We can go approximately 3 weeks without food before dying. But let’s be honest here: I get cranky and tired after going without food for even half a day!
That is why I think adding some emergency food to your Bug Out Bag is so essential.
A Bug Out Bag is for your survival, so choose each item carefully. This includes the food for your Bug Out Bag.
*If you are new to the idea of Bug Out Bags, here are some articles to get you started:
Here are the requirements I have when selecting Bug Out food.
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You don’t want heavy food items in your Bug Out Bag. But choosing lightweight foods isn’t a solution either. You want to look for food items with a high caloric density. This means they have a lot of calories for their weight (calories/ounce).
An ounce of fat contains 240 calories.
An ounce of protein contains 100 calories.
And an ounce of carbohydrates also has about 100 calories.
So, fatty foods are good options for your Bug Out Bag food. *Read this post for ideas on how to cut weight from your Bug Out Bag.
Also, read about the minimum calories needed to survive.
Caloric density is calories per ounce. Size refers to the calories per volume. You don’t want a lot of large, bulky items taking up space in your BOB, which you need for other essential items.
Nutritional and Energy Value
This requirement is debatable. I know many people who don’t give a damn about nutrition.
For example, I know one hiker who practically subsists on Pringles because they are lightweight and have massive amounts of calories.
He hikes for weeks at a time, whereas a Bug Out Bag is for about 2-7 days of emergency travel.
I know that I don’t do very well when I eat junk food. Eating sugary foods (which includes starchy foods) causes blood sugar levels to spike and quickly drop.
You don’t want your energy levels to drop in an evacuation situation (adrenaline can only fuel you for so long).
Protein and fat are the best bug out bag foods for sustaining your energy levels. They stabilize your blood sugar levels, so you don’t get energy spikes and subsequent drops.
In an evacuation situation, you won’t have time to stop and cook meals. So, your Bug Out Bag food should be ready to eat and require no preparation.
No one wants to check on the contents of their Bug Out Bag every week. So, you need food that you can put in your Bug Out Bag and forget about it. Okay – you shouldn’t completely forget about it. Ideally, your Bug Out Bag food will have a shelf life of at least 6 months, and you will rotate it before it goes bad.
Bug Out Bag Food Ideas
Protein-Rich Bug Out Bag Foods
- Venison jerky
- Pemmican (read how to make pemmican here)
- Tuna pouches
- Sport energy gels
- Packets of peanut butter or peanut butter powder (see our guide to the best powdered peanut butter)
- Meat paste (add hot water)
- Dehydrated hummus (add hot water)
- Dehydrated bean paste (add hot water)
Nuts, Seeds and Fat
- Almonds (160 calories/ounce)
- Cashews (160 calories/ounce)
- Brazil nuts (184 calories/ounce)
- Pistachios, shelled (160 calories/ounce)
- Walnuts (183 calories/ounce)
- Peanuts (170 calories/ounce)
- Sunflower seeds (173 calories/ounce)
- Pepitas (126 calories/ounce)
- Avocado powder
- Packets of olive oil
- Hard, aged cheeses in wax coatings
Food Bars for a quick boost of energy
- Millenium bars – Buy on Amazon
- ProBar – Buy on Amazon
- Cliff Bars – Buy on Amazon
- Honey Stinger bars – Buy on Amazon
- Bear Valley Pemmican bar
- Hooah Energy bars
- Larabar – Buy on Amazon
- Emergency food ration bars –Buy on Amazon
Add-to-Water Bug Out Bag Foods
- Resource 2.0 meal replacement shake
- Med Pass 2.0 meal replacement shake
- Mighty Shake
- Boost Plus shake
- Ensure Plus shake
- Powdered milk
- Whey powder
Carb-Rich Bug Out Bag Foods
- Trail mix/GORP
- Banana chips
- Dark chocolate
- Snickers bars
- Twix peanut butter bars
- Tootsie rolls
- Peanut M&Ms
- Kit Kat bar
- Sesame bars
- Dried fruit
- Fruit leather
- Chocolate pretzels
- Cook-in-the-Pouch meals (Mountain House makes some good ones that you can buy here)
- Freeze-dried foods from a reputable survival food company
What foods do you have in your Bug Out Bag? Let us know in the comments.
