Third Phase Media Group

Emergency Food: Bars, Tabs, and MREs

Being hungry is no fun. It’s a million times worse when you’re stuck in a situation where food isn’t readily available – especially when that situation involves strenuous activity or an out-and-out fight for survival.

You’ll rarely find me out and about without some sort of food on hand. Not only is it convenient when hunger strikes, but being hypoglycemic, it’s good insurance against passing out.

Mayday Bar, Survival Tabs, and Military Survival Rations


I keep the center console of my Jeep packed with beef jerky and trail mix. My EDC laptop bag (the Monsoon Gearslinger) is full of granola bars, and my outdoor adventure pack is likewise stocked. In that pack, I keep two types of food: food for planned consumption on the trail, and emergency food for survival.

When it comes to my daily ration of snacks, it could be anything. Beef sticks, Fiber One bars, and sandwiches usually make the cut.

When it comes to my survival stash though, priority goes toward longevity and calorie density. I want to know that I’m getting the most nutrition in the smallest space, and I want to be able to stash it in my pack and forget about it for a couple of years (unless I need it.) I’ve tried many different options, and now I’m going to give you the skinny on a few of my favorites.

  • The Survival Tabs – They’re not just survival tabs – they’re the survival tabs, apparently. Available in bags and bottles of varying sizes, these chewables are packed with energy-sustaining nutrients. Like most awesome things, they were developed for the space program over 30 years Survival-food-tabsago. The little “food pellets” have since found their way into the hands of many a backpacker and prepper. They aren’t affected at all by freezing temperatures, and with a shelf life of over 25 years, they certainly fit the bill for my longevity requirement. According to the manufacturer, a person can stay alive for 4-5 months by eating nothing but these tablets. How so? Because the tabs are so quickly and easily digested, that 99% of their nutritional value is absorbed and put to use. You’re supposed to eat 12 tablets a day (one every hour or so) to get the most out of them, which equates to 240 calories a day. Believe it or not, you can live with that level of calorie intake, despite the fact that one soda from McDonald’s has more calories than this. While I’ve never used these tablets in a dire situation, I do pack them religiously. They taste pretty good, and I find that eating them during my outings keeps my energy up while sating my hunger.
  • Mayday Mini Meal –  These 400-calorie bars are delicious; imagine a really rich, dense cinnamon apple cake, and that’s about spot on.* I actually lived off of these for a couple of days, and even though I tend to get pretty sick without a steady influx of animal protein, I felt pretty good. The bars cover 100% of your daily requirement for most essential vitamins, and they’re high in fat and carbohydrates on the macro-nutrient front. If you’re eating to survive, that’s pretty much what you want. *Note: The Mayday bars are apparently available in other flavors, but I always ended up with the apple, even though I didn’t specify.
  • “Food Packet Survival General Purpose, Improved” – You can find these online under different names, including “Air Force Survival Rations” or “Survival Rations, GP.” However you find them, you’re probably going to want to snatch them up. These boxed kits are famously “adventurer approved,” and each 12oz box contains about 1500 calories worth of comestibles. The contents include 6 compressed food bars, lemon tea, soup base, and sugar – enough variety to keep things interesting during the 5 days that you’re capable of sustaining yourself with the rations. A lot of people turn to MREs as a “military survival food” option, but the MRE was never meant to serve that purpose. This kit is what the military prescribes for survival situations.

Those are just three of many possibilities, but they are the three that I currently turn to. My Maxpedition FR-1-based survival kit is loaded with the

Maxpedition FR-1 with survival gear.

The contents of the Survival Food Packet fit nicely into my survival kit.

contents of the Food Packet, General Purpose, and I have a bag of The Survival Tabs in my pack for both normal and emergency use (they’re good for 90 days after opening them.) These additions to my kit take up a space about the size of my fist, but they could sustain me for 7 or more days in the wild – and that’s without foraging. It’s definitely good insurance.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to learn a little bit about edible wild plants that are native to your area of operations! (For the record, you should never eat anything in the wild unless you’re absolutely sure you know what you’re doing.) With a minimal amount of foraging, I could easily extend my small cache of survival eats up to 10-15 days.

Feel free to check the current best prices for The Survival Tabs and Mayday Mini Meal on Amazon! Unfortunately, you’re probably going to have to scout eBay for the Food Packet Survival GP, because they are a bit harder to find.

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