11 Best Survival Food Brands to Always Have in Stock - Greenbelly Meals

11 Best Survival Food Brands


A guide to the best survival food, what to look for and how to prepare your kit.

survival food bucket being held on mountain background
Courtesy of Mountain House

Long-distance hikers and prepper survivalists think very differently about food. Hikers want to eat as much food as possible. In contrast, survivalists want to stockpile as much as possible. Despite their differences, both hikers and survivalists purchase nearly the same food. Both groups typically buy food that is high in calories, dense in nutrients, and dehydrated or freeze-dried for extended shelf life. So if you want to stockpile some food for SHTF purposes, look no further than your hiking stash for inspiration.

Avg. Price Per Serving Shelf Life Calories/serving
4Patriots $1.7 25 years 260
Augason Farms $0.4 30 years 260
Datrex $0.9 25 years 200
ER Bar $0.6 5 years  410
Legacy Food Storage $2.5 25 years 375
Mother Earth Products $1.7 25 years 70
Mountain House $3.5 30 years 200
Peak Refuel $6.5 5 years 420
Prepared Pantry $4.79 per loaf 2 years 147
ReadyWise $1.8 25 years 190
SOS Food Labs $2.22  5 years 410

In a hurry? Skip straight  to the reviews.


Types of Survival Foods


There are five basic types of survival foods that are packaged for long-term storage. We describe each type and its advantages or disadvantages. Equipped with this knowledge, you can purchase the fare best suited to your needs.


DEHYDRATED FOOD: 15-20-YEAR SHELF LIFE, 15-20 MINUTES PREP TIME

Dehydrated foods are dried using heated air until 90 to 95% of the moisture is removed. It's an easy process that you can even do at home. During dehydration, the food shrinks and becomes withered and hard. Because not all of the water is removed, dehydrated food tends to retain some of its weight. It also lowers its shelf life to about 15 to 20 years. Dehydration does tend to remove some of the essential nutrients in food, including Vitamins A and C, thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin. You can eat dehydrated foods like banana chips without adding water, but most dehydrated food needs hot water and time (15-20 mins) to regain some of its original texture.


FREEZE-DRIED FOOD: LIGHTWEIGHT, KEEPS NUTRITION, UP TO 30-YEAR SHELF LIFE

Freeze-dried food is placed inside a vacuum chamber that lowers the temperature below freezing and then slowly raises it. During the freeze-drying process, nearly 99% of the water is removed from the food. It's an expensive process that requires specialized equipment and typically cannot be done at home affordably. Because almost all of the water is removed, freeze-dried food is lightweight and soft. It's practically powdery when you bite into it. Freeze-dried food has a long shelf life of 25 to 30 years and retains the most nutritional value. Freeze-dried food rehydrates quickly with either hot or cold water and is ready to eat in 5 to 10 mins.

freeze dried survival food


CANNED FOOD: STORES WELL, SHELF LIFE VARIES, BULKY AND HEAVY

Canned food is typically cooked and then added to sterilized cans that are sealed under heat and pressure. This process sterilizes the food. It also drives the oxygen out of the can before sealing, preventing mold and bacterial contamination. Canning can be done in batches and is relatively easy to do at home. Because of the heat used in canning, many canned foods lose some nutritional value and experience texture changes.

Canning also does not lower the weight of the food. On the contrary, the cans used to store the food add significant weight. Even though they are bulky, canned foods can preserve food indefinitely. The cans need to be in good shape and must be stored in cool, dry conditions. Cans also protect food from insects and rodents. As an added bonus, eating canned food is easy. Just open the can, heat the contents if necessary, and consume. If you don't have a cooking vessel, you can even heat up food inside an open can over fire.


TABLETS: LIGHTWEIGHT AND ZERO PREP, TASTELESS

Instead of worrying about eating balanced meals, some preppers choose to stock up on food tablets. Each tablet contains 200 calories and your recommended daily dose of the most essential vitamin and mineral supplements. They are convenient and a cinch to store, but you lose out on that feel-good experience of eating a real meal.


FOOD BARS: READY-TO-EAT, NOT AS EXCITING AS A WARM MEAL

Instead of canning or drying foods, some people prefer to store bar-style foods. These foods are designed to be meal replacements. They typically pack a ton of calories and nutrients into a small bar that you eat in place of a meal.

survival food bar texture


Considerations


When choosing for survival and prepping situations, you'll want to consider your food supply's longevity, the nutritional breakdown, and more. Below you will find the significant factors to consider when you are purchasing food for a survival situation.


