"Lifeboat" Ration Comparison (Now with Poll)

Items to keep you alive in the event you must evacuate: discussions of basic Survival Kits commonly called "Bug Out Bags" or "Go Bags"

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Do you like these rations? (Select yes/no for each you've tried, don't answer for one you haven't)

I like the Datrex Ration
23
20%
I do not like the Datrex Ration
12
10%
I like the Mainstay Ration
41
36%
I DO NOT like the Mainstay Ration
6
5%
I like the Mayday Ration
7
6%
I DO NOT like the Mayday Ration
9
8%
I like the S.O.S. Ration
11
10%
I DO NOT like the S.O.S. Ration
6
5%
 
Total votes: 115

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"Lifeboat" Ration Comparison (Now with Poll)

Post by GunsUp » Sun Nov 08, 2009 3:03 am

While doing weight calculations on my BOB I decided that I needed to ditch some weight and free up some volume. One of the places I target for weight reduction was food. I compared 4 emergency rations and threw in some MRE components and a Mountain House Pro Pak for reference. I didn’t list the ingredients for the MRE and MH items because they just had too many. A note on the dimensions, the packages were mostly irregular and I did the best to fold the excess plastic up when I measured, but the measurements may not be 100% accurate.

Image

I ordered the datrex, mainstay and SOS bars from one vendor and the mayday bars from a second. Some of the bars came in with the vacuum packaging damaged and not fully sealed. The datrex and mainstay each had one unsealed bar and both SOS bars were unsealed. Both mayday bars were sealed. This may be the vendors fault or it may be quality control. I am not in a position to say as I only ordered a couple of bars from one vendor each. However I saw this as a good opportunity to test out the manufacturers’ customer service. I contacted all the vendors to find out what I should do about this using whatever e-mail address I could find for them on their website. Three of the four companies responded within the first business day and I still haven’t heard from the other 2 weeks later. Datrex responded first with an e-mail saying the shelf life would be damaged and that I should take it up with the vendor. Mayday immediately sent me an automated response and followed up with a phone call that same day. They said that the bars were no good and that I should return them to the vendor and that they would work with the vendor to fix the problem. He apologized and said that they manually inspect every single bar before it leaves the factory, A+ customer service especially considering all of their packaging was completely intact. S.O.S responded asking for the lot number and manufacturing date, but as I was out of town it took me a while to reply and I haven’t heard back, but its only been a couple of business days. I never received a reply from mainstay.

Summary (in order of my purchasing preference):

If you want flavor, go for the MRE’s or Mountain House food. The variation in flavor and texture available is priceless. However as the charts show, the ration bars are king of calorie density (by volume and weight). The Mountain House Items also have the drawback of requiring water, a heat source and time to prepare. The MRE’s don’t hold up to high storage temperatures as well and only last a year or less in a car trunk. The ration bars are designed to be stored for long time spans in lifeboats, on the ocean in the heat and cold.

The datrex bar has very simple ingredients and has probably the mildest flavor. If I was buying rations with intention of feeding them to children, sick people or picky eaters, these would be my choice. I like that the portions are individually packaged, but I think they would make a mess and you risk losing calories to dropping pieces.

The SOS bars tasted the best and had the best packaging. I expect most people would be like the flavor, but it was stronger than the datrex bar. It would be the easiest to consume tidily. However, the energy density was one of the lowest though which led me to choose the datrex first.

The mainstay bar had the strongest flavor that might not be appealing to everybody. They have the highest energy density but as a result have very low protein content and are not individually wrapped. I think they would be difficult to portion out and transport / store the unused portions.

The mayday bar has the lowest energy density, but both packages came in perfectly sealed. They had top notch customer service. They had one of the highest protein contents and great vitamin and mineral content. They had the least appealing flavor and aroma to me unfortunately and were very difficult to portion and would be difficult to store and transport the unused portions.

