Water is an essential element that every human and animal (and RVer) needs to survive. But not all water is necessarily safe to drink. Which means this exploration of RV water filtration can affect your health while you’re on the road. So please pay attention…
Below, we will cover what “drinkable” water is, common issues you may run into, and how filtration can help create consistent quality drinking water on those long RV trips. And yes, it’s just as important even if you are just a weekend camper.
RV Drinking Water Basics
Water is by far the most unique substance on earth. Water can exist as a solid, liquid and a gas. It can change states from one to another (solid to a liquid, liquid to a gas) and also can go from a solid to a gas (sublimation). It also is the one element that is essential to all living creatures.
But not all water is drinkable. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines drinking water (or potable water) as “water that does not represent any significant risk to health over a lifetime of consumption, including different sensitivities that may occur between life stages”.
The WHO releases guidelines defining water quality, but it ultimately can vary from country to country (in the United States, the EPA governs standards for drinkable water) on what is defined as “drinkable”.
Chances are if your water comes from your local city or municipality, you receive a yearly report on water quality. This report usually will contain numbers for different levels of metals or metalloids, bacteria, viruses, chemicals, minerals, sediments, and other contaminants.
If, however, your water comes from somewhere else, it may not have a water quality report, or even be sampled. This will beg the question “is this safe to drink?”
Drinkable…But Not Desirable
As you travel across the country in your RV, you’ll find different water sources across the country in different locations. Most campgrounds are either supplied from a municipality or a well. However, the water quality may not necessarily be consistent.
Water quality is different depending on where you are in the United States. Water in Arizona tends to be hard due to the large deposits of magnesium and calcium in the area. Florida water tends to have a rotten egg smell due to the higher concentrations of hydrogen sulfide in the water supply.
Both of these may be different from the area you are from and what your body is used to. This can make your travel experience less than desirable. Having a consistent, quality water source while you travel in your RV can be key to making your trips as enjoyable possible.
It can also prevent unwanted illnesses, stomach issues, or even simply “bad” tasting water.
RV Water Filtration Options
Water filtration in your RV is a way to guarantee you will have similar water quality no matter where you are. Filtration can come in many sizes, shapes, and price points for RVs.
We’ll cover filtration from simple inline filters to the most advanced and expensive setups, along with a few others options in between.
If you are like us, having an elaborate water filtration system may not be first on your RV upgrade list. For us, a common Brita Water Filter pitcher found at any big box store has been at great place to start.
If you have a larger size refrigerator in your RV, a Brita water dispenser may be a more convenient option.
Brita filters use carbon and a type of ion exchanging resin to filter out mercury, chlorine, zinc, copper, cadmium, lead and other heavy metals.
There are many style of pitchers available in various sizes. While the pitcher takes up precious cabinet space, for us it has been our first step into water filtration.
Don’t forget about Berkey
Another portable option, especially if you still own a home or home base, is a Berkey countertop water filter. You have probably seen these before since they seem to have a very enthusiastic fan base.
Berkey buyers rave about the great taste of the filtered water and love their sleek look and polished stainless steel construction. These water filtration systems rely on gravity to pull the water through a series of filters that remove sediment, heavy metals, and even fluoride.
These filtration systems are known for consistently providing high quality water. Like the Brita pitchers, they can take up a lot of room and will have to be secured before your RV is in motion to avoid a mess.
Inline water filters
Inline water filters are the most basic water filter that you can find at your local big box store. As the name implies, they go “inline” with your water hose after it leaves the faucet you are connected to.
They usually have a pre-filter used to capture sediment (material floating in the water that you may or may not be able to see), KDF (Kinetic Degradation Fluxion), activated carbon granules, and a post filter.
All of this is usually located in a cylinder shaped rugged housing. The blue Camco TastePURE filter is usually the most popular in my opinion throughout the campground. These filters usually provide a first level of water filtration removing gross sediments and contaminants along with removing lead, chlorine, hydrogen sulfide, mercury, and iron, all while being in a price point that most RVers can easily afford.
The KDF portion of the filter helps prevent bacterial growth in the filter while the filter is not in use. While being the cheapest option at well under $20 per filter, this is a good first step in providing your RV with quality, drinkable water no matter where you go. It is readily available at many big box stores or RV supply stores in addition to the online options.
