Q & A with The Wolf Pack : What are the best foods for a car survival kit or “get home bag”?

Question from Millie in KY

Hi, here’s one that I could use some help with, MD. I want to put together a GH bag for hubby, he works about an hour away. I know the basics of things that he could use just to get here, but what I wanted to ask about is food.

We live in S. Central KY. Our cars get dang hot in the summer. The trunks don’t seem to be as bad but I’m wondering what kind of food I should include. Nuts will go rancid due to heat. Maybe some of the freeze dried single servings of Mountain house? Chocolate would melt, I expect any of the granola bars would, too. MREs? Would they survive pretty good heat for a while?

I KNOW he is not going to want to take a bag of “stuff” into work every day and he doesn’t have an office, so no where to leave it in the meantime. It’s got to be pretty much in the trunk of his car.

Any and all suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of TheSurvivalistBlog.net. He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. Divergal says:

    This is a really great question and I’m looking forward to the answers. I live in South Florida and have the same worries about what foods I can safely leave in my truck that I’m not going to have to replace every week because of the extreme heat.

  2. Winomega says:

    Instant oatmeal can be eaten dry as long as you are careful. Basically know how much water to drink to reconstitute it and know how much it’s going to expand when wet and know how much your stomach can hold.

    Gummi bears will melt, but the mass is still edible. Granola bars will also re-harden, or try a crunchy variety. Chocolate does get weird with uncontrolled temperatures.

    Dried fruit might be okay if you switch it out often enough. Semi-moist ones like prunes and apricots can grow unwelcome bacteria.

    What about graham crackers or oyster crackers?

    Energy bars might be a bit lighter than MRE if he can tolerate the sugar. Last night I ate half of an energy bar that expired 6 months ago and I’m fine, but it wasn’t stored in harsh conditions.

    Try different things. A good experiment might be to keep a small sampling in the trunk, then put another box in the trunk while he snacks on the stuff that has been stored. Keep this project up, letting the stuff that copes best get cycled on a longer schedule than stuff that is still being tried.

  3. Brendan says:

    Why doesn’t he pack his lunch? I recently made the change to packing my lunch. The financial benefits and health benefits are great. My place of employment has cafeteria that allows employees to use payroll deduction to buy breakfast, lunch or dinner. I was spending between $70 and $90 each two week pay period. This was for eight meals/ pay period. I started packing my lunch. I generally bring three sandwiches to eat, vegetable juice to drink, a piece of fruit, some cheese and maybe peanut butter crackers to snack on. I use the Stanley Lunch Box. Here is a link….
    I can fit four sandwiches, two cans of V8, two to three packs of peanut crackers, an apple or two along with an ice pack in mine. I generally always have food left over when I leave work. This way I have something I can eat on the way home for the purposes of getting home. I spend around $15/week on food instead of $35-$45 with payroll deduction cafeteria prices. That’s $20-$30 more a week for other things. The lunchbox works great and blends in. Nobody really questions a person for packing their lunch. The MOLLE get home bag might catch some looks. A lunch box blends in. This one also can hold a standard Stanley thermos which is great for those of us that require coffee to function. You can also use the Thermos Cooking method detailed in MD’s 31 Days To Survival. Water will keep fine in the trunk. So will dried goods. Worse case, he has the Thermos to cook beans and rice while conserving fuel. Overall, I think with the lunchbox, you can use MD’s advice of first in, first out with food preps, bring food that can be energy dense, save some money and blend in.

  4. As an avid cyclist I have always preferred the “eat while you ride” foods more popularly known as “gels.” In essence they are Powerbars, but in a viscous liquid form, therefore the name “PowerGels.” You basically tear off the end, suck on the pack and then take a drink of water to get rid of the sweetness. They keep for years and are unaffected by heat. You can find them in any well stocked grocery, a sporting goods store or online. Watch the ingredients as some have lots of caffeine – not always a bad thing if you need quick energy.

    Remember, the idea is not to have gourmet meals to eat but a source of energy when you are trekking home on foot etc. Gels foot the bill nicely. Just be sure to have enough water, and a few gels will last you for days.

