Survival Food Bars – Do They Have a Place in Your Kit?


Survival food bars are tempting for a lot of people. They’re lightweight, contain a lot of calories and aren’t really expensive, but which ones are worth buying?

It can be difficult to decide which emergency food ration bar to choose. We’ll give you an overview of what to look for, answer some questions and share our reviews of three of our favorites.

Ration Bars

Survival food bars go by many names. You’ve probably heard them called ration bars, emergency survival bars, emergency ration bars, and even lifeboat rations. Most of the time people are talking about the same thing when they mention any of these names.

Survival food bars have been around for a long time. Pemmican and hardtack are probably the original ration bars, but there have been tons of different survival bars since then.

Militaries and other people that work in austere conditions all over the world have always relied on ration bars. These were normally just some kind of dried, high-calorie food that wouldn’t spoil quite as fast as other foods they had access to.

Today, ration bars are different. Modern preservatives and packaging techniques have made ration bars last longer and taste better. They don’t taste amazing by any means, but they’re certainly better than they have been in the past!

Lifeboat Survival Food

What Are the Benefits of Survival Food Bars?

These bars have a lot going for them. When you’re looking for survival food, the taste really isn’t the most important thing.

Shelf-life – One of the best things that you get with survival food bars is the shelf life. They all have a shelf-life around 5 years and can probably go for longer if you needed them to.

Temperature – Most survival foods need to be kept at room temperature for them to last the full shelf-life from the manufacturer. This means if you want to keep them in your car, a boat, shed or another place that’s not climate controlled you have to either guess if they’re going to be okay or find another option.

This is where survival food bars come in. They’re good from -40 degrees Fahrenheit to 300 degrees Fahrenheit making them the perfect fit for nearly any location that you would want to store a survival kit.

This temperature range is what really gives survival food bars a leg up on other types of long-shelf-life foods.

No Water Needed – Survival food bars are specifically designed to not need to be eaten with water. This means that you can just open the package, pull them out and start eating. There’s no cooking or soaking in water needed.

They’re also supposed to be non-thirst inducing so when you don’t have access to water your food isn’t making you more thirsty than you already are.

Packaging – Modern survival food bars are vacuum-sealed in mylar packaging to prevent air from getting inside the packaging. It also prevents sunlight from getting to the bars inside. These two things extend the life of the food bars more than anything else.

Each company uses slightly different packaging. Some just have one solid bar inside that’s scored and uses a resealable outer package. Others separate the bars into individual servings and wrap each one individually.

I personally prefer the ones that are wrapped separately. This keeps moisture from getting to the other bars once you open the outer packaging. You also don’t have to break the bars apart which just makes them a little easier to work with.

S.O.S. Rations

Best Uses for Survival Food Bars

Survival food bars have a lot of great uses.

The best place to put them is going to be in is an area that has extreme temperatures and they’re not likely to be needed. To me, this is in kits like a get home bag or in a car or truck emergency bag. Both of these kits are going to spend a lot of time in your vehicle.

Another good place to put them is in any area where you need food but space is at a premium. A lightweight bug out bag for example.

This style of food is really only a goto for me in kits that are going to be in extreme temperatures, and need the long shelf-life that they provide. If you don’t need these two things there are better types of food available to you.

What Are Emergency Food Bars Made of?

Emergency food bars are made of a wide range of things but many of them have similar ingredients like vegetable shortening and some kind of artificial flavoring to give then a slightly more appealing taste.

If you have certain food allergies, you may be in luck. There are many manufacturers that are using recipes that are free of gluten, nuts, and other common foods that people are allergic to. Just make sure you look over the ingredients before you make your purchase.

Datrex Emergency Ration Bars

Ingredients of Some Popular Emergency Food Bars

ER Bar – Ingredients: Enriched Flour, Vegetable Shortening, Sugar, Corn Syrup, Soy Flour, Corn Starch, Potassium Sorbate, Vitamins (Vitamin A, Iron, Vitamin E, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Copper, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Thiamin, Niacin, Folate, Biotin, Iodine, Zinc), Artificial Lemon Flavoring, Artificial Vanilla Flavoring, Artificial Butter Flavoring, Artificial Coloring (Egg Shade).

Datrex Emergency Rations – Ingredients: Wheat flour, vegetable shortening, cane sugar, water, and coconut flavor (Peanut Products Free and Non-GMO).

S.O.S. Emergency Food Rations – Ingredients: Sugar, Enriched Wheat Flour, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Shortening (Soybean & Cottonseed Oils), Corn Starch, Wheat Gluten, Dextrose, Desiccated Coconut Preserved with Sodium Metabisulfite, Corn Syrup, Contains less than 2% of the following: Soy Lecithin, Guar Gum, Calcium Propionate Preservative, Citric Acid, Salt, Ascorbic Acid, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Niacin, Vitamin A, Palmitate, Riboflavin, Thiamine Mononitrate.

Related Questions

What is the shelf life of protein bars? The shelf life of protein bars depends on the protein bar. Check with the manufacturer or read the packaging to see exactly when your particular protein bar expires.

Is it okay to eat an expired protein bar? Most foods have an expiration date this is very conservative. This is to make sure that the flavor and texture still reflect the product that the company is producing but it also makes sure that the food is safe to eat. You can usually eat a protein bar if it’s less than 30% over its expiration.

Emergency Food Bar Reviews

We’ve reviewed several types of emergency food bars in the past. You can see a quick overview of them below.

The ER Bar was our lowest rated emergency food bar. It wasn’t bad, but it just didn’t hold up when compared to the other contenders. The main thing holding it back was the fact that it came as one giant bar that you have to break into its serving size.

You can see the full ER Bar review here.

Datrex Emergency Rations

Datrex 3600 emergency rations


  • Mild flavor that resembles gram-crackers.
  • Individually packaged bars.


  • Shelf-life is measured from date of manufacture which can make the actual shelf life vary depending on your order.
  • The bars are dry and crumbly.

Datrex Emergency Rations were close to getting the best score in our reviews. If you happen to be looking for emergency foods that have limited ingredients, these rations have way less things added to them than a lot of other emergency ration bars.

You can read our full Datrex Emergency Rations here.

S.O.S. Emergency Food Rations

S.O.S. Emergency Food Rations


  • Comes in two flavors.
  • Solid packaging keeps the ration bars dry and intact.
  • Compact size allows them to fit into nearly any survival kit.


  • Crumbles easily.
  • Not for long term survival.

S.O.S. Emergency Food Rations took the lead in our reviews. This is mostly because of how each serving is packaged separately so you can open the bag and keep moisture from reaching the other servings.

Read our entire review of the S.O.S. Emergency Food Rations here.

Survival Food Bars


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