You have probably heard about MREs or meals ready to eat, but what are ration packs? In short, they are the MREs used by the Australian Defence Force.
Under the technical name of Combat Ration One Man (CR1M), Australian ration packs are designed to fuel a soldier for 24 hours.
What’s in a ration pack?
Each pack contains:
- 2 main meals
- 1 soup
- 1 pouch tuna or fruit in syrup
- 1 beef steak bar
- 1 cereal bar
- 1 all fruit bar
- 1 tub jam
- 1 pack candies
- 1 isotonic drink
- 1 cake
The exact items depend on which of the 8 available menus, labelled A-H, you get. The menus change from time to time, so a pack labelled “A” today may or may not have different contents to a pack labelled “A” a year from now.
Plus additional items, common to all menus. The items listed below are in the most recent version I had access to:
- 1 instant mashed potato
- 1 natural muesli with fruits and seeds
- 1 can Cheddar cheese
- 1 chocolate ration
- 1 pack M&M’s milk chocolate
- 1 cream cracker biscuit
- 1 jam sandwich biscuit
- 2 packs Mentos sugar free chewing gum
- 1 tub Vegemite
- 1 tub sweetened condensed milk
- 1 chocolate OR coffee protein drink
- 1 sachet tomato sauce
- 1 sachet Tabasco sauce
- 1 creamer
- 2 sachets instant coffee
- 2 tea bags
- 2 sachets white sugar
- 1 sachet salt
- 1 sachet black pepper
- 1 pack safety matches
- 10 sheets toilet paper
- 1 plastic bag inner
- 1 plastic spoon
- 1 scouring pad
- 3 rubber bands
- 1 resealable plastic bag
- 1 can opener
- 1 menu/information sheet
Each CR1M comes with a packed date, used to estimate the shelf life of the pack under temperate conditions (30 months from the packed date).
In addition, several individual items have a best before date, after which they are still safe to consume. Most information about dates in labels can be found in my article How to read food labels.
Ration packs do not come in special versions covering dietary requirements, however all items are labelled according to FSANZ regulations. This means clear labelling of the major allergens.
The average energy content for a CR1M is estimated to be 16000 kJ (3824 kcal) as per the specifications – a little higher according to my calculations. This is almost twice the average energy requirement for an average civilian (8500 kJ or 2032 kcal). This is because ration packs are meant to be used in combat situations which normally involve elevated energy output.
Each CR1M contains approximately 140g of protein, 120g of fat and 580g of carbohydrate.
How are ration packs consumed?
The information sheet indicates “Excluding tea and coffee all food items are consumable either hot or cold”.
- Main meals come in pouches that can be heated up in boiling water
- Soups, instant mashed potato, isotonic powder, protein powder, muesli, tea and coffee are meant to be prepared with water (the information sheet indicates how much)
- All other items can be consumed straight from the pack
What are ration packs good for?
The obvious answer is combat situations. However, below are other potential applications for ration packs assuming you can get your hands on one.
- Intense army exercises such as those performed during basic training
- Ultra-endurance events
- Multi-day hikes
- Emergency situations such as floods and other disasters
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