  5. Missy Taz says:

    Hi Millie-
    I keep beef jerkey, packets of lipton cup o’ soup, a sealed small tin of nuts, ramen noodles, and several Clif bars. Temps average around 95* – 98* here and I have yet to have any problems with spoilage,

  6. SheepDog says:

    One thing that will moderate the temperature swings is storing your food and water in a good cooler. I started using one to keep things from freezing during the winter, but found it worked well year round.

    I use a soft cooler by AO Coolers and even in my detached unheated garage I have never had my water freeze or get too hot to drink.

    If you live in a colder or hotter climate than I do you may have to add a hot water bottle or an ice pack once in a while to keep it going, but I have found this easy solution to greatly extend the useful life of my kits food and water.


    • Swabbie Robbie says:

      The cooler is an excellent solution. One could even put in a frozen “Blue Ice” pack every morning to help with keeping it cool enough. I am going to adopt that myself.

      • Muckingfess says:

        Instead of Blue Ice, use milk cartons with water frozen. As the ice melts, you have drinking water

      • The cooler idea sounds promising – if it could even shave 10-15 degrees off of the temps it would give your stash a longer life.
        I would think that having to put in/take out an ice pack each day is the same as taking your bag of provisions in and out each day – it is still a chore to do at the beginning and end of the day and really doesn’t save any labor. I keep a few pouches of instant rice, pouches of tuna or chicken, packets of crackers, instant oatmeal, instant coffee, tea bags, powdered drink mix, sugar and honey packs along with a couple cans of Sterno for a low profile way to heat water/food. And of course, a thermos for ‘cook as you walk’. I swap them out every 6 months – in July and December – so that none are in extremes too long. I have tried everything that has come out of my trunk and all seemed fine (edible wise – can’t speak to loss of nutrition). For you chocolate lovers, I don’t care for dark chocolate myself, but if you do, I know that it doesn’t melt as easily as milk chocolate does. How much better, I don’t know, but perhaps someone does and will enlighten us. HOWEVER: Having said all that I feel I must reemphasis the importance of water – it will probably be scarce and it is too heavy to carry enough unless that is ALL you carry, so be sure to have at least two ways to filter/purify any water you encounter on the road. Three days without food is difficult, three days without water will kill most of us. Good luck!

  7. axelsteve says:

    This may be a case for mre`s Or some mre componets in a thick cardboard box. That way you can have a box bob in your trunk.

  8. I keep “lifeboat rations” in my car.

    They are designed for this type of environment, keep at least 5 years.

    They aren’t the tastiest, but they are edible.

    • Trashman says:

      Plus 1. Mainstay raft rations are not affected by temp. We carry 7400 calories in each car bag.

      • Soggy Prepper says:

        That’s what we have in our car bags. Mainstay bars. Tons of calories, temps don’t matter and lasts a long time. I actually change them out every 3 years.
        I’ve tasted them, but not eaten them because I don’t want to consume a 2,000 calorie bar on a normal day in one sitting. But for an emergency they are the cheapest and best way to go in my opionion.
        You won’t find anything more economical.
        Emergency Essentials has them or go through Amazon and use M.D.’s link.

  9. riverrider says:

    i use milleniem bars from ee, mainstay lifeboat rations too. recently i rediscovered survival tabs. all unbothered by heat. mre’s are good for 6 months to a year in the trunk, so must be rotated. you can wrap them in clothing to protect them from some of the heat. we used survival tabs back in my infantry days for 3 day ftx’s and two week field ops. one bottle the size of a canteen lasts two weeks if you have a few bites of real food once in a while. it saved about 15 pounds of mre’s from my pack…i don’t pack anything that needs water or heat to prepare. cooking takes time and resources better spent moving. water will be in critical demand already. additionally, digestion of complex foods takes huge amounts of water from the body. one hour drive, i’m assuming 60 miles. hard to tote enough real food for 4 to 5 days, plus cooking gear etc. remember this is survival, not a camping trip. good luck.

  10. winonageek says:

    If you’re looking for emergency food that can handle extreme temperatures, why not try something like Datrex 3600 Emergency Food Bars. They’re light-weight, Coast Guard approved, have a 5 year shelf-life, inexpensive, high-calorie, and non thirst provoking.

    If you think about it, something designed to be store in a life raft, is going to be exposed to temperature similar to a car. One pack would be plenty of calories to get home if he’s an hour away. The point is to get home, so he doesn’t need anything fancy, just enough to survive.

