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What kind of food should you include in your Emergency Kit or Bug Out Bag (BOB)? How can you possibly provide all the water a person needs? Water is heavy!


Food in your BOB should be lightweight. It should be ready to eat with little to no energy required for cooking or heating.  Dehydrated or freeze dried food will weigh less, but you will need to carry water to eat it.  Backpacking food is a great option for this.

If your food requires no additional water, it will weigh a little more.  The decision on what to include should be based on individual needs, abilities, and preferences.

There are many choices when it comes to emergency kit food. Some are more costly than others. Some common options are:

  • MREs
  • Backpacking Food
  • Emergency Food Pre-packaged Kit
  • Protein/Energy Survival Bars
  • Make Your Own Food Kit


Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) have a bad reputation for being barely edible, although they have improved a lot over the past few decades. They are also bit pricy; they run about $10 per meal and provide roughly 1250 calories per meal.

MREs are self-contained; they don’t require any external supplies, utensils, or ingredients. MREs include everything you’d need, such as a Meal, Side dish, Dessert/Snack, Crackers or Bread or Peanut Butter, Powered Beverage, Utensils, Gum, Napkin, Towelette and Seasonings like Salt, Pepper and Sugar. They also include a self contained heat source to warm up the food.

MREs that are available to purchase are military surplus, and are usually a few years old. The shelf life is dependent upon the storage conditions – heat greatly impacts freshness. You may find that your food has spoiled when you open it; not something you need in an emergency.

Backpacking Food

Backpacking food is Freeze-dried in small packages for single use. It rehydrates quickly. Backpacking food is widely available from big box retailers like Walmart (in the camping section), online from Amazon, Sporting Goods stores, or outdoor enthusiast retailers such as REI.

You will need to carry water, have a clean water source, or a way to purify your water if you are planning to use Backpacking food.

Emergency Food Pre-packaged Kits

Most emergency food companies offer pre-packaged kits for BOBs. They usually include basics such as instant oatmeal, rice, and soup. They can also be a bit pricy. You need to pay special attention to the calorie count of each meal. Learn more about it in my post on Calorie Considerations.

Protein/Energy Survival Bars

While you can use the protein bars you’d find in the grocery or club stores, they usually have a shorter shelf-life and would need to be rotated out on a regular basis. A lot of them also have chocolate as an ingredient; it does not store well in warm weather.

Bars that are made specifically for long-term storage and emergency food, are a good, lightweight choice. They come in different flavors. Some in individual packages and others as one vacuum sealed package containing several smaller bars. We prefer the individual packages as they don’t require repackaging the uneaten portion.

Make Your Own Food Kit

We have, in the past, created our own food bags for each kit.  These included items such as peanut butter or cheese and cracker sandwiches, fruit leather, meat sticks, instant oatmeal, tuna salad kits, fruit sauce packets, and other pre-packaged foods. 

Creating your own food kit has appeal for families with children as the foods are more familiar and can provide some comfort.  It is especially helpful for those who are picky eaters. 

The biggest concern is rotating your food so it doesn’t go bad.  If you can consistently switch it out every 6 months (I suggest the 1st weekend in April and October), the food will stay fresh and useful. 

If you don’t rotate it, you may find that your food is spoiled when you go to use it, ask me how I know.


You need 1 gallon of water per day per person.  You need more if you it to rehydrate your food.  Water for your Emergency kit is available in sealed Mylar pouches, aseptic boxes, cans, or regular water bottles.

You can also carry water purification or filtering equipment with you. These are helpful if you have a water source with questionable potability.

Clean Water

There are two main methods used to make water drinkable: Purification and Filtering. Purification kills bacteria and organisms while filtering removes dirt and contaminates (including organisms).

Heat or chemical methods can purify water. Water can be purified by boiling for 1 minute at a rolling boil. Cloudy water should settle first or run through a basic filter such as fine cheesecloth or a coffee filter before boiling. This water needs to cool somewhat before consuming.

Chemical purification is done by adding drops or tablets to the water and letting it sit for a pre-determined time before drinking. Some methods leave an aftertaste and must be treated with other chemicals to remove the taste.

Filtering removes dirt, sediment, and other contaminates as well as bacteria and microscopic bugs that can make you sick. Some filtering methods work directly as the water is consumed, such as a Life Straw. Others filter water in a water bottle, either as the bottle is filled or as it is consumed.

The drawbacks of either of these filtering methods is that they do not easily purify water for cooking.

What do we do?

What is in our BOBs?  I bought “1-week” pre-packaged boxes for each of our emergency kits.  Due to the calorie count and method of packaging, we only expect each box to last 4-5 days. 

What are we doing for water?  I have a filtering water bottle, drinking water pouches, and a case of Costco Kirkland water bottles (40 – 16.9 oz bottles) for each person.  

We also have a collapsible wagon we’ll use to carry it if we have to evacuate without our car. The drinking water pouches go in our pockets, but they can be problematic (like Capri Sun pouches), subject to punctures and could leak.

What do you use in your kits? Do you use one of the methods above or a combination? Let us know in the comments.

Check your supplies compared to the recommendations for your bag in each of the following categories. Links are provided below if you want to go back and review.

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