Choosing The Best Survival Food For Your Bug Out Bag

I have been giving this a lot of thought lately, been reading others opinions, and have been using many different items.  I know Survival Foodwhat I like and will eat, that goes a long way to stocking ones backpack.  Much has been said about stocking your pantry for the future, whatever it may bring.  Stock what you eat, sounds simple, but it is less than simple.  My girls eat fresh and frozen veggies, never canned.  Canned goods last a long time and are pretty mandatory to stock in my opinion, so I also think that if you are really hungry you will eat what’s put in front of you.  That’s how I grew up, eat it or go hungry no matter how bad it is, and we did.

By Pineslayer, a contributing author to SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

Food for your pack needs a little more thought.  Nutritional value, weight, ease of preparation, calories ( Because you will be burning them up quickly ), and lastly, but very important, taste.  Remember back in the day when Gorp ruled and then was challenged by Power Bars, we have come a long way.  It would be foolish to not look at what indigenous hunter gatherers took with them for the ‘road’.  The circumstances have certainly changed since then, but think about the gathering part of it.

Before we delve into various items, I will lay out a few ground rules.  ‘We’ should be looking for food that will stay good in your pack for a year.  Can be eaten without cooking or just add water.  Will give you the nutrition you require to push through to achieve the objective.  It should be stuff that you currently eat, so you can use it and replace it regularly.  Last is affordability.

Alexander Wolfe over at TEOTWAWKI blog said something a while back that stuck with me.  He was looking at pack foods that fit into a category of each ounce needs to have about 100 calories.  I liked the sound of that and have been using that as a benchmark in my purchases.  You be the judge as to if it holds water, but you gotta start somewhere.  As we break down some of my favorites, we will accomplish two things,  I will get a more honest assessment of what I bring and you get to throw out your suggestions in the comments area.  We learn from each other and only get stronger by sharing ideas.

1. Energy Bars

This is a big category.  I mentioned Power Bars early on, gosh did they taste mediocre, but we ate them.  I stock 5 different Best food for your bug out bagEnergy Bars here, so I will use them as examples.  My favorite is the Clif Bar.

1. Clif Bars – Many great flavors, good story too.  My thoughts are that I could live on Clif Bars and water, for a long time.  Great sustained energy.  My experience with them is that one year is about its lifespan, then they start to get hard and lose a little taste, but never have I seen one go bad.

2.4 ounces    260 calories
Fat 7g   Protein 9g   Carb 41

2. Tiger’s Milk Bar – Yummy, girls will eat them, no problem.  Tigers Milk Bars won’t stand up to the heat very well due to the chocolate coating.  Not only do you get some good stuff in you, but the morale boost gives it extra credit points.

1.23 ounces   140 calories   Fat 5g   Protein 6g   Carb 18g

3. The Power Bar – Iconic.  Power Bars have improved greatly in taste.  Shelf life is years, if kept fairly cool.  The joke around here is that is might be the best bar to have in your pack, because you will only it eat when you need to and it will always be good to go.

2.29 ounces   240 calories   Fat 4g   Protein 9g   Carb 44g

4. Nature Valley Sweet & Salty Nut Granola Bar Peanut – Just let that soak in.  Nature Valley Bars are amazing tasting decadent savor every bite goodness. They are slightly fragile and have yummy coating that can get melty.  Let’s see if they are all talk.

 1.2 ounces   170 calories   Fat 9g   Protein 4g   Carb 20g

5. Fig Bar – Now we move a little to the left.  I found these originally at Costco, big box.  Nature’s Bakery Stone Ground Whole Wheat Fig Bars.  They come in Blueberry,  Raspberry, and Fig.  These are more like a cereal bar, just not quite there yet.  Shelf life is a year or better.  As always fresher is better.  Very good taste and texture, like a pastry with nutritious filling.

 2.0 ounces   220 calories   Fat 5g   Protein 4g   Carb 40g

So that is my collection of energy bars.  There are many others that I buy occasionally and would not hesitate to put in my pack or belly.  Lots of good options out there and they seem to give you good bang for your buck.


You knew it was coming, no pack is complete without some dried meat.  Remember the first time you bit into a Slim Jim or SHTF foodTeriyaki Beef Jerky, it is like your first kiss, maybe that is pushing it, but it never leaves you, you always want more.  Here are the ones currently tickling my tastebuds.