Details:

Datrex Emergency Ration
Calories: 3600
Specified Weight: 684g
Measured Weight: 680g, 687g (1% variance)
Dimensions: 3.6” x 2.5” x 4.5”
Ingredients: Wheat Flour, Vegetable Shortening, Cane Sugar, Coconut, Salt
1 serving (1/18th pack, 200 Cal): 3 g protein, 21 g carbs, 10 g fat, 0.75mg sodium
Note: One pack of the two came in not fully vacuum-packed. The tear notch, made it easy to open, but was directly in the middle of the package making it hard to repurpose the packaging. The bars came in 18 servings individually packaged in a shrink wrap. I imagine these would be difficult to open with cold or wet hands as they are slippery, tough to tear and conform tightly to the ration. The ration is extremely crumbly and it exploded into 10+ chunks when I opened it, mostly due to the difficulty of opening the shrink wrap. The rations have almost no smell, with a slight hint of cookie. The texture is very soft with not grittiness, exactly like a good shortbread cookie. The rations have a very mild flavor, a lot like honey bunches of oats cereal. The coconut is there as a slight aftertaste but almost undetectable. The ration leaves a little greasy feeling in your mouth that is slightly annoying, despite this I kept having the urge to eat more of this ration.
Image

Mainstay 3600
Calories: 3600
Specified Weight: 680g
Measured Weight: 687g, 642g (7% variance)
Dimensions: 6.1” x 5.5” x 1.2”
Ingredients: Enriched Flour, Vegetable Shortening, Granulated Sugar, Corn Starch, Corn Syrup, Lemon Flavor, Vanilla Flavor, Butter Flavor, colors, vitamin C and antioxidants
1 serving (1/9th packet, 400 Cal): 3g protein, 46g carbs, 23g fat, 23 mg sodium
Note: One of the two bars was not fully vacuum packed. My first thought is that the bar has a surprisingly high amount of vitamins and minerals, although not as many as the mayday. The package was easy to open with a tear notch at the top that left the bag usable as storage. The portions are not individually wrapped but are not difficult to separate. They are hard and slightly crumbly when you break them, making a mess. I’d suggest breaking the block up before you open the package. Smell is doughy with a strong hint of lemon, slightly unappealing but not off-putting. Texture is surprisingly soft, with a little grittiness. Flavor much like a lemon flavored short bread, but not quite as sweet. I rather like the flavor and would have no problem eating these.
Image

Mayday 3600
Calories: 3600
Specified Weight: 756g
Measured Weight: 856g. 774g (13% variance)
Dimensions: 6.0” x 6.0” x 1.25”
Ingredients: Enriched Flour, Vegetable Shortening, Sugar, Corn Syrup, Soy Flour, Corn Starch, Preservatives, vitamins and apple cinnamon flavor.
1 serving (1/9th, 400 Cal): 7g protein, 55g carbs, 17g fat, 35mg sodium
Note: Both bars came fully vacuum-packed, the only one of the four that I can say that for. My first thought when looking at the packaging is that these bars have loads of vitamins and minerals. The package was easy to open with a tear notch at the top that left the bag usable as storage. The portions are not individually wrapped and are very difficult to separate; I had to saw them apart with a serrated knife. They are very hard, but crumble when you break them, making quite a mess. I’d suggest breaking the block up before you open the package. Smell is very strong and doughy, not particularly appetizing, perhaps even slightly nauseating. Texture is slightly crunchy light a shortbread cookie with a slight grittiness. Flavor very mild and bread like, not very sweet with just a hint of apple cinnamon, not bad tasting, but certainly not good.
Image

S.O.S. Emergency Food Ration
Calories: 3681
Specified Weight: 756g
Measured Weight: 655g, 761g (14% variance)
Dimensions: 2.1” x 5.1” x 4.7”
Ingredients: Wheat Flour, Vegetable Shortening, Sugar, Coconut, Corn Starch, Corn Syrup, Binders and Preservatives, Vitamins
1 serving (1/9th, 409 Cal): 8g protein, 53g carbs, 19g fat, 0.50mg sodium
Note: Neither pack came fully vacuum packed. The package contains no information about vitamin / mineral content. The package comes with two tear notches, but they are in the center of the bag, rendering it useless as a water collection device. The bars are shaped like standard protein / cereal bars and are individually wrapped with a clear cellophane wrapper. The aroma is very mild and slightly sweet and grainy. The bars are hard and crumbly and make a mess when you eat them. They are crunchy with a slight grittiness and chunky texture. They taste like a granola bar with a slight sweetness and a lemony aftertaste. I really like these bars and could imagine eating them in a non-survival situation.
Image

MRE Components
I won’t give a detailed description of each of these as I didn’t try them at this time. I have eaten plenty of MRE components before though and I think the newest lines of USGI MREs taste pretty good and I have no problems eating any of them. This being said, I have always had the choice to eat them and have never eaten them for more than a couple meals in a row. They are edible cold, but better hot.

