What Is the Difference Between a Garden Hose and an RV Drinking Water Hose?

Read this before buying an RV water hose

A hose is a hose … or is it? Before you’re tempted to save a buck by connecting a garden hose to your RV freshwater tank, stop and read this article. There are good reasons why RV supply stores want to sell you a real RV freshwater hose instead.

On the surface you might think that all water hoses are the same. And RV drinking water hoses cost at least twice as much as a garden hose. If you’ve ever wondered if putting an RV water hose label onto a hose is just a marketing ploy, you’re not alone. The truth is, RV drinking water hoses are not just a gimmick.

The important differences between a garden hose and an RV water hose can mean the difference between putting poison into your body and staying healthy.

An RV water hose may seem like a pretty simple thing: it’s just the tube connecting you to the city water hookup and ensuring fresh water comes flowing out of your taps, shower head, and toilet.

And in many ways, an RV water hose is pretty simple. But there are also a few things to know about these important pieces of equipment before you set out on a camping trip.

For example, an RV water hose is different from a standard garden hose and you will also need a water pressure regulator to ensure the city water pressure isn’t too strong for your RV’s sensitive systems.

In this post, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about RV water hoses—so let’s get started.

Water hose and pressure regulator attached to city water connection © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is the best RV water hose?

You will find an RV water hose on every RV accessory and camping checklist. After all, since we all need water to survive it’s a pretty important piece of equipment. If you have visited a local RV supply store you know there are different types of water hoses for your RV. The two main types of RV freshwater hoses are:

  • RV drinking (or potable) water hoses
  • RV heated water hoses

The best water hose will vary for each RVer depending on their needs (or even just their current destination and season).

But there’s one rule of thumb I want to ensure you have locked down before you even think about buying an RV water hose and that’s this: No, your normal green garden hose will not cut it!

Garden hoses are not rated for potable water in the same way RV drinking water hoses are and they can leech chemicals into your water supply that taste and smell bad and can even be toxic.

So when you’re in the market for a water hose for your RV make sure that first and foremost you find one that’s specifically made for drinking, or potable, water.

Different types of RV water hoses

Let’s take a more detailed look at the types of RV drinking water hoses.

RV potable water hose

I’ve already mentioned potable and drinking water hoses as the terms are interchangeable. Often, these hoses are bright white or blue to distinguish them from typical green garden hoses.

Heated RV water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heated RV water hose

If you’ll be traveling somewhere where the temperatures dip below freezing a heated water hose is essential to ensure your water source doesn’t freeze up. If you keep using a regular hose at sub-freezing temperatures the hose is apt to split when the water inside it freezes leading to a mess that’s no fun to clean up in chilly temperatures—not to mention a lack of water coming out of your taps.

Heated RV water hoses are well-insulated and come with electric elements to physically heat the hose itself and keep the water inside from freezing. They are also rated for drinking water and thus are safe to use for RVers. The heated hose usually has a heat strip along the side of the hose. That strip is plugged into a standard 110 volt electrical connection to heat it up. Since the hose stays above freezing the water in the hose will not freeze and continues to flow freely into your RV. They are sometimes also called no-freeze water hoses.

Heated water hose attached to city water connection © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Benefits and features of RV water hoses

Of these various types of RV hoses many also advertise additional perks such as no-kink, no-twist, or no-tangle.

RV water hoses come in various lengths but the most common are 6-, 12-, 25- and 50-foot lengths. If you have camped much at all you know the distance from the campground water source to your RV can vary greatly. Having different hoses with different lengths can come in handy. Ideally, you want just enough length to get you connected without putting a strain on the hose. You also do not want a curled up hose as they tend to kink and restrict water flow (even when they’re advertised as no-kink hoses. If you have more hose than you need its best to stretch it out to create a smooth water flow inside.

That said, it makes sense to carry multiple drinking water hoses in your RV. The best RV water hose is the one that’s long enough to cover all your bases without being unwieldy. That is why I recommend two 25-foot hoses rather than one 50-foot hose.

RV water hose and reel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV water hose pricing

RV water hose pricing does depend on the brand and type you get and heated RV water hoses are, not surprisingly, considerably pricier than those that don’t come with insulation and heating elements. A heated RV water hose might set you back about $100 whereas an uninsulated (but potable-water-safe) RV drinking hose will cost about $10-$30.

What to look for when buying an RV water hose

When shopping for an RV water hose, be sure to look for one that specifically states its drinking water safe. After that, you’ll want to buy your hose based on whether or not you need a heated hose for winter camping and then you can think about extra additions like kink-free or tangle-free hoses. Some RVs come with built-in storage devices like a hose reel; hose bags are also available to keep your coiled-up hose stored neatly and securely.

Another accessory you need for your RV water setup is a water pressure regulator which helps ensure the city water pressure isn’t too strong for your RV’s sensitive system. Water pressure regulators are relatively inexpensive with prices starting at about $10-$15 and it’s certainly a whole lot less expensive than dealing with a plumbing system fiasco.

Psst: Your RV water hose and its various accompaniments are only one of the many RV parts and accessories that can make or break your camping trip! Click here to read my post on must-have RV accessories which will get you up to speed on everything from sewer hoses to electoral adapters.

This is why you need to attach a pressure regulator to your city water connection © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Garden hose

  • Often made from unregulated e-waste materials
  • Usually contain unregulated amounts of lead, BPA, and phthalates
  • Another toxic plasticizer used to make garden hoses includes polyvinyl chloride, a substance connected to various cancers and health problems
  • Other harmful substances include organotin and antimony
  • Water tastes terrible when taken from a garden hose

RV drinking water hose

  • Must meet a set of federal standards
  • Drinking water hoses must comply with the 2014 Federal Safe Drinking Water Act
  • Materials can withstand UV breakdown and chemical leakage into water
  • RV drinking water hose materials don’t have BPA or phthalate toxins
  • A DWS Drinking Water Safe hose is NSF certified and FDA approved
  • Water tastes better

Connecting a garden hose for RV drinking water purposes puts you at great risk of health issues now and in the future. Is your life worth saving a few pennies? What about your loved ones?

Buy an RV water hose and use it to prevent health problems. Add a high quality RV water filter system for a higher level of protection.

Water filter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV water hose: FAQs

I’ll finish out this article about RV water hoses by answering some of the most frequently asked questions about them.

Can I use a garden hose for my RV?

Remember my first rule of thumb above: NO! Your general green garden hose is not safe to drink from. They release heavy metals and other toxic substances into the water that can make us humans sick.

Can I use a drinking hose as a garden hose?

Now, in the other direction, exchanging your garden hose for a drinking hose would work just fine but a drinking hose is more expensive than a garden hose so it would be a waste of money.

What are RV water hoses made of?

Potable water hoses are made of various food-safe ingredients such as UV-stabilized polyether-based polyurethane.

Happy camping—and stay hydrated out there!

Now that you know all about the RV water hose and pressure regulator accessories you need you’re almost ready to hit the open road. Plan your route with one of the many online tools available today and don’t forget to take photos of your experiences. Happy travels!

Worth Pondering…

I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.

—Stephen Covey