Welcome back to part two of our series on hydration. In the last article we discussed the basic hydration cycle of a combat load and also basic water processing and how to actually carry water. In all those topics, we just scratched the surface.
Today we will talk about one of the oldest pieces of equipment soldiers got issued in history. Actually scientists think that the first canteens were used 60,000 years ago, made of eggshells. Luckily enough we have better options these days.
We will take a look at five variants of bottles, for your first and second line of equipment. All of them (except the collapsible one) have a capacity of 1l and we will discuss the pros and cons of each.
Let’s start with the first and likely most popular contender. The Nalgene wide mouth bottle. Nalgene creates bottles, made of BPA free plastics. So health isn’t an issue with those product. As the name implies, the wide mouth bottle has a very wide opening that allows you to collect or drink water very fast. The Nalgene bottle is lightweight and there are many aftermarket products available for Nalgenes. So compatibility with your LBE gear won’t be a problem. Plastic has the properties of keeping your water better insulated from the cold than the other contenders, being less noisy than a steel bottle and don’t being a pain in the ass to drink from in arctic environments. The cover is fixed to the bottle, so no chance of losing the cover. The body is semi transparent, this makes cleaning and inspecting the contents really easy. You can’t go wrong with this old time classic. The main disadvantage is that you can’t boil water in the Nalgene. But you can buy steel cups that fit the bottle like a glove. Also the plastics WILL contain some odor over time.
The next contender is the steel bottle. I followed the hype and bought a Klean Kanteen. It’s a little bit heavier than the Nalgene and not transparent, so keep in mind what you actually put into it, to prevent surprises. You will also have a hard time cleaning it after you have put your coffee with whitener in it. Keep in mind to just carry water or softdrinks inside. On the other hand, water right out of the Klean Kanteen just tastes great and fresh, the steel construction also helps to keep your drinks cool, great for hot environments. What is a pro can also become a con, imagine drinking from a steel bottle in arctic environments, your mouth will hurt soon. Klean Kanteens main advantage is that you can heat water in it, you can actually even put it in a camp fire. But remember to losen the cover a bit so that the bottle won’t detonate when you cook water to long. Better remove the cover or hang the bottle over the fire by adding a S-Biner and some paracord to the cover, this prevents the rubber O-ring from melting.
Putting the canteen into fire will also negate its shiny appearance. The shape of the bottle is taller and narrower than the Nalgene wide mouth, which most pouches are optimized for, so you will experience the bottle slipping or standing out of some pouches, it’s also hard to place them at some gas cooking systems.
The cover is not fixed to the body and so it is easy to lose. Another draw back is noise discipline. Klean Kanteens are steel bottles and everyone knows and recognizes the sound of steel hitting an object. Steel canteens also produce a loud sound when you simply shake them. Klean Kanteens bottles are more of a niche product in the tactical context. A niche product that allows you to heat up larger amounts of water, an ability that can become critical. My approach is to carry one steel bottle and one plastic bottle during prolongued exercises. If you don’t have a steel bottle yet, get one.
Now let’s talk about a variation of the two aforementioned pouches. The classic kidney shaped canteen. You can get military surplus canteens made of plastic and made of steel. I prefer the Nalgene Oasis bottle. It has all the properties of a Nalgene bottle combined with the classic kidney shape. The kidney shape allows you to put one bottle or two in many pouches and it really shines when you have to carry the bottle in your thigh pocket or somewhere else in the first line. In environments where hydration is crucial I normally switch from the classic bottle shape to the kidney shape. Also the cover is fixed to the bottle.
Coapsible bottles are the high speed low drag contender in this TACHACK. They are very lightweight and take little space when empty. They are far best suited for use in the first line, for example in SAS smocks. They also make great back up bottles and are quiet. Now that we spoke about the pros we have to speak about the cons: collapsible bottles are less robust, don’t insulate well, suck at ergonomics, can’t be heated and usually have a small opening. As said before they have their place as a backup water container or in recce operations, they are also great for hunters. There are also models that are compatible with Lifestraws and other water filtration devices. They are a great backup for SERE situations, where you might need additional bottles for collecting water.
As you might understand now, choosing the right bottle is a task that depends on your activity, time frame and the environment.
Do you have a preferred bottle? If so, why? Tell us in the comments.
Also visit our Instagram channel to see me and RB_Two drinking from bottles and doing other cool guy stuff that is to secret to tell on WordPress.