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Bug outs require planning, gear, and food. The amount of each is ultimately determined by the duration of your expected bug out. Even if your bug out is only a few miles, a snack can lift and keep your spirits up. If you measure your bug out in days, then food is a requirement. This list of the 60 best foods for bug out bags will help you fill out your bag and ensure that you make it to your destination with a full belly.
The rule of threes states that the average person can make it three weeks without food. That may be true, however, you don’t want to be around me after hour 12. For most people, a weekend without a warm meal can frustrate the most level-headed person.
When considering the best food for your bug out bag, there are a few things to keep in mind. This article will list out some of those considerations and will catalog some of the best foods to consider.
Get out your pen and pencil. Take notes. But make the list your own with additions that best fit your survival kit plans.
Bug Out Bag Food Criteria
Some foods just aren’t compatible with a BOB. Let’s look at the key features you want as your bug out gear.
How to Choose the Best Food for Your Bug Out Bag?
- Shelf Life – The first element of bug out bag food is its durability. A burst pouch or spoiled food does you no good. Both the food and packaging have to be durable with a long shelf life. Anything you bag up will probably be there for a few months. Make sure it will last.
- Caloric Density – There are times for empty calories, even on a bug out. But it’s best to make the most of every meal. Keep the food nutritious and packed with calories. Fats, proteins, and complex carbohydrates are your friends.
- Lightweight – Where possible, choose lightweight food. Ounces add up to pounds. Pounds add up to pain. Bear in mind that freeze-dried foods require water. This spare water will add up.
- Quick and Easy – On a bug out, time will be of the essence. You may need to eat on the run. You may not have the ability to make a fire. Foods that you can eat right out of the container are a priority. Don’t neglect the value of a hot meal. If you choose a few hot meals, make sure they only need to be heated and not cooked. Choose meals that will conserve your fuel.
- Delicious – Finally, pack what tastes good. If you don’t like it, you won’t eat it. No matter how hungry you are won’t enjoy it. Select foods you enjoy. I cannot say enough about how a quick break with tasty food will lift your spirits.
What’s the Best Food for Your Bug Out Bag?
Here’s a list of the 60 best foods for your bug out bag. To make it a bit easier, we have broken the food out into seven main categories: carb-, protein-, fat-, sugar- and energy-rich foods, along with complete meals and emergency foods.
I. Carbohydrate-Rich Bug Out Bag Food
Carbohydrates are fuel. We need them for energy. Carbohydrates from sugars (simple carbohydrates) give you a quick boost when you need an energy boost the most. Complex carbs give you energy throughout the day.
1. Instant Hot Cereals
Oatmeal, Grits, Muesli are all shelf-stable and warming on a frosty morning. Purchase instant oatmeal and quick varieties as they take less time and fuel to prepare.
Cold cereal is a great snack. The sugar-coated cereals will give you a quick boost, while the no sugar added ones are loaded with complex carbs.
3. Instant Rice
Rice is the perfect chameleon food. Mixed with sweet or savory additives to fit your current mood. Like hot cereals purchase the quick variety.
4. Dry Pasta
Past is the perfect carbo-loading tool. Pack smaller kinds of pasta so they cook quickly and get you back on the road.
5. Ramen Noodles
Ramen, not just for college anymore. A bowl of ramen can be cooked in less than a cup of boiling water and in as little as 2 minutes.
Beans have both complex carbs and are protein-rich. If you are packing shelf-stable beans, pack lentils. They cook in 1/10th the time of other, larger beans.
7. Dehydrated Hummus
Not a fan of a bowl of rice or beans. Try hummus, especially if you like savory snacks.
8. Instant Mashed Potatoes
Another quick hot meal loaded with starch and carbs is potatoes. Once you have boiling water, you can prepare instant mashed potatoes in under a minute.
9. Brown Bread
Sometimes you just need a slice of bread. Canned bread can give you that. Remember to bring a can opener
10. Seeds (Sunflower, Pumpkin)
Seeds are a powerhouse snack. Grab mixed packs or all one type. The natural oils in them have a shelf-life, so it is best to rotate them every 3-6 months.
