Finding Free Water on the Road

Before starting this journey, one of my concerns was finding water on the road. Once you start looking, it’s pretty easy. It’s sorta like spotting Pokemon.

My water tank is 42 gallons. I can stretch this out to over three weeks if I need to. I’ve gotten very good at conserving water. Normally, I’ll need to fill up every two weeks. I only use this water for drinking, washing dishes, and washing hands. The key is to just fill up the tank whenever you spot water and fill up your water bottle any time you see a water fountain.

My two favorite places to find water are rest stops and parks.

rest stop water

Many rest stops have these things around tables. It’s not potable water, but I’m pretty confident in my filtration system. Unfortunately, I usually can’t drive my van close enough to use my hose. I use a container like this one instead: Jeep Style Rigid Water Container. The issue with this method is the pouring. The first time I tried to pour this into my water tank, I spilled water everywhere. I found this siphoning hose I use instead: Super Easy Siphon. It makes it a breeze.

spicket key

A lot of parks have this style instead. I look around the bathroom buildings. Sometimes they’re in the back of the building. You can’t use them without a key. I order this: Jones Stephens Four Way Key.

hose filling

When I can get my van close enough, I’ll connect a hose to fill the tank. I’ve actually upgraded to a food grade hose since this picture. This is by far the fastest and easiest way to fill the tank. I have various connections and valves that I use with the hose, so I can control the flow and connect it to just about anything.

Some people have asked me about collecting rain water. If you want to see an example of that check out this video:

Personally, I think it would require too much maintenance. It’s a cool concept, but not really needed for my lifestyle. I’ve never been desperate for water. I can find it easily.


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  • Thanks for the info, it’s good to know you can find water all around… I wonder if it’s the same in the UK. I’ve never really looked but I imagine so.

    We have plenty of rain though, so a simple rain collection system would be a bonus. Until it overflows and floods the van :/

    • Joe

      haha you’ll have to have an overflow valve that runs to the ground!

  • Scott Mauer

    Great nuts-and-bolts van living info, thanks! I’ll be rolling out with a few jerry cans once I get my turbo repair done for my trip to Portland. We have a Berkey filter we’re not using, and it didn’t occur to me until now that it would be handy on the road since it can turn most non-potable water drinkable. I carry around a steel water bottle pretty much everywhere and fill it up every chance I get. I’ve only got 5 gallons in and out containers in the yurt, but I use 12v windshield-washer-powered bug spritzer head for my sink, which is super water efficient.

    I finally traced my turbo problem to a leak in a steel EGR tube, and parts on on the way. I have pretty much all the major parts for my conversion, but none of them are assembled or installed yet. I’m gonna just throw it all into the van and take it to the west coast.

    Among those things I got is the factory relay for my alternator. I went with 4 Interstate 6V flooded 210AH batteries from Costco instead of AGMs in the interest of lower expense and being ok with a 5-7 year life span. I’ll have to find a vented box that will fit all four. My biggest issue with the conversion now is that I won’t know which layout I want inside until *after* I’ve taken my first cross-country weeks-long trip. Until then I can’t commit to any given internal layout, which means no fan, wires everywhere, etc. But once I’ve had some time to road test it, I’ll have an alpha config I’m willing to commit to, and I can start cutting holes in the body.

    • Joe

      Sorry Scott, for some reason I wasn’t notified of this comment. I’m just seeing it now. That Berkley filter will be great. I’ve seen other people use those spritzer things for sinks too. Glad you got the turbo problem solved. I pretty much did the same thing as you. I ordered all the major parts and then built the van. I actually considered the 6V at first. You’ll probably change your planned layout several times.

      • Scott Mauer

        The process of fixing the turbo did some damage to my wiring harness, which I’m still chasing down, but the van finally drives normally with full turbo. Unfortunately my Mom fell and broke her arm when I was visiting her in Dallas, and so instead of my west coast vacation I’m stuck here playing nursemaid to her until she’s more able to live by herself again. I got new tires and tire sensors, and saw an error-light-free dashboard for the first time since I got the van! The good news is that by the time summer arrives next year, the van should be mostly done. I haven’t had a chance to work on it more up here yet, but I’ll probably start shoving things around in a few days once things are more under control here.

        • Joe

          Life always gets in the way. Hope she has a fast recovery!