Ten Things You Should Never Leave Home Without: #6: Stainless Steel Drink Container

Stainless Steel Sealed Drink Containers

Stainless Steel Sealed Drink Containers

What is it: By a stainless steel drink container, I mean one of two things – either a truly non-spill hot drink container (a true thermos that closes with an airtight seal such that it doesn’t leak if turned upside down) or a water bottle – with a similarly watertight seal (flat cap or sport cap).

True stainless steel for several reasons: 1) it’s green (non-toxic, BPA free, reusable container); 2) thus, it keeps your liquids fresher, longer and safer; 3) it’s easy to clean and won’t retain taste/odors of previous contents; and 4) it’s unbreakable and durable.  And get true stainless steel – not aluminum containers, which contain internal liners that can break down over time.

I highly recommend Klean Kanteen for your stainless steel drink containers.  Their faq provides an excellent justification for the use of true stainless steel.  We’ve also found that the 27 oz. version is the perfect size for a full (750 ml) bottle of wine (or you can order their wine carafe (the only difference between their wine carafe and their 27 oz. bottle is the wine carafe is more expensive but it comes with a stainless steel flat cap that otherwise you have to buy for about $6 as an accessory).  We use the standard 27 oz. bottle to take such refreshment to outdoor concerts in Prospect Park during the summer where glass is not allowed.

Stainless double-walled, vacuum insulated Thermos hot drink container

Stainless double-walled, vacuum insulated Thermos hot drink container

For hot drink containers, I carry a Thermos vacuum insulated model with a pretty watertight top.

The purpose is two-fold – a) hydration – in the case when you carry water; or b) stimulation – for those who carried a higher-octane beverage (coffee or tea).  But the reason to have this container with you is hydration – you can always wash out a hot drink container and fill it with water – assuming it has a watertight/airtight seal – it becomes easy to carry with you.  Again, the primary purpose of having a stainless steel drink container with you is for water, which can save your life in an emergency.

Utility on a Daily Basis: It’s fairly common today for people to carry around a drink container with them – whether a hot liquid cup for coffee or tea – or a water bottle of sorts for water.  It has become acceptable to walk into stores, schools, classes, and business meetings with them.  And I think these “green” stainless steel water bottles have an additional cache that makes it okay to have one attached to your arm at all time.  As it has become socially acceptable to do so, I encourage you to do so.

You are, of course, free to carry your drink container in a backpack, attache, computer bag, or other tote that you bring with you (just not your empty bag!); they also slide into coat pockets pretty easily in a pinch.  But I think it is fine to equip one of your two hands with it if necessary.

You can’t be at your best if you are thirsty (or tired for that matter, if an insulated hot drink container is your preference).

Personal Report – Is Mark Living Prepared™? Yes.  My liquid of choice is hot – black English Breakfast tea.  I never go anywhere without my Thermos hot drink mug filled with tea.  In warmer months or when I carry a bag/backpack with me, I usually bring a Klean Kanteen water bottle with me as well.  I don’t always have water with me, but I usually have a container I can rinse out and fill with water if needed.  It’s honestly not totally habitual yet to always carry water with me in warm weather, but I shall attempt to do so this summer and see if I can identify tips for making it easier.

Criticality after a disaster: Similar to an empty bag, water has 100s if not 1000s of uses.  It can be used to clean and sanitize, but what we are mostly concerned about is hydration in an emergency.  Having a container that can be filled with water, put in a bag for accessibility when you need it, and carried with you without fear of spillage, can extend the time you can go from point A to point B without having to stop.

Rwandan refugees waiting to cross Kagera river into Tanzania

Rwandan refugees waiting to cross Kagera river into Tanzania

Once upon a time, I set out on a sunny morning in Tanzania to take a pleasant stroll to the border with Rwanda to see where refugees were crossing the Kagera river border by canoe.  I carried with me only two liters of water that day (mostly due to weight) which was fairly hot, and pretty humid.

Local canoe carrying Rwandan refugees into Tanzania

Local canoe carrying Rwandan refugees into Tanzania

The 10-mile hike took me over a few sizeable hills, through mostly grassland, with little shade, and once within a mile or two of the river, became mucky swampland.  It was hard going.  Needless to say, it wasn’t enough water, and I finished my last drop at the river-bank at around 2 PM after rationing it all day.

Rwandan refugees arrive in Tanzania

Rwandan refugees arrive in Tanzania

I was able to make it to the nearest village by late afternoon and collapsed in a building the village used as a public meeting place.  I was pretty dehydrated by that time and could only ask the villagers if there was any water “here”, I said, pointing down at the ground.  “No water here,” they replied, and I sighed audibly, resigned to the fact that I was going to die.  “Fanta?” one man continued, offering me an orange soda.  I swapped a dollar for a Fanta and then was told that the village water point was outside about 200 meters away.  Somewhat refreshed, I was able to fill up my empty water bottles at the tap and make it back to my tent before dark.  True story.

The point is, well, first, that I never should have put myself in the situation of not having enough water with me for the trek that I was undertaking.  I was younger and that was an important learning experience.  What I learned is that you need to carry enough water with you to get you where you are going.  Having a container with you that can haul some water can help you to get where you are going after a disaster strikes.  That’s good enough for me.

Another true story:  In 1998 following a major earthquake, I found myself in Istanbul, Turkey, working around the clock – quite literally – to assist the Turkish Ministry of Health to sort out the flood of international donations of drugs, medical supplies and equipment donated from dozens of countries that was overwhelming their capacity to handle.

Setting up Commodity Tracking system in Istanbul warehouse

Setting up Commodity Tracking system in Istanbul warehouse

Their warehouses were overflowing and they could not sort through the donations in order to find the drugs and medical supplies needed by the earthquake victims.  The team I was leading was setting up a commodity tracking system for the Ministry of Health, organizing their warehouses, and setting up distribution system to get needed supplies to the hospitals operating in the disaster-affected area.

For the first three days I was in Turkey, I slept not at all, working all day conducting needs assessments and helping Ministry of Health staff in organizing warehouse spaces, and working all night with a group of techies in the US who were designing the commodity tracking system.  For the next week, I got no more than three or four hours of sleep as we deployed the system.

Now, I absolutely do not recommend this sleep schedule; getting adequate rest is essential for emergency responders to be at their best and I have on subsequent missions always set up shift schedules with my teams to ensure that everyone gets at least 8 hours off every day to recoup.

Anyway, this inhuman effort was possible, in my recollection, only by the endless supply of Turkish coffee – providing both stimulation (in terms of caffeine) and energy (in terms of sugar).  And that Turkish coffee was poured into my own insulated 20 oz. coffee mug, which I had brought with me as an essential piece of my emergency kit at the time.

So whether it is water or something more stimulating that you need to get by after a disaster strikes, a stainless steel sealed drink container will serve you well.


The Living Prepared Scorecard:  Stainless Steel Drink Container

  • Easily Carried: YES
  • Not too heavy: YES
  • Practical Purpose on a Daily basis: YES
  • Critical Purpose when Disaster Strikes: YES


So, carry a stainless steel drink container with you. If you do, you will be Living Prepared.


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