7 Best Survival & Camping Food Brands & Kits [Taste Test]

In a survival situation, you might not be all that picky about what you eat.

But if you’re preparing for the apocalypse (or, y’know, a camping trip), you’ve got options…so why not choose the best and tastiest?

Russian MRE Spread-wm
Russian MRE…

Rather than leaving you to face endless mystery MRE menus on your own, we’ve gathered some popular emergency and camping foods and put them to the test–the taste test that is!

Check out our video review of some of these sodium-laden, heat-and-go meals, or keep reading for our full review.

(Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for weekly videos!)

What Types of Food Do I Need in a Survival Situation?

Honestly, that depends on you.

If you’re on the move, and need something light or something that doesn’t need preparation, your emergency rations are going to look a little different than someone who is sheltering in place with a supply of camp fuel and a stove.

Food Storage
Storing food can be simple–but it depends on what situation you’re preparing for.

Because there’s a lot of answers to this question, we tried to sample something from some of the most popular types of long-term shelf-stable foods, including freeze-dried meals, MREs, preparedness food kits, and ration bars.

Best Survival and Camping Food Brands & Kits

Ready to dig in?

We’ve tried our hand at preparing and taste-testing some of the more popular survival and camping food selections out there, and we’ve formed a few opinions on the matter.

Let’s talk about it!

MREs

Now, when you think prepping, do you think MRE…or “meals ready to eat?”

After all, these ready-to-eat meals are quintessential features of any well-stocked fallout shelter or zombie apocalypse bunker. 

They’re self-heating, sealed, and pretty portable, though, as you can imagine, military rations are a bit lacking on quality and flavor. 

MRE Multi
A variety of MREs

No offense, warfighters, but seeing my choice for a last-resort food branded as “Warfighter Recommended, Warfighter Tested, Warfighter Approved” doesn’t inspire confidence in its craveability.

However, MREs are pretty easy to find, pretty easy to use, and, if we’re being honest, have a pretty wide variety of high-calorie meals–not too bad when food is fuel to survive.

1. Mil-Surp MREs

We tried Menu 1: Chili with Beans, which was our assorted mystery MRE that we ordered from Amazon.

Chili-wm
MRE Chili with Beans

Included in the packet was said chili, as well as cornbread, cheddar cheese spread, vegetable crackers, “Pepperoni Pizza Cheese Filled Crackers,” Lemon Lime beverage powder (carb fortified!), and Accessory Packet A, which contained wipes, cutlery, hot sauce, and the like.

Flavorwise, it wasn’t that inspiring. It was on par with Dinty Moore canned chili, in our opinion. Definitely edible, but probably not going to win any cook-offs.

What is important is that an MRE averages 1,250 calories per meal, so you get plenty of nutrition and calories to fuel your day, whether you’re hiking, surviving, or camping.

MRE-Chili-Prep
Preparing the chili.

Each packet also includes an FRH, or flameless ration heater, so you’ll always have a way of cooking these.

What we didn’t like, especially for a camping or hiking situation where pack it in, pack it out applies (though it should always apply) is the number of individual wrappers an MRE contains.

It generates a lot of trash for a single meal.

12
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

2. Russian MRE

Russian MRE Spread-wm
Some of the containers found in the Russian MRE

Our resident Russian geek and social media guru, John, is no stranger to Russian MREs, but I sure was, and paired with our complete inability to read Cyrillic, I knew a culinary adventure awaited.

It’s worth noting that Russians do military food a bit differently than Americans. While we do individual meals in our MREs, Russians prefer the 24-hour approach.

This box included breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as plenty of assorted snacks to get you through your day wrestling bears and recording meteors on your dashcam.

russian meteor
Get those dashcams rollin’!

We’re pretty adventurous eaters, but even we had to pause after peeling back the Cyrillic-covered foil lids and seeing just how much the contents resembled Fancy Feast.

Russian MRE Pate-wm
Russian MRE Paté

But still, we had a duty to our readers and viewers, so we threw caution (and calorie counts) to the wind and sampled everything in the kit, instead of just the main entree. Yeah, we definitely opened everything for your benefit, and not because we couldn’t find the main entrees to sample. That’s it.

