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Camping is all about getting away from the amenities of our everyday lives: electricity, central air, running water, and WiFi. Going without it is part of what makes the experience so special; it’s a chance to experience life at its most primitive. However, this spartan mindset is also what turns some people off of camping, believing it to be a cold, wet, and dirty adventure.
There’s more than one way to camp though, and you don’t need to give up everything to get back to nature. One aspect of home life, that many campers don’t realize they can bring with them, is a camping sink. Running water completely changes the camping experience, and bringing a portable camping sink isn’t even all that difficult.
With a camping sink, you’ll be able to more easily wash dishes, clean your hands, or clean up wild game or fish that you’ve procured during your trip. Access to running water will make the camping experience much more sanitary, and by extension, fun.
It’s feature-heavy, durable, relatively packable, and a great value for your money. The table is made from high-density polyethylene plastic, which is nearly indestructible.
For our top pick, we’re going with a sink that’s a jack of all trades, the Outsunny Portable Sink Table. It’s feature-heavy, durable, relatively packable, and a great value for your money. The table has two washbasins with wastewater pipes and drain plugs. When they’re not in use, they can be covered to provide more counter space. There’s also a faucet that can be connected to your campground’s water hookup to provide running water.
The table is made from high-density polyethylene plastic, which is nearly indestructible, and the legs can support up to 132 lbs. Its tabletop measures 40 by 26 inches and can double as a cutting board. Folded down, it easily fits in a truck bed or the cargo area in an SUV. Best of all, you can pick up this camping sink for a little over $100.
The QiMH Collapsible Cutting Board and Camping Sink is the perfect way to dip your toes into a more hygienic camping experience. In this one very small package you get a cutting board, a washbasin with a drain plug, and a nifty storage basket, all for the price of an after-hike meal. No, it doesn’t have running water or any sort of counter space, but it’s a great start. After all, even the most basic of camp sinks are better than no sink at all.
Best for Fishing Cleaning
Filleting a fish is a dirty job, but having a quality camp sink can speed up the process and make it a whole lot more hygienic. The most important feature for a fish cleaning table is drainage; you need the water, guts, and scales to flow away from the filet you’re working on. The Flash Furniture Fish Cleaning Tables excels at this while minimizing the number of nooks and crannies for debris to get caught in. This camp sink doesn’t have any washbasin covers to remove or folding joints in the tabletop – just a large flat countertop with a sink on one end. The sink’s faucet attaches to campground hookups for good water pressure and cleaning power.
Best for Going Off-the-Grid
Most of the higher-end camp sinks require a hose connection to be fully functional; a luxury you don’t have when you’re boondock camping. This is where the SereneLife Portable Camping Sink excels, with its 30-liter reservoir and foot pump providing pressurized water. It’s also more than just a sink, having a small shelf for holding dishes or freshly caught fish, and a built-in soap dispenser. The SereneLife is essentially self-sufficient; you’ll need to provide your own wastewater container, but this can easily be accomplished with a collapsible bucket. It’s not as packable as some of the other camp sinks, but it’s a worthwhile tradeoff for being able to go hookup-free.
Why You Need a Camping Sink
There’s a number of different reasons you want to have a camping sink, but they all boil down to one thing – it makes camping a much more hygienic experience. Sure, you could get away without one, but why would you want to? However, different sinks have different purposes, so it pays to figure out how it’s going to be used before making a big purchase.
Preparing a meal at camp is certainly more difficult than doing so at home; there’s the lack of counter space, usually some inferior cutlery, and of course, no running water. If you’re someone that likes to cook, having a portable sink in your camp kitchen is a must.
If you don’t have running water, your best option is probably the three-bucket sanitizing method. You need a wash bucket (soapy water), a rinse bucket (freshwater), and a sanitizing bucket (water with a small amount of bleach added). Obviously, this method requires a lot of water, bucket capacity, and effort. A portable sink is a far simpler and less time-consuming option. Portable sinks designed for camping usually have two washbasins. You can plug both and set up a wash and a rinse station. Better yet, hook up the portable sink’s faucet to the water supply at your campground and now you’ve got running water to clean your dishes.
Counter space is another critical feature for your camp kitchen; you need ample space to chop ingredients and organize them for cooking. Nothing is more annoying (and unsanitary) than crowding together your vegetables and raw meats on a tiny cutting board. With a camp kitchen, the entire countertop can be used as a cutting board.
