Alright, I admit it. I have been known to watch the Discovery Channel. They do have “guy” programs ya know… Though some of them are downright laughable, I did enjoy series such as Ray Mears’ Extreme Survival and Les Stroud’s Survivorman; the latter being a series originally aired on their sister network, the Science Channel. Both were downright educational, though in slightly different ways. As a result, I had some high hopes for Bear Grylls’ Man Vs. Wild. Well, without delving into a critique of the program or the individual (he does seem a nice guy), let’s just say that while somewhat popular, it has turned out to be more ‘entertainment’ than ‘education.’
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Mears had more of an emphasis on demonstrating indigenous knowledge; appealing to someone who spent considerable time in his youth perusing National Geographic. Stroud had sufficient focus on sound technique; blisters and all. Grylls… Yes, I recognize many of his ‘techniques’ are in ‘the book,’ but the plots seem to revolve more around grossing out the audience or extreme, albeit dangerous, techniques primarily intended for military escape, resist, and evade scenarios than surviving with a margin of safety. That doesn’t make it a bad program. It just means that one should be very careful vis a vis the application of such methods.
Besides, the presumed basis of the program reminds me of some (mis)adventures in my teenage years. Grylls claims to be out there with a knife, water bottle, and flint. There were many ‘hikes’ taken in my youth with little more than that – a canteen (w/ cup) and knife on a web belt, with matches in my pocket and fishing pole in hand. While I never exactly got lost, just temporarily ‘turned around’ a couple of times, there were several nights under a lean-to of sorts when the fishing was good. (There is no better dinner, or breakfast, than fresh caught trout cooked over a campfire, baking powder bread – often spiced with raisins from the snack bag – and pine needle tea using water straight from the creek a few yards away.) That is what Grylls’ program reminds me of; at least in spirit. It’s also what drew my attention to the cup he uses…
The Crusader Canteen Cup is often described as the NATO Canteen Cup. That’s not quite correct from a technical standpoint. It is the British canteen cup (and cooking system) designed to work with the NATO canteen. An obvious variation of the U.S. GI Canteen Cup (see link below), the Crusader Canteen Cup is not intended to work with the U.S.-style, 1 quart canteen; thus, it is not a direct replacement and does not fit inside the ALICE U.S. canteen carrier with the canteen, stove, etc. However, the Crusader Canteen Cup, NATO water bottle, and Crusader Cooker (stove) do appear to fit nicely in the MOLLE ‘canteen’ pouch. (I’m not overly familiar with the MOLLE system. I’ve seen this particular pouch referred to as the ‘canteen’ pouch, but it’s also been called a magazine pouch, etc.)
Bear in mind that the Crusader ‘system’ includes both the Crusader Canteen Cup and a similar looking mug. Don’t confuse the two. The mug is plastic and intended only for drinking from. The Crusader Canteen Cup (or Crusader Cup Canteen depending on the listing) is made from quality stainless steel and comes in two versions; each with an unique National Stock Number (NSN). The first version is the one most often seen on Man vs. Wild. It is a stainless steel cup listed as having a PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene – can we say “non-stick” or Teflon?) coating. This coating gives it a black finish inside and out and is the one Grylls seems to favor. However, I do not.
If you watch the program and/or have much experience with non-stick coatings, this finish wears off quickly and doesn’t really stand up to much knocking about; which is precisely why it was intended to be transported with the water bottle inside and both shoved in a carrier rather than hung over the shoulder with paracord and banged on rocks. Just like your Teflon pans at home, you have to be careful as to the utensils you use, lest you scratch the finish. While both versions are the same price ($14.95 - $19.95 depending on source), it just seems to defeat the concept to have to be ‘careful’ with this type of pot. In fact, one of the strongest virtues of a military-style canteen cup is its ruggedness and durability. In that sense, a Teflon coating just strikes me as someone’s attempt to make what they think is a silk purse out of something they perceive as a sow’s ear. (Alright. For the ‘tactically-minded’ among you, I do recognize the non-reflective nature of the black coating. A couple of things: 1) you generally carry the cup in a pouch, (2) you generally only use the cup where reflections had better not be an issue, and (3) how many of us in civilian life truly need the ‘tactical’ advantage of a non-reflective finish on our canteen cup?)
This leads us to the second version, which is the one I own. (I actually now own two.) This one is listed as having a ‘silver’ finish. In fact, some photos show it with an almost mirror-like finish. I suppose there may be some of those out there, but both of mine came in the same, dullish, stainless steel finish as the standard U.S. GI Canteen Cup; albeit about a quarter shade brighter – something that will take care of itself after the first couple of cooking fires. Yes, there are those who would argue that the dark finish of the non-stick coated version transfers heat better than the 'silver' finish of the other. Again, once the silver version is used and develops a bit of discoloration through normal use, when set against the inevitable wearing away of the 'black' finish on the other, the issue almost becomes one of six and two threes.
Crusader Vs. U.S. GI
The Crusader Cup weighs 10 ounces, making it two ounces heavier than the standard U.S. GI version. Some of this is due to the fact that Crusader seems to be more robustly made than even my quality, issue GI Canteen Cup; let alone the cheap knockoffs. (Though there is a bit of ‘roughness’ along the bend as the cup curves in toward the bottom third.) Of course, the extra weight could be creating a perception issue and I have no way of knowing the objective quality of stainless steel used in either; especially since this is a British product, made in China. I will say that it has withstood the dishwasher just fine and has yet to ding. There is also no question that the butterfly-style handles are better than the U.S. GI version.
