After getting on one too many mailing lists for hiking and camping gear, I broke down and ordered something from one of the many “survival and readiness” suppliers I get contacted by. My choice was a product I’d always been curious about. An emergency food ration called Mainstay. These are designed to be highly stable, highly concentrated food supplies for things like a life raft or similar situation. Not technically in the same category as MREs, which I’ve eaten many of in my time. Anyhow, for $6 my curiousity would be satisfied.


One “brick” contains an astonishing 3600 calories. This brick is divided or scored into 9 nine bar, each of which has 400 calories. The entire brick is about 6″ x 6″ and 1.25″ thick, so each bar is 2″ square. The entire brick is vacuum packed in a very tough, waterproof metal/plastic foil. The entire brick give the impression of extreme durability, with an impressive heft of 24oz (2.67oz per bar).

I get the confident impression you could fight off a bear or shark with the sealed package.


The ingredient list makes it clear that these things are some sort of super dense sweetbread like concoction, so in my geekery I immediately think it will be something between Lembas and Hard Tack, with a generous dose of vitamin and mineral enrichment. For marine based environments, the recommended consumption is two bars, per person, per day, equal to 800 calories. That’s your “just getting buy” allotment of calories, I imagine, because floating around in a raft isn’t exactly an aerobic workout. For land based environments, the recommended consumption is three bars, per person, per day equal to 1,200 calories (5,000 kj).

And now the science…

Ingredients: Enriched Flour, (Added Vitamins A, B-1, B-2, D, E, B-6, B-12, Niacin, Iron, Folic Acid, Magnesium, Pantothenic Acid, Calcium, Phosphorus), Vegetable Shortening, (Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oils), Granulated Sugar, Corn Starch, Corn Syrup, Natural Lemon Flavor, Artificial Butter Flavor, Artificial Vanilla Flavor, (Tartrazine, FD&C Yellow#5, FD&C Red #40), Artificial Color, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Gamma/Delta Tocopherols as a natural antioxidant.

Net wt. 24 oz.

Serving size:. 1 1 Bar (2.67 oz or 76 grams)

Servings per container: 9

Nutrition Facts per serving:

Calories 400

Calories from fat 210

    %Daily Value
Fat 23g 36%
Sat fat 7g 34%
Cholesterol 0g 0%
Sodium 23mg 1%
Total Carbohydrates 46g 15%
Dietary Fiber 2g 9%
Sugar 14g
Protein 3g
Vitamin A 50%
Vitamin C 60%
Calcium 50%
Iron 10%
Thiamin 15%
Riboflavin 25%
Niacin 30%
Vitamin D 50%
Vitamin E 25%
Vitamin B-6 90%
Folic Acid 30%
Vitamin B-12 20%
Phosphorus 40%
Magnesium 30%
Pantothentic Acid 100%

The manufactures claim the product is vegetarian and meets the dietary standards for both Kosher and Halal. Mainstay bars contain no triglycerides, topical oils or cholesterol.

Other Statistics

  • Will withstand temperatures from -40 degrees F to 300 degrees F
  • USCG approved
  • Department of Defense (SOLAS 74/83) approved
  • 5 year shelf life
  • Non-Thirst Provoking


mainstay_pieces.jpgOk, the part you’ve probably all been waiting for. I’ve enlisted two co-workers as well as myself to share their thoughts on the Mainstay Rations.

Me: Lemony flavor, kind of a cross between a piece of shortbread and a sugar cookie. Surprisingly good!

Co-worker #1: Subtle note of cookie dough. I’d look forward to being stranded a raft. (Came back for another piece)

Co-worker #2: Did you poison this? It has like 600 calories, right? Hmmn, this is actually not bad. Like a cookie.

Intern: I’d eat them!


While probably to awkward and potentially monotonous for hiking, I believe these will be the Official Emergency Rations of the Encyclopaedia Brythenia Project. ;-)

Buy Mainstay Rations Online