Russian MRE Entree-wm
One of the entrees in the Russian MRE… stew, perhaps?

The end result was… surprising. As you can see in our video review, everything tasted significantly better than it looked–or smelled. They’d probably have been even better if heated up, which we did not do.

This particular Russian MRE contained several varieties of canned meat paté, a stew-type dish, something resembling meatballs in tomato sauce, crackers, spreads, a Russian boiled grain dish called kasha, and assorted supplies.

Russian MRE Kasha-wm
Russian MRE Kasha

And in case you thought the Amazon description would fill you in on what was in the box, let me assure you–it does not. Some dishes listed include “small loafs wallpaper,” “canned food meat,” and “paste of gentle.” 

Yum.

Russian MRE Mystery Goop-wm
Russian MRE Mystery Goop

Anyways, for a survival shelter, Russian MREs are a pretty decent option, especially if you’re not squeamish about texture.

Otherwise, the weight and sheer volume of trash these things generate make them less than ideal for any situation in which disposing of them or carrying them relies on your back.

Russian MRE Closeup-wm
Visually upsetting? Yes. Tasty? Also yes!

If you want them for yourself…or as a gag gift…

35
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

What’s next?

Backpacking/Camping Meals

If you’re looking for meals to go with you in an adventure, freeze-dried is the way to go. Low weight, less space taken up in your bag, and less trash generated are all defining features of a good backpacking meal.

What’s that? The taste? 

Well, yeah, I guess that’s important, too. Let’s talk about it.

3. Mountain House

Mountain House Package-wm
Mountain House and Jet Boil–ready for adventure!

Is there really any other? Mountain House has a cult following amongst the outdoorsy crowd, and for a good reason–they’re super easy to prepare and taste well… maybe not as good as Grandma’s but definitely better than military surplus MREs.

It’s a little hard to lump freeze-dried entrees into the same category as other survival foods, considering they’re not intended for survival, but we figured we’d cover all our bases with them. After all, they can be used for survival, just as MREs can be used for camping–they’re just not great at it.

We personally sampled the Biscuits and Gravy pack, but it seems that there’s plenty of other flavors out there that are great, such as the fan-favorite Beef Stroganoff.

Mountain House Biscuits and Gravy-wm
Mountain House Biscuits and Gravy

Preparing a Mountain House pouch is easy–simply remove the oxygen-absorbing packet, pour in the prescribed amount of boiling water, stir, seal, and wait. These meals rehydrate in less than 10 minutes and can be eaten straight from the bag, so clean up is pretty easy.

Mountain House Prep Water-wm
Adding boiling water to our Mountain House meal.

In a pouch, there are two servings of the meal. Biscuits and Gravy will run you about 310 calories for a meal, or 620 for the pouch. They’re also good for 30 years, apparently.

Compared to the calorie-dense MREs, Mountain House meals are actually a little skimpy. They’re definitely better suited to occasional adventuring trips, not life-or-death survival.

Mountain House does also make many of their most popular meals available in multiple-serving cans, which can be stocked up as an emergency food supply.

8
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

What’s your take on Mountain House?

Readers' Ratings

4.37/5 (27)

Your Rating?

Moving on…

Emergency Food Bars

If you’re prepping in a small space or want something that doesn’t require any preparation, emergency food bars are probably your best bet. These don’t take up too much space in your bunker, but they’re probably heavier than you want to carry.

They taste can be a bit wanting, but if you’re in it for the calories more than the flavor, these can power you to keep walking for a long time.

4. S.O.S Emergency Ration Bars

SOS Food Bar-wm
SOS Food Bars

The stark white vacuum pack with the crisp blue lettering may look like something FEMA distributes, but we were pleasantly surprised that these cookie-like S.O.S. Emergency Ration Bars were kind of… cookie-like.

The flavor could be described as aggressively vanilla/graham cracker, but at least they were pleasantly sweet. We found them to be a lot on the dry and crumbly side, which doesn’t make for neat eating. 

SOS Food Bar Prep-wm
Inside the package

In the apocalypse, maybe it’s not a big deal. For munching on because my car broke down and AAA Roadside Assistance will be here in a day or so… it kinda is.

