How to Field Strip an MRE in 12 Easy Steps - ITS Tactical

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How to Field Strip an MRE in 12 Easy Steps

By The ITS Crew

MRE Field Strip

Field stripping an MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) is a common technique used by soldiers to reduce the weight and bulk of the standard U.S. Issue MRE.

An MRE is packaged with a lot of unnecessary things that can make trying to carry them in your pack heavy and cumbersome. The solution? Field strip them!

Field stripping is usually done just prior to a situation where you’ll be in the field for an extended amount of time and have to carry multiple meals, or in a survival situation where space savings is mandatory.

The great thing about removing the unnecessary packaging and contents is that it doesn’t compromise the expiration date of the meal, because everything is still sealed.

To field strip your MREs follow these simple steps or just follow along with the video below!

  1. Open your MRE Package and dump everything out on a table
  2. Toss the individually sealed condiment package
  3. Toss the spoon (All you need is one, so carry a reusable one with you)
  4. Toss the dairy shake if there is one
  5. Toss the heater (Is it really essential to the mission that your meal is hot?)
  6. Sort through the included extra side dishes and determine what you want to keep
  7. Open the main course meal cardboard packaging and toss the box
  8. Stack everything in space saving fashion back into the MRE plastic packaging you first opened
  9. Ensure everything is pushed to the bottom half of the packaging and fold over once
  10. Grab the lip of the MRE packaging and fold in the corners, streamlining your fold
  11. Take duct tape or riggers tape and wrap a complete turn around the packaging, tightening as you go
  12. Leave a tail on the tape and tear it off the roll (fold the end of the tape over so removal is easy)

Weight before: 1 lb. 13.7 oz. – Weight after 1 lb. 0.2 oz. While it might not seem like much, remember the old adage “An ounce in the morning weighs a pound at night.”

There you have it, how to field strip an MRE in 12 easy steps. Check out our video below showing a complete MRE field strip!

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  • I always stuffed main meals in one main bag, pogie bait and such in another. That way if I want a snack I reach for one, if I got time for a meal another one. Full size bottle of Tobasco and your G2G! This is a good post, hope I don’t have to do this again but just in case;-)

    • Doc, Great tips! I’m a Tabasco guy myself, especially with the Chicken Tetrazzini meal we just packed on the video 🙂

      Thanks for the comment,

  • kiltman

    I never thought about that. God tip to know.

    • Thanks for the comment Kiltman, glad you found the article useful!

  • i was told that upon removing everything from the main pouch and cardboard boxes the 10+ year shelf no longer applies. is this true?

    • Foxtrot, the 10+ year shelf life is dependent on the temperature that the meals are kept at. We’d only suggest field stripping these when necessary or your space is limited. If MRE’s are stored at 60˚F they’ll keep for 130 months, the time they’ll keep declines as the temperature rises.

      I’ve personally eaten a 8+ year old entree and I’m still here. And I’d say that’s a big myth on the shelf life declining if the outer packaging is opened. Everything inside is still sealed.

      Thanks for the comment and question,

  • ajc281509

    Great Info! However I have to disagree with ditching the dairy shake, if my memory serves me, these are packed with calories. Calories are always good in a field/combat enviroment.

    • AJ, Thanks for the comment, and we appreciate your support!

      The dairy shake, while loaded with calories as you’ve said, can stop you up faster than anything in MRE’s (even the peanut butter). That may be your goal though out in the field, so your mileage might vary.

    • not to mention apparently the dairy shakes might have salmonella in them now…

    • Here’s a link to the Army Times article about the salmonella dairy shakes

      Below is what MRE’s with Dairy Shakes are questionable.

      2007 Menus
      1 – Chili w/Beans
      9 – Beef Stew
      10 – Tuna
      22 – Chicken w/Dumplings

      2008 Menus
      1 – Chili w/Beans
      9 – Beef Stew
      21 – Tuna
      22 – Chicken w/Dumplings

      2009 Menus
      1 – Chili w/Beans
      9 – Beef Stew
      21 – Tuna

    • LW

      Yeah they stop you up no doubt about that…but it sucks needing to take a dump during a 20k movement in Taliban towns. ha ha. Great sight btw I love browsing here!

  • Brian C.

    Why did you choose to use MRE packaging instead of a ziploc?
    Whenever I did this, I always chose to use a ziploc instead because I could reseal it a lot easier…

    Maybe its just easier and doesnt require anything else?

    • MRE packaging makes a more compact package, but does weigh more compared to a ziploc. The reason we don’t favor ziplocs is because they’re typically odd sizes and everything moves around more inside of them, taking up more space. You could always use riggers tape on those too, but taking the tape on and off could rip the bag. Definitely an option though.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • CharlieFoxtrot

    Great post. I wish you would have done a before and after weight comparison though.

    • CharlieFoxtrot,

      Just added the information and appreciate the request. Weight before: 1 lb. 13.7 oz. — Weight after 1 lb. 0.2 oz.

      While it might not seem like much, remember the old adage “An ounce in the morning weighs a pound at night.”

    • CharlieFoxtrot

      Thanks! That’s pretty significant especially if you are talking serval days worth of meals. I’ve done my fair share of humping a ruck and every little ounce counts.

    • CF, Yes it does. Thanks again!

    • Austin Kopp

      Another saying, “Ounces equal pounds, pounds equal pain”.

  • GunMonkey

    I Purchased one of these a long time ago, Lightweight and works great. Much better IMHO than the ones that come with them. Another great tip I’ve learned is when cutting open the entree packs, cut it on the long side instead of the narrow side. Easier to eat and not quite as messy.

    • GunMonkey,

      Good tip on cutting the long side open to eat. I’ve used that method before myself, and it does make the entree easier to eat.

      Thanks for the comment,

    • Teagle

      True, good idea. I like to cut the corners off and squeeze everything out though… its alot faster.

  • VooDoo3

    I do something similar, but I just take whatever I want out and tape it up into a bundle. Your way is better I think.

  • just a scout

    Yummm, ham and chicken loaf… Oh, wait, you guys might be too young to remember that.

  • Beal187

    I like S.T.R.I.K.E. Meals for longer missions. Even though those have to be field striped as well.

  • Travis Barrett

    On a seven day desert hide overwatch for an MSR in the middle of nowhere that we hiked in for, I had packed 3 powerbars a day. It was considerably lighter, but I haven’t been able to eat one since!

    One of the better tactical blog/websites out there! Keep up the good work guys. I appreciate it.

  • Brent

    The coffee grounds make for good dip to keep you up during that late night guard duty, or over extended mission.

  • Daniel Garcia

    Great video and helpful!

  • John

    Offer the heaters to your medic to warm IV fluids, especially in the winter. Warm fluids are MUCH better at treating shock than cold or even room temp.

    • Michael Dean Miller

      Doc and his victims approve!

  • Austin Kopp

    This was the first ITS video I saw. I was searching on youtube for videos about MREs and I stumbled upon this one, and I’m glad I did! Anyway, great video, I like the idea, especially for a bag of evil, where you can leave them in there, periodically switching them with ones you leave in the freezer to bump up the freshness.

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  • The Morgan Hill Homesteding Project

    One thing you might consider doing is with the bottom of the MRE is cut off some of the plastic. Not quite sure how much weight you are cutting off, but it might be worth weighing.

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