Best Outdoor Survival Food Ideas to Always Have Ready

(Last Updated On: July 10, 2017)

Emergency preparedness is an important thing, regardless of where you live. Outdoor survival is particularly important if you are someone that spends time camping or exploring in settings removed from civilization.

Here are some of the best survival food and meals ideas for the outdoors.

Instant, Add Water Meals

There are two ways to go about instant meals – you either buy pre-packaged options or you make your own. Most instant “meals” aren’t actually meals, but more of a side.

For example, instant mashed potatoes or rice sides. However, for the purposes of survival these work fine. You can find a plethora of different varieties in your local grocery store, just be sure to double-check the instructions to make sure you only need water.

The other option of making your own is actually preferred. One Ziploc freezer bag is all you to have a complete meal. You can start off with an instant meal bought at the store or start from scratch, depending on what you
are making.

For example, you can take an instant mashed potato mix and make it more nutrition by adding ingredients.

Simply empty the packet into a Ziploc freezer bag and add extras like dehydrated vegetables, bacon bits, dehydrated meats or cheese powder.

Another option is to buy instant oatmeal and use that as your base. Put a little sugar or powdered milk into the mix. Add some dried fruits or go savory by adding in dehydrated vegetables and seasonings.

You can really use your imagination and experiment, just be sure you always use a freezer-style bag as the normal thin bags will not hold the hot water you’ll have to add when you’re preparing them to eat.

Dehydrated Vegetables

Always be sure you are getting some vegetable in your diet. Just because you may be in a survival situation doesn’t mean vegetables aren’t important. The best way of getting vegetables into your diet is
through dehydration.

You can purchase tins or bags of dehydrated vegetables in stores or online to use in recipes. This option is best paired with meals that require only water. If you make your own meal in a Ziploc bag, add in some vegetables.

Canned and Dehydrated Meats or Fish

Typically you want to avoid canned things due to the weight but for a survival situation, it is nice to have these on hand. Canned meats and fish are excellent sources of protein.

It is recommended to try tuna, albacore, alaska salmon and other fishes since you’ll get different nutrients and important omega 3 fatty acids. Don’t forget to check your grocery store aisles for packets of fish like tuna
and salmon.

You may even be able to find packeted shredded chicken.

You can also buy dehydrated meats and fish online from bulk food sources. These are perfect for adding into instant meals.


MREs or Meal Ready to Eat, seems like the typical survival food. These are popular for those creating an emergency ration storage but are looking for the least amount of work possible. That is this option’s major advantage after all – you just buy them and store them, using them as needed.

There is no prepping or extra work on your part. Most MREs sell for about $4 to $8 per meal (check this listing for the latest live prices), when purchased in a case.

This isn’t cheap compared to some other options but for the sheer convenience and ease of mind knowing it offers complete nutrition, it can’t be beat.

An alternative to buying MREs would be DIY MREs. These require work up front to make the meals but once preparation is finished you can store them as survival meals just as you would with MREs.

Homemade MREs

Homemade MREs don’t have to be fancy but they do let you get creative with your meals. MREs are often thought of as not the best tasting so if you have very specific tastes, going the DIY route is ideal. If you have food allergies it’ll almost be a necessity.

A basic homemade MRE could be individual meals but for outdoor survival use, you can save space by putting your ration for the entire day in each bag. An example of a DIY MRE for one adult for a day could include:

  • Instant coffee or a tea bag
  • Powdered creamer and/or sugar packets
  • Single serving juice mix to add to water
  • Small snack Ziploc of a trail mix
  • One candy bar for a pick-me-up
  • Packet of tuna or alaska salmon
  • Package of instant mashed potatoes
  • Package of instant rice
  • Packed of instant pasta

As you can see, many of the outdoor survival foods listed can play a part in your homemade MRE. If you really want whole meals ready to grab and go, this is the best way.

Be sure to review nutritional information and determine how many calories you should consume on a daily basis. Don’t go too heavy on sugars, though a candy bar can come in handy in a survival situation.

Put everything into a large Ziploc bag or, even better, into a vacuum-sealed bag so you get it as compact
as possible.

Trail Mix with Extras

Trail mix is essentially the go-to outdoor snack, but by making your own trail mix you can go from the equivalent of a sugar-filled, candy mix to something of real sustenance.

Getting enough protein and real nutrition is important, as well as fat. Healthy fats from nuts are necessary for health and are ideal for a survival situation. Most cheap trail mixes are heavy on peanuts, which isn’t ideal. Instead go for a mix of nuts like:

  • Macadamia
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Walnuts

Don’t forget about seeds. Sunflower seeds are also a great addition!

You can also add in some pretzel balls for variety and a little bit of salt. You don’t want to go too heavy on salt so try to only get unprocessed raw nuts and seeds. Avoid salted or honey roasted, although a tablespoon of honey roasted peanuts can add a nice flavor.

To round it all out, add some dark chocolate chips and some dried fruit.

Jerky or Dried Fish

Jerky is a great thing to have on hand. Beef and other meat jerkies are great but don’t forget about alternatives like chicken or turkey jerky. If you can find some smoked dried fish jerky, go for it. Jerkies are heavier but having some real meat to chew is a nice change of pace.

Just as it was mentioned about canned meats and fish, you need to be consuming a healthy amount of protein. Jerky can be enjoyable to chew on while hiking and can be more satiating.

Survival Skills

There are a number of emergency situations that could leave you high and dry without food. While planning ahead and stocking on emergency foods is extremely important, don’t forget about educating yourself on these two important subjects:

  • Knowledge of Native Edibles

Educate yourself on the local edibles in your area. Most experts recommend you skip mushrooms just in case of accidental misidentification. However there are still plenty of berries, tubers and greens you can find.

  • Hunting and Trapping Skills

Most survival situations aren’t going to be prolonged but it is still wise to learn the basics of hunting and trapping, if you aren’t a vegetarian. Trapping is a very important skill and will probably be more handy than hunting, since you won’t need a weapon. Not to mention there are few survival situations that could warrant hunting big
game anyways.

In the event your food stores are damaged or you find yourself lost in the backcountry with a dwindling supply, you can fall back on these two skills. Try to find a local class for more information.

Having a supply of outdoor survival foods ready to go isn’t as difficult as it seems. All it takes is some preparation and knowledge.

About the Author Sam Hardy

Sam Hardy is an outdoor enthusiast with a penchant for survival prepping. He writes about the great outdoors and his favorite equipment here.

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