Best Bug Out Bag Food – 5 Perfect Options

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As a long-time prepper, I recommend the Grizzly Gear Emergency Food Rations, MRE Entrees, Freeze Dried Meals, and Survival Tabs as the best bug out bag food.

You don’t want to carry only one or two types of bug out bag food. In an emergency that requires you to leave home, you want a versatile selection. You never know if you’ll be able to boil water, but living off of nothing but ration bars can also be pretty depressing.

Canned food or items from your pantry don’t make sense either.

Best Bug Out Food
Kristin showing the different foods and a Bug Out Bag
The Best Bug out Food with my Bug Out Bag

I’ve been prepping for years and have spent much time tweaking my family’s bug out bags. I also consulted our team of experts, including Blake, an Army veteran. I’ve also eaten all the recommended foods below, so I can assure you they’re all edible.

I have found the key is variety, while keeping other factors a priority. Keep reading to find the best bug out food I have found and tips to help you pick the best for you.


Quick Comparison of Our Favorite Bug Out Bag Food

BEST RATION BARS
Grizzly Gear Ration Bars

Grizzly Gear Ration Bars

Compact

Lightweight

5 Year Shelf Life

Price: $

BEST MREs
MRE Entrees

MRE Entrees

Individual Entrees

Lightweight

Multiple Choices

Price: $

BEST MEALS
Mountain House Freeze Dried Meals

Mountain House Freeze Dried Meals

30 Year Shelf Life

Lightweight

Tastes Great

Price: $$

BEST MEAL KIT
Nutrient Survival Go Bag

Nutrient Survival Go Bag

25 Year Shelf Life

Packed in Dry Bag

Multiple Options

Price: $$

BEST PLAN “B”
Survival Tabs

Survival Tabs

25 Year Shelf Life

Compact

Provide Nutrition

Price: $


Best Bug Out Bag Foods

Grizzly Gear Emergency Food Rations – Best Ration Bar

Grizzly Gear Ration Bars
  • Calories per Pack: 3600
  • Shelf Life: 5 Years
  • Nutritionally Complete: No
  • Weight: 24 ounces per pack

I wasn’t expecting to like the Grizzly Gear Emergency Food Rations as much as I did. They are a budget-friendly, convenient option for anyone looking for bug out bag food. They may not be the most exciting option, but they are affordable and lightweight.

Plus, they taste great. The taste and texture is similar to a sugar cookie. They aren’t dense like other survival bars and don’t instantly make you need a drink of water. Both of my children loved them, and they regularly asked for more “cookies” after we tried them.

Kristin Showing the Grizzly Ration Bars
My Grizzly Gear Ration Bars

(And, honestly, keeping a few of these around for when your toddler decides to skip lunch isn’t such a bad idea.)

Grizzly Gear bars have a 5-year shelf life. While five years seems like a long time, it could be much longer than that before you need them. If you go with these make sure to mark on your bag to check them with the date so you don’t forget.

Each pack contains nine individually wrapped “cookies.” I was able to take one out and eat it without worrying about ruining the others.

I like that they require no preparation, making them ideal for grab-and-go situations where time is critical. I don’t have to heat up water or mix anything.

Kristin Showing the Grizzly Gear Ration Bars Open
These Bars are individually wrapped

Grizzly Gear bars are also affordable. They provide the same essential calories and basic nutrients as most other bug out bag foods at a fraction of the price and space.

They are low in fiber and higher in sugar, so eating them exclusively may cause some digestive issues. This is why we recommend a variety.

Recommended for:

I recommend the Grizzly Gear emergency ration bars as one of your primary bug out bag food. These bars are just too good not to have.

PROS

Affordable

No preparation needed

Compact and lightweight

Tastes great!

