Article submitted by Mark Hatfield.
‘Lifeboat rations’ What the heck is that?
It is exactly what it says. This is the food supply designed to be kept in lifeboats. They were never intended to be a complete meal or to provide complete nutrition, they are simply intended to keep you alive until rescued.
There are some substantial advantages to keeping some on hand for emergencies. These include:
1. Guaranteed shelf life of five years.
2. Does not make you thirsty.
3. Don’t need to drink anything along with eating it.
4. Does not go bad in extreme temperatures of hot or cold.
The storage conditions apply while the packaging is unbroken, if a package is opened so individual bars are accessible, the storage guarantees no longer apply.
These rations are an excellent choice for hiking, hunting, the ‘’bug out’ bag, and the ‘get home’ bag. You can just throw some in the trunk of your car and forget about them until needed.
These are not just snack bars or ‘gorp’. They are U.S. Coast Guard approved and most manufacturers are also internationally approved as well. To be lifeboat rations they must meet specific standards for nutrition and stability.
They do contain a good bit of sugar so diabetics beware. They are low protein, high carbohydrate, high sugar. Some of them taste good enough to use for snacks and are cheaper than many similar sized items sold as snacks. They may carry a lot more calories however. For official use, each is offered in packets containing at least 3600 calories. The basic packet of 3600 calories is said to be enough for 3 days, but that is for lifeboat use, the caloric needs of a hiker would be higher. They also offer packets of 2400 calories.
The three manufacturers available of which I am aware are: S.O.S., Mainstay, and Datrex.
S.O.S.: This is my favorite. I find them appealing enough to occasionally eat as snacks. The standard packet contains 9 bars of 400 calories each. Each bar is individually wrapped but not sealed. The packet can be slightly difficult to open with bare hands, the individual wrappers often have a ‘greasy’ feel. I usually open one end of the bars wrapper and squeeze the bar up to the top. People to whom I have offered these find the taste either appealing or neutral.
Mainstay: It has been 5 years since I have tried Mainstay. Each packet contains 9 cubes, again 400 calories each. The cubes were not separate but part of a larger block and not individually wrapped. I do not recall how easily or not the packet opened. The ration reminded me of dense, crumbly, fine grained corn bread but with a strong lemon flavor. I do not like these but I do not like lemon, no lemon pies, lemon cakes, etc., however my niece loved them and so did others of her associates.
Datrex: Just tried these this week. Each packet contains 18 individually wrapped and sealed flat squares. The packet opened well enough but the individual bar wrappers were a bear to open with my bare hands. The bars are soft and the effort to open the individual wrapper caused them to crumble, then some of it would be lost while trying to get it out of the wrapper. If my hands were tired, weak, sweaty, or wet, I would never be able to open them without the point of a knife or other implement. The taste is neither pleasant nor unpleasant, it was just…stuff. I will not buy these again. However, as I have a case of them, I have decided that in the event of very bad times, this is what I will hand out to others if requested. Did occur to me, one could crumple the stuff into a bowl, add milk and eat it as a cereal.
When shopping for these, prices vary TREMENDOUSLY. Some places actually charge twice what others do. On top of that, these things are heavy so shipping cost is easily the same as the price of the product. The manufacturer of the S.O.S. rations is only 3 or 4 hours away from me but does not sell retail, nor are there any nearby retailers. My most recent purchase was from a company the furthest you could get from me in the continental U.S., essentially from one ‘corner’ of the country to the farthest other ‘corner’. Look very carefully at the shipping costs, it is often cheaper to pay a higher price for the rations if the shipping rate is reduced, than to buy at a low sale price and pay full shipping.
As said, I keep some in my car. I take them when hiking or hunting, and keep some in the house for emergencies. If you are thinking of long term food supply for bad times obviously you will want more than just these, but they are a good item for part of your emergency planning.