Pacific Gold Original Beef Jerky made from Top Round Steak.  Some jerky’s seem to lose their flavor quicker than others, this ain’t one of them.  You might find yourself using this like a dip of Cope rather than jerky.  It really is good and holds it flavor for a long time.  I like to slowly let the jerky re-hydrate in my mouth and savor the spices for as long as possible, also seems to be a little mind game in there making  you think you are eating more than you are.

1.25 ounces   90 calories   Fat 1g   Protein 14g   Carb 8g   Carnivore rating 8 of 10

Impulse buy at the store, Krave Beef Jerky Sweet Chipotle.  Very tender pieces, excellent quality.  Flavor is deep, made in the USA.  I was happy with this buy, but like all good jerky it is pricey, but in the scheme of things, worth it.

3.25 ounces   315 calories   Fat 4.5   Protein 24g   Carb 36g  Carnivore rating 8 of 10

I may have saved the best for last,  Epic 100% Bison Bacon Cranberry Bar.  I have informed the family all I need for presents are these and semi-sweet chocolate bars.  These ‘bars’ are amazing.  For those who love pemmican, you will really appreciate these treats.  These may be the most expensive price per ounce item in this post, but nothing beats the quality.

Dehydrated Meals

First the bad, maybe the only problem, you need water and heat, most of the time.  That means time and energy.  Don’t forget Forge Survival Supplyabout the smells and light associated with heating water or cooking.  Could you run a cold camp for days or weeks?  You can re-hydrate items without cooking them, add water and wait.  If you are traveling close to water resources, this would be a great way to cut weight.  With freeze dried meals, there are many different options and flavors.

My family bought me these Backpackers Pantry items for Xmas, Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce.  It’s sauce over brown rice and veggies, yum.  Now it is meatless so for some of you carnivores it might not sound great, but trust me they are great.  I bet some bunny or squirrel would be a perfect addition.  Let’s look at the stats:

8.1 ounces   1000 calories   Fat 52g   Protein 40g   Carb 112g

Those numbers represent 2 servings as indicated on the package.  Cost about $6.  Others ones I stock are Mountain House and AlpineAire.  I buy them whenever I have extra cash or feel the urge after watching the news.  For brevity’s sake I will only breakdown one, Lasagna w/Meat Sauce by Mountain House.

4.8 ounces   600 calories   Fat 20g   Protein 35g   Carb 68g

Now these packages say approx 2.5 servings per package and my math shows the whole thing, not per serving.  I guess when it comes down to it, with all the options in this category, let your tastebuds do the choosing.

More Options

Hot cereals, oatmeal, and soup mixes all can be had for cheap with good shelf life.  My favorite quick breakfast is Quaker Real Medley’s Oatmeal cups.  Add hot water, stir and wait 5 minutes.  I believe there are 4 flavors, maybe 5.  The stats that follow are for the Maple Pecan Raisin cups.

2.46 ounces   270 calories  Fat 7g   Protein 6g   Carb 49g

Now that may seem like small numbers, but I can say from experience that a cup of this can sustain you for hours of hard work.  Price seems to 3 for $5 on average.

MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat)

Careful when buying these, check the expiration dates.  There are many on sites like Ebay that are getting old and their storage has been suspect.  Manufacturers are making civilian offerings, go that route.  They are on the heavy side, but need no cooking, maybe a little heat.  They are also affordable.  I can’t comment too much having never eaten them.  I will have to buy some for experimentation.  OK this is getting lengthy, so let’s finish up.  The whole point of this post is to show you options that are inexpensive, easy to use and give you the energy you need.  All of the items listed are stuff that I eat, so for me it is easy to rotate them and therefore stock up without hesitation. Most people think of their Bug Out Bags as a 72 hour kit and that is a good starting point for food and water.  A couple more things you should have in your pack to supplement and extend its/your life:

1.  Fishing Kit
2.  Snares or traps
3. Vitamins,  stress will be great, supplements can keep you healthy

More advice, keep your food in an outside pouch if possible.  Little critters can wreak havoc with your kit, so it would be better if they tear into an outside pouch than right through the main area, I know.  Big critters are a different story, bears mainly.  Bear proof canisters, stored up high with a rope,  guarded by you and a rifle :)  Don’t sleep with your food in bear country, I had to remind you.  Oh yea, Snickers bars.  I don’t have the stats because we ate them all.  Share your ideas below in the comments.

