MRE vs. Freeze Dried Foods- What’s Better For Your Bug Out Bag

Food Options For Your Bug Out Bag

  • MRE’s
  • Freeze Dried Foods
  • Dried Fruits
  • Dried Fruits and Nuts
  • Canned Food

When it comes to packing your bug out bag you have several options for food. Your main options are going to be MREs (meals ready to eat) canned food, freeze dried, and dried fruits and nuts. The goal would be to pack as many calories as you can while still being able to carry your bug out bag. Each option presents different pros and cons. Another factor to consider would be your climate. Some food options might make more sense in a hot climate vereses a colder one. Your ability to prepare certain foods will also determine what you would want to pack. Lastly, the situation you are preparing for will play a key factor.


Smoke from a fire or stove might give away your position if you are cooking. Also, the smell of food cooking could attract insects and wild animals...or unwanted human visitors


Let’s take a indepth look at your 2 main options

MREs- Meals ready to eat

MREs vs. Freeze Dried Foods
The US military uses these to feed the men and women in the field when food can’t be brought out to them.  One MRE is 1 meal, so 3 meals a day would be 3 MREs. However, 1 MRE can be stretched out of a period of 2 days or longer. Depending on your workload that would not be enough calories. But it can be done and you won’t starve. Each MRE will come with a main meal and some main entrees come with a side dish. The main meal and some other items will be packed in something called a retort pouch. There will be crackers or a slice of bread and some type of spread to go on it. The spreads can be cheese, peanut butter, or some type of jelly or jam. For desserts, there could be different types of pound cake, cookies, toaster pastry or some commercial sweets like M&Ms or skittles.

Other snacks might include pretzels, corn nuts, or beef jerky. For drink mixes, there is a beverage base powder that would be orange, fruit punch or lemon lime. Very close Kool-Aid but a much higher carbohydrate content. There could also be a dairy milk shake which are usually very high in calories and very sweet tasting. Other drinks could be hot cocoa, hot tea, cappuccino or instant coffee. Most of the drink mixes are packaged so you can just add water and drink right from the package. This eliminates the need for a canteen cup. However, if you’re a coffee drinker you may want to keep one around. The menus constantly change but the basics are usually there.

Maine eating an mre In addition to the different food and snack items there will be a spoon and an accessory pack with salt, pepper, wet nap, toilet paper, chewing gum, sugar, dry creamer. To heat the main meal there is a water activated heater. This does a great job of heating the main meal and or keeping your hands warm. It does not take much water but be careful the water gets very hot and the package will release a vapor that is very flammable and toxic. Heating the MRE meal is not required. There are commercial versions and military versions of MREs for sale everywhere.

  • Wide range of foods
  • Does not have to be cooked, but can be heated
  • Easy to eat on the run
  • No water required (unless you want to heat them up)
  • Offers some creature comforts

  • Heavy, typically around 1 pound in weight
  • Can be somewhat pricey

Freeze Dried Foods

Freeze Dried Food Example
The military uses freeze dried rations for cold weather operations. This(location) should certainly come into play with your decision on freeze dried or MRE. Backpackers, campers, boy scouts, preppers use them as well. These come in vacuum sealed packs and require water to reconstitute into a meal. Most of the time hot water will be required. Sometimes cold water will work on smaller portions or some of the deserts. They come in a single serving or a 4-serving package. There are a few companies that make these and they are sold in buckets or individually.

The lightweight and small size makes this perfect for backpacking. The stackable buckets make it ideal for preppers. As far as keeping these in a bug out bag keep in mind a few things. I bring this up because I see this mistake a lot. If you pack these in a bug out bag you need a way to prepare them. You need a way to boil water and a pot to cook in. Meals that contain beans and rice would need to be simmered for a little bit, so preparation is definitely a factor. Also, a Ziploc bag or something to store leftovers in is ideal. If you are by yourself and need to ration food it would not be recommended to eat 4 servings in one sitting.

If you have a 4-serving pouch you need 4 cups water. So that would require a larger pot. If you wanted to cook a partial amount that could be done as well but you would need to secure the leftovers as the pouches do not reseal on their own. A small backpacking stove could do all this and still be light weight but keep in mind a kettle or a pot cooking on a backpacker’s stove will get extremely hot. Gloves or tongs to handle the hot stuff might be a good addiction, but how much can you really add to your bug out bag.

  • Light weight
  • Very long shelf life (up to 25 years)
  • Many menu options
  • Buckets have drink mixes and deserts

  • NEEDS water, typically hot water
  • Requires prep and clean up
  • Taste is typically bland…but whatever you’re starving

I am a retired US Marine and damn proud of it. I was Marine infantry during the Iraq invasion and after my deployment I went back as part of a paid private security team. I have seen proper first aid and preparedness save lives and lack of preparedness cause death. I have a passion for safety and being ready for anything. Trust me when I say this, at some point in your life the shit will hit the fan. You need to be ready. Follow us on twitter,

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