Water is a necessity, not an option. But, when when you live the van life, where do you find free water?
Here’s a quick list of places to find free water while living the van life:
- Dump Stations
- Camp Sites
- Water Springs
- Gas Stations
- Rest Areas
- State or City Parks
- Rivers or Lakes
In the post below, I’ll share more details on each one of these places along with tips for storing water in your van and information about portable water filters.
Heads Up… this article contains referral links to products I use or recommend. I earn a referral fee from purchases made through these links. The earnings help keep the wheels rollin’!
Finding Water While Living The Van Life
I don’t condone stealing so I won’t be sharing how to steal water. The places listed below are all legit places to look for free or cheap water.
Since every town or place could have different rules you’ll need to determine for yourself whether or not the water is rightly your’s to take.
Finding Drinking Water At Dump Stations
Getting water at the place where people dump their poop sounds a bit gross but many free dump stations also have free drinking (potable) water.
Some dump stations only have non-potable water so be sure to read the signs! At a dump station there should be a sign that shows which spigot is potable and which is non-potable.
Since it’s at a dump station, if there’s no sign stating which is potable vs non-potable I recommend treating it as non-potable.
POTABLE water is safe for drinking and food preparation. NON-POTABLE water is NOT safe for drinking or food prep.
If you’re wondering whether or not the water is safe to bathe with my thought is… if I can’t drink the water I certainly won’t bathe in it. The only thing I use non-potable water for is to rinse my porta-potty.
Where To Find Free (or Cheap) Dump Stations For Drinking Water
- Truck Stop / Travel Centers sometimes have dump stations and/or drinking water spigots. Some of them may charge a small fee.
- Rest areas sometimes have dump stations with drinking water spigots. Unfortunately, I’ve found that more and more rest areas are closing their dump stations because of the few disrespectful people who use the dump station and leave a nasty mess behind.
- Use an app or a website such as SaniDumps.com or RVdumpSites.net. These sites often tell you if there’s drinking water or other amenities at the dump station area.
Find Water At Free Camp Sites
One of my favorite websites is FreeCampSites.net. You can find free camping, dump stations, showers, water and more using this free to use website.
Use the website’s “filters” to search for drinking water near you.
Reader’s who use this website are allowed to make comments. The comments often include additional or more up-to-date information so be sure to read through the comments as well as add your own.
Natural Water Springs
Spring water comes from an aquifer (permeable rock that can contain or transfer groundwater to the surface of the earth).
Many people prefer natural spring water and you don’t have to go to Walmart to buy it!
Locate a free water spring in your area by going to FindASpring.com.
If you haven’t found water using the suggestions shown above you can try a gas station. Gas stations may have water spigots available to it’s Customer’s.
To determine if the water is free and/or potable you’ll need to look for a sign or ask the Attendant. If water isn’t available at the gas station, the Attendant may know where you can find water in the area.
As mentioned above, some rest areas have dump stations with potable water spigots. But, some rest areas have potable water spigots even if they don’t have a dump station. In any event, it’s worth checking it out the next time you need water and pull into a rest area.
Most rest areas have public water fountains so, at the very minimum, you could fill a small bottle of water for drinking.
State or City Parks
State or City parks may have public water spigots where you can get a reasonable amount of water.
Rivers or Lakes
When all else fails or if you’re camping near a river or lake you can simply gather water from the stream.
I can’t vouch for the drinkability of the water so you’ll need to decide that for yourself.
Water Storage Tips For Van Life
There are a few items I recommend having in order to collect and store water in your van:
Having a hose is optional but it really does come in handy and makes water collection easier.
Not wanting (or needing) to store a full length hose in the van, I cut the hose down to about 5 feet.
I only use my hose to fill my water jugs so a 5 foot length has works well for me.
IMPORTANT! When cutting the hose be sure to keep the correct end. You need the end that screws into the water spigot (as shown in the picture above).
Hose Update: Since originally writing this article, I purchased what’s called a leader hose. It’s just a mini hose that’s about 5-6 feet long. There’s no need to cut it and it costs less than a full length hose.
Portable Water Containers
A popular portable water container is the Coleman 5 Gallon Water Jug.
I used the Coleman when I first started van life. The Coleman is sturdy and I loved that it had a water spigot instead of a cap. It was easy to get water out without having to take the cap off.
The only problem I had with the Coleman water container was that it was square and took up a lot of floor space under my bed (where I store my portable water containers).
I later switched to a Reliance water container because it’s tall and slender, holds more than the Coleman and takes up less floor space under my bed.
In the pictures you’ll notice that my Reliance water container has a spigot.
The fact is, this Reliance container does NOT come with a spigot – it comes with a cap.
I prefer a spigot so I swapped the cap from the Reliance with the spigot from my Coleman. The Coleman spigot fits perfectly on the Reliance water container.
Which portable water container do I recommend?
I recommend both the Coleman and Reliance water containers.
Whichever portable water container you choose you’ll need to consider how it will fit in your van set up.
It doesn’t happen often but you may come across water spigots or faucets that you can’t pull your van next to.
Water weighs about 8.34 pounds per gallon. A full 6 gallon water container would weigh about 50 pounds.
If you’re like me you may not want to carry a 40 or 50 pound water container very far so you need an alternate method of getting your water tanks filled.
In this case, it’s good to keep at least one empty 1 gallon water jug handy (or a similar, small container). This way you can fill the small container at the spigot, easily carry it to your van and transfer the water in to your larger water container.
To pour the water from the small jug to the large water container it’s a good idea to use a funnel (or risk spillage).
The funnel I use is long and narrow. I chose this style because it takes up less space than a wide funnel AND it fits well in my water container AND it doesn’t flop out of the container as I’m pouring water into it.
Finding Water For Van Life – Conclusion
Once you learn the ropes, finding water while living in a van is fairly easy and will become like second nature.
You may find that you don’t need to look at an app or website because you’ll intuitively know where to find water.
More Van Life Articles: Topics and Articles.