SHELF LIFE: UNDERSTANDING YOUR NEEDS

Shelf-life determines how long you can store food before it starts to spoil. Every food has a different shelf life, so you should look at an item's shelf life before buying it. The shelf-life of food ranges from just a few days up to 25 years or more for properly stored canned goods.

The recommended shelf-life of your food supply depends on your needs. As a backpacker, you only need food that'll last a week or two because you typically eat what you carry. A survival stockpile is meant to last significantly longer though. You can choose foods that'll last anywhere from 3 months up to 20 years or more. You have to ask yourself ... do you plan on stockpiling a week's worth of food? A month's worth? or even years' worth? Choose foods that last as long or longer than your time requirements.


NUTRITION: AT LEAST 1,200 CALORIES PER DAY

It's challenging to define what base level of nutrients and calories each person needs to survive. It depends on a person's nutrient state going into survival. Are you healthy or do you already have a nutrient deficiency? It also depends on the activity level during the survival situation. Are you remaining still inside a tent or are out foraging for food? In general, most people need 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day to stay alive, while 1,800 to 2,200 is a better target to remain active and alert.

survival food nutrition
Ingredients and nutrition for the SOS Food Labs survival bars.


CERTIFICATIONS: QSS AND COAST GUARD CERTIFIED

There is no universal certification for survival food. The closest we have is the Quality Survival Standards or QSS. The Quality Survival Standards were introduced to ensure survival food meets the minimal requirement to maintain health in a survival situation. All QSS-certified foods have to supply at least 1,800 quality calories per day. Empty Calories from sugary drinks and similar are not included in this tally. The QSS standard also requires that a certified food provide a minimum of 40g of protein per day.

QSS is the most common certification, but it not the only standard being used. Some foods also claim to be "Coast Guard" certified food, which means they can stay fresh for up to five years. Pay attention to nutrient labeling and look for these certifications. You don't want to waste money and put your health at risk by purchasing foods that won't supply your body with the nutrients that it needs.


TASTE: FLAVOR OVER NO FLAVOR

If you can afford it, you should buy only long-term food that you know you will eat. It'll taste great, and you won't feel deprived if you have to start breaking into your survival stash. If you've purchased prepackaged survival food, you may want to try it before buying it in bulk. Some prepackaged foods like Good-To-Go meals are flavorful, while others taste downright awful. The unpalatable ones may not be something you want to eat for a week or more straight.


INGREDIENTS: FOODS HIGH IN FAT TEND TO SPOIL MORE QUICKLY

Most survival foods contain plenty of starches and proteins but often are light on the fats. Items that are naturally high in fat tend to spoil more quickly than their low-fat counterparts. For example, white rice will last four to five years, while the oil-rich brown rice lasts size months. Some fats like peanut butter and lard have longer shelf lives, but even these items only tend to last a year or less.

© Meyyoung

freeze-dried mango for survival food
Freeze-Dried mangoes by Mother Earth Products.


PACKAGING: PROTECTION AGAINST SUNLIGHT, MOISTURE AND RODENTS

Many people package their survival food in food-safe plastic storage bins that protect their food from rodents, moisture, and sunlight, which breaks down the nutrients in food. Save some cash by looking for products that already come packaged in these plastic containers. Some dried goods are stored in vacuum-sealed mylar bags that also protect the food from sunlight and moisture. They also typically contain an oxygen absorber to prevent molding and bacterial contamination of the food. Vacuum sealed products may cost a bit more, but this method of packaging can extend shelf-life significantly.


PREP: YOU'LL NEED FUEL UNLESS YOU GO STOVELESS

You can go in two primary directions with survival food. You can choose everyday food, like rice and beans, that require hot water and sometimes even cooking for up to 10 minutes or more. You'll need to have a reliable, long-term fuel source like wood or propane. These foods that require cooking will be easier to find and cheaper to purchase overall.

There also are ready-to-eat options, but these tend to be more expensive. They also may not taste as good as store-bought food. Being able to eat "normal" food during these abnormal circumstances can provide a necessary lift and make a difficult occasion much more bearable.

© Faye Harwell

preparing survival food by rehydrating
Dehydrated food and freeze-dried meals are ready in about 10-15 minutes.


Best Survival Food Brands


ReadyWise

readywise survival food

Price: $110 for 60 servings

Shelf life: 25 years

Calories per serving: 190 calories

ReadyWise balances affordable prices with quality food. More than just a bland MRE, ReadyWise offers tasty meals such as creamy pasta and vegetables, crunchy granola, and chicken pot pie. They are easy to prepare—just add hot water, stir and eat. Best of all, ReadyWise is available in a variety of package sizes. There is everything from handy 60 serving grab-n-go emergency food supplies to 2000+ serving packages meant for a long-term emergency situation.

