Best Emergency Food Bars for Prepping and Survival

by Tommy Grant

This is an updated review of the best emergency food bars. We update our roundups as new products are released, as we test more survival rations, and when we learn even more about our picks.

Good emergency food bars give us tons of calories in a small package. The best emergency food bars do this while tasting great and giving us a variety of flavors. Sure, you could eat sawdust and sugar (or forage for dandelions) to survive, but if you want to get the job done neat and quick you’re going to need ration bars or survival food bars.

Ration bars have been around for a while. In 1937 Hershey developed the famous D ration bar, but since then rations have been improved quite a bit. There are also several more brands to choose from, calorie counts, and packaging types.

This is where we come in. We’ve researched the best survival food bars, taste-tested them, compared package durability, and the results are in: the overall best, a budget pick, and an upgrade option. If you need emergency food bars that won’t let you down in a survival situation, one of our suggestions will keep you energized.


Contents (Jump to a Section)


The Best Emergency Food Bars

Millennium Bars

Extreme Shelf Life, Calorie Packed, with Variety

A huge variety with lots of calories, shelf life, and great taste make this ration bar stand well above the rest.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Millennium Bars, brought to us by SOS Food Labs (yes, the ration bar company for our budget pick) comes in at the top spot with a huge variety of flavor options and just chock full of calories. 2,400 calories making up less than one pound of deliciously flavored bars is as good as it gets for caloric density on the go.

When compared to all of the other options, these things are delicious. Since our first review of these a few years back, we’ve transitioned most of our own kits to have these in them and even eat them occasionally as a meal replacement. The main drawback when compared with survival food bars is that it is a true energy bar- prioritizing calories over nutrition. You’ll need to plan on using them to power through a short period with their lack of protein and other nutrients.

These bars are great for stashing in bug out bags, get home bags, and any mobile survival kit. They withstand extreme temperatures and are US Coast Guard-approved, in case you find yourself on a boat. The shelf life is a minimum of 5 years (usually far exceeds this with room temperature storage). They are non-thirst-provoking.

Grab a pack of Millennium Bars for your kits and you won’t regret it.


SOS Food Rations

Budget Ration Bars

SOS Emergency Food Rations

Cheap, Calorie Dense, and Effective

The reliably cheap survival food in that signature blocky package is not just for boats.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Our budget pick, the SOS Emergency Food Rations, are the cheap, block-shaped ration bars you recognize. There are a few brands that make ‘boat rations’, but the S.O.S. is the best bang for the buck and doesn’t taste bad to boot. It is 3600 calories packed into 1.6 pounds of dense ration bar, and (of course) it’s US Coast Guard approved.

One of the main advantages of these bars is that they are ‘non-thirst provoking’, meaning they aren’t dry and won’t make you exceptionally thirsty. This makes them an excellent choice as a stand-alone food source when supplies – and especially water – are limited. They are high in sugar and low in nutrients though, so they are meant to be a very short-term solution to keep you alive.

For all these reasons, the SOS Emergency Food Rations make a great choice for car kits and conditionally for bug out bags and get home bags.


The Survival Tabs

Upgrade Survival Tabs

The Survival Tabs

Convenient, Portable, and Tasty

The best portable, long-lasting, emergency food solution for any situation.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

The Survival Tabs are just so darn convenient that we couldn’t leave them out of this list. It’s true- they don’t pack quite the calories per pound that our other picks do, but they are way easier to eat on the move. This four-pack contains 960 calories at a total of half a pound- so you aren’t giving up much for a much more convenient tab. The versatility makes them excel when you are trying to get stuff done in an emergency but need to keep your calories up.

Each tab is 20 calories, so it makes the math easy. The tabs are easy to pop on the move and share quickly- no splitting apart messy blocks or arguing over rations. The different flavors give us some tasty variety, which is always nice. These go great in bug out bags, get home bags, and anywhere you want to stash some mobile food rations.

If you are looking for the most portable survival calorie solution, grab a pack of Survival Tabs for your go bag.


Everything We Recommend

Millennium Survival Energy Bars

Millennium Bars

A huge variety with lots of calories, shelf life, and great taste make this ration bar stand well above the rest.

Where to Buy

$17* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing


The Food Bars We Compared

Our research narrowed the field down to the several survival food, hiking, and ration bar brands that we tested: Datrex, SOS Food Labs, Millennium, Survival Tabs, Clif, Grizzly Gear, Probar, and more.

There are a lot of brands that make ration bars, and they all have their pros and cons. There is a little bit of a debate on what makes a ‘bar’, but we decided to stick to the idea of portable solid food that does not require any preparation or cooking to eat.

We also steered clear of sports bars, protein bars, and candy bars, although those can offer some high calories in an emergency. These are designed for specific activities rather than targeting emergency survival. A few hiking bar brands do have a solid blend of nutritional value, protein, and calories- but ended up not coming in as competitively priced as the calorie-dense picks we reviewed above.

If you already have sports, protein, or even candy bars- they can be a good substitution in a pinch if you are on a strict budget.


What to Look For

The best emergency food bars have several important features to look for:

  1. Value
  2. Shelf Life
  3. Caloric Density
  4. Texture & Taste
  5. Nutrition

When you get the right blend of these, you can find an unmatched ration bar that will help you tackle almost any obstacle during an emergency or disaster. Below, we break down what each of these features means for great portable survival food.

