Last night, I got a little obsessed over seeing if I could build a tent-based camping trailer for cheaper than you can get from a manufacturer. I was successful, but I hit a snag in one critical area. How do you get a sink with running water for a car camper, camper van, tent camper, or similar? I found a potential solution, and it’s pretty affordable. RV supplier Dometic will sell you an 11-liter compact water jug that will fit just about anywhere, and a battery-powered faucet for just $170.
During the summer, I bought a rare 1985 U-Haul CT13 fiberglass camper. It needs some restoration before I can camp in it, and hopefully, we’ll have a huge announcement about that in the future. But for the past two years, my wife and I have been camping out of our cars. I’ve never been a fan of car camping or tent camping, so I’ve been finding tech to make things a lot better. One gamechanger was my EcoFlow power station. I talk about the thing a lot, and that’s because it’s just that awesome. Having residential-like power makes sleeping in the back of a Chevrolet HHR or in a tent feel so much more civilized.
We’ve also added a nifty propane heater. When combined with a 20-pound propane tank, we’ve been able to sleep comfortably in some downright terribly cold temperatures. These are both things that I could see being added to a budget camper build to make things just a bit better. But one thing that Sheryl and I have been missing is running water.
Sheryl and I have an interesting dynamic. I take care of the mechanical stuff, and she’s the domesticated one. Last time I tried cooking a dinner from scratch, I nearly set my hair on fire. And one of the last times I tried helping with grilling, I set an entire gas can on fire. So, I’ve learned my lesson. Despite that, even I know how much running water would make things better.
Sure, we buy gallons of water. Sheryl is able to pour the water for cooking and we can wash our hands. But pouring water, even from a spigot, has always felt clunky. I’ve often felt that if there were just some way to turn these jugs into portable sinks then we’d have a massive upgrade. As it turns out, Sheryl feels the same way. I’ll pass the mic to Sheryl for an incredibly detailed explanation for why she thinks having a faucet would be a gamechanger:
I have Crohn’s Disease. For those of you who are unaware, Crohn’s Disease is an incurable, progressive autoimmune disease of the digestive tract, skin, and joints; that’s a fancy way of saying that my immune system attacks healthy tissues in those areas instead of bacteria and viruses. As a result, my immune system becomes what makes me sick along with the germs instead of my immune system fighting the germs.
As you can imagine, having a chronic gastrointestinal disease whilst being immunocompromised isn’t a good combination if you, like me, also enjoy camping. Every cut I receive can easily result in a potential infection if I don’t clean it out immediately. Every time I eat without washing my hands, I am putting myself at risk of a significant flare. Of course, I can’t haul a plumbing hook-up everywhere I go, so there is an inevitable trade-off between camping and Crohn’s safety that becomes harder and harder as I get older and the disease progresses. For example, on the last Gambler 500 that I went on with Mercy, a single bite of food turned into a partial bowel obstruction, and we didn’t have enough water, partly because our water jugs spilled out.
That’s before you get to the more, shall we say, unpleasant aspects of an autoimmune gastrointestinal condition. Crohn’s is often compared to irritable bowel syndrome, but in reality is significantly worse and, at the risk of providing too much information, more explosive. The result is that when flares occur, you’re going to need to be able to clean yourself up. With Crohn’s Disease, toilet paper and jugs of water aren’t enough. Right now, when I go camping without running water, I am in constant fear of a flare happening and meaning I basically go without clothes for the remainder of the trip.
Right now, Mercy and I basically buy a bunch of jugs of water for each trip. But whilst those help, they’re not a real solution. For one thing, avoiding infections of bacteria with an autoimmune disease really needs running water, not just a jug. For another, a lot of our small space is taken up by water, and the jugs are heavy to lug around. Even worse, I have to bring a giant jug of water with me to the porta potty, instead of just using some running water afterwards. They also have a knack for spilling, and have I said how washing yourself from a jug sort of sucks? So just being able to turn a jug into a sink with running water would be awesome.
Now, you can buy portable sinks that offer running water. Here’s one that comes with its own toilet, and here’s another that turns buckets into a table with a sink. These two are great and affordable, and the one with the toilet might be great for a camper van setup. But for something with space constraints, they might be too bulky. There’s also this, the Trail Kitchens Water Boy Camp Sink.
This thing is basically your kitchen sink from home, but on the road. It’s a self-contained camping sink that pressurizes water to residential levels. And it can even provide heated water. Plus, it’s compact, perfect for car camping. But at $599 it’s a pricey bit of kit.
This is where RV equipment supplier Dometic comes in. The company has been branching out into the DIY and car camping space with its Dometic Go lineup of equipment. You can get camping furniture and appliances that fits into the back of a car. For dispensing water, it starts with the HYD J11 Hydration Water Jug. The rotomolded jug holds 11-liters of the good stuff.
Features include a spigot and a quick-connect attachment for things like water purifiers and filters. There are two openings on top for dispensing, cleaning, and filling. And there are guides for tie-downs, too, so it wouldn’t get tossed about on an off-road trip. Dometic sees campers pairing it to HYD WF Hydration Water Faucet, and this is the real game changer.
All you have to do is place the faucet on top of the HYD J11 water jug, or use the hose to pull water from any source. Then push the button to have a running faucet. The faucet has a battery capable of dispensing 150 liters on a single charge, and it’s charged from a USB cable. Dometic says that the faucet pumps out water at a rate of a liter a minute. This isn’t a high pressure operation, but perfect for shaving, cooking, washing hands, or even a sort of bird bath. It even has a light for nighttime use.
