Whether you are going on a hike or preparing for an emergency, extra nutrition is vital to your health and survival. Calories can help give you the energy to survive and keep you warm at night. When traveling in the backcountry or preparing for an emergency, it is important to have some type of long term food supply that is both calorie dense and portable. There are many different kinds of food that are manufactured to be lightweight, portable, and shelf-stable for all kinds of activities like hiking, backpacking, survivalism, prepping, and they are great to include in your list of bug out bag contents. These manufacturers also strive to have the maximum calorie-to-weight ratio possible, which makes them great to include in your emergency food supply list.
When packing for a trip in the outdoors, a general rule of thumb is to always pack an extra days worth of food and plenty of water. When planning to bring emergency food supplies, it is also smart to pack foods that do not require cooking—or foods that have their own self-contained means of cooking. This is because you do not want to have to rely on a specific cooking method. You may also not have time to cook in the event of an emergency.
In this article, we will take a look at six different emergency food options and compare them. Many of these options can provide a backup for camping or act as an extremely lightweight option for emergency preparation—perhaps good items to include in your bug out bag’s emergency food kits. To compare the best emergency food supplies, we will look at the following categories:
- Shelf Life
- Calories Per Serving
Here are our Top Picks
Mountain House Emergency Food Bucket
These meals, produced by Mountain House have long been a staple for survivalists, emergency preparers, campers, etc.
Mountain House has been making adventure food for outdoor enthusiasts for over 50 years, so you know you can trust them and their products.
This particular food bucket comes with a 30-year taste guarantee–the best in the business. Out of all of our other foods listed here, nothing can beat the Mountain House shelf life. They even beat Wise Company by 5 years.
As far as survival planning goes, this is the gold-plated version of survivalism. Meals include things beef stroganoff, chicken teriyaki, lasagna, granola with blueberries, and many more tasty dishes.
Another benefit of Mountain House buckets is that each pouch is sealable. What this means, among other things, is you can save food that you don’t eat immediately for later, thus extending your survival kit. Also, it helps with preparing the food itself.
The Mountain House bucket contains 12 total meals, 29 servings, and will provide someone with enough food for 3.5 days. It’s smaller than the Wise Company bucket, but you can always buy more than one. I think Mountain House is the best name out there for survival food, nothing beat its taste or its shelf life.
If you want a bigger single-bucket option, however, go for the Wise Company bucket.
- Size: 12 x 10 x 13
- Weight: 3.45 pounds
- Shelf Life: 30 years
- Calories per serving: Approximately 300
- Servings: 29 servings
Wise Emergency Food: Grab and Go Food Kit
These meals, produced by the Wise Company, are similar to the Mountain House brand, but they don’t have quite as long of a shelf life. Still, with a 25-year life span, these are nothing to balk at.
They come in a tub that includes either 60 or 120 servings. The smaller 60 serving option says it will last one adult for one month or four adults for a week. In other words, if you have a family of four, this will last you for a full week.
The meals, just like Mountain House, are hot ready-to-eat meals that come in all different entrées and flavors, all you do is add hot water. This foot kit comes with everything from pasta alfredo to cheesy lasagna. The meals are anywhere from 190-300 calories, which is pretty small. They are really meant to accompany some type of stored meat, and considering the small kit already weight 11 pounds, you’re looking at a lot of weight. Way more than the other options.
If taste is your priority, these might be right for you, but you are going to sacrificing a lot of room to bring this along in any disaster scenario.
- Size: 13 x 9 x 10
- Weight: 11 pounds
- Shelf Life: 25 years
- Calories per serving: 190-300
- Servings: 120
Datrex 3600 Calorie Emergency Food Bar Review
The Datrex 3600 Calorie Emergency Food Bars come in a vacuum-sealed package containing 18 individually wrapped bars. The bars are ready to eat and are 200 calories each. There are only six ingredients: wheat flour, vegetable shortening, cane sugar, water, coconut flavor, and salt. The bars have been designed to have maximum palatability across all ages and food tastes and can be eaten as-is or mixed with water. They have a high-energy value and are non-thirst provoking, which is an important consideration when putting together any survival food kits.
The Datrex bars are small and lightweight providing 3600 calories in less than 2 pounds. The bars use all-natural ingredients and no preservatives. While they are not supposed to be thirst inducing, the bars are very dry and crumble easily.
- Size: 3.5 x 2.5 x 4.5 inches
- Weight: 24.8 ounces
- Shelf Life: 5 years
- Calories per serving: 200
S.O.S. Emergency Food Rations: 3600 Calorie Food Bar Review
The S.O.S. Rations Emergency Bar is lightweight and easy to store. The 3600-calorie package includes 9 individually wrapped food bars that are 410 calories each. The package containing the bars is vacuum-sealed and can withstand extreme conditions making it good for survival food storage. The bars have a 5-year shelf life if kept in the sealed package. At 1.6 pounds, these bars have a similar calorie-to-weight ratio to the Datrex food bars. This ration is meant to last for three days in the event of an emergency. At three bars per day, that allows for 1230 calories per person per day.