These packs are good for up to 5 years when they’re sealed, and each pack contains 3,600 calories worth of bars, which is intended to last for 72-hours.

8
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

5. Grizzly Gear Emergency Food Rations

Grizzly Gear Bar Packaging-wm
Grizzly Gear Food Bars

These are a similar concept to the S.O.S. bars above, but the Grizzly Gear Emergency Rations weren’t our favorite. They’re a lot less sweet, which might be a benefit, but they also taste very floury and dry. 

They’re supposedly lemon-flavored, which is not at all what I would have guessed.  The texture is a lot more crumbly than the S.O.S. bars, which means they’re likely to break up if you have them rattling around in your trunk for a few years.

Grizzly Gear Bar Prep-wm
Inside the package!

Like other similar ration bars, the package is 3,600 calories in total, and has a 5-year shelf life. Grizzly Gear bars are also Halal and Kosher compliant!

As with any sealed food–shelf life is dependent on the seal. If the packaging becomes torn or has a hole poked in it, your rations will be compromised.

Pack them carefully to prevent damage.

15
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Last but not least…

Emergency Food Supply Buckets

Looking to stock up for an emergency?

Many preparedness companies sell handy sealed buckets of preserved meals, with shelf lives spanning 5, 10, and even up to 30 years.

You’ll get an assortment of individually packed meals in a handy bucket–perfect for stashing in the garage or basement.

6. Wise Food Storage 60 Entree Bucket

Wise Food Bucket Packaging-wm
Wise Food Bucket and meals

One of the bigger names in emergency preparedness foods, Wise Food Storage makes a pretty big array of shelf-stable meals and ingredients. You can find bulk cans, individually packed entrees, and a variety of emergency food buckets, which are good for 25 years.

We liberated one of my buckets from the corner of my garage for this experiment, and I’m sad to report that this bucket will definitely have to wait for the next big California earthquake before I touch it again.

Wise Food Prep-wm
Adding boiling water to our WIse Food pasta dish.

Neither of our tasters was a fan of the Creamy Pasta and Vegetable Rotini dish that Eric chose from the bucket. It might have been made with a little too much water, since it was soupy, and it probably could have used a little more time to rehydrate before we got to it.

Still-dehydrated peas aside, the flavor was bland. The texture was passable, but, as mentioned, some of the dehydrated ingredients weren’t fully softened.

Wise Food Pasta Closeup-wm
Wise Food Creamy Pasta and Vegetable Rotini

One packet contains four servings, at 200 calories per serving. This dish is pretty carb- and sodium-heavy, though, so if you’re aiming for a nutritious apocalypse dinner, this probably isn’t it. 

It will feed you though, and in the end, that’s all that counts.

81
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

7. Augason Farms 30-Day Emergency Food Supply

Augason Farm Food Bucket Packaging-wm
Augason Farms Emergency Food Bucket

A similar concept to Wise Food Storage buckets, the Augason Farms Emergency Food Supply buckets pack a bunch of freeze-dried entrees into a bucket and, seal the whole thing up.

It’s good for 20 years, which is a pretty dang long time.

Eric picked out the Creamy Potato Soup for our blind taste test.

Again, it was on the bland, vaguely cheesy side of things, but pretty basic. I’m pretty sure it would be a great ingredient for some apocalypse haute cuisine, but we weren’t a fan of the soup on its own.

Augason Farms Closeup-wm
Augason Farms Creamy Potato Soup simmering away.

These meals apparently were a pain to access, and required our dedicated team of chefs to open multiple packages to access the soup pack. 

Unlike most of the other foods on our list, that didn’t require more cooking than heating water to boiling, the potato soup needed to be simmered on low for 10-15 minutes before serving. It’s a little more labor-intensive, and the flavor wasn’t exactly a payoff.

100
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

The creamy potato soup comes in 8-serving packets, at 220 calories per serving. Augason Farms designs their 30-day kits to supply about 1,800 calories a day for one person, so be sure you have an appropriate amount of food for your household.