Camping Bathroom / Portable Hand Wash Basin
Handwashing is one of the first things to go on a camping trip, which is pretty disgusting when you think about some of our toilet habits we have when toilets are nowhere to be found. We might rub a dab of sanitizer between our hands and call it day, but that only kills the germs. Our hands are still dirty until we wash them with soap and water, which is while a portable hand washing basin is so critical to a hygienic camping experience.
Portable hand wash basins typically have their own supply of water and some form of pressurization, whether it’s a pump or a gravity feed. Running water is a necessary component of handwashing as stagnant water is a breeding ground for bacteria.
Collapsible or Space Saving
Volume and weight come at a premium whenever you’re camping. If you’re hitting the backcountry, you only have what can be carried on your back, but even front-country camping has its limitations. If you drive anything less than a full-sized pickup with a trailer, everything needs to fit in the trunk or bed of your vehicle. That’s not a lot of space, and it’s why the portable sink isn’t on everyone’s packing list.
That’s unfortunate, because there are plenty of camp sinks that pack down small, like the size of a cutting board, and are easy enough for one person to carry. Admittedly, packability seems to vary accordingly with durability and features. The more times you can fold your table, the less it’s going to do and the fewer outings it can take before having some kind of failure.
If you’re not an angler this probably isn’t something you’ve considered, but cleaning a fish is a dirty job and one that’s impossible to accomplish hygienically without a sink. You need to be able to drain away blood, scales, and guts to prevent contamination of the meat. You’ll also require ample workspace that allows you to competently wield your knife without obstruction.
Camping Sink Table
This will be the most familiar design for those looking at getting a camping sink setup. The table design usually features one or two basins with a faucet that can connect to a campground’s water supply. They typically don’t have storage for greywater though, so you’ll need some sort of container to collect and properly dispose of it. This design is best suited for campers that want to do some serious cooking or need to clean a fish. For the most part, it will feel like you’re using a normal household sink.
The Outsunny is everything a camping sink needs to be and nothing else. If your campsite has water hookups, you can attach a garden hose to the detachable faucet to have continuous running water. The sink has two basins included, each with drainage tubes that can be placed over a bucket to collect your greywater. There’s also a slot on the side to hang a garbage bag, allowing you to easily sweep away food scraps.
The tabletop measures 40 x 26 inches, giving you plenty of room for meal prep or cleaning a fish. There’s also a ruler printed on the tabletop for measuring a fish. The table stands at a comfortable 31.9 inches, which will be a lifesaver on your back when you’re washing dishes. When the sink is not in use, the basins have hard plastic covers to provide more counter space.
Unlike most folding tables, the Outsunny can hold some serious weight – 132 lbs to be precise. Its thick steel legs and nearly unbreakable high-density polyethylene tabletop make this one of the most durable camping sinks on the market. It’s not all that heavy either, weighing just 22.5 lbs.
Simplicity is the name of the game with this portable sink; it’s your average folding table with a sink basin and faucet attached to it. It’s incredibly durable, has just enough features, and comes at an attractive price point.
Similar in design to the Outsunny, the Coldcreek also has many of the same great features, like two basins and a removable faucet. It also has plastic covers to go over the basins to provide more counter space. This is especially useful for gourmet camp chefs that need to chop lots of vegetables, but it’s also handy for basic storage space when the camp kitchen is not in use.
The frame on the Coldcreek is especially stable, with sturdy crossbars connecting the legs to the tabletop. Out of any of the table-style camp sinks, this one has one of the highest weight capacities. That being said, it’s a fairly heavy table, coming in at 33 lbs. The large tabletop makes it one of the less portable models too, being 41”x26”. This is hard to fit in anything besides a pickup truck.
One of the biggest complaints with Coldcreek’s table design is its faucet hose fitting. It’s a ¾ inch iron pipe fitting, which is not compatible with standard garden hoses. You’ll need a small and inexpensive adaptor to bridge the gap. Given that this table is slightly more expensive than the Outsunny, this is unnecessary oversight could be a real dealbreaker.
Overall Coldcreek Outfitter’s sink provides little advantage over a table sink like the Outsunny. It’s the same amount of counter space, albeit slightly taller, more weight, and a higher price tag. It could be a solid choice though if you’re worried about durability as this camp sink is rock solid.
