Your Guide to Self-Heating Meal Kits

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Your Guide to Self-Heating Meal Kits

The latest innovation in convenience food is the increasingly popular self-heating meal. Although initially aimed as a solution for military personnel in the field without access to a heat source, survivalists, camping enthusiasts and others who enjoy outdoor pursuits are embracing this type of food.

The technology behind them is quickly becoming ubiquitous in the equipment for those particular areas, and it is even finding its way onto the shelves of supermarkets in some countries. They have a long shelf life and are relatively hassle free, making them perfect for stocking up the supply cabinet, or taking them on a long excursion.

This guide will demonstrate the unique features of the self-heating meal kits, the technology behind them and some of the available options. It will also detail how to purchase them and other survival food on eBay.

Features of Self-Heating Meal Kits

Until recent years, the most effective way of preserving perishable food for use in the field was to freeze-dry it. The process of freeze-drying uses a pressurised vacuum to extract the moisture from food, meaning that bacteria cannot breed, and therefore preventing the food from perishing.

This method of storing food that needs to be transported and stored compactly has been popular since World War II and was commonly referred to as ‘astronaut food’, as it is used to sustain those who visit space. However, it has always required some form of heating – whether that is from boiling water, a cooking stove or a microwave.

The advent of a self-heating can or meal is therefore a big step forward in terms of practicality and ease, as well as a guaranteed way of getting a hot meal in even the most hostile environments.

A Chemical Reaction

The science behind the self-heating meal is quite ingenious. Two chemicals that react in an exothermic (heat-producing) reaction are stored separately outside of the food container. When a tab is pulled or peeled back, the two chemicals mix and start the reaction that produces heat.
The solution (often a mix of aluminium and water) heats up to about 87 degrees centigrade, thus warming the food within the container. The warming process takes about 15 minutes, but it warms the food evenly, producing a meal that isn’t too hot. In some instances a separate container is needed for the heating process, but usually the can or pouch that it comes in has the tear strip mentioned.


One of the benefits of freeze-drying is that the final product can be stored in quite a compact manner; for example, in pouches that are quite light. Another benefit is that larger meals (serving perhaps four people) can be stored in one can. Whilst some self-heating foods are also in pouch form, many are stored in cans, which makes for a heavier and bulkier load.

However, this is offset by the fact that no additional heating equipment is needed for the food. In terms of shelf-life, the average self-heating meal will last for approximately three to five years and benefits from not having to be stored in a fridge. This makes them extremely popular with people who are stockpiling for any potential disasters, as they are easily stored and last for quite a long period especially if there is no power.


There is a surprising amount of variety when it comes to self-heating meals. A lot of work has been put in to having familiar meals that are as nutritious and tasteful as possible. Below are listed some of the possible meals that can be found:

  • Sausage and Beans
  • Tomato Ravioli
  • Vegetable Chilli
  • Beef Stew
  • Spaghetti and Meatballs
  • Chicken and Noodles
  • Chicken, Beans and Rice

There are plenty of manufacturers available, so it’s worth researching and trying a few different ones before a large quantity is purchased. Initial reactions have been mixed when it comes to factors such as taste. Make sure that you don’t buy a huge amount of meals that you won’t be able to stomach, even in the toughest of situations.

Complementary Equipment

When purchasing self-heating meals for any survivalist situation, there are other factors and items that should be considered as well as food:

Water and Purification Tablets

Next to food this is the most important factor in any survival situation. Having either a stock of water, or purification tablets is essential to remain healthy. This means that water is either in good supply, or can be found and treated to be made drinkable.


Either area light or a torch should always be accessible, as there are many situations where they can come in useful.


A self-powered or rechargeable radio should be in any survival kit, as important news is often broadcasted on either AM of FM channels. When the power is out, one of these could be a lifesaver.


Having a device to stay in communication with other people, like a two-way radio, is always a wise idea when venturing in the great outdoors.


Self-heating meals are a huge step forward when it comes to survival food. They are an inventive solution, providing hot meals in harsh environments and are practical because they do not require a heat source. This plus is traded off against factors such as size, weight and cost, so whether they are the right choice for an individual depends on the needs of the user.

For expeditions in harsh environments, or people stockpiling for disaster situations, they are the perfect meal. For those who have more casual needs, traditional means of preserving foods may be more practical. When it comes to shopping on eBay, there are plenty of benefits and handy features to make the experience easy and intuitive. Their buyer protection policy makes is safe and secure to shop online, and the variety of products means it should be the first stop for anyone looking for camping supplies.

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