Every RV camper knows the three essential hookups typically on offer at campgrounds and RV parks: electricity, water, and sewage. For all the freedom RVing offers, many RV owners rely on parks to provide these basic amenities. Though electricity and sewage are pretty much the same everywhere, you’ll find the quality of water differs from one park to the next. Rural RV campgrounds may provide well water that can have impurities, while urban RV parks may connect to a city source whose chlorinated tap water can be unpleasant to drink.
This is where your RV water filter comes in. Water filters can remove impurities, bacteria, and unwanted smells or tastes. There are many options for water filtration systems, and there are two main components to understand: the filtration method and the placement of the device.
The best RV water filter options include carbon blocks, sediment filters, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet (UV) light purification. For the filter placement, an inline or canister filter can go under the sink or outside your RV, and a filter/pitcher combo sits on your countertop. Each of these categories has some advantages and some drawbacks. Understanding them all will help you find an RV water filter system that makes the most sense for your needs. Also, check out the Tap Water Database to learn about your area’s water quality and explore different filtration methods for specific contaminants.
Types of Water Filter Systems
If your water is discolored or murky, you’ve got an issue with sediment. Dirt in your water is not just unappealing and unsafe but also bad for your RV’s plumbing. The small particles suspended in the water can build up and clog your pipes, which in turn damages your plumbing and fixtures and weakens your water pressure. It can also clog the rest of your water filter and render it ineffective.
This is exactly why some water filters utilize sediment pre-filters. Essentially a fancy screen, this filter physically blocks particles from getting through. It’s recommended that your RV has one as the first line of defense for your entire RV water system for all the reasons listed above. If you hook up exclusively to city water, it’s not imperative, but if you connect to a campground water supply, it can be essential.
Carbon filtration systems are efficient ways to get clean, great-tasting water. With the popularity of companies like Brita and Pur, you’re probably familiar with this filtration method. Here, a solid but porous carbon block filter directs the water flow through small channels where it comes in contact with a lot of carbon. This granular activated carbon binds impurities, essentially trapping them and releasing only clean water into the pitcher.
Carbon filters are great for removing chlorine’s smell and taste, which cities use as a disinfectant. They also effectively remove pesticides, bacteria, and dirt.
Ultraviolet light filters eliminate bacteria from unsafe drinking water by exposing it to lightwaves that kill harmful organisms and prevent future bacteria growth. If you are traveling to an area with questionable water, a UV filter will help prevent you from getting a water-borne illness.
For the infrequent RV camper who only uses their plumbing a few times a year, a UV purification system can help clean dormant water that has been sitting in your system for a while. If you live full-time in an RV, constant water turnover in your system helps keep it clean, though you should still sterilize your storage tank often. While UV filtration is excellent for cleaning water, it doesn’t help with the taste or smell. For this reason, the best RV water filters pair a UV system with a carbon filter.
A reverse osmosis system (RO) is the most comprehensive filtration method but can be a tricky installation for an RV. RO systems force water through a semipermeable membrane that removes dirt and bacteria from the water. These systems have sediment pre-filters and drain wastewater called brine. An RO water filter requires a storage tank and pump for the filtration process and dedicated drainage for contaminated water.
Reverse osmosis systems can take up quite a bit of space, and with its complexity, it filters at a much slower flow rate than any other water filtration system. However, if you choose to allot the necessary space and build secondary drainage, you’ll get amazing quality water no matter where you travel. Those who choose to install an RO system in their RV often only use it to supply their drinking and cooking water.
Filter Placement Options
The water filter system you choose will likely influence where you put it in your RV. One convenient design connects the RV water filtration system directly to your plumbing, and it’s understandably called an inline water filter. If you go this route, you can tuck the water filter next to your water supply tank or under the kitchen sink. You could also filter the water outside of your RV, connecting the inline filter to the water inlet source.
A canister RV water filter is a second option that you can customize based on your needs. Canister filters allow you to drop in one, two, or three filters, depending on their size and your needs (so, for example, you could run the water through a sediment filter in the first canister, and a carbon filter in the second canister). This filtration process could happen under the sink or outside the RV before the water comes into your storage tank. Campendium community members Justine and Scott recommend the Clearsource Premium RV Water Filter System, which is a sediment and carbon filter system set in canisters.
Reverse osmosis systems are only available as a canister system since they are too complex to fit into an RV inline water filter.
Countertop water filters use gravity to pull the water through their filter. Featuring nozzles like water coolers, these are just for drinking and cooking water. A Campendium community favorite is the Berkey water filter, a countertop gravity system that filters out 99.9999% of viruses, bacteria, heavy metals, and pharmaceuticals.
For something a bit less intense (and friendlier on your budget), Brita and Pur water pitchers have built-in activated carbon filters and can sit on your counter or in the fridge. They have limited capacity, and the filter lifespan is only a few months, but the filters are easy to replace.
This filtration system is best if your camping spot has relatively clean water for brushing your teeth, showering, and washing dishes. However, if you want to make sure it is safe for all your water systems, you’d want to consider a filtration system that connects directly to your plumbing.
There are many RV water filters for removing bacteria, dirt, and chlorine tastes from any water source. With everything out there, you can surely find multiple products that strike a good balance between your water filtration needs and the size restrictions of your RV.