Another reason for the heavier overall weight is that while the GI version has a 20 ounce (2 ½ cups) capacity, the Crusader Canteen Cup is made to accommodate metric measurements – i.e., portions of a liter. Demonstrating embossed graduations for 0.25 and 0.5 liters, this cup has a pretty much full, don’t add no mo’, capacity of just over 3 cups. Official listings claim 1.58 pints, which is ¾ of a liter, or roughly 25 ounces. Simple version, it holds more. Unfortunately, this means that it is slightly less convenient as a measuring cup for Americans trying to ‘eyeball’ it. On the other hand, it means you can boil more water in one go, dish up more chow in a single serving, or whatever.
Being slightly larger and designed to hold a bottle of a different taper than the U.S. 1 quart canteen, the bottom is much more stable than the GI version. The wire handle also aids this stability when set on a flat surface such as a table top. While still unsuitable for most pack stoves, it does work appreciably well with my Magic (canned) Heat stove and the extra stability means it sits reasonably on coals from a twig fire. I do, however, recommend a cozy (mine’s a bandanna) for grasping the handles; particularly when ‘cooking’ over open coals.
I’ve not availed myself of the Crusader Cooker Unit ($11 - $15), the Crusader Cup Lid ($2 - $4), or the Crusader Cup Holder ($2 - $3). The cooker strikes me as better designed than the GI Canteen Cup stove, but it also seems to be primarily used for fuel bars (hexamine or trioxene) or small, European-style, alcohol burners. The write-up says it is intended for hexamine tabs or gel fuels and the circular holder does remind one of the Sterno/Canned Heat containers. Unfortunately, I don’t know the size of this holder nor am I willing, at the moment, to invest $15 - $20 for cooker plus shipping to find out when I have a perfectly usable ‘stove’ for such gel fuel. Likewise, while a lid would be useful, the listed Crusader Cup Lid is plastic – something I find disconcertingly questionable when talking about cooking over an open flame, no matter the manufacturer’s claims. There may be some commercial, metal version out there, but I’m not directly aware of one. (Even if you don’t want to use the plastic lid, you really should come up with something given that a lid will cut boiling time considerably.) The Cup Holder is a simple set of spring metal tongs which hook under the lip of the Crusader Cup, forming a ‘handle’ which can be used to hang the cup over an open fire. While I can see an use for this method, it wouldn’t be my first choice and if I’m looking to hang a pot over the fire, I’d prefer something bigger and with a built-in handle.
With that said, the one accessory I have purchased and, now, wouldn't be without is the Heavy Cover ® Canteen Cup Boil Cover. Cutting boil times by approximately 1/3, this 'pot lid' exponentially increases the overall utility of the Crusader Cup. For a complete review of this item, see link below.
I bought my first Crusader Cup in 2008. Thus far, it’s worked quite well and I’ve had no, unexpected issues with it. I’ll have to admit that I have begun to favor it, especially in conjunction with the Heavy Cover ® Boil Cover, over my GI version for excursions taken with my Mountainsmith Lumbar Day Pack (see link below). However, as a primary pot or as part of a system for BugOut packs, I’d have to put some more thought into it given the fact that it isn’t readily compatible with U.S. gear unless you purchase the whole Crusader Integral System (water bottle, mug, Crusader Cup, and Crusader Cooker) for $45- $60 and then find a suitable carrier, which adds even more to the price tag.
That’s a considerable chunk of change compared to U.S. 1 quart canteens that can be had for $2 - $6, the GI Canteen Cup which run roughly $7 - $15, and the GI Canteen Cup Stove which is out there for around $3; all of which fit neatly into either the ALICE or MOLLE canteen carriers. It’s also something to consider if you’re contemplating this for a young adventurer. (I even remember, because it was about the time I was looking for a source to purchase the cup, this Integral System, at one time, being listed on eBay as part of a 'package' which included the Gerber LMF II Survival Knife. [see link below])
The Crusader Canteen Cup comes with a: “Guarantee – This product is guaranteed against defective workmanship and materials for 12 months. The guarantee applies only to the original purchaser. This does not effect your statutory rights.” Okay. But, at a price tag of $15 - $20, how much is the shipping gonna cost vs. simply replacing the cup?
For dedicated Bear Grylls fans, his setup carrying his water bottle and Crusader Canteen Cup on a piece of paracord slung over his shoulder is, obviously, a viable method. But, it’s not something I’d see as a truly practical other than an extreme emergency. Likewise, his constant immersion of the cup (not to mention his drinking bottle) in questionable water sources means that you’d better heat the cup/boil the water in the cup before using it to eat or drink anything therefrom. (He’s got one episode in Costa Rica or some such place with ‘jungle’ where he ends up with what he describes as a ‘tummy bug.’ He wasn’t sure whether he came in with it or picked it up from drinking untreated water or eating something bad or some combination. But, the lesson is there to be learned – staged for the program or not.)
All in all, the Crusader Canteen Cup has turned out to be a surprisingly decent alternative to the U.S. GI version; with many of the same advantages and mitigating a couple of the disadvantages. In a sense, if you want an entire system, the Crusader Integral System does, on its face, have advantages over U.S. GI surplus; for a price. (If you haven’t seen Bear Grylls’ program [and I don’t think he’s ever used the whole system], there is/are YouTube videos which provide excellent, detailed footage.) Even without the system, the Crusader Canteen Cup is a very utilitarian item for your general camping or hiking kit. Whether you go with the silver or coated finish, it has proven excursion worthy. Gee, I guess there was something educational about Man vs. Wild after all…
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