In just the past year year and a half the US has been slammed by Hurricanes Michael and Florence, by deadly flooding in California, Nebraska and Maryland and by deadly wildfires in California. And that’s just a modest sampling. In fact the current state of the world provides ideal conditions for devastating natural disasters (1).
There are more people than ever living in more dangerous places than ever. Deforestation has made mountainsides breeding grounds for flash floods and landslides and warmer oceans are breeding more powerful hurricanes. The bottom line is that virtually nowhere is safe these days from disaster of some sort. The best we can do is make sure we and those we care about are ready.
As such, survival food kits have become an essential item for the home. And we have the 10 best right here.
1. Wise Company, Emergency Food Supply
Wise makes a number of different emergency food supply kits. But this one strikes us as being a particularly good value. It features 120 servings of freeze-dried food with a shelf life of up to 25 years. And we’re not just talking cup o’ noodles here. The menu for this survival food kit includes chicken noodle soup, creamy pasta, Southwest beans and rice, cheesy lasagna, teriyaki and rice, potato casserole, chile mac and much more. Each one is ready to go the minute you need it. And everything is self contained in the durable plastic bucket. If you want, the company suggests you can take individual meals along with you on camping or hunting trips. But we’d recommend leaving the kit intact and storing it away for a true emergency.
2. Mountain House Essential Bucket
The Mountain House Essential Bucket is all about food. This emergency food kit contains 32 high-quality freeze dried meals that are guaranteed to retain their flavor for up to 30 years. Each bucket contains an equal number of chicken and rice, chile and spaghetti dinners. Although, for some reason we can’t quite get our heads around each pouch contains 2.5 servings. Seems potentially wasteful. Wouldn’t it be better to just make it 2 or even 1 serving per pouch? This is the main reason this otherwise excellent survival food kit doesn’t top our list. When you’re in a survival situation you need to be a paragon of efficiency. Being forced to make or eat more food than you need is anything but efficient. Still, having this kit on hand should disaster strike will nonetheless go a long way toward settling frayed nerves.
3. Wise Food Emergency Survival Backpack Kit
Some survival kits are heavy on the food. Some put more emphasis on hardware like flashlights and emergency blankets. And some provide plenty of both. Such is the case with the Wise Food Emergency Survival Backpack Kit. This is one of the more well-rounded kits on the market that provides 32 ready to eat pasta, soup and cereal dishes as well as powdered milk and fresh water. On top of that you get an emergency whistle, emergency blanket, flashlight, drinking cup and even a deck of playing cards to take your mind off the situation. There’s also matches to get a fire started if necessary and, maybe best of all, a portable stove and fuel tablets to heat water for cooking.
4. Ready America 70385 Deluxe Emergency Kit
The Ready American Deluxe Emergency Kit contains several days worth of unspectacular but effective emergency rations and 3 days of fresh water (as long as you’re parsimonious about using it) for 4 people. Or, if there’s just 2 of you, that’s 4 days worth of food and water. But this emergency kit doesn’t stop there. There’s also a full first aid kit, a power station that’s also an emergency LED flashlight, heavy duty gloves, duct tape and even a multi-tool. And let’s not forget the durable backpack in which to store and tote everything. With the Ready America 70385 Deluxe Emergency Kit you’ll be ready for just about anything mother nature can dish out.
5. NuManna 80 Meals Grab-N-Go
The days of having to scrape by on candy bars in the wake of a disaster are officially over. With the NuManna Grab-N-Go emergency food kit you’ll be able to choose from pasta primavera, rice pilaf, habanero chili, mac and cheese, pasta marinara or potato casserole. And it’s not like there’s only one of each. The kit contains a total of 80 meals which means there’s enough for the whole family for several days at minimum. If there’s only 2 of you you’re set with food for a couple of weeks. Sure, you don’t get an LED flashlight or duct tape with the NuManna Grab-N-Go bucket. But sometimes all you really need to do is keep everyone fed while you wait for help to arrive or the power to come back on. And there’s nothing stopping you from purchasing those other things on the side.
6. NorthWest Fork 30 Day Emergency Food Supply
NorthWest Fork 30 Day Emergency Food Supply is another food centric survival kit designed to provide enough food to keep a small family properly fed for up to a week. Each resealable pouch contains 15 servings of one of 6 different meals. There’s pinto bean stew, black bean stew, green pea soup, tropical trio oatmeal, strawberry banana oatmeal and black bean chipotle stew. Each pouch has a shelf life of 10 years. However, once you open them that shelf life expectancy drops drastically. So keep that in mind. Again, there are no fancy power packs here, no compasses, multi-tools or emergency blankets. Just food. And we’re basically okay with that. If we have a quibble it’s that the food comes in a carboard box.
