40 Items to Barter in a Post-Collapse World

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Do you know how to barter?  In preparedness circles, the term barter is used a lot when describing a post SHTF situation when goods and services may no longer be available through normal channels.  According to Wikipedia, ”barter is a method of exchange by which goods or services are directly exchanged for other goods or services without using a medium of exchange, such as money”.

A lot of people think of bartering as something to do when they are down an out, perhaps unemployed, or low on cash.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  Bartering has been around from eons and is simply a smart way to acquire goods and services under the radar screen.

40 Items to Barter

Today I would like to share some very simple tips for bartering as well as my own suggested list of items and skills that may be useful for barter in a post-collapse economy.

How does simple barter work?

In a simple barter, you look for someone who is looking for a particular kinds of goods or services in exchange for goods or services that you may want.  For example, let’s say you do plumbing work but you need a some gardening equipment.  A simple barter would be exchanging some plumbing repairs for a used plow or rototiller.

Getting started is easy.  One of the simplest things to do is to put up an small ad on the local community bulletin board, perhaps at the grocery store or bowling alley.  (And by the way, I don’t know why but bowling alley’s are particularly good for this sort of thing.)  You can also peruse Craigslist or the Little Nickel want ads for people trying to sell the item you need.  The next step is to simply phone them ask and suggest a trade.

One of the very best ways to barter, though, is to put the word out among like-minded friends, relatives and neighbors.  Let them know what you have for trade and see what they offer in return.  What I am describing here is bartering in its most simplistic form but I think you get the gist.

Beyond simple bartering there are more complicated and dare I say sophisticated scenarios such as three way barters and barter clubs.  But that gets beyond the scope of this article which is merely to get you into the bartering mindset.

The Best Items to Use For Barter in a Post-Collapse World

There are a lot of different opinions as to what items will be best for barter in a post-collapse world where the underground economy may be the only viable economy for the passing of goods and services.  That said, consider this a starting point as you begin to acquire goods for barter.

In no particular order, consider accumulating some of the following items for barter purposes.  And keep in mind that in a post-collapse world, the items do not necessarily have to be new, but simply serviceable.

  • Water purification supplies including purification tabs and filters
  • Hand tools including hatchets, saws, machetes and general fix-it tools
  • Fire making supplies, including lighters, matches, flint fire steel
  • Sanitary supplies including toilet paper, feminine products and diapers
  • Disposable razors and razor blades
  • Fuel, any and all kinds (gas, diesel, propane, kerosene)
  • Prescription drugs, painkillers, and antibiotics
  • First aid remedies such as cough syrup, cortisone cream, boil-ese, calamine lotion and topical pain relievers
  • Spirits such as bourbon, rum, gin, and vodka
  • Coffee and tea (instant coffee is okay)
  • Solar battery charger and rechargeable batteries
  • Standard Batteries
  • Reading glasses
  • Paracord
  • Bags, including large garbage bags as well as smaller zip-close bags
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Duct tape
  • Tie Wraps
  • Heavy plastic sheets and tarps
  • Toiletries including toothpaste, dental floss soaps, shampoo (tip: save those small sized toiletries that are provided by hotels and motels)
  • Condoms
  • Latex or Nitrile gloves in a variety of sizes
  • Hard  candy
  • Fishing supplies
  • Knives of various types including fixed blades, kitchen knives, and box cutters.
  • Condiments and Spices
  • Paperback books on a variety of subjects
  • Tobacco and cigarette rolling supplies
  • Amusements such as playing cards, crossword puzzle books, Sudoku
  • Pencils & paper
  • Pepper spray
  • Garden seeds
  • Flashlights
  • Vinegar and baking soda to use in DIY cleaning supplies
  • Empty spray bottles and squirt bottles
  • Hand pumps for both air and liquids
  • Mylar blankets and tents
  • Hand warmers
  • Sewing and mending supplies
  • Knitting or crochet needles and yarn

One thing you will notice that I have not included firearms or ammo and for good reason.  In a post-collapse society, you might not know your barter partners well and may run the risk that they will use these items against you so that they can steal the rest of you stuff.  One person’s opinion, anyway.

A Caveat for Businesses

As you get started with bartering in a pre-collapse world – and after all, like any other survival skill, you should hone your skills now – keep in mind that in the United States, the IRS does have some rules for business bartering and most certainly, states probably do as well as it pertains to Business and Occupation taxes.  Just something to keep in mind.

