Myself and a few other players in our campaign are trying to set up some wagons for a long haul for a campaign quest that will take us away from civilization for over a year. We are looking at the math for holding rations and materials for preserving food, and are wondering how many rations could we fit into one barrel. The PHB says on page 153 that 1 barrel can hold “40 gallons liquid, 4 cubic feet solid”.

One player says that there can only be 10 rations per barrel because they weigh 2 lbs., but another says that the 2 lbs. was a typo and they are 1 lbs. for a day's rations.

This has became an issue that has caused a fight and players getting angry at each other.

So in the end: how much do rations weigh and how many can fit in a barrel?


2 Answers 2


Problem 1 - rations are listed by weight, while barrels are listed by volume
Problem 2 - D&D uses American units, which makes the math less obvious.

So, step 1, gather data.
1 pound ≅ 0.45 kg
1 gal ≅ 3.8 liters
food tends to run a specific gravity between 0.8 and 1.5, with some exception on both ends.

So, with a 2 lb ≅ 0.9 kg; 2.2 lb ≅ 1 kg
At a rough SG 1.1, that's about 1L
40 gal ≅ 152 l
thus about 152 rations

If it's a 1 lb ration, it's about 304 rations in a 40 gallon barrel.

In either case, packing loss for cuboid solids in a barrel is about 20%... so about 120 rations at 2 lbs., or 240 at 1 lb.

And note that typical barrels are good for molasses or honey at about SG 1.45, so the barrel can handle about 220 kg total mass, or about 484 lbs. Both have high viscosity, tho, so don't leak through the joins... Anyway, above about 500 lbs, the barrel ends are unlikely to hold.

As for which, looking in the PBR, as it's been updated. Says 2 lb, so I do believe that's the correct and intended answer. It also matches my SCA camping experiences with hardtack, sausage, and cheese. (2 lb saussage, 5 lb cheese, and 2 lb crackers for 2 adults and two children for a weekend, with both adults plus sized, and me fighting.)


Take 2lbs of rations per day. You don't want to semi-starve on a long trip. Most foods have about the same density as water, and a (US) gallon weighs 8lb. So, 4 rations per gallon, 160 rations per 40-gallon barrel.

Note that this does not include water, or anything else to drink. It isn't practical to carry water supplies for a long journey, but Create Water is a first level spell, you just need to take an empty barrel along to create the water in, and clean it regularly.

Water and food for the animals to pull the waggons are a whole different problem. This is the reason why transport by water is so much cheaper than by land.


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