Eat to Live: The 12 Best Survival Foods

There are a number of different things you should have on you in any given survival situation. For instance, a good bug-out bag or a complement of outdoor gear can do you very well. Similarly, it’s a good idea to have a set of survival skills you can rely upon. But, there are even more basic things than that which no human can do without for too long. We’re talking, of course, about sustenance. Humans can survive for literal years without modern technology, luxuries, or even what’s considered to be “normal” clothing and shelter. Without food, however, you’ll last for weeks at best and even less than that in extreme circumstances.

But not everything you can find at your local grocery store, bulk-food emporium, or corner market is actually going to keep well and offer the right nutrients in a survival situation. Rather, there are a few long-lasting staples you should have with you if you’re preparing for the worst. Whether you’re headed out on the trails, building out your apocalypse shelter, or you just want to have a go-to stash in your pantry, these are the best survival foods you can buy.


From Basecamp to the Peak

Nobody wants to think that a hiking or camping trip might end up spelling disaster, but we’ve all heard the stories. Even if you’re just going out for a day hike, it’s a good idea to prepare for the worst. After all, if you should get trapped or lost in the woods, being hungry is only going to make things worse. Even if you’re just going out for a day hike, it’s a good idea to prepare for the worst.And, sure, you might be able to trap, forage, or hunt for food – but that should be a last resort, not a go-to first line of defense. That being said, it doesn’t make much sense to haul around a kitchen full of ingredients and cookware in your hiking backpack. So, don’t. Instead, grab any of the following pre-prepared outdoor friendly foods and you’ll be well on your way to preparing for a survival situation.

People’s Choice Beef Jerky

Due to its high protein content and extremely low weight (a byproduct of the dehydration process), beef jerky – or really any type of animal jerky – is one of the best value propositions when it comes to hiking friendly foods. It also takes up very little room, is relatively inexpensive, and can actually be made quite easily in your own kitchen. But, if you’re not interested in learning how to make jerky yourself, you can always opt for one of the delicious pre-prepared varieties out there, like the ones that the People’s Choice brand makes. Available in a number of different styles and flavor profiles, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Purchase: $6+

MusclePharm Combat Crunch Protein Bar

Because of their intended use as a supplemental foodstuff for athletes and bodybuilders, protein bars are another superb emergency survival food for the worst of situations. Though heavier than jerky, these bars are packed with the kind of stuff you need to keep yourself fueled up for high-energy activities and, by proxy, will keep your belly from rumbling if you’re caught up in unfortunate circumstances. They also generally have a very long shelf life, can be purchased as either single bars or in bulk, and (nowadays) don’t taste half bad. Generally, when it comes to buying protein bars for outdoor activities, we say pick the ones with the highest protein content and – if at all possible – avoid too much sugar, because a crash will only make your survival situation worse.

Purchase: $21+

Simply Protein Bar

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the dangers of eating animal-based foods. And that doesn’t just mean meat; it means dairy too. Unfortunately, the vast majority of protein bars and powders are still animal-based. That doesn’t mean, if you have a plant-based diet, that you’re completely out of luck, however. These Simply Protein Bars are completely vegan, gluten-free, have a high fiber content (which is good for digestion), and offer 15 grams of protein per 150 calorie bar. And, similarly to animal-based protein bars, these have a long shelf life, are easy to store, and can be purchased both individually and in bulk.

Purchase: $23+

Mountain House Vacuum-Sealed Meals

Vacuum-sealed pre-prepared meals are excellent to take with you if your travels take you to varying elevations, as the packaging will not expand the higher you get. That means, you can carry them with you from the bottom of the mountain up to base camp and even higher and they will open without popping and spilling everything everywhere. They also have the benefit of being made from real food – so they generally taste better than any food bar you might find. Their downside, however, is that they do require a bit more work than just opening and eating them. They need to have water added to them and they need to be heated. Luckily, if you’re going to be traveling anywhere cold, you’re likely already going to have either fire starting tools, a lighter, or some other kind of heat source and – since it’s necessary for survival – you’ll definitely have water, too.

Purchase: $7+

S.O.S. Rations Emergency Food Bar

Emergency rations are, for most people, the least enjoyable emergency food flavor-wise. That being said, they are the absolute best last line of defense for how densely packed they are with nutrients. In fact, if there’s even a fleeting chance that your off-the-beaten-path adventure will put you in danger of getting lost or stranded, you might want to consider bringing some of these along – as they can offer you 3 days worth of balanced sustenance (or more if you ration it and don’t expel too much energy) that could be the difference between success and complete disaster. You just have to ask yourself what’s more important: adding another pound and a half to your pack or going hungry.

Purchase: $10

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

It doesn’t matter how much food you have on you if you don’t have water. A human can live literal weeks without eating, but only a matter of days (at best) without H2O. But carrying it around is costly both in space and energy. The LifeStraw personal water filter is an excellent contingency plan and compromise, in that it weighs very little, but can turn any water source into a drinkable option – thanks to its filter tech that cleans 99.9999% of bacteria and protozoa out of up to 1,000 liters of water. ($15)

MREs & Rations

For Your Apocalypse Shelter

Common amongst members of the military and outdoor survivalists, MREs (or Meals, Ready-To-Eat) and emergency food rations are an excellent way to make sure that your body is getting enough calories and at least a measure of balanced nutrients even if you are far from civilization, trapped in an enclosed space, or you don’t have any means by which to cook anything. Emergency food rations are an excellent way to make sure that your body is getting enough calories.Sure, they’re not going to be the tastiest thing in the world – in fact, calling some of them edible is almost a stretch – but they’re certainly better than starving. Their biggest benefit – outside of their compactness and caloric value – is that they need not be refrigerated. That being said, extreme heat can cause them to go bad, so if you are somewhere that there’s a lot of sunshine, you might want to consider putting them in the shade or even burying them in an underground cache for later consumption.

