When planning your 72 Hour Bag you must plan on keeping 72 hours worth of food in your kit. Well how much food is 72 hours worth of food? The answer can vary depending on the individual. I can tell you what I calculate for myself. I am a 6′ tall 175 pound man who is pretty active with running and training. On a daily basis I consume approximately 2,000 calories and am able to maintain my weight. During backpacking I try to take as much food as I can carry and sometimes exceed 3,000 calories per day depending on the terrain. In LA County you are pretty much guaranteed you won’t have rugged terrain to cross while trying to get home with your 72 Hour Bag on your back but you will be in a stressful situation and you will be burning calories walking the 30-60 miles to get you home. Finding the balance between weight, calories and practicality is an important equation. I have chosen to keep as close to 2,000 calories per day as I can. One thing to consider is it may be beneficial to have more food than less, it may be advantageous to share what you have and having more than you need will give you this luxury. This gives you several options.
First are the easiest and most readily available to you. They are power bars and candy bars. Believe it or not these are a great addition to your backpack and 72 Hour Bag. People always think they have to eat granola while climbing or backpacking because they’re in nature and should be all Earthy crunchy. Well the fact is that your body is going to be consuming so many calories so quickly it doesn’t matter what you eat as long as you do eat. Bringing me to the second reason why you’d want to have a candy bar in your bag. When under high stress conditions or working at altitude during a climb your appetite gets suppressed precisely when it shouldn’t. Most of the time we have dehydrated food and after a few days or weeks eating this stuff you need something, anything to put in your body and it will not matter what it is, just eat and having something that tastes good like candy is perfect. This is why on a daily basis at my house I do not eat this stuff, but when I pack a backpack I always pack candy bars like Snickers and power bars such as Balance Bars.
The downside of candy bars and power bars is their extremely limited shelf life. You can not pack these guys away in the trunk of your car and expect them to survive through August & September here in LA. Rotate them often if you choose to go this route.
The next tier are emergency foods in tight little packages that you can eat on the go: Datrex and Mainstay. They come in a couple of different sizes, 1,000, 2,400, 3,600 calorie packs. I have found that the 2,400 packs work best for their weight to calorie ratio. The mainstay have six foil wrapped packages in each resealable container made of 400 calorie biscuits that taste a little like a shortbread cookie. It’s recommended you consume only 3 per day giving you 1,200 calories you can consume while walking. The Datrex 2,400 calorie pack has twelve 200 calorie bars in it. Both these brands have an excellent shelf life. They’re specifically designed to be thrown in an emergency kit and left there for five years or so. As with all long life products the cooler you keep them the longer they’ll last but these are pretty rock solid. The most important thing about these bars is that they are NON thirst provoking. They are Coast Guard approved which means when shipwrecked and you don’t have much water, you can eat these and not make your feeling of thirst worse. Translation? When an earthquake hits in an area like LA and water is scarce these are a good item to have. Pretty sure these are both MADE IN THE USA.
Next comes Dehydrated foods you would typically take with you while backpacking there are two brands I like and recommend. Mountain House Beef Stroganoff and Backpacker’s Pantry Pad Thai Noodles
I like Mountain House for my 72 Hour Bag because they have a Pro Pack series where they’ve sucked out any excess air and they are very compact. Having said that, the Backpackers Pantry are the best dehydrated backpacking meals I have ever eaten, the Pad Thai is amazing. In addition each Backpackers Pantry meal packs more calories than the latter. These meals have a fair shelf life of about three years but will also degrade when left in a hot car so you have to rotate them as well. I always write the calories and the date purchase or manufacture on the outside of the package in sharpie. One tip: If you won’t have time to heat water for your lunch add cold water to the package and hang it on the back of your pack and let the sun heat it. It’ll take about 4 hours to make it edible but if you add the water in the morning, it’ll be ready for you at lunch.
Another good meal that is very light weight are Ramen Noodles. I classify Ramen Noodles like Twinkies, they don’t really have an expiration date (they do… but not really). The other benefit is that it is so easy to make. Just break the brick in half and put it in the cup you’re going to boil water in. By the time it comes to a boil you’re good to go. Being able to drink some hot soup as the sun is setting and it’s getting colder works magic on your morale. The DRAWBACK is these are EXTREMELY high in sodium so you need a lot of water to prevent dehydration. If you have plenty of water to drink then these might work fine. If you don’t have plenty of water keep these tucked away in your pack and save them. All in all these are so light weight they’re worth throwing a couple packages in your bag.
A type of meal many people will talk about when it comes to survival is the MRE (Meal Ready to Eat). They are the updated version of the C Ration used in WWII and the K Ration used in the Viet Nam conflict. After MUCH research I feel the MRE’s made by A PACK
are the best. This is for a variety of reasons which could be an entire post in and of itself. Each meal has an entree with a self heating unit, a side dish, a a beverage mix, condiment, utensil, and towelette. These meals pack upwards of 1,200 calories per meal packing the biggest bang per meal and are easy to prepare. You need to buy these from A PACK by the case, 12 MREs come in a case and a case goes for about $70 plus shipping. Another upside is you don’t need to have a stove to heat these meals, they’re self heating and this brand is the ONLY brand I’ve found who can legally sell you MREs with heaters. LONG STORY…
These have a shelf life of about 5 years and will degrade faster in heat, so rotate accordingly. They have a shelf life chart
on their site. I have heard of people eating MREs 10 years after their expiration date so there’s that… MADE IN THE USA.
There are also a new ration called a First Strike Ration, I have not tried these but they were designed to support the troops nutrition during an assault or mission. They don’t have much more than power bars and some high calorie foods that don’t need to be heated and can be eaten on the move. These are not available for public purchase but could become available at some point. If you have a hook up in the military you might be able to get your hands on these.
Long Term Storage Food
A good addition to your 72 Hour Bag, or your earthquake kit at home is a product by Wise Foods 60 Servings Wise Emergency Food Kit
. These are the next step in the evolution of being a prepper. Because these foods are nitrogen packed, they have a 25 year shelf life. Yup, 25 YEARS. They have a ton of options and variety of entrees, just add hot water and go. On their site they have a great calculator
to figure out how much food you need for your family in an emergency situation. These are MADE IN THE USA and are really good.