- Even in a world filled hydration belts, collapsible water bottles, and backpack water bladders, you can’t go wrong with a great canteen.
- A canteen offers durability, ease of use, and convenience other hydration products just can’t match. Our top pick for the best canteen you can buy is the Pinty G.I. Army Stainless Steel canteen.
When it comes to hydration, it doesn’t get much simpler than the time-tested canteen, and newfangled though they are not, reliable they certainly are. Backpack hydration bladders are great for use on hikes or bike rides, but they require a laborious effort to refill. Hydration belts certainly distribute water weight well, but they tend to come with multiple diminutive flasks, none of which can slake the thirst adequately. Collapsible bottles are great for out of the way storage and use during travel, but often lack the capacity for sufficient water. And vacuum-sealed double-walled water bottles are often heavy even before being filled.
Thus it is that the canteen still has its place on your belt, in your pack, or on the seat of the car beside you despite being millennia-old hardware. In fact, there is evidence that human beings have been using purpose-built canteens for at least 60,000 years. The earliest known examples consist of ostrich eggshells that have been cleaned out and punctured to create a hole for filling and drinking.
When I go for a long-distance hike, I like to have gear redundancy in the major areas, with at least two sources of light, two sources of flame, two knives, and so forth. I usually bring a water bladder that tucks into my pack and puts a spout at ready access for sips and at least one large canteen. And while I take sips from the hydration pack when on the go, whenever I stop moving, especially if resting near a water source, I use the canteen. Canteens are easy to fill, give good, big sips of water, and they can be cleaned out quickly and efficiently. Remember, just because there is a newer way to solve a problem that doesn’t mean it’s a better solution.
Here are the best canteens you can buy:
- Best overall: Pinty G.I. Army Stainless Steel Canteen
- Best stylish: Laken Camping and Hiking Canteen
- Best for work: Stanley Adventure Steel Canteen
- Best affordable: Rothco 3 Piece Canteen Kit
- Best for wine: Stansport Bota Wine Bag
Updated 10/31/2019 by Owen Burke: Updated copy, formatting, and links, and added the Stansport Bota Wine Bag as an alternative option (for water and wine drinkers alike).
The best canteen overall
The Pinty G.I. Army Stainless Steel Canteen is lightweight but rugged, and it comes with a form-fitting steel cup that doubles as cookware.
You can carry a full quart of water in the Pinty G.I. Army Stainless Steel Canteen, a lightweight but almost indestructible piece of hardware in the classic military canteen design favored by generations of soldiers.
With the included stainless steel cup – which slips snugly around the base of the canteen when not in use, adding negligible weight and size to the package – your water carrying capacity is increased by a further 50%.
The Pinty canteen comes with the cup, which can also be used to boil water or cook foods, as well as with a cloth case that secures the canteen to your belt or pack strap and adds some insulation. A heavy-duty, stitch-reinforced belt is also included, but most people choose to set it aside and instead use the carrying pouch on their preferred belt or backpack straps.
The canteen’s mouth is wide enough for quick and easy filling, but small enough to get your lips around so you won’t spill a drop as you gulp down refreshment.
And indeed many satisfied customers have gulped down plenty of water from a Pinty G.I. Army Stainless Steel Canteen, which has a solid 4.4-star rating on Amazon. A satisfied sipper named Daniel says: “I have put this thing [through] the ringer and have cooked all sorts of things it. The canteen holds a lot of water and the cap is strong and sturdy.”
Another owner reported that when in the cloth cover, the canteen kept water cool “for a good 5 hours in 90-degree heat.”
A write-up on Camping Buyer’s Guide called the canteen “an essential piece of equipment in everyone’s journey,” while in a video a gear tester with Survival Gear Reviews lauds the durability and versatility of the stainless steel canteen cup.
Pros: Built to last for years of use, comes with versatile steel cup, can be used for boiling/cooking
Cons: Chain connecting cap and canteen weak, comes with low-quality belt
The best canteen for the stylish camper
The Laken Camping and Hiking Canteen holds a generous 1.5 liters of water, plus, this Spanish-made canteen also looks great at the campsite or slung next to your daily commuter bag.
Laken has been making canteens that look almost identical to this one since the year 1912. When something has remained popular for more than 100 years, it’s generally a good idea not to mess with its design too much, although there are a few improvements the modern Laken Camping and Hiking Canteen has over its decades-old forebears.
For starters, while the disc-shaped body is still crafted from sturdy aluminum, the modern variation is lined with a polyamide inner coating that imparts no flavors and protects the quality of the water, sports drink, or other beverage you pour inside.
The Laken canteen is a fine example of form meeting function. Its circular shape is handsome but also practical, as the canteen can store 1.5 liters in a relatively narrow package that slips right into a backpack. The cool fabric that’s applied to the exterior of the canteen adds style, but it’s also there for a reason. When you soak the fabric panels, they help to keep the contents of the canteen chilled, thanks to the natural process of evaporative cooling.
And for the record, I used one of these canteens for many years and loved it. They only reason I don’t use it anymore is that it disappeared on me. I’m confident it would still be in perfectly serviceable condition had it not walked off.