Grizzly Gear Emergency Food Rations

Though we suggest taking them with you on any questionable adventures, emergency food rations are also an excellent thing to keep in your private bomb, apocalypse, storm, or whatever else you call your secure shelter or bunker. And it’s for the same reasons: they’re high in balanced nutrient content, have a very long shelf life, and take up a relatively small amount of space compared to what they offer. These ones are also made in the USA and can survive in extreme temperatures (from -22 to 149 degrees Fahrenheit) without spoiling, giving them an even better edge against some other options.

Purchase: $13

U.S. Military Surplus MREs

It’s safe to assume that if something is good enough for our armed forces, it’s probably good enough for the rest of us. These U.S. military MREs, while not the most delicious meals in the world, are still better than the alternatives and even offer some good variety in regards to flavor profiles while remaining a good source of the kinds of nutrition needed to survive for the long-haul. They also offer about 1,250 calories per meal, come with a surprisingly wide array of foodstuffs in each packet (including a main dish, sides and snacks, and even deserts), and are completely self contained – meaning you don’t need other equipment to prepare or eat them.

Purchase: $13

U.S. Military Surplus MREs 12-Pack

If you’re getting ready for a big long survival situation or you have a number of other people that might be surviving alongside you, it might be a good idea to purchase your MREs in bulk. Not only will it end up being cheaper in the long run (just like shopping at Costco), but the pre-packed boxes are a much easier storage option, as you can just stack them all in an organized fashion. These particular ones also come with a flameless heater in each packet for a hot meal no matter the circumstances, coffee or a beverage powder, gum, a wet wipe, and tissues – which is really everything you need to get the job done.

Purchase: $93


Pantry Essentials

There’s a pretty strong likelihood that, if a natural disaster were to occur, you’ll be at either your home or your place of work. And since most of us aren’t hardcore survivalists with ready-made bug-out bags and worst-case disaster contingency plans, you likely do not have a bomb shelter beneath your home or a hideaway stuffed to the gills with emergency gear. Still, You’d be foolish to think that nothing bad can or will ever happen in your place of’d be foolish to think that nothing bad can or will ever happen in your place of residence. Luckily, there are a number of different foodstuffs you can buy at your local grocery store that have a very long shelf life, are easily stored, and take very little – if any – preparation in order to make them safely edible. Just keep in mind that none of these food items on their own will allow you to sustain a long and healthy life; you need a combination of all of them in order to survive.

Dry Grains & Legumes: The combination of beans and rice is arguably the best overall pantry-friendly survival food in regards to caloric value, nutritional content, and price per volume. They store well (as most come in large, relatively flat plastic bags), they’re easy to prepare (just add water and heat – and perhaps spices or hot sauce, if you can spare it), and literal pounds of each can be bought sometimes for cents on the dollar. And that goes for just about all varieties, outside of boutique market price hikes on “specialty organic” varieties. Now, there’s a hotly debated question as to whether rice and beans make a “complete protein,” which you may have heard about. Though the jury is still out on its validity, we can tell you this: the unique combination does offer quite a bit in the way of nutrition – including vitamins and minerals – which will certainly sustain you in a more healthy way than, say, your local fast food chain burgers will.

Nuts: High in both fats (the good kind) and proteins, nuts have been a long-time staple of humanity as a species. That’s not going to change should an emergency occur. Pick up some packages of mixed nuts – trust us, you’ll want the variety – and they will go a long way toward keeping your belly full in the long run. Peanuts are certainly the most abundant and the cheapest on their own, but they’re also not the healthiest. But pecans, pistachios, hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, macadamias, brazil nuts, and walnuts all have their own unique balance of nutrients that can benefit your health and the health of those who are surviving alongside you. As a side note, for the best survival food option, you’ll want to make sure you get unsalted nuts. They’re not as tasty, but they also won’t give you hypertension and high blood pressure.

Pasta: What it lacks in nutritional value, pasta makes up for in sheer bang-for-your-buck belly-filling feasting. Pasta is very cheap, loaded with carbohydrates (which studies have shown to help support production of serotonin in your brain, promote better memory, and can actually be good for your heart), and is just as easy to prepare as grains and rice. The downside, however, is that carbs is pretty much all they have to offer. Sure, they’ll keep you full. But they aren’t going to be packed with vitamins and minerals. Still, some spaghetti here and there is definitely not a bad thing – especially if you don’t have other options.

Canned Goods: Although they are certainly more bulky, take up more space, and often require you to have a can opener with you, you can find more long-lasting nutrition-packed healthy foods in cans than you will ever be able to find dry. For instance, fruits, vegetables, and even high-protein/low-fat meats can be purchased in cans. If you are going to take the canned food route, however, beware of sodium content. Salt is an excellent means by which to preserve food (which humans have used for centuries to dry-store meats) and it is found in large quantities in many canned goods, but it can be very bad for your blood pressure in the long run.

Survival Skills Every Man Should Know

Simply keeping food on you is not going to guarantee your survival. Rather, along with being prepared food and gear-wise, you should bone up on these very valuable survival skills every man should know.