When Summer Ends, Replace The Food In Your Vehicle’s 72-hour Kit


When summer ends… This is your reminder to rotate/replace your emergency food from your vehicle.

I ALWAYS keep emergency food in my truck. It’s part of my 72 hour emergency kit.

The vehicle is a logical place to keep extra food, especially since most people spend so much time there (commuting, traveling, etc..)!

The Affect of HEAT vs Food Shelf Life

There’s a problem with keeping food in a vehicle for a long time. The shelf life of stored food will be reduced when it’s in a HOT environment (e.g. in a vehicle during the summer).

In fact, for every 10 degrees C (18 degrees F) of temperature rise, the shelf life of food will generally be cut in half!

More on this (Q10 shelf life): Temperature vs. Food Storage

Most food with a stamped date on the packaging is referring to a ‘Use-by’ or ‘Best-by’ date. First of all, these dates are NOT the date at which a food will ‘go bad’ (refer to the linked article for an explanation). With that said, and for the sake of food rotation, lets suppose that this date is your objective…

Let’s say you have food bars in your vehicle and the stamped ‘use-by’ date is one year beyond the date of manufacture (which is typical)…

Note: Most all shelf life references are to ‘room temperature’, let’s say 72 degrees F.

How HOT Can A Vehicle Get

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, when outside temperatures are between 80° F – 100° F (27° C – 38° C), vehicles parked in direct sunlight can reach internal temperatures up to 131° F – 172° F (55° C – 78° C) !

If the temperature in the vehicle was 150 degrees for the entire time period (which it’s not), the food shelf life which was originally one year would be reduced to about 20 days!

The reality is that the average temperature inside the vehicle will not be 150 degrees! Cooler temperatures during night. The time it takes for the internal temperature to rise and fall. Being parked in the shade. Your actual local climate and weather, etc.. It will all affect the shelf life reduction.

90 degree average (for example)

Let’s say the average temperature inside your vehicle throughout the summer is 90 degrees. That will cut your shelf life in half. So, simply rotate out those foods (don’t throw them out – just consume them!).

72° (1 year shelf life)
90° (72°+18°) (182 days shelf life)
108° (90°+18°) (91 days shelf life)
126° (108°+18°) (46 days shelf life)
144° (126°+18°) (23 days shelf life)

And by the way, if you don’t have any food stored there – you should!

Continue reading: The Clif Bar Might Be The Best 72-hr Kit Food?

How To Choose The Best Foods For A 72-Hour Survival Kit

10 Essential Items In A Survival Kit


  1. Fortunately food does not stay in our car long enough to worry about it. It seems about every 2-3 weeks I am having to replace it. In the winter I tend to keep more in the car as I know it will keep longer in the cold.

  2. Good reminder Ken, thanks.

    Time to replace that case of MREs and a few other food “stuffs”. AND do a search for that “joint” I dropped the other day HAHAHAHAHA Just kidding NSA !!!!

    Also a good time to replace the reserve water, along with “winterizing” the vehicle/s it/themselves.

    1. Still looking for that Joint I dropped 4 years ago, thinking maybe the dog ate it HAHAHA
      Again, make sure you “winterize” that vehicle also.
      A frozen Engine Block is not a good thing.

  3. My “go-bag” goes in and out of the car every time I go anywhere. It hangs by the back door. Never leave without it.(Pain in the rear, but, that eliminates the 72 hour food switch. WE do it for winter or Other season, since winter here lasts so long.) We also insulate our water in both summer and winter. Nothing like HOT water to quench one’s thirst, or trying to defrost a frozen water bottle(between your legs or in your arm pits in the dead of winter and stuck someplace).

    Also, check your batteries. They do degrade after being in a hot trunk or rear of vehicle, just like they do when they are cold.

    1. @TPS Also agree with the good call on the batteries. I’ve ruined equipment due to leaky alkaline batteries. I’ve switched to lithium batteries in most of my equipment. I understand that lithium batteries do not leak. We’ll see how it goes over time.

      Batteries That Won’t Leak or Corrode

  4. Great reminder and on that note:

    I prepared a 5 gallon bucket of food -in addition to all the food in my SUV and BOBs in the utility room adjacent to garage-a few years ago.

    Upon taking an inventory of the contents of my 60+ buckets, I came across this bucket last week.

    I did nothing special for preservation, just gathered many items for a 3-day emergency if that were to occur.

    Among the many cans of spam and viennas in this bucket was a POP TART foil wrapper holding two pop tarts. I opened it, expecting to discard the dry, stale pop tarts.

    Lo and behold, they were as fresh as the day stored.
    Amazing, huh??

    Pop Tarts. A great short term for our buckets.

    I plan on buying a few boxes to add to the BOBs in the SUV and the other BOBs.

    I had a day care for 4 years and I NEVER served those yucky things–BUT, for emergencies, inexpensive and last for years.