The Final Word

Times are tough. Many are unemployed.  And many have had their retirement funds decimated by the sneaky (and dare we say corrupt?) Wall Street types.  Perhaps you have a useful skill. Or perhaps you have a healthy flock of egg laying chickens that provide more than you can consume.  Whatever you have in excess capacity, now is the time to learn to trade your skill or extra commodities for something you either need or covet.

man worried about money economy

There are lots of resources online, at the libraries, and in eBooks to help you acquire bartering skills.  Start small but start now. Bartering is the “in” thing to do these days.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

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pocket survival kit

From the Bargain Bin:  Each of the items in my own Portable Pocket Survival Kit would also make good barter items.  The only change I would make is to pick up some larger sized LED flashlights than the Nano flashlight in my kit (which, by the way, is a very cool flashlight!).

Kershaw OSO Sweet Knife:  This “oh so sweet” knife is solidly built, stainless steel knife that comes razor sharp right out of the package. It will pretty much cut through anything the price is amazing. About $23.

Streamlight Nano Light Keychain LED Flashlight:  extremely small and light weight yet it will throw off a decent amount of super-bright light. At just .36 ounces and 1.47 inches long, the Streamlight Nano Light Keychain Flashlight will take up a minimum of space in your pocket or bag. About $7.

Paracord Survival Bracelet:  Why a Paracord Bracelet? So you always have some of this useful cord on your person!

Windstorm Safety Whistle:  This particular whistle can be heard a long distance away and above howling wind and other competing sounds.

Swedish Firesteel:  Using this basic pocket fire-starter, you can get a nice fire going under almost any conditions. This is a small, compact version.

Pepper Spray:  It is always good to have some form of defense that will temporarily halt a bad guy that is in your face.

Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets:  These come in compressed packets small enough to fit in a pocket or wallet.  You will be surprised at how warm these will keep you. About $8 for a pack of 10.

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40 Items to Barter in a Post-Collapse World — 74 Comments

  1. Excellent list. I did up a list once and it wasn’t nearly this comprehensive – I’ll definitely be revisiting my barter list after reading this.

  2. Always be careful trading ammo or liquor they may come back to haunt you. With liquor only trade small bottles for medical use, you don’t want to have to deal with drunks.

    • I would also question the safety of trading Machetes, and other equipment commonly used as weapons. Red Flags pop up all over large knives, etc… Just for me, and in my opinion of course, you may have different support or defense than I do.

  3. buy items like small hand tools from alibaba dot com (China) in bulk quantities. Buy $5 hammer for 50 cents (example). MUSTS: 1.never wear out, rust, break, etc. 2. small and not heavy 3. $1 to $20 each. 4. things people MUST have NOT would like to have.ie toilet paper, matches, knives.

    do NOT barter away items you may need yourself. water food guns ammo beware of “authorities”. They may not arrive to help but to take your supplies to give to those who did not prepare. Be stealth. Do not bug out! bug in! After 2 weeks in woods your bag is empty – what do you do? stay in fortified home with 5 to 10 people. trained.

  4. I read a very interesting article by a guy that lived through the Bosnia conflict on a prepper website. He talked a lot about bartering as that was the only way to get things you needed/wanted.

    One item that really stuck with me is that you never barter at your home and you never discuss/show/divulge your entire stock. Doing this may compromise your safety as someone may see that you have plenty, they may come back with a gang and take everything (including your life).

    This man talked about dressing and acting the part of being homeless and having nothing, despite having enough and a place to live. He would bring a single can of tuna to trade for 10 rounds of ammo instead of bringing 10 cans of tuna to trade for something larger. It was all about keeping up the perception that he had nothing worth stealing.

    • I read the same, or a similar, article. The author of the one I read said that in a SHTF situation, he would want to have lots of disposable lighters to use for barter because of the high demand for them. I now have over 200 “Scripto Views” lighters in my barter supplies and am adding more each trip to Walmart. At $1.97 for a pack of 7, they are a bargain and each could be worth as much as a full days worth of food, for example. “Views” are cheaper than Bics and transparent so the person you’re bartering with can see that they’re not getting ripped off.

      • Dodger: FYI: you get what you pay for. Being a avid prepper, I put a number of cheap lighters in freezer bags(vacuum type) and set them aside. Months later, guess what???? The cheap lighters were leaking fluid as evidenced by the bags looking like little balloons! Don’t believe me, do your own testing.

      • So why not, as you trade these lighters, just say you aren’t sure how much is in it? Also, how long do these lighters store before leaking?

