Metal canteens and other canteens are the most essential survival item out there.
“Why?” Because if you’re out in the wilderness or even a desert or arctic environment without food and water, you’re toast.
You see, survival canteens aren’t just tough water bottles. They usually come with a canteen cup that slots right into the water bottle, giving you two really important pieces of kit for only the space of one.
The canteen cup is fire-friendly, and is used to boil water and cook food on a campfire. For those who don’t know: boiling water is the go-to method for sanitizing water in an emergency situation. It kills all pathogenic bacteria, viruses and protozoa after boiling for one minute, or after three minutes at altitudes above 5,000 feet.
Lastly, survival canteens come with a carry pouch that lets you strap them to yourself or your gear. For non-metal canteens, they also serve to keep them protected from cutting damage while traversing difficult terrain.
Let’s take a look at the best survival canteens for the individual preferences that you might have, starting with the absolute go-to piece of kit.
The Best Metal and Survival Canteens Reviewed
|Best Survival Canteen||Keith Titanium Ti3060 Canteen Mess Kit|
|Best Military Style Canteen||G.A.K New Military Style 1 qt. Stainless Steel Canteen Kit|
|Best High Capacity Canteen||Military issue 2 Quart Water Canteen|
|Best Budget Option||BeGrit Outdoor Aluminum Canteen Kit|
|Alternative Military Style Canteen||Jolmo Lander G.I. Style Canteen Kit|
Best Survival Canteen: Keith Titanium Ti3060 Canteen Mess Kit
Best Survival Canteen
It’s made out of titanium. Grade one titanium.
It’s safe to say, this canteen kit is made out of the most ideal material possible, and that’s what makes it our star pick.
Titanium is less toxic than steel, experiences lower amounts of thermal expansion than steel, and has a higher melting point too. It’s also much, much lighter, unlike what people expect when they hear “titanium.”
Some canteens out there are made of aluminium, and although it’s lighter than steel, it underperforms in every aspect that titanium beats steel in.
What We Like:
- Pure Grade 1 Titanium – Keith Titanium is the only seller out there that deals in grade one titanium survival gear. Grade 2 and 3 experience titanium content degradation over time, and “titanium alloy” products are usually ridiculously low in titanium content. Think more like 5-10% low grade titanium content, compared to this kit’s 100% pure grade 1 titanium content.
- Stays Tasteless – This canteen and cup kit don’t stain when you put strong tasting drinks in them such as coffee, juice or even whisky.
- Extremely Lightweight – At 5.6 ounces for the canteen and 4.5 ounces for the cup, it’s much lighter than steel, stainless steel and even aluminium. Yes, aluminium too.
- Holds 16% More Than a Standard 1 qt. Canteen – That extra capacity lets you go, well, 16% longer without having to refresh your water supply. In an emergency situation, that can, and will make all the difference.
Even just using that extra water capacity to keep properly hydrated, rather than trying to stretch how long you can make it last will dramatically reduce fatigue, letting you stay at 100% mental and physical capacity when you really need it.
Things to Consider:
- The Free Carrying Pouch is Terrible – It’s too short, doesn’t secure the canteen properly, and difficult to open and close with one hand. It’s strange to couple such a high quality product with such a cheap freebie.
The solution? Get a proper G.I. style 1.2 qt. carrier like the Jolmo Lander MOLLE canteen cover. I can confirm that it fits the Keith Titanium canteen kit, and it comes in the color options of olive drab and coyote brown, which are much more suited to survival purposes than the tan digital camo of the free carrying pouch, which you can see below.
All in all, the Keith Titanium canteen and cup are unparalleled when it comes to survival canteens. They simply outperform every other canteen out there, and that’s what makes them the go-to choice.
Check the latest price on Amazon.
Best Military Style Canteen: G.A.K New Military Style 1 qt. Stainless Steel Canteen Kit
Best Military Style Canteen
This one is made of stainless steel, which although is heavier than titanium and aluminium, is an incredibly strong material.