Value: Cost vs. Benefit

The amount of money you can spend on emergency food bars really shouldn’t be that high. Survival food bars, by design, are meant to sustain you on the move. Hopefully, in an emergency, your movement is temporary and you plan to end up at a location with long-term food storage or sustainable food sources.

You never want to spend too much money on one resource, especially something like portable food rations. Luckily, most ration bars are cheap. Using your money to get the most functionality and versatility out of your survival kit is the smart way to go. There is a sweet spot where you get high value out of the best features with not too high of a price, which is where our top pick sits.

You also won’t need to buy emergency food bars very often because most of them have a ridiculously long shelf life.

Shelf Life

Shelf life is the big difference maker between many types of food bars and survival food bars.

Because of this, all of our picks have a shelf life of at least 5 years, with some of the picks that have been produced for a while showing a real shelf life of close to 50 years when it is stored at room temperature (Survival Tabs).

Caloric Density

The weight, shape (volume), and calorie count are all considerations when considering packing food rations away for an emergency. Our top pick packs the most calories for its size, needing just six bars to pass my favorite MRE, the chili mac.

Food bars, Ration bars, and MRE caloric density comparison.

Calories give you energy, and in a survival situation, you want as much energy as possible. For longer emergencies and disasters, you’ll want to consider a more complete solution like an MRE for reasons we’ll get into below.

Texture & Taste

You can’t underestimate the importance of texture and taste for your survival food. I’ve had a wide range of not just ration bars, but MREs, long-term food storage, and dehydrated foods and taste can be extremely important for your mental state.

You don’t want to have a stressful day dealing with a disaster just to choke down some food that you can hardly stomach. All of our picks have great tastes (okay, our budget pick might be just okay), but they are not revolting like some other survival ‘food’ I’ve had the pleasure of trying.

Even still, don’t go stocking up on a single food bar flavor unless you are sure you have tried and enjoyed the taste and texture of the bar. Even then, variety is the spice of life- so don’t forget a little variety never hurts.

Nutrition

Calories alone won’t get it done when you are in a survival situation- you need nutrients as well.

A good blend of protein, carbs, vitamins, and minerals is needed to keep you cruising through a disaster. You don’t want your organs shutting down from starvation. You can actually survive a longer time than you think without food or proper nutrients, but you will feel the effects quickly even if just your diet becomes poor.

Most ration bars are just full of enough nutrients to get you from point A to point B, so you’ll need to pair these with a sustainable food plan or long-term food storage solution.

Here is a summary of how the bars we compared measure up to each other:

Survival Bar Type Calories Serving Weight Protein
Millenium Bar Energy 410 84g 5g
Survival Tabs Energy 240 142g 4g
SOS Food Ration Ration 410 84g 8g
Datrex 1K Ration Ration 250 49g 3g
Probar Protein 270 70g 20g
Clif Bar Energy 260 68g 11g

How to Use Emergency Food Bars

Emergency food bars are perfect for energy and nutrition on the go, and (of course) in an emergency. As we mentioned before, you don’t need to stock up on them for in-place kits or to replace your long-term food storage. A few packs (depending on your family size) should do the trick.

Both ration bars and Survival Tabs come pre-portioned so that you can separate them and keep track of your caloric intake.

These are all designed to not make you thirsty, so eating them dry is the main way to consume them. Even still, you can do whatever you want- our buddy Al shows that you can add water to a traditional ration bar to make a porridge:


Who Needs Emergency Food Bars?

Emergency food bars are a convenient way to store food in a wide variety of survival kits. Everyone needs to eat and ration bars are cheap, don’t require any prep, and are effective for providing nutrition and calories in all situations, emergencies, and disasters.

Emergency food bars are an important part of these kits:

Emergency food bars are suggested for these kits:

No matter what threats come your way, emergency food bars are nice to have around so you can handle a survival situation.

How We Review Products: We research thoroughly before selecting the best products to review. We consult experts in the field for a better understanding of what makes the gear great. Hours on end are spent field testing gear in stressful conditions. We assign performance criteria and impartially rate each tested item. After our review process, some of the items reviewed end up in our giveaways.

Sources and References

All of our experience and the testing done to determine the best survival food bars are useless without listing our research sources and references. We leaned on these for the book knowledge that we paired with our hands-on testing and practical military and prepping experience:

Jones, P., et al. (1993). Adequacy of food rations in soldiers during an arctic exercise measured by doubly labeled water. Journal of Applied Physiology. Volume 75. Issue 4. (Source).

Carruth, A. (2009). War Rations and the Food Politics of Late Modernism. John Hopkins University Press. Volume 16. Issue 4. Pages 767 – 794. (Source).

Rollinson, G. (2012). Alternative Disaster Feeding Ration. Defense Technical Information Center. (Source).


The Final Word

Food rations have shaped our world- it is well documented that wars have been won or lost depending on how food supplies were handled for soldiers. Food is just as important during emergencies and there are plenty of ways for you to be prepared.

Emergency food bars let you be prepared and mobile at the same time and are an important part of mobile survival kits. Here are some other reads our subscribers have found helpful:

We presented quite a lot of information, but as always: if you have any questions let us know and we would be happy to help. Our research and testing found that Millennium Bars are the best option given their value, shelf life, caloric density, and nutrition. Plus, they taste great and come in a wide variety. If you take our suggestion and buy some for your mobile kits be sure to try them out first. Don’t let things sit in your kit without getting familiar with them- and that goes for food too.

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.


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The Best Emergency Food Bars



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