The Ozark Trail is an odd duck as far as camping sinks go. It has no faucet – the washbasin is just a small plastic tub off to the side of the counter area. The counter space itself is rather small, being about the same size as a large cooler’s lid. Underneath the counter is a storage space with fabric walls and a roll-down door. In between the counter and the washbasin is a small wire rack that can be used for drying dishes and silverware.
This camp kitchen has all the basic features though: washbasin, countertop, and storage; they’re just assembled differently from what most campers are used to. The basin has no running water or drainage, so it’s no different than washing your dishes in a very small bucket. That’s not going to cut it with serious camp chefs.
The counter space has a metal windscreen surrounding it, which is actually pretty useful for cooking on a gas camp stove. It’s not a feature you see very often either. There’s even a small opening in the windscreen for your propane tank’s hose. With a stove occupying most of the counter space, there’s really nowhere to do any kind of food prep. You’ll need to do your chopping on a picnic table.
The storage space beneath the countertop can be useful, but the fabric walls aren’t very durable and will get dirty with dust and food debris. Most camp kitchens are easy to wipe down, this storage area requires actual scrubbing to get clean.
This camp kitchen from Ozark Trails is useful for campers cooking on a stove that doesn’t need running water to do their cleaning. These unique features combined with a lower-than-average price tag make this a great option for budget-minded front country campers.
If you’re an angler, you know how annoying it can be getting your fish cleaned up if there’s not a dedicated fish cleaning station near your lake or river. Fortunately, some of the best table-style camp sinks were designed with anglers in mind.
The Lifetime fish cleaning table with sink is almost fifty inches long and two feet wide. This provides ample room to gut and clean your catch, then fillet it for an evening meal. The table also has a “faucet” at one end, which is actually a detachable sprayer nozzle that can connect to a garden hose and the campground’s water supply. The fact that it’s detachable makes it much more useful for cleaning a fish.
However, the washbasin’s depth is just a couple of inches; sufficient for cleaning a fish, but not so useful for dishes, much less for pots and pans. The drain on the washbasin is also lacking a downspout, which is found on most other table camp sinks. You’ll want to add your own or else water won’t reliably make it into your greywater bucket. If you’re someone that does a lot of food prep, the Lifetime might feel inadequate.
One of the best things about the Lifetime is its portability. Not only do the legs fold up, but the tabletop folds in half. This design introduces some durability issues, as the table isn’t as capable of holding up heavy loads. You have to respect a table-style camp sink that is only two by two feet wide though.
The Lifetime camp sink makes for a fairly useful fish cleaning station, but it’s not so great for any other kind of food prep. Though, if you’re short on space, in your vehicle, or in your gear closet, this is still a solid option.
This is one of the largest folding sink tables you can buy, with a tabletop that’s 49 by 24 inches. Around two-thirds of that area is countertop space with the remaining third occupied by the sink basin. All that counter space functions as a cutting board; there’s even a groove running along the outside edge to drain moisture, juices, or blood. It’s one of the reasons that the Flash Furniture is the best portable sink for cleaning fish on. To get a size of the size of your fish, there’s also a ruler printed along the side of the table.
The Flash Furniture portable fish cleaning table is also one of the most durable camp sinks on the market. The legs on each end are tied together with a crossbeam and each of the legs is connected to the tabletop by a folding crossbeam. When you’re cleaning fish with a sharp knife, you’ll appreciate that extra stability.
Similar to the Lifetime, Flash Furniture did not include a drain hose on their fish cleaning table. It does have a downspout though, so you can connect any suitably wide hose to it for greywater collection.
The obvious downside to this table is that it’s quite a bit pricier than the other folding sink tables, at around $200. You get what you pay for though, the Flash Furniture table is one of the largest portable sink tables out there, so you’ll have plenty of space to clean your catch when you reel in the big one. For its size, it’s not terribly heavy, but since the tabletop does not fold, you’ll need over four feet of cargo space to fit this in your vehicle.
Portable Camping Sink
These types of sinks look a lot like the things you’ve got at home at your counter. Each includes a faucet, a washbasin, but most importantly, a water reservoir that you can pressurize. They’re operated via a foot pump that can push several gallons of water through the faucet head. It won’t be the same pressure as you’d have at home, but it certainly beats washing your hands in a basin with no running water, or just using hand sanitizer.
