Monday, October 25, 2010

Gear that Works: Uninsulated Metal Canteens

For warm-weather canteens, I use clear PETE soda-pop bottles. Light, tough, recyclable and free. They can be used to purify drinking water, too. Set them in the sun for a day, and UV radiation will kill biological pathogens. Simpler and better tasting than bleach, iodine or boiling.

For winter, though, I like uninsulated metal canteens that can be set near a fire to warm water or melt snow*. (*Make sure the cap is loosened so steam can escape.) I came across these Italian military surplus six-liter olive oil containers that are perfect for the job. Heavy-duty aluminum with a two-piece spout. A large opening for filling and a small one for pouring. Both caps are attached with chains so you won't lose them in the snow. (I've lost a lot of things in the snow, up to and including a tent...) There's a bale for carrying, and one side is concave so they don't bump into your legs like round buckets do. The opposite convex side has a couple welded brackets that will facilitate strapping to a pack or sled.

They came with a button-on wool cover. I'm not sure what the cover's purpose is, other than to look cool and make handling more comfortable in freezing weather. Perhaps the insulation moderates temperature swings and helps olive oil store better. Or it's intended to be wetted for an evaporative cooling effect in hot weather. Or all of the above.

It occurs to me that when set around a fire, these tall cans would not only warm water, but also reflect heat. (Again, make sure the cap's not on tight, or you're building a bomb.) I'll test that theory in a couple weeks when deer season starts.

I may get a couple more to use for their design purpose, storing olive oil. I occasionally visit a shop that has first-cold-pressed extra-virgin in bulk. The proprietor tells me it stays fresh for about six months, we go through about a liter a month, and these are six-liter cans. If that isn't a sign from the gods, I don't know what is.

On the internet, these are available for $32 at Sportsman's Guide, and $79 at Deutsche Optik. Guess it pays to shop around.


dogBreath said...

In warm weather, wetting the insulation will cool the containers by evaporation. I've found that to be a useful feature of other military-issue canteens here in southern Arizona. We also use evaporative cooling as an alternative to air conditioning. In dry weather, it works very well.

Albert A Rasch said...


That's a nice find, I'm going to order a couple myself. I know my son will like one for his kit.

Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch™
Pictures from the Front: Kandahar Airfield Bread Maker

Oblio13 said...

Well, I took two of these on a winter camping trip and learned something the hard way: If you snug down the caps while the leather washers are dry, they will swell up and make the caps too tight to open. So, finger tight only. A perfect example of why it's important to "shake down" your gear on close-to-home trips before more serious expeditions.

SteveClimber said...

Sorry boss, but leaving soda bottles full of water out in the sun all day will NOT kill bacteria &/or pathogens through exposure to UV radiation. Leaving something out in the sun does not expose it to the correct type of UV radiation.

Most UV light that comes from the sun is non-ionizing - the kind that does no damage to bacteria. The upper layers of Earth's atmosphere block out the non-ionizing UV rays that come from the sun.

I would suggest reading more about it, before you contract some horrible disease by drinking bacteria-friendly, soda-bottle-incubated water.

SteveClimber said...

Woops, made a typo. That second paragraph should say "the upper layers of Earth's atmosphere block out the IONIZING UV rays that come from the sun".

Ionizing UV kills bacteria/pathogens, and non-ionizing doesn't kill them. Ionizing rays are filtered out by Earth's atmosphere, non-ionizing rays make it through the atmosphere, and down to Earth's surface.

Anonymous said...

Solar water disinfection (also known as SODIS) in PETE bottles is recommended by WHO and others. Here's the Wiki link, with some impressive references: