Food is one of the most important things you can put in your bug out bag. After all, the whole point of a bug out bag is to help you survive, and you definitely need to eat to survive. But this is where most people mess up. They fill their bags with canned soups and high-carb snacks, not realizing these foods are going to leave them feeling exhausted and hungrier than ever.
When preparing to bug out, you must consider the possibility that you’ll end up bugging out on foot. Even if you have a good bug out vehicle, you might still get stuck in traffic for days if everyone in town is trying to leave at the same time. If that happens, everybody will run out of gas and you’ll have to abandon your vehicle anyway.
If you do end up on foot, you’ll want your bag to be as light as possible, especially if you’re not in very good shape. A bug out bag that’s about 15% of your body weight is what you should aim for.
Also, if you’re walking all day with a heavy bag, you’ll burn several thousand calories. According to this calculator on MyFitnessPal.com, if I hiked for 10 hours, I would burn over 5,000 calories! And that’s not counting the 2,000 calories I need every day just to maintain my weight.
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So if I bugged out on foot and ended up hiking for three days, I would need over 20,000 calories just to sustain myself. Now imagine if I had packed a bunch of canned soup. Given that a typical can of soup only contains about 250 calories, I would need at least 80 cans of soup to survive.
And since a typical can of soup weighs about one pound, we’re talking about 80 pounds of food in addition to whatever else is in my bag. Yea, no thanks.
By now, you should see why it’s so important to choose high-calorie foods for your bug out bag. The weight to calorie ratio of your food is probably the most important factor.
However, there are three other factors you should also consider:
- Shelf Life — Food that lasts months or even years is a better choice than food that will spoil in a matter of weeks. You don’t want to have to update your bug out bag too often.
- Macronutrients — Fat and protein are more important than carbohydrates. The fat and protein will fill you up and give you more energy over a longer period of time compared to the short burst of energy you’ll get from carbs.
- How Hard it is to Prepare – Food that is easy to prepare and requires very little water or cooking is your best option. If you’re bugging out, you probably won’t have time to cook anything too complicated.
I know, it’s a lot to think about. So to make this easier, I compiled a list of 30 great foods for your bug out bag. I also linked to specific products I like. Plus, at the end of each description, I included the number of calories per ounce.
Here are the five foods with the best weight to calorie ratio:
- Peanut Butter – 186 calories per oz.
- Mixed Nuts – 164 calories per oz.
- Sunflower Seeds – 162 calories per oz.
- Trail Mix – 151 calories per oz.
- Chocolate – 145 calories per oz.
As fun as it would be to eat peanut butter, chocolate, and nuts all day, you’ll want a little more variety than that, so here’s the complete list:
1. Beef Jerky
Here’s a staple that’s fun to gnaw on. But be careful not to eat too much. People who go overboard on jerky usually end up with a stomach ache. 88 calories per ounce.
These are great for giving you a boost of energy. They’re typically made of oats and some kind of dried fruit or fruit paste. They’re perfect for breaking up the monotony of dried or canned meat. 127 calories per ounce.
3. Candy Bars
4. Canned Meat
Like I said, I don’t recommend packing any canned food as it’s so heavy, but if you are going to pack canned food, make sure it’s meat since you’ll get more calories per ounce, especially if it’s beef. 40 calories per ounce.
Another staple in many bug out bags. It’s not high in protein, but the sugar will give you a burst of energy. Be prepared for it to wear off quickly, though. If nothing else, it can satisfy cravings that will linger long after eating bland, canned, prepacked food for several days. 145 calories per ounce.
6. Drink Mixes
Not technically a food, but these are nice to have in case you start getting tired of water, and they hardly weigh anything. I recommend getting one with lots of electrolytes to help keep you hydrated when you’re walking long distances. Calories vary.
These are perfect for bug out bags. They’re lightweight, require very little water, and can turn into a full meal in a hurry. Average of 131 calories per ounce.
Most people don’t get excited about fruitcake anymore, but it’s a favorite among preppers. It keeps for a long time and has a lot of nutritional value. Take a little along to have as dessert. 105 calories per ounce.
GORP is short for “good ole raisins and peanuts,” although it sometimes contains granola, oats, cashews, pistachios, and even banana chips. Here’s how to make your own. 142 calories per ounce.
10. Hormel Compleats
These taste really good and are very convenient. The only downside is they’re very heavy for the number of calories you get, so only pack if a few, if any. 30 calories per ounce.
11. Instant Oatmeal
These have quite a few more carbs than fat or protein, but they’re delicious and easy to prepare. All you need is tin cup so you can boil water. 105 calories per ounce.
12. Instant Potatoes
Mashed potatoes make such a great filler for otherwise unsatisfying meals. However, you will need to find some water and have a way to boil it. 111 calories per ounce.
13. Mac and Cheese
Who doesn’t love mac and cheese? As with the potatoes, you’ll need access to hot water, but once it’s ready, it makes for a very satisfying snack or side dish. 108 calories per ounce.
These are lightweight and can be added to water to keep you fueled while you’re on the go. Just put some in a Ziploc bag. 94 calories per ounce.
15. Mixed Nuts
These are high in protein and give you an almost instant boost of energy. They’re very filling and can be eaten while you’re on the move. 164 calories per ounce.
These are a military staple but civilians can buy them as well. They have a very long shelf life, even in extreme weather conditions. 46 calories per ounce.
Okay, technically this isn’t a food, but close enough. Although you’ll get a lot of nutrition from the foods on this list, you still won’t be eating as many fruits and vegetables as you normally would. Thus, you’ll be missing out on some important vitamins and minerals, which is why I highly recommend taking some multivitamins with you.
There’s no need to take the entire bottle. Just put a week’s worth of vitamins in a mini Ziploc bag. Calories are negligible.
These are excellent for when you’re on the go. Peanut butter is packed full of protein and will give you energy for a long time. 186 calories per ounce.
19. Pinto Beans
A bag of pinto beans will last a while and provide a lot of protein. They’re also quite filling. Cooking them for an hour or two over an open fire or adding them to a stew will give you a healthy dose of protein. 89 calories per ounce.
This ancient food, which was popular among Native Americans, is mostly made of meat, although some types have fruits, nuts, and other things in them. Here’s how to make your own. 117 calories per ounce.
21. Pop Tarts
Some people prefer to put these in a toaster, but you don’t have to. Personally, I prefer them straight out of the package. They make for a great mood-enhancing snack. 108 calories per ounce.
Another favorite because they can be eaten on the go. These are delicious and packed with protein to keep your muscles strong and healthy. Most are only about 200 calories, but you can find some that are 300 – 400, which is more of a meal. 123 calories per ounce.
23. Ramen Noodles
If you’re able to boil water, then why not make some Ramen Noodles? They’re very high in sodium though. However, that’s a good thing if you’ve been sweating all day because you’ll need to replenish your body’s sodium. 127 calories per ounce.
These are high in carbs and sodium so you wouldn’t want to eat them all the time, but they could give you a little variety. Combine them with canned chicken or tuna for a more well-balanced, if not slightly strange meal. 40 calories per ounce.
25. Sardine Tins
Sardines in oil have lots of protein and lots of calories. The only drawback to these is the weight. However, the cans and oil could be useful in a survival scenario. 50 calories per ounce.
26. S.O.S Rations
To be honest, these don’t taste very good, but they have an incredibly long shelf life (up to 30 years). 138 calories per ounce.
It’s not exactly the healthiest food, but you can use the can as a pot for boiling water or a bowl for eating food. SPAM also comes in single packs. 83 calories per ounce.
28. Sunflower Seeds
They’re light and packed with healthy fats. They’re also a great comfort food and can go a long way toward soothing your stress. Just a small handful can satisfy your hunger until you set up camp. 162 calories per ounce.
29. Trail Mix
If nuts are too boring for you, trail mix is a good option because they also have dried fruit, and some kinds even have chocolate. 151 calories per ounce.
30. Tuna / Chicken Pouches
I love these. You can eat them hot or cold, they mix well with foraged greens, and they’re very convenient. Unfortunately, they’re a bit heavy for the number of calories you get. Average of 35 calories per ounce.