      • Even empty lighters have barter value as the flints last 3x as long as the fuel so they still make excellent fire starters. Often they work far better than those cheap pieces of hacksaw blades that are packaged with magnesium fire starters.

  5. The article on the guy living in Bosnia was great! Something most would never think of doing. I see this as a great way to keep what you have stored and gaining more that you may need. Thank you for sharing! DR

  6. I didn’t think, but I guess almost anything is barter power. Because , realistically, how many people prepare for serious emergencies……I mean seriously. Most have their heads in the sand; example, my daughters who live in So.CA. Two of which live in highly populated areas.
    They think I’m nuts….fine!! I’m preparing for all of us, in case they have to bug out to our place. Hey, it’s highly possible. Seeds ( all varieties ), seasoning, coffee beans ( green ), fishing poles, bows and arrows ( even homemade ones ),jeeze, most anything or everything. I’m preparing, but I don’t think anyone is prepared completely. Sorry about the blathering on. Thank you for the very practical list, Gaye!!
    Knowledge is Power!

  7. nobody needs shampoo. you can use your own urine as it contains ammonia. never use condoms as the pull out method works very well.enjoyed the article.

  8. how about wasp or hornet spray small can about 3 dollars and small water bottle holder with clip about 1.50 at dollar store will cause blinding and discomfort in any attacker human or not

  9. Shampoo is not needed if you have vinegar or baking soda and water.. We just have to know that there will be people who will kill for what they need……would you? It’s a given, if it comes to chaos!
    It would take a whole community or neighborhook or block or road to committ to looking out after each other. Even then…….

  10. we barter, sometimes for items, sometimes labor for labor. something to think
    about in a post shtf scenario is having someone go off somewhere to a concealed
    position to cover the transaction, just in case. get there first and get situated. never divulge your bugout location,or be followed, or what you have, most of all, never allow yourself to be vulnerable to attack or kidnapping. be aware of your surroundings, be very observant of what others are doing, learn to read body language, so you can better anticipate your own actions so you can act, or react. I really hope we never have to experience what people in many other countries have had to live through.

  11. Another thing i noticed that no one mentioned P-38 or P-51 military can openers. The greatest military invention ever! Buy them in bulk and see them fly off your trading table! What do you do when you have all these canned goods and no way to open ’em? Savvy???(With apologies to Capt. Jack!) lol

    • You don’t need a can opener. All you need is any flat stone, concrete or asphalt surface that is rough. Place can top down and rub rapidly in a circular motion. This wears down the crimped sealing ring quickly and you can pop the top off easily after that. For cans that contain liquid poke a couple of holes in the lid by the edge and drain the liquid into a container first.

    • A lot of folks believe that bartering weapons and ammo is a bad idea. One reason is that your barter partner could use them against you. At the end of the day (if it comes to that), we will all need to be careful in picking and choosing our barter items.

      Bartering skills will be very important.

  12. A lot of people will need cheesecloth for a number of uses, primarily for straining water. If you have clear plastic jugs, you can set them in the direct sun for a minimum of 6 hours. Ultra-violet light from the sun will kill most everything. Add 8 drops of bleach (eye dropper method) to each gallon to be sure.

  13. Another useful barter question for you after you run out of “store-boughten goods” or lose big in an accident, etc.:

    What can I learn now, suited to my abilities or nature–what homeskills–what specific wisdom–what objects can I become good at constructing or shaping now–what services in demand could I learn to provide–that would make me valuable to others BOTH in a post-SHTF situation OR later in this life when money could get tight or I am old, disabled or in foreign scenario?

    It’s about asking yourself, what value can I start creating in myself and how can I help to build a better community or network in my life now?

    Gaye your articles are so informative, thank you very much. Could you write a series on what PRODUCTS people could learn to make or what SKILLS they could learn over the years to make THEMSELVES valued in post-SHTF scenarios?

    How about a simple self-assessment quiz to go with it? This doesn’t have to be only an article by the way…

  14. I would include children’s shoes on the list… they grow out of them so fast, and they are needed. You can cut down adult clothes, or sew new things for kids, but shoe making takes special talent.

  15. I’m surprised you didn’t mention ammo. I’ve got a bunch of extra ammo that will be like currency in a post-SHTF world.

    • Nark – Actually, that was intentional. I personally would not want anyone to know I had a lot of ammo so I would keep it hidden and not let anyone know I had extra. I suppose among friends, but even still, who will really be our friend if things get desperate? YMMV of course.

  16. Thanks for another great post, Gaye! I particularly love the insight for current businesses about watching out for the IRS/State.

