MRE’s: A New Look at a Classic Survival Food

Last weekend my boyfriend and I decided to take a little trek into the wilderness to put our survival skills to the test. It’s always a good idea to practice your preps and make sure that your skill set is up to par by conducting periodic drills to simulate what would actually happen in a bug out situation. We decided to head up to a beautiful remote lake and take our new kayaks out on the water. The plan was to hike around a steep mountainside and locate a suitable site to build a shelter and make camp. The idea being that if we need to bug out to the wilderness one day, it would be better to hide out in an area that isn’t accessible on foot. As you read on you will discover that things didn’t turn out quite how we’d planned, but the trip was definitely a learning experience to say the least.

As much as I like to consider myself a planner and slight perfectionist, I made a pretty significant oversight at the very beginning of the trip which almost cost us dearly. While packing for the trip the night before, I had grabbed everything we needed for the trip including a small raft that we would tie to the back of the kayak in order to transport our gear to the camp site.

IMG_3550We reached our destination and started unloading all of our gear, excited to set out on a new adventure. As I used the air compressor in my emergency car kit to blow up the raft, it became clear that the raft was not holding air. I started to get frustrated because the raft was pretty much brand new, it had only been out once before and hadn’t been used enough to justify a hole in it already. The kid! It had to be the kid I thought to myself… she must have taken the raft into the pool last summer and popped a hole in it but she was too scared to tell me so she just hid it back in the shed hoping I wouldn’t notice. Just as I was ready to lay the blame on my daughter to my disapproving boyfriend who was looking at me with those “Miss Survival Girl can’t even bring a suitable raft on a survival trek” eyes, I found the culprit! The screw on top that’s used for quick deflation had never been replaced, leaving a 1 inch round, integrity compromising hole in the side of the raft. “We’re screwed!” I shrieked as I handed it to my boyfriend. We can’t go without the raft… we have too much stuff it won’t fit in the kayaks and we can’t go without it. He suggested that we drive the hour and a half back to town and locate a cheap replacement from the local Walmart but I wasn’t having it. We had already driven so far that day and I was ready to get out on the water and start out on our epic wilderness survival trek!

“Isn’t there something you can do?” I asked.. you’re smart I’m sure you can figure something out. There has to be a way to make this work. I brought some duct tape – that fixes everything! “Can’t we just rig something up MacGyver style to seal the hole enough so that it will float?” As he held back his chuckles he explained to me why that would never work, the pressure would be too much for the tape to hold and all of the gear in the raft would end up in the water within minutes. After beating myself up for not checking before we left and thinking of all the reasons why I had failed the survival Gods, we finally decided to ditch the raft and take only what we could fit on the kayaks. Realistically, that’s what it would probably be like in a real life survival situation anyway right?

One of the first (and hardest) things we would have to part with would be the big ice chest full of delicious cold beverages and steak with veggies to grill for dinner. I was so bummed!  I was really looking forward to those steaks that had been marinating in the fridge for 3 days before we left. But I knew that there was no way we would fit the cooler on the kayaks and even attempting to do so would probably end up with one of us in the water. So we decided to take the light snacks and MRE’s we had in our packs for food instead.

Between shoving our sleeping gear and packs in the bow of the kayaks and using bungee cords to strap down the fishing poles and tackle box on the tops we were able to make most of the essentials fit (minus the cooler) of course. Off we went across the lake to locate our perfect camping spot. We wanted to choose something hidden away on the side of the hill that would not be visible by the water that had a flat enough area for sleeping and a place to tie off our kayaks. We managed to find the perfect spot on top of a hill with a rudimentary game path that made the site accessible yet not too visible.

IMG_3519After we made camp we set out on the kayaks to score some fish for dinner, this would be my retribution for our much anticipated steak dinner that had be ditched due to my lack of planning the night before. I was all grins as we set out on the lake in search of our dinner. I knew that the lake was teeming with rainbow trout and we had even passed another fisherman who had caught a few salmon where the river enters the lake on the north end. We made our way to the north end, trolling with spinners the whole way but for some reason we didn’t even get one bite. Once we got there I got out of the kayak and set up shop on a rock with shallow edge, the water was clear and beautiful and I could see at least ten trout swimming around in the eddy below. I cast and cast again, but each time I would watch as they swam up to my bait, looked at it and swam away. It was the most frustrating thing I was about ready to jump in and try to grab one with my bare hands. But it was a lost cause – they didn’t like they bait. We went home empty handed that night and my stomach started to ache as I pictured the bland, tasteless MRE’s we’d be eating for dinner that night.

Personally, I haven’t eaten many MRE’s, but their reputation precedes them with rumors of the soldiers surviving on tasteless, starch packed MRE’s while on duty. I have to admit my expectations weren’t very high. But after a day of hiking steep hills and paddling around in the kayaks my energy stores were depleted and I was ready to put some much needed calories in my body – regardless what form they came in.

We had two MRE’s with us from Meal Kit Supply, one was a lasagna with meat sauce and the other was a breakfast meal of oatmeal. We broke out the lasagna and started it heating with the smokeless ration heater it comes with. It was nice that we didn’t have to take a stove to boil water like we usually do with the freeze dried meals we take on hiking trips. Plus we didn’t have a fire going yet since we made a pact that we would not use lighters or matches on the trip no matter how tempting it was. We wanted to practice different ways of starting fires for our upcoming video series we’re working on. After about ten minutes we checked the temperature and it didn’t feel quite hot enough yet so we let it sit for another five minutes or so while we worked on the fire. There were two pouches included in the meal, one with the lasagna and one with au gratin potatoes. The portions were considerable and I was able to divide them both between the two of us. We both had enough lasagna for a main dish and there was a good portion of potatoes as well. I was absolutely shocked when I took the first bite and realized that unlike the MRE rumors I had heard, the lasagna from Meal Kit Supply was absolutely delicious! It was seriously on par with Mom’s homemade spaghetti, the flavor was excellent and you could tell it was made with high quality ingredients. They even come with a little bag of knick-knacks like salt/pepper, tea, juice or coffee and a snack of crackers with cheese or peanut butter. I was very impressed with the quality and portions and the oatmeal breakfast we had the next morning was just as good.

IMG_3548 MRE’s may have a bad name just because they are associated with the military but the problem is that the military is going to use the cheapest possible ingredients they can to keep costs down. There are many private companies making their own version of the MRE and it is worlds apart from the ones made for the soldiers. What I love about MREs is that they’re already completely made and ready to eat, no adding hot water, no need to carry a stove and water for cooking. It’s really a brilliant concept for when you’re out hiking or hunting and you don’t want to stop and set up a fire just to eat lunch. These meals will prove to be invaluable in survival situations where you may not be able to have a fire due to safety concerns but you can still have a delicious, hot meal. We all know what a hot meal can do for morale in a survival situation. I highly recommend that you pick up a box of these MRE’s from Meal Kit Supply to include in your preps. Out of all of my food storage items, if I had to choose one food item to grab and go in a bug out situation – MRE’s would be it!

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***This article was contributed by Chrystle Poss a.k.a. “Survival Girl”, Owner of this Survival Blog and devoted Prepper. She has been writing articles on survival and emergency preparedness since 2006. You can find her work on various websites and publications.***

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