Five Quart Military Canteen

The hot, wet, jungle conditions in the Vietnam War generated requirements for new equipment. One example was the five quart canteen that was produced starting in 1968. It served as a large capacity canteen or could be inflated with air for use as a flotation device.

Collapsible 5-Quart Canteen assembly, NSN 8465-01-254-5759.  Rear view showing instruction label.  Photo: Government
Collapsible 5-Quart Canteen assembly, NSN 8465-01-254-5759. Rear view showing instruction label. Photo: Government

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Five Quart Military Collapsible Canteen

Collapsible 5-Quart Canteen assembly, NSN 8465-01-254-5759.  Front view.  Photo: Government
Collapsible 5-Quart Canteen assembly, NSN 8465-01-254-5759. Front view. Photo: Government

The five quart canteen was fielded in Vietnam in 1968. It was made of all soft materials so that as water was withdrawn, it would collapse and hold the remaining water without sloshing sounds. This requirement to be tactically quiet was one of the main objectives for the 5-quart canteen and its smaller sibling, the First Pattern Two Quart Collapsible Canteen.

Water was held in a transparent vinyl-film bladder (five quart capacity) with a nylon cover to contain the bladder. The size was approximately 13.5 by 10.5 inches, much larger than the otherwise similar First Pattern Two Quart Collapsible Canteen. The neck of the bladder was rigid plastic, with a top-center M1942 black resin plastic screw-on cap, removable strainer, and rubber gasket. The top edge of the bladder included an area of thicker reinforcing plastic around the neck. Early production had a chain to retain the cap while later a nylon cord was provided.

The OD106 nylon cover had nylon tape loops and string ties sewn in at each corner, making it easy to secure the 5-quart canteen to a rucksack, packboard, vehicle or other attachment point. A snap opening at the side was provided to insert or remove the bladder. A folding fabric funnel at the top was used when filling the canteen. A pocket for water purification tablets (with velcro closure) was available on the outside of the cover.

In addition to its use as a 5-quart canteen, the design anticipated its use as a flotation bladder that would support the weight of a soldier and his equipment. It could also be used as a pillow. Use for flotation was dropped from the instructions by the time the later model appeared, after the conclusion of the war in Vietnam.

The front and back of the early model nylon cover had extensive printed instructions and diagrams regarding filling, purification procedures, and use for flotation. The later model had US on the front, near the neck, and a single large printed instruction label on the back.

Markings on both the bladder and cover include US, the nomenclature, contract information, FSN/NSN, and manufacturer. The nomenclature, NSNs and specification numbers for the 5-quart canteen are shown in this table:

Canteen, Water, Collapsible, 5-Quart Capacity NSN 8465-01-370-9436, MIL-C-44216
Cap, Water Canteen, 5-Quart, Collapsible NSN 8465-01-370-9226, MIL-C-44217
Carrier and Canteen/Collapsible, 5-Quart Capacity (Assembly) NSN 8465-01-254-5759, MIL-C-44218
Carrier, Canteen, Collapsible, 5-Quart Capacity NSN 8465-01-370-9446, MIL-C-44219

Early production, contracts in the late 1960s, did not conform to the table above. The nomenclature was Floatation Bladder, Canteen, Water, Collapsible, 5-Quart Capacity on the bladder and Floatation Bladder / Collapsible Canteen, 5 Qt. on the cover. Both were assigned FSN 8465-141-0924.

Bag, Drinking Water Storage

Unrelated to the 5-quart canteen described in the above section, the Bag, Drinking Water Storage (FSN 8465-485-3034, MIL-B-8571) was a plastic, egg-shaped 5-quart (10-pint) container for water that was included in survival kits. It was found to be useful for gathering and storing water under survival conditions, but not under cold conditions when the plastic became brittle and shatttered. The same item was also named Bag, Water, Plastic.

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