Ration Bar Review

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Ration Bar Review
Ration bars are not the same as survival bars or tabs!

Ration bars are a high-calorie prepper food.
It's important to know that ration bars are not the same as
protein survival food bars. The concept behind ration bars is
that they are non-thirst provoking, which is a necessary feature
for a survival situation with little or no water supply.

Ration bars provide a minimum caloric intake for survival and
are rationed to break apart to give a specific daily allotment.
They are a high calorie and consolidated
prepper food. Some
ration bars have two daily servings, while others offer calories
spread out into three bars to enable three daily servings.

Ration bars are a ready-to-eat food! Learn how to use ration
bars properly and know which are the best ration bars....

Review of Popular Ration Bars
Generally ration bars on this page are packaged in 3600
calories, which is a 72-hour supply of food for one person. In
other words, you get to eat 1200 calories a day. That's not
much when you consider the extra work it may take during a
crisis; however, they are a high calorie prepper food considering
how compact they are.

Specifically formulated for disaster victims, all the bars include
an optimum balance of salt, carbohydrates, protein, fat and
many offer these bars enriched with the recommended daily
allowance of vitamins and minerals.

Reasons to include ration bars in your food storage plan:
  1. Non-thirst provoking. If the calamity you're facing has
    limitations on water, then ration bars are the answer.
    Ration bars do not provoke thirst.
  2. Compact. Ration bars are compact and have a long shelf
    life making them a great item for your emergency food
    storage. Including them in your bugout bag, though, is a
    personal choice as they are extremely heavy.
  3. Ready to eat. Ration bars require no heating or cooking ~
    just open up and eat. It's another good reason to make
    ration bars part of your emergency plan.
  4. Kids like them. Your kids will eat ration bars in an
    emergency because it's like a cookie.
  5. Long lasting. Ration bars will last five years without going
    rancid. They will actually last much longer, but
    manufacturers put expiration dates on them to guarantee
    flavor and ensure potency of the nutrition which may
    degrade over time.
  6. Withstand wide temperature extremes. Ration bars will
    take extreme heat and cold of -40° F to 300°F (-40°C to
    149°C), making them ideal to stash in your vehicles:

Where to stash your ration bars...
Should ration bars go in the bugout bag? With a non-thirst
provoking formula, the ration bars provide scant nutrition but
adequate calories to sustain life in a survival situation, such as
being stranded on a wayward boat, or hunkering down in a
bunker when the supplies are low. They aren't necessarily the
best thing to carry in a bugout bag, but it all depends on
individual needs. Stash them in your
  • 72 hour kit
  • Bunker
  • Bugout bag (remember it adds extreme weight, but it is
    condensed nutrition)
  • Boat, car or truck
  • Get Home bag
  • Office
  • School locker

  • Storage tip: Store the ration bars in the original container
    and with the added layer of a zip lock bag. Why? Most
    brands do NOT come with a resealable pouch or individually
    wrapped bars. Without a zip lock bag, you'll have a mess
    on your hands and it may otherwise attract critters or get
    wet, making your rations less palatable or rendering them
    useless! Keep ration bars fresh in a bag. That zip lock bag
    may also help you in other ways.

Should you include ration bars in your bugout bag?
There isn't a lot of debate in the prepping community about
whether or not to include ration bars in the bugout bag or get
home bag. Many preppers include them, but not all! Perhaps
there should be a debate.

Ration bars are extremely heavy bricks and they pack caloric
intake for a sedentary situation, like sitting in your bunker or
awaiting rescue on a watercraft. They are not intended as
energy bars to fuel long hikes. The truth is that W]while some
emergency kits include ration bars as part of the survival
package, backpackers rarely even consider ration bars! That
pretty much says it all. Backpackers are the field experts for
bugging out.

Here are some questions to ask yourself before stuffing them in
your bugout bag:

  • How much stuff do you have in your backpack? Your
    backpack should weigh no more than 1/3 of your body
    weight. If these would tip the scales, then you should
    consider alternative energy sources.

  • Are you a diabetic? If you're a diabetic, you need to
    consider that each bar contains a large amount of
    carbohydrates, and yet because they contain sugar they
    may help you restore your blood sugars. A ration bar could
    then be your lifeline!

