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Living through a pandemic has changed the way a lot of us think about food, grocery shopping, and overall necessities. The “survival food” category, one that was likely dominated by outdoor enthusiasts and those serving our country, may be getting more attention from ordinary citizens now, as supply chain issues can cause growing concern over food security. We wanted to check out what survival food bars are out there, and how they stack up against each other. Whether you're headed on an outdoor adventure or simply want to be prepared in the case of an emergency, survival food bars are a great staple because they are full of vitamins, minerals, and protein.
Here, the best survival food bars.
Best Overall: Ultimate Survival Technologies 5-Year Emergency Food Ration Bar
This ready-to-eat bar has all the necessities: It’s high in calories (2,400 calories per packet), offers a long shelf life (5 years), and is “perfect for keeping in your backpack, survival kit, or shelter-in-place kit,” according to the manufacturer. These apple-cinnamon flavored bars come vacuum-sealed and are great to have on hand in your family’s emergency supplies. The bright orange and silver packaging is great for visibility, in the event of power loss. Each 3-ounce bar contains 400 calories, 19 grams of fat, 51 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of protein, and plenty of vitamins and minerals (especially iron and calcium).
Best Plant-Based: PROBAR Meal Bar Variety Pack
These gluten-free, soy-free, and non-GMO bars come in a variety of appealing flavors, such as Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Banana Nut Bread, and Wholeberry Blast, so there’s something for everyone in your family. They range from 360 to 390 calories per bar, perfect for a quick energy boost, and they are organic and plant-based for those who are vegans or vegetarians. Two servings (1 bar) contains around 22 grams of fat, 43 grams of carbohydrates, 19 grams of sugar, and 11 grams of protein, as well as other vitamins and minerals (numbers will vary based on flavor).
Best Gluten-Free: Nature's Juice Bar Emergency Food Bars
These Nature’s Juice bars are perfect for any emergency kit you’re putting together. There are two flavors—cranberry coconut and lime—and each box contains six shelf-stable (32 months) 150-calorie bars individually wrapped in waterproof packaging (with an easy-to-open feature). Each bar is enclosed within a wafer layer that helps to seal in moisture, ensuring a tasty, chewy bar that’s not too dry (since you don’t want anything that provokes thirst) or crumbles into a mess; they even remain soft in freezing temperatures. These bars are also gluten-free and made with vegan, non-GMO, organic ingredients.
Best Flavor Assortment: Freccia Rossa 18-Pack Market Millennium Energy Bars Assorted Flavors
In an emergency situation, your priority would likely be any kind of sustenance, no matter the flavor, but, with that said, having a variety of options to switch things up certainly can’t hurt! These bars offer the nutrients you need, but also a fun mix of flavors (cherry, mixed berry, orange, tropical fruits, lemon, etc.) to keep you from getting too bored. They offer a 5-year shelf life and have been vacuum-packed in BPA-free packaging so you don’t have to worry about any spoilage no matter the extreme circumstance. Each bar contains over 400 calories to give you the energy you need, and they have also been designed to prevent you from getting thirsty. As an added bonus, the variety pack comes with a survival guide booklet.
Best Non-Thirst-Provoking: DATREX Emergency Food Ration Bars
It’s super important to find emergency bars that don’t make you thirsty, in the event you’re short on water or it’s unsafe to drink the water. These ready-to-eat bars will prevent you from getting thirsty while sustaining you with the nutrients your body needs. Each bar contains 200 calories, and each value pack contains 48 bars. They contain no preservatives and boast an appealing coconut flavor, and they are made with natural ingredients. As far as longevity goes, these bars have a 5-year shelf-life, so they’re great to have on hand and will keep for quite some time.
Best Coast-Guard Approved: Shield-Safety 3600 Calorie Survival Food Bars
Mayday’s survival food bars are U.S. Coast Guard approved—so you know they’re good to have on hand in an emergency. Each bar contains 400 calories, 19 grams of fat, 51 grams of carbohydrates, and 7 grams of protein, plus a substantial amount of vitamins and minerals, so in the event of an emergency, you will have the nutrients you need at your fingertips. The 5-year shelf-life will ensure you don’t have to restock too often. These bars taste similar to a shortbread cookie and are conveniently non-thirst-provoking.
For a basic, no-frills bar to stock your emergency kit, we recommend Ultimate Survival Technologies 5-Year Emergency Food Ration Bar (view at Amazon). If you’re looking for something with a bit more pizazz when it comes to flavor options, check out Freccia Rossa Market Millennium Energy Bars (view at Amazon).
What to Look for in a Survival Food Bar
When you’re in an emergency situation, the more calories you can get ahold of, the better. There are plenty of power bars and meal substitute bars on the market that offer calories in the 100-300 range for everyday life when things get busy and you just miss a meal and need a quick energy boost. But these survival bars go above and beyond that; assuming the bar is your meal, most are around 400 calories and come in large multi-packs to ensure there’s enough for several people and for multiple days.
Restocking your family’s emergency kit shouldn’t have to be a monthly chore, so you want to look out for shelf-life when perusing bar options. Most are around five years, thanks to very secure and durable packaging meant to withstand extreme conditions.
In an emergency situation, you may not have access to food (hence, the need for these bars) or safe, drinkable water. Therefore, it’s key to find survival bars that don’t provoke thirst. Check out the label and packaging carefully to look for any mentions of this attribute.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
The Spruce Eats writer Alyssa Langer is a registered dietitian and foodie, always curious about the next food or ingredient craze and hungry to learn and try more. Having worked in cookbook publishing, CPG label data, nutrition writing, and meal kits, her diverse background and varied interests provide a unique perspective that fosters clear, well-researched, and trustworthy reviews.