II. Protein-Rich Bug Out Bag Food
Proteins are the building blocks of recovery. When you exert yourself, you need protein to repair and rebuild your muscles. A high protein snack during a break in your bug out will get you up and running sooner and longer than empty calories.
11. Tuna Cans or Pouches
The most commercially available and inexpensive protein is tuna. Can’s or pouches, it’s available in almost every grocery store. Buy it packed in oil for additional calories.
12. Chicken Cans or Pouches
Chicken has followed tuna’s lead. You can buy both chunked and grilled tuna in long shelf life cans and pouches. There are now many flavors available (buffalo, Italian, etc.)
13. Sardines, Smoked Oysters, and Kippers
Ok, maybe not for everyone, but they are filled with protein, healthy fats, and calories. One tin can last you several hours.
14. Canned Sockeye Salmon
Sockeye salmon is a nutritional powerhouse. It’s loaded with omega-3s, B vitamins, folate, thiamin, and selenium. Again, a small amount will go a long way.
Sockeye salmon is always wild-caught (much better for you than factory-farmed fish) and it’s low in mercury, making it an ideal choice. It’s canned, so it will keep pretty much indefinitely. Go for salmon packed in BPA-free cans.
Wild Planet is a good option.
Is there any trail food better than jerky? Salty, protein-rich, and smokey. You can even cut up a slice and add it to rice for flavoring.
16. Meat Paste
Beef, chicken, and ham are all available and popular in the US. Used as a spread (think Pâté) or just spoon it out of the jar.
The original Native American power food, pemmican, is easy to make on your own. Check out our own homemade pemmican recipe.
Biltong, like jerky, but cured rather than dried, is a quick protein-rich snack.
Salami is loaded with protein, fat, and salt. All the things needed on a break during a hot and sweaty bug out.
Eat it raw, fried, or straight out of the can. SPAM is an acquired taste. Try it before you add a can to your bug out bag.
21. Powdered Chocolate Milk
Chocolate milk was the original post-workout protein drink. Find a powder that is touted as “just add water.”
22. Powdered Milk
Like chocolate milk, some meals or snacks just aren’t complete without a glass of milk.
23. Whey Powder
You can amp up the protein with whey powder. There are too many whey protein powders on the market to count. Buy a variety that suits your tastes.
24. Meal Shakes
Ensure, Boost, and SlimFast all make meal replacement shakes that are great on the trail. Rotate them out every 3 months and don’t store them below freezing unless you want a mess.
25. EPIC Bars
EPIC Bars are awesome. The company uses grass-fed/pasture-raised meat and combines it with all kinds of tasty addition.
EPIC Bars are an excellent source of grass-fed protein and fat, they’re low in sugar, and they’re vacuum-sealed for freshness. The beef-apple-bacon bars are especially tasty.
III. Fat-Rich Bug Out Bag Food
No food is more calorie-dense than fat. Fat is the ultimate source of heat and energy for your body. In the Keto diet, a high-fat snack is called a “Fat Bomb.” These snacks are rich in nut butters, coconut oil, almond oil, and olive oil.
26. Nuts (Almonds, Cashews, Brazil Nuts, Walnuts, Peanuts, Pistachios)
A bag of mixed nuts is filled with salt, fiber, and fat. Mixed nuts satisfy that savory urge while providing a good calorie boost.
27. Raw Nut Butter
Raw nuts are another source of dense nutrition and fat. Nut butter keeps a very long time, and a little bit goes a long way. Raw is key – cooking nuts spoil the delicate fats in them, making them inflammatory and robbing them of many of their beneficial properties.
28. Coconut Oil Packets
Why not go straight to the source for your fat boost. Mix the coconut oil with something else (e.g. coffee: research bulletproof coffee for the recipe) to help it go down.
29. Avocado Powder
Avocado powder can be mixed with water to make instant guacamole. Heavy with healthy fats and tasty too!
30. Packets of Olive Oil
IV. Sugar-Rich Bug Out Bag Food
Sometimes you need a boost of simple sugars. Either for an energy lift or an emotional lift. A sweet can bring a smile to your face as easily as it lifts you out of an energy deficit.
Honey is a wonder food. It’s also a wonder medicine. There is no reason not to pack some. Get raw, unfiltered, honey that has not been pasteurized where possible.
