Canteens have been in use for several hundred years; they are derivatives of the even older wineskins, which have been around for millennia. Canteens differ from wineskins in that their bodies are composed of a hard shell which makes them difficult to pierce. During World War I and II, most canteens were still being made out of metal – usually aluminum. The problem with these is that the water would corrode the aluminum inside over time, leading to calcium deposits within the canteen and foul tasting water. During the Vietnam War era, canteens started being made of roto-molded plastic, and they lasted this way until the late 1990s. Canteens are most commonly available as one quart models, although larger ones exist.
- Cheap and widely available as surplus. Costs are less than $10 each.
- Easily carried on a belt.
- Takes two hands to drink from a canteen – one to unscrew the top, and one to hold the canteen.
- Small capacity relative to other solutions.
- Carried on the waist, which leads to fatigue.
All in all, canteens are still better than nothing if that is all you have, but they are an imperfect solution at best. Currently, the military does not use them, as they have been replaced by hydration bladders. It’s still good to have at least one canteen in your kit, however, since canteens are handy for adding water to MREs and other such meals.