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RV water filters probably aren’t the first thing to leap to mind when you’re contemplating everything you need before you hit the road in an RV. But water flavor and quality can be variable when you’re camping, whether you’re staying in campgrounds or boondocking off the grid.
Access to clean, fresh water for drinking, washing dishes, cleaning up, showers and even teeth brushing is an important part of any RVing adventure. The last thing you want to see when you turn on the tap is a brown stream that looks like something out of a horror film. And dirty, gritty water isn’t just bad for you – it’s bad for your RV’s plumbing system, too.
Although water quality can be a bit unpredictable from location to location, there is a solution: RV water filters. We’ve been using a water filtration setup ever since we first hit the road in 2015. This means we’ve always had clean, great-tasting water wherever we go, whether we’re in a large metropolitan city or dispersed camping miles away from civilization.
In this post, we’ve taken everything we know about water filters for RVs and distilled it down (pun intended) into an easy-to-use article, so you can decide what type of RV water filtration system is right for you.
What Does an RV Water Filter Do?
The goal of an RV water filter is to remove sediment (like dirt and sand), heavy metals and some can even remove other microscopic unwanted contaminants (like bacteria and viruses) from your RV’s water supply.
Campground water quality is all over the map, and that goes double if you’re getting your water elsewhere like an unknown water tap at a truck stop. Some places have great quality city water that’s tested regularly. Others have brown well water running through old pipes near the septic system.
We have traveled to areas with boil water advisories and you definitely don’t want to drink any water that might be dangerous. It can also be unsafe and unpleasant to wash up in bad water, too. That’s where RV water filters come in.
RV water filters offer three primary benefits:
- They improve the taste of your water by reducing chlorine and contaminants
- They protect your plumbing and appliances from clogging and damage caused by sediment buildup
- Some can even keep you safe from harmful microorganisms
They are also a great way to save money and reduce your environmental impact, since you won’t need to buy expensive bottled water – or waste plastic. Depending on where you are traveling, finding plastic recycling centers can be a challenge.
RV water filtration and purification systems can range from simple and budget-friendly to pretty darn fancy, so sit back and relax as we take you on a tour of the wide world of water filter options.
Types of RV Water Filters
For the purpose of this post, we will look at two main categories of RV water filters:
1) Exterior RV water filters that go between the spigot and the RV’s fresh water tank,
2) Interior drinking water filters that go between the fresh water tank and the faucet used for drinking water.
Exterior Water Filters for RV
These exterior RV water filters sit between the city water hookup at a campsite or spigot, and your RV’s fresh water system. They are called “inline” filters because they filter all of the water that goes into your RV, not just drinking water. The inline RV water filter is also what you’ll find when looking for a water filter for your RV hose.
The inlet and outlet size for an inline RV water filter is a standard 3/4-inch threaded fitting which will work with the drinking water hose for RV that we use.
Inline RV water filters run the gamut in price, from simple and inexpensive to more elaborate, pricier systems. Some of those systems combine drinking water purification with an inline system, but most are carbon filters or sediment filters.
These filters are primarily designed to remove sediment and odors from the water that goes into your RV’s fresh water system. They won’t remove or kill microorganisms like bacteria and viruses, and are generally rated to filter material larger than 20 microns from your water.
Carbon Inline RV Water Filters
Many campgrounds provide chlorinated city water. Carbon filters remove the taste and smell of chlorine from the water you’ll use to drink and wash. This makes a carbon filter a good option if your primary goal is to improve the taste and smell of your water.
Carbon removes chlorine from water using a process called adsorption. As water flows through the filter, chlorine and other contaminants stick to the surface of the carbon block, so they don’t enter your RV’s water supply.
Carbon also removes pesticides, herbicides, and other unwanted things from water. If your water source isn’t extremely dirty (with bacteria or sediment), a carbon filter will probably be the only filter you need.
Sediment Inline RV Water Filters
Sediment filters pull dirt and debris from the water, extending the filter lifespan of any downstream water filters (like the carbon filter mentioned above) and protecting your plumbing system from excessive wear and tear.
You know you need a sediment filter if your water is a murky color, usually brown or yellow. If it tastes dirty, it could very well be because there’s dirt in it, so sediment filters can help with taste, too.
If you’re getting water from any place other than a standard municipal system, a sediment filter is highly recommended. Luckily, these are often sold as a two-step filter in tandem with carbon, so you can buy both types of filter in one affordable package.
Best Inline Water Filter for RV
Our top picks for inline RV water filters are small, portable units that combine carbon filtration and sediment removal. They are small and easy to carry, usually very affordable, and will improve water taste and odor.
