Okay, this is rather subjective, based on personal needs and tastes. Only you know how well you can withstand missing that next meal (and maybe the meal after that, and after that…). What is workable and a minor inconvenience for one person equals out-and-out starvation for the next person.
Power Bars are a good example. Anyone who’s tried to open and eat one with one hand knows how durable their individual packaging is. They remain a personal “extra food” favorite of mine. A half-dozen in a large zip-lock baggie, wrapped with a piece of old bicycle innertube, continually resides in the bottom of my pack.
When in search and rescue, I was required to keep a 24-Hour Pack. For that purpose, I kept the above-mentioned Power Bars, as well as two full MREs. This was in addition to whatever food I brought along for expected meals. I never knew how long I’d be out, so I erred on the side of caution.
The MREs, in their sealed, heavy-duty plastic container bags, were great. Designed for the military, out in the field, in combat situations. ‘Nuff said.
Power Bars and their equivalent, as well as MRE-class fodder, are more or less designed to be constant in all temperature extremes and trail conditions. Definitely a requirement for emergency trail food that will sit unattended in your pack until needed.
Whatever you choose, read the packaging. If it requires a storage in a cool, dry place, forget it. The same for anything that needs refrigeration or special treatment after opening. Do mind the expiration dates. Replace your extra food items when necessary.
I’m often asked about eating berries, roots, bugs, insects, mushrooms, and other natural stuff in lieu of carrying extra (translate: heavy, as in perceived extra unecessary weight) food in the pack. The simple answer is carry the extra food.
Most hikers don’t have the background or training to reliably identify wild food sources. Edible plants, shrubs, and trees (and their berries, nuts, etc.) may look different depending on the season. Vegetation may be sparse, or of minimal variety, depending on the area. Natural food may be hard to gather in sufficient quantity to meet ongoing needs.
Some plant items can make you sick or, in some cases, kill you. Talk about making a bad situation worse. The bad stuff may look like the good stuff; it may be hard to tell one from the other.
I personally have the knowledge and background to identify wild food sources, and those who have hiked with me have to put up with my continual grazing (except for the bugs and insects…that has to be a true survival situation!). I still pack the extra food.
The information contained within this website wasn’t intended to qualify the reader to “live off the land”, in the classic survival sense. There are many books and websites available that provide information on wild food sources, and the reader is encouraged to visit those sources for further education.
The preferred (and safest) alternative is to attend a wild food identification class that combines field (hands-on) as well as classroom experience.