  5. Ken: Thanks for the reminder.

    My food gets replaced about every 2 months. Water and beverages get replaced frequently. I still do the desert rat trick of going Grocery shopping with an ice chest behind my seats containing a frozen water bottle (6 lbs of ice – 1 gallon water bottle with 1 quart removed to allow for expansion). It does not keep frozen things frozen but it does prevent the lettuce from wilting.

    Each morning, before leaving the house, I change out the water bottle with a fully frozen one from the freezer in my garage. This is a survival trick I learned while living and working in California’s Central Valley in the summer. The interior of a sealed up car in the sunlight will be well over 200 degrees in a mater of minutes in the direct sunlight(Now you see the danger to children and pets.)

  6. The SHTF encounters I have had, involved getting stuck on Turnpikes and Interstates for hours on end, due to accidents further ahead on the road.

    This taught me to always have some food & drink with me every time I go anywhere now. You never know what’s down the road!

  7. What about ‘Datrex’ bars and the like? They seem to be more tolerant of long term storage in less than ideal environments? Anyone have experience with these products as they decay?

  8. Yes, change out the food and also:

    Add dry chemical hand and body warmer packs, enough for 24 hrs of each family member.

    Replace reg socks with wool socks, reg leather work gloves with insulated.

    Depending on how far north you are, reg. work boots with a pair of insulated Pac Boots.

    Check the antifreeze in your radiator. If your car/truck battery is weak, get it replaced, Cold weather will zap the life out of a weak battery and no one likes being stranded in the cold due to a dead battery!

    Make sure you have extra batteries in your flashlights in the vehicle, remember one is none, two is one!!

    Stay aware, stay safe!!!

  9. I keep a bag of stuff in the car for just around town – water, tp, paper towels and a couple of cans of something like spam/stew etc. Other than the water I don’t think I need to change this out. But I should add a couple of things – flashlight for starters!

    1. – aka,
      I would probably change out the canned goods as well. They age much more in the hot car than they do on the shelf in the pantry. I keep water bottles in a small cooler year-round to keep them from getting so hot/freezing. Keep them out of the sun and if you have other stuff (BOB/GHB, extra blankets, change of clothing, etc.) pile them on top of that little cooler.
      – Papa S.

  10. Yup changing out the food, water, batteries and putting in the additional cold weather package of coveralls, gloves, extra hand warmers, merino wool socks, face mask and heavy boots.
    I also add the orange hunting beanie to compliment the year round carry orange vest because there are times I want to be seen. A partial list includes winter blizzards on foot, post tornados, changing tires/vehicle maintenance, dealing with or having a medical emergency, coming onto the property after SHTF with a scared armed wife inside…..

    1. Matt, Have you thought about putting a bell outside for you to ring as you come home… in a certain sound..? could be anything from a battery powered/solar powered electric to a small dinner bell rang twice and suddenly muted , rang 2 x and suddenly muted again. Your wife will thank you for having a clear signal… practice using it from time to time when she is home so you both remember and change the signal to suit yourself….. rang one time and suddenly muted could signal danger. Do not open door.

      1. Matt,

        Expanding on the suggestion by Just Sayin’. I set up a warning/alert system between our home and the cabin our son stays in, using a cheap wireless door bell from Wally World. Electronic, battery powered, programmable for different tones. Bought two sets, one speaker/receiver sets on my nightstand, the other on his in the cabin across the driveway. The transmitter/door bell button resides beside them, only to be used when the other needs to be alerted. One press of the button= need to be awake and alert, two presses= trouble eminent, three or more= need help right now use caution.

        Don’t see why such a separate door bell system with a hidden transmit button wouldn’t work as an alert to your wife that your coming in.

  11. I don’t mean to be snarky, but here in North/Central Florida all we have to do is change out the batteries, put away the Sun Tan lotion, keep a Hoodie in the truck, and prepare for the ” Yankee Invasion” known as Tourist season.

    Really, y’all are welcome to come on down !

    1. Seminole Wind,

      I did about 8 years down in south FL before moving back to the NE. Definitely don’t have to worry about the winters but boy does it get hot in July!

  12. Good reminders, all. I also have some ice cleats that fasten onto my shoes that I need to double check are still in the car. Spent one too many times sliding on my rear end for that last mile and a half home from work when the roads iced over.

  13. Our bags are packed with Datrex and Millenium bars, plus individual serving pouches of Mountain House freeze-dried foods.
    Before the year ends, I will be swapping out foods and using them — not putting them back into storage. They’ve endured 2 summers of heat and one Winter so it’s time to swap them out.

    Datrex has been tested for heat tolerance and the results are a little better than the other hard bars.