Canister filters provide a higher level of protection than inline filters, but of course at a slightly higher price point. The “canister” refers to the container that the filter sits in. Filters that are available in this category range in size and shape, along with filtering material. In addition, costs can vary widely as well depending on what you need.
Not surprisingly, a good starting point in this category is the Camco EVO Premium line of products. This is a one stage filtration option.
But if you are looking for a more robust and effective two-stage system, or two filters in line with each other. The ClearSource brand, while considerably more expensive, seems to lead the pack for RVers.
Multi-Stage System Details
With two-stage filter systems, the first filter is usually filled with a sediment catching material, trapping any of the larger pieces of sediment in the water and also preventing the second filter from clogging up.
The second filter usually contains a solid carbon block filter. This is used to catch lead and other metals, along with bacteria and waterborne organisms such as giardia.
(ClearSource does also offer an upgraded 3-stage filter for a bit more money as well, if that floats your boat.)
The carbon filter does the bulk of the work, filtering particles and illness causing bacteria and viruses down to the 0.5 micron size (micron is used to describe the filtering size, meaning 1 millionth of a meter). Some setups can also add a third filter, specializing in removing even more iron, lead and other heavy metals. The setup can also include an anti-scaling filter to remove any hard water issues.
Amazon offers just about any type of multi-stage filter you could need at prices you will find hard to beat, so be sure to explore their selection if you are in need.
Reverse Osmosis (RO) Systems
Reverse Osmosis (RO) systems represent the next step up when it comes to water treatment. RO is a process by which water is forced through a semipermeable (passible) membrane to filter out any contaminants. You’ll see this used in certain areas to turn saltwater into fresh drinking water.
Reverse Osmosis systems for RVs usually contain several filters besides the Reverse Osmosis filter. These systems usually include a sediment filter, a carbon block filter of some kind, and the Reverse Osmosis filter. One downfall of the Reverse Osmosis filter is the fact that the reverse osmosis process strips most of the minerals from the water.
(Note: The RO product pictured above is a tankless option, which is considerably more expensive but far more compact and suitable for small RV spaces.)
To remedy this mineral issue, a fourth filter is added that remineralizes the water. The product is clean, fresh, and quite delightful tasting water. These systems contain a pressured water reservoir to help aid in the RO process, and will require lots of room to be installed.
We should also mention that many of these types of treatment systems require installation of an additional small faucet for the RO water to be dispensed through. And many include a holding tank in addition to the filters, so they can take up considerably more space and may not be feasible for many RV sizes.
Be sure you are clear on how much space your system is going to require before making a purchase and moving forward.
UV Filters and Treatment
Ultraviolet light (UV) is the “cream of the crop” when it comes to RV water treatment. Ultraviolet light is on the electromagnetic spectrum between visible light and X-rays. UV is used in water filtration systems to kill any and all bacteria and microorganisms.
Energy from the UV light penetrates the organism on a cellular level, destroying its ability to grow or killing the organism all together. This type of filtration system requires either a 12 volt or 120 volt power source to power the UV light.
A sediment filter is usually placed inline before the UV light source, filtering out any large particles that might act as “shadows”. Shadows refer to places where bacteria/other microorganisms could “hide” behind and escape the glow of the UV light. This filter also removes any iron, lead, and other contaminants to help create a better tasting water.
UV filtration systems are usually installed in the kitchen of the RV. Many people find space to install them in the cabinet directly underneath the kitchen sink. But obviously, many RVs would not be able to accommodate this size unit.
Acuva sells a great compact unit that is sleek and can be well hidden in the cabinet beneath the kitchen sink. This allows you to still store other essential items in the cabinet as well.
Which Type of RV Water Filtration is Right for You?
Whether you are a weekender or travel full time, good quality water is a must. Selecting the best RV water filtration option for you may depend on your rig, space available, or simply your desire to have an option that is easily replaceable.
We hope this information has helped you narrow down the options and given you the tools you need to make the best selection for you. Cheers to safe and great tasting water no matter where you choose to roam. We’ll see you on the road!
Nick and Kelsey Hensley are part-time RVers and full time adventure seekers. Nick is a Rocket Scientist by day and a Certified RV Technician by night. Kelsey works as a freelancer, photographer and digital ninja. With their two kids, the Hensleys road trip across the country every summer on their quest to see all 62 National Parks. On the weekends you can find this nerdy crew at a campground, historic site, or checking out the newest restaurant in town.