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.
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.
2: Canteen Cup
The only problem with the standard U.S. canteen cup is availability. Most online distributors offer inferior imported
"USGI style" in leu of the scarce genuine USGI surplus cup.
copies. The imported aluminum cup doesn't fit the U.S. canteen. The imported steel cup is actually powder coated metal
and incompatible with the USGI stove. Bestglide and the Canteen Shop stock the genuine U.S. issue cup. There are two types of cup handles,
the under folder and the superior butterfly handle, shown above.
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. Use the link below to find either type.
The original USGI 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
hot stove still attached, which would invariably drop into their crotch. 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 reducing boil times with alcohol stoves.
Note: The stove is optimized for the Trangia and Vargo burners; homemade Altoids stoves may not do so well.
5: Canteen Cover
The popularity of the USGI canteen kit has led to inferior canteen covers flooding the market. Avoid the imported "G.I. type" products. Actual U.S. military surplus or commercial U.S. products are the way to go. Avoid covers not constructed from nylon denier rated to 1000D. Pictured above, the military issue MOLLE II canteen cover, doubles as a utility pouch, hence the separate pouch flap. This design can hold everything but the kitchen sink. There is plenty of room for canteen, cup, stove and lid. Some guys cut plastic canteens in half and use them it as their drinking cup. The steel cup is used as a cooking pot. The plastic "cup" will stack between the steel cup and nalgene canteen. (Stack rather than nest.) A fully loaded pouch gets fairly hefty and may benefit from web suspenders.
The Maxpedition canteen cover is a minimalist "slick" design with no side pouches. It will accommodate a canteen, cup and
grilltop stove. However the tapered pouch is too tight for the cup lid. This pouch is shipped without attachment clips and
lacks an integral belt loop. A couple of short MALICE clips resolve that. Closure buckles have a longer service life than snaps
but surplus ALICE covers remain serviceable, if available. The ALICE pouch won't accommodate the cup lid either.
A complete canteen cook set is too heavy to be carried on a trouser belt. However a web belt worn on the hips, will support it. Carrying a second canteen set is a very good idea. One cover can store a canteen, cup and stove. The other cover can store a canteen, cup and lid. Use one cup for heating food and the other for drinking. Subsequently, you don't need to be as fussy about cleaning the cooking cup. Blackhawk's enhanced 'H' harness is ideal, if you want to carry two canteens. Add a survival kit or survival knife to the belt too. Available in olive or black.
The harness is sold as a discrete unit. It does not include a belt, belt pad or pouches. Pictures featuring those
items demonstrate a completed Load Bearing Equipment (LBE) system. The compatible ALICE and MOLLE pouches
require short Malice clips
for belt attachment. This supports LBE reconfiguration without complete disassembly. Vests and chest harnesses
suit vehicular operations. LBE's unrestricted prone position, lower balance point, superior airflow, range of adjustment
and modularity compliment foot borne activity.
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 twigs, pine cones or cow dung. This renewable fuel can be collected when found and cached in a backpack, rather than sought out when required.
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. Exbit can be hard to ignite. A Vaseline impregnated cotton ball helps.
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.
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, odorless and quiet. Fuel is
widely available as "HEET" yellow bottle from gas stations, auto parts and convenience stores.
Individual honey sachets, peanut butter cups and jerky provide quick energy boosts on the move. M&M's were specifically developed as field chocolate candy. Individual pieces assist eating in freezing temps. The hard shell prevents melting from body heat or ambient heat. The ability to provide hot drinks and meals is essential for outdoor activity, power outages or vehicle breakdowns. It is possible to cook and bake with the canteen cup. Baking bread or muffins is more technical than cooking.
Cooking basic or flavored rice, Ramen noodles and some meat is quick and easy. Pre-mix dry soup mix with dehydrated
vegetables and beef jerky and package them a zip lock bag. I have found meals without meat produce less heat, making sleep
difficult. Chunks of chicken, salmon or tuna are now available in lightweight sachets, replacing heavy tins.
Non-liquid meal components can be stored in the pockets of field jackets, shirts and pants. Store any sachets of liquid
condiments in a zip lock bag to protect against leaks. There are a few guys on youtube making good "canteen cup cooking" videos.
Practice canteen cooking in the back yard. Noodles and jerky is a good place to start.
Questions & Feedback.
Well, that's about it guys. I hope you found this guide useful. If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to contact me through the welcome page.
Ian ST John.
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