CONS

Not nutritionally complete

5 Year Shelf Life


MRE Entrees – Best Meal Ready to Eat

MRE Entrees
  • Calories per Meal: 150 – 300
  • Shelf Life: 10 years
  • Nutritionally Complete: Yes
  • Weight: 8 ounces each

MREs are often a go-to bug out bag food. You don’t have to prepare them, as they come completely cooked. Plus, tons of flavors are available, and most of them taste pretty good.

However, I recommend purchasing MRE entrees, specifically. Whole meals often include many extras you may not need, like napkins. They’re also bulkier. If you purchase from the link above, you can also pick what entree meals you want, allowing you to skip some of the less appetizing ones.

Kristin showing MRE Entrees
Entrees are compact and ready to eat, no cooking needed

I personally recommend these flavors:

  • Chicken Burrito Bowl
  • Santa Fe Rice and Beans
  • Southwest Beef & Black Beans
  • Chili with Beans

Compared to freeze-dried meals, MREs are generally cheaper but heavier. Freeze-dried meals offer more meal options and are lighter but require boiling water and are often pricier. Ultimately, the choice depends on your priorities and budget.

There are also other MRE options, like humanitarian meals. We have a complete review of the best MREs to buy to help you sort through all the options.

Recommended for:

I recommend you pack a few MRE entrees into your bug out bag. These can provide a big mental boost after snacking on ration bars. Plus, they’re very inexpensive.

PROS

Variety of meals

No prep needed

Includes added nutrition

Affordable

CONS

Not all flavors are good

Bulkier than other options


Mountain House Meals – Best Tasting Meals

Mountain House Freeze Dried Meals
  • Calories per Meal: 200-300 (2,600 in entire bucket)
  • Shelf Life: 30 years
  • Nutritionally Complete: No
  • Weight: 3 to 5 ounces per package (bucket is 5.7 pounds)

Mountain House Freeze Dried meals are the way to go if you’re going off of flavor alone. They taste like something you would choose to eat, unlike other rations. I have chosen to eat them for lunches when I don’t feel like making much! I’ve eaten a dozen of their flavors, which are all good.

Kristin showing the Mountain House meals and the bucket they come in
Some of the Mountain House meals that come in the variety bucket

However, the cost is higher than some alternatives, and they require hot water to prepare. You aren’t going to be eating them and hiking. You have to stop and boil water to do so (see our how to boil water without electricity guide for some tips.)

Kristin showing a Mountain house meal with her stove, water filter, and cup
I have this backpacking stove in my bug out bag along with the Grayl and nesting cup

Compared to MREs, Mountain House meals are much tastier, and there is more variety. Having these around is a sure boost to your morale, which is important in survival.

While you can buy individual meals, I find the classic meal bucket to be the best value. The meals come sealed in a bucket that helps them to maintain a shelf life of 30 years. You can choose throw the whole bucket in the car when you evacuate, or pack a few in your bug out bag.

Kristin showing the mountain house spaghetti meal
I just pour water in the pouch and wait a few minutes, this is the Spaghetti

The pouches come with two servings in each, and I like that I just have to add hot water to the pouch. This makes cleanup virtually nothing since I don’t have to use my water container to cook with.

There are also two breakfast meals in this container that just need cold water, while the rest need hot water.

Recommended for:

If you have extra money and space, Mountain House Freeze Dried meals are a great option for tasty, warm meals. I like to keep at least of few of these in my bag.

PROS

Very tasty

Easy to prepare

Lightweight

Long shelf life

CONS

Higher cost per serving

Requires water


Nutrient Survival Go-Bag – Best Meal Kit

Nutrient Survival Go-Bag

Save 10% with our code “SS10” at checkout!

  • Calories per Meal: ~250 (7,000 in kit)
  • Shelf Life: 25 years
  • Nutritionally Complete: Yes
  • Weight: 2.4 ounces per meal (full kit 4.0 pounds)

The Nutrient Survival Go-Bag is filled with five days worth of food, all in it’s own small waterproof bag that is easy to grab and carry. Each meal is individually packaged for a total of 25 separate meals (you’re meant to eat around 5 “meals” per day, not the usual three).

