Leon Alberti, a famous Renaissance artist and architect, defined beauty as that point where nothing can be taken away or added except for the worse. Some would say – this writer included – that when it comes to outdoors kit the humble US Army Canteen Cup comes pretty close to meeting Alberti’s definition. It is simplicity itself, but with so many uses. You can drink from it, eat from it, boil water in it, cook in it, bake in it, dig with it. When I was in the field with the Guard, I used one of mine (I carried 2-3) as my shaving/washing bowl, and once even used one to help drain the oil from the engine of an M577. (Yes, I washed it after.)

Besides being a multi-tasker, the US Army Canteen Cup is bloody bombproof. There is good reason it has changed little in 101 years.

In the US, the Army Canteen and Cup are almost iconic when it comes to a personal water carrier for Scouting, hiking, hunting or camping. Plastic Nalgene-type bottles are changing that, but the canteen/cup that hydrated our military for a century is still a first choice for many, be it for a day hike, a camping trip, or bug-out-bag. Plus, they are cheap. Even the real ones.

Yes, I know; other militaries make cups for their canteens. But most of these come in two, less Alberti-esque, categories: Plastic – nice for drinking but useful for little else; and, Tinfoil – thin aluminum that will bend in half if you stare at it hard enough. The old East German canteen cup takes the cup (!) for being the most absurdly useless – a painted Hershey’s Kiss wrapper at best, it holds about 3-4 ounces with teensy wire handles. It looks like you’re off to high tea at The Savoy on the cheap. No wonder The Wall fell. Capitalism, of course, provides after-market solutions for non-US grunts to fill this void - most notably the BCB ‘Crusader Cup’ and accessories.

As long-time ETS’ers know, cups, mess kits, and stoves will put that, “Ooo… Shiny stuff!”, gleam in my eyes - a gleam that returned recently with two bits of kit that make the US Army canteen cup (remember Alberti’s definition) even more beautiful: Heavy Cover’s new Stainless Steel Lid for the canteen cup, and the new Stove Stand from Canteenshop.com.


Heavy Cover has made a rubberized cover for the canteen cup for a couple of years. I’ve used one and found it is great for sealing up a newer cup (the ones with the ‘butterfly’ handles), but is a bit leaky with my older (1944) cup. I tried using it as a cover during boiling, and, well… I had a bit of a sticky situation. I still use my other one (they sent me two), but only as a cover to keep things warm after cooking or to keep campsite gunk from getting into the cup’s contents.

Heavy Cover recently started selling a Stainless Steel Cover for the canteen cup, something they have been promising for some time.

The top and skirt of the cover are heavy gauge stainless steel, and the top handle is a heavy gauge steel wire - large enough to grasp with gloves on and moves easily. The underside is polished, the makers claim, to be used as a signal mirror. Nice idea, but… They have never seen my field cleaning procedures. It won’t be polished for long.

First impression out of the box is the stainless steel cover seems as bombproof as the canteen cup itself. It is heavy, coming in at 5 ounces on it’s own.

But does it work? Short answer is, yes. Darn well. Using both my home-made stove (cliffSTOVE 2.0) and Rob’s Stove Stand from Canteenshop.com, I cut 1.5 - 2 minutes minimum off uncovered boiling times with both stoves (I did four boils each).

The cover fits snugly, but not too tight, on both the newer style GI cup and the older, handle-folded-under-the-cup variety. It goes on and comes off easily. But unlike HC’s soft cover, this one does not seal the cup. It wasn’t designed to. The cover has sets of small holes on either end of the skirt for draining, which allows one to drain veggies or pasta, or make ‘GI coffee’ without (as many) grounds in it. I made some of the latter as a test – boil water, throw some grounds in the cup, stir, cover, steep, and (cover on) pour into another cup. OK, gourmet French press, it ain’t. But it’s far better than the original “crunchy” variety, or those tasteless freeze-dried “coffee” packets you picked up at the hotel on your last vacation.

The other thing I like is the cover does not stick too far out from the lips of the canteen, which allows still my stove’s grill/bail to be used as a bail for over a fire.

with my bail/grille installed

My one criticism is where do you carry it? You can stick it in the bottom of the canteen cover, upturned, against the bottom of the cup. But if you have a stove stand about your cup (e.g., CanteenShop.com’s Stove Stand), it won’t fit. You could turn it over, but then the lips of the skirt are face down and could be bent if you bang around your canteen/cup/cover as much as I do. A small, but solvable, problem.

I have only one suggested improvement for the Heavy Cover folks: Make one set of the drain holes smaller and more numerous. For making less crunchy coffee.