  • Do you have any allergies (or anyone in your bugout
    group)? Some bars include tree nuts (coconut, or were
    manufactured in a facility that has tree nuts) and the last
    thing you need while bugging out is an added emergency
    that you could avoid by carefully planning.

  • Does your route to safety have little water? If
    replenishing your water along your bugout route is in
    limited supply, then you'll want to include ration bars in
    your bugout bag. If you live in the desert for example, then
    you should probably pack them.

    Datrex has this tip to save on drinking water: "Do not drink
    water during the first 24 hours unless sick, injured or in
    desert conditions. After the first 24 hours, drink no more
    than 500 ml (1/2 liter, approx. 16 oz) per day. Never drink
    seawater not even mixed with fresh water.'

Food requirements will vary from person to person and may also
vary depending upon environmental circumstances (cold weather
requires more energy to stay warm, for example).

Comparison: Leading brands of ration bars
What's the real purpose of a ration bar and how is it different
from a food bar? Which should you pack in your bugout bag?
Read our ration bar review...
#1: Datrex ration bars 3600 calories
Even if you haven't witnessed a disaster firsthand, you've seen
the devastation they cause and you know that you can never be
too prepared. If you are out on the water; preparation is even
more important. Food rations from Datrex, pictured immediate
right, are made from all natural ingredients, have high energy
value and are tablets and sub packaged for easy rationing. They
have a five year shelf life and are also USCG approved so you
know you can count on them when you need them. You get 200
calories per bar/2 packs of 18 bars.
  • Flavor: Coconut
  • Protein: 6 grams (about 7% of the daily recommended)
  • Fiber: none
  • Calories:  18 bars that are 200 calories each. Total =
    3600 calories. Pictured immediate right in blue*. The Three
    day calculation is bases on 1,200 calories per day (3 meals
    a day for 3 days at 2 bars per meal).
  • Ingredients: all natural with no preservatives: Wheat flour,
    Vegetable Shortening, Cane Sugar, Water, Coconut and Salt.

  • Cons: Difficult to unwrap and they are crumbly. They are
    low in vitamins and fiber is negligible. If you are allergic to
    tree nuts, then this is not the bar for you.
  • Pros: Least expensive! At around $7.79 and this includes
    free shipping with Prime membership, Datrex bars are the
    most economical. Datrex ration bars have the most simple
    and basic of ingredients, making this brand much more like
    real food than a ration bar. It's made with real cane sugar
    (and not beet sugar or corn syrup). If you're looking for the
    healthiest option in ration bars, this is your best bet (even
    with the vegetable shortening). U.S. Coast card approved.
    Made in the U.S.A.

  • Amazon Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars on Amazon on 211

NOTE*: See also the 2400 calories version of Datrex bars,
pictured at the bottom right hand of the page in white.
#2: ER ration bars 3600 calories
  • Flavor: Vanilla
  • Protein: 7 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams (about 8% of the daily recommended)
  • Calories: 3600* (each packet contains 9 individual rations
    of 410 calories each. Manufacturer recommends three
    rations per day for a total of 1230 calories per day or 3600
    for the full three days). The manufacturer also makes a bar
    that is 2400 calories.
  • Ingredients: Bleached, enriched flour (wheat flour, malted
    barley flour, iron, niacin, thiamine, mononitrate, riboflavin,
    folic acid), palm oil, sugar, corn syrup, soy flour, cornstarch,
    natural and artificial flavors, calcium propionate, dextrose,
    yellow 5, yellow 6, ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), di-alpha
    tocopherol, acetate (Vitamin E), maltodextrin, niacinamide,
    electrolytic iron, zink oxide, calcium pantothenate, Vitamin
    A, palmitate, pyridoxine, hydrochloride (Vitamin B6),
    copper, gluconate, riboflavin, (Vitamin B2), thiamine,
    mononitrate (Vitamin B1), biotin,potassium iodide, Vitamin
    K1, cholecalciferol (vitamin D3), cyanocobalmin (vitamin
    B12). Contains soy, wheat.

  • Cons: Most expensive! Around $10.60 and free shipping
    with prime. Vitamin count isn't as high as others (for
    example, Mainstay or Mayday ration bars).

