Homemade Leather Canteens

Daniel Ketchum

Water is one of the key components of life, which has forced people to find ways to take it along during travels. One way to do this is to create leather canteens or bottles. If you would like to purchase a handmade leather canteen, there are several types from which to choose.

A traditional bota makes an interesting decorative item.

Factors to consider include practicality, appearance and the use you plan for it.

Old West Canteens

The image most people have of a leather canteen is the traditional one used in the old west. These canteens were large leather bags with a sealable flap you could open to drink or pour. They were usually too large for a person to carry around, and were strapped across horses or other pack animals. When traveling through a particularly arid region, a cowboy or prospector would load several of these on the animal.

Greek Wine Skin Canteens

The ancient Greeks were one of the earliest cultures to use leather to carry liquids. This type of container was called an “askos,” which translates to wine skin. As the name implies, the Greeks primarily used it to carry wine. These canteens are still in use today in many parts of Greece. To use this type of canteen, you upend the bag and squeeze the wine into your mouth.

Bota Bag Canteens

A bota bag is a type of Spanish leather canteen. Historically, Spanish shepherds often used bota bags as they guarded their flocks. The bota bag carried many types of liquid, from water to wine, although the latter was more common. In the past, these bags were coated with resin to make them watertight. Modern versions possess plastic liners.

Choosing Your Canteen

If you want a handmade leather canteen that you will actually be using to carry liquid, purchase a new one that has the appearance of an old-fashioned one, but make sure the maker uses a modern plastic lining. Otherwise, you may be surprised by just how bad the water tastes. However, if you want a leather canteen you will be using simply as a decorative item, the liner doesn’t really matter.