    • I’ve recently learned I can buy our preferred toilet tissue from Amazon by the case cheaper than I can from Walmart or anywhere else locally. If you are a Prime Member there isn’t any shipping to pay for on many brand name types. Anothe great thing is the case isn’t marked with the contents so OPSEC remains intact.

  17. I’ve posted this before but it’s one of the most practical, cheap and easily stored barter items…disposable lighters! The demand among “non-preppers” will be high & each will be worth a “fortune” in trade goods, such as food, ammo, etc.

    • If you look at the inert ingredients of painkillers, drugs, and antibiotics; by Googgling them you’ll find that the first item listed is the main ingredient. This should be your sought after item. Some are OTC. Example baking soda which is sodium bicarbonate is the main ingredient of alkaseltzer. One tea spoon of baking soda mixed with water will cure an upset stomach. Other ingredients can be found in the field once you’ve identified them.

      • I’ve worked in healthcare and that’s not true. Most non-refrigerated drugs are good for years and years. Any of them beat nothing. Hang onto them!!!

  18. also remember your pets..I keep 6 months worth of food for them. I also look at the expiration labels on everything. Something that we need and also a good barter item would be small sewing kids..I have put back old jeans and scrap material for patching and thread, needles will be needed. I also have several hand grinders to use to grind wheat & grain. Can openers, and matches. I really enjoy this site and thanks Gaye for informing so many, I send to friends who are beginning to see the light after thinking I had gone nuts! 🙂

    • I use the once-a-month flea/insect repellent drops i put o my pets back each month to repell fleas. I have bought extra ..if your pets bring in fleas becaue you run out of the medication it can cause BIG problems.

  19. I have bought outside solar lights and if we lose power, let the sun charge lights during day for inside use at night. You can also make a solar oven with cardboard box and aluminum foil (go to YOUTUBE for instructions)

    • Those foil covered reflective sun screens for car windshields are much better for making solar ovens, solar water heater boxes and solar reflectors than aluminum foil. They can be refolded and stored hundreds of times. Aluminum foil tears too easily and is better suited for making acid based batteries.

  20. This might seem way off base to some people, but I also think it would be beneficial to stock several clothes pins and some sort of clothes line. In a post SHTF situation, everybody will eventually need to wash their clothing(probably by hand) and dry them somehow, even if it is indoors.

  21. I’ve thought a lot about the things I would miss and I believe one of the best things to barter would be spices.

    pepper, cinammin, etc.

  22. Really??? No one has said CHOCOLATE yet??? Post SHTF, that’s the first thing I’m going for, is a bite of bittersweet to preserve my morale. Order of survival: chocolate, shelter, water, fire, food.

  23. I have put together quite a catche of quality essential oils and use them in my practice. I also know the healing and edible flora of my area. In a post SHTF situation, I think this will be beneficial. I am also a holistic medicine practitioner and I hope that my skills can be traded for something useful.

  24. I didn’t see these:

    Bartering for things is fine, but to stretch your “assets”, consider simply bartering for services.

    Eg., use of ham radio to send message relays.
    Performing “fix it” jobs for trade.
    Exchanging temporary safety for resources.

    I would be loathe to actually give up an item that I cannot remake easily, like tools, ammo, or fuel.

    The analogy is the Blacksmith. Without tools or supporting resources the Blacksmith cannot render aid to herself or others.

    In a nutshell your skills are your greatest asset to barter.


  25. I know this article is old but I wanted to add my two cents. I don’t hoard barter items, Instead I learned skills that will allow me to trade what I make. I have carefully learned skills that allow me to make brooms, arrows, blacksmithing, herbal medicines, basketry (think fish traps), wild foraging, carpentry and wood carving, pottery, how to find flint, hunting, I can now make pretty much anything from scratch. I am hoping to learn many more things as well.

  26. 1.)Sand and boxes to layer and bury your veggies. They will keep fresh for over a year. An onion in water in a room with someone who is sick will turn black pulling out the poison in their body. This is how the Black Plague was stopped in the U.S. in the 18th. century. 2.) There is a product sold on Amazon made out of crushes seashells. You can buy this very inexpensively. It’s great for your plants, pests, yard, fleas or parasites on your animals and even gets rid of bed bugs. Diamataceous Earth, may not be spelled correctly. I buy it in 4, one gallon containers and think it will be a great barter item. I am buying any and all garage sale canning jars and canners for bartering as well. Also, all paper plates, plastic eatery and adult diapers. Any cheap used towels, sheets, blankets, or cast iron cookware. Cast Iron will hold up better on an outside grill if wood is used. Teflon will or the new stuff will anodize, melt or give off odors that make your foods taste badly after several uses. I’m talking about the little cheap wood burning or coal burning BBQ pits that are most portable. Save your plastic bags as you made need them for personal waste, and bury them! Dental Floss is good for many things besides your teeth, don’t buy the waxed for these purposes. It cuts clean. Download and learn CPR, and how to suture and handle basic combat wound skills. All of these are barter items. Thanks, Tina

