Food is fuel to the body. During an emergency situation you may be faced with the difficult decision to bug out or evacuate your home at a moment’s notice. Having a hearty 72-hour food supply in your bug out kit will ensure that your nutritional and caloric needs are met regardless of the circumstances.
In this article we’ll discuss which foods are ideal for a bug out bag. We have chosen foods that meet at least several of the following requirements:
- They boast a long shelf life: Since your backpack should be updated every 6 months, we’ve included food items that have a minimum shelf life of six months. Most items, however, last much longer than that but they should still be rotated periodically.
- They’re lightweight: It’s possible that you’ll be carrying your backpack for hours at a time. Choosing lightweight food ensures that your pack’s weight remains low.
- They’re easy to prepare: We recommend items that require little to no cooking. Pre-cooked foods are the best choice because you don’t have the certainty that you’ll be able to start a fire or set up a cooking area. Also, the time you would normally spend cooking can be better spent doing other important activities.
- They require minimal water to prepare: The water you carry on your pack is best used for hydration and sanitation. Unless you’re otherwise guaranteed an endless supply, you’ll want to reserve your water as much as you can so you don’t run out. Using a small amount of water for cooking helps you preserve it for other uses.
- They’re rich in nutrients: Your body requires the use of calories, fats, protein, carbs, minerals, and vitamins to function properly. In a bug out event, you may be doing more strenuous physical activities than what you’re used to so consequently you’ll be burning more calories. Nutritious ingredients are a must for your health and energy!
- They don’t contain too much sodium: Water is a scarce resource and may not be readily available everywhere you go. When you eat foods with a high sodium content, your body gets dehydrated. When water is in short supply, you want to avoid making yourself thirsty. I should also note that foods with a high nitrate content may give you the runs, which is not only uncomfortable and inconvenient, but it can dehydrate you as well.
- They’re delicious: Just because you’re bugging out doesn’t mean you have to make it a dreadful experience for yourself. Choose only foods that you’re for sure going to enjoy. If you don’t like it now, you won’t want to eat it later. Never underestimate the power of a comfort meal or snack to sustain you during difficult times.
What is the best food for a bug out bag?
1. Instant oatmeal
2. Instant grits packets
3. Granola bars — These are ideal if you’re on-the-go.
4. Muelsi — Add dried milk, water, and prunes or raisins for a hearty breakfast!
5. Cereal — Choose nutrient-rich cereals that are low in sugar such as Quaker oatmeal squares.
6. Long-term food packets — These include MRE’s and Military rations. They can be expensive and some are high in sodium so eat them in small amounts.
7. Freeze-dried foods — These include camper meals such as Mountain House dried packs.
8. Beans — Cooked or refried beans in a pouch are ideal. Cans are too heavy and may require a can opener.
9. Lentils — These have a high nutritional value and cook quickly.
10. Instant rice pouches — Pre-cooked rice requires minimal cooking. If you’re unable to cook it for any reason, however, you can still safely eat them straight from the bag.
11. Ramen noodles — These are high in sodium but if you get the pouches, you can reduce the salt content by only using half of the broth envelope.
12. Soup mix — Get a veggie soup or dehydrated stew mix that is high in calories.
13. Knorr / Uncle Ben side dishes — These cook quickly and are filling.
14. Instant falafel mix — These are easy to reconstitute. They can be added to a soup or stew to thicken up the consistency.
15. Sardines, smoked oysters, and kipper snacks
16. Tuna in a pouch — Any other meat in a pouch will do, such as chicken. For bug out scenarios, it’s better if they’re packaged in oil rather than water because it increases the fat content.
17. Meat jerky — Jerky is a great source of protein but is also high in salt content, so eat it in small quantities to prevent dehydration. Beef, venison, elk, and buffalo jerky are great options, as well as pemmican.
18. Shelf-stable pepperoni and dry salami — Just like jerky, these are great options to have in small quantities.
19. Corned beef
21. Pork and beans in a pouch — Canned pork and beans are heavier and may require a can opener.
22. Potato flakes — Instant mashed potatoes can be reconstituted with water and eaten as is or added to soups and stews to make them thicker.