7. Augason Farms 30-Day Emergency Food Supply
When it comes to sheer volume of emergency food it’s hard to top the Augason Farms 30 Day Emergency Food Supply. This incredible bucket of food contains more than 300 servings. And not just a bunch of noodle dishes. There’s maple oatmeal, hearty chicken soup, creamy potato soup, cheesy broccoli with rice, creamy chicken with rice and much more. There’s also a comprehensive meal planner on the back of the bucket. So this is exactly what it says it is. A 30 day supply of emergency food. That means you’ll need to come up with your own portable stove and fuel and your own serving dishes and plates. Our advice would be to purchase these things and keep then in a backpack near the food bucket so you can grab both quickly in the event of an emergency.
8. Sustain Supply Co. Premium Emergency Survival Kit
The Sustain Supply Emergency Survival Kit is designed to provide 2 people with 3 days worth of emergency food and water, or 6 days for 1 person. Most relief experts agree the 72 hours immediately following a disaster are crucial in determining whether a person will survive or fall victim to the chaos around them. This survival kit provides you with enough food and water to emerge from this critical period physically intact. It also provides a host of other necessities including an LED flashlight, a pocket knife, a firestarter kit, an LED lantern, emergency whistles and more. Everything you need to transcend a desperate situation. Keep it in your home or the trunk of your car. Or better yet, keep one in each place just to be sure.
9. EVERLIT Emergency Survival Kit
While most of our survival kits up to now have focused on providing food there are times when you’ll need more than a dish of freeze dried rice and beans. For those times there’s the Everlit Emergency Survival Kit. This is a full-service emergency response kit that includes enough emergency food bars to last several days, 24 packs of drinking water totaling 3+ liters, an emergency radio, rope, a first aid kit, heavy duty gloves, a compass, a hand-crank flashlight, thermal blankets and more. Along with a rugged backpack to carry everything in. It’s a must to have in the car if you’re forced to make a last minute evacuation. Or to have in the house if you’re suddenly beset by flash flood waters or a tornado.
10. Legacy Premium 60 Serving Survival Kit
The final item on our list of best survival food kits is this outstanding value from Legacy Premium. The durable plastic tub comes stuffed with 60 servings of pasta with marinara sauce, chili, stroganoff, pasta alfredo, oatmeal and much more. All foods are GMO free and have a shelf life of 10 years when not opened. Each package makes enough food for a small, hungry family. So if you’re on your own this might not be the food survival kit for you. That said, couples and families will find plenty to like here and they’ll have a much easier time surviving a disaster if they have one of these buckets on hand.
What are Survival Food Kits?
A survival food kit contains easy to prepare, non-perishable foods that can be used in the aftermath of a natural disaster. They help you and your family weather the period immediately following a disaster when power is out, water supplies may be contaminated, your kitchen may be useless and help has not yet arrived.
Most emergency foods are in a dehydrated or freeze-dried state which gives many of them a potential shelf life of decades. All you need to be able to use them is a camping stove and something to cook in. And indeed some survival food kits will provide you with a small stove and pan. With more people than ever being victimized by nature’s fury survival food kits are no longer the exclusive domain of survivalists. They’re now the exclusive domain of those with common sense.
What Situations Call for a Survival Food Kit?
There are any number of situations both likely and pretty unlikely that might call for you to access your emergency food supply. Here are just a few.
- Hurricanes – Anyone who was anywhere near the Florida Panhandle in 2018 will never forget Hurricane Michael (2). Michael slammed ashore in October 2018 packing 160 mph winds and the lowest barometric pressure since the legendary Hurricane Camille in 1969. On top of that a 14 foot storm surge nearly swept away entire towns in tsunami-like fashion. In the aftermath some areas were without power for more than a week, natural gas lines were shut down, water supplies were contaminated with salt water and rescue workers took days to reach some areas. Survival food kits can make an enormous difference in such circumstances.
- Floods – As this is being written large swaths of Texas are under water (3). Tropical depression Imelda has dumped up to 40 inches of rain in some areas, causing historic widespread flooding. In areas where the water didn’t force emergency evacuations power was out, stores and restaurants closed and basic services suspended. Having a survival food kit on hand in such circumstances is a must.
- Earthquakes – Along the Pacific Coast Americans wait in dread for “the big one” to appear. It’s been more than 100 years since that last one and scientists say the area is long overdue (4). But even in the absence of catastrophic quakes that might change the landscape of the Golden State forever, residents are subjected to smaller but still significant quakes that result in loss of power, broken gas and water mains and disruptions to food supply (5). Not to be alarmists but if you live in an earthquake prone area preparedness is everything. And a food supply kit is basic preparedness.