If only the best in handwashing technology will do, the SereneLife is tough to beat. It’s a portable camping sink with a foot pump, providing running water without the need to be connected to a campground’s water supply. The foot pump also has an advantage when you’re handling raw meat – you won’t need to touch the faucet to get the water flowing. This will cut down on the time you have to spend disinfecting everything afterward (not to mention preventing foodborne illness).
There is also a soap dispenser next to the faucet. Unfortunately, the soap doesn’t have its own foot pump, so you’ll need to contaminate its handle to get your hands lathered up. Some users also complain that pumping the soap dispenser requires a lot of effort.
This is definitely a front-country campaign sink though; it weighs ten lbs and doesn’t really collapse. The five-gallon water storage tank can be removed, but fully assembled the sink is 40”x20”x13”. That’s neither portable nor packable, so be sure to carve out some space for it in your vehicle. That being said, it’s still one of the more packable portable camping sinks when you’re talking about models with storage tanks and pumps.
The SereneLife is well-suited for boondock camping where there are no utility hookups. The water storage container and foot pump, combined with your own greywater collection bucket, give you the experience of running water, while far from civilization. It does take a little more maintenance than your average camp sink though; the water should be removed whenever it’s not in use (to prevent algae growth) and the greywater bucket will need cleaning at the end of each trip. Fortunately, it’s not a very expensive setup, costing less than most of the table-style camp sinks.
Like its predecessor, this SereneLife portable camping sink provides all the comforts of home but while using a larger seven-gallon storage tank and a foot pump to give you running water. This version is considerably larger than the previous model, weighing in at 17 lbs with dimensions of 28”x16.5”x31.5”. It is not the most portable sink, but the extra size proves beneficial for washing dishes, clothes, or a freshly caught fish. The basin also has an internal shelf that keeps everything a little more organized while you’re washing up.
The SereneLife is also one of the most durable camp sink options, being made from thick high-density polyethylene plastic. The basin itself is nearly indestructible. However, the ultra-durable plastic does contribute significantly to the 17 lb weight. If you’re looking for portability, this is probably not the sink for you. It can be disassembled into several pieces, but if you leave it intact, it’ll be very difficult to load into anything besides a pickup truck. Reassembling if doesn’t take too long, but is probably not something you want to be shouldered with in addition to setting up a tent and camp kitchen.
The larger SereneLife costs about 50% more than the smaller version, so this one is best left to campers that need the larger basin. Anglers would be the primary market as the basin’s internal shelf makes cleaning a fish much easier than with the smaller bathroom-style sink seen in the previous model.
Collapsible Camping Sink
Admittedly, these don’t really qualify as sinks in the way that we’d normally think of one. They lack any sort of counter space and there’s no faucet to speak of. They’d be more accurately termed “basins” and are essentially a collapsible bucket to wash your dishes in. The closest thing you’ll have to running water is pouring a bottle of it over your hands and dishes; though you could also set up a collapsible jug with a valve to act as a faucet.
What they lack in amenities they more than make up for in portability. Most fold down into something smaller than the towel you’d use to dry the dishes.
If you’re looking for a do-everything storage container, the QiMH Collapsible is going to be a gamechanger in your camping experience. The QiMH functions as a cutting board, a washbasin, and a storage basket, performing admirably at each task.
In its collapsed form, the QiMH is 16.5 by 12 inches, with the cutting board space being slightly smaller. That’s still quite portable while providing the functionality needed for food prep work. The collapsed basin is also just a couple of inches thick and can easily slide between your other camping gear for transport. Weighing just over a pound, it’s also great for backcountry campers who could strap it to their pack and barely even notice it.
Once unfolded, the basin has a capacity of 8.5 quarts, a little over a gallon. The height is about five and a half inches, which isn’t really enough for convenient dishwashing, but it’ll work in a pinch. The basin also sports a drain plug, which you could outfit with a small screen for filtering out food particles before you dispose of the greywater. The drain plug also makes washing vegetables a breeze. Unfortunately, the plug doesn’t stay in that well, so it’s not great for water storage.
