Mainstay v Datrex emergency bars

Discussion in 'Functional Gear & Equipment' started by Jeff Brackett, Apr 18, 2012.

  1. Jeff Brackett

    Jeff Brackett Monkey+++

    I recently purchased two packages each of the Datrex 3600 and the Mainstay 3600 bars in order to do a comparison. They arrived yesterday, and I figured I would share my observations.

    size comparison1.

    Datrex 3600 Multipurpose Emergency Rations – Vacuum sealed package with 5 yr shelf life. I purchased mine through for less than $10. Package has eighteen individually wrapped bars (see nutritional information below). Note that the vacuum seal is for the package of 18 bars. The individual wrapping on each bar is NOT a vacuum seal (more like a light cellophane), so the 5 yr shelf life isn't going to apply once you break into the main package.

    Datrex opened1. Datrex ind1.

    Taken from Amazon "Product Features" :
    •These food bars have a great coconut flavor.
    •They have a 5 year shelf life and are approved by the U.S. Coast Guard.
    •Each package contains 18 individually wrapped bars containing 200 calories each -- this prevents the loss of food by not having to break pieces off

    •Ingredients: Wheat Flour, Vegetable Shortening, Cane Sugar, Water, Coconut, and Salt. Vegan and Vegetarian friendly.

    Nutritional Information (from the package):
    Calories – (838 kj) – 200 cal /// Protein – (7%) – 2.8 gm /// Carbohydrates – (65%) – 24.7 gm /// Sugar – (13.3%) – 5 gm /// Sodium - .75 mg /// Total Fat – (23%) – 8.73 gm /// Sat. F///A – (21%) – 2 gm /// Mono Unsat. F///A – (65%) – 7gm /// Poly-Unsat. F///A – (14%) – 1 gm /// Cholesterol - .378 mg

    Percentage USRDA for adults:
    Protein – 7% /// Vitamin A – 1% /// Vitamin C – 1% /// Thiamin – 8% /// Riboflavin – 5% /// Niacin – 4%
    Ingredients: Wheat Flour, Vegetable shortening, Cane Sugar, Water, Coconut, and Salt.

    "Instructions for Emergencies: Lifeboat / Liferaft at sea: Eat one bar every 6 hours per person. Eat in small pieces – chew well."
    Other Emergencies on land: Eat one bar every 4 hours per person. Eat in small pieces – chew well."

    Taste = dry, slightly sweet. Not a bad taste. Tastes a bit like a dry shortbread cookie.
    Consistency = Very dry – crumbles as it is unwrapped – easy to chew, no lumps - should be able to be eaten even with bad or no teeth (shudder)

    Datrex crumbly1.

    Mainstay 3600 – Also vacuum sealed with a 5 yr shelf life. Also purchased through They advertise each pack:

    •Contains 9 pre-measured 400 calorie meals
    •Enriched with vitamins and minerals exceeding the RDA requirements
    •Pleasant lemon flavor. Contains no cholesterol or tropical oils. Kosher and it meets the dictates for Halal
    •5 year shelf life. Withstands Temperatures of -40 F to 300 F (-40 C to 149 C)
    •Exceeds U.S. Coast Guard & SOLAR standards

    From the package: "Each 24oz packet contains nine (9) 400 calorie Mainstay Food Bars, providing a total of 3600 calories (15000kj). For marine based environments, the recommended consumption is two bars, per person, per day, equal to 800 calories (3333kj). For land based environments, the recommended consumption is three bars, per person, per day equal to 1200 calories (5000kj)."

    Nutritional facts/Information (Also from package) –
    Total fat (36%) – 23 gm /// Sat. Fat (34%) – 7gm /// Cholesterol (0%) – 0gm /// Sodium (1%) – 23mg /// Total Carbohydrate (15%) – 46gm /// Dietary Fiber (9%) – 2gm /// Sugar – 14gm /// Protein – 3gm ///

    % USRDA
    Vitamin A – 50% /// Vitamin C – 60% /// Calcium 50% /// Riboflavin – 25% /// Thiamin – 15% /// Niacin – 30% /// Vitamin D – 50% /// Vitamin E – 25% ///Vitamin B6 – 90% /// Folic Acid – 35% /// Vitamin B12 – 20% /// Phosphorous 40% /// Magnesium – 30% /// Pantothenic Acid 100%

    Mainstay ind1.

