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Field Equipment

USGI Canteen

Improved USGI Canteen Set

      Soldiers, hikers and hobos have long trusted the humble USGI canteen set. It is a simple but effective system of canteen, cup and stove. It is essentially a kidney shaped miniature cook set, designed to be warn on the hip. The steel cup is used to drink, sterilize water and heat meals. The design does have some limitations, which are addressed by the aftermarket components below. The advantages of the USGI canteen system are availability; it is worn on the body not stored in a pack, durability; hydration carriers are more susceptible to bursting when subjected to pressure or impact, redundancy; generally, more than one canteen will be carried.

Oasis Canteen

1: Canteen

The standard plastic canteen permits bacteria to build up inside, developing an unpleasant odour and taste. It will melt if filled with boiling water. Nalgene produce the Oasis, an upgraded canteen constructed from BPA free Tritan. It resists bacteria build up and can accept boiling water. The only disadvantage of the Oasis canteen is its transparency, water purification tablets are affected by sunlight. I prefer sterilization by boiling because it is fool proof; the rolling boil provides visual confirmation. The Oasis can be run through the dishwasher just keep the plastic cap away from the heating element. Nalgene have recently released olive and tan variants of the oasis. Guys that like this canteen system prefer their gear in subdued colors. If you want more customer reviews check out the blue model.
Weight: 4 oz.

Canteen Cup

2: Cup

The only problem with the standard U.S. canteen cup is availability. Most online distributors offer inferior Chinese copies. The Chinese aluminum cup doesn't fit the U.S. canteen. The Chinese steel cup is powder coated and doesn't fit the U.S. stove. Bestglide and the Canteen Shop sell the genuine U.S. issue cup. There are two types of cup handles, the under folder and the superior butterfly handle, shown above.
Weight 8 oz.

Canteen Cup Lid

3: Lid

A metal canteen cup lid has been on the wish list of many a bushcrafter, to the extent that some have hammered one out themselves; converting the cup into a miniature cook pot. Heavy Cover Inc produce a stainless steel lid that keeps soot out of the cup and cuts boil time by 1 minute. Unfortunately, most canteen covers are designed to accept canteen, cup and stove. There is no room for the lid. The Molle II pouch below is the exception. British readers may be interested to know that Heavy Cover Inc also fabricates a metal lid for the Nato Crusader cup.
Weight: 5 oz.

Canteen Shop's Improved Stove

4: Stove

The original canteen stove stand was a flimsy strip of aluminum shaped to fit the cup. Its function was to support the cup over burning trioxane. It fit tight to the bottom of the cup, forcing the user to drink their coffee with the stove still attached. The tight fit also impairs the airflow that alcohol stoves require to function efficiently. The canteen shop fabricates an improved stove from stainless steel with a grill top and four integral standoffs. The cup now sits above the stove rather than in it. Airflow is much better making it compatible with alcohol stoves.
Weight: 6 oz.

Canteen Cover

5: Canteen Cover

The popularity of the USGI canteen kit has led to inferior canteen covers flooding the market. Avoid covers not constructed from denier rated nylon, 500D to 1000D. I recommend three products, Rothco's enhanced original USGI style, Rothco's bikini style and the Atlanco's current USGI Molle II style. The enhanced original cover offers the easiest access to the canteen. Pop two snaps and lift the canteen out with one hand. The 'y' strap used on the other two designs has more potential durability, as snaps wear out and can't be replaced.

However the 'y' strap can flop down and obstruct canteen withdrawal and insertion. Canteens are typically worn on kidney area, which is out of view and difficult to reach with both hands. The enhanced original is the only model to feature fleece lining, which can be dampened for evaporative cooling. The 1000D Cordura nylon is the industry maximum. Available in black only, I would like Rothco to offer it in olive too. It's shipped with two ALICE clips; I recommend upgrading to short malice clips.

