March 23, 2020
There are very few designs or products developed in the 1930s which remain state of the art 80 years later. One of the few is the NATO ‘Jerry’ can. Despite the advances made in technology this design remains the undisputed champion for safely transporting fuel under the harshest and most demanding conditions. Developed by Vinzenz Grunvogel at Muller of Schwelm in 1936, it was originally designed for the needs of the German Army. Known as the Wehrmacht-Einheitskanister it went on to prove superior to all other designs in the incredibly harsh conditions of World War II. Widely copied both during and after the war, today it is a world standard.
The design itself is rectangular in form and constructed from two pressed halves welded together. A noteworthy feature though is how the welds are in a central ‘gutter’ which protects them from impacts. To prevent leakage a simple yet robust cam lever locking mechanism secures a snap closure lid atop the filler neck. This simple yet well thought out design has proven superior to leak prone thread on caps. To both speed and smooth pouring an air-pipe is incorporated into the filler neck which eliminates the ‘glug glug glug’ of containers lacking a breather. Yet at the same time no additional external vent is required. The sides of the can are marked with cross-like indentations. These both strengthen the can and allow the contents to expand and contract during changes in environmental conditions. An air pocket under the handles also allows expansion when the can is filled correctly. Another noteworthy feature is the three handle design. Normally the central handle is used for carrying. However the outer handles allow one can to be carried by two people or two empty cans to be carried in each hand or to move cans bucket brigade style.
Today Jerry cans have been recognized for their value and utility by preppers driving up their price. When buying a Jerry can look both internally and externally. A quality can will have thick and robust laser cut steel bodies, nicely executed robot plasma welded seams and excellent fit and finish. Inside will be an internal breather pipe and a user replaceable gasket on the lid. To ensure a long service life even under harsh conditions the metal body should feature a corrosion resistant nano-ceramic finish. On top of this is an epoxy powder coat paint proofed for liquid fuels. This should be done internally as well, to prevent rust inside the can. Jerry cans can often be found in three sizes, 20 liters (5.2 gallons), 10 liters (2.6 gallons) and 5 liters (1.3 gallons). In addition to the cans you can also typically find spare gaskets, spouts and vehicle mounts. Just beware of cheap Chinese knock-offs. A good quality NATO Jerry can should last a life-time of hard use and serve you well.