See Readywise


Mother Earth Products

mother earth products survival food

Price: $14/quart

Shelf life: 25 years

Calories per serving: 70

Mother Earth Products prides itself on its all-natural ingredients and antioxidant properties. The company uses Non-GMO and preservative-free ingredients to produce their dehydrated and freeze-dried food. Unlike ReadyWise and Mountain House, Mother Earth makes stand-along ingredients like blueberries, carrots, onion, and garlic. There are a few soup mixtures in the companies lineup, but you mostly purchase Mother Earth to make your own custom meals.

See Mother Earth Products


Mountain House

mountain house survival food

Price: $35 for a #10 can (10 servings)

Shelf life: 30 years

Calories per serving: 200

Mountain House, a backpacking staple, is known for its variety of freeze-dried, ready-to-eat meals. Its freeze-dried meals include home-cooked favorites like lasagna and a beef stew as well as the very popular breakfast skillet. One must-try Mountain House meal is its freeze-dried "astronaut" ice cream bar. Quality-wise, Mountain House falls in the middle. It's a huge step up from military rations, but it is not as fresh-tasting as the Non-GMO and preservative-free ingredients used in other, more expensive meals. Mountain House has a wide distribution and can be found in retail stores like Walmart and REI.

See Mountain House


4Patriots

4patriots survival food

Price: $27/72-hour supply kit

Shelf life: 25 years

Calories per serving: 260

4Patriots supplies an emergency food ration that tastes great but is meager on calories. The 72-hour kit provides 3,760 calories across all daily meals, which averages 1,253 calories per day. That is the bare minimum of calories to keep you alive in a survival situation. At $27 for three days of food, 4Patriots is an affordable choice.

See 4Patriots 


Augason Farms

augason farms survival food

Price: $35/10lb can

Shelf life: 30 years

Calories per serving: 260

Augason Farms is similar to Mother Earth Foods. Instead of ready-to-eat meals, Augason Farms specializes in individual ingredients with a few meals like creamy chicken-flavored rice thrown in for good measure. The company's food gets high marks for its flavor and its versatility. You can use the individual ingredients to make your own recipes or take one of the base meals and build upon it. You can purchase Augason Farms products in small serving packets, multi-day kits, and even $10 cans.

See Augason Farms


Prepared Pantry

prepared pantry survival food

Price: $4.79 per loaf

Shelf life: 2 years

Calories per serving: 147

Prepared Pantry is a small family-owned business that sells bread mixes and other backing ingredients for emergency situations. Its bread machine mixes are outstanding. They have everything you need, including yeast to make a loaf of bread in a bread machine. Just add warm water (checked with a thermometer) to the ingredients and wait until the bread machine does its work. Prepared Pantry does more than only bread. It also sells pancake mixes, cookies mixes, and individual baking ingredients.

See Prepared Pantry


SOS Food Labs 

sos foods survival food

Price: $20 per packet (9 rations)

Shelf life: 5 years

Calories per serving: 410

SOS Food Lab is all about providing nutrition and calories in a survival situation. Their plain white packaging isn't pretty, but their emergency food ration bars get the job done. Each package has 9 bars, enough for three days. Each bar is packed full of over 400 calories providing calories and nutrients for a single meal. These bars are ready-to-eat and don't require any cooking, making them ideal for extreme emergencies.

They don't taste that great, but you'll be happy to have them when you are hungry. If you want some flavor variety, the company just started selling its individually-wrapped Millennium bars in apricot, blueberry, lemon, and other fruity flavors. Just a tip: make sure the bars are still vacuum sealed when or if you order them. Some packages are arriving with small pinholes that let in air. This airflow, though tiny, will spoil the bars long before their 5-year shelf life.

See SOS Food Labs


Legacy Food Storage

legacy survival food

Price: $40 for a 16-serving pack

Shelf life: 25 years

Calories per serving: 375

Legacy offers a wide variety of freeze-dried foods in different serving sizes. Similar to Mountain House, Legacy Food produces freeze-dried versions of home-cooked meals using quality non-GMO ingredients. Each pouch requires water and about 15 mins of simmering to cook. The meals are not as tasty as home-cooked fare, but they will satisfy you when hungry. You can purchase single-serve pouches, multi-day packages, plastic buckets, and bulk packages.

See Legacy Food Storage


Peak Refuel

peak refuel survival food

Price: $13 for a 2-serving pack

Shelf life: 5 years

Calories per serving: 420

Another backpacker favorite, Peak Refuel uses only premium, non-GMO ingredients to make their ready-to-eat meals. The meals are packed full of protein, offering nearly double the amount of protein as other meals. There is a wide range of meals that cross over into the gourmet realm, including Bison-infused potatoes and elk ragu pasta. All the meals are freeze-dried and packaged in the US.