If you’re going with this one, then saving every ounce of weight isn’t so much of an issue to you. It doesn’t go for the essentials, it goes for utility, and that’s what makes it a great pick if “usefulness” is your number one priority.
The foldable stove is one such example of why this product is far more useful than your standard canteen and cup kit. The carrying pouch is also excellent. It’s genuine G.I. issue surplus.
The stove will burn with hexamine, trioxane, or simply some good old Sterno fuel. It also has raised feet, side slot vents, and fold-down pot supports.
What We Like:
- Stainless Steel – While it’s not quite as light as titanium or aluminium, it’s certainly a better material choice than aluminium. Not only is it much stronger, but it also has a higher melting point, and retains heat much better than aluminium. This makes it well-suited to boiling water or cooking with directly on a campfire, where the heat can get to very high levels. Stainless steel also doesn’t stain with the flavor of strong tasting drinks or foods.
- The Foldable Stove – Keep some solid fuel in your survival kit, and you’ll be able to sanitize water easily and cook foraged food without having to spend valuable time setting up a full campfire in the daytime when it’s not needed. I recommend these hexamine tablets, because trioxane is poisonous. Use a couple of them together to boil your water with.
- Genuine G.I. Surplus Carrying Pouch – The quality of this MOLLE pouch is second to none. It’s the real deal. It is in lightly used condition because they’re all military surplus, but they’re all in a functional good condition. We’d rather have one of these than a copycat ripoff.
- Lightweight Cap Chain – The lightweight chain that keeps you from losing the cap is a nice addition which a lot of other canteens don’t have. Losing the cap would essentially mean losing your water supply, so it’s nice to know that it’s impossible to have that happen with this product.
Things to Consider:
- Plastic Cap – While stainless steel doesn’t stain from strong flavored drinks, plastic does. It’s not so much of a big deal considering that the cap isn’t going to be in direct contact with the liquid in the canteen very much unless you’re going prone for prolonged periods of time with it.
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Best High Capacity Canteen: Military issue 2 Quart Water Canteen
Best High Capacity Canteen
This shoulder canteen has a mighty two quart capacity, which puts it right as the top end of carry capacity. You’ll absolutely need the extra water if you’re going for long distances where water is scarce, like in desert environments.
It’s a little different to the other canteens in this post, in that there are no metal parts. It’s a genuine, unused military issue water bladder in a genuine, military issue carrier that’s insulated with wool. Carrying water is the one thing this canteen excels at, which makes it ideal for preppers and survivalists going on foraging expeditions.
The plastic material the water bladder is made from feels almost rubber-like. It’s collapsible and it’s very tough. Tougher than you’d expect, but after all, it is military spec so durability is a top priority in its design.
What We Like:
- High Capacity – This canteen bladder can carry a full day’s water supply. That gives you a significant amount of time to cover ground or forage for food without worrying about having to find a water source half way through the day to refill your canteen.
- Wool Insulated Lining – Water that is prepared and allowed to cool in the low temperatures of the early morning will stay cool in this canteen while the day heats up. This is extremely valuable for keeping you cool in hot desert environments. There’s a very good reason why the US army use these.
- Easy Carry Shoulder Strap – You can just sling this canteen pouch over your shoulder and be on your way.
Things to Consider:
- It’s Only Suitable for Water – Strong tasting liquids, such as coffee, tea or flavored drinks will stain the water bladder with that flavor, giving the water you put in it afterwards a strange, unfresh taste from the residue left behind. That taste will stay for many uses if you do that, so just stick to water with this one.
- Plastic Smell – The plastic bladder, when brand new, can have a “new plastic” smell to it that’ll affect the taste of the water too if you don’t get it out. Though, all you need to do to remove the smell / taste is to fill the bladder with a mix of water and half a cup or so of baking soda (the more the better) and leave it for a day or two, giving it a shake every now and then.
