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Camper Van Water Tanks (A Beginner’s Guide)

Looking to install a fresh water tank in your camper van? Check out this post to learn more.

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Storing water in a camper van is a critical ability that allows you to prepare meals, clean up afterwards, shower, and more. This is accomplished by installing water tanks in the camper van. However, there is a diverse range of water tanks that you can choose from, and each type has their pros and cons.

Some water tanks are permanently installed while others can be easily removed and filled at a local tap. In our camper van, we chose to use removable water containers which has made filling our fresh water tank and dumping our grey tank a simple procedure.

In this post, we review the different types of camper van water tanks and provide intuitive diagrams, with detailed component recommendations, that illustrates how to install these tanks into your van’s water system.

Important To Know: We separate this list of water tanks into fresh, grey, and black water tanks.

Let’s dive into it.

Fresh Water

Removable Water Tanks

Portable water containers are the most popular fresh water storage option for budget camper van builds. The biggest reasons for their popularity are:

  • Cost Effective: Cheaper than standard RV water tanks.
  • Space efficient: Rectangular design fits conveniently under sink.
  • Easy to remove: With the right accessories, tanks can be disconnected & removed.

IMPORTANT: We specifically recommend the Reliance ‘Aqua-Tainer’ because of the cap design, which has a threaded spigot hole (see below image). We take advantage of this threaded hole to connect the rest of the plumbing components.

Reliance Aqua-Tainer water container cap indicating the center threaded hole
Reliance 'Aqua-Tainer' cap with threaded spigot hole
#1 Recommendation
Reliance 7 Gallon Water Container

Product Recommendation: This removable 7-gallon tank lasts us ~4 days. Because the tank can be removed (with a quick-release fitting), it is easy to fill and clean. Useful cap design for attaching a PEX straw to draw water. Hard rigid plastic is durable for van life.

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09/16/2023 09:45 pm GMT



Installation Diagram

Modifying the water container cap

Fresh Water Tank

Holds fresh water for faucet


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PEX Pipe (Straw)

PEX Pipe straw goes bottom of water tank and pulls out water. (Pump Required)


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Crimp Copper Ring

Crimps PEX pipe onto various plumbing fittings.


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1/2″ PEX to 3/4″ Male NPT

Connects to PEX pipe (straw)


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Quick Release (Bottom Half)

Allows fresh water tank to be disconnected and removed from van.


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Adapter (3/4″ F-NPT to GHT)

Converts NPT to GHT threads.


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Modifying the water container cap

In the two pictures below, you can see how we connected the water container cap to red PEX pipe. This pipe acts as a straw to draw water from the bottom of the tank.

Showing how to connect PEX pipe to a water container cap to create a straw
Showing how to insert a metal plumbing fitting through the water container cap

Materials List

Below are the materials you would need set up the portable water tank so that it can be integrated with the rest of your water system.

  • Description:

    Makes it easy to separate the water tank from the water system to refill with water.


Perfect all-in-one starter plumbing kit. Includes all basic materials & tools.


Inserts through Reliance cap's threaded hole and attaches to NPT-GHT adapter.


Adapter to switch from NPT to GHT threads.


Makes it easy to separate the water tank from the water system to refill with water.

For more full installation guidance (with materials list) for this specific container, read our sink installation post.

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Plumbing eBook For Camper Van Conversions

Download our free PDF to help build your van's plumbing & water system. From the fresh water tank to the pump and finally to the faucet and shower, this free eBook has you covered. 12+ pages of detailed diagrams and product recommendations.

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Fresh & Grey Water

Fixed Water Tanks

Fixed water tanks are designed for camper vans and RVs and can store anywhere between 5-50 gallons of water. Depending on the model, these tanks can be installed either inside the vehicle or outside, under the chassis.

Recommended Fixed Tank
Class A Customs Spouted 20 Gallon Water Tank

We also use a water tank from Class A Customs and love the strong, rigid plastic build. We recommend getting a 'spouted' water tank, which simplifies the water inlet installation process.

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09/16/2023 08:56 pm GMT



Fixed Water Tank Anatomy

Fixed water tanks are more complicated to install than simple water containers. Below are the four ports to know when installing a fixed water tank.

Fresh Water Tank Ports/Openings
  • Inlet port: Where fresh water enters.
  • Air vent port: Where air enters & exits.
  • Outlet port: Where fresh water exits.
  • Drain port: To drain and empty the water tank.

