How to Get Water As a Vanlifer


Sep. 30 2021, Published 2:09 p.m. ET

How do vanlifers get water?
Source: Getty Images

When you choose to take your entire life out onto the open road, there are a few things you may miss right off the bat: regular showers, running water, and perhaps most important of all, a toilet. These things are a bit of a luxury for anyone who lives the free-wheeling, off-the-grid lifestyle of a vanlifer. If this is a life that you’re seriously considering, you probably find yourself wondering, how do vanlifers get water?

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The most important thing is to have large jugs that you can fill with water throughout your travels, as well as a filtration system in case you pass through areas with unsafe drinking water. Here are a few methods for obtaining water, whether it's for drinking, cooking, or bathing.

Visit with family and friends.

If you have friends or relatives scattered across the country, as many people do, van living offers a perfect excuse to pop in for a visit. These visits aren’t just good for reconnecting with folks you may not have seen in a while, they also present good opportunities to avail yourself of their facilities for an evening. We’re certain that any good friends and family won’t mind letting you share a shower, use their bathroom, or stock up on some fresh water for the next leg of your journey.

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A couple of vanlifers
Source: Balkan Campers/UnSplash

Look out for Sanidumps.

According to FarOutRide, one of the best tools for vanlifers to find water on the road is a website called With an easily recognized name and a clear, user-friendly interface that allows travelers to find locations to dump their holding tanks and collect fresh water, Sanidumps is every vanlifer’s best friend. It has been a tool of vanlifers and RV enthusiasts since 2006.

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To use Sanidumps, just navigate to the website, enter your country, state, or province, and click on the nearest location on the Google Maps interface. You should see a series of campgrounds, gas stations, municipalities, and more that allow for dumping and/or have available water. Not all locations on the map are free, however. Those labeled in green are usually free, red indicates that the water is for “registered guests only,” and blue means there is a fee involved.

Vanlifer working out of van
Source: Brina Bloom/UnSplash
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Campgrounds often have water pumps.

National parks and campgrounds often have water supplies that visitors can access, though many of them are only available for paying visitors. According to Bearfoot Theory, vanlifers who pay to enter such places should be sure to take advantage of any time they spend by availing themselves of the restrooms, showers, and water fountains within the park.

That said, filling up a water tank might require you to bring your own hose and/or adapter, so be sure to carry a universal one with you amongst your limited possessions. It’s also important to note that not all the water in campgrounds is filtered, especially if you’re getting it right from the hose or tap. Just be sure to filter it before you drink it, either through a built-in filtration system in your van’s water supply or with a water purification filter in your personal drinking vessel.

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Vanlifer camping site
Source: Johannes Hofmann/UnSplash

Stores and commercial buildings have water too.

There is bound to be a whole mess of stores, restaurants, businesses, supermarkets, and commercial buildings along the road. This is especially true for those traveling through urban or suburban areas. Unfortunately, according to Vanholio, many of these buildings don’t have outdoor taps that are easily accessible to vanlifers like yourself. This is probably for the best, however, as rather than sneakily “stealing” water, one could try asking for some.

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Don’t be afraid to ask clerks, security guards, custodians, and building managers if you could have access to some water for your journey. If it’s a business, they might ask you to buy something, but you can coincide your need for clean water with a chance to eat out, fill up on gas, or buy some road trip snack essentials.

Vanholio indicates that in many parts of the U.S., grocery stores, dollar stores, and convenience stores have filtered-water vending machines available to travelers. You can usually fill your own jugs for around $0.30 a gallon.

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