These are MRE Food Kits that every Backpacker should know.

One of the biggest worries of any backpacker is how to remain full while trekking for long days. The food must be wholesome as well as something that is a treat to the taste buds.

MREs have always been known as military food – but not anymore. They now seem to make their way into the trunks, bug-out bags, and stockpiles of a lot of preppers. While it is illegal to sell military MREs, you might still find them being traded on sites like Amazon. You might discover that they are rejected batches that may not be good for you.

There is no need to risk purchasing illegally sold MRE food kits, while you can get genuine ones manufactured by the same companies that supply to the military. Additionally, you can buy from several other U.S. companies that adhere to the same military standards.

This comprehensive guide covers the common components of MRE food kits, when they should be consumed, their nutritional content, whether they should be refrigerated, how long they can last, how to figure out when they were made, and a review of the best five emergency MRE food kits.

What are the Common Components of an MRE?

An MRE is defined by the multiple components found inside the MRE Food Kit. Different companies incorporate different combinations of foods to provide the health benefits you need for survival and other non-food additions.

The common ones include: 

  • Matches
  • Flameless heater
  • Utensils and toothpick
  • Hot sauce, creamer, sugar, pepper, and salt
  • Toilet paper, napkin, or moist towelettes
  • Beverage mix, coffee powder, and a bag to pour into
  • Mint and chewing gum
  • Candy or dessert
  • Cheese spread, jelly, or peanut butter
  • Bread or crackers
  • Side dish

When Should MREs be Consumed?

The United States Department of Defense discourages users from eating MREs for 21 days in a row. Eating it continuously is not recommended because you risk developing:

  • Constipation
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Bloating
  • Severe fatigue
  • Gas
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Celiac’s disease

It may not be easy to find alternative food and a source of heat out there in the wild, but you can learn those skills to avoid solely depending on your MRE. Fishing and game hunting are amazing skills that are easy to learn. You can also learn how to light up a flame using dry wood, that is, if you are unable to pack a stove in your bug out bag. Fiber supplements and fruits and vegetables in the wild can also fill in the nutritional gap.

Survivalists should also avoid consuming MREs if:

  • It’s 20-30 years old
  • Smells rancid
  • It is bloated

What is the Nutritional Content of MREs?

Proper nutrition supports cognitive operations, which is essential for survival. For instance, you need to be in an excellent state to figure out your next move in an emergency. Opting for non-MREs is a bad idea because they may not contain the correct ratios of fats, carbohydrates, proteins, and minerals to suit your body’s needs in an emergency.

MREs, on the other hand, were designed explicitly for user endurance. Thus, the meals are packed with nutrition that can keep you going in an emergency. You will find that most of the best MREs in the market provide about 1250 calories. Each meal often contains:

  • 1/3 of the daily requirement of minerals and vitamins (military recommended)
  • 51% carbohydrates
  • 36% fats
  • 13% protein

It is recommended that you take three meals to get the ideal amount of nutrients and calories for the day.

Should MREs be Refrigerated?

MREs can remain in perfect condition for up to five years at room temperature. You can refrigerate them, but it is not really necessary. The problem with freezing MREs is that the packaging becomes brittle and can easily get punctured. 

While the pouch is designed to withstand up to 1,000 flexes, repeated freezing stresses, and stretches it – chances are that the laminated pouch could have a higher failure rate. And you don’t want to open your MRE and find leakages and spills because they can be messy. So, the best thing is to avoid refrigerating them altogether and maintain their sturdy packaging.

How Long Should MREs Last?

MREs from the 1980s lasted for a really long time because the manufacturers used freeze-dried ingredients. However, those MREs had other tradeoffs. The current-day MREs don’t last as long, but their shelf lives depend on the storage.

Notably, the military tries not to keep MRE food kits for more than five years. But here is how long your MRE can last, according to the U.S. Army field manuals:

  • Stored at 100ºF can last six months
  • Stored at 80ºF can last 3 years
  • Stored at 40ºF can last 5 years

The best place to store your MRE food kits for longevity is a cool dark place with low moisture content – it may be somewhere in the basement, in a plastic tub/tote.

Another indicator of an MRE’s usability is the Time-Temperature Indicator (TTI). It has two circles; the inner light circle and the dark outer circle. The circles help the inspectors determine whether or not the food is in good condition. The MRE is considered fit for your consumption if the inner circle remains lighter than the outer darker circle.

How Can Users Figure Out When the MRE was Made?

Now that you know how long MRE Food Kits are expected to last, knowing the date they were manufactured can help you complete the equation. It is worth noting that MREs don’t use the typical day/month/year model for manufacturing and expiry dates. Instead, it uses the four-digit Julian code.

The first digit usually runs from 0-9, and the last three digits can be between 1-365. The first part represents the year, while the second part represents the day of the year. For example, 8364 on your MRE Food Kit means that it was manufactured on the 364th day of 2018, or December 29th, 2018. If you find it a bit challenging, consider using an online converter.

Remember that some MRE emergency food kits may not have a Julian code on the outer packaging but will have it on the specific meal packages. Moreover, note that the inspection date might be indicated next to the Julian code. The two differ, in that, the inspection date is usually a year like 2021, and is usually three years from the date of manufacturing. 