The QiMH also comes with a very small price tag, making this one of the best options for campers on a budget. You’ll still need a surface like a picnic table to do any food prep, but it functions well as a cutting board and basin.
Coleman is a major player in the cooler and camp stove market, so it’s no surprise that they make one of the more popular washbasins to go along with them. This particular one consists of two washbasins, an intriguing design consisting of a lightweight set of supports with some plastic sheeting between them that unfolds to become a fairly large sink. Each of the basins is 10 inches by 10 inches, which should fit the largest dinner plates and most pots and pans. If you’re looking for a portable sink that can really hold some water, this is an ideal option for you.
The Coleman is also fairly convenient for carrying around the campsite. The thick plastic frame acts as a carrying handle, though you should only move it with small amounts of water inside or it won’t last very long. Durability is the biggest issue with the Coleman washbasin. The thick plastic sheeting stands up to abuse quite well, and there’s little chance that a stray fork will put a hole in it. However, the seams aren’t sealed tightly enough and many users complain that it starts to leak fairly quickly. Additionally, the basins don’t hold up to hot water very well, so expect more leaks if boiling liquids get poured into them.
The Coleman Folding Wash Basin is a little more expensive compared to other collapsible camping sinks. Its larger capacity and lightweight frame make it a good choice for backcountry campers, however, its lack of durability means you’ll need to be extra careful with it.
This collapsible basin from Wakeman Outdoors is very similar to the QiMH, but at a slightly lower price point and with fewer features. When expanded, it’s 14 ¾” by 10 ¾” by 5”, for a total capacity of ten liters. Collapsed it has the same dimensions but with about two inches of height instead of five. That’s not super portable for a basin that only holds ten liters, but it’s a lot better than carrying a five-gallon bucket on your trip.
The Wakeman is also lacking the cutting board that made the QiMH so useful. Yes, you can use the bottom of the basin as a cutting surface, but it’s not very puncture-resistant and will quickly wear out. The Wakeman is also missing a drain plug, so it’ll be harder to wash vegetables and strain food particles from your greywater.
If you’re on the fence about buying a portable sink/basin, this is one of the least expensive/most accessible options. Even if you do much cooking or dishwashing, it’s a handy item to have around just to store water for dousing a campfire or washing your hands before a meal. However, it’s missing some of the best features found on the QiMH collapsible sink, so it’s only appealing to users that just want to use it as a basin and appreciate the extra 2 liters of capacity.
Important Features of a Camping Sink
Choosing the right portable sink might not seem like a challenging endeavor – it just needs to wash your hands and dishes after all, but the sinks vary widely in features, quality, and design. You’ll want to give some consideration to what’s most important to you and your camping experience before making a purchase.
Given enough time and effort, you could set up a restaurant-worthy kitchen at your campsite, but you’re limited by how much gear you can put in your vehicle and by the amount of time you’re willing to spend assembling everything at camp.
Start by looking for the smallest camp sink that has all of the features you need. Some campers just need to wash their hands and a few pieces of fruit; they don’t need a long fish cleaning station. Work your way up from there.
You can pick up a folding card table at your local sporting goods store for probably $20, but it’ll also fall apart the first time someone tries to sit on it or it gets left out in the rain. When you’re buying camping gear, you want to know that it’s built to last.
The downside to durability is that it usually comes as a tradeoff with portability. Fewer joints and lightweight materials make for an easier-to-move (and store) camp sink. Consider whether you’ll need to move your sink around or if it just needs to go a few steps from the garage to your vehicle to its position at the campsite. If you’ll always have a helper on hand, a heftier table isn’t such a problem.
Camp sinks are fairly simple, so the features are more or less obvious. Larger, more expensive camp sinks often have a faucet. This will feel more familiar, but if you want the water to come out of it, it’ll need to come from a campground hookup or some kind of pumping mechanism. The latter can significantly increase the cost.
Table-style and portable camp sinks usually have a drain plug and a tube running down to your greywater collection bucket. Look for drain plugs that fit tightly and allow you to filter out food particles before it reaches the greywater bucket.
Other camp sinks will have a large food prep area; some models even allow you to cover the washbasins for more space. This is an important feature if you do a lot of cooking or will be cleaning fish. Given that anglers benefit from a portable sink more than just about anyone else, it’s important to look at what kind of fish cleaning features it might have.
