Product Review: Mainstay Emergency Rations and Water by Michael Z. Williamson

It’s a good idea to have an emergency food supply in one’s bug out bag, but it needs to be something that doesn’t decay, leak or spoil, and has a good shelf life in possibly extreme conditions. 

Enter the Mainstay rations.  They’re made by Survivor Industries and packed in what feels like a heavy mylar-lined foil, rated for five years, and can withstands temperatures of -40° F to 300°F (-40°C to 149°C).  They meet USCG and DoD standards for packaging.  They’re in convenient 400 calorie bars, each constituting a meal, which make management easy, and eliminate trying to break them into pieces, so as to minimize loss in serving. A one pound pack is more than enough for a day under normal conditions.  Obviously, extreme circumstances may require more.

Emergency rations are unusual if you’re not familiar with them.  These are small and dense, basically a giant, semi-sweet sugar cookie with lemon flavor and vitamins/minerals.  They’re heavy enough not to crumble too much, but light enough to eat, sweet enough to be enjoyable, not so sweet as to be candy.  You won’t feel full after eating one, but you will have enough calories and nutrition to get where you’re going.  As their chart shows, you’ll have more than the US RDA of most nutrients.  I’d recommend supplementing with other food, especially edible plants, but for the short term forced march, these are the thing to have. (This company has the lowest retail price I’ve found)

Mainstay also offers packaged water. These are similarly packed, in small, 125 ml (just over 4 oz) servings.  The packs are not overfilled, and strong enough to take a lot of tossing around.  In my test, they took a crush weight of 200 pounds without bursting (I stood on one), which is tremendously more than a typical bottle will take.  If one pack should happen to get punctured, loss is minimized.  Shelf life is five years, and the package is proof against oxygen transfer and spoilage. 

The company is honest, with no blather about mineral springs.  The municipal water source is listed, as is packaging date and lot number.  The price is competitive with brand name water, or bottles from a machine or vendor at remote events, making them even more attractive.

The only down side is they are a little tricky to open.  Once they tear (you’ll need a knife, or teeth if all else fails), the best strategy I found is to seal your lips around the package and squeeze gently. After the first mouthful, it’s more controllable for pouring. 

A dozen of the water packets and one of the large food bar packs will give you a couple of days without worrying about energy levels or dehydration, assuming a temperate climate and proper clothing.  I recommend both products. – Michael Z. Williamson (SurvivalBlog Editor at Large)