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28 comments… add one
  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. October 16, 2015, 8:03 am

    Big fan of gorp, raisins and peanuts give me energy.

    For day long woods roaming, I’ve been pretty happy with ramen packages (not the bowl product – too bulky). A steel canteen cup and a quart of water will cook two of those meals. I keep three packages inside the cup that is inside the canteen pouch without the canteen. My normal canteen is the 2 quart size (I wish they made a cut for THAT one – I’ve searched for restaurant heat pans, but haven’t found the critter yet). The hot liquid is good for cold weather, while the salty helps energy level when its hot.

    I sometimes add summer sausage to add to the ramen calories in the cold. It keeps pretty well when covered – but it does attract ants.

    Not healthy, but for a fortnight, it isn’t going to bother you – it works for me. Thanks for the article Pineslayer.

  • chilichef October 16, 2015, 8:22 am

    As you point out, the dehydrated foods take both heat and water to make them edible, which may make them less than ideal for bug out. And, frankly, they are expensive; on a per ounce basis. If you’re looking for a very cheap source of calories, if you’re going to have to cook the stuff, plain old rice provides a very cheap, reasonably high source of calories; I’m seeing nutritonal information of about 112 calories per ounce which works out to 896 calories for 8 oz or about 1800 or so per lb. Granted, it is very high in carbs and relatively low in protein and almost non existent fat; on the other hand, rice is cheap, particularly if you buy the larger size bags and get them on sale. A 5 lb bag, or even a 2 lb bag of dried rice will cost you just a few dollars and will go a long way to providing plain old carb calories; if you have other foodstuff in your bag it can go a long way to extending your food supply, provided you have heat and water to cook it, at a really trivial cost. Rice is relatively compact to store, provided you keep it dry and away from vermin should last for quite a time. Not everyone has a bunch of money to spend on prepping; and rice is extremely affordable.

  • Novice October 16, 2015, 10:20 pm

    Got a get home bag in my truck. Travel allot for work. Food wise I keep dried fruits and nuts. Appricots, pineapple, peanuts, cashews etc. keeps well in the heat and cold. Couple 2 liter bottles of water, stainless steal water bottle and a MSR rocket stove. Tea and instant coffee bags as well. I can boil ground water with the rocket stove or make a hot drink. Fuel tanks are small, burns hot as hell too. Tanks last a suprizingly long time compared to there size. When not boiling water in my stainless water bottles I keep items I want dry in the bottle. Lighter, compass, fire starters etc. if you don’t have one already I can’t say enough good things about the MSR rocket stove. Got mine for $39.

  • Lance October 16, 2015, 11:20 pm

    Hooah for those bison cranberry bars, tried some awhile ago never had pemmican though, they would definitely increase morale in the field. I use mres and the freeze dried stuff for the most part. Also don’t forget the met-rx bars, especially the brownies!

  • Mitch October 17, 2015, 6:26 am

    You left out Spam, and before you say “eww spam!” if you eat sausages there is no reason for you not to eat Spam. Comes in different flavours, there’s even a turkey version.
    Eat it cold, cooked, fried, charred, grilled, with pasta, rice, bread, or ramen noodles, sauce or no sauce.

    It weighs a bit more than other items, however, nutritionally it’s gonna give you fats you won’t get with many other foods.

  • Roger October 17, 2015, 1:09 pm

    The only energy bars I carry (in my 10C survival vest) are Millennium bars, don’t taste great but at 2.95 oz, 400 cal. total, 18 g. fat, 8g. protein, 52g. carbs. they are pretty fulling and the biggest selling point for me is the five year self life. There are nine different flavors and they are a bit dry! Mostly for trail food I keep homemade (mixed) trail mix, in 1-cup zip-lock bags, 1-2 per day. Made mainly from mixed nuts, every dried fruit I have on hand (several usually) and sometimes oatmeal w/honey to make it stick together; works for me! For camping, FD pouches, ramen, instant rice,and small cans of different meat fill every nook and cranny of my backpack. For SHTF, I plan to carry a military duffel bag that carries 16 #10 cans of FD and DH foods, enough for some time! Good Luck!