Add in a simple plastic wash basin and you have yourself a better sink setup than you’ll get in camping box kits. Those sinks are often just jugs with spigots. The faucet is magnetic, so you could stick it to a vehicle or a metal water jug. It also comes with an adhesive magnetic pad so you could place your faucet on other surfaces. And like I said, you don’t even have to pair it to the J11 water jug. The hose allows you to use any existing equipment you have, or heck, you could pull from cheap jugs of water from the gas station if you wanted.
Dometic currently charges $99.99 for the faucet and $69.99 for the jug. $170 for a working sink for your car, tent, van or anything else seems like a deal. This is something that we’ll definitely be looking into before we go tent camping again. I’ll just be happy to be able to survive a Gambler 500 weekend without looking like a wicked witch by the end.
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Very interesting, I could use it when car camping but its a bit too big for motorcycle camping (my preferred camping)
Consider a portable bidet. Hand squeeze models are cheap and effective. There are many options to choose from.
If you choose a garden sprayer, in addition to hand-pumped, there are garden sprayers that use disposable or rechargeable batteries as well. I have a Ryobi model that plays nice with many of my cordless power tools.
Ryobi 18V Lithium rechargable Power Bidet! For all your toilet needs! 😀
Yes, definitely get the portable squeeze bidet. I have IBS and it’s magic. Saves a forest of trees as well. With car camping at least you have a decent supply of water, so you don’t have to worry like you would backpacking.
I’m disappointed this isn’t a real thing.
I bought a manually pressurized spray tank with a garden hose sprayer connected. Great for spraying sandy feet, full on shower, or dishes. For a sink, I bring a small plastic tub. $49, and you’re done.
I got the same one. Used it a couple times to rinse of beach stuff. Works pretty well, just hoping it doesn’t fall apart.
Those things are basically a washer fluid bottle hooked up to a battery …
Would “pull my finger” be considered an inconsiderate comment at this point? There is a reason some folks save the corks from wine bottles….thank you, I’ll be here all week.
All I’m going to say is kudos to the both of you for not letting something like Crohn’s keep you from doing what you love.
Whilst that is nifty, it seems kinda expensive for what is at the end of the day a water jug. A gravity fed solar shower full of water would do the same thing for less than 10% of the cost – as an example. What I think is seriously innovative is the Joolca hot water system from Australia, it’s a gas fed portable hot water system – it’s not even insanely expensive for what it is ($400 nzd – and at the rate our economy is going that has to be like .50c US now)
Well i seem to remember an episode of the show Mike and Ant did. I cant recall the name of course. They did a beach camper van. Took a beer keg ran lines to and from the radiator but seperate from antifreeze lines. This allowed hot water. They used a 2nd battery for electric power and a pump to actually create an outdoor shower. If you only want hand washing a fish tank pump would do the job using a battery and a bowl. I have also seen two bag systems using nothing but gravity. For a hand/dish washing system anything over $20 is just paying money to Martha Stewart.
Also from my boyscout days i seem to remember a solar water bag setup. You filled it with water hung it in a tree in direct sunlight at above bear height. It came with a simple spout. Decent pressure and warm water any more just heat on the stove.
I love this site, but this feels like an advertisement…
Um… does a car review feel like an ad to you? It’s basically a review of a car-camping accessory.
First I love that Sheryl calls you Mercy. Still a huge fan of spouse articles even if the source material on this one is more likely to have been written by scatological expert JT.
Second wanted to suggest a Google search for portable bidet for Crohn’s related issues.
A garden sprayer with a hand pump would probably work pretty well for a portable bidet. Just make sure it’s never been used for herbicide or pesticides.
So imo while there’s nothing really wrong with that thing if you like gadgets, I do think it’s unneccessarily complex and expensive. You can get a big folding plastic jug with a spigot for like 5 bucks and if you put that up high – say on your tailgate or a backseat or the roof of your car – gravity will do all the work for you without any electric pumps needed. Both hands free, no pouring needed. And those 5 bucks leave you with 165$ to buy one heck of a bowl to use as a sink. No complex electronic or mechanical parts that can break, no power needed and when empty it’ll fold away to basically nothing and won’t take up space in your car or tent, nor your house once your done camping.
$70 feels like a pretty outrageous price for an 11 liter plastic water jug. BPA-free 5 gallon (20 liter) water jugs are usually no more than 15 bucks.
Those cheap jugs crack and break unfortunately. At least where I live where it’s desert-ish.
Everything Dometic sells is priced very high. Go look at some of their marine products. I actually thought this was going to run $500 as well.
An herbacide sprayer with a hand pump is the best cheap shower/sink setup I’ve seen. You can swap attachments on these as well.
Yeah, this. I actually use two: one filled with soapy water, and one with rinse water. I wound up lengthening the hoses on mine just for convenience. If you really want to get fancy, you could get a third with extremely diluted bleach for a sanitizing rinse. It’s amazing how little water you need for cleanup with this setup.
I was gonna be a smart ass and suggest that exact thing…But also feel for our friends here. Shit happens…
And they can also be used as a bidet!
Reliance Products has made camping sinks in 4 different styles that I am aware of. None of them are still being made as far as I can tell. I bought mine about 50 years ago and it still works great. They pop up on eBay from time to time. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/395261304801250868/
That’s the kind I was thinking of but I didn’t know they were out of production I’ve also seen similar set ups for cleaning bike parts from Finish Line and a few others
If Sheryl is the “domesticated one,” does that mean you are the feral partner?
The one I built is better. 🙂
The one you built is ginormous, good but nearly the size of a Smart car ginormous.
Not really. If you’ll notice, the water heater is attached. If they did the same, it would be close in size. Look at the fourth pic one their site. I can remove the heater from the sink with the quick connects, but we prefer hot water.
I put the bowl in front so that we could drain it away easily away from our feet. Theirs does not have a drain (or a sprayer), ours does.
Mine also cost way less.