Parting Thoughts

So, why do you need to know all this? Well, choosing food for your next adventure, your bug-out bag, or emergency supplies means that you need to know what’s out there–and how it tastes.

We covered a lot of different kinds of foods in our testing, which all shine for different purposes. For those looking to carry lightweight meals on their next backpacking trek, we like Mountain House meals

For short-term survival, try the S.O.S. Emergency Ration Bars. If you’re stocking your home up with long-term food solutions, both Wise Food Storage and Augason Farms have you covered.

And finally, for you adventurous eaters, why not give Russian MREs a try? You won’t regret it… probably.

That’s it for us! We’re going to go nap off this food coma, but let us know about your favorite food for survival and camping below. Don’t forget to stock up on the best essential SHTF gear, too!

11 Leave a Reply

  • Rick

    really enjoyed the article. Dont think I would try the Russian but have lived off MRE's quite a bit during my military time and they have definitely improved over the years. I know this wasnt a military article but I have tried French, German and Dutch MRE's and they as a whole are better than US. Not sure how one would acquire them outside a war zone and could never get the special ops guys to trade for one of theirs which I hear are really quite good but think I will try some of the suggestions

    1 second ago
  • Michael Reynolds

    I have both Wise and Mountain House. Have never eaten either. I heard that Mountain House tasted better but got a good deal on the wise so got a couple of buckets. Also have some Patriot freeze-dried packs I got online super cheap. They have a lot of fruits and veggies. Also, coffee. Gotta have that.

    11 hours ago
  • Clifford Bloom

    this stuff has really improved over the years and our go-to favorites for long back country trips is Mountain House. None of them are bad, even the ice cream sandwich is good if you haven't eaten in 12 hours, but our favorites are anything Mexican, Italian or spicy Oriental. We always bring soy packets, dried hot pepper, garlic, etc. to add. Have to try Chef 5 minute based on what Paul wrote.

    22 hours ago
  • Paul Biz

    I have used “Chef 5 minute meals” food packs for the last several years. Great meal assortment and easy to heat up with its own heat generated system included in each pack. Used them several times hunting as well! Purchased many assorted meal packs for our employees to use during natural disasters.

    1 day ago
  • Pogo

    What about peanut butter??? Coconut S.O.S. bars and Jiff are pretty good. Ramen noodles are cheap and tasty. Do some research about plumpy nut,,,,,cheap, nutritious and actually tasty.

    1 day ago
  • Mark

    Nice reviews folks, you're making me want to eat all of my food blindfolded now. I've got a couple of MREs in my get-home bag at work (spicy dog food flavor ftw!), thinking that if I need to overnight on my trek home, a warm meal will be nice. But at home it's mountain house #10 cans all the way. Yes, they're more expensive than the Augason and Wise Food offerings, but they are so much better tasting. The Augason and Wise Food samples I've tried left a lot to be desired, both taste and texture-wise, so if I'm going to have to rely on my emergency food someday, I might as well get a food that I like.

    2 days ago
    • David, PPT Editor

      Glad you liked it! Good looking out having a get-home bag too, we got an article about that coming soon ;)

      2 days ago
  • Elizabeth Berry

    The is so much for the taste-testing! You saved me money and time!

    2 days ago
    • David, PPT Editor

      Glad the article helped!

      2 days ago
  • John Taylor

    Thanks for the overview and taste testing of these different kinds of rations. Super job! Personally, I've tried most of them and ,when it comes to survival, any high calorie food is great. However, Mountain House entrees are supposedly for two servings but, if consumed by one person, has 600-750 calories per package. They are, definitely, among the tastiest freeze-dried products.

    2 days ago
  • Robert Mccallum

    Thank for taking the time to try these survival foods.. I have several varieties in the basement. I hope I never have to crack them open.. I just look at it like insurance.. I have it on my car and home and have never used it, but will be happy I have it if something happens... I prefer the freeze dried for the 25 yr shelf life and not as sensitive to heat as MRE”s..I ate MREs through 2 combat tours as an Infantryman and didn’t hate them, but they are pretty heat sensitive 5 yrs or so if kept at 50-60 degrees.. 1-2 yrs at 90.. .. thanks again, Robert

    3 days ago
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