Stainless Steel Canteen - safe for boiling water

Stainless Steel Canteen – Single Walled for Boiling Water

The best stainless steel canteen for survival is a Single Walled design.

A double walled (insulated) canteen (or water bottle) is not advised for outdoor survival. Here’s why…

[I’ve Updated This Article with an additional stainless steel water bottle choice that I discovered]

(jump down to recommendations)

There are a lot of stainless steel (and aluminum) water bottles nowadays that are double-walled insulated to keep contents cool. People use them for hiking, camping, other activities. That’s all fine and good. However, there’s a problem with that – if you’re looking for a survival canteen…

For outdoor survival preparedness, it’s best to have a non-insulated single wall stainless steel canteen. Here’s what I mean…


Only use a single walled metal container to boil water. Preferably, stainless steel.

One of the best things about a stainless steel canteen is that you can boil water in it. That is, if you had to during an emergency situation – for water purification. It also serves as a backup for a water filter (which you should have!).

CAUTION: Since it is a single walled design, the container will become too hot to touch when boiling water for purification. However there are ways to deal with this.

TIP: Look for a stainless steel canteen that you can handle while it’s hot. Or device a do-it-yourself way to do this:

  • Use sticks to lift canteen out of the coals – but don’t spill it!
  • Keep a length of bare wire to wrap around canteen neck or body (depending on its design) to suspend over fire or coals, or hang from a stick/branch

One stainless steel canteen that I found is as follows:

(view on amzn)

Best stainless steel canteen - G.I. military style

Best Features of a Stainless Steel Canteen

I like the chain feature of the one pictured above. A stick, paracord, etc., could be wrapped around it to hang over fire or coals.

[ Read: 5 Benefits of Paracord ]

I like that it also has a separate cooking pot with folding handles. The canteen fits right inside the cooking pot.

A stainless steel canteen could be hung over a fire (or set in the coals) to boil water to purify it for safe drinking.

Aluminum will work too, but I prefer stainless. Stainless Steel will not rust or corrode and will resist denting and breakage.

[ Read: How Long To Boil Drinking Water Until It’s Safe To Drink ]

TIP: Build a smaller fire to avoid high flames. Or set in coals to boil.

Why Double-Walled Containers Are Not Good For Boiling Water Purification

The double walled design of such a canteen presents a barrier between the outside wall (heat from the fire or coals) and the inside wall of the canteen.

The two walls are typically vacuum sealed in-between too, for better thermal isolation.

They’re great for maintaining the temperature of the liquid inside. Why? Because the transfer of thermal energy between the inside and outside is slowed by its design. So it will restrict (slow) the heat from a fire transferring to the liquid within.

Nalgene Stainless Steel Bottle | Single Walled

I recently discovered this particular 38-ounce water bottle which would also serve the purpose of boiling water for purification (or food), just like a stainless steel canteen.

They’re fairly hard to find (single walled) so I decided to add it here.

I also like that it has a wide mouth lid.

(view on amzn)

Single Walled stainless steel water bottle

Container – One of the 5 C’s of Survival

Do you know the 5 and 10 C’s of Survival?

One of the ” C’s ” is for “Container”. The idea is to have some sort of container that will hold water that you could boil for purification (or cook a meal or whatever).

Maybe it’s simply your mess kit. Or just a metal cup. Or possibly a stainless (or aluminum) water bottle.

It’s something to consider for any general purpose survival kit.

[ Read: The Sawyer Mini Water Filter ]

[ Read: How to Make a Survival Kit ]


    1. Heat the cup to purify the water – store in canteen for later use. That makes sense. But I had never thought to use the chain as you describe above – good thoughts !

      Some of the surplus canteens (Swedish blanket covered) have a metal cap, but I think it is aluminum. Might be able to be re-purposed for this though.

  1. All the more reason to carry a Leatherman or equivalent multi-tool. Handling objects such as a metal canteen being heated on a fire? The pliers function works wonderfully for this. The wire-cutters will handle the task of separating the plastic lid from the chain if needed.

  2. I had two surplus metal canteens with the good fold out single handle.

    There is one company that makes a similar item (canteen has bigger cap/opening)

    You can see it at: Pathfinder Canteen Cooking Set

    I have their SSteel bottle/cookset on a couple of bags I have made up: Stainless Steel Bottle Cooking Kit

    One nice thing about the bottle sets with strap is you can fill a couple half full, place them at an angle in the freezer then the next day, fill them with water and have ice water for most of the day.

  3. 24 years in the Army, all in combat arms (and I have the bad knees to prove it!). 2 tours in Alaska taught me several things… even when they issued us both the green plastic and the Arctic canteens (almost worthless) we still went down to ‘Rocket Surplus’ in Faibanks and bought our own WWII surplus canteens (there were plenty of’em in the 70’s for around $5 ea.) you carried two, one for boiling water and the cup(s) for drinking and cooking your Ramen Noodles or Cup-O-Soups.