    • winonageek,
      I keep a stock of these, and although I wouldn’t want to live on them for an extended time period, they would I think fill the bill for what Millie needs.

  11. JP in MT says:

    I would have to answer your question in 2 parts.

    First I’m diabetic, so I keep things in the car for me to be able to eat quickly, with no prep, when I start to have a blood sugar crash.

    Second, when I travel I have other foods that can be prepped with only hot water. I also carry extra water and a means to heat it. Instant oatmeal was mentioned and is one of my favorites.

    I keep my food items in a separate container (read duffel bag) from the other equipment so that I can keep it rotated. Cars get hot and cold (up here you can end up with both in the same day) and this can shorten the life of the food you carry.

    You might find that a similar system will work for you, rotating and checking the food and water weekly.

  12. I keep ramen noodles, a mess kit, and bottled water in my car.I also have a folding stove and a heat source for it.The burners for the stove were made with tuna cans,cardboard and wax.Raman noodles can also be eaten uncooked. Dehaydrated meals are also good.My husband carried MREs and water when he was driving truck.He would heat the MREs by putting them on the engine block. Heat shortens the lifetime of the MREs so be sure to rotate them.

  13. In addition to smaller sizes of bottled water, I recommend fat free, hard pretzels (the kind that come in the plastic barrel) that you could then re-package in small Mylar bags with an oxygen absorber. The simple carbohydrates will give you quick energy and the salt will help replace some of the minerals you will sweat out. I also recommend packaging some individually wrapped, non-fat, hard candies made from real sugar — also re-packaged in Mylar but without the oxygen absorber.

    I would not store any food in my vehicle that had fat in it or was likely to undergo an unfortunate chemical change from slowing cooking in a vehicle for months. If I wanted to get fancy I would store some of those Coast Guard-approved emergency ration bars that you find in lifeboats, but I would plan to replace them every year because slowing cooking in a vehicle cannot be good for them.

  14. I’m not going to recomend foods. But I always keep a small cooler in my trunk to protect any foods. I’m partial to various nuts.

    • Sw't Tater says:

      Yes, and if it’s more than you normally carry, use that windshield reflector and an extra towel to wrap any thing not in the cooler. Rotate with use..think snack on the way home, stuck behind traffic obstruction..tropical dried fruit, and raisins, peanut butter or cheeese snack crackers(usually last about two weeks in our car.., beyond that they are edible,but not tasty.)

  15. I like the Cliff Bar “Kit’s Organic” series bars that I have kept in my truck bag for months in a ziploc bag and they are still edible. The Nature’s Valley Honey & Oats granola bars have lasted a long time to… I found a few in a carry-on bag that I used about a year ago and they were still good. Another item I like to keep in my truck bag is a package of pitted Dates. Between those edibles in a bag I could go for 72-hours without starving.

    • hvaczach says:

      Yes on the natures vally stuff several of them have no chocolate so negate the melting, they are light resonably cheap, and keep well. Also tang powder full of vitamins, doesn’t go bad and hi calorie. The soup in a cup makes sense as will soften on the go even with cool water eventually. I live approx an hour away from work as well and my main concern is really water more than food I figure I can do the 45 miles in 24-36 hours if I hydrate and keep pushing it. If I do minimal calories more concerned about hydration. But that being said a little food helps a lot. But consider how large this bag is gonna be. Light and fast is a plus and if it holds a weapon and extra ammo you are already around 4 pounds before water at 8 lbs a gallon! MRE’s are great but require a ton of water to metabolize and will go rancid I would keep it simple and light.

  16. tommy2rs says:

    When I was a mud engineer (oilfield) checking multiple wells every day in south Texas I pretty much lived out of my company car. I kept a box in the backseat with pretzels, saltines and/or oyster crackers, sardines/vienna sausage, jerky/slim jims, peanut butter, ramen, dry cereal, packets of presweeted koolaid/gatoraid/tang, instant coffee (yuck)/tea bags and a jar for sun tea and several gallons of water for those times when well problems kept me on a site for days at a time. Worked well in the Texas heat.