  14. An update to this posting in 2019 for both Dennis and Joe c out there:

    Dennis inquired about carrying bottles of Ensure in his home or vehicle for his wife as they truly are meal replacements and are nutritionally complete for those who have trouble keeping solid food down.

    These days, there is something better available: Glucerna available in both shakes and in bars. Same thing as Ensure with fewer advertisements and is made for diabetics because it prevents spikes in blood sugar readings.

    Glucerna Diabetes Nutritional Shake

    Ensure is also made in a clear formula that is made for those that have difficulty with milk based nutrition supplements. ( fruit juice flavored.)

    Ensure Clear

    If either of you carry an ice chest with a frozen water bottle in your rig like I do, this is mighty handy to have on a road trip far from home and you find your blood sugar is dropping into uncomfortable territory.

    My truck contains both Sprite and pretzels for the diabetics and the nauseous pregnant ladies out there puking in the Supermarket parking lots. My emergency food stash gets rotated all the time.

    1. Calirefugee — re “Glucerna available in both shakes and in bars – made for diabetics because it prevents spikes in blood sugar readings – Ensure is also made in a clear formula that is made for those that have difficulty with milk based “…….
      = can you tell me, do these have a “strong” taste? I am looking for something like this to pick up for someone who needs something fairly “bland”…Cannot (now) tolerate anything with much “taste”.

      1. Jane Foxe, They make UNflavored formulas for those who are tube fed…in easy to digest formula’s ..ie they have enzymes added to assist in assimilation.. one more option…One is called Isosource..If this person is receiving home health or hospice a MD should be able to prescribe .. another possibility is a high protein egg protein if they are not allergic to eggs made up with a milk or even rice milk… . When picking up things for someone unable to make selections it is really hard… Kudo’ s to you… for being diligent in search…

        1. Just Sayin’ — Thanks for the info. (and the Kudo’s)…. They probably should be receiving some home care, but are not. I will ask at the Drug Store tomorrow re Isosource/similar, and see what the pharmacist has to say. Pretty sure this is not something tried. I am thinking the egg protein (while not allergic as far as I know) would likely not agree with their digestion, and they (she) wouldn’t have the energy to make up. (I am not in same city….far off). I will see there may be some smallish sample sizes of Isosource I can mail.

          Thanks again.

          1. Jane Foxe, another possible solution…GNC, might have some trial sizes, pouch sizes in different light flavors.which could easily mailed… I can’t use whey, soy or pea-legume proteins, so i thought of egg based ones.
            Meringue mix pouches are egg white/protein.. and easy to add to jello, puddings for additional nutritional boost.. All of these would taste best thoroughly chilled.
            There is one on amazon that is 18$, by Now sports…1.2 lb.. they would ship it to her. just thinking with fingers. My thought that egg white powder in a vanilla, could be constituted with milk or water.. water for a lighter flavor, with ice… or milk for more calories, protein… I checked amazon for isosource and is only avail there by case. and very expensive.

          2. Just Sayin’ – Thanks much for the info/suggestions. I will ask at drugstore/pharmacist today re Isosource/similar. Will not be able to get to GNC till next week, so will do that then. Good info/suggestions. Thanks. I am thinking trial sizes (sort of to speak), as if she tries them and can keep them down then she can ask her Dr or try to get some. The trick will be to find something which “agrees”, and then I think she might get more willing to pursue it. When one is so ill it is overwhelming, so I am trying to give her a “boost”.. Thanks again

  15. Reply to Jane Foxe:

    All of the supplements listed are pretty sweet in flavor. It would be a bad idea to “chug it down quickly”. as it could lead to the possibility of having it bounce right back up within minutes. ( being high in calories, all these supplements are rich and dense.)

    They are intended to be sipped. You also must experiment to find your favorite flavor. Ensure makes a butter pecan flavor that is always in short supply, if available at all. Most popular in my Hospital is chocolate ensure followed by Vanilla. Very few people like the Strawberry.

    To do this yourself at home: This recipe requires a blender:

    1 cup milk with GNC brand heavyweight gainer powder ( mixed as a supplement to the milk – follow package directions.)

    1-2 healthy dollops of Haagen-Das Peach Sorbet

    Blend until smooth and serve.

    GNC carries many dietary supplements including protein powder as well.

    The above recipe is what I teach to home caregivers who are tending to patients with dementia.

    As I approach retirement from my hospital based job, I think of going back to my roots of working in retirement homes or home-based care in the near future.

  16. Anyone have any tricks for trying to keep water in your bag water and not it’s frozen counterpart? I’ve got a pretty well insulated water bottle I use and have it nested in the middle of my bag. Not sure how it’ll hold up with the upcoming NE winter?

  17. Done and done, same with ammo in my car. I do it in the fall and then in the spring, because I have 2 B.O.B.’s. One for summer, one for winter. I don’t need to haul a 0 degree sleeping bag in summer, now do I? So, I just switch them out.

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