How to build a cheap water faucet and sink for camping

Jen and I have been dealing with a series of water leaks—4 completely different ones in the last 2.5 weeks. The latest is the main water supply line, which will likely require digging up much of the yard to replace. So, we’ve been without running water for far too many days recently.

Luckily, I had just upgraded our camping water system, so at least we have a place to wash our hands after, you know, peeing in the backyard (Though sometimes, it’s the alternative: “Hey babe, I’m going to bar…I have to use the bathroom”).

A simple water faucet system

My solution is a simple usb-powered water faucet that conveniently fits on top of a common Reliance Aqua-tainer. Toss in a collapsing sink, and you have a pretty handy system for camping—or using during major water leaks.

In short, you’ll swap out the standard manual spigot and substitute in a hollow pvc piece that screws in place to hold a faucet while allowing for the water tube to be inserted into the water jug. The faucet pump is powered by an internal battery pack that you can re-charge with a simple micro-usb cable.

While the default spigot is a sufficient solution, this faucet setup offers several advantages. 

First, because you’re pumping water out of the top instead of relying on gravity while it’s on its side, you can use it on a table top—which makes doing chores like dishes much easier. No more hunching over to use the water, and with a portable sink, you can also avoid a muddy mess on the ground.

Second, you can simply press a button and get a preprogrammed amount of water dispensed, meaning it shuts itself off when you’re done washing your hands. It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s hard to go back to the manual valve after using this for awhile.

Third is better cleanliness. While the manual spigot is handy in that it cleverly converts from lid to spigot, its design leaves the main tube open to the world during transport/storage which means that there’s nearly always some nasty crap in the tube when you go to set up. While the faucet doesn’t maintain a water-tight seal when in use—as the manual spigot generally does—it does block dirt from getting into the water jug. We simply keep the faucet, water tube, and connector in a ziplok bag with our gear. We still use the manual spigot during home storage and transport.

What you need

  1. USB faucet ($14.72 on Amazon)
  2. PVC 3/4″ x 1/2″ reducing male adaptor ($1.76 at Home Depot)
  3. Aqua-tainer ($33/7 gal or $40/4 gal on Amazon)
  4. Collapsing bucket ($20 for 2-pack on Amazon)

Some alternatives

We prefer using the smaller 4-gallon aqua-tainer (it’s easier to carry and we rarely need seven gallons between refilling) but this works with either size. We use the collapsing buckets as the sink (the two pack makes it easier to wash dishes), but you could also upgrade to collapsing sinks that have drain holes too.

There are a number of faucet options out there. This one has two buttons: on/off, and 600ml (which dispenses water until the limit is reached, which is perfect for hearty handwashing), a nice style, and an angled spout that shoots the water out at a bit of an angle, giving you more room for a sink. The base fits well over the pvc adaptor listed above, which still allows it to swivel depending on your needs. I’ve also added a slice of a thin pool noodle, which helps cut down on some minor wobbling when you press the on/off button. I use it about half the time.

Note that different faucets have different bases—which are often not shown in photos on Amazon—so you may have to alter this plan if you choose a different one. And keep in mind that some faucets have their water intake hose on the backside of the faucet base instead of the bottom, so they wouldn’t work with this setup.


Putting this together is dead simple. Just unscrew the standard spigot, screw in the pvc piece listed above (mine only screws in a few turns, which is more than sufficient), insert the water tube into the jug, and set the faucet on top. Bingo, you’re done. Here’s what it looks like, with the addition of the pool noodle slice mentioned above.

And there you go! A simple and cheap solution. We’ll likely be using a similar set up in the minivan camper we’re hoping to build.