Mainstay Food Rations… just because I’m too curious for my own good.

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

{a31f233dcfb9a68fbfb0fafc3ce96f3dbf18fa49e3f406b8ddf4c360aa321eb6}Daily Value
Sat fat7g34{a31f233dcfb9a68fbfb0fafc3ce96f3dbf18fa49e3f406b8ddf4c360aa321eb6}
Total Carbohydrates46g15{a31f233dcfb9a68fbfb0fafc3ce96f3dbf18fa49e3f406b8ddf4c360aa321eb6}
Dietary Fiber2g9{a31f233dcfb9a68fbfb0fafc3ce96f3dbf18fa49e3f406b8ddf4c360aa321eb6}
Vitamin A50{a31f233dcfb9a68fbfb0fafc3ce96f3dbf18fa49e3f406b8ddf4c360aa321eb6}
Vitamin C60{a31f233dcfb9a68fbfb0fafc3ce96f3dbf18fa49e3f406b8ddf4c360aa321eb6}
Vitamin D50{a31f233dcfb9a68fbfb0fafc3ce96f3dbf18fa49e3f406b8ddf4c360aa321eb6}
Vitamin E25{a31f233dcfb9a68fbfb0fafc3ce96f3dbf18fa49e3f406b8ddf4c360aa321eb6}
Vitamin B-690{a31f233dcfb9a68fbfb0fafc3ce96f3dbf18fa49e3f406b8ddf4c360aa321eb6}
Folic Acid30{a31f233dcfb9a68fbfb0fafc3ce96f3dbf18fa49e3f406b8ddf4c360aa321eb6}
Vitamin B-1220{a31f233dcfb9a68fbfb0fafc3ce96f3dbf18fa49e3f406b8ddf4c360aa321eb6}
Pantothentic Acid100{a31f233dcfb9a68fbfb0fafc3ce96f3dbf18fa49e3f406b8ddf4c360aa321eb6}

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

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12 Responses

  1. Tara M. says:

    Now that I know this exists, I have an (irrational?) urge to buy some and keep them in my car. How long do they keep?

  2. Mystech says:

    Five years if unopened. After that point their quality and nutrition decline. I’ve added a link to the bottom of the article, if you’d like to purchase some online.

  3. implementor says:

    Have you tried the Mayday bars yet? I think that they are a little tastier, and they’re a little less expensive as well.

  4. Mystech says:

    Haven’t put my hands on the Maydays yet. The Mainstay was pretty cheap frankly, at least with a little shopping around. Looks like calorie/cost is about the same, but I do like that the Maydays come in 1200 calorie packaging and apple/cinnamon flavor. I’ll pick one up and let you know what I think.

  5. Dave says:

    Completely off-topic, but I thought you would enjoy this.


  6. Mystech says:

    Seen it, Love it, Endorse it! 🙂

  7. eddie says:

    Nasty elf bread! We hates it!

  8. Mystech says:

    Raw fish or “coneys”more your speed? 🙂

  9. eddie says:

    Now *that* would be a great present for the outdoorsy/survival-oriented type: a vaccuum-packed plastic-foil-wrapped brick of fish! Toss that in your life raft and save it for a “special needs” day.

  10. implementor says:

    Actually, that’s what Geoffrey ate for dinner the last time we went hiking :). That kind of stuff is available at any grocery store nowadays (look on the “canned meat” aisle near the tuna fish), but, unfortunately, it doesn’t last for 5 years. The vacuum-packed Spam on the other hand…

  11. Mystech says:

    You know salmon has a very impressive shelf life in the proper packaging. Add some cous cous and some olive oil, yum!

  12. Marie says:

    Mmm. I once ate a package in college when I was low on money for food. It’s like a cookie. (I have some in a kit in my car now.)

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