I have a backpack with emergency survival gear for my car. The scenario being it might take a couple of days of walking to get someplace that money and/or a credit card will increase my chances of survival.

I like to keep emergency rations in the backpack. Currently I use PowerBar Performance Energy The packaging holds up very well, they have a taffy consistancy so don't break into crumbs. There is no scenario where you could not eat one, even in driving windy rain, in total darkness you could open one of these without tools and consume all the nutrition.

Additional, while they don't taste bad, they are not a treat, so kids and spouses are unlikely to deplete supplies between rest stops on the road.

I am looking to add variety to the survival rations and am looking for comparable rations.

  • 2
    MREs would be a good option. People eating things as snacks are a separate issue in my mind to me.
    – Jon Custer
    Jan 12, 2018 at 15:02
  • 1
    An energy power bar has about 220 calories, a complete MRE has about 1200 Calories. 5 PowerBars have about the same food value as an MRE, weigh less (I thnk) and take up less room. MREs are more complex to eat and parts are subject to crumbling. They both have similar shelf lives, and good packaging. In a stationary scenario (or with motorized support) MREs are great, but moving on foot power bars have the advantage in short term events. Jan 12, 2018 at 15:53
  • Where one type is all the servings of a type of ration. There should be multiple servings of each in the supplies. Jan 12, 2018 at 16:53
  • 1
    Non-snackable and adding variety seem directly in opposition, but there are probably fifty thousand varieties of ~200 calorie bar. I'm also pretty skeptical of eating during activity, unless swimming for days is really the use case I'd expect to take rests much more often than I need food.
    – user8348
    Jan 12, 2018 at 18:47
  • 1
    @JamesJenkins It is going to rain the whole time, no way to keep it dry, and will be exactly 2 days? You create artificial conditions and dismiss what does not fit. The pack suggested by mattnz has a longer shelf life and higher calorie density.
    – paparazzo
    Jan 20, 2018 at 19:33

5 Answers 5


The cheap and simple solution to this is 5 lbs of peanut butter i.e. two normal sized Jiff containers and a spoon ducktaped to the containers for approximately 12,000 + calories.

If unopened, they should have a shelf life of over a year, and you could always just replace them every so often and eat the old ones.

Beyond that varied and not very good tasting, long lasting food is a contradiction in terms.

  • 4
    Depending on location, the inside of a car can get very hot (and very cold). I am not sure peanut butter would do well for months at a time in the trunk of a car.
    – StrongBad
    Jan 12, 2018 at 22:21
  • @StrongBad I have had peanut butter in my car for almost two years and it was still edible. Jan 12, 2018 at 22:23
  • I am assuming base on your location that means it went through a couple cycles of freeze/thaw and bake/re-solidify. In which case +1
    – StrongBad
    Jan 12, 2018 at 22:28
  • Thank you, I went with the 1 pound jar(s) of jiffy. They fit better in to the backpack. Jan 15, 2018 at 9:50
  • 2
    As opposed to what Australasians know of as JIF unilever.co.nz/brands/our-brands/jif.html - International site - its best to avoid brand names without descriptions of the product
    – user5330
    Jan 29, 2018 at 3:39

You're unlikely to have to eat all your emergency rations in adverse conditions, so apart from a variety of bars I suggest :

  • Nuts. I'm quite partial to chilli peanuts, toasted corn kernels and things like that for endurance cycling. They're one of the few savoury options.
  • Crackers (e.g. cheese flavour). They're a little bulky so they're be a small proportion.
  • Trail mix (you can even assemble your own)
  • Sweets (boiled or jelly) for that pure sugar boost when you've been hiking all day and have a hill to climb. Kendal mint cake is a less tempting version.
  • Chocolate (unless it's hot). You may need to hide this under the energy bars.

When pushing yourself hard a variety of flavours and textures is good, rather than thinking you don't fancy yet another sweetish, vaguely chewy thing.

The variety including savoury stuff can be used to make it feel more like you've had a meal (2 courses even) which is quite a boost.

All these have quite a long shelf life because they're low in water, so plan for plenty of water. This might include sealed containers of water, purification, or probably both, but depends on the conditions. This low water content also helps them to be energy dense.

Emergency stuff is emergency stuff. Seal it up if you need to, or store the good stuff in the spare wheel well out of sight. Snacks are another matter, take them too if you need to. Check the emergency kit before heading off into the wilds (also check the torch batteries etc.)


Most soup today comes with tops with easy pull-off top containers. Some other canned products do, too, like Spam and canned veggies. Most have a long shelf life. Most all canned food is already cooked. You can eat soup right out of the can. (Probably want to shake to mix first.) And, you can put the cans in a bag or plastic container with a big piece of paper with a list of expiration dates so you can easily check them from time to time. Use them at home and replace them when they get to their date. A nice big can of beef-veggie soup would taste a lot better than a granola bar. Pack couple of spoons in there, too.

