How Much Bug Out Bag Food Will I Need?
When considering bug out gear, bug out bag food should be at the top of your list, right behind water and shelter. Your options depend on the type of bug out bag mission you are considering. There are basically three schools of thought on bug out bag missions.
1. I need a bug out bag to get me home, from point A-B. (Least amount of bug out bag food is needed)
2. I need to bug out for a few days to a week. (Obviously, more bug out bag food is needed)
3. I am leaving society, or what’s left of it, forever. (Surprisingly, about the same as option 2)
A “get-home” or go bag, is a bag that is usually kept in your vehicle or your work place. If you are considering a “walk off the face of the earth” bug out mission (option three) your bug out gear will be very different. You are going to need foraging tools, indigenous edible plant knowledge, and nutritional planning. We have touched on this issue in our Bug Out Bag Tutorial, and plan to go further into this subject in the future. However, for the scope of this article we will focus on options one and two.
This is not Bug Out Bag Food …
Let’s first discuss what is NOT bug out bag food, but is found in almost every bug out bag, including our Ultimate Bugout Bags. These are called ration bars, and they are an extremely important part of your bug out gear, however they are NOT food. The main players in this field SOS Food Labs and Mainstay, are essentially the same product. These ration bars are basically sugar and nutrients, designed for lifeboats and other life-saving scenarios. These bars are designed for one thing: to keep you moving when food is scarce or nowhere to be found.
Most people assume that the worst part about starving is being hungry, and it may be. However, when you’re hungry, you lose energy as your body runs out of calories. This means that you do not have the energy to: Flee danger, forage for firewood, build shelters, and forage for food.
This is usually how starvation kills you, as it saps your energy to survive. These ration bricks, that are usually called bug out bag food, are really just designed to keep you moving so that you have the energy to survive. Rest assured, if this is all you have packed as bug out bag food, you will be hungry, and soon.
Ration bars may keep you moving and stave off hunger for a while, but they will not support you nutritionally for an extended amount of time.
So, What is the Best Bug Out Bag Food?
The easy answer is: the best bug out bag food is the food that you already have packed in your bug out bag when the shtf. Many people wait until the last moment and do a shelf sweep before heading out on their bug out mission.
It’s extremely important that you plan and pack everything ahead of time so you can design the best weight to calorie ratio. If you procrastinate planning ahead, you will probably end up grabbing canned food or other less weight-optimized bug out bag food on the way out the door.
If you are on a budget where MRE’s or freeze dried food is not an option, you should stock up on food that has a high caloric value to weight ratio, for example:
- Tuna pouches
- Ramen Noodles
- Sugar Packets (light, great for energy, and they’re free at McDonalds )
- Mashed potato flakes in Ziploc bags.
- Dry Rice
- Dried Beans
If you want to go commercial and shell out a few bucks, then the options are nearly endless. The most popular bug out bag food of choice is Military MREs or Meals Ready to Eat. The most advantageous aspect of using MRE’s as bug out bag food is that they do not need water and fit nicely in the pack. The downside is their weight, taste and cost. Some people like the taste of MRE’s, but if you are a picky eater, it’s almost a guarantee that you will not.
My personal favorite bug out bag food is Mountain House Propaks. The upside is the lighter weight per calorie ratio and the taste. These Propaks taste infinitely better than MRE’s. The downside being that you have to have water in order to prepare them.
My survival friends and I have gone round and round about the significance of having to have water for the bug out bag food that you carry. Their argument is simple, “what if you do not have water?”
My argument is equally as simple, “if you do not have a cup of water to prepare your meal, food isn’t your problem, you’ll die from dehydration before you starve.”
Then they say, “you shouldn’t have to use your potable water to prepare your meals, it’s a waste of water.” My reply is ” the water is in the food when you eat it, it’s not wasted.”
As with most arguments, neither of us are usually swayed. Regardless of which way you go, just remember: Ration bars are for energy and short-term fixes, they are not viable long-term bug out bag food substitutes.
So, How Much Bug Out Bag Food Do I Need?
When planning for a bug out mission determining how much bug out bag food to carry is always one of the hardest parts of the planning stage. To begin, you should be first focusing on water storage and water filtration. Food is not going to be a problem if you do not have water planned ahead.
On A to B missions, meaning you leave your home and go to a predefined bug out area, you should only need 48 hours worth of food. If space and weight are tight, you might consider only bringing the aforementioned ration bars. You may get hungry along the way, but you’ll have the energy to get where you’re going and hopefully where you already have food available.
If your mission takes you into the woods to wait out trouble and return when it’s safer, then your bug out bag food needs to have more oomph than ration bars pack. You want to figure on 2000 calories a day. You will probably burn more than 2000 calories each day in a survival situation, but you can augment those calories with energy and ration bars.
Most civilian MRE’s have around 1500 – 1700 calories, so a box of ten will give you an estimated 16,000 calories, or 8 days. Eight days is a pretty good goal to aim for when planning an intermediate bug out bag. This type of bug out bag food will add about 12 pounds to your setup. Like I mentioned before, for this reason, MRE’s aren’t my go-to bug out food.
Alternatively, you can use Mountain House Propaks and carry the same calories for half the weight. Propaks are basically cook in pouch meals where you add boiling water, wait ten minutes and eat. You can also just add water without boiling it, it just takes longer for the food to reconstitute. The reason I’m plugging Mountain House by name is because they are the only company that vacuum packs these meals to save space and weight. The Propaks will take up a little more room in your pack, but weigh considerably less, and taste a WHOLE lot better. Until next time, happy bugging!
See Our Bug Out Bags 101 Tutorial