Clear2O RV Water Filter
This is the inline water filter that we currently use. Clear2O is BPA free, has a 1 micron filter element with a capacity of 3 to 6 months depending on the quality of water flowing through the filter.
We also use the Clear2O DirtGuard Sediment Pre-Filter which has a 20 micron filter element to eliminate particles such as sand and sediment before it gets to the 1 micron inline filter. This pre-filter can be washed and reused, which is a bonus.
Check out our Q&A with Keith Bernard, CEO of Clear2O where he answers the question “What sets Clear2O inline water filter apart from Camco TastePure inline filter?”
Camco TastePure RV Water Filter with Flexible Hose Protector
This is the inline water filter we used before we switched over to Clear2O. The Camco TastePure has a 20 micron filter element with an average capacity of 3 months.
Waterdrop RV Water Filter with Hose Protector
Waterdrop also has a 20 micron filter element with an average capacity of 3 months similar to the Camco TastePure at a fraction of the price.
Omnipure Inline Water Filter
Omnipure is Made in the U.S. and has a 5 micron filter element with a capacity of up to 1,500 gallons.
AQUA CREST RV Inline Water Filter with Hose Protector
AQUA CREST has a 20 micron filter element with an average capacity of 3 months.
USA Adventure Gear RV Water Filter
This 3 in 1 inline water filtration system has a 20 micron filter element with a capacity of up to one year year, or 25,000 gallons.
One drawback to the above inline water filters is that they have short lifespans. Depending on the brand, they may only be rated to last an average of 3 months depending on frequency of use and water filter storage method.
If you are a full time RVer, it might be worth exploring a bulkier, more expensive RV canister water filter system.
Top Picks for RV Canister Water Filters
There are quite a few options when it comes to RV canister water filters. Many of them have similar lifespan as an inline RV water filter, but have replaceable filter elements. It’s good practice to make note of the micron rating and average capacity of the water filter.
Clearsource RV Water Filter System
One of the top canister RV water filter systems is by Clearsource. It is significantly more expensive than the other water filter options we’ve covered so far with several key differences.
- 2 stage water filtration system
- Rated to process 2,000 gallons of water
- Has a 0.2-micron filter
According to the Clearsource FAQ page, the water filter replacement recommendation is 2-3 months for full time RVers, 6 months for frequent weekend RVers, and once a year for the occasional RVer.
Clearsource also released the Ultra RV Filter System which is a 3 stage RV water filtration system. The key difference is the Ultra has VirusGuard, which is supposed to remove or reduce viruses, bacteria and cysts.
Camco EVO Premium Water Filter
This is the canister RV water filter we used when we first hit the road. At the time we were in a Class A motorhome which had a large wet bay for storage. The Camco EVO uses a 5 micron filter element that can be replaced at the recommended interval.
Now that we’ve covered exterior water filters used to fill the RV’s fresh water tank, now it’s time to move inside the RV and explore those interior water filter options.
Drinking Water Filters for RVs
Purification eliminates bacteria and viruses from water that could potentially be unsafe, whether it’s slightly questionable well water at a campground or water from a lake or river in the backcountry.
The flow rate for these water purification systems is typically low, which means some RVers will install a separate tap for drinking water only.
For this post, we’ll cover three methods for purifying drinking water: ultraviolet (UV) light, reverse osmosis, and activated carbon.
Ultraviolet purification systems are great for potentially unsafe water that contains bacteria, viruses, and other nasty things that could make you sick.
The way they work is also pretty cool. UV lamps emit radiation (in a way that’s safe for you) to break up the genetic code of bacteria and viruses in the water, so they die before they ever reach your body or the UV prevents them from being able to replicate and make you sick.
The system is usually just a tube to hold the water, with a UV bulb at its core. The water must be exposed to the light for a minimum period of time to be sterilized. The longer the UV exposure, the better.
We should warn you, though – UV systems only make your water safe to drink. They do not improve the smell or taste of the water, and they won’t remove sediment. Be sure to use an inline filter to catch those things and keep your drinking water tasting good.
Some viruses can’t be removed through filtration, so UV purification systems are great for those. If you plan to boondock without easy access to city water, a UV purification system is worth considering.
Another benefit to UV systems is that they don’t affect flow rate. That means you don’t have to sit patiently and wait for your water glass to slowly fill. They also require minimal electricity to power, and will last several years before they need to be replaced.
Popular UV Water Purification Brands
Viqua makes different types of stainless steel ultraviolet water treatment systems that can be incorporated into your RV water system.
Bluonics makes an ultraviolet light water purifier that goes under your RV sink. They also offer a 30 day money back guarantee with a lifetime technical support.
Reverse Osmosis (or RO) systems are great for RVers who want their water as clean as possible, with all solids removed – no matter how tiny.