These bars have a coconut flavor and are non-thirst provoking. The main ingredients are similar to the Datrex bars, but these bars contain additional preservatives. Also, just like the Datrex bars, they tend to be dry and crumble easily after being removed from the packaging.
- Size: 4.5 x 2 x 5 inches
- Weight: 1.6 pounds
- Shelf Life: 5 years
- Calories per serving: 410
MRE Meals: Ready to Eat Food Pack w/ Flameless Heater Review
MRE meals are usually at the top of my survival food list. These meals are a military-style MREs, which stands for “meals ready to eat.” A half case will contain 6 individual meals. Each meal contains an entrée, 2-3 sides including a dessert and drink mix, and an accessory pack. The meals can be eaten hot or cold and include a flameless heater. Each meal will contain somewhere between 1100 and 1300 calories. Each meal has a shelf life of ten years.
These are complete meals, which are great for camping and hiking. Their large size and packaging make them less ideal for emergency preparation. The biggest benefit to these meals is that they contain a large amount of calories and they taste much better than bland survival bars. If you are looking for the best survival food, you cannot go wrong with some MREs.
- Size: 3 x 12.5 x 8.25 inches per meal
- Weight: 13 pounds for 6 meals
- Shelf Life: 10 years
- Calories per serving: 1200-1300
Survival Tabs 15-Day Food Supply Review
Each tablet is 20 calories, and while 12 tablets per day will not fill you up, it will provide the necessary proteins and vitamins to keep you alive. The highly concentrated formula allows you to fully absorb as many nutrients as possible and up to 99% of the tabs calorie contents. The tablets come in various flavors, including strawberry. They come with a plastic bag to hold the tablets so that the jar can be repurposed as a water container. These chewable tablets are gluten-free and easy to store, with an amazing shelf life of 25 years. This amazing shelf life makes these the best option for long-term survival food storage.
Survival Tabs are an excellent source of nutrients in the event of an emergency, but at only 20 calories per tablet, they will not be filling. The impressive shelf life of 25 years is only guaranteed if the container has not been opened.
- Size: 7.5 x 5 x 2.8 inches
- Weight: 1.8 pounds
- Shelf Life: 25 years
- Calories per serving: 20
Quakekare ER Emergency Ration 2400+ Calorie Bar Review
The ER 2400-calorie food bar by QuakeKare is an emergency food bar that offers a 5-year shelf life. The 2400-calorie package can last one person for 3 days. There are 6 bars per pack. The bars are not individually packaged, but the outer packaging is vacuum-sealed and re-sealable. The packaging can withstand extreme conditions, which makes it safe to leave in a vehicle or other environment where there is extreme heat or cold. The bars are ready to eat and non-thirst provoking.
When rationing for three days, these rations only allow for 2 bars per day, which is a total of 820 calories per day. That means that these will allot for 410 calories less per day than the other survival food bars we have reviewed. One of the biggest benefits to these bars is that they do not contain coconut, which could be a problem for those with allergies.
- Size: 6 x 3.5 x 1 inches
- Weight: 18 ounces
- Shelf Life: 5 years
- Calories per serving: 410
My Vote for Best Emergency Food Reviews
So, what is the best survival food? Before I offer my opinion, here’s how I look for the best survival foods to include in my kit. I look for at good combination of the following categories.
Shelf Life: The point of long-term food storage is just that. You want them to be long term. Without a good shelf life, your emergency food rations will eventually spoil, and you’ll need to replenish it more than necessary. I aim for foods with a 20+ year shelf life. Note: If you’re thinking of using one of these for camping or hiking food, this really isn’t a concern.
Calorie Count/Servings: The other point of these food supplies is to sustain you through an emergency. This means your foods need to meet certain calorie requirements. Always be sure to look at the calorie counts of your food to make sure you’re not overspending.
Price: This one is obvious, but if something is ridiculously expensive compared to something that still tastes good with a good shelf life, get the cheaper one.
Taste: Never forget that you’re meant to eat whatever is in your survival rations supply.
Best Choice for Emergency Preparedness Supplies
The food bars from Quakekare, Datrex, and S.O.S are all very similar with a few key differences. The Quakekare bars are the only ones that do not come individually wrapped. All three bars have an almost identical calorie-to-weight ratio. The Datrex bars come in smaller portions, but provide more bars.
The Survival Tabs are an excellent idea in theory, but would not do a great job in subduing hunger. In the world of survival food supplies, the survival tabs do just that. They allow you to survive, but you will still be hungry. They are a true last resort and, given their small size and incredible shelf life, every good emergency food list should have some of them.
As an avid hiker and backpacker, my favorite option is the Mountain House or the Wise Food Kit. These meals are tasty, have tons of variety, and have excellent shelf lifes (the best on the list actually).
In a true emergency situation, however, you might not have a way to heat the water required for these meals. While neither actually require hot water, it will definitely taste better than use cold water.
If you do want to be certain of at least a few hot meals in a disaster, you might consider the traditional MREs. These allow you to quickly and easily heat with the flameless heating kit included. As far as emergency food storage is concerned, MREs usually last 5-10 years, which is comparable to all of the food bars, but the Wise Food Kits last 25 years and Mountain House lasts 30 years!
Another popular food bucket company is Augason Farms.