I suppose probably everyone has had a canteen sometime in their life, whether it be a required piece of equipment while camping with the Boy Scouts in the woods, or an overnight bivouac in the back yard. Without thinking about it you automatically realized your need to have water and what better way to take care of yourself than a personal canteen. As you grew older you graduated to a thermos bottle, either for your school lunch box or for having coffee on the job. Technology has given us “cool cups” and “hot” cups which keep fluids hot or cold for days.
Now that you finished a stroll down memory lane, let’s focus on the immediate issue. What type of canteen is best for me in a survival situation? Ever hear the most aggravating answer in the world … “Depends”? Well, it does.
Go to a major sporting goods store, Gander Mountain, Pro Bass, Dicks or Amazon and check out their stock of canteens. Chances are you will be astonished at the types, sizes, shapes, and types of material their made of. The once simple task of dashing into the store and picking up a canteen for your camping trip, because you couldn’t find your old one in the pile of family camping gear in the basement, are long gone. It now takes a day of research to feel confident you’ve chosen the right one for your needs.
Let’s go through a checklist of things to consider when buying a canteen.
Material: The first thing to consider is what material is it made out of. In my opinion the best choice is metal, like titanium or stainless steel. They are rugged and will withstand just about any kind of abuse while simply sustaining a dent. Plastic is a no-no. Too prone to self destruct under minimum abuse.
Non-Insulated: Your first instinct may be to buy an insulated canteen in order to keep your water cold, or coffee hot, whichever… but that’s a mistake. Insulated canteens are double walled in order to put a layer of dead air between the two walls, good for keeping the original liquid the desired temperature, but that’s it.
You’ll eventually run out of that canteen full of water, which is no problem because there’s a stream near camp with plenty of fresh water. Of course there’s all sorts of little critters in the stream water that if you don’t kill, will quite likely make you very sick.
Again, no problem … just boil the water, which makes it perfectly safe to drink. But … now there’s a problem! The insulated canteen will not allow the water to get hot enough to kill the parasites, no matter how long you keep it over the fire or how hot the fire. You’ve just run out of safe drinking water with no way to replace it.
Compact and lightweight: Water is heavy, @ 18 lbs. a gallon. You need something lightweight as to not add any further unnecessary weight to your already maxed out bug out bag. The canteen should also be compact as to not take up too much room in your backpack, or too cumbersome to carry on your hip attached by a harness or belt.
High Resistance: You never know what conditions you may encounter in a survival situation, therefore your canteen must be reliable. It must be able to resist failure if dropped, even at a great height onto rocky or otherwise hard terrain. A quality metal canteen will not leak, rust or allow toxic chemicals to leach into your water like a plastic canteen is prone to do.
Taste: Granted if you are thirsty enough you’ll drink any water regardless of a bad taste, but if you’re not to that point yet, water that taste bad is a real moral killer. You know it’s safe to drink, but your mind will create little squiggly things swimming around in it. Plastic is prone to leave a telltale taste if the water has been stored in it for quite some time. Metal will never do this.