23. Meal replacement bars — There are many healthy protein bar brands out there, including MetRx. Some other popular brands are Mackerel, Tiger Milk, Cliff, Kind, and Larabar. Look for a bar that is high in protein, carbs, calories, and fats. Remember you need the energy and this is not your typical everyday diet. Keep the bars in the fridge for an extended shelf life, but leave a note on your bug out bag to remind yourself to grab them before you go.
24. Your own dehydrated meals — Dehydrated fruit and veggie powders can fortify any meal. Anything you make should be packaged and sealed properly for longevity.
25. Unsalted or lightly salted nuts — This includes cashews, peanuts, pecans, almonds, and trail mix.
26. Seeds — This can include sunflower and pumpkin seeds, as well as sesame bars.
27. Dried or dehydrated fruit — This includes banana chips, apple chips, dates, mango, pineapple, apricots, raisins, berries or any other dried fruit of your choice. They can be eaten as is or added to instant rice and oats. Fruit leathers are also great!
28. Dehydrated veggies — Dehydrated seaweed and kale snacks may have a shorter shelf-life but are highly nutritious and lightweight.
29. Tortilla chips
30. Peanut butter
31. Jelly and nutella
32. Crackers — Some options include peanut butter, cheese crackers, or unsalted saltines.
33. Matzo bread
34. Animal crackers
36. Pop tarts
38. Hard cheeses with wax coating
39. Dehydrated hummus
40. Fruitcake — Fruitcake that is vacuum sealed in slices can last a long time. These are great because they include fruits and nuts that provide protein, fats, sugars, carbs, some fiber, and deliciousness!
41. Candy — Candy will be a comforting treat to spike up your energy when your sugar levels are running low. Payday is preferred because it contains nuts. Snickers and peanut M&M’s are good options too, but only during the winter season since hot climates will melt the chocolate. Hard candies are possibly the best options in terms of candy.
Additional things to add a boost of nutrition and flavor:
42. Emergency food bars / Lifeboat rations — These are not ‘food items’ per say, but they can become vital when the food runs out. They’re high in calories to keep your energy levels high. They’re essentially designed to keep your body moving but should not be used in place of a meal— you will be hungry. Some popular brands include Millenial ration bars, SOS, Mayday, Datrex, and Survival of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Bars.
43. Decaf coffee — Regular coffee may give you a boost of energy in the morning but because it contains caffeine, it can dehydrate you. One small cup a day should be okay but if you drink more than that, it’s best to have a decaffeinated option.
44. Powdered milk
45. Tea bags — They’re lightweight and provide comfort in the morning or evening.
46. Hot chocolate mix
47. Sugar packets
48. Salt packets
49. Seasoning packs — This includes ground pepper and other spices.
50. Bouillon cubes — Use this in moderation since it contains a high sodium content.
51. Honey packets — These are good to use as a sweetener and can fortify oatmeal.
52. Coconut oil packets — These contain antioxidants and can fortify meals.
53. Electrolyte drink powder — Pedialyte is a well-known brand.
54. Rehydration and mineral replacement tablets
55. Nutritional protein and whey powder
56. Emergen-C packets
57. Tallow — Keep this in an airtight container to prevent oxidation.
58. Horlick’s malted milk tablets — These are great for keeping your energy levels high while you're on the move.
59. Multivitamins and supplements
Along with food, we recommend you include these items in your BOB:
- Camping mess kit and titanium spork
- Lightweight means to cook such as small stove and sterno kit
- Sharp knife
- A few spare plastic bags
- Fire kit which includes multiple ways to start a fire
- Lightweight fishing kit which include at least fishing line and hooks
- Snare wire
- Multitool that includes an axe
- Slingshot for small game
- Water purifier
How much food does my Bug Out Bag need?
Keep enough food (or calories, rather) that will last you just over 72 hours— to be safe, you can extend that to 96 hours, or a total of 4 days. Since bugging out may require strenuous physical activity, you should store more calories than you normally eat. An average of 2,500 to 3,000 nutritious calories per day per person would be ideal.
Do not rely solely on any one of the above-mentioned food items but instead stock up on a combination of them. This will provide you with a balanced diet that includes carbs, fats, protein, glucose, starchy foods, and plenty of vitamins and nutrients so that your body can function optimally. Also take into account any personal health issues, such as diabetes, and consult with your doctor which foods are the best (or worst) for your health.
Remember to inspect and rotate your food items every six months! If it helps you, keep a list in your pack with expiration dates so you know what needs to be replaced and when.
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