- You Can’t Boil Water or Cook With It – The simple solution to that one is to pair it with one of the other canteen kits I’ve recommended in this post. That way, you’ll have the full canteen kit and more than enough water carrying capacity to last from morning all the way through the day until it’s time to make a fire for the night, when you’re able to sanitize more water again without wasting time or resources. It’s basically an ideal setup. Carrying that extra water is useful for rinsing foraged food like nuts and berries while on the go, as well as for cooling yourself down when the day’s at its hottest.
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Best Budget Option: BeGrit Outdoor Aluminum Canteen Kit
Best Budget Option
If aluminium has one thing going for it, it’s that it’s so light.
The canteen cup can be used to cook food or sanitize water on an open fire under direct flame. Just don’t try it with the plastic canteen bottle.
Speaking of which, the canteen bottle is made from thick, durable plastic and has a nice watertight screw cap that stays connected to the canteen when it’s opened, meaning that it’s impossible to lose it.
Of course, the stiff plastic that the cap retainer is made from makes the cap touch your face while you drink from it, but that’s not particularly an issue in a survival situation.
What We Like:
- Foldable Aluminium Spork – Sporks can be used as either a fork or a spoon, making them the most compact cutlery choice of all. This one even has a locking mechanism to keep it from folding up while you eat.
- Great Value – You get a fully functional kit for such a low price. This kit can still be used to sanitize water and cook food like the others can, and it’s only a fraction of the price.
Things to Consider:
- The Pouch is Flimsy – It’s basic and it feels quite flimsy, especially the connection points, which is not really what you’re looking for in a canteen pouch. You could get a proper one like the Jolmo Lander MOLLE canteen cover, but that would beat the point of this being a budget choice. Still, the included carry pouch does the job.
- Thin Aluminium – While the cup looks like it’ll hold together, it doesn’t seem like it’d stand up to hard impacts without denting and becoming unable to slot into the canteen for storage.
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Alternative Products to Consider
Alternative Military Style Canteen: Jolmo Lander G.I. Style Canteen Kit
Military Style Canteen Alternative
This one is pricier than the military style canteen kit we featured earlier.
However, there’s three big differences between this product and the other one.
What We Like:
- Flat Stove Surface – This lets you heat your canteen cup more evenly because the heated surface is in complete contact with the cup. It’s like the way a hot plate works. The closed top also stops the heat escaping in the form of hot air compared to the open design of the other one, which makes it a little more efficient.
- The Cup Has a Lid – This means you can cook food more efficiently when using a couple solid hexamine fuel tablets, due to less heat escaping. The lid has small air holes to one side of it, so you don’t need to worry about it blowing up from too much pressure or anything.
Things to Consider:
- The Carrier Isn’t As Good – Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a decent carry pouch completely with MOLLE straps, but we definitely prefer the genuine G.I. surplus one that comes with the G.A.K Stainless Steel Canteen Kit that we featured as the “best military style canteen” earlier in this post.
Check the latest price on Amazon.
Products We Don’t Recommend
As much as we all love Bear, this one has too many issues for us to be able to recommend it.
Things to Consider:
- Leaky – This canteen has a tendency to leak no matter how hard you tighten the cap. However, it can be fixed by pushing up an O-ring of this size in the inside of the cap.
- The Cup’s Rivets Can Pop Out – If this happens, your cup has been rendered useless because it now has holes in it.
- Brittle Cap Securer – The orange tab of plastic that keeps you from losing the cap snaps pretty easily.
The Different Types of Survival Canteen
There’s two main types of survival canteen, and they’re extremely easy to tell apart. One is the standard metal canteen that comes with a cup that slots right into it, and the other is a “soft” style canteen that’s also known as a water bladder or waterskin.
It’s important you know the difference between these two, because they each have significantly different purposes.
The Standard Survival Canteen
This one is, in all honesty, the one to go for if you’re looking for the absolute all-around best style of canteen.
The reason for that is that you can’t sanitize water or cook food on a campfire with the water bladder style of canteens without having an additional piece of equipment. What that usually means is that if you get a water bladder survival canteen, you’ll end up buying a standard style one to make up for its shortcomings.