  • Pros: ER Bar is the only bar to have a ZIP lock built into
    the bag! Formulated specifically in accordance with the
    stringent requirements of the US Department of Homeland
    Security and the US Coast Guard for emergency victims.
    Provides optimum balance of salt, carbohydrates, protein,
    fat and enriched with the recommended daily allowance of
    vitamins and minerals. Best of all, ER won't send you to
    the Emergency Room! ER bars contain no tropical oils,
    coconut or nuts which may cause dangerous allergic

  • Amazon Rating: 4.2 out of 5 stars on Amazon on 106

*NOTE: Just one 2,400+ calorie ER Bar can minimally sustain an
average person up to three days if necessary
#3: Grizzly Gear Ration bars 3600 calories
  • Flavor: Lemon (shortbread cookie)
  • Protein:
  • Fiber:
  • Calories: 3600 (9 pre-measured 400 calorie rations, to last
    one person up to three days. Manufacturer recommends
    three 400-calorie rations per day for a total of 1200 calories
    per day).
  • Ingredients:  Enriched flour (added Vitamins A, B-1, B-2,
    D, E, B-6, B-12, niacin, iron, folic acid, calcium,
    phosphorous), vegetable shortening (partially hydrogenated
    soybean and/or cottonseed oil) granulated sugar, corn
    starch, corn syrup, natural lemon flavor, vanilla flavor
    (tartrazine, FD&C yellow #5, FD&C Red #40) artificial color,
    ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), gamma delta tocopherol as a
    natural antioxidant.

  • Cons: Contains partially hydrogenated oils! Also it is the
    most expensive of the survival ration bars at around $10.94
    with Prime free shipping included. Bars are not individually

  • Pros: Less sugar than other brands, which may be
    important to diabetics. Full supply of vitamins and
    minerals. Made in the U.S.A. They are Kosher. Contains no
    cholesterol nor tropical oils.

  • Amazon Rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars on Amazon on 107
#4: Mainstay Ration bars 3600 calories
  • Flavor: Shortbread with a touch of lemon
  • Protein: 3 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Calories: 3600, pictured immediate left.
  • Ingredients: Enriched Flour, (Added) Vitamins A, B-1, B-2,
    D, E, B-6, B-12, Niacin, Iron, Folic Acid, Magnesium,
    Pantothenic Acid, Calcium, Phosphorus, Vegetable
    Shortening, (Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or
    Cottonseed Oils), Granulated Sugar, Corn Starch, Corn
    Syrup, Natural Lemon Flavor, Artificial Butter Flavor,
    Artificial Vanilla Flavor, (Tartrazine, FD&C Yellow#5, FD&C
    Red #40), Artificial Color, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C),
    Gamma/Delta Tocopherols as a natural antioxidant.

  • Cons: These ration bars are expensive. They cost around
    $14.50 + $6.99 shipping for two packs or $21.54, which
    works out to around $10.74 each. You have to buy two
    packs. This is the lowest rated ration bar of the bunch.

  • Pros: Tasty and high in vitamins (exceeds RDA
    requirements)! Meets the stringent Department of Defense
    (SOLAS 74/83) guidelines. Mainstay bars are also Kosher

  • Amazon Rating: 3.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon on 200
#5: Mayday ration bars 3600 calories
MayDay Emergency food ration bars meet the U.S. Coast card
and SOLAS requirements. SOLAS is the Safety of Life at Sea, an
international maritime treaty which sets minimum safety
standards in the construction, equipment and operation of
merchant ships.
Waterstraaws suck, but here's why to get one
  • Flavor: Apple Cinnamon *
  • Protein: 7 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Calories: 3600, 2400 or 1200. Also available in packages
    with water rations.

  • Ingredients: Bleached enriched flour (wheat flour, malted
    barley flour, iron, niacin, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin,
    folic acid), Palm oil, Sugar, Corn syrup, Soy flour, cornstarch,
    Calcium propionate, Natural and artificial flavors, Ascorbic
    acid (vitamin C), di-Alphatocopheral acetate (vitamin E),
    Maltodextrin, Niacinamide, Electrolytic iron, Zinc oxide,
    Calcium, Pantothenate, Vitamin A palmitate, Pyridoxine
    hydrochoride (vitamin B6), Copper gluconate, Riboflavin
    (vitamin B2), Thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), Biotin,
    Potassium Iodide, Vitamin K1, Cholecalciferol (vitamin D3),
    Cyanocobalamin (vitamin B12.