  17. Annie Nonymous says:

    I am partial to the “mountain house” solution, as its light (bug-outable), heat resistant (the ones in my trunk have been from 20 degrees to 120+ and still quite edible after 2-3 years), pack down small (they even make a vacuum pack package now that takes up a lot less room than the envelopes, tho they are lighter than the envelope package – plan accordingly!) and are quick. My GH/BOB has probably a week and change worth of the vacuum pack breakfasts and dinner entrees (enough to get me close to home) and a pair of liter Nalgenes full of water (and a filter to make more)… what can I say? They work.

  18. R.T. Vance says:

    Living in Utah I have a range of temperatures. -10 – 105+.

    My go bag has the “Mainstay Emergency Food Rations – 3600 Calorie Bars” I also keep 2 gallons of water in the truck, which is cycled regularly.

    I have kept a couple cans of soup in my car since I lived in The St. George Utah area, it is in the back with the water containers which help keep the temperatures down in the cans. I’ve come outside to the car with 250+ degree internal temperature and not had the cans bulge, or show signs of spoilage.
    I intentionally left one can out in the heat for 1 year in the extreme heat of summer and cold of winter. I opened the can and found it smelled fine and did not have signs of spoiling.
    I now keep about 2 weeks of food, between the two options above, with the vehicle. Checking it regularly and cycling it out as needed. I eat a can of soup out of this about once a month and haven’t had any problems, and less problems than if I’d purchased fast food.

  19. In my dh ghb I keep instant oatmeal, trail mix, and jerkey. But I also send him to work with his lunch every day. On days he is working further from home, I make sure I send lots of snacks as he prefers this when it is hot compared to a heavier meal. His favorites are sunflower seeds, popcorn, and pretzels

    In my vehicle, I dont keep food in the ghb, it is in a tub with lots of different stuff in it at all times. Things like crackers, tuna, granola bars, individual bags of cereal, and really just a mix. I also alwaya have tea bags, generally 2 cases of water, pedialyte, anda bottle of soda.

    The food does get switched out in my vehicle a little more often (tge kids eat it so it kind of has to) and I will check the dh ghb every couple of months unless he tells me he used something (I just convinced him about a month ago to carry the thing so havent yet felt the need to check in it, just make sure it is still there).

    Oh, and we also keep coolers in our vehicles, it really helps when ir is boiling hot outside.

    • Millie in KY says:

      Thanks, guys, you have given me some great ideas! Yes, he does carry his lunch but works about 50 miles from home so at least three days walking. I like the idea of wrapping it all up in a blanket for insulation or something. I also like the idea of a tote that I can switch things around every month, say, in the summer (don’t worry too much about the winter) and then he can fill up his GHB with what is in there. I was just going to get him a simple back pack with extra socks, sweater if needed, forget what it’s called but one of those silver tarp things to retain body heat and keep you dry, wasp spray (gotta watch out for the white anglo saxon protestants, you know!), maybe a small stove and thermos and something to heat water in. I was thinking about those 1.00 Knorr Rice/noodle dishes, too, they have garlic/spices and so not much in there that would spoil, dump the water and the rice into the thermos and stop and eat in a couple of hours. I will check out the Lifeboat food, too. I have quite a list started, thank you all!

      • Millie in KY,
        If he’s looking to get home in three days, you’re not really looking for nutrition as much as calories to get him home; unless he has health issues like diabetes. In this case I would recommend the Datrex bars and several gallons worth of containers or camelbacks for water, assuming he can fill them at work before heading home. This would keep the water cool and fresh. Also, for general munching and a change of pace, extra peanut butter or cheese crackers packed in his lunch, along with coated chocolate like M&M’s and Reese’s Pieces will stay relatively intact in the heat. Depending on how the water is to be carried, instead of a cup, use a 16 ounce bottle which would allow you to pour in one of the single serving drinks, like koolaid, iced tea, or crystal light for low calories.

  20. I believe these are still around.
    I used to have a coil that plugged into a car lighter socket and heat water. If you can stay with your vehicle?

    • Yes those water heater coils are still around. Just check out your local auto parts store or catalog. I keep 1 in my truck.

  21. My fast answer would be MREs/backpacking foods. They’re expected to be stored in less-than-ideal conditions. But they add weight and bulk, so perhaps you should consider just going with energy bars, granola, trail mix, etc? I’ve seen those gatorade energy tabs, and while I have no hard data on them, they could be a decent emergency source.