Canteen covers

Rothco's 500D bikini style is a bare bones approach with no integral pockets. It's a dedicated canteen cover that doesn't need to be cinched down for silence. There is enough capacity for a canteen, cup and stove but not the lid. This cover is not shipped with belt clips, which has frustrated several customers. The Molle II pouch has an adjustable 'Y' strap and neck drawcord, enabling storage for the cup lid and even more. Two side pockets will store, fuel, drink mix or purification tabs. If you go for military surplus, pick woodland cammo over ACU, which clashes with everything. I recommend using two short malice clips to attach all three pouches to a web belt. They're more secure, durable and comfortable than ALICE clips or MOLLE straps. The bikini is available in olive and black. The Molle II is available in Brown, ACU and Multicam.

Webbing

Carrying a second canteen and cup is a good idea. One dedicated cover can store a stove the other a lid. Use one cup for heating food and the other for drinking. You don't need to be as fussy about cleaning the cooking cup. A complete canteen system is too heavy to be carried on a trouser belt. A web belt worn on the hips, will support one canteen pouch but adding a belt pad makes carrying two canteens very comfortable. Blackhawk's enhanced 'H' harness is ideal, if you want to add a survival kit or knife to the belt too. Available in olive or black.

Stove with wood fuel

6: Fuel

There are several types of fuel used with the canteen cook set. The only fuel I recommend avoiding is Ethanol gel, being underpowered and messy. It takes more than one sachet of gel to bring water to a boil, leaving excess fuel in the second sachet. The new stove stand retains the loading port for natural fuel materials such as pinecones or twigs. This renewable fuel can be collected when found and cached in a backpack, rather than sought out when required.

Agowa Fuel

Fuel tablets are comparatively scarce and expensive. Their minimal bulk and weight make them suitable for survival kits. Multiple tablets may be required to bring water to a boil, depending on the temperature. Hexamine and Trioxane tablets release toxic fumes when burned. Esbit is refined hexamine, it emits fishy but non-toxic fumes. The actual Esbit compound remains toxic if ingested; hands need to be washed after handling it. Agowa produces a natural fuel tablet based on vegetable oil, which is completely non-toxic and burns cleanly with no residue.

Trangia Spirit Stove

Denatured alcohol requires an additional burner placed inside the canteen stove stand. The Trangia burner has earned a reputation for being lightweight, compact, durable, reliable and simple. It is constructed from brass and has no moving parts. It has two top covers; one has an o-ring and screws on to seal unused fuel during storage. The other has pivoting lid to adjust the heat output of the burner. These two features are unique to the Trangia, which has gained popularity due to its ease of use. It is economical, efficient, controllable, clean, odourless and quiet. Fuel is widely available as HEET yellow bottle from gas stations, auto parts and convenience stores.

Tealight Candles as Fuel

Tealight candles are a good fuel option if using the canteen system at home in an emergency. They are safe to use indoors, economical to purchase and require no special storage precautions. Use 2 or 3 candles to receive reasonable heat output. Let the wax melt before placing the cup on the stove. Wind vulnerability makes them less suitable for outdoor use. However, any non-toxic combustible is still an effective fuel for the canteen stove.

Canteen Cup Meals

7: Food

The ability to provide warm drinks and meals is essential for outdoor activity, power outages or vehicle breakdown. While it is possible to cook with the canteen cup, bouillon cubes, soup mix, Boil-in-Bag rice, Ramen Noodles, are more typical. Rice cakes will substitute if bread is unavailable. Supplement bouillon and soup mix with dehydrated vegetables and beef jerky to add greater sustenance. Chunks of chicken, salmon and tuna are now available in lightweight sachets, replacing heavy tins. Instant mash and gravy give a little taste of home. Individual honey sachets, peanut butter, beef jerky and Creatine tablets provide a quick energy boost when on the move. If you are shipping these foods to folks overseas, don't package them with detergent or other chemicals. The MSG flavour enhancers will acquire their taste and odour.

Questions & Feedback.

Well, that's about it guys. I hope you found this page of some use. If you have any questions or feedback, you can contact me through the welcome page. Before you leave, check the navigation bar for other quality gear that may be of interest. If you enjoyed the site, I'd be grateful if you would mention it to your friends. Word of mouth helps, even in this technological age. You can find the site by typing 'Real World Gear' into any major search engine, should you want to recap or check for updates.

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