There a lot of options for “drinking water safe” hoses for use with your Airstream, but unfortunately, many of them are poor choices. Here's how to identify a really good drinking water hose.
First, a clarification about lexicon. Commonly, drinking water hoses are called “white hoses,” but really, the color doesn’t matter. What matters is that they don’t leach toxic chemicals into your water, they don’t leak, and they hold up under tough conditions.
We have tested many types of RV drinking water hoses over the years, and sadly the bulk of them are terrible. Here's why:
Many people notice an odd plastic taste in their water, and it's coming from the vinyl hose. This is especially true when the hose is lying in the sun, because the water inside leaches more chemicals from the hose when it's hot—and you can taste it.
All drinking water hoses are supposed to be free of lead, phthalates, and BPA, but most aren't rated to be "drinking water safe" at all temperatures of water.
In our opinion an RV drinking water hose should never be made from poly-vinyl chloride (PVC), and it should be rated as safe for hot water use.
Also, the hose should be completely light-blocking so algae doesn't grow inside. Algae is another reason why you might taste something "off" in your water.
Most RV hoses die young
While the initial purchase price is low, you end replacing most RV water hoses frequently because they just don’t hold up.
The most common problem is leaks. For example, the typical RV hose is made of vinyl that can’t take being dragged across the ground, or isn’t UV stable. That means eventually the sun or the earth will cause cheap hoses to start leaking.
Also, thin vinyl often kinks, or forms bulges (like an aneurysm) that eventually burst. Sometimes people try to avoid this problem by using a water pressure regulator on the end of the hose, but that’s just an extra expense to protect a disposable product. And if you drive over the hose while it has water in it, it will usually burst anyway.
If you’ve ever tried those white fabric roll-up hoses (sold on a reel) you know they’re even worse: with just normal use and abrasion on the ground they’ll quickly develop pinhole leaks like a sprinkler.
Cheap Price = Cheap Fittings
Another common weak spot with drinking water hoses is the fittings. There are three general types:
- Plastic — the worst choice. These tend to crack or leak quickly.
- Aluminum. Because aluminum is soft, the fittings eventually bend out of shape from repeated screwing on and off the hose bib, which causes leaks you can’t stop.
- Brass. Brass is traditional because it’s durable and non-corrosive, but brass also often contained lead in the past. Drinking water safe hoses must use lead-free brass.
- Lead-free brass with with nickel or chrome plating. This is the "gold standard" for durability and appearance. A good quality hose will be made with these fittings.
The way the fittings are attached is also very important. Cheaper hoses tend to fail at this point. Look for a really good "strain reliefs" at the hose ends that reinforce the fitting-to-hose connection.
The Wrestling Match
Personally, I get frustrated with hoses that stiffen up in the cold. When it’s chilly outside I don’t want to be wrestling to coil up the water hose. That’s why I like hoses that stay flexible in all temperatures and will not kink.
This is another place where vinyl hoses really fail you, because they like to fight back. Plus, they're heavy and take up a lot of space in your storage compartment.
Sometimes people think they need a heated water hose so it won't freeze at night. We prefer a hose that won't be damaged by freezing, even if it's full of water, because a heated hose is expensive, heavy, and even harder to put away than a regular vinyl hose.
After many years of camping and trying every type of hose imaginable, I’ve become a big fan of the Ultimate RV Water Hose. This hose is awesome because it never “forgets” how to coil back up. You can stretch it out until it is entirely straight, and it will spring right back to its original shape afterward.
It's much lighter and packs smaller than traditional hoses, so you can carry a longer hose with less weight and bulk.
And importantly, this hose doesn’t contain vinyl, lead, BPA, or anything else that can taint your drinking water. It will never make your water taste funny, burst from high pressure, or develop a pinhole leak. It also won't be harmed by freezing, and is UV stable.
That’s why it's the only drinking water hose we sell, and we back it up with a 5 Year “No Hassle” Replacement Warranty. Check it out here.
You might be wondering why we sell a narrower hose than most others on the market. (Our Ultimate RV Water Hose is 3/8″ inside, versus 5/8″ in most hoses.) It’s because the 3/8″ size coils up better and is easier to handle.
Sometimes people will think that the hose has to be big in order to get good water flow, but this isn’t true in this case. All of the plumbing in your Airstream is 1/2″ diameter and the fixtures are designed for a maximum flow of 2.5 gallons per minute. Our 3/8″ Ultimate RV Water Hose can deliver nearly 5 gallons per minute, so it's still more than you need.