MRE Fudge Brownie
Calories: 320
Advertised Weight: 85g (95g)
Dimensions: 0.8” x 2.8” x 4.7”
4g protein, 43g carbs, 17g fat, 115mg sodium

MRE Crackers
Calories: 180
Weight: 38g (47g)
Dimensions: 0.4” x 4.1” x 4.1”
4g protein, 28g carbs, 5g fat, 130mg sodium

MRE Mexican Corn
Calories: 150
Weight 142g (154g)
Dimensions: 4.2” x 5.6” x 0.6”

MRE Cheese Spread
Calories: 180
Weight: 43g (44g)
Dimensions: 0.5” x 1.5” x 4.9”
5g protein, 1g carbs, 17g fat, 310mg sodium

MRE Chili and Beans
Calories: 320
Weight: 227g (241g)
Dimensions: 0.5” x 4.1” x 7.1”

MRE Beef Snack
Calories: 60
Weight: 23g (29g)
Dimensions: 0.3” x 1.5” x 4.8”
8g protein, 4g carbs, 1g fat, 480mg sodium

MRE Chocolate Dairy Shake
Calories: 460
Weight: 100g (108g)
Dimensions: 1.1” x 3.5” x 3.5”
17g protein, 56g carbs, 19g fat, 290mg sodium

Mountain House Pro-Pak
These are pretty good and I’d hazard to say more or less similar to MRE’s in flavor, maybe a bit better. The texture is not spectacular though. The main problem is that they require hot or boiling water to prepare as well as time.

MH Pro-Pak Beef Stroganoff
Calories: 520
Weight:133g (115g)
Dimensions: 4.3” x 5.1” x 2.5”
22g protein, 60g carbs, 20g fat, 1710mg sodium

Image
Image
Image

In the end I'm putting 1/2 of my calories in Datrex or SOS rations with the other half in field stripped MREs.
Last edited by GunsUp on Sun Nov 15, 2009 8:21 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: "Lifeboat" Ration Comparison

Post by Cybrludite » Sun Nov 08, 2009 3:18 am

Very nice. I've had trouble with the Mainstay bags loosing their vacuum seal while rattling around my GHB. Thus far, no such problems with the SOS bars.
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Re: "Lifeboat" Ration Comparison

Post by Xspectre8 » Sun Nov 08, 2009 5:24 am

Thanks, GunsUp, for the excellent write up & review. The SOS bars are good. Really good. Too good.

When my sweet tooth comes alive and there is nothing in the house I start thinking about the SOS bars we have stored. I have a weakness for shortbread. It calls to me. That being the case, I'm going to either lock them up where they are hard to get to, buy more of the Datrex (which I didn't like), or use freakin' cat food as my emergency rations so I'm not tempted to snack on it.

What I really like about the SOS is the wrapping. It makes it easy to stay a big package in a long term bag, but you can put a few individually wrapped bars in a container with other items like Clif bars, packaged crackers, tuna envelopes, etc. to make a great 3-meal kit for a small bag. This has come in handy for a few emergency situations recently when we've had to rush out of the house and be away for an indeterminate time. It was nice to not have to rely on vending machines or cafeteria hours to get something to eat.

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Re: "Lifeboat" Ration Comparison

Post by 6shooter » Sun Nov 08, 2009 6:33 am

Very nice post, thanks. NFA did a comparison post between the Mainstay and the Mayday bars some time back, and IIRC, he found the Mayday bars to taste better. I wouldn't mind giving them a try, but I can't seem to find Mayday in Canada, by the case for a decent price without getting raped by shipping.


I'd like to get some of the 1200cal bars, and build some of the "civilian" MRE's as posted by Unsung. A 1200cal bar, Mountain House entree, and some small snacks, and you have a dandy food component for a BOB, that is both nutritional, and liveable taste wise.


