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As you may already know, boondocking is our favorite way to camp. We love the desert, the forest, camping beside a body of water – anywhere we’re surrounded almost exclusively by nature. Our Class A RV allows us to boondock for long periods because we have large holding tanks for fresh, gray, and black water. But many RVs and travel trailers don’t have that luxury. Having enough fresh water for drinking, cooking, and washing for an extended period can be a real issue. This is where an RV water bladder can come in handy.
What is an RV Water Bladder?
An RV water bladder is a collapsible water storage container with an outer shell made of a durable material that can be expanded to hold a significant amount of water.
Many RV water bladders have a food-grade inner liner, which is important if you intend to drink or cook with the water you’ll store in the bladder. For water bladders that will hold water for drinking and cooking, be sure to look for one that’s advertised as a potable water bladder.
The outer shell, if it has one, is generally made of a lightweight material such as food-grade plastic or durable nylon, and the inner shell may be made of polyurethane. Fully collapsed and containing no water, an RV water bladder generally weighs anywhere from a few ounces to up to several pounds, depending on the size of the bladder.
RV water bladders come in sizes that can hold one gallon of water or 300+ gallons, and any amount in between.
Bearing in mind that water weighs about 8.3 pounds per gallon, you (and your RV) need to be prepared to carry the weight of a full water bladder. If you want to carry an extra 150 gallons of water in the bed of a pickup truck, for example, you need to be aware that you’ll be hauling around nearly 1,250 extra pounds! And you’ll need to plan how you’re going to transfer that amount of water from the bladder in your truck into your RV as you need it.
If you’re traveling in a small RV or a van and your fresh water tank is 20 gallons or so, maybe you’d like to carry an additional 20 gallons of water. Great idea – just be prepared to carry about 166 extra pounds safely.
What Are Water Bladders Used For?
A collapsible water bladder has many uses. In addition to providing a flexible means for RVers and campers to carry (or go get) extra water, water bladders are used to store water for emergencies. They’re used to carry water to fight fires or to do landscaping or washing in areas where there is no accessible water source. They’re used at construction sites to carry water for anything from drinking to mixing concrete, and for portable pressure washing businesses.
There are also small water bladders for personal use by runners, bikers, hikers, and other athletes.
How Much Water Can a Water Bladder Hold?
A personal water bladder can hold as little as a liter of water, but containers appropriate for use as RV water bladders typically vary from as little as five gallons up to 300 gallons or even more (again, keep in mind that a 300-gallon water bladder, when full, weighs about 2,500 pounds)!
Water bladders that are used for disaster emergencies, military use, firefighting, agricultural uses, nurseries, and rainwater collection systems can hold as much as 50,000 gallons of water. These are, of course, highly specialized water bladder tanks, (also called “pillow tanks”).
Benefits of Using an RV Water Bladder
There are many benefits of using an RV water bladder, for RVers, campers, and folks living in static homes.
Emergency Water Stash
Having an emergency water stash is always a good idea. Water is an incredibly important factor in all of our lives for drinking, feeding animals and plants, washing, and so much more.
Storing water in large hard-sided containers requires a lot of room. Which is one of the big advantages of water bladders for RVers. Since they collapse when not in use, water bladders use far less room, but can still be used to store very large amounts of water.
Collapsible When Empty
Water bladders are collapsible when they’re empty, and are lightweight and very easily stored. When a water bladder is not being used to store water, it can be folded and packed away out of sight in a small space.
Extends Travel/Boondocking Time
Running out of water is a primary reason to leave a great boondocking spot. We all need water. We need to regularly drink it, cook with it, and wash with it. And most of us need our morning coffee! Having to break camp and take the RV to a location where water can be replenished can be a real bummer, especially if you’re camping relatively far from the nearest town.
An RV water bladder can serve to significantly extend a boondocker’s trip by allowing the refilling of fresh water tanks from the bladder. An RVer traveling in a fifth wheel, for example, could easily carry an extra 100 gallons of water or more in the bed of their truck.
Even an extra 10-20 gallons of water could significantly extend the amount of time boondockers can enjoy their camping spot.
Water Bladder Options for Your RV
There’s a wide variety of RV water bladder options available to RVers interested in increasing the amount of water they can carry and store. Let’s take a look at a few of those options as you consider whether carrying an RV water bladder might be helpful to you.
- "THE BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD FOR THE RV OWNER" Sick and tired of stretching hoses while you're out boondocking? Don't go dry camping without...
- "DECEPTIVELY TOUGH!" Our AQUATANK-2 systems have state-of-the-art material that is thinner and lighter than any rubber bladder but much stronger than...
The Aquatank2 15-Gallon Storage Bladder is a BPA-free water bladder made of a durable nylon exterior and 100% food-grade TPU (polyurethane) inner lining.
The bladder weighs only five pounds when empty and can be easily stored away in the included box in a tiny space when not in use.
When full, the Aquatank2 15-gallon water bladder is 24″ wide x 36″ long x 8″ high. The bladders have standard garden hose thread connections for easy filling and pumping.
The manufacturer of Aquatank products notes that these bladders are intended and warrantied for a static environment. They recommend securing the bladder tightly: (1) to be sure the weight of the bladder doesn’t shift suddenly while underway, and (2) to ensure that sharp objects don’t come into contact with the bladder and puncture it.
The Aquatank 2 is also available in a larger 30-gallon size.
