What is the Best Bug Out Bag Food For You?

Before we get into “What is the Best Bug Out Bag Food for You” I want to set the stage for this article with a really quick history lesson.

It applies. I promise. 🙂

Napoleon Bonaparte is often credited with saying “An army marches on its stomach.”

While the provenance, or origin of the saying is debatable, it’s an accurate observation. Your ability to fight and function properly in high stress situations depends a lot on what you have in “the tank” at the time.

In fact, Napoleon is directly responsible for the cans of Dinty Moore and Chef Boyardee sitting in your cupboards today. Back in the late 1700s, the great commander was looking for a way to feed his massive army as they campaigned around the world.

Determined, he offered a reward of 12,000 francs to the person who could solve the problem of preserving large amounts of food.

Nicholas Appert, a French brewer and confectioner (fancy word for a candy man), came up with an idea of sealing food in glass containers, first using champagne bottles but then moving to jars. He was indeed awarded the payout for his efforts. Within a few years, he began experimenting with soldered tin cans and soon others across France and beyond were engaged in the business of canning food.

Interestingly, it took another 30 or so years before someone would invent a can opener! Until then, cans were opened using bayonets or other implements.

By L’Histoire par l’image [1], digital version produced by Agence photographique de la Réunion des musées nationaux [2], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=254720


Pretty neat, huh? I challenge you to look at a can of anything in the same way from this day forward…

Ok so back to it — you’re wanting to know more about the best bug out bag food now that you’ve chosen the best bug out bag for you

Like the late great conqueror Napoleon recognized, food is fuel. (See how it ties together?)

And similar to choosing what to fill up your vehicle with at the pump… when choosing the best food for your bug out bag, it mainly boils down to two factors –

  1. Type – The type of fuel you require to operate at peak performance and
  2. Quantity – How much will you need to get to your destination.


How Much Food Should I Pack in My Bug Out Bag?

Unless you have a bug out vehicle and your evacuation plans go swimmingly, attempting to pack enough food for three square meals a day for the duration of your bug out isn’t realistic in the slightest.

As we always say when devising bug out plans – while you will hopefully be able to use a vehicle for the entire journey, plan for the worst and figure you’ll end up on foot along the way.

For example, what many have found works well when hiking and camping is to eat a decent breakfast, snack throughout the day, and have a filling dinner at the end of the day’s travel. This allows you to stay fueled up and on the move toward your final destination without needing to stop for extended periods of time.


If your planned bug out will take 3 days of travel on foot, that’s 6 meals plus snacks for each person.

I recommend always adding enough food for one more day than you plan, just in case.

So, for our example here, that brings the total to 8 meals (plus snacks).

Keep in mind you’ll want to do a little math and make sure you are planning ahead for enough calories per day as well. An average adult male body requires anywhere from 2000 to 2400 calories per day to function normally.


Of course, there is always the possibility of finding food along the way. Trapping, hunting, fishing, gathering wild edibles, all are great ways to supplement your packed food. In fact while I’m on this topic, here’s is a fantastic supplemental hunting and fishing survival kit for your bug out bag.

hunting fishing survival kit

A hunting and fishing kit such as this one from Stanford Outdoor Supply is a great addition to the food you pack in your bug out bag. Click the image for more details.

The key word there, though, is supplemental.  

There are little to no easily guaranteed methods of food acquisition, especially if you’re on the move. A far better plan is to have enough food with you to last the trip and use any food you source along the way as a means of extending your supply.


What Kind of Food Should I Pack in My Bug Out Bag?

The dilemma here is you want to make sure you have enough food but if you’re carrying everything on your back, you want to also limit the weight of your bug out bag as much as possible.  

Sort of a Catch-22, right?

Well, that’s where food selection comes into play…


Dehydrated and freeze-dried foods, such as those offered by Mountain House and Wise Grab and Go Food Kits, are good options to consider. They are lightweight, filling, and calorie dense. Many like the taste of them, too.

Best Bug Out Bag Food_Mountain House

However, I strongly advise you to purchase a couple of individual pouches and try them at home before investing a lot of money into buying cases of them. Some people have bad reactions to these types of food, such as intestinal distress of one kind or another. Far better to learn that now in the comfort of your own home than when on the trail!

It’s important to emphasize here that the food you pack might not taste like it came from a Michelin Star restaurant, but it also doesn’t have to have the gastronomic appeal of cardboard, either. 

What I usually recommend is to take a good look at your cupboards and pantry at home. Most of us regularly eat food that is actually well-suited for the bug out bag.

Start with instant oatmeal. Just a little hot water and you’re ready to go. It is healthy and filling, plus packs very light. They come in a ton of different varieties and are relatively cheap to boot.

Dry Pastas

Dry pasta weighs almost nothing and only requires boiling water. Sure, it’ll be kind of bland but adding just a little salt will do wonders. Ramen might be seen as a food group only when you’re in college but it does have a place in many BOBs, too.

