Thursday, May 25, 2017

Emergency Rations Test #2: ER Bars

Test #2 is done! I tested these the same way I am testing all of the various emergency rations, by using them to replace a meal or two during my spring hectic period at work. I'm out in a field or driving a truck for 12-14 hours a day (when it's not raining) and have to pack a lunch anyway, so this is an easy test for me. I'm also usually tired in the mornings and don't grab a proper breakfast, so having something that doesn't require cooking that is also filling and nutritious makes my life a bit simpler.

This is the ER Bar, from Quake Kare in St. Louis, MO. At $6.14 per package, this one comes to $2.05/day, which is cheaper than coffee and a donut from most shops, and these are better for you nutritionally. I snapped a picture of an unopened package next to an open and half-eaten one, with one portion turned on edge to give some sense of the thickness.

Photo my own work

The ER Bars come vacuum-sealed inside a resealable pouch, and it is a single block that is scored so you can break it into six pieces. (If you look at the package on the left, you can see the scoring because of the vacuum seal.) Each piece or portion will provide around 400 Calories* and the maker suggests eating two portions ($1.03 each) per day to make the bar stretch for 3 days. Personally, I'd rather carry an extra bar or two and eat three times a day for 1200 Calories; that's closer to a "normal" diet and would provide the extra energy that I will need. Remember, I live in the northern half of the USA, and it takes extra energy just to stay warm about half of each year up here.
*There is a reason that I capitalize the "C". Standard physics/chemistry notation uses a lower-case "c" to denote a calorie (the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius) and a upper-case "C" to denote a kilocalorie, 1000 calories. The kilocalorie is a more convenient unit to work with when dealing with anything outside of a lab.

  • The ration bar is compressed and slightly dry. The scoring to mark individual portions is only on one side of the bar, so getting it to break cleanly at the line was a challenge. There was a slight tendency for the edges to crumble or flake off, but nothing severe.
  • Even though the portions were slightly dry, they were not thirst-provoking. I normally have to wash down most food with some sort of beverage, but these were OK to eat by themselves. The texture was finely grained, and nothing stuck to my teeth or coated my mouth or throat.
  • The portions may appear small, but they were filling enough to ease any hunger pangs I may have suffered. This is good for morale, since nobody is happy when they're hungry. It was quite easy to survive until the next meal, even if I didn't eat a real meal until evening.
  • The flavor is sweet, but not strong enough for me to identify as any particular fruit or spice. (I will admit that my taste buds are less than perfect; 35 years of smoking tobacco tends to kill them off.) "Pleasant and agreeable" is the best way I can describe the taste.
  • The ingredients are fairly simple; wheat flour, palm oil, sugar, corn syrup (sugar), soy flour, cornstarch, flavoring, dextrose (another sugar), colors, preservatives, and vitamins. Note the wheat and soy content if you have food allergies! There are no animal fats, coconut, or nuts to set off sensitive stomachs, though.
  • Coast Guard approved, so it has a 5-year shelf-life and can handle temperature extremes from -22 to 149 °F. This makes it a good candidate for storage in a car or cache.
  • The resealable pouch works very well. It was nice being able to reseal the leftovers and not have to worry about dust and other things getting on my food. Once the ration bar is gone, the pouch would be handy for storing other things that I might want to keep dry (tinder, socks, etc.) and it was one of the sturdier packages of the various brands I'm testing.
  • I bought a pack of four of this brand, and all four arrived in good condition with the vacuum seals still intact. "Manufactured on" dates were within the last six months, so they still had most of  their five-year shelf-life left.
I would be content to carry this brand of emergency rations in a get-home or bug-out bag. They meet my minimum requirements of tasting good, alleviating hunger, not costing much, and being fit to store anywhere. I will probably add one of the left-over packs to my truck bag and another will be cached in my wife's car.

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