  • helot October 17, 2015, 10:08 pm

    Incomplete blog article. You didn’t discuss the shelf life of Jerky, Dehydrated Meals, or the More Options. That info would have been helpful, imho. Comparison wise. Otherwise, good article.

    It’s good to know about the shelf life of Millennium bars, Roger. Thanks.

    At the moment, I carry no food. That may change.

  • Doc Montana October 17, 2015, 10:23 pm

    Glad you mentioned that freeze dried food like Mountain House does not have to be cooked, nor even warm for it to be tasty. Might give it a few more stirs and soaking minutes before judging it, however.

    And concerns about water? If you don’t have enough water to make food, well then you probably don’t have enough water to drink so food becomes irrelevant.

    And Tigers Milk bars are loaded with high fructose corn syrup. No point in cluttering up your food supply with any extra HFCS. Bad stuff if you ask me.

  • al October 18, 2015, 8:58 pm

    Talked to a guy ( former navy reservist ) awhile back that had been on duty in the early 90’s, and he had said that they had used MRE’s that were upwards to 15 or more yrs old and they still tasted ok. His story. Then I had worked with a guy that had been in the Marine Corps in the late 60’s and he had eaten C rations/K rations ( don’t remember which )that had been made in the 40’s and that they had tasted like it too, but he lived.

    • BamaMan October 27, 2015, 3:56 pm

      Squirrel taste “ok” if you are hungry.

      • JAS October 28, 2015, 11:13 am

        Squirrel taste’s OK anytime.

        • Lance October 30, 2015, 12:25 am

          Depends on where they w

          • Lance October 30, 2015, 12:26 am

            Were taken from

  • Pineslayer October 19, 2015, 8:25 pm

    Update on shelf life. Bit into a Clif Bar today, Blueberry Crisp, it was 14 months past its prime. It was less than tasty. The first bite was fine, but number two hit a large nut that was rancid. This bar had been in a pack for its entire life and spent many months in the trunk of my car.

    Next up was some very old Mountain House entree’s. No expiration date on it, that should have been my first red flag. These were given to me shoved inside an old backpack. Probably 20 years old, storage is unknown. I added hot water, closed it up for 5 minutes, opened it up and almost retched. It was compost material.

    Expiration dates are very subjective. How was it stored is the biggest factor. The trunk of your car is not the best storage for food :)

    Yea Spam! I have recently discovered all the different flavors. It certainly is better than the C rats I ate in the early 80’s.

  • Ray October 20, 2015, 10:58 am

    No matter what you carry. Three to five days is your maximum duration of carry. Add water ,ammo, weapons , and all the “other” silly BS, EVERY “Prepper” seems to have loaded down the trunk with , and you get the 150lb. ruck that is the “bug out” fantasy. What’s worse is the stupid idea that 50 to 100 million people will suddenly rush out to the “countryside” and “live off the land”. In truth; 14 days after the “great exodus” the bugouts will start stealing and marauding to survive. PERIOD. They will start eating each other in 60 days or less, but the “locals” will have begun exterminating them long before that, as the buggouts will be FORCED to steal to survive. Bugging out is nothing but a “wagons west” “mountain man” fantasy , that is at best mass suicide. If you want to truly “survive” , then you would be well advised to look at building and investing in a stable village. Because the only thing “bugging” to the backcountry will get you and yours ; is dead. As long time readers will remember I HAVE “stone age” skills , I Knapp flint. I build “wickiups”.I hunt. I live in rural Ky. and was raised on a mule powered sustenance farm. I’ll let y’all in on this; We DO NOT!!! have the game or wild food to support the numbers that live here NOW. If “On time” delivery stopped today the people of the southern mountains would be hard pressed to survive the winter. The towns will starve, and every “bug out” would make it worse. So how do YOU think we would act toward strangers making our children and elders go hungry to fill their bellies? How would YOU?

    • Wv woods runner April 15, 2017, 12:43 am

      This person has it correct. Unless you have someplace prearranged that you are going to, all “bugging out” is going to do is get you killed.