Popular Fixed Tank Sizes

Below are several of the most popular sizes for fixed water tanks. All our recommendations below are ‘spouted’ water tanks, which we recommend to make installation easier.

Spouted Water Tank Size

Where To Buy?

10 Gallons

16 Gallons

20 Gallons

25 Gallons

30 Gallons

How much water do you need? To help you decide what size water tank you need, we list our water usage rates below.

  • Food Prep and Cleanup: 1.5-2 gallons per day
  • Shower: 3-4 gallons per person
  • Drinking Water: 1/4 gallon per person per day

The larger the water tank, the longer you will be able to go without needing to fill up again. But in general, we recommend getting a 20 gallon tank, which should allow you to travel 4-6 days in-between refills.

Installation Diagram

Below is an intuitive diagram to help you install a fixed tank in a camper van. Note that we detail two different ways to fill the tank with fresh water (fill tube or water inlet dish). It is up to you to decide which method you prefer.

Connecting various plumbing components to a fixed water tank

20 Gallon Spouted Water Tank

Holds 20 gallons of fresh water


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Drain Valve

Used to empty water tank completely during maintenance and storage


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1/2″ Male To 1/2″ Barb

Inserts into air vent port


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Hose Clamp

Clamps braided hose tube onto 1/2″ male barb


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1/2″ ID Braided Tubing

Vents air in and out of water tank


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1.25″ ID Hose Tubing

Connects water inlet port to water inlet dish


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Hose Clamp

Connects braided tube to water inlet dish. (Included when buying the 1.25″ hose tubing

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Water Inlet Dish

Installed outside of van and allows you to fill water tank from public water spout


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Water Tank Plug

Plugs water inlet port so water doesn’t splash out when driving


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Fill Tube

Connects to hose and is inserted into water inlet port to fill tank


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Connecting various plumbing components to a fixed water tank

Materials List

For more detailed installation guidance (with materials list) for fixed water tanks, read our shower installation post.

Undermount vs. Interior Water Tanks

Another benefit of these fixed water tanks is that they can be installed either inside or outside, under the chassis, of the vehicle.

Installing a water tank under the vehicle is more complicated but frees up valuable interior space for other purposes. But one of the downsides of an under-mount installation is, depending on the outside temperature, you may not be able to use these tanks in sub-freezing temperatures.

Interior vs Undermount Fresh Water Tanks

Good to know: Under-body water tanks are also slightly different in shape, so make sure you’re buying the right tank type for the location you want.

Specialty Water Tanks

For maximum space efficiency, NW Conversions sells fixed water tanks that are specially designed to fit over the wheel well of most commercial vehicles, including Sprinter, Transit, and Promaster vans.

Water tanks that fit over the wheel wells of vans.
Water tank that fits over the wheel well of a van.
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Fresh Water

Standard 5-Gallon Water Bottles

For the most convenient, headache-free fresh water storage solution, purchasing a 5-gallon water bottle is the way to go. This is for three reasons:

  1. Exchangeable: If you buy your 5-gallon bottle at a grocery store, you’ll be able to exchange the empty bottle for a full bottle. You won’t have to pay for the plastic bottle again, just for the water.
  2. Easily Refillable: You can find water refill stations using Google maps and the iOverlander app. Sometimes there are refill kiosks outside grocery stores.
  3. Minimal Plumbing: Attach a small pump to the mouth of the water tank for virtually no plumbing.
5 Gallon Fresh Water Tank
Standard 5 Gallon Fresh Water Bottle



We recommend pairing this type of water tank with an electric water pump.

Top Budget Pick
5 Gallon Electric Water Dispenser

Ideal pump to pair with 5-gallon water bottles. Charges via USB can be used for 4-5 bottles before needing to recharge."

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09/16/2023 10:00 pm GMT

Grey Water

Jerry Cans

Jerry cans are a type of portable water container but are taller and more narrow in design. We use this particular Reliance-branded tank because it comes with a funnel which allows for a simple connection with the Camco sink drain.

Recommended Grey Tank
Reliance 6 Gallon Rigid Water Container

Ideal portable water container for grey water since Camco sink drain fits snuggly into funnel, when inverter inside container. Read installation guide below for more information.

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09/16/2023 10:05 pm GMT



Installation Guide

Below is an installation diagram for how to integrate a grey water jerry can to the sink.