    Taste = Lemony, slightly sweet. Has a bit of an aftertaste, though. Like a large, pressed lemon cookie.
    Consistency = Dry – crumbles easily – easy to chew, no lumps – Seems a little dryer than the Datrex bars.

    Mainstay opened1.

    Personal observations:
    1. Package sizes: Datrex is more "cube-like" (4.25"H x 3.75"W x 2.5"D). Mainstay is flat package (6.5" H x 5.25"W x 1.25"D).
    a. I like the fact that the Datrex bars are individually wrapped.
    b. I prefer the way the Mainstay package is resealable.

    2. Taste – I prefer the initial taste of the Mainstay bars, but there seems to be a slight aftertaste that I don't care for. The Datrex seems a little bland, but not bad, and no aftertaste.

    3. I note that the Datrex package contains eighteen servings at 200 calories each. Recommended intake (land) is "one bar every four hours". Assuming a twelve hour period, that is three bars at 600 calories. Mainstay recommends "three bars, per person, per day", or 1200 calories. Basically, Mainstay recommends and packages for twice the caloric intake as does Datrex. Honestly, I don’t know how long I'd be able to make it on 600 calories per day.

    For my EDC / BOB, I think Datrex is going to be my choice, mainly for the individual packaging and more compact packaging. (That, and I still have that unpleasant aftertaste in the back of my throat from the Mainstay bar.)
    Datrex crumbly1. Datrex ind1. Datrex opened1. Datrex tear here1. Mainstay ind1. Mainstay opened1. size comparison1.
    CATO and Georgia_Boy like this.
  2. sarawolf

    sarawolf Monkey+++

    Good evaluation on both of them. We bought some Mainstay, maybe I will order some of the other now. Thank you.
  3. TheEconomist

    TheEconomist Creighton Bluejay

    I think I am going to put a package of each in each one of my bags. Some might look at this as wasted space but I think it is a good idea to keep a little bit extra.

    I am going to go hiking this spring and summer and will take these as my food. If you are interested in a review I would be more than happy to write about the energy level I was able to maintain.
  4. gunbunny

    gunbunny Never Trust A Bunny

    Both types and the SOS rations are available at High Energy Snack Bars - Emergency Essentials_

    I've tried the Mainstay and the Diatrex bars, also. I prefer the Mainstay for a couple of reasons. One is that I actually like the lemon cookie flavor, and I never noticed an aftertaste (wierd, huh?). Secondly, and the most important reason, is that some of my family cannot stand the taste of coconut.

    I never had a chance to try the SOS rations yet.

    The New Millenium energy bars that are sold seem to be much like the ones that are in MRE's. My kids love them, and with 9 flavors (including coconut) you can't get sick of them too fast. I like the fact that you can eat a bar and go running right after without getting cramps or throwing up, just minimal discomfort.
  5. Jeff Brackett

    Jeff Brackett Monkey+++

    I would be REALLY interested in that. Thanks.

    That's something I was thinking about as well. I know in a shtf scenario, taste is a far cry from a primary concern, but I also keep thinking about that scene from LOTR, where Samwise & Frodo are talking about how tired they are of their travel rations (lammis bread?).

    OK, yes, I'm a geek. Deal with it. I've had to. :)
  6. kckndrgn

    kckndrgn Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    I have the mainstay bars in each car bag and in a BOB in the house. The kids & the wife all liked the mainstay bar. I did not have the after taste, at least not that I remember.