- Lost in the wild – Backcountry hikers and hunters know that extreme weather is an ever present threat. Sometimes several feet of snow can fall in the high country with little notice, burying trails and cutting off escape routes (6). While it simply isn’t practical to lug some of the largest survival food kits into the woods with you it’s just common sense to have enough emergency rations to cover you for several days at minimum. It might seem to weight-conscious hikers that carrying all that extra food is a burden. But few things pose a greater threat to hikers and hunters than being isolated by extreme weather events.
- Blackouts – Unfortunately widespread power outages can strike at any time (7) and when they do they take away your ability to prepare food. Things you had stored in the fridge quickly go bad. Stores and restaurants remain closed and 21st century people are thrust back into the 19th century. A good survival food kit can help you transcend such a situation. And even if a large scale blackout doesn’t happen next week or next month your emergency food kit will be ready to go when it does. Even if that is 10 or 15 years from now.
What are the Characteristics of a Good Survival Food Kit?
A good survival food kit includes:
- Food that’s easy to cook – Your emergency food should not take more than a basic heat source and, in most cases, some water to prepare.
- Practical portions – You don’t want portions that are so large you can’t finish them. It’s better to have more modest portions. That way if you’re still hungry after one you can prepare another. But if you’re satisfied after one nothing will go to waste.
- Lots of calories – Your keto diet might have to take a back seat during a survival situation. What you need are calories in order to keep your body powered until help arrives or power is restored. The average adult needs about 2,000 calories per day even if they’re not physically active (8). Can you live on less? Sure. But your emergency preparations should not include preparing to starve.
- High nutritional value – Calories are one thing but you won’t live long on powdered drinks alone. You need vitamins and minerals as well. So the food in your kit should have a decent nutritional profile.
- A long shelf life – You never know when you might need your emergency food kit. So it’s important that it have a long shelf life. This is is why most emergency foods are either dehydrated or freeze-dried.
The importance of complementary items
It’s in the interest of homeowners to get the most comprehensive survival kit possible. That means one that includes things like emergency blankets, candles, batteries and more. Some of the more deluxe kits come with their own portable stove. And that’s important. If your survival kit does not include a stove and fuel make sure you purchase them separately and store them with the survival food kit. Emergency food isn’t much good after all if you can’t cook it.
Does Survival Food Have a Long Shelf Life?
It certainly should as we just discussed. Most survival food kits contain individual food items or meals that have been either dehydrated or freeze-dried. Most people who know the difference will tell you that freeze dried food will have a longer shelf life. And in some cases that’s true. Especially when it comes to things like freeze-dried fruit and prepared meals that contain meat and vegetables. Simple dehydrated noodles however have an outstanding shelf life and, as long as the seal is not broken could potentially last for years.
In fact, some freeze-dried foods can last 20 years. Why the astonishing shelf life of these items? Because a freeze dryer (9) removes nearly 100% of the moisture content. The freeze-dried food is then vacuum sealed in a foil pouch. This process removes the two enemies of food: water and air. The same is essentially true of the dehydrating process. Except that in some cases dehydrating doesn’t remove quite as much water.
How Long Does It Last Once You Open It?
Once you open a package of dehydrated or freeze-dried food you allow the enemies of food free access. As a result, shelf life plummets. Even if you don’t expose the food directly to a pot of water there is moisture in the air that will start to work on it. As a result, once you open the food in your survival food kit it’s best to eat it straight away. Because in just a day or two it’s likely to start going bad.
You might be able to get a bit more life out of your emergency rations if you take the extra and seal it up immediately in a Tupperware-style container. But even then the clock is ticking unless you promptly place the food in the freezer. And if you’re in a survival situation chances are there aren’t any freezers available.
You may however, find a saving grace in the weather. If you are isolated in the backcountry during the winter nature can act as your freezer. It is not a perfect substitute for a real freezer (10), but as long as the temperature remains below freezing (repeat: remains below freezing) and you store the food out of direct sunlight even cooked leftovers will be viable for some time.
The Bottom Line
More people than ever live in earthquake zones, tornado zones or coastal areas that are vulnerable to devastating hurricanes. In addition, our modern dependence electricity means that if the power source fails our food spoils and we can be left in the lurch. Emergency food kits are every bit as important to have on hand as flashlights, spare batteries, basic tools, candles, dry matches and more. Without these things you’re at the whims of fate should a disaster strike. With them you’ll be able to weather the storm and emerge unscathed.