Mom Goes Camping

Best Portable Camp Sinks + How to Make Your Own Sink with Running Water

best portable camping sinks

I’m a big advocate of getting dirty when camping.  But, while a bit of dirt is good for you, there comes a time when you’ll need to wash your hands, wash dishes, or do other cleanup.  For these moments, you’ll want a portable camping sink.

 

What Is a Portable Camp Sink?

A portable camp sink can mean many different things depending on how you plan on using it.  For a weekend camping trip, a few simple wash basins might be adequate. For large groups, you might need a portable sink with faucet and pump. If you plan on long-term camping, you might need a portable kitchen with a built-in sink.

Below I go over each type of camp sink and listed the best products for each type.

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Small Portable Camp Sinks & Basins

This is the most basic type of portable sink. Any bin or bucket will do so long as it is sturdy and large enough for holding dishes.  You’ll need at least two basins for washing dishes: one for washing and one for rinsing. If you have a lot of dishes, you’ll need an extra rinse basin.  And you’ll likely need a separate basin too for drying dishes.

If you want to make your life easier, then get a dishwashing basin which has a drain. It will make emptying the sink much easier so you are less likely to splash yourself with dirty dishwater.

You’ll need at least two basins to do dishes at camp

The more people and dishes you have, the more basins you’ll need. This large camp has a 4-basin setup.

 

Best Small Camping Sinks

Joseph Joseph Sink with Drain

joseph joseph camping sink with drain

This camp sink is 2.35 gallons in size, which is the right size for about two people.  The nice thing about it is that the drain plug is integrated into the bottom of the sink as well as a strainer.  It sits on legs and has sturdy carrying handles.

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Creativeware Double Walled Tub with Drain

creativeware sink with drain spigot

This tub works well as a camping sink because it has a drain and sturdy handles which make it easier to carry.  It comes in 4.375 gallon and 8.5 gallon sizes.

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Collapsible Camping Sinks

Collapsible camping sinks are simply basins which fold down on themselves in some way.  They come in different sizes and are easier to pack than a standard plastic wash basin.  There are also collapsible buckets which work well enough for holding water but a true collapsible camp sink will have a rounder shape which makes it better suited for washing dishes.

Note that, because of the flexible nature of the material, collapsible sinks with drains will leak. It’s smarter to look for a collapsible sink without a drain plug, which means you will have to lift the sink to dump the dirty water.  To prevent splashing, look for ones with good grab handles.  Some even have a special pour handle near the bottom of the sink.

 

Best Collapsible Camping Sinks

UST FlexWare Collapsible Sink

UST Collapsible camp sink

The Ultimate Survival Technology (UST) collapsible sink is one of the best-designed products.  The rectangular shape which is larger at top than on the bottom holds dishes well.  The double handles are set at a nice distance so you can carry the camp sink without spilling water.  It’s lightweight and small when collapsed.  The sink comes in 4.23 and 2.25 gallon sizes.

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Friendly Swede Collapsible Bucket

Friendly Swede collapsible camp bucket

As far as collapsible buckets go, this one by Friendly Swede is great for doing dishes.  It has a mesh pocket on the side where you can keep sponges, soap, and other supplies.  I particularly like the grab handle near the bottom which you use when dumping water from the bucket. You can also hang the bucket by the handle so it’s upside down and dries faster. The collapsible bucket comes in four sizes ranging from 2.64 to 7.92 gallons.

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Sea to Summit Kitchen Sink

Sea to Summit kitchen sink

The brand Sea to Summit makes some really cool camping gear, like this collapsible sink which weighs just 4.7oz.  It is 10L (2.64 gallons) in size, which is the right size for 2-3 people. The round shape of the sink means it does a good job of standing up on its own.  It’s also one of the easier camping sinks to carry without spilling.  The handles are sturdy and you can expect the sink to last through many camping trips.

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Camping Tables and Portable Kitchens with Sinks

A camping table with a sink is basically a portable folding table which has a built-in sink.  A camp kitchen with a sink is similar, but it will have other features like a countertop for your stove and food prep, storage, etc.

Depending on the type of table or camp kitchen, the sink might have a faucet which can be connected to a pump.  Or it might just have a basin with or without a drainpipe.  Since portable kitchens tend to a pricy (expect to pay at least $100), spend some time thinking about how you will actually use the sink station and what features you need.  Read this post about Choosing Portable Camp Kitchens.

 

Best Camping Tables and Portable Kitchens with Sinks

GCI Outdoor Master Portable Kitchen

GCI Outdoor Master camp kitchen with sink

This portable camp kitchen has a sink with a drain pipe.  The sink doesn’t have a faucet but there is space for you to put a clean water jug next to the sink.  Unfortunately, the sink isn’t removable. While the sink is a nice feature, the real reason to get this portable kitchen is because of all the storage space it gives you while still folding down small and nearly flat.  It’s also very affordable.

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SylvanSport Camp Kitchen

SylvanSport camping kitchen

The portable camp kitchen by SylvanSport is incredibly cool.  It pops open and takes all of two minutes to set up.  Once open, you get a huge amount of countertop space (++++ inches across), which is enough for your stove and food prep.  There is a cabinet which gives you two shelves for keeping food and supplies.  The zippered closure means you can keep insects out.  As for the built-in camp sink, it is fairly basic: just a collapsible sink without a drain pipe.  The sink is removable though.  You’ll probably mostly use the sink for storing dirty dishes until you can wash them in a basin.

Buy Here


Kotula’s Deluxe Fish Cleaning Camp Table

kotula camping table with sink

Here’s a really nicely designed camp table with sink.  It’s meant for cleaning fish so it has a lot of features, like a faucet which can be connected to a hose or pumpable water source and a drain pipe.  It’s also really nice that there is a built-in hole for a trashbag so you can throw away waste right at the table.

