It’s a full-on, no holds barred, cage match to the death. Three ration bars enter, one ration bar leaves. Pictured above is the Mainstay 1200 ration bar from survivor Industries, the Datrex 2400 ration “cube” from Datrex, and the 3600 SOS emergency food ration from Food Lab Inc. They all come in 2400 and 3600 calorie sizes but the Mainstay adds a 1200 calorie option, as pictured. They all promise glorified emergency wholesome fortified goodness and heaven for your taste buds. Now, let’s get it on!
Calories per Oz: ~150
Cost of 3600 bar: ~ $6.89
Cost per Calorie: $0.002
The packaging: It has an easy access tear notch at the top. On the inside of the vacuum sealed foil are individually wrapped 200 calorie bars, pictured above. These individually wrapped pieces are not airtight and may not last more than a few days once the main pack is opened.
Ingredients: Wheat, Flour, Vegetable shortening, cane sugar, water, coconut, salt.
Nutrition: Each 200 calories portion has 7% of your daily protein needs and 0-8% of each vitamin and mineral. They are very low salt.
Taste: This was the blandest of the bars. Which may or may not be a bad thing… It smells like coconut and graham crackers and tastes very mildly like a sugary graham cracker, only blander. Overall, not bad. One drawback, ours was very crumbly, it was difficult to get out of the package and we had to scoop the small bits into our mouths.
S.O.S Emergency Food Ration
Calories per Oz: ~144
Cost of 3600 bar: ~$6.95
Cost per Calorie: $0.002
The Packaging: It has easy tear access like the other two and there are individually wrapped 409 calorie bars inside, pictured above. Like Datrex, the individual bar wrappers are not airtight.
Ingredients: Wheat Flour, Vegetable shortening, sugar, coconut, corn starch, corn syrup, Guar gum, citric acid, potassium, sorbate, ascorbyl palmitrate, salt, vitamins.
Nutrition: Each 409 calorie bar contains 4% of your daily protein recommendations, 26% daily fat, and up to 15% of various vitamins and minerals.
Taste: Coconut is further up the ingredient list in this bar and it shows. It is more coconutty than the other bars, less bland and slightly more sweet. The taste of this bar is reminiscent of a lightly sweetened coconut cookie. The coconut isn’t strong so don’t get the wrong idea. The consistency is less crumbly than Datrex, but remains a bit dry.
Mainstay Food Rations
Calories per Oz: ~148
Cost of 3600 Bar: ~$7
Cost per calorie: $0.002
The Packaging: Like the other bars it comes with an easy to open, vacuum sealed pouch. From there it is split into 400 calorie bars, as above, that are not individually wrapped.
Ingredients: Enriched flour, partionally hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil, granulated sugar, corn starch, corn syrup, natural lemon flavor, artificial vanilla and butter flavors, artificial color, ascorbic acid (vit C), Gamma/Delta tocopherols as a natural antioxidant.
Nutrition: Each 400 calorie bar has 3 grams protein, 36% daily fat, 34% saturated fat, 1% sodium, 0% cholesterol, and 10-100% of 15 vitamins and minerals we don’t feel like listing – much greater than the other two bars.
Taste: Mildly sweet and lemony with a bit of saltiness that is pleasant. Ours is crumbly but less so than the other two we tested. Mainstay bars won a taste test over several other bars according to a test published in Popular Mechanics about 10 years ago. Ok.
And The Winner!
Cost per calorie is comparable accross the ration bars. (less than 1/2 the cost of MREs, btw)
The edge in weight goes to Datrex at 150 calories per Oz. By a hair.
Taste is fairly subjective. We didn’t think any of these rations were unpleasant. If we had to pick one it would probably be the S.O.S. or Mainstay ration. The crumbling nature of our Datrex bar was a bit difficult to accomadate at times.
Nutrition. Hmm…. There appears to be more saturated fat in the Mainstay bar but it lays the smack down on the competition with its superior vitamin and mineral profile. We admire the simpe ingredients of the Datrex bar and lack of corn syrup, however. We’re not dieticians but we’re giving a small point advantage to the Mainstay bar for emergency situations.
Fine! We like them all. The Datrex crumbling issue ended up moving it into the “least good” category for us, however. Pick your winner based on your favorite flavor or carry a variety so as not to tire of one or the other.