  • Nutritional facts (serving... 1 full bar)
  • * Calories.. 400 Calories  from fat.. 160 * Total fat.. 18g *
    Cholesterol.. 0Sodium.. 5mg Total Carbs.. 54g * Protein.. 7g.
    Daily Value: Vitamin A.. 40% * Vitamin D.. 0% * Vitamin C..
    40% * Vitamin E.. 15% * Vitamin K.. 45% * Vitamin B6..
    45% * Vitamin B12.. 40% * Thiamine.. 70% * Iron.. 50% *
    Riboflavin.. 40% * Niacin.. 50% * Biotin. 40% * Copper..
    45% * Zinc.. 45% * Calcium.. 8% * Pantothenic Acilodine..

  • Cons: Expensive. Around $50.30 + $15.66 shipping for three
    packs, which works out to around $ each. Pictured right in a
    pack of three. Packing is confusing and bundled usually with
    other survival kits. Be careful to look at the calories because
    other options of Mayday rations are available in 400 calories
    or 2400 calories.

  • Pros: Approved by the US Coast Guard as well as the
    Canadian Transport Department, so if you are a prepper from
    Canada, you'll want to purchase this.

  • Amazon Rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars on Amazon on just 26
#6: S.O.S. Ration bars 3600 calories
  • Flavor: Coconut
  • Protein: 8 grams
  • Fiber: 1 gram
  • Calories: 3600

  • Ingredients: Sugar, enriched wheat flour, partially
    hydrogenated vegetable shortening (soybean and cottonseed
    oils), corn starch, wheat gluten, dextrose, desiccated coconut
    preserved with sodium metasulfite, corn syrup. Contains less
    than 2% of each of the following: soy lecithin, guar gum,
    calcium propionated preservative, citric acid, salt, ascorbic
    acid, ascorbyl palmitate, niacin, vitamin A palmitate,
    riboflavin, thiamine mononitrate.

  • Cons: Poor ingredients, including partially hydrogenated and
    soy ingredients. The first ingredient is sugar (likely beet
    sugar and it also has corn syrup). Plus it's loaded with
    preservatives. As well it's low in vitamins.

  • Pros: The S.O.S. Emergency food ration bars have the most
    protein of any of the bars listed on this review. Made in the
    USA, S.O.S. Ration bars meet IMO recommendations.

  • Amazon Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars on Amazon on 422
And the winner is...

Winning categories:

  • Healthiest: Datrex ration bar is the winner because it has
    the most simple ingredients, making it the healthiest option.
    It's made of real cane sugar (and not beet sugar or corn
    syrup), also it has real coconut.

  • Most protein: S.O.S. Ration bar is the winner for having the
    most protein. At 8 grams of protein, it is a significant
    number. (E.R. gets second place at 7 grams of protein).

  • Most vitamins. Mainstay and Mayday are tied for high
    vitamin content.

  • Highest in fiber. The trifecta of fiber winners are E.R. bars,
    Mainstay and Mayday ~ they have 2 grams of fiber, while the
    others have none at all.

  • Best value: Datrex ration bar is the least expensive of all
    the bars.

What the experts have to say:

  • Datrex. The happyprepper favorite because it is not only the
    best value, but because it has the least amount of
    ingredients (and you can pronounce every one of them),
    making it the healthiest bar. It is also the most compact
    brick, significantly smaller than S.O.S. Datrex is also the
    preferred brand of the WeekendPrepper.com

  • Mainstay. Mainstay gets the vote of K.D. Farmer, author of
    the A Prepper's Guide: My Plan.

  • S.O.S. Food Lab incorporated. Scott Kelley of
    Graywolfsurvival.com prefers the S.O.S. brand over Mainstay.

What are the purpose of ration bars?
Did you know that rations are a fixed amount of a commodity  
allowed to each person during a time of shortage? For example,
with food, ration bars are fixed amounts of minimum nutrition and
calories for survival. Think of rations as portions or an allotted

Mountain House freeze dried foods, while an excellent food to
have on hand for emergencies, are not considered to be a  ration.
Mountain House meals do not meet the criterion of "ration."
Likewise, Meals Ready to Eat are also not a ration. Water pouches
meet the criteria as they are "portions" of water allocated.