Kristin showing the Nutrient Survival Go Bag
All of the meals are packed in this nice dry bag

The thing that sets Nutrient Survival apart from other freeze-dried food companies is the nutritional completeness. Each meal contains around 25% of all the necessary vitamins and minerals you need to thrive. If you only ate Nutrient Survival, you would be getting complete nutrition.

In a survival situation where other food may not be available, that could be the difference between surviving and thriving.

Their food is also much higher in protein and fat than others. Their Go-Bag provides 84 grams of protein a day – much higher than the competition.

Kristin showing the meals that come in the Nutrient Survival Go Bag
Each meal comes in an individual serving pouch

Their meals are also easy to make, though they do require boiling water. You cannot make them in the pouches, though. You have to use a separate container, which means you need a way to clean it. The pouches also each have one serving, so if you are alone you don’t have to make two like with the Mountain House meals.

Nutrient Survival has multiple options in their go-bags. I like the one that includes coffee (it is pretty good for instant coffee.) Anytime there is a power outage I can have my morning coffee!

I found their meals to be a bit unappetizing in general. But, they’re much more focused on nutrition than taste. My children also do not care for the way they taste, so take this into consideration if you have kids.

Kristin eating the Nutrient Survival Southwest Medley
This is the Nutrient Survival Southwest Medley I ate while camping

This kit has more calories and is smaller in size than the Mountain House kit above. Plus, the price is very similar with our discount code. So, there is a tradeoff here between taste and value.

You can also purchase individual Nutrient Survival meals and larger meal kits. See our Nutrient Survival Review for our full run down.

Recommended for:

If you’re only shopping for adults (since my children did not care for the taste) and want to prepare for a longer emergency, the Nutrient Survival Go-Bag is a good option.

PROS

Long Shelf Life

Highly Nutritious

Minimal Preparation

Compact and Lightweight

CONS

Not the tastiest

Need a cooking container


Survival Tabs – Best Plan “B” Option

Survival Tabs
  • Calories per Pack: 480
  • Shelf Life: 25 years
  • Nutritionally Complete: Yes
  • Weight: 10 ounces

Survival Tabs are meal replacement tablets that contain essential nutrients and calories. These tabs are advertised as containing everything you need to survive. The idea is that you eat one every hour for 12 hours. After 12 tablets, you’ll have consumed the recommended daily value of 15 vitamins and minerals and 240 calories.

Now, 240 calories is not a lot, and I would not recommend trying to live off these tabs exclusively. I think of these as the best “Plan B”. If I run out of all my other food, I can turn to these to keep me going.

Kristin Showing her Survival Tabs
One of my Survival Tabs packages

These tablets also taste good. The taste isn’t overpowering like you might expect candy to be. However, they don’t taste bad by any means. They’re also larger than I was expecting, so they do take a little time to dissolve in my mouth.

I recommend two packs for each person in your family. I have linked to the variety pack above, which includes four packs of four different flavors. Two packs will keep me going for at least four days. This would give me time to come up with another food source.

Recommended for:

I recommend the Survival Tabs as a “Plan B”. When all else fails, these will give you the minimum nutrition that you need until you can find another food source.

PROS

Very lightweight

Nutritionally complete

No prep needed

Several flavors available

CONS

Very low in calories


Fueling Your Escape: Tips for Choosing the Best Bug Out Bag Food

When disaster strikes, having a well-stocked bug out bag can mean the difference between surviving and struggling. A key part of being prepared is having the food you need to thrive – or at least get you to your next refuel point.

Choosing the right grub for your bug out bag requires careful consideration, as it needs to be practical, nutritious, and most importantly, fit your specific needs.

