Alternative Uses for MRE Heaters

MRE heaters are water-activated food heater that are included in Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) by the military and other emergency relief organizations. They allow you to heat up your food without having to make a fire.

MRE heaters work through a chemical reaction called a oxidation-reduction reaction.

Mg + 2H20 → Mg(OH)2 + H2 + heat

These flameless heaters are great for heating up food but they can also be used for other things. Check out some of these ideas below:

Hot Drinks
Imagine you’re out camping but don’t want to make a fire. You can still make some hot coffee or cocoa. Simply mix up the instant coffee or cocoa, pour it into a plastic bottle and place the lid on top. Place the bottle inside the MRE heater and activate it with the water. You’ll have some hot cocoa or coffee within minutes!

Make a Fire
As we mentioned above, the MRE heaters use magnesium powder to create their heat. In that case, you can open the bag, extract the powder and use it as tinder to start a fire. You can also start a fire by throwing sparks into the fumes that are put off by the heater. You have to be pretty careful though with this since you don’t want to light the plastic or the food on fire.

Thaw Frozen Water Lines
Now that winter is soon approaching, MREs are a great way to thaw water lines if you find yourself in a quick freeze. Wrap the heater around the pipe and activate, the heater will thaw out the line and allow you to empty it.

Heating Pad
Many of the heaters will be too hot to place on your body directly. But if you wrap the heater up in a towel or cloth, you should be ok. You can use the heater to relieve sore muscles, treat injuries and more.

Toast?
So, we’ve never tried this one but it’s been reported that you can make toast with an MRE heater. By placing the bread on top of the heater pad and activating it, it should crisp the bread while you rotate it to the other side. Not having tested this one out, I imagine you’d have to be careful not to let the bread get into the steam that’s escaping from the bag - no one likes soggy toast.

What have you used them for?
Comment below to tell us what you’ve used MRE Heaters for and share the knowledge. Part of being fully prepared is knowing how to use items for multiple purposes. Share your knowledge below.

13 thoughts on “Alternative Uses for MRE Heaters”

  • Jon Horton

    Keep in mind that the gasses given off by the heaters are toxic in concentrated doses and should not be used in an enclosed space such as a vehicle in winter, a snow den, or otherwise.

    Reply
  • fred

    the heaters produce hydrogen gas that is flammable be careful when using them thanks for the tips and be careful

    Reply
  • seawolf36

    A bit worse than toxic! The stream being emitted is mostly steam, but there is enough hydrogen to ignite. In a closed space [even a tent] the concentration could become explosive a la Hindenberg!

    Reply
  • DBaldwin

    Interesting article. Could hand heaters be used in similar ways?

    Also, thanks for the warning Mr. Horton. That is good to know.

    Reply
  • neary

    likeness to hotcoals and steam to scold and burn risk


    ??????

    disposal after

    ???? magnesium in landfill or water suuply
    and risk of inhaling hydrogen gases in the steam

    what is a good disposL METHOD THEY NEED TO BE COLD REALLY AND YOU CANT PUT EM IN BASIC PLASTCI UNTIL THEY ARE

    BUT RE THE COOKING GETTING FOOD OUT OF THAT STEAM..RISKY

    AND SOME RECKON ON LESS HOT AND COOKING ON TOP LIKE YOUR TOAST

    Reply
    • Karl

      If things are at a point where the prepping game comes into play I would think you are going to have bigger things to worry about besides what is going into the land fill!

      Reply
  • Muzhik

    Interesting ideas, but I wouldn't go too overboard on them. In the package of 72 heaters, each heater costs about $2 each (about $1.70 when they're on sale.) Using them to heat your cocoa can get to be expensive.

    Reply
  • Kinghambone

    we used to put them in water bottles with a little water and give them a shake, throw and watch explode

    Reply
  • Tim

    Army practical joke, that might actually be useful in a crisis:
    MRE Heater + Tabasco sauce = improvised CS(ish) gas. We had somebody let one loose in the office last year, and had to evacuate, it was so bad!

    Reply
  • Houston

    Put the power in a bottle with a tight lid

    Reply
  • Houston

    Powder

    Reply
  • suzy

    When deer hunting in November, in a tent camper....and it was cold. We put the heaters in the bottom of the sleeping bags about 40 minutes before bedtime. They working great to warm up.
    Have put in hunting boots to warm them up before going out.

    Reply
  • Dan

    A piece of a MRE heater works great to start a fire: get it wet, use sparks-->instant flame.

    Reply
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