    We also carried a ‘survival water bladder’ around our neck, with 550 cord under our parka. That kept it thawed out. (you could accomplish the same thing with a new ‘hot water bottle’ from your local Mega-Low-Mart store).

    Another trick was, we also went out and bought both brands of coffee thermos’ mentioned above (Thermos brand and the green Stanley brand) and also bought a Euro surplus pouch (from the same Rocket Surplus) that fit the thermos perfect (I think they were a Brit or French surplus gas mask bag from the early 60’s). and then strapped it to our rucksacks. Before going to the field, we would put boiling water in the thermos (pre-heating it as stated in the instructions) and after 24+- hours at -50 below 0, you still had unfrozen water, and that made the weight of carrying the thermos worth every ounce… again, much better than the worthless issued Arctic Canteen.

    To this day I still carry either the WWII canteen & cup, (I have several), or I have replaced some in various BOB’s with Kleen-Kanteen’s with matching nesting cups.
    Cooking / (snow melting) containers are one of the most important and mandatory items in my packs and BOB’s. Few things are more of a moral booster than a hot beverage or meal when your cold and hungary.

    P.S. No, I’ve never seen any type of cup or pot that would fit the issue 2qt. bladder. (not even the Arctic Canteen cup fits the 2qt.) I’ve looked…many times. Sorry

  4. I carry the Guyot 32 oz. SS Canteen (Now Nalgene).

    While the plastic wide mouth cap is plastic attached by a paracord-ish rope instead of a chain, it is completely removable.

    The 32 oz. size made it perfect to add Aqua Tablets to (as it is almost 1L).

    A popular mod is to wrap a SS wire around it (using the same lip for the cap rope) to hang it for boiling or taking it out of the fire.

    I also use a GSI cup that can nest with it (although not as snuggly).

  5. I’m wondering if you could boil water in a plastic bottle? Sounds pretty stupid huh? Fill a baggy with water, hold it over a lighter. The plastic will not melt.

    I remembered reading about the native Americans using folded Birch bark containers to boil water in. Got me to try the plastic bag thing.

    1. me,

      The answer is yes, you can. I was a skeptic, but it works. The convection currents of cooler water replacing hotter water as it rises inside the container keeps the temperature of the plastic below it’s melting point.

      1. To further explain above, polyethelyne plastics vary from 266-288 degrees F. Water boils at 212 degrees F. As long as there is water present, even boiling water, it will keep the plastic at “cooled” to around that 212 degree point.

    2. Me,
      You can boil water in the plastic water bottles. Done it more times than I can count showing people how to do it around a camp fire.
      First ,pull the paper or plastic label off. Fill the bottle to the top. Put the top back on . Snug but not too tight.
      Place it in the hot coals of a fire.
      Will start to boil pretty quick.
      Heat transfers through the plastic to the water without melting the bottle.
      Interesting enough, freezing water bottles leaches more plastic into the water than doing this…

    3. Around the camp fire one day we decided to see what would happen if we put a paper cup of water in the camp fire. Well it started to boil after a few minutes. The paper above the water line burned but the cup held.

    4. – me,
      You can even boil water in a paper lunch bag. Same principle. Always impresses 11-year-old boys.
      – Papa S.

    5. In Boy Scouts a several decades ago, we learned to boil water in a paper cup right on a campfire. Try it, it works.

  6. And now thousands of people know a new thing that might one day save their lives.

    I love this site!

  7. The Pathfinder canteen/cook kit is nice but you can get away with a Stainless Nalgene and a cup that nests too.
    I just wanted to say that filtering is essential in water treatment and boiling is just as important. I do both. Filter first, than boil. What ever the filter doesn’t catch, the boil will kill. Then you are as close to clean as you are going to get, unless you have a

  8. Interesting info. I rarely do any cooking over an open fire. I purchased wally world aluminum cook set, to carry in my bag. I’ve never tried it and likely won’t until needed.

    I mean, it’s pretty basic, right? Metal cup with liquid inside, heated by open flame/coals. I’m betting any food would stick horribly. I’ve never been “hiking” or intentionally lived from a back pack.

    Please enlighten me, if I’m missing something here.

    1. Take it out and try it. A survival situation is not the time to discover problems. Learn by doing, practice so it isn’t your first time when you really need it…

    2. Plainsmedic,

      I actually used a cheap Wally World cook set for years, when hunting/camping solo, with good results. Yes, it is not non-stick. My secret (some folks might have a hissy) was using wet dirt/sand to scour the pan and pots clean. Never worried about germs since a quick pass over the fire, or setting them on the coals raked to the side for cooking, took care of them. I found soap unnecessary.

      1. – Dennis, that is how I have cleaned camping pots/pans/dishes since my father showed me at age 11. Actually, prefer sand if available, but dirt does just fine in a pinch. DW nearly had a cow when I cleaned my Dutch oven with sand after she burned a nice roast in it – she tried to use it by a verbal description, and failed to hear a very important detail. Now she refuses to try using a Dutch oven with a campfire- “That’s your job!” LOL
        It’s never made me or mine sick, so i fail to see the problem cleaning it that way. Sure cuts down on the soap I have to carry.
        – Papa S.

