72- Hour Kit Food Options: Pros and Cons

Are you trying to figure out which type food store for your 72-hour kit?  It sounds easy, but gets difficult quickly with all the options.

When we first started building our 72-hour kits, we originally had MRE’s.  But, after a bad over night back packing trip that left us dehydrated and vomiting back down a 5 mile trail with our packs, we have never been able to go back to eating another MRE again (no, it wasn’t expired).

Then, we started having quick cook or canned items in our 72-hour kit packs, but these didn’t work either. They were bulky and awkward in the packs.

So, on your quest on finding the perfect solution for our 72- hour kits, here are a few things you want to be look at and be aware of:

That the food is…

  1. Edible- for both adults AND kids, toddlers, babies.
  2. Light weight-at first it didn’t matter, but once you add 3 kids and their gear to the mix, it started making a difference.
  3. No need to cook-again, at first it didn’t make a difference, but the task of keeping 3 very hungry kids away from a cooking stove was difficult… plus, it added extra weight.
  4. Long shelf life- we aren’t the best at rotating out our food every 6 months…so we wanted to be sure it could hold for a year.

There are so many different types of food to store with a variety of prices and weight.  Continue reading for all the 72-hour kit food options, and their pros and cons.

***Disclaimer:  There are plenty more options than what I am listing below, these are the most common ones.  All opinions are of my own, biased off of our experiences.***

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72- Hour Kit Food Options

Before we start, you want to be planning for 6000 calories per person for the 3 days.  That’s 2000 calories a day.

Quick open snacks

These can be small packet apple sauce, granola bars, nature valley bars, cheese/peanut butter and crackers, slim jims, ect.  Pretty much all those little food snacks you can find at the dollar store.


  • Quick to open and eat
  • Easy to buy
  • Cheap
  • Usually consists of comfort foods
  • A large variety to choose from
  • Usually lightweight


  • Short shelf life, you’ll want to rotate yearly
  • Poor packaging and can puncture easily
  • Typically you need a TON of these items to make up your 6000 calories, and causing a full pack
  • Some of the fatty foods can go stale fast
  • If oatmeal is in your pack, you’ll need to cook it = more weight and space for the stove and fuel

I think a few of these snacks might be good ideas to add to your pack.  They will add variety and can be used to bribe your kids too eat the more intense calorie food they need.  I don’t recommend using this type of food for most of your 72-hour kit food.

Canned food

This is anything that comes in a can that you can buy anywhere.  Typically, people like to store stews, fruits and veggies.


  • Comfort food
  • Lots of variety
  • Cheap
  • More calories per can  than simple snacks mentioned above


  • Heavy and bulky
  • You’ll need some way to open them (the easy to pull tabs can sometimes leak)
  • 3-5 years  shelf life… depending on storage
  • You’ll still need quite a big supply to fulfill your 6000 calories
  • Some of the food only tastes good warmed up.  This means added weight from stove and fuel.

I don’t recommend getting these ever for your food storage.  Too bulky and cumbersome.

Energy Bars

These are bars typically bought by athletes.  They look like a candy bar on steroids, but don’t taste near as sweet.


  • Yummy flavors!
  • Typically covered in chocolate, the ultimate comfort food!
  • Gives you energy quick in any situation
  • Packaged in small, portion sizes


  • Not a ton of calories per bar, so you’ll still need around 30 of them for a supply… that’s 10 a day!
  • Expensive (about $2 a  bar)
  • Since most have chocolate, they get mushy and squishy in the pack.  They don’t hold their shape very well when packaged around other items.

I don’t recommend these either.  They seem to kick up your energy, and then give you a big drop in energy (kinda like regular candy bars too).  I recommend finding something with more sustained energy.


These stand for Meals Ready to Eat.  They are well-known because military use them.  Each packet typically has a large meal, crackers with spread, and drink mix.  Sometimes they come with a sweet cookie.


  • 600+ calories, so you’ll only need about 2-3 a day
  • Light weight
  • Come with their own heat source


  • They are low in fiber… which means they make people most constipated… and when no running water or a toilet is in the picture, it might not be very fun.
  • High in salt, which makes you very thirsty.  You’ll need to plan for extra water
  • Expensive
  • I’ve personally have a bad experience with them, buy my husband still loves them
  • Shelf life is only 5 years if stored in the perfect temperature.  Too hot or too cold can drop it to 3 years.
  • Gross/off tasting…and can leave an after taste

I don’t really want to recommend these… but they are used by many in 72-hour kits.  So you are welcome to give it a try!  We did, and did not like the outcome.

Survival Bars or ER bars

Survival bars and ER bars are bars packed with high intense calories.  Some come in small form, and some come in a “brick” where you break apart.  Read about our opinions on the 3 ER/Survival Bars we tasted.


  • Packaged in 400-3600 calorie servings
  • Some have resealable bags too
  • TONS of calories for the small space
  • Cheap
  • Pack well and can be smashed or fit into any tight space
  • Taste pretty good
  • HUGE variety of flavors and brands


  • A little more expensive than canned food or other packaged snacks
  • The bricks can crumble and make a mess
  • Some don’t taste the best… but you’ll have to see what your family likes
  • The thick bricks are hard to bite into

I believe these are one of the best 72-hour kit food options for your pack!  This is what we have switched too after all our research.  Read at the bottom why we chose them.

Mountain house meals

Looking at all the different 72-hour kit food options can be tricky. There is such a variety to choose form. Read their pros and cons of the most common
Photo Credit: FreeImages.com/Lee Adcock

Freeze dried meals in smaller serving packages.  Or, you can use freeze-dried meal packs from other companies such as Thrive.


  • Lightweight
  • Large variety of all kinds of meals
  • Comfort foods
  • Taste fairly good, but have an after taste


  • Expensive
  • Most packages come with 2.5 or 5 servings, so you’ll have to piece meals together
  • These take EXTRA water, so be sure to plan for that

I don’t recommend these.  They need water to re-hydrate which can be hard to come by, and taste better warm… which means a stove and fuel too.  The price isn’t very pretty either.

In Conclusion

We decided to switch to survival bars for your 72-hour kits.  Here are the reasons we picked them:

  1. They are very lightweight!
  2. Compact and are easy to fit into any pack (this is nice for those of you needing to pack for younger family members who can’t carry a pack by themselves)
  3. No need to cook, which means no need for a stove OR heat source
  4. HUGE variety to pick from
  5. Provide plenty of quick calories that don’t taste too bad

If you want to learn how to use your 72 hour kit foods and make them taste better (like for camping) then read more about how to make camping food taste delicious.

What do you pack in your 72-hour kit?

Further Reading

DIY 72-Hour Kit

ER Bar Reviews

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