Having water in your van is a must for van life – and being able to be off grid for a week or two at a time without refilling my water is incredible! Some people just get water jugs and refill them, but having a sink with running water makes a huge difference for making the place really feel like home. For my van life water system, I went with a foot pump sink, so this guide will tell you the pros and cons of a camper van foot pump sink, give you everything you need to know to build your own foot pump water system in a van, and take you through every detail of my water system.
I did this all myself, so no plumbing experience is required for this DIY camper van foot pump sink and water system!
Head’s up – some of the links in this blog post are affiliate links – which means I get a small commission if you buy any of these items (at no cost to you). Which is great because I was going to share anyway, and this allows me to keep making free guides!
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Pros and Cons of a Camper Van Foot Pump Sink
There are a few different options for the kind of water pump you use in your camper van water system.
You can use an electric water pump – this means it connects to your electrical system in the van, and you don’t have to manually pump your water. You just turn on the faucet, and water comes out! This option is the most convenient, but it’s also a little more difficult because you need to connect it to the battery, and if you ever run out of power your water pump won’t work, which is the biggest reason why I didn’t choose this for my build.
If you don’t want the electric water pump, you have two options for manual pumps – a hand pump, and a foot pump.
A hand pump is, as you can probably guess, one that you operate by hand. I used one of these in my first van build, but I didn’t keep it in my second. I didn’t like it because it’s pretty difficult to pump the water by hand while washing dishes, washing your face, or doing anything that requires both hands. I think this option is pretty inconvenient, and I definitely prefer the foot pump!
Which brings me to the main purpose of this blog post – my camper van foot pump sink! I chose a foot pump for my second (current) van build for a few reasons. It has some advantages over the electric water pump, but there are definitely cons as well.
Pros of a Foot Pump Sink Faucet
- doesn’t use electricity
- saves water (because you have to manually pump it, while the electric pump keeps going until you turn it off)
- easier to install
cons of a Foot Pump Sink Faucet
- takes up some floor space
- takes longer to get water out
- more work for your foot
Camper Van Foot Pump Water System Diagram
So now let’s talk about how I made my water system and put everything together! Here’s a camper van water system diagram to give you an overview of everything I used – don’t worry, I’ll go into more detail about each part and how it all connects.
Details & Connectors
- plug – closes the fresh water tank, gets removed when I refill it
- 3/8″ NPT to 1/2″ hose barb – adapter to connect the PVC tubing to the fresh water tank
- hose clamps – clamps the PVC tubing to prevent leaks
- 1/2″ NPT to 1/2″ hose barb – adapter to connect the PVC tubing to the faucet
- quick connect fitting – connects the drain hose to the gray water tank so you can disconnect easily when emptying
- teflon tape – prevent leaks in metal connections
- plastic thread sealant – prevent leaks in plastic connections
How to install the camper van foot pump water system
Now let’s get into the details of building the plumbing system, and putting together the foot pump water system!
Camper Van Fresh Water Tank
The camper van water system begins with the fresh water. You’ll need to choose a fresh water tank – when you’re making the decision, size is the most important thing to think about. Measure the space in your van build to make sure the tank will fit, and think about how often you want to be refilling.
In my first van build, I used a 10 gallon tank. This ended up being way too small for me, and I had to refill it every 3-5 days or so. I wanted to be able to stay out in the woods longer than that, so when I rebuilt my van I went with a 25 gallon tank instead. With the 25 gallon tank, my water usually lasts me about a week. For my life, 25 gallons works well – it’s just me in my van, I don’t cook very much, but I do drink a lot of water and a lot of tea. If you expect to have more dishes, or there are two people living in your van, you might want a bigger tank, or you might prefer a smaller one that takes up less space.
I put my fresh water tank under my bench/bed, so when I refill it I just slide the bench out and put the hose through the slats. The water tank has one open fill inlet, so you’ll need a plug to ensure it’s not spilling and splashing while you drive. For refilling, I recommend this hose – it’s 50 feet long, but it stretches when you run water through it, so it’s much smaller for storage – perfect for a van! I also have this water tank filler that attaches to the hose, which fits into the inlet. This way, you don’t need to take the water tank out to refill, and you can just connect to any water pump with a hose attachment and fill up.
Connecting Fresh water to the Foot Pump
To connect the fresh water tank to the foot pump, you’ll need an adapter. This one connects the water tank to the PVC tubing, which you can then connect to the foot pump. Anytime you’re connecting the pipes, make sure you’re using hose clamps so that your plumbing doesn’t leak, as well as some plastic thread sealant!
On the foot pump I used, the right side connects to the water tank, but if you use another pump, it should have arrows or some indicator to let you know which is which.
Connecting Foot Pump to Faucet
Before connecting the foot pump to the faucet, you’ll need to install the faucet. This is the faucet I used – I don’t have hot water in my van, so if you do you’ll need to do some additional work to connect a heater and whatnot. Some sinks have a hole for the faucet, so if that’s the case you’ll want to install that too – mine is separate, so I left the sink for later to make it easier to connect the faucet.
I drilled a hole in my counter top using a hole saw, put the faucet through, and screwed in the attachment it came with to secure it to the counter top. Next, you’ll connect this adapter to the faucet to allow it to connect to the PVC pipe. Don’t forget to put teflon tape on it! Connect the PVC, and use a hose clamp. At this point you can test the foot pump faucet to make sure everything is working.
Connecting Sink to Gray Water Tank
After your foot pump and faucet are ready, it’s time to connect the sink to your gray water tank, so that your water has a place to drain! This is the sink I have – it came with a drain, but if you go with something else you’ll need to buy that separately. My sink is pretty big, which I love! This is another thing I learned from my first build – my old, small sink was really inconvenient and I was always splashing water around when I did the dishes, so a big sink is much easier and gives me plenty of room and a place for the dishes to dry.
To install the sink in the countertop, I just used a jigsaw to cut out a big hole, plopped it in, and added some caulk underneath the edge to prevent water getting under it. This flexible drain hose connects to the drain, and all you have to do is screw it in. Under the sink is the gray water tank, where the water drains into. I added a quick connect fitting, which screws into the cap of my gray water tank, connecting to the drain hose. This way you don’t have to unscrew the tank every time, and it disconnects quickly and easily!
Camper Van Foot Pump water system
If this guide helped you out, let me know in the comments below! Ask me any questions, or share your own experience with putting together your van’s water system :).