One thing that I learned early on in my adult life is that Yetis hurt people. They are mean and uncaring as they go from village to village destroying igloos and ruining birthday parties and then slip away into the blizzard that conceals their every move. Another thing that I learned is that ounces = pounds. This is something that was beaten into my head on every forced march or military maneuver I have ever had to partake in. That really comes into play when you look at your gear. When you ponder if that particular piece of gear is a “need to have” or a “want to take.” And needs always trump wants. Many times a particular item that is a “need” is bulky, awkward, or heavier than you would like. The question is, at times, can I make a particular “need” lighter? Can I make it more easily manageable? Make it more convenient? Food will always be a need.
When I went on my initial bug out I chose to take MREs as my source of nutrition. They are familiar to me, having spent 21 years in the military; they were a main staple of field life. That and I had them on hand so that was a bonus as I did not have to purchase anything. That was an absolute bonus as after doing some research I discovered that they have gone up in price considerably over the years (going from about $6.00 in 1994 to $17.00 a week ago for a complete MRE). I grabbed 3 days’ worth of MREs off of a shelf (9 total – by today’s prices on MREs I am sitting on a gold mine), sat down, and without thinking about it I immediately started field stripping them, something that I have done numerous times. As I was tearing through them, throwing things to and fro, Jackie asked me to take pause and explain to her what I was doing and why. I looked at her as though she asked me how babies were made.
I cut open the top of the thick plastic pouch as I have always found it a daunting task to open them at the top seam. I pulled out the main meal and its sidekick and the accessory package that comes in them. I took the main meal out of its cardboard container and set it aside in the keep pile and tossed the cardboard (I did the same thing with its sidekick if it had one). I then grabbed the accessory package and opened it up and laid out the contents to take stock of what it came with and decide what to keep and what to toss.
WHAT TO KEEP
I made my keep/toss decision based on what offered the most in the way of sustenance and what was just nice to have; what food stuffs had the most “bang for the buck” in the way of calories in comparison to its weight, and what I could eat without having to stop and heat up in order for it to be palatable. I, of course, kept the main meal, removed from its cardboard packaging for ease of packing in my bag or even in a cargo pocket of my pants. I kept any cracker, packaged shelf stable bread, or cookie it may have come with. I kept the peanut butters and cheeses. I kept the pouches of snack-type food items (i.e. dehydrated cranberries, cheese cracker rolls), the utensil, the sample sized packet of toilet paper, moist towelette, matches (if it came with them), and the plastic pouch that comes with most MREs that you can mix drinks in.
I like the drink mixing pouches as they have a zip-lock like closure at the top (resealable is always awesome) and are fairly durable and water proof. You can do amazing things with these like protecting documents, cell phones, the MRE toilet paper and matches, or gathering water if needed.
WHAT TO TOSS
What I decided to toss was any rice dishes that came with it. The reason for this is that even though you can eat the rice cold it is very difficult to consume (like eating cold rice out of the refrigerator) and tastes like a fart when cold. I tossed the MRE heating sleeve for a couple of reasons. The first being that I can’t stand the smell of the chemical reaction that occurs when you use it. It is like ghetto tear gas. And the smell carries for a ways (depending on the wind). It requires water to operate, rendering that water non-potable due to the chemical reaction. Sure, it is just a small amount of water, but water is water and I would prefer not to waste it. I once did an experiment to see if I could save myself from having to use my potable water by peeing in the heating element and substituting urine in its place. This was a very bad decision on my part. It smelled absolutely horrible. That and I had to use one of my moist towelettes to clean the food package prior to opening it. Sure I could have just wiped it off with my shirt, or sucked it up and went without cleaning it off at all (you read all the time about people who have had to drink their own piss in order to survive) but I wasn’t at that stage of my life yet. Another reason was that I would have to stop and use it, and if I am going to do that then I might as well just build a fire and heat my chow up that way.
I also tossed any drink mixes. I would prefer to drink my water as water. Argument can be made that you can cover up the smell and taste of water that you have had to purify yourself. Had I had a child along I may have kept the drink mixes, but since it was just me, I sucked it up. I also tossed the cocoa beverages. I did not intend to stop and make a fire, did not deem the calories to be quality enough to keep them, nor am I the Iron Chef of MREs and care little about making Ranger Puddings or crap like that. I had better things to do, like walking.
On a side note, another reason that may have compelled me to keep the cocoa would have been if I had a child with me. I noted a pile of grasshoppers nearly every step I took. If food had been scarce and the grasshoppers became part of our diet, the cocoa mixed thickly with grasshoppers mixed in may have been a better option for the child in compelling him/her to eat (especially if they didn’t know what the “secret ingredient” was).
I discarded the sauces, the spices, the gum, and the creamers. Again, they were calories not worth taking. Nor were they worth the space they take up. One pack of gum doesn’t seem like much, 9 packs of gum may not seem like a lot, but 9 packs of gum along with 9 packs of salt along with 4 ciders and 3 teas and 2 sauces start to take up some room.
I also discarded 5 of the 9 thick plastic pouches. I only needed 4 of them to pack what I was keeping as far as food stuffs.
The combined weight of what I was discarding came up to approximately 3.8 pounds. As I said before, ounces = pounds and I just saved myself from having to carry 4 extra pounds. That may not seem like a lot, but I remember once throwing a package of M&Ms out of my pack on a hike in order to make my pack lighter (it was a long and grueling hike).
HOW I PACKED IT
The food stuffs and accessories that I kept, I packed into the thick plastic pouches for the purpose of consolidating them and ease of transport and packing. I placed them into the pouches by category – main meal (and spoons), snacks (crackers, breads, cheeses), toilet paper and non edibles. I did this to make it easier when I went to reach for something, knowing where it was, but also so I could do a quicker mental inventory on what I had on hand and what I was running out of.
I then augmented my food with granola bars and the like to make up for the crap calories that I had tossed aside since the total calorie count of an MRE is determined by all the items that it contains.
I find that stripping out MREs is beneficial in that I can choose what foods to take, it consolidates and saves space, and I can eliminate frivolous weight. Ounces equal pounds; if something is going to weigh 4 pounds, then it should be 4 pounds of something that I am going to use.