Kristin showing some food that is in her bug out bag
Some of my Bug Out Bag Food

Finding the Best Bug Out Bag Food for You

Not everyone’s bug out bag is the same, so the food you need will also differ. Firstly, you need to pick a duration to prepare for. Most bug out bags are equipped to help you survive three days, so we recommend packing at least three days worth of food.

Of course, some food is better than none. If you only have enough disposable income to prepare for one day right now, that’s better than not preparing at all.

Consider your dietary needs, too. If you have allergies, intolerances, or any other specific dietary needs, those should be considered when purchasing food. Consider whether or not you’re preparing for children, too. All the food in the world won’t help you if your children won’t eat it, so be sure to pack some children-pleasing options.

Will you carry water with you to cook freeze-dried food? Or does your area have enough water that it won’t be a problem? Have you packed a water filter and cooking tools? Your ability to cook will affect what foods you’ll be able to eat. If you go for freeze dried meals, a Grayl water filter and a pathfinder nesting cup are essential. The Grayl titanium stove is also handy when I can’t build a fire.

Kristin showing the Grayl and the Pathfinder nesting cup
My Grayl Water Filter and Pathfinder nesting cup

A big consideration when packing a bugout bag is weight. You can only carry so much, and food can weigh quite a bit, especially if you decide to pack water, too. Consider what you already have packed, and always go for the lightest options first. Tasty meals like Mountain House may be nice, but you shouldn’t rely on them for all of your calories.

Types of Bugout Bag Foods

When packing a bug out bag, you have a few options:

  • Freeze-dried Meals: These are the closest to “normal” food that you can get. They have a long shelf life and taste like real food. However, they require preparation. You will need a way to heat water and time to do so.
  • MREs: This bug out bag classic is ready-to-eat and pretty close to “normal” food. Because all the water is already included, they are heavier than freeze-dried meals. They require no preparation, but shelf life is not as long.
  • Emergency Ration Bars: These ration bars are extremely compact and calorie-dense. However, they can also get very boring. They require no preparation and have a shorter shelf life.
  • Dehydrated Food: You can also find dehydrated food that’s designed to be eaten dehydrated. Think of things like banana chips. However, these options often aren’t very calorie-dense and tend to be thirst-inducing.
Kristin showing the three types of MREs
MRE Options: MRE Entree, Full MRE, and an HDR

Prioritize These 6 Key Features

There are tons of things you could look at when purchasing bug out bag food. However, I’ve found that the best bug out bag food really performs the best in these six categories. Everything else doesn’t matter much!

  • Shelf Life: Select food with a long expiration date. The less often you have to purchase new, fresh food, the better. Plus, you don’t have to set a reminder to check your food.
  • Nutrient Content: It’s important to consume a range of protein, fats, and carbs to sustain survival. “Empty” calories aren’t the way to go. Make sure you are getting fiber as well.
  • Calorie Count: You want as many calories as possible in the smallest space. I recommend at least 1500 calories a day per person, but 2000 is much better.
  • Ease of Preparation: The easier it is to make something, the higher the chance you’ll be able to eat it. If you have to stop, make a fire, and boil water, your options for when and where you can eat may be limited.
  • Weight and Size: When preparing a bugout bag, weight is vital. Compact, lightweight food is always better than bulkier options, even if you have to give up something else in the process.
  • Taste: The food has to be edible, or carrying it around doesn’t help you. Don’t fool yourself by thinking that “taste won’t matter” in an emergency. Trust me, it does, especially for mindset.

Bars vs. Meals

You’ll hear a lot of debate in the prepping world about carrying ration bars vs. meals.

Ration bars are more compact and don’t require any preparation. You can eat them absolutely anywhere. You don’t need to heat water, which can be impossible in some situations. You can easily fit thousands of calories in ration bars in your bug out bag.

Kristin showing a variety of Bug out bag food - Bars, MREs, and Nutrient Survival meals
Variety is key without taking up a bunch of space

However, ration bars can get boring. They also aren’t the most nutritionally complete option, especially if they are all you’re eating.

