Updated: Jul 8, 2019
When we started traveling, water didn’t seem like it was going to be that big of a deal. Why is this you say? Well, for starters, we had the RV in the driveway and could fill the water tanks whenever we needed it. Every time we went on a shakedown trip, we were at campgrounds, so we became rather complacent. Oh well, learning as you go has always worked well. As we started boondocking on our first night fully moved into the RV, we discovered how precious water is. Every drop is precious, conservation is key, and finding it can be quite tricky. There have been times we’ve had to drive 30 or more miles each way to find some potable water.
Here is a list of our top 6 options for finding water.
1. NATIONAL PARKS:
This has been a great option because with the America the Beautiful pass (https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/passes.htm), it’s only $80 per year to visit all the National Parks and National Monuments. This pass not only saves you a ton of money (average costs per park are $33), but most have a campground and a water fill station. The water fill stations work great in a pinch, but the campgrounds are easy because you can head in, fill up your 5-gallon buckets, and head out. We always carry three 5-gallon collapsible jugs in the back of the truck so we can grab extra water when we’re out exploring. With the pass, you get in free, so even if you’re not going to the National Park, you can always stop by and get water.
2. GAS STATIONS:
This one is hit or miss. We’ve found a couple of them along our travels, such as the Gila Bend Shell Station in Arizona that not only had free potable water, but a free dump station! Most of the time, the water is non potable, but there are times you can find potable water. I’ve heard you can find some on the diesel side of truck stops, but every time we’ve been in these areas it’s been packed, and I really don’t want to hinder those that are working and needing to fill up and go.
3. Wal-Mart & Whole Foods:
While there have been water fill stations at various grocery stores (Albertsons, H.E.B., Family Dollar, etc.), it’s not always the case. The stores aren’t consistent, unlike Wal-Mart and Whole Foods who tend to consistently have a water station. The average cost per gallon at Wal-Mart is around $0.29, while Whole Foods is around $0.39. Wal-Marts are all over the place, which makes it super convenient. As for Whole Foods, we get our packages from Amazon lockboxes there so it’s an easy double dip. The best way to find which Wal-Marts have the self-refill option for water is to use the Primo website and do a quick search in your area (https://primowater.com/find-shop). Since Wal-Mart only uses Primo water stations, you can utilize the Primo site to locate the nearest Wal-Mart or find other grocery stores that might have a station.
This might seem intuitive, but it’s not just about filling up your water when you stay at a campground. Instead, it’s about going to a forestry site, BLM campground, or regular campground and simply filling up your 5-gallon tubs. We will often just drive through one and fill up 15 gallons of water to take back to the trailer. Most sites don’t seem to mind you snagging some water.
5. Relatives & Friends:
Nowadays, we have so many people in our lives that are all over the country. Even if they are nearby, these are still accessible options for water. When we stay near relatives, we’ll fill up completely once a week sometimes. Having these relatives and friends spread out across the country will only boost your options for a drive-by water fill. Don’t forget to actually say “Hi” though.
6. Filter Your Own:
We use our Sawyer 1-gallon filter, which will do 1 gallon at a time. I than pour the filtered water into the 5 gallon jugs we have. This is time consuming, yes, but is not only extremely helpful when you've run out of water in the middle of nowhere, but also free. It'll take a couple of hours to fill a 5 gallon jug. The top picture was from filtering fresh melted snow water, most definitely worth the time and effort. The water was the best I've ever had and the scenery made the time worthwhile.
Hopefully this guide can help alleviate the fear of finding water when you're out traveling.