The average “Ten Essentials” list calls for food, as does the typical list of survival priorities. Most instructors and books also recommend that we have food in our bug out bags, 72-hour kits and wilderness survival kits. I’ve been caught without food enough times in the past that I’m always sure to pack food now.

But which types of food make sense in a survival pack?

Certainly your choices will vary by season, terrain and the nature of the survival scenario; but what I’m always looking for is a solid middle ground. Which foods work for hot and cold; wet and dry; short-term and long-term?

Here are the menu choices I’ll be falling back on the next time my luck runs out.
Survival Rations**

My personal top choice is the Mainstay 2400 Emergency Food Ration. This product is ready to eat, has a 5-year shelf life and tastes decent. In fact, it tastes a bit like lemon shortbread, which I love. This one-pound brick of six cubes is recommended to provide two days of food for one person. Each 2.67-ounce cube is 400 calories, with added vitamins and minerals. You will need ample water to drink with the rations, because as tasty as they are, they’re also bone dry.
Trail Mix**

What if you can’t get to the camping store or the online survival depot to pick up your Mainstay Rations? Then just swing by the nearest convenience store for trail mix, my number-two survival food choice. You’re covering all the food groups with this one–it has raisins to handle the fruit and veggie category, nuts for fat and protein, and candy to cover all the other essential nutritional categories. The shelf life is the biggest drawback on this survival food. The nuts will probably get rank within 6 to 9 months of packaging, depending on the brand, the ingredients and how you store the mix. Most nutty trail mixes are 450 to 500 calories per 3-ounce serving.

**Protein Bars **

Protein bars are my third choice for a survival kit food. The MET-Rx Big 100 bars taste pretty good; several of the flavors (like cookie dough) won’t melt in the heat; and most flavors are still chewable in the cold. They keep longer than the trail mix (about a year), but they don’t share the trail mix’s high calories or ability to fill your belly. Still, these bars are readily available; and they pack well into a survival bag. Each 3.5 ounce bar is almost 400 calories, with added vitamins and minerals, which gets them close to the nutrition density of the Mainstay Ration.

Which foods do you carry in your survival kits and B.O.B.s? Share your picks with us in the comments.