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While survival food kits have been a staple for serious campers and outdoor adventurers for years, there’s now an increasing interest across the general population, thanks to concerns over potential food shortages. Unlike canned foods that tend to stay at peak quality for around 2-5 years, survival food is designed to last up to 30 years when stored properly, and kits make it easy to keep everything you need for yourself and your family in one place. In fact, on its survival kit supplies list, the Red Cross recommends a three-day supply of non-perishable food for evacuations and a two-week supply for home use.
You should factor in how many servings are in a kit as well as any dietary restrictions you may have—there are vegetarian and gluten-free options available—and make sure you are storing the kits according to their instructions. Whether you want to prep for a potential emergency or you are looking to go on an outdoor adventure, there are several survival food companies with a kit to feed your needs.
Here, the best survival food kits.
Best Overall : ReadyWise Emergency Food Supply, Freeze-Dried Entree Variety
25-year shelf life
Different quantity options
Gluten-free version available
ReadyWise is one of the top names in survival food kits. This particular kit comes with 120 servings, but you can choose from different quantities ranging from 52 to 298 servings, depending on your needs and family size. Each meal contains four servings and is freeze-dried and individually-wrapped so all you have to do is add water directly to the pouch, let it sit, and then eat 15 minutes later. Although there are no breakfast meals in this particular kit, there are a total of 13 different entree types, including comforting favorites like Chicken Noodle Soup and Cheesy Lasagna. ReadyWise also offers a gluten-free version and a breakfast-only option.
Shelf Life: 25 years | Servings: 120
Best 3-Day Food Supply: Mountain House 3-Day Emergency Food Supply
Can be made with room-temperature water
Good for one person
30-year shelf life
Doesn’t come in a weather-proof bucket
Most experts recommend having a three-day survival food kit on hand for potential evacuation situations, and this option from Mountain House fits that bill. Smaller than most of the other options on this list, this kit contains 18 servings in a total of nine meals, making it a great option for one person. Each day you’ll get around 1,700 calories. One of the major benefits of these meals is that they can be made with room-temperature water, which is a necessity when you lose power and don’t have the means to boil water. This kit also has one of the longest shelf lives of any of the options out there.
Shelf Life: 30 years | Servings: 18
Best Budget: Augason Farms Lunch & Dinner Emergency Food Supply
11 different meal options
No breakfast meals
Because of the sheer volume of food they provide, most survival food kits can get pretty pricey, but this option from Augason Farms is a great value for the money. Each kit includes 92 servings and offers a lot more variety than other options on the list, with 11 different meal types (including dessert options like chocolate pudding). All meals are packaged in four-serving pouches and are easy to prepare by adding hot water and allowing to simmer.
Shelf Life: 25 years | Servings: 92
Best Gluten-Free: Legacy Premium Gluten-Free 72-Hour Emergency Food Kit
You can’t make meals in the pouch
Specialized diets can become even more essential during disaster situations, so if you can’t have gluten, this option from Legacy Premium is an excellent choice. It contains 32 oversized servings of six different types of gluten-free meals, like Potato Soup and Enchilada, Beans and Rice. In addition to being gluten-free, all meals are non-GMO and made in the USA. This kit is enough to feed one person for three days, but there’s also a larger, 60-serving option for longer-term disaster prep or feeding additional people.
The only downside with this kit is that since the servings are so large—1.5 to two times larger than other kits—you can’t make the meals in the pouches they come in; you have to transfer the food to a pot or separate container before mixing it with water.
Shelf life: 25 years | Servings: 32
Best for Families: Wise Company 1 Month Emergency Food Supply
25-year shelf life
Enough for a family of four to six
Includes breakfast options
Packed in servings of four
The Wise Company 1 Month Emergency Food Supply makes disaster prepping for your family effortless. It has everything you need to feed two adults and four children or four adults for an entire month. There are 240 servings total, with breakfast options like Apple Cinnamon Cereal and heartier dinners, like Loaded Baked Potato Casserole, in the mix. All of the foods are freeze-dried and divided into four-serving Mylar pouches to reduce potential waste and keep them fresh for as long as possible. This kit, which comes neatly packaged in a stackable bucket, has a 25-year shelf life.
Shelf Life: 25 years | Servings: 240
Best for Large Families: Mountain House Freeze-Dried Ground Beef
Easy to prepare
Ideal for large families or quickly serving a crowd
30-year shelf life
Have to mix and match ingredients for a complete meal
Have to cook larger quantities at once
If you’re looking for a backstock of single ingredients, Mountain House has you covered. This particular kit contains 22 servings of freeze-dried beef, but you can also opt for cooked chicken or basic mixed meals, like chicken and rice, among other options. Rather than pouches, this food is packaged in #10 cans, and each can contains anywhere from 14 to over 20 servings, which makes it easy to feed a large family or a crowd. You simply add water directly into the can, wait 10 minutes, and then eat or serve without the need for individually mixing smaller pouches. These cans are also easy to store and stack, and they have a 30-year shelf life guarantee.