The other advantages that the standard metal type of survival canteen has come from its metal body. Simply put, metal is just plain more durable, easier to care for, and more versatile in that it doesn’t stain from having anything other than water put in it.
The Water Bladder / Waterskin
The main advantage of the water bladder design is that they’re usually much higher capacity than the metal canteen design. Think more like 2 quarts of capacity rather than the usual 1 qt or 1.2 qt survival canteens you see around.
The other advantage is that they’re much better for keeping water cool. The military issue one I featured earlier in this guide has an insulating wool lining to the carry pouch. However, it’s not all in the carry pouch as to why water bladders are much better than metal survival canteens for keeping water cool. It’s to do with the materials they’re made from themselves.
You see, metal is a much better conductor of heat than the rubbery plastic used in making waterskins. What that means is that your water will warm up far more quickly as the heat is transferred from the surrounding air temperature and from the sun’s radiant heat if you’re using a metal survival canteen. This happens regardless of the carrying pouch.
While you can’t cook food or boil water with a water bladder survival canteen, you can still sanitize water with an anti-microbial water sanitizing product like Purogene. The downside to this though, is that your water will taste slightly like swimming pool water because of the chlorine.
Well, it’s not nearly as much chlorine as they use in swimming pools, but it’s definitely not as fresh of a taste as boiled water. Despite that, a water sanitizer like Purogene is non-toxic and safe to handle even in its concentrated form, so it’s not like it’s it’s bad for your health. It doesn’t smell either, unlike when using free chlorine, because Purogene uses chlorine dioxide instead.
What to Look for in a Survival Canteen
Before you make your final decision as to which one you’re going to go with, make sure to keep these factors in mind.
Water Holding Capacity
As a rule of thumb, 2 quarts of water is how much you need per day. That means you have two options. Either:
- Get a 2 quart water bladder canteen or two 1 quart metal canteens.
- Refill your metal canteen twice a day.
The first option is the most ideal in all situations, because refilling your canteen is not as simple as just taking water from a water source like a river. You have to sanitize the water before it’s safe to drink, and if it’s cloudy, you have to run it through a cloth to filter it before you sanitize it.
Now, boiling water is the best method for sanitizing it, but that means you need to create a two campfires a day in order to fill up your survival flask twice a day. This is why it’s not ideal to only prepare half a day’s water at a time.
Think about it. You’ll already be creating a campfire at night for warmth and protection, so it’s already there for you to use for sanitizing enough water to last for the following day. Nothing is wasted that way.
However, you can, of course, use a chemical water sanitizer like Purogene to eliminate this problem. You’ll be able to sanitize water without needing to build a campfire, which means you’ll only need to carry one metal survival canteen with you.
Just be aware that with this method you’ll still need to be near a water source half way through the day or you’ll be stuck without water, which is a real danger to your survival. In some environments, such as desert environments, this is impossible, so consider the type of climate you’ll find yourself in when making the choice between choosing a 1-1.2 qt capacity or a full 2 qt capacity survival canteen.
In terms of material choice, we rank them as follows:
- Titanium – The lightest, strongest and most corrosion resistant material choice when it’s pure grade 1 titanium we’re talking. Titanium alloys are still, on the whole, better than stainless steel in these same regards. Its only downside is its higher cost.
- Stainless Steel – Stronger than aluminium, has a higher melting point and retains heat when cooking better than it too. Its downside is its heavier weight. Usually reasonably priced.
- Aluminium – Lightweight, and still stain resistant despite being not as strong or corrosion resistant as the other choices. Its greatest advantage is its low cost.
The Carrying Pouch
Now, the carrying pouch is not quite as important as the canteen itself, but the important thing is that you have one that’s secure enough to not lose your canteen while on the move in difficult terrain.
The absolute best carrying pouches are the ones which most closely match the one which the US Army currently use as standard G.I. issue. These ones are designed as a part of the MOLLE system. MOLLE is short for “Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment.”