Should MREs be Eaten Hot or Cold?

MREs are ready to eat right out of the wrapper, as its name suggests. However, some people feel like it tastes better when warmed. Some packages come complete with a heating system, while others don’t. If you prefer eating your MRE warm, there are several ways to warm it up in a survival situation.

Warming with a Flameless Retention Heater

These heaters were specifically designed for MREs, and you don’t need fuel, matches, or tinder to operate them. You simply put the MRE in the heater’s pouch, add a spoonful of water, close the pouch, and wait. The water generates a reaction inside the MRE park, which warms your food in minutes.

Warming in Boiling Water

Most of the best MRE Food Kits are packed in materials that are both heat and water-resistant. So, if you didn’t carry a flameless heater, you can find a way to boil some water and dip your MRE inside. In 5-8 minutes, your meal will be warm enough to eat. 

Note that you might have few heating options in a survival situation. Your choice of heating method will depend on whether you packed the flameless heater with you or not. It will also be determined by your ability to find wood and some water to boil and warm the food. Remember that even if both options are not favorable, your MREs are safe to eat cold. 

A Review of the Best 5 MRE Food Kits for Survival Preparedness

Now that you know the essential information regarding MREs, it is time to review the five best of them all.

1. Western Frontier Ultimate MRE

Best 6-pack MRE Food Kit

This MRE pack has six meals that can get you through an emergency situation. Preppers get to enjoy approximately 24 different flavors in the pack, which can add a little zest to survival. Note that the flavors in your package are picked randomly by the manufacturer, and you don’t get to choose. Western Frontier Ultimate MRE 6 Pack weighs 3.52 ounces.


  • Variety of flavors
  • 6 complete meals
  • Lightweight
  • Inspected and certified
  • Pack date indicated in every meal


  • You can’t choose your favorite flavors
Western Frontier Ultimate MRE 6 Pack

2. Genrine U.S. Military Surplus Assorted Flavor

Best 4-pack MRE Food Kit

This MRE Food Kit can last a really long time if you store it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Genuine U.S. Military Surplus Assorted Flavor was designed for the ultimate endurance and nutrition, and each meal can supply you with approximately 1250 calories. The product weighs 6.37 pounds with dimensions of 13 x 9 x 7 inches.


  • Long shelf-life
  • Fresh taste
  • Genuine U.S warfighter rations
  • You have menu choices


  • Relatively heavy
Genuine U.S. Military Surplus Assorted Flavor

3. Western Frontier 12 Meal Case

Best 12-Meal MRE Food Kit

This package comes with more than just food; the genuine U.S. warfighter rations come along with toilet paper, matches, flavorful spices, and other survival accessories. Every meal in this pack gives a survivalist about 1250 calories. You get to pick something from the two different menus, and the meals will be randomly selected.

You might get vegetarian, traditional, Italian, Mexican, and Asian food in the assortment. There are also beverage powders, milkshakes, coffee, desserts, and snacks inside the box. And if stored correctly, the food can last between 5-7 years. The Western Frontier 12 Meal Case weighs 20.35 pounds and measures 16 x 9 x 11 inches.


  • 12 meals
  • Fresh taste
  • Nice and secure packaging
  • Comes with a flameless heater


  • Too many pieces of plastic packaging
Western Frontier 12 Meal Case

4. Survival Tabs

Best Survival Tabs MRE Food Kit

  • These tabs may not meet your daily calorie needs (240 calories per tablet), but they will make you feel full during an emergency situation. The Survival Tabs ensure that you get the necessary supply of vitamins and proteins. Each bottle contains enough key nutrients for a survivalist to go for 15 days.


    • Long shelf life
    • Nutrient-packed
    • Variety of comfort flavors to choose from
    • Portable
    • Neatly packed
    • 15-day survival per bottle


    • Little calories per tablet
Survival Tabs

5. 12 XMRE 1300XT MRE

Best Priced MRE Food Kit

  • The manufacturer of this MRE food kit has a solid track record for producing usable products at affordable prices. This particular product is battle-tested and meets the standards of the U.S. Army Natick Soldier RD&E Center. Each package of the 12 XMRE 1300XT provides the survivalist 1200 to 1500 calories and high-quality nourishment. The case weighs 20 pounds and has dimensions of 16 x 10 x 9 inches.


    • U.S. military-grade
    • 5-year shelf life, extendable with proper storage
    • Maximum nourishment
    • Portable
    • Parked in a waterproof pouch
    • Complete with utensils
    • Good taste
    • Nutrient diverse
    • 12 meals
    • 6 meal types


    • Doesn’t come with a toilet paper roll 
12 XMRE 1300XT MRE Food Kit

Final Thoughts

MRE was a great invention of the early war times. It has undergone improvements over the centuries, and is now available for civilians like you. MREs are portable and can be a great addition to the contents of your bug out bag.

While you breathe just fine after going for days without food, you don’t have to starve yourself when you can pack up some MREs. Go online and begin shopping today.

Besides, MRE Food Kits, we also have comprehensive reviews on other Emergency Food Supply companies and Food Packages.

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