If you're an avid naturist, then you almost certainly know what MREs are. Chances are you've purchased military-grade MREs at a gun show or from a Military Surplus store. You've probably even tried civilian MREs already, such as one from Eversafe, MRE Star or Meal Kit Supply. After all, both have been around for quite some time.
However, if you're just getting into camping, hiking, and spending days at a time in the great outdoors then the things I said up in the first paragraph might sound like a foreign language. Luckily, it's fairly easy information to explain.
So if you're thinking about going on a long camping trip, a long road trip, or have somehow never heard of MREs even though you do both of those things, keep reading!
A Quick History Of Field Rations And MCIs
MREs were created by the United States military to replace the Meal, Combat, Individual type rations. Many of the troops referred to them as C-Rations, which was the official name of the previous field ration. MCI was wet-canned food and contained several small and large cans. These cans contained a complete meal that had all the nutrients and calories necessary to survive.
Unfortunately, these were also heavy. They consisted of four cans and an accessory pack for things like spoons and forks, spice packets, and other utensils. They took up quite a bit of space, and the cans could be easily damaged during heavy activity. Even so, this was the standard field ration for the U.S. Military from 1958 until the 80s.
The Creation Of The MRE
Meals Ready to Eat may have been the replacement to the MCIs, but they weren't the direct descendant. In 1964, the U.S. Army developed the Food Ration, Long Range Patrol.
Commonly called LRP rations (also commonly pronounced "Lurp", though usually for humor), these were freeze-dried meals developed from "Jungle Rations". Jungle Rations were developed before World War 2, specifically in response to how bulky MCIs were and how difficult that made long-term special forces missions.
Jungle Rations were meals consisting of nothing but dry goods that wouldn't be damaged if exposed to extreme environments. They worked, but they were costly. Things kept being replaced to keep costs down, but eventually, they weighed as much as the MCIs and were discontinued.
During the Vietnam War, the U.S. Army went back to work. They developed the LRP rations, which worked much better. So much better, in fact, that they began to see common use in long-term missions.
By 1975, the U.S. military began to phase out MCIs and replace them with MREs. It wasn't until 1981 that the MCIs were fully phased out, though many military units continued to use MCIs until their supply was gone.
The Development Of Civilian MREs
Once MREs became standard issue, civilians could get access to them. At least, they could get access if they knew how to do so. The U.S. Government forbids the sale of military-grade MREs directly to retail, but U.S. military employees are allowed to sell their own personal belongings.
With this loophole, campers and survivalists alike could experience these amazing technological wonders. Unfortunately, they had a number of downsides. They were used, which meant you could never be completely sure of the condition they were in. Sure, they may be edible, but edible and tasty are two different things.
You also had to go to the right places and hope someone had MREs to sell. So it was impossible for the average person to know whether or not they could get any. Avid campers and hunters may have a friend in the military, but not everyone does.
Companies began developing their own MREs to combat these problems. The early civilian MREs had many of the same problems as early military MREs. The variety was limited and the taste quality was varied.
These days, civilian MREs are every bit as good as military MREs, if not better. While the U.S. government still doesn't allow military grade MREs to be sold on the retail market, or even for the exact ingredients and formula to be known, civilian MREs don't need those things.
They're lightweight, tasty, and only a little more expensive than military grade MREs. So if you're planning a long camping trip or you enjoy taking your RV out on the open road, MREs are the thing you need to make the trip that much easier.