Max V: Canteen vs. Hydration Bladder

Food for thought and subsequent action.

Carry purification as well.

Thoughts on all three (canteens, bladders, purification) welcome below.

13 responses to “Max V: Canteen vs. Hydration Bladder

  1. Having been a heat casualty in both extremely hot and extremely cold environments (sub-zero) I go overkill on the water and water accessibility. I keep the traditional canteens on my web belt plus a Camelback on my person and a two quart canteen along with a large nalgene bottle on my ruck (along with multiple purification means – tablets, filter, and canteen cup with fuel tabs to boil water) so no matter what my situation I always have ready access to water and a means to purify more in a pinch…its no fun being dehydrated!!!

  2. 2qt square on ruck, 1qt nalgene w/cup & esbit on warbelt, 3L camelback on vest. Puretabs in pockets on all three.Why settle for one?

  3. I carry all three. Cameback in the backpack along with a Katadyn filter. Canteens on the battle belt.

    I arrived at that set-up all on my own. But it does dovetail with Max’s advice.

  4. I’ve used 1 qts, 2 qts, and even those 1860s era steel canteens in my reenacting days. I prefer hydration bladders, especially the Camelbak improvements that are out today vs. when I bought my first one as an E3 in the mid 90s. They have come a long way and have solved all of my complaints.

    A tip for cold weather-

    Keep them under your middle layers in extreme cold, and make sure you blow out the tube after drinking. 😉


  5. Mt Top Patriot

    They have their pros and cons like anything else, it’s canteens for me. Battle proven, tuff as nails, easier to share if needs be, put whiskey in them. Try that with a camel back, just something unmanly drinking good corn liquor from a straw.

  6. OK, I chose to use standard issue GI canteens. I carry two on my battle rattle and two on my ruck. I have used bladders, in combat in the desert and survived…I decided they were not worth it when the bladder burst on an outbound convoy, in July. Additionally, I find the weight distribution awkward when in full battle rattle with or without ruck. I do carry a carrier and bladder in my assault pack, empty, for those times and places it would be handy, like in camp. I have two sons who also did tours in Iraq and both of them reverted to canteens during their first tour in country.

    For what it worth,


    • Semper Fi, 0321

      Went over the handlebars on my Yamaha WR250, landed on my back in some bushes and roots, and almost froze to death finishing the ride, I was totally soaked from a busted Camelback and almost a gallon of cold water.
      They do break/puncture, then what?
      Better to have some canteens/cups for backup, they work best in pairs, supporting each other.

  7. I have 2 VN era canteens on a pistol belt w/ H suspenders, etc.
    Never liked the way the canteens bounce around while running.

    I don’t understand the point of having a sip of water instantly available at all times with the hydration bladder.

    My thinking is that if you don’t have 20 seconds to take a swig off the canteen, then you probably shouldn’t be taking the time to take a swig off the bladder either.

    • Try it. Using a drinking tube doesn’t require the effort to break your walking rhythm or unpack a canteen, and it doesn’t take 20 seconds to use. They also make drinking tubes that screw onto a canteen so you don’t have to put up with the bladders.

  8. You can also cache’ some water in your AO, so as to not have to carry so much, or if you run out early. Have a recon patrol leave some, hidden, at a certain spot known to all, and perhaps ammo and some food as well. Acts as a force multiplier for other patrols, and makes the troops more confident. Combat patrols can be met a click or two from base by recon patrols, sent out to touch base on commo, and re supply the combat patrol as well, so they don’t have to come all the way back in, and it extends their ability to maintain patrol posture. Troops kept properly hydrated think better, and fight better. All you NCO types out there, keep the troops supplied and watered, and they will be happier than hogs in shit, and they’ll do their jobs.

  9. I’m just a low speed high drag sort but FWIW…My monkey landlubber ‘don’t die of thirst kit’ is: NBC bladder (extra empty in ruck) and 2 stainless canteens with an MSR filter (+ repair kit & replacement element) and a bit of calcium hypochlorite (pool shock) for on foot. I also keep a dozen or so translucent plastic garbage bags in the sack to extract water from foliage through transpiration. It works in a pinch and the bags are useful otherwise. I’ve got a steri-pen and solar charger but don’t really use it much…I just don’t trust it’s ruggedness and sustainability under hard use. It is damn convenient though.

    There’s not a whole lot of fresh water in my area (Carib Island) but I’ve mapped the more obscure sources for the future as I’m reluctant to depend on known ones. There’s always coconuts but they’ll give you the squirting shits so I’m thinking of setting up a little ghetto distillation rig for my stove. Nothing fancy just a few feet of rolled up copper with a stopper for the canteens).

    Anyway, I use 2 liter coke bottles for camp, caches, and posts. They’re cheap, universally available, and SODIS excellently too.


    1) The Wide Mouth Bottle let’s you soak rice and beans, reducing fuel needs.

    2) Water can be boiled right in the bottle, if required

    Long-term survival bladders suck, they will pop, leak or puncture and are hard to fill. I think the only thing the GI canteen has going of it, is it fit’s in the pouch, and can be deflated to keep the water noise down.