Essentially, that’s what these G.I. issue carry pouches are: lightweight, easy to attach and easily strong enough to not come undone even in combat situations. As you’d imagine, military-spec gear is more than good enough for survival purposes.
The other type of carrier you’ll see is the kind which has two button flaps which secure the canteen in place. These ones are still a good enough design, but you’ll often find that the MOLLE-style attachment points on these aren’t as sturdy as those which are found on the G.I. issue style MOLLE pouches.
If you want a reliable survival canteen kit that’ll last you years, you’re looking at a budget of $30-40. That’ll get you one of the following:
- A military-style stainless steel canteen kit
- A high capacity waterskin
However, if you’re on a really tight budget, you can get an aluminium survival flask in the $15-20 range. We wouldn’t really pay any more than that for an aluminium piece of kit unless it really went overboard with build quality.
As for the sub-$15 canteens: I’d avoid those, considering how this is essentially the piece of kit that you’ll carry that’s by far the most important to your survival. Even canteens in the $15-20 have rivets popping out as a common issue because of the low strength of aluminium compared to a material like Stainless Steel.
However, even stainless steel has its drawbacks. It isn’t nearly as good as titanium, and a grade one titanium survival flask is truly a lifetime product. That is, you’re set for life if you have one of those.
Really, considering how important survival flasks are and how hard titanium is to manufacture with, the $100-200 price range is justifiable. While it’s true that you’ll save money in the long run by getting one of these because you’ll never need to replace it, it doesn’t quite even out as an investment until after a decade.
That being said, it does make a difference in reducing the overall cost of purchasing a titanium survival canteen.
As for the cost of ownership: there isn’t really any. As long as you clean out your survival canteen after use, you’re not going to get any problems with it. However, stainless steel can develop a metallic smell over time which can be hard to get rid of. I’ll explain how to do that in the “Care and Maintenance” section below.
As for grade one titanium survival flasks, they simply don’t have that problem. They don’t require any care or maintenance at all. I mean, sure, wash it out when you’re done using it, but it’s never going to stain or develop any weird smells. That puts maintenance costs for titanium canteens at precisely zero.
How to Sanitize Water with a Survival Canteen
There’s two methods to doing this. Boiling the water for one minute is the preferred method because it results in the freshest tasting water and doesn’t use chemicals.
However, first, you’ll need to strain out any solid particles in the water using a cloth:
Filtering the Water
The fabrics that work best for this are the ones that are tightly woven and not too stretchy. That’s because they have smaller holes in them, which lets them filter out smaller particles in the water.
If you find the fabric you end up using isn’t filtering everything out in one pass, you should pass the water through it multiple times until the water has become completely clear.
If you don’t have a spare cloth handy and you find yourself in an emergency, you can use some of your clothing to filter your water with. Of course, this is less than ideal, but it’s absolutely necessary when you’re faced with the prospect of severe dehydration due to murky water being your only option.
After you’ve filtered the water to remove the dirt in it, you’ll need to kill the pathogens in it before it’s safe to drink. This is called “sanitizing” the water, and it’s pretty simple to do. We’ll start with the best method for doing this: boiling the water.
Disinfecting Water by Boiling
For this, you’ll need a heat source and a metal survival canteen. Use the cup rather than the bottle when you’re doing this, although if you have a titanium survival canteen then it’s easily strong enough for you to be able to use the bottle instead if you like. Just be sure to keep the lid off if you do this.
As for the heat source, you’ll either be using a campfire or some solid hexamine fuel tablets. With the tablets, you’ll need to prop up your canteen cup with some sticks or rocks unless you have one that has a stove attachment. That’s why a stove attachment is super handy.
However, the easiest way to get a heat source to boil water with is to use the campfire you’ll already be making in the evening to provide you warmth and shelter for the night. Just sit the canteen cup that’s full of water either in or on the campfire and let it boil away.