      2. Dennis, PapaSmurf,
        I still use sand/gravel to clean stuff. Glass carboys clean up nicely with a bit of fine gravel swished around in them.
        All this bit about getting sick from dirt, sheesh. I’ve been picking dropped food off the mine floor and eating it (brush the gravel off first so I don’t break a tooth) for years. My immune system is just fine, if not better than most.
        I had my boy scout “mess kit” back in the day, took it on hikes and all. cleanup well with dirt. Don’t try and make pancakes in them though, they always seemed to stick.

      3. I learned when I was a little bitty feller I could wash my hands in the creek and use creek sand to scrub my hands clean, then rinse in creek. I am sure there are enviros where creek water would be highly questionable. All local water here comes straight out of the ground via springs so I feel it is as clean as it gets for creek water. I still would not drink it without some form of pathogen abatement. Hands washed in this manner might not be surgically clean but they are a sight better than when I started.

  9. I use a Kelly Kettle and wouldn’t trade it for anything. It allows me to boil water anywhere and I don’t have to purchase or carry fuel. The accessory kit also allows me to cook food simultaneously and/or grill all with the efficiency of a volcano stove. Worth it’s weight in gold.

  10. Year round, I carried at least 1 stainless pot to boil water and heat food. It was handy to have a second smaller nesting pot for fixing food though. I carried Nalgene water bottles and still use them daily.

    In cold weather, I like to carry and use a small 1 pint stainless thermos filled with hot water and a stainless, insulated cup to make tea or hot cocoa in using hot water from the thermos. A hot drink or hot soup during a day-long hike or float trip is a good moral booster during a break and you do not need to build. fire.

    I like using the insulated mugs because I got tired of burning my lips using the old Sierra cups. Over the years, I have converted my old Sierra cups into ladles.

    Each day starts with me boiling water for the journey. Each days sunset saw me heating water for cooking, cleaning and purifying for the next day. On an Outward Bound trip in my youth, the adult leaders knew this was not my first rodeo.

    The Kelly Kettle looks neat for float trips. Is it too heavy/bulky for the backpack?

    1. Calirefugee I like the stainless steel Kelly Kettle as I’ve heard of folks melting aluminum ones that boiled dry. A small SS kit with bag and cook pots etc. is 1.7 pounds and a Medium SS base model is 1.6 pounds. The small one boils some 19 ounces really quickly with a small handful of twigs.

      I’d backpack it myself.

    2. Calirefugee,
      I have the 1 quart SS Nalgene bottles, SS cups that the bottles nest in AND I have the biggest SS Kelly Kettle they make, the Base Camp model. It weighs 2.5 lbs. Ya, that’s a lot but it will burn anything organic, boil water in 5 mins and cook on it at the same time. I figure its worth the weight. I love it! I have made space for it in my pack
      If you figure the kettle holds 2 quarts and the Nalgene holds 1, that’s 3/4 of a gallon boiling in 5 mins. I think that is pretty impressive with just sticks.
      There are also Titanium models that weigh less but cost more.

  11. One can find the SS Canteens/cup on Amazon for $19.95 each. I bought two. They are a quality product. You want to ditch the canteen covers that come with them and find some GI ones. Target of all places sells a SS bottles single wall for 19.99.

  12. – Personally, I use one of the Aladdin SS pots that comes with 2 plastic cups and a lid. Couldn’t tell you where in the garage the cups are stashed, I’ve never used them. I also have a plastic one-liter bottle (mine is the 1/2 tea and 1/2 lemonade one from *** ) along with a no-name SS cup from Wally world that will fit over the bottom of the Aladdin pot.

    Boil water in one of the two, or both, add to the plastic bottle once the ‘mixed drink’ is gone, put the filled bottle in the bigger pot, put the other over the bottom end. quick, easy and repeatable/cheap to replace.

    If you have boiling water, simple cooking is not too hard to manage. In addition to dry soups, Ramen noodles, and “Cup of Soups”, even rice and lentils will go a long, long way when you are hungry. Add small bits of cooked meat, fish or whatever to what you have and a foraged meal will seem a lot more like a meal. A pound of each doesn’t seem a lot to me and my bag can carry me, and I it, a lot further.

    One thing I might mention, SS is much stronger and will last far better than aluminum. If you need to cut weight, spend the money and go for titanium. You will just have to see what you can find. SS has always worked well for me.

    – Papa S.

  13. I went with the stainless Nalgene bottle. I also have a cup that the bottle will nest into. My wife and daughter have the same setup as well.
    The Nalgene bottle are expensive, approx. $30/ea. but I am supporting a local, US based, company.

  14. There are also bottles made from silicone plastic that are designed to handle very high temperatures, and you can boil water in them with no issues of contamination at all. Somewhere I have one that’s an odd combo flexible colapsable silicone bottle with an LED light in the lid so it’s a bottle and/or lamp.

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