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Tricam Fish and Game Cleaning Table with Faucet

Tricam table with sink

This is another camp table meant for cleaning fish.  It is simpler than the sink table above but might be better for camping because of that.  The table is large enough to hold additional basins or even do food prep.  There’s a drain pipe and a faucet which can be connected to a hose or pumpable water.

Buy Here


 

Camping Sinks with Pump

These camping sinks have running water which is brought to a faucet via a pump.  The pump is sometimes foot powered (you don’t want a hand-powered pump when you need both hands for cleaning!).  There are also some portable camp sinks with electric pumps.

I personally like the idea of using a battery-powered camp shower as your sink faucet.  It’s cheaper than most electric camp sinks and you can use the same device for showering too.

What I don’t recommend is getting a standup portable hand washing sink (like this one); they are bulky, annoying to fill up, get dirty quickly, the water pressure can’t be regulated and it only is for hands because the sink is too small for doing dishes.  I guess it could be okay for groups or Scouts, but I’d rather just use the Tye Works Sink or set up a gravity-fed sink (see the section below).

 

Best Camping Sinks with Pump

Tye Works Sink with Foot Pump

Tye Works portable camp sink with pump

When it comes to camp sinks with pumps, this is by far the top choice.  The design is simple, which means it is less likely to fail on you.  Simply attach the faucet to a bucket, a basin, or other “sink.” You can also attach it to a tree located above a basin, which makes it very versatile. Connect one end of the hose to the faucet and the other end goes in a clean water source.  Then step on the pump and water comes out of the faucet.  It’s very durable and works amazingly well.

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Kedsum Camp Faucet

Kedsum camp faucet

Even though this is meant to be a camp shower, it works just as well as a camping sink faucet. To use, just put the pump into a clean water source.  Use the included hook to secure the faucet over your portable sink basin. Turn the faucet on and you’ve got running water. The pump works with a 2200mAh battery which can be charged with USB (making it great for solar chargers).  I like this pump faucet best because it has a spare battery plus two different faucet heads.

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Ivation Camp Faucet

Ivation camp faucet

This faucet with an electric pump works in the same way as the one above.  It’s also a very reliable brand with lots of good reviews.  It’s lightly cheaper than the Kedsum faucet but only comes with one battery and faucet head. Buy Here


Deluxe Camp Sink with Foot Pump

Deluxe Camp Sink with foot pump

I personally am not the biggest fan of this camp sink.  It’s expensive for what essential is just a folding stand, some buckets, basin, and a pump system.  However, it is really popular because everything is included so you don’t have to worry about getting your own basins or worry about where you’ll attach the faucet.  The portable sink works best for washing hands.  If you want to use it for washing dishes, you’d need to remove the top bucket and put a portable basin with a drain in its place instead.

Buy Here


 

DIY Camping Sinks (Gravity-Fed Sinks)

It’s actually really easy to make your own camp sink with running water.  The easiest solution is to make a “gravity-fed sink.”  That basically means that the clean water source is located above the sink: when you open a faucet or spigot, gravity causes the water to come out.

If you want to make a camp sink with a pump that brings running water, then you’ll supplies like an aquarium siphon pump. Unfortunately, these are DIY camp sinks are somewhat complex to make.  While actually building it might be simple enough, they have to be assembled at camp and are prone to leaking or other problems. It’s only worth it IMO if you are setting it up in an RV, van, or long-term camp.

Below are some examples of how you can make your own DIY gravity-fed camp sink with a faucet.  You’ll need at least one basin for catching the gray water; otherwise you’ll have a muddy mess around the sink.

 

1. Water Container with Spigot + Basins

The easiest solution (especially for washing hands) is to put a water container with a spigot on a table with the spigot hanging over the edge.  Put a basin underneath the spigot for catching the water.  Below are some photos which show examples of how this works.

A bucket in the cabinet underneath catches graywater

kids using a diy sink and faucet

diy gravity fed sink and faucet

Igloo now makes a dispenser for washing hands. It holds 10 gallons of water.  Get it here.  Or just use cheap water containers with spigots like these.

 

2. Plastic Bottle Faucets

These types of DIY camp sinks are great for washing hands but not dishes. The basic idea is that you poke a hole (or holes) in the lid of a plastic bottle.  When the bottle is upside down, water pours out of the cap like a faucet.

The first and second pictures show a “tippy tap”.  In the first picture, the bottles are tied with string and suspended over a rod. All you need to do is pull the bottle to angle it downwards and start the flow.  In the second picture, the bottle is connected to a lever on the ground: you step on the lever to pull the string and get the water going.

The third picture shows a military hand washing station.  They simply pour some clean water into the bottles and start washing their hands as the water flows out.

tippy tap diy sink

tippy tap handwashing station

DIY camp sink idea

 

Note: PLEASE use biodegradable soap when camping! The chemicals in soap can harm ecosystems when you dump the water onto the ground.

 

Did you forget something? See this List of Camp Kitchen Essentials to make sure your kitchen is setup right.


Image credits:
Washing hands” (CC BY 2.0) by CDC Global Health
Handwashing station” (CC BY 2.0) by CDC Global Health
Simple handwashing facility” (CC BY 2.0) by Sustainable sanitation
https://www.af.mil/News/Photos/igphoto/2000031626/,
Breakfast Dishes” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by Anne Bennett,
 ” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by ezola
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About the author /


Diane Vukovic grew up camping and backpacking in upstate New York. Now, she takes her own daughters on wilderness adventures so they can connect with nature and learn resiliency. With dozens of trips under her belt, Diane is an expert in minimalist camping, going lightweight, planning, and keeping her kids entertained without screens.

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