Meals are a tastier, more satisfying option. However, you have to stop to make them, usually with boiling water. That requires having water, a heat source, and having something to boil water with. That’s a lot of extra steps compared to just snaking on a bar.

Some of them are tasty, but not all of them are. Don’t assume that meals are always tasier than ration bars, as that hasn’t been my experience in the least.

So, which should you choose? My suggestion is to choose some of both. A meal for each day paired with ration bars covers your calories, keeps things lightweight, and provides some variety.

How Much Bug Out Bag Food Do You Need?

Before stocking your bug out bag with food, it’s important to determine how much food you need to pack. It’s important to pack enough sustenance to stay healthy, but you don’t want to pack so much that you weigh yourself down.

The exact number of calories you (and your family) need will vary. However, here are some key factors to consider:

  • Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR): This is the number of calories your body burns at rest to maintain basic function. I recommend using an online calculator that utilizes the Oxford formula, which is the most reliable. This calculator will provide your caloric needs based on your activity level.
  • Activity Level: Remember, you’re bugging out. Therefore, you’re going to need more food than you would otherwise. If you’re exclusively walking with your bug out bag, you could need as many as 1000 more calories per day than normal.
  • Special Conditions: Some specific concerns can adjust your caloric needs. For instance, if you’re pregnant, you’ll need more calories. If you’re diabetic, choosing protein-heavy foods may make more sense so that you have to worry less about insulin.

As a general guideline, I recommend packing at least 2000 calories a day per adult, but 3000 is often better. Ration bars are small, and they can provide these excess calories just in case you need them.

Portion Control and Rationing

Once you know how many calories you need, it’s important to portion and figure out what you can eat each day before an emergency. I recommend dividing your food into daily portions to prevent overconsumption. If you’ve packed three ration bars and an MRE entree for each day, make sure you only eat that much.

Don’t just assume you’ll eat until you fill full each day. You may restrict your intake unnecessarily “just in case” or overconsume.

Focus on diversifying your meals each day. Don’t eat all three of your MRE entrees on the first day, leaving you with nothing but ration bars for the other two.

Storing and Rotating Your Bug Out Bag Food

Maintaining the freshness and safety of your bug out bag food is vital. Otherwise, you may find that your food is expired when you have an emergency. Here are some tips to ensure everything stays fresh:

  • Cool, dry, and dark: Store your bug out bag in a cool, dry, and dark location, ideally at temperatures between 50°F and 70°F (10°C and 21°C). Avoid storing food near heat sources or direct sunlight.
  • First In, First Out (FIFO): Date your food items and prioritize consuming older items first. MREs that have been in your bug out bag for a year or more can make good camping food, allowing you to refill your bugout bag with fresh food. Sadly, you can’t stock your bug out bag once and leave it unless you choose food with a very long shelf life.
  • Regularly inspect: Regularly check your food supply for signs of spoilage or damage. Just because it has a specific expiration date doesn’t mean it will last that long.

Making Your Picks

I recommend packing a variety of food in your bug out bag. First. get a few packs of the Grizzly Gear Emergency Food Rations. One pack provides enough calories for up to three days if you stretch it a little bit.

Next, add in a few MRE Entrees. They will give you some variety and they require no preparation. Also get some freeze dried meals from Mountain House or the go bag from Nutrient Survival. These will give you a warm meal that is important mentally as much as nutritionally.

I also recommend packing Survival Tabs for some extra nutrients and for your “Plan B”. In case you run out of your other food, these can sustain you until you can source your next meal.

Make sure to pack all the other bug out bag essentials, too. Food is just one of the things you need.

Now, check out our full guide on how to start prepping for everything you need to know to be prepared for emergencies.

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Kristin is a fulltime writer with an obsession for being prepared. She spends much of her time working towards making her family self-sufficient, including homeschooling her children. When she isn’t writing, she’s shooting with her husband or homesteading.