If you ever pack more than you could possibly need for a cruise, you might say that you have everything but the kitchen sink, which is a good reminder of the one thing you don’t have: a kitchen sink. None of my boats have a built-in galley, so instead I have two well-appointed galley boxes, a compact one for solo travel, and a larger one to accommodate cooking for a crew. They each hold cookware, tableware (including a tablecloth), and a stove and its fuel, but while both are equipped with dish soap and a scrubby sponge, neither has had room for a sink for dishwashing. I’ve used a collapsible bucket for doing the dishes, but it’s not well suited to the task. It is awkwardly deep and awkward to work in, and even when it’s collapsed, it still has the same broad footprint and takes up valuable storage space.

When I happened upon Ortlieb’s 10-liter Folding Bowl at one of the Seattle marine hardware stores, I knew I’d found a better sink. (Ortlieb’s original name for it in German, is faltschüssel, folding bowl, but a better term for it would be from waschschüssel, washbasin or sink. I’ll refer to it as a sink.) The sink is made of PVC-coated polyester fabric with 1/2″-wide seams bonded by high-frequency welding, an electrical process that works in the same way a microwave does: it creates heat internally by vibrating molecules, so there is very little deformation of the material on the outside. The seam connecting the bottom to the sides is rounded at the corners, which will add to the life of the Folding Bowl by eliminating sharp points that become focal points of wear. Four semi-rigid rods set in sleeves at the top hold the sink open when it is in use. The 10L size has an opening 11-1/2″ square and is 5-1/2″ deep. The corners are flexible and allow the sink to be folded into a compact package—held snugly together by its webbing handles—that weighs less than 9 ounces.

Photographs by the author

Folded up, the sink takes up very little space and fits nicely above the stove in the smaller of my galley boxes. It can even be carried in a pants pocket.

The sink is a good size for dishwashing at camp or at anchor and makes the job much tidier. I’ve often used my cookpot as a sink, but it is too small to hold anything and soapy water gets all over the place, adding to the post-meal cleanup. The 10-L sink neatly contains the mess. If you cook ashore over a campfire, It can carry just over 3 gallons of water when you’re ready to extinguish the fire. The 10 L/2.6-gal rating is for the sink when set on a flat surface; when carried, the bottom adds capacity by turning from flat to rounded. A full load of water weighs 27 lbs, and the handles are just long enough to make it possible to carry that load with one hand.

The Ortlieb Folding Bowl is just right for washing dishes. I can wash them with soapy water in a cook pot, set them aside in the sink, and then rinse them. It’s very tidy and I don’t get water all over the seating areas.

On board, the Folding Bowl can help keep the boat tidy by providing a place for muddy footwear or a dripping anchor rode. Ashore, it can also serve well for foraging—I like to gather nettles in the spring and blackberries in the late summer. Hand-washing laundry is an option, too, though I don’t ever care much how dirty my clothes get while cruising.

The two webbing handles are just long enough to carry the sink, like a bucket, with one hand.

Now, when I pack for a cruise and look at the mountain of gear it takes to do even a three-day cruise, I can take some satisfaction in knowing that I’ve got everything and the kitchen sink.

Christopher Cunningham is the editor of Small Boats Magazine.

The Folding Bowl comes in four sizes: 5-, 10-, 20-, and 50-liter. Ortlieb is based in Germany and has retailers around the world, particularly outdoor stores and bicycle stores. I purchased the 10L from Fisheries Supplies in Seattle for $36.

Is there a product that might be useful for boatbuilding, cruising, or shore-side camping that you’d like us to review? Please email your suggestions.