Survival Kit In Your Vehicle- When Summer Ends, Replace The Food

For those who keep a emergency survival kit in their vehicle (sometimes called a 72-hour kit). When summer ends… This is your reminder to rotate/replace your emergency food. Why? Because for most of the summer, it has been a hot vehicle! Keep reading as to how this affects any food kept in your vehicle.

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

The vehicle is a logical place to keep extra food, especially since most people spend so much time there (commuting, traveling, and parked while at work).

Someone on the blog said, “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!”

I too have had my share of insane traffic incidents when I used to work in a big city. Those food bars sure came in handy! (And the water bottles)

The Affect of HEAT vs Food Shelf Life

There’s a problem with keeping emergency food in a vehicle for a long time. The problem is, it’s really a hot vehicle during most of the summer. 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 hot 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.

Well, the shelf life of those food bars (as an example) would be cut in half if the average temperature in your vehicle (over time) was 90-degrees-F. Keep reading for the explanation.

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 (hot) 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)

[ Read:

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

Ready Made Resources prepping and preparedness supplies
USA Berkey Filters
Fire Steel dot com
EMP Shield
Golden Eagle Coins gold and silver online
Peak Refuel authorized distributor


  1. Thanks for the reminder, i try to keep my cooler well stocked in the back o the truck as well as snacks etc for JIC, traffic gets snarled pretty regular on the commute but never too bad but know it has happened recently, good reason to keep fuel topped off too

  2. yep, it’s easy to forget that the stuff is back there and needs to be rotated out every so often.
    i keep some water in two quart military canteen’s. payday bar’s, sardines, vienna’s and some can’s of beanie weenies in a get home bag in my and DW’s trucks. they take up little space.
    don’t forget a spoon or the TP!
    also a sawyer mini water filter, water is everywhere here. ya can’t go a quarter mile here without running across a creek or something.
    we seldom get far from the place, but it does happen and log trucks do wreck or lose their loads blocking roads.
    my biggest fear is that an EMP would hit while we were in town and we would have to walk the 15 miles back home.

  3. It gets so hot here I have had the rubber bands holding things together melt, electrical tape break down and if there was food in the truck, it would have COOKED!

  4. BamaMan,
    that’s why i like the beanie weenies and vienna’s, they are already pre-warmed. if you really wan’t em hot, set them on the dash : )

    1. For years doing weekend gun shows or traveling, or even when I was in law enforcement, I would wrap canned goods, beanie weenies, Vienna’s or leftovers, in aluminum foil and place on top of the truck engine, when stopping at a rest stop or wherever, I always had a hot meal ready to eat. Never ever lost anything or had anything go bad. Remember there were even cook books about engine cooking(temps around the top of a engine were around 300 to 400 degrees. Country boys and girls now how to thrive.

      1. @Realist – +1 for cooking on the car manifold. There is a cookbook called Manifold Destiny that I got years ago and it is stil in print and available on amzn. There are great recipes for cooking on your car engine in aluminum foil. We did this as a project on one of our antique car tours.

  5. people in the north, keep blankets or at least some mylar thermal blanket’s. the mylar take’s up no space in a bag.
    many people were stranded last year on the hwy’s for day’s due to traffic or weather.
    be careful and plan ahead. it’s coming.

  6. If you’re even farther north we just keep old style wool army blankets or sleeping bags rolled up tight in the truck. If you are a musher there is always a bale or bag of straw in the back of the truck. Those little mylars are useless without some real insulation. We also usually keep dried salmon or sausage sticks. The folks who are allowed to get it sometimes keep a flask seal oil. (I just keep a flask of whiskey – and that ain’t for the cold – but it won’t freeze) I also like keeping Ritz peanut butter cracker packs. Although I don’t have to worry about rotating them. I eat my stash all the time. What I really worry about is not replenishing them before I really need them. I also recently got one of the little Solo camp stoves. Tried that thing out with a handful of twigs and melted and boiled a pot of snow in 20 minutes flat from lighting the match.

    1. My food getting too hot in my truck isn’t something I worry about where I’m at ;-) But water freezes and that is a problem. On the other hand it does keep the food preserved.

  7. The back of my car always has an ice chest where I use frozen water bottles changed out daily during the summer months. During the winter, the ice chest can keep water bottles from freezing and rupturing in the back of the car. I never got in the habit of eating datrex or cliff bars. From my days living off grid, I still make my own gorp or trail mix and set aside 1 cup portions in ziplock bags. My own mix contains unsalted peanuts, unsalted cashews, raisins chunks of dried mango, chocolate M&M’s. The beauty of gorp or trail mix is you can personalize it and put in the stuff you like and leave out the stuff you do not care for. (notice I left out coconut, pecan, walnuts or other nuts). Most of these things can be found in the bulk section of the produce aisle at the grocery store. These can be filler foods to add to your tinned meats or fish. For the diabetics and pregnant ladies out there, I have on hand some pretzels and either fruit juice or soda with sugar or corn syrup in it. Some hormones of pregnancy make ladies so nauseous that they can only tolerate saltine crackers and 7-up during the 1st to 2nd trimester. I end up giving away a lot of my chiiled Sprite sodas from my car in the parking lot of urban shopping centers both during and after the time I drove ambulance. Due to high demand, my food stuffs get rotated out frequently. My being an old guy at work means I am surrounded by youngsters that forgot their lunch or young ladies that hit the wall at work and never bring enough solid, nutritious food to eat during a long shift. (I never knew anybody that could fight fire day after day on carrot and celery sticks alone)

  8. Another argument for keeping all of the food and garbage in one location within your car or truck:
    If you live in or near bear country. When I lived and worked in a National Park and/or a wildlife refuge, I cleaned my truck meticulously before and during my time in the park. Bears and dogs have a sense of smell that is 800x better than ours and bears have the claws, muscle and intelligence to break into a person’s automobile in short order in pursuit of food and calories. When I did go shopping for food, the food was removed from my truck and placed within my home right away. When I was in the mountains, I got in the habit of using reusable grocery sacks and all food and things that smelled like food was removed from the truck and the windows were left rolled down for a few minutes to air out. The reusable grocery sacks were washed in detergent that would cut through grease and oils that may have been spilled. Other park employees that did not take such measures had their motor vehicles broken into (sometimes on a repeat basis). I am not sure if car insurance covered this type of damage. (it never happened to my vehicle)

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