You can actually survive without food for a few weeks. However, you’ll be much better prepared to cope with the challenges in a survival situation if properly nourished. A full belly will also keep your morale high while you try to navigate the crisis at hand.
Accordingly, you’ll always want to make sure the bug out bag contains plenty of food and along with everything needed to store, prepare, and eat it.
You may be able to grab a few fresh foods from your kitchen or a local store while getting out of Dodge. However, the bulk of the calories in your bug out bag must be of the non-perishable variety. There are a few different types of non-perishable foods that will work well in this context. No one type of food is perfect, they all present different benefits and drawbacks.
You can find an incredible variety of foods in the canned aisle at your local grocery store. Most of these products will last for years without spoiling. In addition to fruits and vegetables, several meats are available in canned form too. You can even find complete recipes, such as pasta dishes or soups at your local grocer. You’ll enjoy this variety from a creature comfort point of view and also benefit from the diversity of nutrients. Having a balanced diet will help keep you feeling your best during a difficult time.
But while canned foods are appealing in many ways, their weight is a significant drawback. This won’t matter if you’re preparing to wait out the crisis in your basement or a shelter of some variety. However your bug out bag should be designed for quick travel so heavy items are not ideal. Prioritize the canned goods and only pack the most valuable options in your bug out bag. For example, it doesn’t make sense to bring a can of spinach with you. The entire can will only provide a handful of calories even though spinach is packed with vitamins and minerals. You’ll be better served by packing protein and calorie rich foods in your bag. This includes things like fish, shellfish, beef, chicken, or pork that all provide a much better calorie to weight ratio.
Packaged foods are also helpful to include in your bug out bag. This includes things like dried rice, pasta, instant oatmeal, crackers, and similar items. These types of foods won’t last as long as canned goods but they’ll keep long enough to help get you through most short-term survival situations.
These items will form one of the major sources of carbohydrates in your bug out bag. Carbohydrates will help provide you with the energy you need to keep going. They also help keep you feeling full and satisfied, particularly if you opt for whole-grain varieties.
These types of foods contain very little water so they don’t weigh very much. The biggest challenge is the space they take up. You’ll want to re-package most of these items, particularly those that come in cardboard boxes. Just be sure to keep any repackaged foods completely dry and double bag them to prevent moisture from finding its way in.
Dehydrated / Freeze-Dried Foods
There are a variety of freeze-dried or dehydrated foods specifically designed for use in survival situations. These types of foods are an excellent addition to your bug out bag, and most survivalists depend on them heavily.
You can purchase individual items in bulk or opt for complete meals. Then it only requires you to add a bit of hot water. Although these foods will never be confused with a 5 star meal, most of these products taste pretty good.
MREs are another option in the dehydrated category. They’re made for soldiers working in the field but work very well for survivalists, preppers, and campers too. An MRE (“meals ready to eat”) includes an entry, two sides, a handful of condiments, a cookie or similar desert, and everything needed to prepare the food.
Dehydrated and freeze-dried foods will last for years (several commercial varieties have decade-long shelf lives), and, because they contain only minute quantities of water, they are very light and easy to store. The high prices associated with many of these products is the primary downside to them.
Other Dry Foods
There are a variety of other foods that will last for extended periods of time and make good additions to your bug out bag. Such as jerky and fruit leathers that are calorie rich yet compact foods. They are easy to stuff in your bag and require no preparation. This makes them great for snacks when you don’t have the time or ability to prepare a proper meal.
Nuts and seeds are another great dry food that should be included in your bug out bag. These are packed with calories, most of which come in the form of proteins and fats. They’ll keep for months, if not longer, without spoiling. Nuts and seeds aren’t exactly light but they represent a good weight to calorie value. Just be sure to opt for shelled varieties so you aren’t saddled with the extra weight.
It’s also wise to pack a bit of candy in your bug out bag. Candy can be great for giving you a bit of quick energy and it will help keep your morale high too. You may even want to make trail mix by mixing some nuts, seeds, and small chocolates.