Pick the right jelly and you can eat it by the spoonful, mix it in tea, or spread it on bread/crackers.
Want a hit of chocolate with your sugar? Grab a small jar of Nutella. When in doubt, eat it by the spoonful.
34. Dried or Dehydrated Fruit
Want a more natural sugar boost? Go with dried fruits. You can even find ones that are sweetened. Banana chips are often coated in honey for a little extra energy.
35. Fruit Leather
Natural sugar with an intense flavor sums up fruit leather. Toss a few rolls in your pack and tear off a treat.
36. Candy Bars
Snickers are the original power bar. But don’t limit yourself to just Snickers. Grab a mixed bag of mini candy bars at each of the candy-laden holidays.
Nothing like a bit of normalcy on the trail. Throw in a pack of your favorites. Even if they get crushed, cookie dust can still be a treat.
38. Peanut M&Ms
Melts in your mouth and not in your bug out bag. Peanut M&Ms also have a boost of protein and fat.
Pop-tarts were a staple when my brother and I were in scouts. Back then they had a paper and foil wrapper. Light a corner on fire and let the paper slowly burn off and they would be perfectly cooked.
Sadly, they are now packaged in mylar and that is no longer an option. But hey, they are still great cold.
40. Dark Chocolate
Science has proven that the chemicals in chocolate are mood lifters. Stash a bar of the good stuff in the bottom of your bag.
V. Energy-Rich Bug Out Bag Food
Sometimes a sweet snack isn’t enough. You need a highly caffeinated break to keep your energy levels up!
Caffeine, like sugar, is a tool to be used on a bug out. Make sure you also eat the calories required to support your energy boosts. Finally, be prepared for the crash at the end.
41. Bulletproof Coffee
- Coffee promotes wakefulness, gives you energy, and keeps you attentive. Most people don’t experience the headache or energy crash often associated with coffee, provided they use high-quality coffee beans that are mold-free.
- The fats in Bulletproof Coffee amplify and smooth out the effects of the caffeine, giving you hours and hours of heightened focus.
- The Brain Octane in Bulletproof Coffee resets ghrelin and CCK, two hormones that cause hunger. The reset keeps you feeling satiated, even if all you’ve had is a cup of Bulletproof joe. Brain Octane also rapidly converts to ketones, fuel your brain can use. This system promotes mental precision.
- Grass-fed butter/ghee provides slower-burning energy and tons of vitamins and nutrients.
Call me a hipster if you dare, but this stuff will give you clarity and satiety for hours (you can read more about the science behind it) [7,8,9,10], earning the space and weight it takes up in your bag.
42. Instant Coffee
For the less hardcore and much more space-conscious, you can’t go wrong with instant coffee. I have many a fond memory of my dear mother preparing a spoon of instant Maxwell, boiling water, and one of those tiny Saccharin tablets each morning. Why not take these memories on your bug out with you?
While you may be used to Bulletproof or French pressed excellence, the right instant coffee can get you a passable cup for a lot less volume.
43. Tea Bags
I don’t consider a bug out bag complete until I have the means to make a cup of tea. To make a stronger cup, use multiple tea bags, don’t let them steep longer. Time just pulls out tannins and makes the tea acidic.
44. Hot Chocolate
Drink it cold or hot and you have a cup of liquid gold. For a double boost, mix a packet with a cup of coffee.
45. Energy Drink
Energy drinks are made for pushing you through your barriers. Pack one or two for true emergencies. Beware of the crash afterward.
46. Sports Energy Gels
Sports gels are made to increase performance when you are about to bonk. Small and compact, you can pack a few into any free corner of your bug out bag.
VI. Complete Meals
A snack is fine on the road, but a meal is much more satisfying. When time allows, take a break and fill your stomach!
47. Commercial MREs
Armies march on MREs. You can march on them too. Buy a few different ones to figure out which ones you like.
48. Homemade MREs
Don’t be intimidated by making your own MREs. A few ready to eat components (bagged rice, a pouch of chicken, and a snack) vacuum-sealed into a handy package and you’re all set.