PS: If anyone has a decent source for Mayday bars in Canada, please let me know :)
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Re: "Lifeboat" Ration Comparison

Post by joekaveh » Sun Nov 08, 2009 7:19 am

Really great review, thanks a lot! Out of all the long term storage foods, MH actually tastes like REAL food.
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Re: "Lifeboat" Ration Comparison

Post by Some Guy » Sun Nov 08, 2009 9:04 am

Great review, some really good info. Very helpful! Thanks.
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Re: "Lifeboat" Ration Comparison

Post by GunsUp » Sun Nov 08, 2009 11:20 am

There was some prior art to this article that I was aware of, but nothing as complete as what I wanted to compile:
http://www.zombiehunters.org/forum/view ... 14&t=16686" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
http://www.zombiehunters.org/forum/view ... hp?t=16680" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Popular Mechanics also did a comparison of 3 bars, but it was limited to taste test and did not discuss nutritional factors and size: http://www.popularmechanics.com/science ... 19185.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Found two more I need to add to the comparison next time I get around to spending some money, watch for the addition of these in the future:
Seven Oceans Ration - Comes with high reviews on other forums
ER Bar - Popular mechanics claims it taste like soap... maybe I won't waste my money.

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Re: "Lifeboat" Ration Comparison

Post by raptor » Sun Nov 08, 2009 12:46 pm

Excellent write up, great post!

Thank you for this information.

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Re: "Lifeboat" Ration Comparison

Post by Agent » Sun Nov 08, 2009 1:45 pm

Great writeup, thanks for all the work! Individually packaged servings seems like a big plus to me, so I'll look into Datrex and SOS, luckily two you liked the best. I currently have a bunch of Clif bars in a variety of flavors, I should compare the nutritional info side by side and look into stocking some of both.
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Re: "Lifeboat" Ration Comparison

Post by GunsUp » Sun Nov 08, 2009 5:07 pm

Chocolate chip Clif bar: 250 cals, 68g total, 10g protein (15% by weight), 45g carbs (66%), 5g fat (7%).
3676 Cal/kg puts it on par with a MH pro pak or a MRE Brownie.

Had my wife taste them and rate them on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being a really good cereal bar, and this is her take:

S.O.S.: 4/5 "tastes nutty, decent flavor"
Mainstay: 3/5 "pretty good, weird aftertaste"
Datrex: 3/5 "greasy, no sweetness"
Mayday: 1/5 "tastes like the worst diet bar ever"

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Re: "Lifeboat" Ration Comparison

Post by Redbad » Sun Nov 08, 2009 10:35 pm

Thank you for this review.

Did any of the bars come with a water requirement -- is there a minimum amount of water that needs to be drunk with these bars? As I recall, the US military survival survival ration in aircrew survival kits had a requirement for a minimum amount of water intake.
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Re: "Lifeboat" Ration Comparison

Post by GunsUp » Sun Nov 08, 2009 11:23 pm

Redbad wrote:Thank you for this review.

Did any of the bars come with a water requirement -- is there a minimum amount of water that needs to be drunk with these bars? As I recall, the US military survival survival ration in aircrew survival kits had a requirement for a minimum amount of water intake.
No the bars don't list a water requirement. Even if they did it would be for a sedentary sustenance in a lifeboat consuming 1200 calories a day. generally speaking I think if your not getting at least 1qt / 1 liter of water a day you shouldn't eat anything.... personally my body seems to do a pretty good job suppressing hunger when I'm dehydrated. I even get quite nauseous and can't even think about eating anything.

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Re: "Lifeboat" Ration Comparison

Post by Mags » Mon Nov 09, 2009 4:46 am

Great post Guns! Good job on the review!
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Re: "Lifeboat" Ration Comparison

Post by RonnyRonin » Fri Nov 13, 2009 4:38 pm

most excellent and useful information!

I had a very similar experience with the "Mayday" rations, I'm glad there are better ones out there.
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Re: "Lifeboat" Ration Comparison

Post by sveach » Fri Nov 13, 2009 4:59 pm

Great review...I'm going to have to order a few of these at some point.
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Re: "Lifeboat" Ration Comparison

Post by miles » Fri Nov 13, 2009 6:49 pm

Thank you very much for the information. I had been looking for something like this to guide me in buying. One other consideration people may want to think about depending on where you live and where you store them is temperature.

Mayday-Withstands Temperatures of -22° F to 149°F (-6°C to 65°C)
Mainstay-Withstands Temperatures of -40° F to 300°F
Didn't find the info for Datrex or S.O.S. readily available.

