Camp Sink - Temporary Hand Washing Station




Introduction: Camp Sink - Temporary Hand Washing Station

This project was inspired by a number of camp sinks available commercially or as DIY projects. A recent camping trip with friends uncovered a need to make our site a little bit more civilized for hand washing and brushing teeth.

Let's face it together - sanitation, hygiene, and food safety are still important when we're camping.

Ultimately, this project could serve in any number of recreational or critical functions:

- camping

- temporary aid stations

- facilities without running water

- temporary work sites

This Instructable includes my spin on the design and adds a few tweaks to improve transport, sanitation, and cost to build.

How it Works - Clean water in the bottom bucket feeds a manual pump, activated by the user's foot. The clean water pumps through a faucet and flows into a wash basin. The used water drains through the basin into the top bucket. All components can be setup or torn down in just a few minutes. Additionally, the system is self-contained and can be transported in the 2 buckets nested together.

Project Estimate - $25

Step 1: Gather Parts

(2) 5 gallon buckets (preferably at least one that's new or clean)

(1) Bulb siphon (might also be called a "primer bulb")

(2) vinyl hose (3/8" ID x 32" - or appropriate for your bulb siphon)

(1) Gamma Seal lid

(1) Flat, non-sealing bucket lid

(1) 7 quart popcorn bowl (any bowl with a 7"-12" diameter will work)

(2) 1/2" PVC pipe (11" & 11.5")

(1) 1/2" PVC elbow 90 (FPT x slip)

(1) elbow 90 3/8" barb x 1/2" MPT

(1) adapter 3/8" barb x 1/2" MPT

(1) 1/2" PVC trap (slip x slip)

(1) Quick-grip clamp

(2) zip ties (6" or longer)

Step 2: Prep Clean Water Bucket

Drill a single 3/4" hole near the top of the bucket - above the bottom support and next to the handle connection. It's crucial to place the barb above the bottom support so the buckets will nest for transport.

Insert the host barb, then screw on the elbow in the inside of the bucket. Leave it 10-15 degrees off upright so the suction tube can rest on the bottom of the bucket, with a slight gap for pump suction.

Step 3: Prep the Sink and Gray Water Bucket

Drill a few holes in the bottom of the bowl, allowing water to drain into the gray water bucket. I used a 3/16" bit to make small holes that work as a strainer.

Cut out the middle of the flat bucket lid so the bowl nests securely into the gray water bucket.

The gray water bucket has no modifications or assembly needed.

Step 4: Assemble Faucet

Press fit the 1/2" adapter to the 11.5" long 1/2" pipe. Screw in the barb x MPT adapter.

Secure the faucet assembly to the clamp using a couple zip ties.

Step 5: Setup System

Put it all together and fill the clean water bucket with water!

For an added level of safety, label the buckets so they have dedicated use to minimize the risk of cross-contamination.

Step 6: Hit the Road, Jack!

Disconnect the system and pack it for transport. The components will fit into the clean water bucket, which then nests into the gray water bucket. It's most compact this way and has the added benefit of keeping the inside of the clean water bucket clean.

There are a few ways to fit everything into the clean water bucket. The basin and the flat lid will slightly bend in order to fit. Since those pieces are made of flexible plastic, they will go back to normal when you pull them out to use again.

If you're packing up for long term storage, I recommend cleaning and drying out the system.

Step 7: In Use - Drain Gray Water

When the gray water bucket fills up, you'll need to dump it out.

Remove the sink and faucet assembies. Notice in the photo that the faucet should be clamped temporarily to the clean bucket. Keeping the faucet upright keeps it clean and above the clean water level, which prevents potential draining of the clean water bucket.

Step 8: In Use - Fill Clean Water

When you need to re-fill the clean water bucket, set the dirty water bucket on the ground.

Disconnect the pump suction hose from the barb on the clean water bucket. Keep the hose clean by securing to the faucet. Take the clean water bucket to the water source and refill. Return to site and reassemble sink.

3 People Made This Project!


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Question 2 years ago on Step 4


What is the piece between the barb adapter and the PVC pipe? I don't see that called out as a line item in the parts list.


Question 2 years ago on Step 8

Great idea! What connector do you use to connect the 11 1/2" pipe to the hose? The adapter 3/8" barb x 1/2" MPT doesn't fit with the 1/2 inch pvc, and in the picture I see something else not listed in the instructions. Also, any ideas on how to attach that 11 1/2 in pvc pipe if there is nothing on the bucket that will attach it to? Thank you.


5 years ago

Great tutorial. Here is a bucket sink already make. Includes a stainless steel bowl, counter top with a built in soap dispenser and paper towel holder.

Deluxe Sink Front.jpg

5 years ago

Been using a simple 5 gallon water jug with a simple valve for years but always hated having to turn thr water off between the wash and rnse or standing in a puddle. This is a great idea. I'm going to try it out next week when I go camping.


5 years ago

In my assistant Scoutmaster days, we would also hang a bar of soap enclosed within one leg of used pantyhose at the wash stand. Easy as; dampen hands, rub off some soap, rinse off when done. Pretty effective, but the wife hated what I was doing with her old "stuff" and would actually hide it in the trash to discourage this use- but I would prevail and root them out for the sake of clean Scouting campouts. ☺


Reply 5 years ago

Great idea! I place a small container of liquid soap (like Dr. Bronner's) on the clamp. A tiny bungee strap holds it in place, while the clamp provides a small shelf space.