A ration is the last amount of food you have, which needs to be
spread out to allow maximum potential for survival. Ration bars
provide a fixed amount of calories in easy to break apart portions
allowing you to "ration." They are not for living on for long
periods, but they will keep you alive.  

Alternatives to Ration bars
Your bugout bag should contain quick energy, not necessarily a
ration bar. There are many other backpacker-preferred options,
  • dried fruit with protein and fat, such as sunflower seeds and
  • chocolate covered soy-nuts. Nuts combined with carbs such,
    raisins or pretzels  ~ let's just
  • say there's a reason they call it Trail Mix!
  • pasta combined with fat and protein like nuts or hard
  • or jerky with high carb foods such as crackers, tortillas and
  • oatmeal with nuts for protein.

Ration bars during wartime...
Rationing is not born of the same concept as ration bars, but the
two are related somewhat.

Rationing: During times of crisis, such as times of war, people
rationed to enable soldiers to have enough. With much of the
workforce engaged in combat, production of all sorts of
products was in limited supply, including food production.

Ration bars: The military has used ration bars to enable
soldiers on a mission to carry their own food for 2-3 days. Or
course, they also use Meals Ready to Eat (MREs).

  • Ration D bars. Hershey's played a role in supplying this
    valued product. The goal was to create "a bar weighing about
    four ounces, able to withstand high temperatures, high in
    food energy value, and tasting just a little better than a
    boiled potato." The goal was to create something to be
    eaten only when on the verge of starvation, so it should not
    taste too good. To do this, Hershey's reduced the sugar

Do your own analysis of ration bars (Datrex, E.R. Grizzly Gear,
Mayday, Mainstay, and S.O.S). Bring some ration bars to the next
Scout meeting or school.

Remember, ration bars are intended for low activity survival
situations (like waiting for rescue on the ocean) when there is a
finite amount of food available and you need to portion out
what's left. While they also provide protein and vitamins, the
main purpose of ration bars is to provide non-thirst provoking
sustenance. For energy, look to protein-packed food bars, like the
Millennium bars, pictured right. Millennium bars have a variety of
flavors. They provide a balance of protein, carbohydrates and fat.

Food bars for the prepper's pantry
Food bars are heavy! Be happy to have them in your food storage,
but bring along something lighter for your bugout bag and here
are two good options:

  • Millennium Energy Bars: These 400-calorie food bars could
    be the most important source of energy you'll have in an
    emergency. Millennium Energy Bars are U.S. Coast Guard
    approved and have a five-year shelf life, which is longer than
    its leading competitor, which has only a three-year shelf life.
    Each bar provides important portion control for groups or
    individuals in an extended emergency. In an emergency, each
    person should eat a minimum of 800 calories a day (2 400-
    calorie bars). Additional food provides greater energy for each

  • SOLDIER FUEL: "Designed to fuel the world's most elite
    warrior-athletes, SOLDIER FUEL energy bars pack a wallop of
    balanced nutrition and taste good too!" says Popular Science
    Magazine. SOLDIER FUEL bar beat Balance Bar, Snickers
    Marathon, and PowerBar Triple Threat in a taste test
    conducted by the Washington Post. And the NY Daily News
    health editor credits SOLDIER FUEL with making him 20%
    faster on his daily runs. Engineered to provide SteadyEnergy
    with no spike and no crash, SOLDIER FUEL is featured in the
    official U.S. Special Operations Forces Nutrition Guide. The
    Soldier Fuel Energy bar is perfect for use in an emergency kit
    because it has a three-year shelf life and has been designed
    to withstand high and low temperatures. Soldier Fuel has
    been a trusted on-the-go nutrition for Police, Fire, EMTs,
    Tactical, EMO, NGOs and Wild land fire personnel across
    North America for more than five years.

Happy endings...
Now you know that ration bars are not the same as food bars.
You can buy ration bars, the non-thirst provoking bars packaged
in specific calorie rations, for your car and bugout locations. Pack
nutrition rich food bars into.

Remember, ration bars are non-thirst provoking bars packaged in
specific calorie rations -- these food bars pack nutrition without
regard to thirst or specific calorie rations. They are great for the
prepper's pantry.

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