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Water Canteens and Hydration Systems

Keeping Soldiers Cool in Extreme Desert Conditions


With U.S. soldiers working in hot, dry desert environments, the use of water canteens and other hydration systems have become increasingly important.

Water Critical for Soldiers

With the physical demands placed on soldiers, getting adequate amounts of water is important in any environment. Soldiers in combat zones need plenty of water regardless of the environment – hot or cold. The water canteen has long been critical to soldiers on the move and away from base camp.

For the U.S. military, the modern era water canteen was launched by the Infantry Equipment Board during the First World War. The board adopted an aluminum one quart canteen and matching cup for use by soldiers fighting in trenches across Europe. This canteen – known as the M1910 – evolved throughout the Second World War, and was changed to stainless steel from aluminum; included a screw top cap; and was given an insulated cover to keep water cooler.

Changes for Desert Environments

By the Vietnam Conflict in the 1960s, the U.S. Military had moved away from metal canteens in favor of the M1961 olive drab polyethylene plastic canteen. While similar in size to previous metal canteens, the new plastic ones were found to retain water better and keep it cooler in hot jungle environments. Plastic canteens remain in use today.

However, combat missions in hot, dry areas of the Middle East and Asia – coupled with better knowledge of hydration – have led to new approaches to keep soldiers properly hydrated in extreme conditions.

Modern Canteens and Hydration Systems

Today, soldiers use a variety of canteens and hydration systems. These range from standard one quart plastic canteens to larger two quart canteens and large canvass water buckets. Soldiers also have the option of carrying "hydration packs," which are large backpacks capable of carrying more than two liters of water. There is even an option of carrying a canvass "bladder" that is equipped with a hose and can carry 2.5 liters of water.

These sophisticated and complex systems of water storage are important to soldiers who often find themselves in extreme desert conditions for prolonged periods away from regular supplies of water.

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