  27. I am an older person but need to be prepared for anything. so heres another thing I have been doing beside diapers is baby bottles, diapers,baby clothing, baby blankets and how to make formula out of evaporated milk and reading how to delivery baby if needed. Lots of baby items that may become handy.

  28. Gasoline is a fool’s bartering tool. It spoils after four weeks and would be useless to run anything smaller than a car.

  29. Don’t forget salt, rope, stomach ache and flu pills, blanket, underwear, sandals, nails, screw, etc…small but essential things

  30. what about stocking up on fire wood for winter. If you have a wood stove for heat (should the electric go off) you will have a source of heat. Alot of people still use wood stoves for heat and you can also cook on top of some of them. Put you would have to stock up a lot since you don’t know how long you will have to survive before things come back to normal…or as close resemblence of normal. Also what about filling up all your propane canisters you use for your grills? Do they go bad? Could you stock up on those?

    • Propane NEVER goes bad…but the 5-gallon variety may only last you a month before you’ve used it all up. Better to get the larger bottles, if possible. Check with your hazardous waste depots, sometimes they have serviceable containers with a few years left on them. Actually, even if they’ve expired, if they are reinspected, you can get new life out of older ones.
      Charcoal never goes bad either (though the easy-lighting variety will eventually dry out and you may need charcoal starter fluid). Here’s a thought…how about stocking up on starter fluid and 2-cycle motor oil–a needed item for chainsaws?
      Always use seasoned wood in a home fireplace…a chimney fire and your abode burning down is the LAST things you need. Here’s another thought, buy a quality chimney brush, learn how to use it, and barter your new skill set.
      To save on firewood, google “rocket stove” and make a couple from used tin cans…a rocket stove will burn a LOT less wood than wood stoves (but only use them outdoors!). They may only last a couple of months before the tin burns through, but they’re EASY to make and require only simple tools (a nail for a punch, metal-cutting shears, hammer, pliers, work gloves). More permanent ones can be made if you can weld metal. You’ll burn one-twentieth the amount of wood for cooking purposes, I guarantee it!
      Mr Buddy makes an indoor-use propane heater that may be worth looking into.

  31. I would suggest ‘temporary filling’ for cavities that can be purchased at any pharmacy with limited or no access to a dentist.

  32. FINALLY a post that says DON’T barter your guns and ammo!!! Alcohol is stupid too. Everyone says, “Oh my but it’s good for cuts and other medical things!! SO IS RUBBING ALCOHOL AND MUCH CHEAPER!! There will be enough chaos going on why would you want to stock up drunks with guns?

  33. I read through all the comments. Good ideas folks!

    What I found missing (though someone mentioned screws and nails) is construction materials. You’ll need a garage to store them in, but I’d think that plywood and MDF and particle board would be VERY much wanted. Unless you’re planning to loot the Big Box store or the local lumber yard, these items will be in HIGH demand for boarding up windows (and maybe even your doors that have glass in them).

    You’ll also need a supply of nails, or caulk, or screws, lag bolts, etc., to fasten materials over the windows of your home. A solar charger for your drill and screw gun would also be helpful. Maybe you can simply barter your skills at making someone else’s place more secure?

    Alternatively, if you’re on a tight budget and have the time, invest in a pry bar, crow bar, hammer, etc. so you can disassemble nearby homes for those same building materials.

    Keep thinking outside the box, people, you’ll then survive where others may not.

  34. Do not barter any firearms without knowing someone completely. That means knowing how they react in panic settings. I’m ex military. Not everyone should have firearms. A panic situation is very different from theory. Also be very honest with yourself if you should have one.

  35. I did not see it mentioned here, but you need decide what you are going to do with trash. I suggest burning or burying it. Do not let it visibly accumulate as a large amount of trash just lets others know you had and may still have a lot of stuff.

  36. Nothing else will matter if you don’t have “WATER”. Stock up on clean water bottles, great for bartering too. Consider 8oz for better storing. Also, lemons/limes(& their seeds) plus honey have antibacterial/antibiotic properties.

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