49. Freeze-Dried Meals
Freeze-dried meals are the pinnacle of bug out bag foods. Try a few different meals from Mountain House and other manufacturers in the comfort of your own home. Don’t forget to account for the extra water you will need to cook them.
Save money by buying food buckets. You can conveniently pack your bug out bag with the individual packets as needed.
50. Soup Mix \ Bullion
Soup and bullion can be a terrific source of salt for a hot day. Bullion is a favorite item of mine that preppers tend to forget.
Prep the bullion when you have hot water and then drink it later on the trail. The salt content of bullion lets you store it for the long term.
51. Heat and Eat Rice Pouch
If there is something better than rice, it’s rice that is ready to eat. You can heat in a pot of boiling water or eat cold.
52. Knorr \ Uncle Ben Side Dishes
Modern packaging has led to a flurry of prepacked side dishes. Hit the grocery store aisles and pick any that sound good.
53. Pork and Beans
Pork and beans will provide more than just carbs. The beans and pork will also add protein and fat to the meal.
VII. Emergency Food
Often, life doesn’t fall into nice little groups. It’s time for a snack… It’s time for a complete meal… During these gaps, it’s great to have a more complete food to fill you up.
54. Emergency Food Bars / Lifeboat Rations
Emergency food and ration bars are made to be tucked away and forgotten. They may not taste like a porterhouse steak, but they will get you through the lean hours. Especially after they have been forgotten at the bottom of the bag for a year.
55. Protein Bars
Protein bars are designed to be nutritionally balanced for times of physical stress. Most will also last for months in the bottom of a bug out bag.
56. Trail Mix/GORP
Good Old Raisins and Peanuts were one of the first high energy trail snacks. GORP has been around forever. It was a good option then, and it’s a good option now. Rotate them every few months to avoid the nuts going rancid.
Bug Out Bag Food Item Tips
Food isn’t everything in your bug out bag. You will need to pack several other items to cover needs and conveniences.
57. Hand Sanitizer
Always pack standard hygiene items like hand sanitizer and a small towel. You can alternatively pack soap if your route takes you close to water.
58. Mess Kit
You will need basic utensils. This may be as elaborate as a full set of cutlery and a mess kit, or as simple as a spork and a cookpot.
If you are planning on bugging out on foot, then you will have strict limits on what you can carry. The hiker’s rule of thumb is a pack weight limit of 20% of your total body weight. If you are not used to hiking, then even this much will be a challenge.
Review the contents of your bug out bag and remove anything that is not absolutely necessary. Then allocate space and weight for food.
Finally, practice with your bag. If it’s too heavy, cut back, or practice more.
Food Prep and Cooking
You can plan to eat all your meals straight out of the package and cold. That being said, a warm meal can fill you as much as it can lift your mood. Therefore, you will need to include a heat source in your survival kit.
59. Esbit Stove
Your best bet is a small cook stove and pot. The type is up to you. My personal favorite is a simple Esbit Stove. It comes with a pot and stand, and I pack several tablets. Within a few minutes, I can get the pot boiling and have my warm meal.
We need one gallon per day per person. At 8 pounds per gallon, that’s a lot of weight for a multi-day hike.
60. Water Filtration and Treatment
To reduce the amount of water on hand, you need to add a water filter and water treatment to your pack. Filters and tablets or drops allow you to replenish on the way. Mark your bug out bag plans with available water sources to make sure you never run dry.
Recommended Water Products:
- Lifestraw Personal Water Filter
- Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System
- Water treatment drops
- Water purification tablets
Local Flora Guide
This one isn’t food, but it can turn into food with a little effort. Veggies are important, but they don’t keep well and they take up a lot of space. The solution? Get a guide to local flora and study up.
Find edible plants in your area and commit them to memory. Doing so will ensure that you can eat well if you’re stuck in the woods for a few days.
Preppers often assemble bug out bags out of reaction rather than planning. Tossing a bunch of food into a bug out bag will either lead to a collection of inappropriate food or not enough. Both can lead to a critical situation when the SHTF.
Take a little time to plan out your snacks, drinks, and other foods for your bug out bag. Allocate the space and weight to the calories you will need to make it out of harm’s way to safety.
These options are a dramatic upgrade to the standard fare in bug out bags. Stay sharp, stay strong, and stay prepared!