The RO system works by forcing water through a semipermeable membrane of very tiny pores. These pores strip everything out of your water that isn’t H2O. They include a sediment pre-filter to pull out larger debris before the water flows through the membrane, and a carbon post-filter finishes off the process by improving taste.
Having a reverse osmosis system in the RV does include some significant drawbacks, though. They can be heavy and bulky, which isn’t always conducive to RV life.
They also require a dedicated storage tank for wastewater that is pumped out of the system. This water is called brine, and contains the contaminants that were filtered out. A reverse osmosis system isn’t very practical if you will be camping off-grid for any length of time, because they require so much water to use. (They’re great if you’re on a boat, though!)
Reverse Osmosis Systems for RVs
Express Water offers different models of reverse osmosis water filter systems that can be mounted under the RV sink. The 5 stage RO water filter is the least expensive and has the option to attach additional filters such as the UV water filter and alkaline water filter which are included in the 11 stage system below.
Express Water‘s 11 stage UV and reverse osmosis water filtration system is also mounted under the sink. The water flows through a sediment filter, a carbon block and granular carbon filters, a reverse osmosis membrane, alkaline filter, ultraviolet sterilizer, and finally passes through a post activated carbon filter.
iSpring also makes a 5 stage reverse osmosis water filter that mounts under the sink. This system includes a water softener in addition to the faucet and tank.
Activated Carbon Filters
You don’t have to install an under-sink system to drink purified water while you’re on the road. We don’t have the space for a UV or an RO system, so we’ve been using the Travel Berkey for years. Read our Berkey Water Filter Review.
Activated carbon filters are gravity-fed, and will also remove cysts, bacteria, chlorine, heavy metals, fluoride, and viruses from drinking water. They sit right on your countertop, use no electricity and are easy to fill and use.
They can be cleaned and reused many, many times, so they are one of the longest-lasting systems out there. For us, that made the Berkey more than worth the initial expense. Another benefit is that you can take these drinking water filters with you if you are renting an RV or traveling outside your own camper.
Keep in mind that with this type of counter top water filter, you will need to secure it before you get on the road (that’s why we have a pre-departure check list). Having used the Travel Berkey in a Class A, Class B, small Class C and now a pop-up truck camper, the good news is we figured out a way to secure it during travel all those types of campers.
Pentair, Pentek, Everpure, Shurflo Water Filters
It’s worth mentioning that Pentair makes several different types of water filters for RVs and they also make the Shurflo water pump, which may very well be in your RV.
Check out their RV catalog for a list of water filtration products which includes inline filters and canister filters. These products may be branded as Pentair, Pentek, Everpure or Shurflo. The company also makes a residential reverse osmosis drinking water system.
Portable Water Filters for Camping
So what happens when you find a water filtration/purification system that you love, but it’s too bulky to take with you? That’s where portable water filters for camping come in. These are great for when you’re heading out on a long hike or even taking a trip abroad and leaving the RV behind.
We’ve used some ultra-portable water filters that allow us to have access to safe, clean drinking water no matter where we go. This can save you from having to buy bottled water in places like Mexico – where sometimes bottled water is just tap water, so be careful!
The two brands we’ve used and tested are Sport Berkey portable water filter and the GRAYL portable water filter. They both work as “on-demand” filters, meaning you force water through them when you’re ready to drink.
Sport Berkey works by running the water through the filter when it’s sucked through the straw, before it touches your mouth of course.
GRAYL works more like a French press. You fill the bottom chamber, and press down on a plunger when you’re ready to fill the inside cup with clean drinking water.
Both of these portable water filters will allow you to fill your water bottle anywhere, whether in a big city or from a stream in the backcountry, and enjoy safe, clean drinking water.
Backcountry Camping Water Filters
If you really get off the beaten track, you might want a water purification system that’s designed to pull water directly from a natural water source, like a river or pond.
Guzzle H2O stream is a portable water purification system that includes a pump, so you can pump the water straight from any source (a natural water source or even a hose). You then get sediment filtration plus UV light to purify the water and make it safe to drink.
The company also has the Stealth water purification system which is a built-in water filter system for campers. Note, their website states that heavy metals and toxins are not removed by the Guzzle H20 system.
Which RV Water Filter is Right For You?
As with most things RV-related, your needs will depend on where you’re camping and how you like to travel.
Here’s a list of questions to ask when determining what type of filter will best suit your needs:
- What’s in the water? If you’re at an established campground and the water looks and tastes fine, an inline sediment and carbon filter will do nicely. If you’re drinking lake water, or even questionable-looking well water, you should include a way to purify the water.