- FLEXIBLE WATER TANK FOR FRESH WATER
- BISPHENOL A FREE
Nautos Flexible Fresh Water Tanks are available in a variety of sizes including 9.25 gallons, 13, 26, 33, 40, and 52 gallons. These bladders are BPA-free and have a 38mm inlet valve and a 12mm outlet valve for transferring water.
These bladders expand to a variety of shapes depending on the size purchased.
An interesting feature of the Nautos water bladders, that we think is a big benefit, is that the inner chamber of the bladder can be removed from the external envelope for easier cleaning.
- ⛲ ALWAYS FRESH TASTING WATER - REPLACEABLE INNER LINERS made from food grade, BPA free material are the unique feature of this water storage...
- ⛲ NO LEAKS - HEAVY DUTY CONSTRUCTION - the outer water storage bladder bag is made from military grade material creating a puncture...
The EZ Pack Water Storage Bladder is available in 5, 10, 25, and 50-gallon sizes. (For reference, these bladders will weigh 45, 90, 225, and 450 pounds respectively when full, so choose carefully)
The EZ Pack’s inner liner is made from food-grade, BPA-free material and is independently replaceable. The external bladder bag is made from military-grade material and is puncture-resistant.
The EZ Pack bladders are a bit different than some of the other options in that they have nice wide openings and don’t require a pump to fill. They can be filled from a standard faucet or hose, and the opening is even large enough to allow the addition of ice cubes (if that’s important for you).
The exterior pack has four strong handles to assist in transporting the bladders when full.
- Folds flat for compact storage and transport (hook and rope included)
- Heavy-duty polyethylene carrier resists dents and cracks
Another popular option for having a small, manageable supply of extra drinking water onboard your RV is these Coleman collapsible water carriers. While not, technically, a “bladder”, they do allow you to bring along (or go pick up) an easy-to-handle quantity of water.
They’re made of heavy-duty polyethylene plastic that is potable-water safe and resists dents & cracks. The built-in handle makes it easy to carry, while the removable on/off spigot allows for easy filling when needed. And with the spigot removed, the opening is large enough for adding ice cubes, again if that’s important to you!
We picked a couple of these up at a local Walmart when we were boondocking in a fantastic spot we didn’t want to have to leave, just because we were low on fresh water. They worked perfectly and are folded flat and stored in our basement for future use.
Want To Super Size Your RV Water Bladder?!
If you have a large vehicle, like a pick-up truck, that can handle both the size and weight of a really big water bladder, here are a couple of options for bringing along enough water for a LONG boondocking stay in one spot.
How To Transfer Water From A Water Bladder
Once you have a supply of fresh water in a water bladder, the big question is: “How do I get the water into my RV now?”
If the bladder is small enough to handle, and if your RV has a gravity-feed port… you can simply pour the contents of the water bladder directly into your RV’s fresh water tank. The only thing you may need to assist you is a clean funnel, like this collapsible silicone funnel or even a stainless steel funnel.
If you’re dealing with a large water bladder that you can’t pick up and carry, there are a couple of options:
- Gravity: If the water bladder is in your tow/towed vehicle, it may be high enough that it will gravity feed the water into your RV. In this case, you just need a large enough drinking-water-safe hose to connect the bladder to your RV’s water intake.
- Drill Pump: If gravity won’t work for you, and/or if you don’t have a gravity-feed inlet for fresh water on your RV, you could use a small drill pump along with a cordless drill to transfer the water to your RV. This is best for smaller bladders, though, as a drill pump won’t be all that fast and may have limited battery power.
- Transfer Pump: For larger volumes of water you could utilize a transfer pump that has a high flow rate and comes with the same 3/4″ fittings used by freshwater hoses. There are 120V models and 12V models available, so choose which one works best for you.
- Spare Fresh Water Pump: For the DIY crowd, you can even use a spare RV fresh water pump… although you’ll need to either create your own hoses for attachment to the pump’s inlet/outlet ports (usually 1/2″ NPT thread) or adapt those ports to fit standard water hose connections (3/4″ garden hose thread).
- Winterizing Kit: If your RV is plumbed the same way ours is, you can take advantage of the built-in winterizing kit to use your existing onboard water pump to suck water from a water bladder into your RV’s fresh tank. Just note that MOST RVs are NOT plumbed in a way that makes this possible, so be sure to check your plumbing before assuming this will work for you.
To see how we use our winterizing kit to pump water into our fresh tank, you can watch our video about sanitizing our fresh water system. In that video, we draw a water/bleach solution into the tank. If your plumbing is set up like ours, you can do the same thing to fill your fresh tank from a bladder, leaving out the bleach, of course. This is the method we use to add additional water to our tank during long boondocking stays. The relevant part of the video showing how we draw water into the fresh tank starts at about 3:30.
Is Using an RV Water Bladder Worth It?
If you need to store or carry water for any purpose, especially for RV travel and camping, an RV water bladder is surely worth considering. Easily stored when empty, and easily transported when full, their benefits could far outweigh those of a hard-sided water storage container, depending on how you travel.
Water is a necessity. If you run out of it, you’ll have to break camp and find some fast. An RV water bladder – whatever size you’re capable of comfortably carrying when the bladder is full – could serve you in many ways.
The beauty of RV water bladders is that when not in use they’re compact for easy storage, and they come in sizes appropriate to any type of traveling, from biking to RV travel.
We like to make sure our water is safe to drink, so we use the Acuva UV-LED water purification system.
Acuva installation video:
Testing of the Acuva system:
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