight has no effect - but getting up to speed and going over mountains does. Auto manufacturers are constantly figuring ways each year to make their vehicles lighter than the year before for that reason. The lighter the car, the better the mileage.

Am also reading articles such as this one contending that, as a nation, if we all lost more weight, our fuel needs would be less. So - lose a few pounds and help the US become energy independent!! 
I tend to agree with Bob, on this one. I am not speaking from experience, as I am still quite a newbie. But even driving around town in my somewhat empty rig Class C rig can be quite a white knuckler. This is the heaviest rig I have driven. I can watch my gas needle drop as I accelerate. I also have to plan my stopping .25 mile in advance to not feel like I am stomping on the brakes. My meager 35 gallon fresh tank equates to almost 300 pounds, full. I certainly don't want to be dragging all that extra weight up the mountains around here, or have it adding to my stopping distance, and the potential sloshing effect makes me shudder... I'd rather use that weight for supplies, gear, or passengers - which I know I HAVE to drag up the mountains and back. I'll plan on filling up my water at or near where I boondock, until I get burned.

For a big class A, the extra weight is a much smaller percentage of the GVW, so it definitely can't have as dramatic effect.

In answer to the original posters question ... where can you get water to fill the fresh water tank?? I've stopped at Walmart automotive service areas and they have been obliging. I have even stopped in subdivisions and seen people watering their lawn and asked if I can fill my tank. Granted I don't have a 100 gallon tank ... a mere 36 gallons of fresh water which only takes a few minutes.

I suppose my big advantage is that I am driving a smaller rig (Class B Mercedes Sprinter chassis) and am a little less conspicuous than the larger units. I'll stop anywhere there might be a water hose out the back door. Restaurant, gas stations.

Since I never stay at campgrounds I need to be aware of water conservations and where my next tank of water will come from. A previous posters has already mentioned the pollution plants in local jurisdictions and fire stations. I've stopped at them all. Heck I've even stopped at local and state/provincial police stations and flashed my "retired badge" and have been welcomed with open arms and flowing hoses. :)
Since we are towing our teardrop with a Subaru and weight is a consideration we tend to travel empty. To answer the question there is boondocking and there is Boondocking. Our tear is designed with the later in mind. Full solar... I have set it up so that I can pull water from a lake or stream and make it potable using a series of filters. I do BTW filter all water going into our tank. 
Shadow Catcher said:
Since we are towing our teardrop with a Subaru and weight is a consideration we tend to travel empty. To answer the question there is boondocking and there is Boondocking. Our tear is designed with the later in mind. Full solar... I have set it up so that I can pull water from a lake or stream and make it potable using a series of filters. I do BTW filter all water going into our tank.
;D  I was just remembering back when I was a kid camping with a Boy Scout troop alongside a little creek.  There was swimming and fishing.  We boiled the water for drinking and cooking.  2-3 days after we had been there, I and a few other boys went exploring upstream.  We went a mile or two until we came to a municipal sewer treatment plant - which dumped it's processed "water" into the creek.  Oh, we were probably okay with boiling and the plant processing, but it sure did make the water less attractive.
Think about what the fish do in that creek ;)
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