    • John Adams May 13, 2019, 11:11 pm

      Very well put, I grew up in Harlan Kentucky on a mule powered farm as well, no running water coal stove outhouse even bathed in creeks when I was very young, I agree with everything you just said, the county I grew up in was so poor there were no wild game in those mountains, people had already hunted them out. Not sure how they are now, but your right about the bug out fantasy, and the danger of these people who think they can survive out of a back pack.

  • TPSnodgrass October 20, 2015, 12:51 pm

    I do not keep ANY food type items in the trunk of any sedan, nor in the vehicle in the summer time. It goes in the BOB with me, inside and back out again for each trip in the vehicle. Never had anything go rancid, or “flat” yet. Our vehicles interior (or trunk) will “cook” the products in the vehicle due to the inside temps getting so hot in the summer time. This appears to be THE primary reason why stuff goes bad IN our vehicles.(even in insulated containers). I’ve lost a bunch of food stuffs, before I figured out the temps were the main issue in my case. Temps will also degrade the foot wear “glue” on footwear stored in your vehicle, ask me how we know….Spam is good. Ate a lot of it as a kid and loved it.(you all never tasted my mother’s “cooking”… yeah, it WAS that nasty, SPAM was a treat!)

    • Pineslayer October 20, 2015, 11:32 pm

      Well TDSnodgrass, my Mom’s cooking was really bad too. German over cooked everything dinners. When I turned 30, I finally had the guts to tell her how I feel about her pot roast. We had a good laugh, but I still can’t think about it without gagging.

      I need to do a better job of rotating pack foods.

  • Roger October 21, 2015, 5:04 pm

    The only food I keep long-term in my vehicle trunk is FD in #10 cans because they are extremely (if not 100%) dry, already cooked, and mouse proof! Along with bottled distilled water in a cooler which resists freezing quite well and again mouse proof, throw in my BOB and more water and I’m ready for at least a week or two! Camping gear stays in the trunk. Good Luck!

  • helot October 21, 2015, 10:02 pm

    “Temps will also degrade the foot wear “glue” on footwear stored in your vehicle, ask me how we know…”

    I had not thought about that! How do you know? I mean, was it fixable? If so, how? How badly damaged were they?

    I’m thinking this is a big plus for stitched leather boots. Do they use glue?

  • BamaMan October 27, 2015, 3:57 pm

    Jar of peanut butter will go a long way. Weighs very little.
    Tabasco Sauce can make something bad taste good. Light weight too.

  • JAS October 28, 2015, 11:19 am

    We don’t keep any food items in our vehicle. We have packed up in the house for emergency/bug out purposes. The only thing we keep in our vehicle is our get home bag and it stays with me. Never left long term in the vehicle. I keep the Kashi bars in it for quick nutrition and swap them out monthly, since we eat them all the time for breakfast and snack.

  • Dean December 16, 2015, 10:02 pm

    I carry dried fruit (Wal-Mart great value brand, pineapple, mango are mt favs) also jar of peanutbutter, small cans of meat (I’m on a tight budget) and jerky (beef, turkey, and homemade sometimes). plus rice (Lasts for years if kept dry) make rice add meat for flavor and longer full feeling) plus a bottle of vitamins (I keep them in a maximun of 6 months then swap out with a new bottle and take the old bottle daily (Taken at night before bed because that is when your body makes repairs and needs them most).

  • Henry December 17, 2015, 3:44 pm

    What about dry fruits like almonds or walnuts?

  • asshole April 26, 2016, 4:19 pm

    Everybody always makes this subject waaaaayyyyyy more complicated than it has to be. Two words……peanut butter.

  • Scott December 17, 2016, 4:29 am

    I had all of these except for the dehydrated meat and definitely want to try it. Thanks for sharing mate and hope to read more of these. Preparing for unforeseen distasters is critical.

  • not1word July 7, 2017, 8:59 pm

    I remember reading a Vietnam Nam era book in which the author (a LRRP) spoke of their routine at the beginning of each day in the field. One step was to pour water into a dehydrated food pouch, seal it up, then place the pouch inside their shirt next to their body. After a day long patrol, the movement would have worked the water through the meal pretty well, and, while not hot, it wouldn’t be stone cold, either. It seems to me that the same thing could be done with a Mountain House or Backpacker’s Pantry meal in a field expedient situation where you didn’t want the light or heat signature of a fire. Just a thought.


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