  22. Bam Bam says:

    If your dh works only an hour from home and you live in the South, I would recommend keeping a cooler in the car with water. He may not need it, but if he does need it and doesn’t have it, he could be in trouble. I think having sufficient water is the most important thing.

    • Encourager says:


      • My DW and I keep commercial plastic bottles of water in our vehicles. They come in handy, no problem with algae/bacteria growth, and can be refilled with whatever is available.

    • I agree. Water is more important than food (unless you’re a diabetic). He can also keep a handful of bouillion cubes and something to heat them up in (metal canteen cup comes to mind) if he feels the need to pack nutrition.

  23. I have learned from trying to build a good solar Greenhouse that water is great for moderating the temperature. If you use an insulated bag or cooler and put several water bottles in it, it will moderate the temperature swings. The more thermal mass(water) the less the temp would change. When I worked construction I always froze my gatoraid then put it in my lunch box instead of ice, when I was ready for one I would take it out and use as it melted.

  24. Great question! Ceertainly gave me some “food fpr thought.” I live in EastTexas and our summer temps ususally range in the triple digits. I just took the advice of others that comented on your question and ordered some Datrex 3600 Emergency Food Bars. I’ll add these to the 3 MRE’s that I already keep in my bag.

  25. I use life boat rations. Make sure they are coast guard approved!
    Then now worries .

  26. Pineslayer says:

    Keep it simple. Weight is always an issue, if you pack dehydrated goods, you will have to pack water or have a way to procure potable water. At 8lbs per gallon, water adds up quick. Cliff bars are easy and last for months without degrading. Those gel packs are easy to eat on the go. Powerbars last forever, taste is sub-par, but they work. A trick from our troops in the sandbox is TopRamen, add water into a big ziplock, let sit in the sun until tender, no fire needed. A jar on Peanut Butter is hard to beat.

  27. WHISKEY!

    • Combination antiseptic,anesthetic,anti-anxiety, and a medium of exchange if needed. I’d recommend Everclear-packs more punch in a smaller package. You can well and truly sterilize a wound with it too. And start fires. And clean carburetors.

  28. hvaczach says:

    I never gave it a thought at first but honey never spoils temp stable loads of energy cheap and available. Will definatly add honey to a ghb.

  29. Tom Arnold says:

    Besides water, I keep a can of powdered Gatorade mix. When added to water it has exactly the same nutritional makeup as bottled Gatorade so you get electrolytes and some calories along with the hydration. If he’s going to be walking for 3+ days, electrolytes will become important with all the sweating he’s likely to be doing.

    • hvaczach says:

      very true but you can over do it, I was told by the paramedics while fighting a wild land fire that you want two to one I.E. two pints of water for every pint of gatorade. My assumption is with the salt and sugars in gatorade solely that will dehydrate you after time.

  30. They have little coolers that plug in to the cigarette lighter. Keep water and packets of the powder gatoraid in the vehicle.

    Keep the vehicle filled with gas.

    Keep a change of clothing, walking sneakers, and proper rain and outer clothing.

    Keep a luggage bag with wheels or a little cart with wheels to haul the stuff.

    • Add bug repellent, sleeping bag, and tent to the cart.

      • hvaczach says:

        I would replace the sneakers with a good hiking or tall shanked work boot, and an earthtone or camo over shirt. Most likely if you are going it on foot concealment is important so you want to be going cross country. Having had a severly sprained ankle the added support of the boot is a must. and the long sleeved overshirt helps with temp fluctuation, sunburn, windburn,and bugs.

    • They make a small fold up cart similar to luggage with handle, just no luggage, and larger, solid wheels. A little low to the ground for me, but will haul (they say) 150 lbs,. Even 1/3 of that should easily contain anything you might need for the trip home. If loaded – for use – correctly, would be easily concealable in an instant if needed, and folds flat for storage in trunk. Less that 8 lbs, I found them for $29. Also can be utilized for firewood, large water containers, any load. I use it regularly at gun shows and have moved such amazing loads considering the size.