- How much filtering is needed? Once you have a fair idea of what’s in the water, you will know how much filtration is necessary. If there is no visible sediment, and you simply want to eliminate chlorine and unpleasant taste, a classic inline water filter that removes anything larger than 20 microns will do fine.
- How often will you use it? An expensive purification system may not be worth the investment if you only use your RV for a few weeks per year. On the other hand, even a very expensive system could be well worth the investment for full-timers.
- What’s the cost over time? Do the math! Estimate how much water you will drink and use over the course of your travels, and compare the cost of an RV water filtration system to the cost of purchasing water. If you don’t travel often, but do like to camp off-grid, it might make more sense to fill large jugs with filtered water from Walmart than to purchase a pricey system.
Frequently Asked Questions about RV Water Filters
What RV water filter system do you use?
We have a two-step system for filtering our water. First, we use the Clear2O inline water filter with the DirtGuard. Then, we run all of our drinking water through the Travel Berkey. We’ve used an inline filter system and the Berkey which has served us very well for years—and we have camped in some very off-the-beaten-path places.
What is the best tasting water filter?
The answer to this question depends a lot on personal taste. In general, you will get the best taste using a carbon and sediment filter that will remove dirt, grit, and chlorine from the water you drink.
Do RV water filters remove chlorine?
Most RV water filters will remove chlorine. UV water filters don’t, though, so check the specifications of the water filtration system carefully before you buy.
How long do RV water filters last?
This depends entirely on the filter, how often its used, how its stored and what the manufacture recommends. Some inline filters manufacturers recommend changing the filters out every three months or up to 500 gallons. Compare that to the Black Berkey filters which are rated for 6,000 gallons and we use it everyday.
The best approach is to check with the manufacturer of the system you are investigating to find out how often filters should be replaced, and what kind of maintenance is involved. Make sure to factor this into your total cost of ownership.
RV Water Filter Q&A with Keith Bernard of Clear2O
Question: What sets Clear2O inline water filter apart from Camco TastePure inline filter?
Answer: On the surface, only a difference in color is really noticeable: we’re green and they’re blue. But underneath is where the comparison really starts. Camco uses carbon in a granular form; you can tell because when you shake the filter you will hear the granules shaking inside. The space between granules is quite large, which allows water to pass through without being affected by the carbon’s absorption capabilities. Thus, the amount of contaminants that it captures is limited to those that affect taste, color, and some odor removal. Depending on the model, the Blue filter may also contain a small, non-woven, sediment filter that helps to diminish sediments down to a 20-micron level. Overall, you do get some level of filtration, but not enough to handle the tougher contaminants.
Our CLEAR2O® Inline Filter is different as it utilizes a solid carbon block approach, so the gap between carbon particles is minimal, forcing the water to penetrate the wall of carbon. And because the carbon is compressed, the filter contains approximately 20% more carbon by weight. This design gives our filter a much higher absorption capacity, allowing it to remove contaminants like lead and mercury, as well as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) like Benzene. It works very well to remove chlorine and hydrogen sulfide taste and odors. Since the entire filter is a solid carbon block, it filters particulates down to a 1-micron level – 20X (or more) better than Camco. If you experience bad campground water. Our CLEAR2O® filter will give you fresh-tasting water well beyond what the Blue filter can produce.
Question: What are some of the most common misconception about water filtration in the RV space?
Answer: The most common misconception is that you need to take bottled water with you in order to have good water to drink. Bottled water is costly, heavy, and not environmentally friendly. You can get very high-quality water with an efficient filtration system. Additionally, bottled water does not really solve your other water uses (showering, rinsing, cooking, etc.). So, if you won’t drink it, why shower in it? Again, a good filtration system will improve your overall campground water experience.
Question: What is the ideal water filtration setup in an RV?
Answer: Where possible, we like to think in “3’s”:
The First stage is to pre-filter (5-20 microns in size) your water, which helps to knock down any silt or sediments in the water and reduce clogging in your other filters. Usually this is the least expensive filter and should be changed most often.
Second, use a carbon-based filter for its absorption characteristics (usually 5-10 microns in size). This is where the chemical contaminants, heavy metals, etc. can be extracted and prevented from entering your system.
The recommended Third stage is a low-micron filter to reduce any biological contaminants or fine particulates from entering (<1 micron in size). This third stage is for your drinking water and can be done a number of ways, such as a whole-coach canister type of system, an under-sink system, or high-quality refrigerator filter. This also helps improves the taste of your coffee and eliminates the need for carrying all of that bottled water with you.
Phew! You made it through the whole post. Hope you found this helpful in your search for a water filter system for your RV.
Are you new to RVing? Check out our Beginners Guide to RVing.