The stainless steel cover is $20.00, and can be ordered directly from Heavy Cover.


Since my Guard days I have been trying to come up with the perfect Natick-style stove stand. Several of my attempts are posted elsewhere on ETS. I’m a designer by disposition and by trade, so leaving well enough alone is not in my nature. I thought I had reached my Alberti moment with my cliffSTOVE 2.0… until now.

my most recent cliffSTOVE 2.0

Rob at Canteenshop.com has come up with a new canteen cup Stove Stand he is currently selling at his site that I think beats my home-made, hours-fiddling-in-the-workshop model:

Canteenshop.com’s offering is a stainless steel stand which looks like an upturned canteen cup, sans handles, with holes drilled through the top and on the sides. Four of the holes on the top are dimpled outward, to allow whatever you put on top – cup, mess kit pan, or pot – to sit about 1/8” off the surface to let the heat and flames flow evenly around.

My first try with Rob’s Stove Stand left me disappointed - 17 minutes and it did not boil two cups of water. I had seen his videos showing much better results, and was looking for some technical reason for this failure when it the obvious hit. I used a Trangia I had loaded with isopropyl alcohol a while back to do a stove presentation for Scouts. (Pause for moment while writer smacks self on forehead. Again.) Lesson here is CHECK! and RECHECK! and…

So the other weekend I ran another test, and… Rob’s Stove Stand is now my new canteen cup companion.

Both the Canteenshop.com Stove Stand and my stove stand design fit around a standard US Army canteen cup. Both can boil 500ml of water, using the HC lid and Trangia stove, in 9-10 minutes (no wind, 45 degrees F). Both can take more than a canteen cup for cooking – say, a mess kit pan or larger pot. Both can take a variety of fuels – alcohol stoves, wood, Trioxaine bars and Esbit tabs. Both are versatile. Rob claims his stand can be used as a colander (I can buy that), a berry picker (down here in Louisiana the food we pick usually has teeth, so I don’t know) and as a micro-barbie (one shrimp at a time, I guess.).

Canteenshop.com Stove Stand in action

with a UK mess tin

What made me change from my own design is simple - Rob’s Stove Stand is (remember that Alberti guy?) a bloody simple design. My design takes three components in order to work, Rob’s has one. That’s two fewer parts to keep up with, and potentially lose. Mine is lighter, but Rob’s is bombproof. So if I can reduce complexity, gain durability, and maintain the same performance, then why not?

That’s the good. Now for the downside. First, Rob’s Stove Stand is heavy. At 5 7/8 ounces of heavy-gauge stainless steel, it’s almost like adding another canteen cup in weight (8 1/8 ounces). Because it’s steel, the top of the stove can get glow-in-the-dark hot and, unlike an aluminum stand, it takes quite a while to cool down. Not a big deal if you aren’t in a hurry, but it could be if you are. Also, Rob’s stove stand looks susceptible to reduced performance in wind, which my design has proven not to be. (Didn’t have any wind to test with so I can’t say for sure. Sorry.)

And finally, when it’s packed in your canteen cover, the Stove Stand's four upturned dimples can abrade the bottom of your canteen cover over time. (I mentioned the abrading issue this to Rob, and he says he was aware of it and is looking at ideas to remedy the problem.)

All in all, the downsides do not outweigh the many good points of the design, in my opinion.

Another major advantage with Canteenshop.com’s Stove Stand for ETS’ers is this – Send Rob 20 bucks and he'll have one to you in a few days. If you want a cliffSTOVE 2.0, you’ll have to buy the parts and make it yourself. Cliff don’t take orders.

So in conclusion, I recommend both the Heavy Cover stainless steel cover, and the Stove Stand from Canteenshop.com. Yes, they are somewhat pricey for add-ons to a $10.00 cup. But they work – they enhance performance when cooking with a canteen cup, and both seem durable enough to not fail on you. In a crisis situation, that has a price all it’s own.

UPDATE 24FEB2011: Tonight we had some strong wind (it had nothing to do with my Mexican lunch; promise) so I put the Stove Stand to the test. Wow. It held up amazingly well given the gusts. I put a litre in the pot portion of a Swedish mess kit (stainless steel), and the more the wind blew the more flames engulfed the pot. The Trangia stove ran out of juice after 22 minutes (not unexpected with the wind), and the pot almost boiled. And I mean almost. I think the wind cooled down the pot, which, along with the reduced stove time, worked against the rolling bubbles. Had I used a secondary windscreen there would have been a litre of boiling water. No doubt.

Edited by cliff (02/25/11 04:56 AM)