50 Bartering Items for Post SHTF

Once the SHTF, you will realize there are things you need that you don’t have on hand. Paper money may not hold any value at this time. Rather, you need to have items or skills on hand that you can use to barter with others for your essentials.

Even those of us who believe they are fully stocked should consider bartering items. Centuries ago, bartering was a normal event before the concept of money developed. If your neighbor had extra chicken eggs and you had more beans, a trade was the obvious way to get everything you need. Unfortunately, our society typically casts an ugly look at bartering, instead opting to purchase items rather than turning to neighbors and family.

The List 50 Items to Use for Bartering Purposes

Now, let’s take a look at what items you can stock up on for bartering purposes. They are in no order of importance! Don’t worry; you don’t need to have everything on this list for barter. Pick a few and plan to barter those!

Dan’s note: remember that if people find out you have some of these items, you could be in trouble. Adequate protection measures need to be taken, you have to learn to keep your mouth shut about them as much as possible. 

You also have to follow your own interest. So, for instance, if you want to barter with the first item on this list, water, then the thing you need in exchange for it better be more important (eg insulin, fever drugs etc.)

  1. Bottled Water: If we look at situations such as after a hurricane, the first thing that flies off of the shelves is bottled water. People need and want water. Having a large stock on hand is easy.
  2. Chickens or Eggs: If you raise a flock of chickens, you are in luck. Eggs are a common desire when bartering. If you have a large flock of chickens, you can also learn how to hatch fertile eggs, allowing you to barter chicks to others around you.
  3. Water Filtration Tablets: These tablets are rather inexpensive. One day, the water around you may not be healthy to drink without ample filtration. There will be people who don’t know how to filter their water.
  4. Information or Skills: Bartering doesn’t always have to involve trading items. What if your neighbor is a skilled midwife and your labor is pregnant? That is a great skill! You might be a skilled hunter or have a great understanding of medicinal herbs. You can trade your skills for the items you need. An example would be that you teach your neighbor how to identify local, wild herbs and how to use them in medicinal ways. In exchange, your neighbor helps to build a fence around your livestock.
  5. Canned Food: When you think of bartering, canned food is probably one of the most obvious choices. We need food. However, food will go bad and spoil eventually. Canned food is shelf-stable and lasts for years, even home canned food. Having a large stock is beneficial for you and adds versatility and flexibility to your meals.
  6. Dried Foods: Dried foods are in the same category of importance as canned and bottled foods. Dried foods have the benefit of being lighter and very easy to transport. When society is in transition, you will find that people want and desire dried foods. Dried foods provide those necessary calories while living in a tent and moving. Some examples are dried soup mixes, rice, beans, granola, and jerky.
  7. Baking Goods: I could group these with dried foods, but they hold other purposes. Flour, yeast, baking soda, baking powder and salt are vital for things such as bread.
  8. Soap: I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to stink even if the SHTF. After the calm has come, people are going to want to clean themselves. You can purchase bars of soap for pennies or free if you know how to coupon right. Cleaning wipes also will be valuable.
  9. Detergent: Very similar to soap, people will need detergent to keep their clothes clean. You can get small bottles of detergent at the Dollar Tree. I recommend stocking up on those rather than expensive name brands unless coupons and sales make it cheaper!
  10. Knives: Many people don’t own survival knives. While you might not want to give away your best choices, you can find some survival knives that are under $20. People will need knives for dozens of tasks. Having extra on hand will allow you to trade for things you need.
  11. Charcoal: People who don’t have access to firewood will want to stock up on charcoal quickly. It is one of the first ways that people will think about cooking their food. Charcoal could be bartered quickly after the SHTF.
  12. Bleach: Diseases and infections spread rapidly in unsanitary conditions. Bleach allows people to disinfect water, clean clothes or keep their living area clean. You could trade bottles for many items!
  13. Antibiotics: In a post-collapse world, the environment could be questionable. A simple cut could lead to an infection. Antibiotics have saved millions of lives. Chances are you can’t get your hand on a huge stock of Amoxicillin. You can use animal and fish antibiotics, which are usable for humans as well.
  14. First Aid Supplies: Before you barter any first aid supplies, you need to ensure you have enough for your family. If you intend to barter with these items, it would be a great idea to make pre-made kits now ahead of time or buy small kits. Things such as bandages, gauze, tape, triple antibiotic cream, allergy medication and more will be in demand. Just remember not to barter these unless you feel your stock is substantial for your group.
  15. Coffee or Tea: Let’s be honest; coffee and tea are not essential. However, once things have calmed down, people will want to have things that relax them and make them feel comfortable. A caffeine fix will be appreciated, or a glass of nightly tea can be something many people want, as well as yourself!