I'm sure they are all pretty durable but I know in some parts of the world getting outside of listed temps could be possible if you kept some in the trunk of your car for example. My plan had been to throw a Mainstay or two in the trunk with my GHB and not have to worry about the Texas summers. Then maybe throw some Mayday in the BOB or INCH because of the better nutritional value. Now that I have better info on the other two I may vary that plan up a little.

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Re: "Lifeboat" Ration Comparison

Post by Agent_Jaws » Sun Nov 15, 2009 12:41 am

Excellent review, though this is making me pretty hungry.
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Re: "Lifeboat" Ration Comparison

Post by GunsUp » Sun Nov 15, 2009 4:37 pm

OK I tried these again after 2 days of eating MREs and SOS rations and the mayday bars weren't as bad as I originally reported. I still think they are the worst of the 4, but they were quite edible. I don't know if they aired out after a week out of the packaging, I was hungrier this time or I was feeling off the first time, but they were much better.

I let sigboy40 (also on a 2 day MRE and Mountain House diet) try all of the rations and he seemed to think the mayday ration (my 4th choice) was the best saying that they tasted like the "old MRE oatmeal cookie". I tried the new MRE outmeal cookie from '08, and I will say they taste nothing alike. His second choice was mainstay. He hated both the datrex and the SOS bar because they both taste like coconut. I never realized the SOS bars were coconut, but it would explain why I like them so much.

I will continue to seek out people to feed them to to provide a more comprehensive survey.

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Re: "Lifeboat" Ration Comparison

Post by xxxDarksidexxx » Sun Nov 15, 2009 8:09 pm

very nice review, THANKS for putting the info out there!

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Re: "Lifeboat" Ration Comparison

Post by GunsUp » Sun Nov 15, 2009 8:29 pm

miles wrote:Mayday-Withstands Temperatures of -22° F to 149°F (-6°C to 65°C)
Mainstay-Withstands Temperatures of -40° F to 300°F
Didn't find the info for Datrex or S.O.S. readily available.
SOS Bars: http://www.emprep.com/sos%20food%20labs.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Shelf Life: 5 year shelf life.
May be safely stored in all climatic conditions.

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Re: "Lifeboat" Ration Comparison

Post by Keith B » Mon Nov 16, 2009 9:53 am

GunsUp wrote:I let sigboy40 (also on a 2 day MRE and Mountain House diet) try all of the rations and he seemed to think the mayday ration (my 4th choice) was the best saying that they tasted like the "old MRE oatmeal cookie". I tried the new MRE outmeal cookie from '08, and I will say they taste nothing alike. His second choice was mainstay. He hated both the datrex and the SOS bar because they both taste like coconut. I never realized the SOS bars were coconut, but it would explain why I like them so much.
This is just proof that different people have different tastes. I have always had an aversion too coconut and can taste it in even the smallest concentrations. The mainstay bars were almost tasteless with a slight lemony flavor. I have plans to buy several packages if mayday bars simply because of this experiment.
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Re: "Lifeboat" Ration Comparison (Now with Poll)

Post by taz-hein » Sun Jan 17, 2010 9:52 pm

ok, I'm finally ready to buy some S.O.S. Rations. Where are they the cheapest?

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Re: "Lifeboat" Ration Comparison (Now with Poll)

Post by 6UNF1GHTER » Sun Jan 17, 2010 10:16 pm

What if I have never tried any of them?

Meh, good info though.. nonetheless.
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Re: "Lifeboat" Ration Comparison (Now with Poll)

Post by Necrodamus » Mon Jan 18, 2010 10:25 am

Great writeup!
Try some Millinium bars too. Made by the same folks that make SOS.
They are sold as "energy bars" and not rations, but they taste better than anything else.
Individually vaccuum packed in foil.
Available in 9 natural flavors: Apricot, Blueberry, Cherry, Coconuut, Lemon, Orange, Raspberry, Tropical Fruit, Vanilla.

Each packet contains 1 fortified food bar providing 409 Kcal (1720 KJ)
I have only tried SOS and mine looked like the Datrex bars.
I ate them last week, their expiration date was '99, produced in '94 :shock:
(the package was still sealed otherwise I wouldnt have eaten it)
They still tasted good, seemed nutty flavored to me but maybe it was coconut.

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