When we speak to the important items in a kit, I think the container seems to be one of the most misunderstood. Lots of folks understand the need for carrying water all the time, but most of the plastic bottles on the market are a single use item. Sure, you can use them to store other things in as well, but for the most part, that is still a single use, whether you are storing water or bits of gear or food. The key to a well-rounded kit is making certain that all items within the kit are as multi-functional as possible. When it comes to the 5 Cs, this is critical.
The container you choose to carry in your kit should ALWAYS be made of material that will withstand direct flame. Metal of some sort, with a single wall design, is the only logical choice. The type of metal we choose is a personal choice, but for me, I like stainless steel. Aluminum is lightweight for sure, but also easier to damage. Titanium is lightweight, but tends to warp if exposed to direct flame and high amounts of heat from a camp fire. Stainless transfers heat well, has a great durability factor, as well as being able to withstand high temperatures without detriment to function.
In my system, I teach folks to advance the level of kit depending on the planned trip; so, for a simple day hike, I would choose a 32 oz., stainless water bottle with a nesting cup. The nesting cup is important as it allows the creation of a chamber, which we will discuss in a moment. If I am going to be on more than a day hike, I may choose a folding skillet, with lid, to add versatility to my cooking abilities and then a pot beyond that of 2-quarts capacity. With this, I have a fairly complete cook system, even if I have a couple people along with me.
So, back to the importance of the first container in our kit. When I developed this system, I took into account all the things I may need to do with this one container as well as the difficulty in producing something like this from the landscape, along with the other 4 Cs in this system. With a metal water bottle and cup, I can disinfect a ground water resource by boiling, I can cook food and create medicinal if I am familiar with the natural resources around me. It becomes an irrigation system for first aid, a hot water bottle on a cold night, a cold pack for sprain or strain and I can utilize the chamber by covering the bottle with the cup to create charred material for the next fire, if needed. All of these things must be considered and the functionality of that single container is more vast than many realize.
Now let’s talk about the size for a moment and why I said 32 oz. in the beginning. If I choose to disinfect my water by chemical means, either by tabs or chemicals like iodine, all these things are generally measured in one U.S. quart or 32 oz. So, if my bottle is 26, 38, 16, for example, how do I know I have done a proper job? If my bottle is 32 oz. to the top, I can be sure I have at least done what I can to make my water safe for consumption, if for some reason I cannot filter and/or boil. If you want to make charred material in your container to use with most methods of combustion that require a live ember, this is easily accomplished. Use any natural material you have on hand if needed, like a cotton T-shirt or a bandana.
If you understand natural resources, you can also use punky soft woods or plant pith to create a good char. Place about a 4-inch swatch of material or a few chunks of natural materials into the bottle. If you have some residual moisture in the container as you have just consumed the water etc., this will evaporate in the fire, so don’t worry. Now, place the cup on top of the bottle opening without the lid on the container. This will allow gases to escape, but will not allow oxygen in as the material is superheated by direct flame or hot coals. Place the container into the fire pit. You may see some smoke emitting around the edges of the cup. Don’t worry about that either. Give it 5-10 min and remove it from the fire, but do not open it. Just set it aside until it is cool enough to handle with bare hands. Once cool, you can open the container to inspect the char. It should be black. If it is not completely black, seal it up and put it back in the fire. You cannot overdo the char, you can only burn it if you allow oxygen to reach it while it is super-heated. Once you have a charred material, this can now be used with about any spark to create a live ember for fire making with a birds nest of combustible material.
A simple medicinal can be made using non-longleaf pine species to create pine needle tea. This is high in Vitamin C and will give you an immune system boost during times when you are lacking good sleep. Fill the container and boil the water, remove from the fire and add about one handful of chopped pine needles to the container, then cover with the cup and allow it too steep for about 15 minutes. Remove the cup and strain the liquid into the cup through a bandanna or cotton T-shirt and consume.
These are a few simple ways to use your metal container more efficiently and reasons why it is an important part of any kit.
About the Author – Dave has been published in Self Reliance Illustrated, New Pioneer, and American Frontiersman, Trappers World, and has appeared on the cover of Backwoodsman Magazine. Dave’s book BushCraft 101 is a two-time NY Times Best Seller. In addition to writing about survival, Dave is the Co-Owner and Supervising Instructor of The Pathfinder School in SE Ohio, the United States Premier School for Self Reliance. The Pathfinder School is listed as one of the top 12 Survival School in the U.S. by USA TODAY. Dave holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Wilderness Ministry from Frontier Christian University is certified in Advanced Search and Rescue, Wilderness First Aid/CPR, as an Expert Trapper by the Fur Takers of America, and holds Basic and Intermediate Certificates from the International School of Herbal Arts and Sciences.