See Peak Refuel


Datrex

datrex survival food

Price: $15 for a 3 days of food

Shelf life: 25 years

Calories per serving: 200

Datrex has a sizeable commercial business selling flotation devices, liferafts, and other marine industry supplies. As part of its offering, the company sells individually packed food bars for survival situations. Each emergency ration bar is made with natural ingredients and contains no preservatives. Even though it is in bar form, it actually tastes like a granola bar or cliff bar you'd buy for hiking. Each bar supplies 200 calories, which is lower compared to other similar survival bars. Instead of eating three bars a day, you'd need to eat at least six.

See Datrex


ER Bar

ER emergency bars survival food

Price: $75 for 120 servings

Shelf life: 5 years

Calories per serving: 410

ER Emergency Supplies is an emergency preparedness company that goes beyond mere survival food. The company's website lists emergency lights, flu kits, shelters, radios and even food kits for pets. They're mainly known for their 2,400- and 3,600-calorie food bars (dare we say, bricks) which contain 6 and 9 410-calorie rations, respectively. A 2,4000 packet would last you about 2 days while the 3,600 one would cover your nutritional needs for as long as 3. 

A major benefit of these ER Bars is the price. A case of twenty 2,400-calorie packets (120 servings) will set you back a mere $75 or $0.63 per serving. In other words, very affordable. The bars also taste pretty good—the flavor is a little sweet and the texture is extremely dense, although not too dry. The packaging is resealable which is convenient, but keep in mind that the 5-year shelf-life won't apply anymore once you've opened the pouch. The packaging is also supposedly meant to protect the food in extreme temperatures (-22F to 149F) making it ok to keep those in your car without risk. We haven't tested.

See ER Bar


Natural Survival Food Ideas


Shelf Life Calories per 100g
All Purpose Flour 1-2 years 400 calories
Canned Meats 2-5 years 143 calories
Canned vegetables 2-5 years 65 calories
Coconut Oil 2-5 years 900 calories
Dehydrated fruit 1 year 400 calories
Dried Lentils 2-3 years 116 calories
Oats 2 years 389 calories
Otas (vacuum-sealed) 30 years 389 calories
Pasta 2-3 years 100 calories
Peanut Butter 6-9 months 600 calories
Potato Flakes 10-15 years 354 calories
Powdered Bouillon 2 years 267 calories
Powdered eggs 5-10 years 155 calories
Powdered Milk 25 years 500 calories
Raw Honey 2 years 304 calories
White Rice 20 years 100 calories

Survival Food Planning


OPTION 1: PURCHASE A SURVIVAL FOOD KIT

The easiest way to build an emergency food supply is to purchase an all-in-one kit. These kits provide enough food for a single person to last a specific number of days. You could buy a 7-day emergency food kit and be confident you could last a week on this supply. These kits are convenient, but they tend to be very expensive, especially if you feed a family.


OPTION 2: BUILD YOUR OWN STASH OVER TIME

To build an emergency food stash, you need to slowly purchase extra food every time you go shopping. Instead of buying two cans of soup, buy four cans and put the additional two aside. Within a few months, you'll have a significant food store. You should purchase food that you typically eat and try to buy a wide variety, so you have the major food groups covered.


PRO TIPS:

  • Evaluate Your Food Requirements First: First, you need to decide how much food you want to stockpile. Do you want enough food to last a few days after a storm knocks out power, or do you want enough to make it through the winter? You also need to think about how many people you are going to feed. It's much easier to plan for a single person than a family.
  • Keep Your Stash Safe: Sunlight, moisture, and pests are the three biggies to avoid. If possible, store your food in a cool, dry, and dark location that is as free as possible from rodents, insects, and other pests. Be sure to rotate your stock by eating the older items and putting the newly bought products in the back.


Kelly Hodgkins's profile picture

By Kelly Hodgkins: Kelly is a full-time backpacking guru. She can be found on New Hampshire and Maine trails, leading group backpacking trips, trail running or alpine skiing.
About Greenbelly: After thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Chris Cage created Greenbelly to provide fast, filling and balanced meals to backpackers. Chris also wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail.

Affiliate disclosure: We aim to provide honest information to our readers. We do not do sponsored or paid posts. In exchange for referring sales, we may receive a small commission through affiliate links. This post may contain affiliate links. This comes at no extra cost to you.



the best backpacking meal - greenbelly