    One thing to watch out for on the mainstay packaging, it will "wear" open. The packaging is not, at least it wasn't very sturdy. After 1 year in a pack I noticed the vacuum was gone on a package and then I found the holes at the corners.
    Witch Doctor 01 likes this.
  7. TheEconomist

    TheEconomist Creighton Bluejay

    That right there, if a common issue, SHOULD be the deal breaker for ALL of us. If it doesn't last nothing else matters.
  8. Seawolf1090

    Seawolf1090 Retired Curmudgeonly IT Monkey Founding Member

    Many packaged foods have this problem. I seal them in a freezer-grade zip lock bag for extra abrasion protection.
  9. mam14225

    mam14225 Monkey+

    I've had multiple datrex bars that had no vacuum seal upon delivery. There were usually small tears / holes near the corners, or folds of the package. Emergency Essentials replaced them with.... more failed packages.

    The sealed ones are in my bug out bags... but only one (2400 kcal) package in each. The rest of the food is individual MRE pieces and high calorie canned stuff.
  10. gunbunny

    gunbunny Never Trust A Bunny

    Alright, I just checked- out of five 3600 cal Mainstay packs, ONE has lost it's vaccuum seal. That sucks. I guess I'll have to reseal them when I get them with my own mylar bags.

    I wonder what the shelf life is like without vaccuum? I could only imagine how long this particular pack has been sitting around unsealed.
  11. STANGF150

    STANGF150 Knowledge Seeker

    coconut *shudders* ewww
  12. oldawg

    oldawg Monkey+++

    Pina coladas,white sandy beaches..........Anyway, it's a good idea to repack all your food and medical preps along with anything else that would degrade if exposed to the elements.And BOBs are going to be exposed. It doesn't add but little extra weight and worth that for peace of mind. Think dry socks and drawers after a cold wade to safety. And hardtack is better soaked in tea or coffee than river water.
  13. jim2

    jim2 Monkey+++

    I just started making pinole, and while it isn't the best, it sure is cheap. I'm going to put some up in bars (using different recipes) and see how well they work. I consider it a supplimental food, and am going to try acorn meal also.

    Anyone have experience with these?

  14. ExHelot

    ExHelot Monkey

    I bought a case of 12 mainstay packs @ 6 servings each about six years ago. I have been storing them in a deep freeze since I go through them slowly. I've used about half of them for 3 day ultralight hiking excursions and find that they are sufficient at 4 servings per day. I usually keep unused, but opened, portions in my haversack for day hikes just in case and to boost my blood sugar when it gets whacked now and again. My squirrel dog, "Molly", likes them so it kills two birds to carry them with me on day trips. They are "non-thirst provoking, but you need plenty of water to wash them down as they are pretty dry.
    After reading the comparison I think I'm going to try out the Datrex brand just for my own edification.
    The Mainstay is supposed to have a five year shelf-life. Does anyone know how long that's extended by freezing or if freezing affects the nutritional value?
  15. ExHelot

    ExHelot Monkey

    Jim, have you used acorn meal in the past? If so, how do you process it and what species do you harvest?
    Guess I need to quit multi-taking. You clearly imply that you haven't. [banghead]
  16. hedger

    hedger Monkey+

    Wifey loves coconut, me not so much.
  17. jim2

    jim2 Monkey+++

    I have tried the taste of different acorns from the trees in my area, Some taste very good, lightly sweet with a nutty flavor. Others are bitter and would need to be soaked in water to get rid of the tannic acid.

    The indians used to either bury acorns for a year to do this or in a basket in running water for quicket results. Once dried they removed the husk and pounded the "meat" into a flour (some say up to 500 lbs per family). It was also mixed with venison in stew for a nutritional thickener.

  18. Motomom34

    Motomom34 Monkey+++

    I really like the Mainstay bars. I actually hide them because the family likes them also.
  19. IndieMama

    IndieMama Monkey+++

    Thank you for that. I have both, but haven't tried either, yet.
  20. TheEconomist

    TheEconomist Creighton Bluejay

    Well I have used Datrex on a 2 1/2 day backpacker and my energy levels were high and it actually tasted great. Make sure you have plenty of water on hand as they are very dry to eat.

    I have a package in my snack basket in the kitchen actually....guilty pleasure.
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