Dehydrated Foods

Any of the “just add water” sorts of foods will work well in the BOB. Just bear in mind that every cup of water you have to add to your food is one less cup of water you’ll have available for drinking. That’s why packing a good water filter, such as a Katadyn Hiker or a Sawyer Mini, is important.


Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is packed with protein and other things that will keep you moving. A jar is a bit big and heavy for the BOB so opt for the single serve pouches.

Meat Pouches

There are various meats that you can buy in pouches, including tuna, chicken and even the prepper staple, Spam.  These are great for the bug out bag as they add variety to the diet. If you somehow grew up never trying Spam, give it a shot before you turn up your nose. Also, if you’ve ever tried to do strenuous activity such as exercising and “bonked” due to not having enough protein, you’ll know how important this can be in a bug out scenario.



Rice is a great BOB option, too.  It is another just add water option and is a great filler for meals.  Add some pouched chicken and you’re good to go.

Dried Fruits and Nuts

Dried fruits and nuts are excellent options for snacking.  So are granola and protein bars. Keep in mind, though, that high temperatures will shorten the shelf life of these sorts of things.  If your go bag will be stored in your vehicle trunk, plan on rotating out that food rather often to ensure it is fresh when you need it.

Caffeine & Sugar

Don’t overlook things like instant coffee, tea bags, drink mixes, and the like. You might find the caffeine and sugar boost helpful. If nothing else, those who aren’t used to drinking plain water all day long will appreciate the change.

Emergency Food Rations

Emergency food rations such as Datrex Emergency Food Bars can be a good supplement to any food you plan to pack in your bug out bag. These bars aren’t intended to be gourmet meals by any means, but they can provide a great source of calories when needed and have several other nutrients to keep you going when it really counts.

Best Bug Out Bag Food_Datrex Emergency Bars


Will I Need to Cook When Bugging Out?

The goal of “bugging out” is to get from Point A to Point B as quickly and efficiently as possible. That being the case, you probably won’t be spending a lot of time preparing elaborate meals on the trail. At best, plan for heating water to rehydrate any freeze-dried food you packed. Boiling water is also one of the best ways for making it safe to drink.

A small portable stove like the Esbit Ultralight Folding Pocket Stove pictured to the right, and a small cookset will make things easier all around when it comes to bug out cooking on the go.  

Best Bug Out Bag Food Stove

So, Now It’s Your Turn… What Do You Think?

Much like the other gear in your bug out bag, the best bug out bag food can be highly individualized based on your conditioning, individual tastes, dietary restrictions, etc.

It’s important to try out the food you plan to store in your bug out bag. Make sure you like it and it also gives you sufficient calories and nutrients to maintain your energy levels and keep hunger as the least of your concerns.

Also, as a reminder be sure to regularly rotate out the food you pack to keep it fresh and within its expiration date. One rule of thumb to follow is to rotate out your food stores when you rotate out your seasonal clothing, so every 6 months or so at a maximum.

Well, all this talk about food has my stomach growling, so I’m off to the kitchen!

If you enjoyed this article and want more like it, let us know by sharing, liking, and commenting on this post. Have questions you need answered or have an idea of what we should cover next? Let us know in the comments below!

Need to get started but don’t know where to begin? Check out our really popular (and FREE!) bug out bag PDF checklist here.

About the Author

We are pleased and excited to welcome the highly esteemed Jim Cobb to Bug Out Bag Academy ranks. Jim is the owner and lead trainer for DisasterPrepConsultants.com. His seasoned experience and witty, well articulated articles on preparedness have been published in national magazines such as OFFGRID, American Survival Guide, Survivor’s Edge, and Boy’s Life. You can find him online at SurvivalWeekly.com.

His growing stack of accomplished books on emergency preparedness include Prepper’s Home Defense, Prepper’s Financial Guide, and Prepper’s Long-Term Survival Guide, among others. Jim lives in the Upper Midwest with his beautiful wife and their three adolescent weapons of mass destruction.

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  • Sandra says:

    Why rice is so widely recommended if you can replace it with grains containing protein and fats besides only sugar (buckwheat, lentils, quinoa, millet etc.)?

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  • Charles says:

    This is really quality info. I’ve seen a lot of info online that just isn’t that practical. Thanks. This will help.

    • Andrew says:

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, Charles! Glad to hear it was helpful to you.

  • Jerry says:

    Pemmican is a simple food that can last for years! It would top all of the foods that vendors try to peddle. Pemmican is high in protein has been proven source of excellent nutrition for the last 300 years!

  • Kathy says:

    Do you realize how hard it is to read with the text moving up ond down due to the flashing pic of Napoleon?

    • Andrew says:

      Hi Kathy. I would try refreshing your browser and see if that helps. Napoleon should NOT be flashing anyone!

      • Kathy says:

        Thanks, it is now fixed. Excellent article! One thing I can also suggest is sealed straws of honey. Easy to eat while walking, never goes bad. You can also use it to sweeten beverages. Some swear by it for first aid uses, too.

        • Andrew says:

          Great tip, Kathy! And glad to hear Napoleon is no longer flashing anyone! 😀