Food, it's what's for dinner! Breakfast and lunch as well but you catch my meaning. In a true "survival" situation the experts all agree that in most instances food should be considered a non-issue. The human body can subsist for three months by essentially eating itself in a process called Autophagy. Thank you Torkio.
*Toriko; a Japanese manga I like. Think Pokemon, but you eat them, yum!
While starvation may be the unfortunate norm for some, we're not all wondering ascetics and typically need three hots and a cot before we can sound the all clear. At the very least a cup of Joe and a scone for cripes sakes! Caloric and nutritional value aside, food is a very necessary piece of the puzzle we call normalcy. Food offers comfort, chemical gratification (Did you know that chocolate can release the same neural transmitters the brain produces during couits?) a social avenue for the exchange of ideas and airing of grievances and perhaps most importantly a time to be still. When all else around you comes crashing down sometimes the best idea is to have a good sit replenish and renew your reserves and figure out when to do next.
Here's where I wanted to discuss the pros and cons of various food options that you may choose to include in your ration pack by showing you mine and going over why I've chosen what I've chosen. I'll tell it to you straight; this is the portion of my kit in the greatest amount of flux. Point of fact, I've already changed it since having taken the pictures posted in my "disaster preparedness" article Take what you need and ditch the rest. Cheers.
Check out the full kit here:
Step 1: The Full Monty
When it comes to choosing what food to pack away for an appliclation trail adventure or the zombie apocalypse you've got a few things to consider; weight, packaging, caloric & nutritional value, prep/cooking time. It can be a bit overwhelming...
The USDA, FDA , Captain Planet; someone somewhere decided that 2000cal was the magic number, whether that's true or not is up to you. Personally I work in a fairly active job and as such I'm pretty dissatisfied with anything short of 3-4000cal. The concept of roughing it without, not my idea of a good time. Oh and before we begin Clif bars and 5hr energy aren't on the menu.
There are several different categories of pack-able food ranging from perishable to shoe leather and everything in between. Each holds merit in it's own right, though for the sake of this article we're going to forego discussing perishables (pretty much fresh anything) and movie right on to dry goods.
Step 2: Aww Nuts! Literally!
Dried or otherwise cured goods are a staple of hikers and campers everywhere. Nuts, dried fruits and jerky are those most commonly come upon in the packs and pantries of the modern outdoors man (or woman.)The great thing about these types of foodstuffs is that they're readily available and ready to eat. Both drying and curing are methods of preservation that have been used for centuries to keep Mankind from having to munch maggots in the dark.
The problem with both of the aforementioned is that though they allow for food to last longer neither is what you might call scientific. There are varying curing recipes and "cooking" temperatures and while greatly reduced, the moisture content can't be fully regulated. Moisture is one of the principal enemies of the long term food storage. These are trail foods: meant to be eaten on the run, let's hope you don't have to...
I don't have any trail foods in my kit per say, (Though I do have foods that can be eaten on the run, stay tuned) The problem is that I really don't have the cash or time to be making up batches of "gorp" every few months. Beyond that, nut allergies are amongst the most common of allergies. I designed this kit so that whomever I should be with or come across more then likely I can accommodate their needs. The last thing I want is to have someone go into anaphylaxis on my watch.
Step 3: Dehydration; It's a Good Thing. Sometimes...
Dehydration is practically the same as drying only under controlled circumstances. Dehydration allows you to take the moisture content of a food way down reducing weight and mitigating bacterial growth to a degree where you've gone from weeks to potentially years of shelf life. Some Dehydrated foods can be eaten as is without the need for reconstitution (in fact some are better that way.)
The dehydrated foods I've chosen require reconstitution. I've found with so called "survival" foods that flavor can take a back seat to function (i.e. getting you fed). I've chosen the most flavorful options I could find, chilis. Not only are these meals unto themselves, but you can stretch these with wild game if you should be so inclined. I also like that these meals are packaged in mylar thereby helping to reduce oxygen exposure, another enemy of long term food storage.
Whatever you should so choose make sure that it's something you're willing to eat. Feeling adventurous? Try some. If you'd eat it in a non-emergency in all likelihood it'll be a welcome comfort rather then a unfortunate reality should the time ever come to dig in.
Step 4: Prepackaged Protein. Say That 3 Times Fast.
In the modern era there's been little to contest the supremacy of sliced bread as mans greatest culinary achievement. But I'd say pasteurization and vacuumed sealing are pretty damn close. There are plenty of protein alternatives, but when it comes to protein intake, meat is where it's at (sorry vegans). Meat is gratifying and gives you a mouth feel that you just don't get from a mouthful of garbanzos.
There are a fair number of single serving options available for your munching pleasure from chicken to pink salmon and, if your daring enough there's always the mysterious Franken-meat; Spam. Here the options are vast and it really boils down to personal preference. I personally chose these StarKist tuna packets because it's a texture I'm familiar with and a respectable portion size. It doesn't hurt that these are pre seasoned either. Be mindful of expiration dates and just like with cans be leery of any expanded packaging. When in doubt, throw it out!