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I started making MRE’S because I am a picky eater. I put foil packed tuna, chicken, spam or salmon in each package with condiments, crackers with peanut butter, dried fruit, nuts and a straw of drink mix for water bottles. My kids already ate through theirs so I need to make more, but at least I know they will get eaten in an emergency
BOOST & ENSURE meal replacements are my go-to when anything interferes with regular meals (such as dental freezing). They go on sale regularly, buy the flavours you like (I really dislike the “chocolate”). No, a carton of 6 will not get you thru 3 days. I add foil packs of tuna, salmon, chicken, cans of sardines in spring water or oil, crackers, jam + peanut butter in individual serving packs. A can of DR PEPPER per day more as a psychological boost than anything. Apples will keep for months in my BOB. Almonds & cashews. A 3″ tall can of Pringles. My room mate eats very differently than I do, so she packs what she likes.
Can you please tell me what you refer to as a BOB?
BOB = Bug Out Bag
Very good article with great ideas and thanks for the caloric breakdown. My problem is I need to get/have long term storage items as I just can’t afford to replace MREs/Energy bars/and any other perishables every few years. Mountain house is my go-to GOD food along with Cliff or Gatorade bars as those I will tend to munch through When expiration dates warrant. Plus I can get bulk purchases of recently expired bars that still taste okay 12 months later. I don’t enjoy snacking on a Datrex bars or year old nuts or jerky.
Most people want tea/coffee in the morning and something warm at night (plus you’ll likely want a security/warmth fire) so I plan accordingly. I carry instant oatmeal with dehydrated fruit chips/raisins/craisins/chocolate chips, coconut oil/honey (in packets), cinnamon/nutmeg, instant non-fat dried milk all in double-sealed ziplock bags (obviously the flavors/fruits change) for a warm, filling breakfast. The kids really get into creating and sampling them at home.
In the evening, mix boullion cubes or instant soup mixes with the nettles, clovers, Dandelion leaves, Cattail roots, etc. that you’ve collected along the route with chicken or fish from pouches. You might pick up a tomato, potato, onion, green pepper, carrots, etc. from farmers’ gardens along the way as well — carry some junk silver with which to barter.
Add water to pouches containing flour, baking soda and salt to make a dough. Shape it into a long cylinder, wrap around a green stick and bake Bannock to go with your meal. Make enough to carry along for morning or late evening snacks. There is nothing like warm bread to brighten spirits and smearing on some reconstituted butter buds heightens that pleasure.
Brilliant advice and ideas. The mental benefits of a warm drink and familiar tastes cannot be under estimated.
I have some 2,400 calorie bar packs and a few MREs to get through a few days and miles. Prepared with snare wire, knowledge and a .22 rifle for longer term…
Knowledge weighs nothing and is the best prep we can do.
Enjoyed the ideas we all have to stick together
I really wish we could label the people who are safe to stick together with and make it easier to avoid the bad ones, thats my biggest problem in a shtf situation.
You presented an excellent point, which is often over looked. People behave much differently under stress. Something to help you might be studying body language. With practice, you will learn to evaluate people simply on actions and mannerisms. “What Every Body is Saying” is a excellent book to start on.
I think it would be the same as in any situation getting to know people, don’t let people get too close too soon, don’t reveal really personal stuff…
SHTF? Sorry, not familiar with all of the terms yet, Lol. Just getting started in this Emergency Bugout thing. But you’re so right….sadly, you never know who’s lurking around the corner. Some people present as being trustworthy, but have horrible and scary pasts and carry lots of unwanted baggage. I have my mother to take care of and kids and grandkids – I definitely don’t want some psycho around, wanting to steal all my stuff after he murders everyone, lol.
Rat traps for long term catching small stuff to eat besides stuff already mentioned. I’ve not tried that but sounds like a good idea to me (tie it down so it doesn’t dissapear).
Rat traps. Idk Bob. I think i prefer my bird dog, quail and pheasant and ducks are pretty good, and at the lake, she literally swims up and snatches them out of the water- i dont even have to shoot the stupid things.
This is the FIRST prepper website I’ve read that’s listed out the calories per ounce of weight. I set up a spreadsheet of potential foods I came across and it’s really eye-opening. When you add in the weight of the EXTRA water you need to add to freeze dried foods, the calories per oz goes way down. I decided to still throw in a couple items that aren’t the best calorie/oz value but are comfort foods just for morale. These foods would likely be eaten the first day, so the weight would be eliminated.
Your site is also the first place I’ve read where meal replacement shakes were listed as a potential survival food. I always wondered if there were a reason why they weren’t. Seemed like a really good option… if I’m going to be drinking that water anyway, why not put some caloric value into it that doesn’t need cooking, I can “eat” on the run, and actually tastes pretty darn good.
Couple of comments related to BOB foods for people in hot weather.