You’ll want to boil the water for at least one minute in order to kill all the pathogens in it. If you’re at an altitude above 5,000 feet, then you’ll want to boil the water for three minutes. That’s because the higher you go, the lower the temperature water boils at, which makes it take longer to kill the pathogens in it.
After you’ve boiled it, let it cool before drinking. Or, optionally, drink it after it’s cooled to a “drinkable hot coffee temperature” if you need to warm up in the cold winter weather.
Disinfecting Water with Chemical Sanitizers
With this method, you’ll need an anti-microbial water sanitizing product like Purogene to do the job. Purogene uses chlorine dioxide rather than chlorine, which means it doesn’t have that bleachy smell that swimming pools have. It’s also non-toxic, unlike chlorine, which truly is a big plus to using it.
The water will still not taste as fresh as boiled water, and it’ll have a slight chemical taste to it, but this method is much better when you’re limited for time. In fact, it can be the only water sanitization method available to you if you have a water bladder / waterskin style of canteen and no other metal cooking equipment with you. In that case, you’ll absolutely need to keep some Purogene in your kit at all times.
These chemical sanitizers last a very long time. That bottle of Purogene lasts for 480 gallons of water. As for guidelines on how to use it, it varies between products. Read the label and follow what it says to do.
How to Cook Food with a Survival Canteen
Much like with boiling water, you’ll be able to use your canteen’s cup to cook food with.
It goes without saying: don’t this with the bottle, just the cup. That’d just be nasty.
Any kind of hot food ration can be cooked in a canteen cup, and you can also cook any foraged or caught food in one without having to do anything special.
Use your best judgement and make sure that everything is thoroughly cooked through. Now is not the time to reenact your last barbecue where your meat was pink in the middle. Getting food poisoning in the wilderness can be a death sentence.
As with boiling water, you can use either a campfire or some solid hexamine fuel tablets. You’ll need to use quite a few hexamine tablets to cook food with though, because cooking times are naturally much longer than water takes to boil. For that reason, a campfire is easily the preferred method.
Care and Maintenance
For titanium survival canteens, there’s no maintenance required other than the obvious: washing it out to keep it clean. However, even if you forget to wash it out, it’ll clean right up quite easily. It won’t ever stain or develop any funky smells.
Aluminium is pretty stain resistant still, but it’ll oxidize over time, leaving a faint metallic smell to it. That’s the same thing as what “rust” is in iron and steel, but with aluminium it “rusts” into aluminium oxide over time instead, which is not toxic and so it’s not a big deal. With some scrubbing you can clean it up pretty easily.
However, with stainless steel it’s likely that it’ll develop a metallic smell after a while which you’ll need to get out somehow, because it affects the taste of the water. It’s not necessarily bad for you, but it does make the water taste pretty weird.
Unfortunately, it’s not too easy to get that metallic taste to go away. It’s caused by bacteria latching onto the surface, and they’re pretty hard to kill.
The most effective method would be to fill it with boiling water and give it a good scrubbing, then empty it out and fill it with vinegar and leave it to soak for several hours. The vinegar will easily kill the bacteria.
Just don’t use bleach to do this, because bleach, ironically, stains stainless steel.
Oh, and if you’re wondering whether Purogene will stain stainless steel, it won’t, because it’s chlorine dioxide rather than chlorine (bleach).
Finally, with the water bladder style of survival canteen, you’ll need to remove the “new plastic smell” that comes with it when it’s brand new by filling it with a mix at least of half a cup of baking soda with as much water as it takes to fill it. Leave it for a day or two, giving it a shake every now and then, and that plastic smell will be completely gone. Or, if it isn’t, then do it once more.
After a long while, it’ll develop an unfresh taste from the bacteria that latch into it. You can use the vinegar trick to clean that out. Fill it with vinegar and let it soak for several hours. It might take a few rinses for the vinegar taste to go away, but after that at least you’ll be able to enjoy water that stays completely fresh rather than going sour after a few hours.