Ease of Setup/Use
Thankfully, almost every portable camping sink is easy to set up; no model will take as long as your tent to become operational. That’s not to say they’re instant though. Larger models need the legs unfolded or assembled to the washbasin. Other models need hose connections in place to function properly. This could involve running a garden hose from the campground water supply to the faucet on your sink or place a bucket beneath the drain on your washbasin.
Proper Camping Hygiene
If you’re like most people, hygiene isn’t always at the top of the priorities list for camping trips. The vast majority of us pack a bottle of hand sanitizer and call it a day. It doesn’t need to be this way though, you can have a similar hygiene standard at your campsite to the one you have at one.
The first hygiene practice to go out of the window is handwashing. It gets replaced with hand sanitizer, which kills the germs but doesn’t actually get your hands clean. A camp sink provides clean running water, which you can pair with good ole soap to get everything disinfected.
The second practice involves cleaning your food. Fruits and vegetables need to be washed before eating and sink with a drain plug to do wonders for getting them cleaned. If you like to fish on your camp trips, cleaning your catch will be a top priority. Look for models with deeper sinks and integrated shelves for a more comfortable experience.
How to Dispose of Your Camping Sinks Greywater
You might be tempted to let your camp sink drain out on the ground, after all, it’s just soapy water with some food particles in it. That doesn’t mean it’s harmless though, soap isn’t a natural product and it’s not good for plants and animals to come into contact with it.
That being said, it’s not as harmful as something like motor oil and the occasional soap spill isn’t that detrimental after filtering through a few layers of dirt. The same can not be said for draining your camp sink into a body of water. Soap and detergents break the surface tension of the water and deplete it of oxygen, which is why you should always camp at least 200 feet from a water source. Even at this distance, it’s not ideal to drain your grey water onto the ground and may be against area rules.
If possible, you should collect the greywater from your sink in a bucket, which you can dispose of in a campground bathroom, greywater disposal area, or RV dump. Check your campgrounds’ regulations to be sure that such disposal is not prohibited. Whether you collect your greywater or drain it out near the campsite, you should filter out food particles. These can attract animals and make them more habituated to humans.
Use Biodegradable Soap
A number of camp soaps market themselves as biodegradable, which leads people to believe that it’s okay to dump their sudsy water anywhere that’s convenient. Their claim is only half true though;
Biodegradable soaps lack some of the harsher chemicals found in a regular dish or hand soap, but they are still soap. Some are better than others, so it pays to check the label.
Avoid soaps with words you can’t easily pronounce, like phthalates – they’re unnatural and will persist in the environment longer. You should also choose a camp soap that’s unscented, as the scented variety has the potential to attract bears and other wildlife. Finally, look for a soap that’s multipurpose: shampoo, hand soap, toothpaste (maybe). Dr. Bronner’s soap is a popular choice and the company claims it has up to 18 uses.
Maintenance and Aftercare of Your Portable Camping Sink
Camp sinks are designed to be almost maintenance-free, but a little care goes a long way. These are just a few helpful tips that’ll make your camp sink last longer and work more efficiently.
- Be careful with the water you put through it. Some campground water is barely potable and laden with minerals. These could show up as scaling and hard water deposits over time.
- Wipe down all surfaces. This is basic hygiene, but it’ll also prevent your table from getting hard (and difficult to clean) deposits or discoloration.
- Check that your drain hoses are free of food particles and other debris. These bits and pieces can rot or grow mold in storage.
- Empty your wastewater buckets in a safe place.
- Never store your sink at below-freezing temperatures. Any remaining water could solidify and cause damage to the sink.
Many campers will read this and think “camp sinks are an unnecessary luxury item, it’s not something I’m going to pack”. This mindset is what’s kept some aspects of camping so unhygienic, and it’s a problem that’s easily solved. Don’t want to bring bulky items like a table? Go with a collapsible tub style – it’ll keep your hands clean and your dishes free of food debris. Feel like it’s not worth packing if it’s not a fully functioning sink? Choose a portable camping sink with a pump and a large reservoir. No hookups are necessary. There’s a sink for everyone and you’ll be the envy of every hygiene-conscious camper.
It’s feature-heavy, durable, relatively packable, and a great value for your money. The table is made from high-density polyethylene plastic, which is nearly indestructible.