First, items with oils (like nuts) can go bad OVER TIME in the HEAT, so they might need to be replaced more frequently… maybe put fresh ones in at the start of Summer and replace them at the end. And don’t forget the importance of salt in your food… you’ll need more than you normally would in the heat of the desert.
Secondly, I was told by a Search & Rescue guy here in AZ that it’s best to carry the SOS or other type of Emergency Bars as your BOB food if you’re out in the desert and have to worry about water usage. He said those bars require the LEAST amount of water for your body to digest.
I decided not to do any cooking at all, so that eliminates the need to carry cooking tools, although I do have a pot for boiling water for purification. But… a friend gave me a great idea for heating water without a stove… carry it on the outside of my pack in a clear plastic container so the sun heats it. So if I know I’d like to have some warm mashed potatoes for lunch or dinner, I can heat the water during the day.
I’m setting up my bag structure to have a “bag within a bag”. I’m putting the bare minimum items of mylar bag, 20 ft of paracord, lighter, two 8-oz water bottles, a 72 hour emergency bar brick, Leatherman Squirt, nanolight , couple of bandaids, TP, hand sanitizer packets, whistle, & signal mirror in a grab-and-run foldable daypack. Then I’m adding all the extra nice-to-have stuff to the larger BOB. It’s SO hard to not put all the items I want in the BOB, so I did the best I could “emotionally” to reduce weight, and then if I have to make that choice about what I have to let go, I at least have a minimal bag that I don’t have to think about. Hopefully I’ll have my EDC items on my body already to supplement that.
Thanks for “listening”!
Well, the post was written by a backpacker so it’s no surprise that calorie density was addressed 😀 I’m also a very petite woman so have worked hard to make every single ounce in my BOB count!
Thanks for the bit about SOS or Emergency Bars for desert survival and water in digestion. I admittedly need to cover this more but, as I don’t live anywhere near a desert, often overlook it.
I personally still pack a gas canister stove in my BOB; not for cooking so much but rather for water purification (as you mentioned) but also if I needed to sterilize bandages. You mentioned band-aids in your bag. My first aid kit is much larger (here’s a list of items to consider: https://www.primalsurvivor.net/bug-out-bag-first-aid-kit/). I’d recommend at least putting a roll of medical tape into the bag. It can be used instead of band-aids and for more serious wounds like to make your own butterfly bandages.
Thanks for the great comment!
Super glue. I am an ICU nurse, and we use cyanoacrylate to close skin all the time. Its light and easy to pack and does a fabulous job of closing small wounds so they no longer hurt and arent open to infection. Let it bleed some, wipe it with an alcohol pad to clean and pinch it shut til you get hemostasis, then glue. We use it at work on our hands too because hand sanitizer HURTS in the little cracks and cuts nurses are always getting on their hands- band aids dont cut it. Great for sealing cracked heels and covering little sore foot spots that would otherwise sideline you on your trek home or bugging out.
I have a nice plain daypack that has the 10 essentials in it, and a few things i always like to have including a glock, and a favorite jacket. For food i have this awesome Barocook carafe that heats with a little chemical packet, much like an mre heater. I cannot live without my coffee- i am truly a caffeine addict, and a shtf scenario is not the day for me to give up my bad habits. So along with a full 1 liter smart water bottle for immediate use and a filter to go with it for getting more water, i have flavored instant coffee packets( a pack of 20 weighs 6ounces). I like the just add hot water hiking foods, they are light and simple. So i carry the barocook, some instant cup of soup packets to eat out of it, coffee, mre peanut butter packets (food of the gods!), some coconut and apple cinnamon millenium bars just because i reallly like them, esp with coffee, beef jerky, and sometimes the bumble bee tuna and cracker kits or chicken salad and cracker kits. I use my bag a lot, its always in my car, covers my needs for impromptu overnight trips, unexpected stays in places away from home, band aids and booboos while out and about, and a quick change of clothes when that bastard seagull gets his aim just right… seriously, it’s the little day to day emergencies we deal with mostly anyways, right?
Your ability to eat may be impacted by trauma when you are in a SHTF situation. Go for calorie-dense, easily digestible things that won’t block you up or spike your blood sugar. Prunes and other dried fruits don’t have sucrose and fructose may digest better, and the fiber will keep things moving on through. Smaller, more frequent meals will keep you going because you may be eating on the move or have little time to cook/prepare food. I’d avoid anything that needs the addition of water except for beverages because it means a container to mix in and something to mix with and I hate washing dishes to begin with 😀
It’s always a good idea to pack the familiar, the things you like; you don’t want a bag full of chocolate bars, but if you pack ‘new’ foods and then find you don’t like them – well, there goes all your planning for naught.