It’s no surprise that a product with a 105+ year history has plenty of fans. Amazon customers have given this canteen an overall four out of five-star rating, with an owner named Jacob calling it “well built” and noting that the “evaporative cooling actually works.”
As a brand, Laken is generally trusted and recommended by professional gear testers and writers, with their praises sung everywhere from The Wirecutter to Best Reviews Guide and beyond, though you’ll have to speak Spanish to read many of the write-ups.
Pros: Large capacity, evaporative cooling, handsome and stylish
Cons: Fabric on exterior frays with heavy use, weak cap chain
The best canteen for the worksite
Go ahead and drop a brick on the Stanley Adventure Steel Canteen, you’re not going to break this thing.
The Stanley Adventure Steel Canteen isn’t going to win any awards for its design aesthetic, and it doesn’t have any special features that set it apart from the pack for its innovation or uniqueness. What makes this canteen notable is an understated quality and resilience. You will own this canteen for years to come, even if you use it daily under trying conditions.
The Stanley Adventure canteen is made from 18/8 stainless steel, a food-grade and durable blend that resists rust and corrosion and resists damage from drops or bumps. It features a two-stage lid, with a narrow spout for sipping that is capped with a steel lid when not in use and that unscrews to reveal a wider opening for adding ice or for cleaning out the canteen.
The unit’s 1.1-quart capacity will keep your thirst at bay and its narrow, ovular design allow it to tuck into a toolbox or backpack with ease. The canteen also has loops that can be used with an included shoulder strap, allowing you to carry your water along hands-free.
One Amazon customer touts it as “another winner by Stanley,” saying the canteen is “easy to clean” thanks to the wider opening. An owner named Soren sums it up nicely: “Great quality. Thoughtful design. Good brand and good product. I have 2 and am going to buy 2 more.”
The consensus from a forum of outdoor experts hosted on Bushcraft USA is well summed up by a trained guide who says “Stanley knocked it out of the park” with the Adventure canteen. In a video review from High Carbon Steel Love, the tester called the canteen leak-proof and demonstrated the ease of using both the narrow spout and wider mouth.
Pros: Durable design, dual spout width options, easy to clean
Cons: Not compatible with most canteen cups or carrying pouches
The best low cost canteen
The Rothco 3 Piece Canteen Kit comes with a sturdy plastic army-style canteen, an aluminum cup, and an insulating cover all for about $12.
The Rothco 3 Piece Canteen Kit comes with the same iconic olive green hard plastic canteen that tens of thousands of soldiers have carried into battle and untold numbers of hikers, campers, field guides, loggers, and others have carried into the wilderness.
There’s nothing stylish, modern, or all that interesting about this canteen, but you won’t much care about that when you’re tired, hot, and thirsty and it’s ready to deliver 32 ounces of water right into your stomach.
The kit comes with the aforementioned one-quart canteen and an insulating cover in a matching shade of green. The cover can be attached to a belt or pack strap, but it’s not durable enough for long-term use and is better treated as an insulating sleeve than a holster for the canteen, frankly.
The included aluminum canteen cup, on the other hand, is well made and versatile. It can be used to cook and for boiling water, as a reservoir for brushing or shaving, or for scooping water up from a stream or lake. Or you can just use it like a cup, too.
The Rothco Canteen Kit has a respectable 4.2-star rating on Amazon, with most owners making similar claims along the lines of this: It’s certainly worth the price. One nostalgic owner named Jimmie said the “canteen is a spot on match to the ones I was issued in the Marine Corps.”
A writer with Hunting and Tactical Knives called the Rothco canteen noted the quality construction of the canteen and other hardware in the kit, while in a video review from Texas Gear Reviews, a product tester called the canteen and the canteen cup “quality” products that were, not surprisingly, worth the price.
Pros: Very low price tag, comes with cup and case, lightweight plastic canteen
Cons: Imparts flavor to water, weak belt straps on case
The best wine bag
The Stansport Bota Winebag is a throwback if ever there was one, made in the same style as wineskins and waterskins used by shepherds, travelers, and soldiers for many hundreds of years.
In some ways, using the Stansport Bota Wine Bag as your water-carrying solution might be impractical. Its 25-ounce capacity is smaller than that of most hydration vessels, and its unusual design precludes tucking the leather canteen into a belt pouch. On the other hand, when empty, this bota bag can be packed down flat and stashed in a backpack or piece of luggage, and when filled it hangs comfortably over a shoulder or around your neck thanks to a wide, handmade leather strap.
Although this bota might look like a relic from days gone by, it’s actually fabricated using modern materials. The exterior of the canteen is genuine leather featuring decorative stitching and dyed designs, but the interior is lined with a leak-proof polyethylene coating that won’t impart off flavors into your water … or your wine, juice, or other beverage. The canteen features a sport-style pop-up spout for easy, spill-free sips and the entire top unscrews for easy filling or rinsing.
The Stansport Bota Wine Bag also serves on purpose that few other canteens could ever hope to manage: It’s a conversation starter.
Pros: Charming and stylish, imparts no flavors to liquids, packs down small
Cons: Relatively small liquid capacity, hard to clean out