The Evolution of On-Board Water Systems

Nothing beats the feeling of walking up to your vehicle, pressing a switch or turning a tap, and watching a clear stream of Adam’s ale fill your favourite tumbler just like it does at home.

With vehicle accessories becoming more and more sophisticated it is hard to not succumb to a myriad of ideas on how to use these accessories into camping luxury. On-board water systems are no exception, in fact, it is very high on most overlanders’ must-do lists.

Now… the concept is usually the easy part for most. “Where do I store my water?” and “Where do I want my outlet?” The execution however is the downfall of many. The reason is simply that there is still a lot to consider for a system that seems so simple and basic.
When we discuss water systems with clients, more often than not, they walk in with their concept and after only a few minutes realise that they have not prepared for the questions and ideas we present. That is completely ok, and it is why we are here. To help tailor the perfect solution for your application.
The first step is deciding on the tank. There are a number of factors that determine the final decision. The most common ones include:
  • Material: Stainless Steel vs Poly is the main one. The differences being, taste (although with maintenance and BPA free requirements this is becoming less of an issue), costs of stainless steel vs poly, baffles (SS would most likely have baffles and poly would not as it is impossible to do given the process).
  • Space: Bit of a no brainer. Just keep in mind to allow space for fittings coming out of the tank. If space is not an issue, keep in mind that you would like to have the tank as low as possible on or in the vehicle and between the axles if possible. This is usually an issue faced with larger volume tanks. Speaking of larger volumes, when considering anything over 60L we would generally advise to get a stainless steel tank as the baffles really come into play with those types of volume.
  • Quality: Remember stainless steel isn’t stainless steel and poly isn’t poly. Sounds a bit daft, but the message is to be aware of lower grade materials. A stainless steel tank with porous welds can still be prone to corrosion and a poly tank with all the enviro jist can still deteriorate in the sun.

Found a tank? Great, now onto the next step.

Any water system should have some fundamental points, these include:

  • Filling Point: This should be large enough for the anticipated flow of filling and in an accessible position where accidental overflow will not cause issues to electrics or cargo.
  • Single or Dual Outlet: A single is fine. It is best to have both pump feed as well as a gravity feed or just a gravity feed if you are not planning an electric system. In the event the pump fails you will still have access to your water.
  • Breather: This is usually an overlooked port. The breather will ensure that steady flow is achieved without creating a vacuum on dispensing or a pressure vessel on filling (in reverse fill or mains fill applications). Always ensure that a breather is extended as far as possible to minimise water seeping out when the vehicle rocks and sloshes the water around.
  • Gauge: This is not a critical point as there are ways to estimate the water level. It is quite handy and serves as a great quick reference. The most common types are a sight gauge or an electric float/sensor gauge found in most RV’s.
So now we got the basics covered. We have a tank, we know where it is going and what is required to come out of it. Time for some more tinkering. Now we have to establish all the other accessories and parts. The pump, valves, fittings, tapware, hoses etc. In regards to pumps ,it is easy to get confused with flow rates and pressures but the main idea is to try and use a pump that allows adequate flow without depleting your tank too rapidly. There is no point using a 17Lpm pump on a 20L jerry can to try and fill your billy in 0.2s flat. Caravans use these but it might be because of the distance it has to push water and that most of them have at least 200L of on board water.

And then we add the crown jewel. That one item that elevates your camping experience to that of royalty, the Hot Water System.

I can already hear the swag men and women shout “blasphemy!” Now brothers and sisters, lend me your ears as I am also an avid swag camper. This is not a matter of laziness or ‘glamping’, it is about getting with the times and being able to utilise what is readily available to further enhance our outdoor experience. I for one would much rather spend 2min preparing a cuppa and enjoying the sunrise.

Before you cast judgement, picture this

You have been on the road for the past 3 days without a clean. It is hot, dusty and your mate’s “trusty” ol wagon decided now was a good time to retire the alternator. You decide tonight’s the night. You flick that switch and watch it glow with anticipation as you make your way to your next campsite. On arrival you can barely contain yourself as you whip out the ensuite and let the clothes fly. As the outback chill creeps up you plug in your shower head and press the switch and feel the magic of 37 degrees hitting your body almost instantly.

Eat your heart out Danielle Steel. Well I know the blokes reading this will not be too impressed. But lads, you want to get your missus out there and enjoy the bush together, let them have a read…

As romanticised  as this sounds, it is very much a reality and one we have been installing into campers and vehicles for the last few years. The trick is in the execution. Take your time, research and ask questions.

Of course we offer fully tailored systems to each person’s application and we only use parts known for lasting the distance. In 2022 we will also be launching some new ‘kit’ systems which will be modular to a degree so each person can choose to add what service they want out of their water systems.

For more information please visit our website or flick us an email on info@procampsolutions.com.au

We look forward to hearing from you.