I’d like to avoid using a cook kit and just carry ready-to-eat meals in my emergency bags

While building my emergency bag in my car and my one at home to evacuate out with, I am faced with the dilemma of including a cook kit or not. 


  • Ability to cook freeze dried foods
  • Cook anything I might hunt or gather
  • Boil sketchy water and make it safe
  • Heat up water just as a comfort for coffee, tea, or hot chocolate


  • Additional weight, space, cost
  • Slower to prepare a meal and eat it then just grabbing a granola bar

I can maybe justify having the cook kit in my home bag because I that will be surviving for a longer period of time, but 100% of the time I’ve needed a meal or snack in my car emergency bag, it has been because I don’t want to stop by a McDonalds and would rather just get something quick and cheaper. So up until now I have just stocked some granola bars that I buy by the box. 

What other snacks or meals could I possibly add to my car emergency bag that I can quickly grab and consume? Something that can withstand the heat, be filling, and nutritious.


  • Comments (12)

    • 3

      I have a cook kit in my BOB but not my GHB (which lives in my office, because I don’t regularly drive my car to work, and our parking structures are seismic death traps anyway). For my GHB and car kit, I have Better Bars because they are free of the common allergens AND taste good AND have a one-year shelf life. I keep the chocolate-covered ones at work and the non-chocolate-covered ones in the car (because cars get hot and chocolate melts).

      Also, I only recently added a cook kit to my BOB because of the downsides you mentioned. I’m still not totally sure it was the right choice (it’s so much weight, and freeze-dried food, while light, is so bulky), but I wanted to have another method of boiling water, plus the ability to prepare caffeinated beverages (both for comfort and to fend off migraines).

    • 5

      I go with the Daytrex lifeboat rations. I tried one, they’re not bad.

      For weight considerations, I don’t have a cook stove  in my bug out backpack, but I do have one in the tub I can throw in the car if I’m able. I think packing to the level of one’s physical fitness (and being realistic about that) is important and makes you more prepared, not less, even though you would be leaving things out that many recommend. 

      • 3

        I’ve bought the Datrex bars for almost everyone I’ve helped built a kit, just because the 5-year shelf life is such a good feature (esp. for those who are not going to be super dedicated to monitoring their preps and replacing expired items). I just don’t use them myself because they’re basically a paste of the things that I’m allergic too. 😀 We did bust a near-expired package out at a potluck just for fun once. It was the end of the night, the good food was gone, and a handful of our more 420-dependent friends weren’t leaving. They did not make the Datrex bars disappear, but they put a dent in them and reported that they were not terrible.

        Also, big endorse on the “being realistic about what you can carry makes you more prepared, not less” philosophy. 

    • 3

      I always have the ability to cook when out and about, emergency or not.  Cook stoves can be had in all sorts of sizes and weights.  My current fave is a Vargo stove, weighing all of one ounce, which will accept alcohol or Esbit tabs or other similar brands.  You can easily make   similar stoves from cans which are equally light.  Gas canister stoves are slightly heavier and well worth the weight.

      Granola bars are great for that quick snack/meal when things are rushed.  REI and similar stores usually have a selection of other brands -“Kate’s Real Food” – simply tear and eat.  Critical when necessary.

      If I can afford the weight, I just carry canned goods.  They are heavy because of the liquid content, but water may be scarce anyway, so the weight is welcome.

      It all depends on your specific situation.  There is no one size fits all answer.

    • 2

      Thank you for the recommendations so far everyone!

      I will check out Better Bars, Daytrex lifeboat rations, and Kate’s Real Food. 

      That Vargo titanium stove that only weighs an ounce is pretty impressive. No longer is the weight of the cook stove an issue with something like that.

    • 3

      You don’t need a full cook kit to boil water. This is why TP’s list has a stainless steel canteen and bic lighter at level 1, but doesn’t add cook kit until level 2. My BOB is closer to level 1 so that I can walk or run with it if needed. Anything that I would only take by car goes in a separate “priority 2” container.

    • 2

      I keep the Starkist Tuna Creations (foil pouches) and almonds in my car bag.  They are nutrient dense and tasty.  

    • 3

      As this review shows, a cook kit need not be particularly elaborate or expensive.  Lots of options available. definitely worth having on hand, and most likely something out there that meets your space and weight requirements.

    • 3

      Something like the small Toaks wood gasification stove will fit a 450ml cup inside and in turn will nest in a 750ml cup or pot with lid. This whole set up can be bought in titanium which is ultra light weight. The stove will efficiently burn any small pieces of solid fuel meaning that you can have your hot drinks and freeze dried foods without carrying fuel.

      What you are going to need to work out for yourself is how many days worth of dehydrated meals you can get set against how many pre packed snack foods like cereal bars. Weight for weight after a few days the died food and stove will turn out to be the lighter option, you will probably achieve a more balanced diet and have access to safe boiled water for beverages. 
      On the other hand, if you just want a 24 hr bag to get you home then I would choose hydration over snack food.

      • 1

        *should read “dried food and stove”

    • 2

      Bridgford makes some individual meals in MRE style packaging that lasts for years. They don’t taste half bad either. We saw them last year at the Outdoor Expo.

      They sell smaller 2 packs at stores like Cabelas or Sportsmans Warehouse.

      • 2

        They’re good, I’ve had them too. A bit breast, but that means carbs!