Step 5: What the $#%@ Is Pemmican???
History lesson: Back in the day, like way back in the day, people sought food sources that could more easily accommodate travel over long distances. Often in the early days of these United states people relied on hunting and trapping to earn their income. The difficulty? Logistics: you can hunt for meat, but your not guaranteed a kill. If you make a kill you have to stop hunting in order to preserve the meat otherwise you'll have to go hunting again, all the while your trap lines aren't checking themselves... a dilemma.
*Another interesting point of fact; you cannot live off of protein alone (after a while you'll get desperately ill) but carbohydrates (i.e. Potatoes) didn't always preserve well.
Enter pemmican; Pemmican in the traditional sense, is a mixture of dried meats mixed with fat, often with some form of dried berries mixed in for added flavor. Personally all that sounds rather vile.
Enter modern pemmican; the survival ration bar. These are basically an amalgamation of fats and carbohydrates with a nutrient boost to help keep you going and keep you healthy, relatively speaking of coarse. Not gonna lie here they taste kinda off putting and the texture is somewhere between Oreos and Vaseline. They may not be the prettiest girl (or boy or whatever) at the dance but at the end of the night..... Well, you catch my meaning.
These are packed full of calories and while I'm not too keen on the weight, the energy they provide and the minerals they're packing more then warrant their place in my pack. Expiration 5yrs.
Pro Tip: While these are designed to be "shelf stable" for the most part, these can expire. Pay special attention when purchasing, typicality these won't have expiration dates but rather dates of manufacture. You'll have to extrapolate from there as to the "expiration date." Also be sure to check the packaging for any holes or tears. The package should be tight against the product as these are usually vacuum sealed. If the packaging isn't tight there's a chance it may have been ruptured, put that one down and start again.
Step 6: "Freeze! in the Name of Food Preservation!"
Freeze dried foods are the end all, be all when it comes to long term food storage, not counting of course the imperishables ; honey, salt, sugar etc. But that's another matter. In the freeze drying process foodstuffs are frozen (duh) and them subjected to a vacuum where the ice crystals sublimate.
*Sublimation; the translation from solid to gas without becoming liquid*
Freeze dried foods are incredible in that they allow you to take foods into "the field" you wouldn't normally be able to due to their parish-ability (Think; eggs or ice cream. Yes, ice cream). The process of freeze drying reduces the moisture content of a foodstuff so dramatically that the shelf life graduates from years to decades. Is that over kill?
I mean, should things go south with this in your pack, headed out into the wilderness, those freeze dried foods surely aren't going to last a month let alone a decade. So why include them? Well, they're light for one and for all intensive purposes they last forever. Should you forget about rotating your rations for a few years you've got a back up should the other options you've packed prove unviable. Also if your trekking out there into the great unknown your going to be burning up calories like it's going out of style, devouring the heavier times in your ration pack first will allow you to lighten your load while still having a meal option that won't break you back.
The cons: Sodium: a lot of these meals are chock full of it, if you've got high blood pressure you might want to be especially leery of the salt content of these. Also the cost; these meals cost per calorie are the highest out of all the food options in this ration pack.
Step 7: Sugar Spice and Everything Nice...
The last bit in my ration pack while still critical in my eyes are the spices/flavorings. I've included a fair number of drink mixes, airborne, honey, salt, pepper etc... Not only are these great for moral but they can help to alleviate appetite fatigue, replenish your electrolytes and help keep you healthy! Can't argue with that.
Pro Tip; Honey; Honey absolutely belongs in your ration pack. The sugars in honey are more quickly absorbed by the body then common processed sugar meaning that should it prove necessary you can get a quick energy boost sooner rather then later. Honey is also anti microbial and can be used in a pinch to dress a wound. Last but not least it lasts forever!
I've recently added some tea to my rations, decaffeinated of course. I've realized that while palatable the drink mixes I've chosen don't really taste all that great lukewarm. I figured I'd add something that would taste good hot or warm. The tea I've chosen is "Bigelow" brand. I chose it because each tea bag is individually foil packaged meaning that they're libel to stay fresher longer and not impart their scent to the other contents of this kit.
Lastly my secret weapon; J-E-L-L-O. Well gelatin to be precise. This is an idea I came up one forum leaking one night and after doing some research decided to adopt. This stuff is packed with protein, flavorless and can be added to just about anything with out compromising it too much. This one box contains 32g of protein and 80cal!
I've packed away all the smaller items into a MRE hot beverage bag. The beverage bag is pretty much the only constituent of the MRE I 100% stand behind. It serves as an additional container and a measuring cup which gives me something besides my water bottle to precisely measure out water for my meals requiring reconstitution.
Pro tip: a cutting board and something to eat with make food prep and the eating thereof a bit more manageable.