Shelf Life: 30 years | Servings: 22
Best Vegetarian: Survive2Thrive Organic Preparedness Pail
100 percent organic
High-protein vegetarian meals
Meals aren’t individually packaged
If you’re looking for a survival kit with high-quality vegetarian food, the Survive2Thrive food kit has everything you need to feed one adult for 40 days and nights. There are 298 total servings of high-protein foods like beans, lentils, and garbanzo beans. There are also sources of slow-acting carbohydrates, like oats and brown rice, that can provide much-needed energy during emergency situations. One thing to note: Unlike other food kits that have complete meals, this one comes with each ingredient individually vacuum sealed, so you’d have to mix and match to create a complete, balanced meal.
Shelf Life: 20 years | Servings: 298
Best High-Calorie: Augason Farms 72-Hour 1-Person Emergency Food Supply Kit
2,667 calories daily
Designed for one person
Not as much variety as other kits
While most survival food kits are designed to supply around 1,500 to 1,700 calories per day, the meals in this kit offer 2,667 calories daily. This is an excellent option for anyone with higher calorie needs, or in a situation where you may be injured and require more energy and strength for regaining your health. There are a total of 42 servings split up into nine meals, and five different types of entrees—enough for one person to eat over the course of three days. All meals are freeze-dried and only require the addition of water.
Shelf Life: 25 years | Servings: 42
The ReadyWise Emergency Food Supply (view at Amazon) is a survival food kit that checks all the boxes—and you can choose from different serving sizes and meal options, like entrees or breakfast-only. If you have a lot of mouths to feed, the Wise Company 1 Month Emergency Food Supply (view at Amazon) or the Mountain House cans (view at Amazon) have you covered.
What to Look For
One of the most important things to look for in a survival food kit is the serving size, since you need to make sure you have enough food for yourself and anyone else you’re trying to feed. Elizabeth Andress, Ph.D. and Judy Harrison, Ph.D., professors and extension food safety specialists at The University of Georgia, say that a three-day survival kit will be sufficient for most disasters, but if you’re in an area where you know power gets cut off for an extended period of time, a two-week supply is more reasonable. Whichever you choose, “plan food supplies so at least one well-balanced meal could be eaten each day,” they say.
Keep in mind that the serving size is not always equivalent to the number of meals in the kit. For example, a three-day kit that’s meant for one person may have 18 servings, but only nine meals. This is intentional, as you often have higher calorie and protein needs in survival situations.
Another thing to consider is shelf life. Most food kits that are designated for survival have a 20- to 30-year shelf life, but make sure you’re double checking. Freeze-dried food has the longest shelf life, while canned and vacuum-sealed foods won’t last as long. You can still stock up on these items separately, but you’ll have to monitor expiration dates and swap them out with new food when appropriate.
Preparation method is of utmost importance, as well, since you need to be able to actually eat the food if you have no power or water supply. Most food kits call only for the addition of water to freeze-dried meals, but some kits require boiling water, while others work with room-temperature water. If you have a camping stove and plenty of gas, you can get away with boiling water if your power is out, but if you don’t, you’ll have to opt for the easiest preparation methods instead.
In any case, Ready, a National public service campaign dedicated to disaster, says you can use alternative cooking sources, like candles, chafing dishes, fondue pots, and/or a fireplace to heat water in times of emergency. So, at the very last, make sure you have a lot of extra water on hand.
How much food do you need?
The American Red Cross recommends that you have a three-day supply for potential evacuation situations and a two-week supply for home use. In other words, for situations where you might be stuck at home with no power or other similar emergency situations, you should have enough food to feed everyone in your household three meals per day for two weeks. If you have to evacuate due to a natural disaster or something similar, you should have enough food to take with you on the road to feed each person three meals a day for three days.
What foods have the longest shelf life?
Most survival food kits are made with dehydrated foods and/or freeze-dried foods, which have the longest shelf life. These types of foods can last 20 to 30 years if sealed and stored properly. According to the USDA, not all canned foods are considered shelf-stable. The ones that are typically have a shelf life of one to two years, so while the canned foods you have in your pantry can certainly help in an emergency situation, you shouldn’t store them in a food survival kit.
How do you store survival food?
Most survival food kits come in sealed pouches that have oxygen absorbers to increase their shelf life, but it’s still important to protect them from the elements: excess heat, moisture, air, and light. The exact storage instructions may differ based on which kit you purchase (make sure to read storage directions carefully), but Augason Farms, one of the top survival food kit companies, recommends storing your survival food kit in a cool, dry, dark place that stays between 55 and 70 degrees Fahrenhait. That means keeping your kit out of the basement and/or the attic, unless these areas are temperature- and humidity-regulated.
What else do you need?
In addition to food, Andress and Harrison recommend including water, personal hygiene items, flashlights, blankets, and other essentials, like a first aid kit and backup medications, in any survival kit.
It’s also important to make sure you have everything you need to prepare and eat your food, like scissors or a knife for cutting open pouches, disposable utensils, and a grill or camping stove if the food you have requires cooking. Most food survival kits include dehydrated food that you need to add boiling water to. Because of this, it’s wise to have extra water and a pot for boiling on hand, as well.
The CDC recommends storing at least one gallon of water per person in your household per day for three days in your household. A two-week supply is even better, if possible, and keep in mind that sick or pregnant people will require more, as will those in hotter climates.
Why Trust the Spruce Eats?
Lindsay Boyers is a certified functional nutritionist with an extensive background in nutrition science and recipe development. With more than 12 years of experience in research, including deciphering research, she’s able to provide qualified recommendations for various products, from survival food kits to gluten-free pastas.