  • A worthy consideration, but a can of Campbell's® Chunky™ Beef with Country Vegetables Soup contains about 240 Calories. For the weight and volume power bars are about 5 times more efficient. Jan 16, 2018 at 0:13
  • sliced pears in heavy syrup have about 350 calories per can. Also have the easy open top, are in a slightly smaller can. and still have all that water (which can be a good thing.) I do usually keep one or two cans of pears in the pack. Jan 16, 2018 at 0:13
  • Don't forget a tin opener (remember, in an emergency, you might have dropped and lost your penknife) A spare folding opener is only a few grams, and can be gaffer-taped to a tin. Alternatively, seek out ring-pull cans. Jan 17, 2018 at 10:13
  • Toby: Yes - ring-pull cans. That is what I meant by pull-off containers. It should have read "pull-off top containers". Jan 17, 2018 at 14:54
  • 1
    James: The variety the soup and other canned goods can provide can really help one mentally in a tough situation. Jan 17, 2018 at 14:56

I keep MREs (You can find cases for around $6-8 a meal, ~1500-2000 calories). They last marked 5 years at around 60 degrees F, longer in the cold, less in the heat but they have been proven to still stay fresh. Keep out of the sun, low, and in an insulated place like below the cargo floor load deck/spare tire area or center console area. Replace every 3-5 years for optimal freshness if desired (if you live in a place where you car can get 100-120 deg F).

I also use dried emergency ration bars. These are okay, dried, powdery, but cheap, have decent energy density, and takes no prep work. I buy these from Walmart Since from Walmart, they are widely found, cheap ($5 for 3600 cal block), 5 year advertised shelf life, and vacuum sealed. I'd bet they're good for way more than 5 years even in the heat. Just make sure the pack doesn't get punctured.

The Powerbars are good or something even more dried like Nature Valley bars. If you can rotate stock, you have a greater tolerance for extreme heat and foods with moisture. If you don't want to rotate, I'd suggest drier options (nuts, dehydrated fruit, candy, or the stuff I mentioned).


As mentioned above, things like energy bars work well. Prefer the ones in aluminum coated plastic packets as they are more airtight, and don't go rancid.

If you go with nuts, get ones that are sealed. Again, anthing that permits oxygen access to the nuts will cause the oils to go rancid. Nuts have the advantage of being about 1/3 fat. They have the disadvantage that, unless chewed thoroughly, large amounts pass through you undigested.

Another consideration, however is water. An easy and cheap way to store and carry this is to use 2 liter (2 quart) soda bottles: They seal well, and are tough. The thinner water bottle plastic can break if struck hard when full against a corner.

Water is more important that food. You can go weeks without food, days without water. Depending on your climate you may want 2 to 8 liters of water per day. (From experience in winter travel, and cool weather, 2 liters of water a day is the minimum. Backpacking I carry a 2 liter bottle to refill my 12 oz squeeze bottle. The dog caries and addition 4 500 ml bottles in his pack, and I have still run out of water above timberline toward the end of the day.

If you are in country that has water sources that you are willing to drink, you can replenish your water supply. My go to hiking area has abundant water below tree line.

But I would suggest 4 liters of water per day of walking time. If it's there, you can abandon it, either at the car or beside the road. If it's not there, well, your imagination is as good as mine. (A comment said 'No one is going to walk out with 5 gallons of water. If I had to walk out of Death Valley, I would, or even in many places in the Southwest.)

This illustrates a critical point however: You need to define the context of what sort of the situation:

  • Are you alone, or is there a chance you will have company?

  • Are your mobile, or fixed? Your question says mobile. What is your plan if you are with someone who is unable to walk out? Or YOU are unable to walk out?

  • Expected weather. Preparing for a trek in the Sonoran Desert in August is different from Wood Buffalo Park in January. The latter leaves you critically dependent on being able to melt snow for water.

  • Do you have the knowledge/skills/gear to be at least partially self sufficient? This slows you down a lot, but if you are unable to walk to a reasonable location in your two day window, staying put may make more sense. (The usual advice is "Stay with your vehicle": it's easier to find from the air.

For longer event storage, a 5 gallon pail of brown rice and lentils works well. The mixture makes a complete protein, and 1.5 to 2 lbs per day will allow reasonably hard work. It does take about 40 minutes of boiling water to cook.

  • The question is not about water, nor long events. no one is going to carry 5 gallons of food while hiking out of misadventure. I have edited those out of the answer. What remains does not seem to add value compared to existing answers. Feb 2, 2018 at 9:50
  • As others have said, in the desert I'd jettison a lot of things to be able to carry more water.
    – arp
    Aug 31, 2019 at 18:28

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