In our search for the best survival food brands out there, we came across the Mainstay Emergency Bars which are manufactured by Survivor Industries Inc in the USA. Mainstay is a somewhat popular MRE (meals ready to eat) or “meal replacement” brand among survival circles in the US and produces some of the best emergency food and water rations around. So.. let’s take an in-depth look at these products and at the end of this review, I will explain a little about who and what these products are for.
survivalstorehouselogoThese bars come in various ration pack configurations (1200, – 1 day energy bar, 2400 – 2 days, 3600 – 3 days) all of which contain the same amount of vitamins and minerals. Susan from Survival Storehouse, the Aussie distributors for the Mainstay emergency food and water range, kindly sent me a sample of the 2400 or 2 day food ration pack and also the personal care kit, the ARK 3 for a review and taste test. enter Mainstay 2400


Inside each vacuum sealed, foil ration pack are 6 small, hard bars, each of which contain 400 calories each.

6 bars multiplied by 400 calories each makes 2400 hence the name of this particular ration pack. If at sea, the instructions on the packet recommend that you eat three of the bars a day giving you a 48 hr (2 day) supply per packet and on land, two of them giving you a 72 hr (3 day) supply. The reason for this is that you generally use up a lot more calories when out at sea (especially when trying to stay afloat after a shipwreck or going overboard for example) than on land. The conditions at sea are less forgiving than those on land due to the fact that shelter from the elements and readily available drinking water is non existent.

Mainstay claims that their bars have “more vitamins and minerals that any bar of its kind” and after looking at the nutritional information on one of the the fact sheets that came along with the 2400 ration pack, I really can’t argue with that. At some point I hope to compare Mainstay’s products with some of its other competitors.

Each of Mainstay’s products meet SOLAS 74/83 requirements, are US Coast Guard Approved, have a long shelf life of up to 5 years, are non thirst provoking, do not contain cholesterol or tropical oil, are high in vitamins and minerals, are Halal certified and also meet requirements for Kosher and do not contain peanuts or peanut oil which is great for those who are allergic to these substances.

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Upon opening the packet, I noticed that the bars looked like squares of butter and smelt strongly of vanilla. The taste was actually lemon shortbread – heavy on the sugar and shortening to be precise. After consuming one bar, it gives you that “full” feeling –  a good sign that the bar has done its job of satisfying hunger which is very important especially in extreme circumstances.

mainstay2Something that most reviewers of Mainstay products fail to do is to actually take a look at the ingredients that are used in these Mainstay bars.

Once again the fact sheet states that the ingredients for the Mainstay bars are: 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.

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So… as you can see for yourself, these bars are packed with vitamins and minerals, and the ingredients don’t sound too bad either – although these bars may not be the best food for long term survival.

source ARK 3

The Ark 3 is a combo survival food/water/shelter pack designed to keep a single person alive for 3 days. As such this pack makes a great 72 hr emergency ration kit for bug out bags (aka 72 hr packs) and other emergency preparedness kits.

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Let’s take a look at what’s inside the ARK3.

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First, there’s an original space blanket otherwise known as a mylar blanket, emergency blanket, survival blanket etc. These things are great in an emergency situation firstly because they reflect up to 90% of your body heat and secondly because they reflect light and as such can be used as an improvised signalling mirror. This blanket is actually waterproof and reusable unlike most others sold with survival kits out there.

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Next there is obviously the 3 day food/water supply comprising of 1 x 3600 Mainstay ration pack along with 6 x 120 mL sealed/sterile satchets of drinking water. Both the water and bars have an exceptionally long shelf life of 5 years. Of course the 3600 is pretty much the same as the 2400 with the exception of an extra day’s worth of food.

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mainstay 3600

In summary, here are some of my personal observations below:

  • Understand that this is a survival food. Its not going to taste like normal food and its going to take some getting use to. Even combat personnel complain about MRE’s especially because its a monotonous, unappetising diet. Some people have misconceived ideas and perceptions that survival food is somehow a luxury or something like that. You might not mind the taste (like me), but some people actually do.
  • Having said that, Mainstay bars will definitely keep you alive in a survival situation. Let me say that I personally would be very grateful to have these if I really came down to it – wouldn’t you?
  • I wouldn’t recommend purchasing these bars for a long-term emergency food stockpile as they can be detrimental to your health in the long term. There are many other better foods that you can purchase for this purpose which are a lot better in terms of ingredients and are even much cheaper. Canned, long-shelf life and freeze-dried foods are recommended for home stockpiling. I would only recommend keeping Mainstay ration packs in bug out bags, your family vehicle, your day pack and your marine vessel or light aircraft for a short term emergency situation. Obviously the huge advantage of Mainstay bars is that they do not require any type of preparation. You simply, tear open the foil package and pull out a bar to eat.
  • In terms of the water satchets, I think they are excellent for bug out bags and the like due to their long shelf-life and small, individual servings.
  • The ARK 3 has the basic essentials covered which I think Survivor Industries has got it right here and as such is a great ‘entry level’ type food/water/shelter emergency kit. There are just so many other ‘survival kits’ out there on the market that can actually get you killed because the components are just pure, cheap Chinese-made junk. In other words, Survivor Industries has followed the timeless adage “keep it simple, stupid”.

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The final decision is up to you when purchasing survival supplies to get your family through tough times. So… if you’re looking to get the Mainstay Emergency Bars and Water Satchets for your 72 hr packs or Get Home Bag, its definitely worth checking out Survival Storehouse’s website. Oh and I almost forgot, Survival Storehouse doesn’t just stock Mainstay Products, they also offer some great survival books and also the LifeStraw Personal water filter which is a great entry level survival water filter (check out our independent review on the LifeStraw here). So check them out, you’ll be really glad you did as their products just might save your life one day.

I think that covers just about everything. So, thanks for stopping by guys! I really hope you enjoyed this review and found it helpful. Please like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and subscribe to us on YouTube… and as always, remember “Be Prepared, Stay Alive.”