  31. Millie in KY says:

    You guys have come up with some awesome ideas!
    Today I went to Walmart and got some of your suggestions.
    The first thing was a backpack and I found a fairly large on one sale for 13.00. Here are the things that I bought or had around the house. I’m figuring 3-4 days to get home.
    Wasp spray, small jar of Peanut butter, box of crackers (all things like this have been wrapped again in a zip lock bag for freshness), granola bars, 3 pack of apple juice, cinnamon brown sugar oatmeal, small bag of prunes, 5 small bags of peanuts, 3 Rice secrets packages (1 3/4 cup of hot water to “cook” in a thermos). I found him a cool scarf, one of those things you soak in water and wrap around your neck to help you stay cool, may also buy the one for your head, too. It can get pretty muggy down here sometimes. Lighter, small deodorant, 2 small Wet Ones (15 per), callus pads, ibuprophen, 2 pr. latex gloves, 2 small soaps (from hotel), small shampoo (same), small Kleenex (same). I have one of those wonder towels that is small and soaks things up well. Flashlight. I have a good knife that I want to get for him, too, on Amazon, one that I think MD suggested a while back. I want to get him a poncho, and they had these terrific 5 x 7 tarps rolled up very tiny in the camping section, one of those. I will order a bivvy for him, too. 2 sets of plastic ware for eating with. Two pair of clean socks.
    If things get scary, I’ll add a pistol and some ammo but hesitate on that for now, he works at a school and so feel better about not sending that at this time. He doesn’t have a conceal and carry license.
    I will wrap all of this up (it fits in the bag, I am guessing this is going to be 20-25 lbs, in two older wool blankets for insulation purposes in the car’s truck. If it’s summer, he’s not going to need them. If it is winter, I’ll include some twine so he can roll them up and attach to the backpack or carry them. Food, protection from rain, stuff to eat food with, some cleanliness items for staying a human being (sometimes washing your face and hands does a world of good for a soul!), blankets if needed, a bivvy to sleep in. Clean socks for hiking.
    We do need to talk about his boots. He was surprised that I was doing this for him, I don’t think it ever occurred to him that he might actually have to walk home at some point.
    I’ll keep reading your suggestions and thank you all so much for helping with my questions!

    • Millie, your husband is a lucky man, indeed! Well done! I would suggest some TP and a canteen cup, as a minimum, to boil water/cook in. Better yet, make at least one of his water bottles steel and he can use that instead of adding any extra weight. I am also a big believer in carrying some type of multi-tool, but I have been know to salvage and repurpose things as I go along if the need arises – lots of benefits for minimum weight. Perhaps a can of Sterno for quick cooking while keeping a low profile. Last, some type of water purification tablets if not a filter.

  32. Millie in KY says:

    Forgot (I always forget something) a cooking thermos. And I need to snag some jelly packets the next time we eat out. Those would be nice on the PB and crackers, too. Maybe some extra sugar for the oatmeal. And there is a flashlight with extra batteries, too.

  33. Millie in KY says:

    AND I gave him 4 water bottles, empty. One is marked with 1/2 cup, 1 cup, 2 cups. So he can measure out for the rice and the oatmeal. He’ll have to fill those up as soon as he knows he has to go.

  34. Comingrevolution says:

    I saw a video where a guy was using a thermos to store gear and food, supposedly the inside temp wouldn’t get hotter than 90 something degrees in the Texas heat.

  35. Having lived on MRE’s in a desert climate as my sole source of nutrition for four months straight and having to carry all my food with me often with no vehicle, my choice is still MRE’s or SMORE’s meals in my GHB. Take them out of the packs and break down the cardboard for weight reduction. Here traveling should be done in the early morning or late evening. Not during the heat of the day. The fluids and salts that will leave your body as you try to hump it across the reflective asphalt will kill most people who gripe about getting a parking spot more than 20 feet from a store. MRE’S come in foil packs and if he wants hot food he can just put it on a rock in the sun. All MRE’s come with heaters too. I recommend keeping those for use as something else. SMORE’s meals contain those microwavable canned stews or mac n cheese. Heavier and not as many calories as an MRE but tasty. They will not go bad in the heat. Another poster recommended peanut butter which I also agree with if you have enough water. Hope that helps.


  37. Southerner says:

    My Special Forces buddy recommends antibacterial wet wipes, because they are at least multi-use: a) clean hands before eating; b) personal hygiene; c) put used wipes in ziplock bag and reuse for another purpose instead of carrying toilet paper.

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