Connecting sink to grey water tank for camper van sink system.

Ruvati RV Sink

Highly recommended, space efficient camper van sink.


-> Buy On Amazon


-> More Information

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Goose Neck Water Faucet

Recommended water faucet for easy dish cleaning


-> Buy On Amazon


-> More Information

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Camco Sink Drain Hose

Attaches to bottom and sink and inserts into grey water tank (into inverted funnel inside tank)


-> Buy On Amazon

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Grey Water Tank (with funnel)

6-gallon grey water tank that connects to Camco sink drain hose


-> Buy On Amazon

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Angle Stop Valve

Attaches to hot faucet’s hot water line (if no hot water connection)


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Connecting sink to grey water tank for camper van sink system.

Materials List


Perfect high-quality sink for van life. Spacious, tough, and comes with useful accessories.


Best drain tube for camper vans & RVs. Connects to any sink threading and comes with flexible hose to direct water to grey water tank.


Ideal container for grey water since Camco sink drain fits snuggly into funnel, when inverted inside container.

For more detailed installation guidance (with materials list) for this specific container, read our sink installation post.

Black Water

Standard Black Water Tanks

These camper van tanks collect waste water primarily from the toilet and shower. And unlike standard grey water tanks, black water must be disposed of in designated dump stations. Black water tanks are typically installed outside, under the chassis of the camper van.

Good To Know: Installing a black water tank is tricky. You will need to drill through the van's floor to connect the toilet & tank. You will also need to drill your own black water inlet port and air vent.



Our recommendation is to skip the black tank since they require you dump at designated RV dump stations. We don’t have a toilet in our camper van and never needed one.

Black Water

Gatorade Bottles (Urine Only)

No joke, plastic bottles are a popular camper van solution for storing pee. They’re space efficient, can be emptied in any public toilet, and easy to clean. We’ve been using empty bottles for the past 4 years and have been perfectly fine with it.

We recommend Gatorade (and Vitamin Water) bottles for their bigger spout openings. We’d prefer not to get into the specifics here, but trust us when we say that the larger opening is more helpful.

Plastic bottles can replace camper van toilets



For women, a Gatorade bottle works best with a female urination device (aka ‘pee funnel’). It takes some time to get used to, but Yuko swears by it.

Top Pick
Female Urination Device (aka "Pee Funnel")

Product Recommendation: Used in conjunction with a water bottle. Yuko swears by this method and says she'll never go back to having a toilet in our camper van again!

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09/16/2023 09:51 pm GMT

How To Clean A Camper Van Water Tank

Once every 3-4 months, we like to sanitize our fresh water tanks (fixed tank & jerry can) by flushing chlorine solution through our water tanks, pipes, and pump.

  1. Prepare a chlorine solution by mixing ¼ cup of household, unscented bleach with one gallon of water.
  2. You will need one gallon of this chlorine solution for each 15 gallons of tank capacity.
  3. Never pour pure bleach directly into your water tanks.
  4. Pour the diluted chlorine solution into your water tank and fill the remaining capacity with water.
  5. Turn on the water pump and allow chlorine solution to sit in the pipes.
  6. Allow the solution to sit in the water tank and pipes for 3 hours.
  7. After 3 hours, drain and flush with fresh water
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Conclusion: Get The Best Water Tank For Your Unique Needs

When building a camper van, selecting the right water tank that meets your camper van needs is critical.

But there is no ‘best’ water tank.

When planning what type of tank to purchase, we recommend thinking about how you plan to use your camper van.

  • How long do you plan to travel for?
  • Do you plan to boondock? For how many days?
  • Will you have a built-in shower?
  • How important is it to remove your water tanks to refill?
  • What is your budget?

Once you build around your selected water tank, it can be difficult to go back later and change the configuration. So it’s a good idea to plan ahead and design your water storage solution in advance.

Happy building!

Thank You For Reading!

We’re Yuko and Eric! We both grew up in Asia ( Japan & Hong Kong ), we left our jobs and homes in 2018 and started traveling full time from Canada to Argentina in our self-converted camper van since end of May 2019. “Asobo” means “Let’s play” in Japanese. We named our site “Asobolife” because the life is always uncertain and we live only once so it’s important to always keep positive, playful mind and enjoy the moment you are in the present. We also want to use this website to share our road trip and van building experiences to inspire our readers. We hope you enjoy!

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