You’ll need to have the equipment necessary to prepare your food:
A small camping stove can be an invaluable tool in survival situations. Camp stoves make it much easier to cook and they reduce the amount of time it takes too. Camp stoves, along with the fuel tanks, will take up valuable space in your bag. Some survivalists forego them and plan to cook with an open fire instead.
This can be a serious gamble as you may find yourself going hungry if the weather is wet and can’t get a fire started. If your fire-starting skills are good, you may be better served by saving the space.
Pots and Pans
Some commercial dehydrated foods can be prepared in the packaging and canned goods can be heated in their container. You’ll still want to pack at least one pot in your bug out bag. In fact, having two or three pots and pans on hand will make things far easier. Multiple pots and pans will also allow you to use the fire or fuel more efficiently.
Cast iron pots and pans are undoubtedly the best choice in terms of durability and functionality. The major drawback being that they are prohibitively heavy. You’ll want to go with aluminum pans but be sure to treat them gingerly to avoid damage. Always try to use nested sets to conserve space. Also, make sure to select sets that can work with a single lid to help reduce the weight and space.
Unless the plan is to eat with your fingers and stir food with a stick, you’ll need to bring a few basic utensils. You can probably get by with nothing more than a long-handled metal spoon but a knife/fork/spoon set won’t take up much space in your bag. Note that some multitools and knives include a fork and spoon which can eliminate your need for additional sets.
Chopsticks are also helpful in a variety of ways and weigh very little. Many survivalists throw a couple of sets in their bug out bag. You could even use a chopstick to stir food in a pinch. You should keep a large knife in your bug out bag anyways but it’s a good idea to add a medium sized one too. It won’t increase the weight of your bag very much nor will it take up much space.
Miscellaneous Food & Cooking Equipment
In addition to the food and the equipment to prepare it, there are a variety of other things you’ll appreciate having in your bug out bag. Some of the most important items include the following:
Anyone who’s ever been camping knows that counter space is at a premium when cooking outdoors. There just aren’t a ton of places to set down food, utensils, and other items. You can use flat rocks or semi-clean logs but a thin, lightweight cutting board will provide a great work space for preparing food.
You’ll often need to pull hot pots and pans from a fire so a potholder or oven mitt handy to have. In the interest of saving space and weight, you can use a pair of heavy gloves instead.
A bit of salt and pepper can do wonders for making bland dehydrated foods more palatable. Use small shakers designed for campers or simply bring along individual paper packets. Small packets of ketchup, mustard, and similar condiments are also great to throw in your bag. Be careful to avoid packing too many and creating extra weight.
Wash the cookware and utensils after each meal to keep these items clean so they don’t get you sick. Also wash your hands as often as possible to help remove the bacteria collected while working outside all day.
Select a biodegradable soap designed for use outdoors to avoid polluting the local environment. Otherwise it could potentially ruin viable food sources such as the fish and crustaceans living in a nearby stream. Try to purchase concentrated soaps that only require a drop or two per use. This way you get by with bringing less soap in your bag.
Canned goods will need to have a can opener. You can hack your way into a can with a knife in a pinch but a can opener does it in a safer fashion. Many multitools and Swiss Army style knives come with a can opener so be sure to consider this when packing your bug out bag.
Even if you’re confident in your fire-starting skills, bring some matches along in case of an emergency. Additionally, you’ll find that a book of matches will make it much easier to get your camp stove lit. Always opt for waterproof matches whenever possible, or at least store them in a waterproof container. Strike anywhere matches are preferable to those that must be struck on the box but either type will work.
Include all of the items detailed above in your bug out bag and you’ll likely be able to endure any crisis facing you. Even survive long enough to find help or resolve the situation in some other way. Don’t be afraid to customize the items in your kitchen and food kit to suit your needs. The bug out bag should be designed for your specific requirements and desires. Just be sure to anticipate the challenges you’ll face and prepare accordingly.