  16. Shoes: I don’t suggest you purchase the entire shoe department or devote a whole room to a shoe collection. However, shoes wear out, and people need shoes. Even maintained shoes would eventually need to be replaced. Adult and children alike will need shoes. If you have kids, you probably have extras they quickly outgrow If you have extras on hand, people will want them eventually.
  17. Batteries: It would be wise for you to opt for rechargeable batteries with a solar charger, but many people don’t think about those things. Small 4-packs of batteries will be a hot ticket item. You can get generic ones for fairly cheap at dollar stores. Big boxed stores, such as Sam’s Club or Costco, also sell batteries for great prices.
  18. Seeds: If you are a gardener, you are in luck. Start growing your heirloom garden now in preparation for this. After the collapse of society, you will need a garden to survive, but there will be nursery or stores to purchase those seeds. From a small garden, you can collect seeds from all of your necessary plants. Then, barter those seeds for things you truly need! People will need those seeds, making them a valuable commodity.
  19. Sewing Supplies: Needles and thread will be important for you to have for mending. For bartering, you could make small kits with thread and needles. These will be easy to make and cost effective.
  20. Fabric and Yarn: Eventually, the clothes on your body will wear out, and you will need clothes without holes. At some time, the weather will change, and your hands will need gloves. For now, fabric is available everywhere, but it will be a hot item someday. One layer of fabric can be the difference between fine and hypothermic. Having a collection of yarn and skills with crocheting or knitting is also great bartering item. In the winter, you can create gloves, hats, and scarves for your family, as well as having some for trading.
  1. Precious Metals: Immediately after an SHTF event, people won’t care about gold or silver coins. However, as things relax and the economy starts to rebound, gold and silver will be important. For thousands of years, precious metals were the way to purchase items. Right now, we consider gold and silver valuable because it is harder to get. One day, a stash will allow you to purchase or barter what you need.
  2. Guns and Ammunition: Another obvious choice for bartering is guns and ammunition. I want to start this off by saying you should only barter guns with those that you know and trust. You don’t want a firearm to end up in the wrong hands, potentially leading to harm for you or your loved ones. There is a chance they will simply turn the gun on you and use it after bartering. After that caveat, you should know that guns and ammunition will be a hot ticket item post SHTF. People will need and want ammunition. Hunters need it to provide for their family, and everyone needs it for their defense. There are few things as valuable as firearms when the SHTF. A hefty stock of ammunition is one of the best things you can invest into for bartering. You could also purchase .22 rifles, which could cost as little as $150 depending on sales. There are many people who believe you should never barter with ammunition. This decision is individual and entirely up to you and your family.hand crank flashlight
  1. Pepper Spray: You may not want to barter firearms and ammunition. In the United States, we are free to purchase pepper spray as wanted. It would be a great barter item, especially if you don’t fully trust them.
  2. Alcohol: Once the SHTF, we all are going to need to drink some alcohol after the worse passes. Even if you don’t drink, you want to have bottles in your storage. It can be used as a cleaning liquid, a solvent, a fuel and a preservative. Alcohol stores forever so long as the bottle is kept closed. If you find the right person, they may consider a bottle of whiskey or vodka extremely valuable!
  3. Flashlights: You will need to have batteries on hand, but people will want batteries. A LED light in the woods is very helpful. There are plenty of small flashlights that take a single battery to run, and some that are even hand-crank, which means yo don’t have to worry about dead batteries anymore:
  4. Cigarettes: You may not be a smoker (I’m not), but I recognize the value of cigarettes. People who are addicted will barter high for a pack of smokes. However, they are pricey to stock up. Another option is to learn how to roll your own and purchase supplies separately.
  5. Matches and Lighters: Matches are inexpensive, allowing you to gather a huge stock of them. Fire is a necessity for survival. Just like water filtration, you can even give these away to save lives. Lighters are a great choice, especially if you feel as if you can’t store the matches correctly. Matches have to be in a waterproof container.
  6. Sugar: My great-grandmother once told me a story about how her mother rationed sugar each week. If they didn’t use a lot, she would bake them a small cake. Sugar is precious. One day, people will want to create sweet treats or sweeten their coffee. Bags of sugar are inexpensive, but sugar needs to be stored correctly to last long-term.
  7. Toilet Paper: Yes, you can use things like newspapers and leaves to wipe, but some people will barter for toilet paper.
  8. Salt: For thousands of years, salt was a precious commodity. Nowadays, we forget just how essential salt is for our lives. Post SHTF, salt is an important nutrient and acts as a way to preserve meat. The great thing about bartering with salt is the current price. You can buy a pound for around $.50, a fantastic price that allows you to have a hefty stock immediately.
  9. Candles: There might not be electricity, so candles are a great bartering item. Taper candles are inexpensive and do their job lighting up a room. If you have the ability, making your candles is a useful skill.
  10. Diapers and Wipes: Kids will be there after SHTF as well, so we need to think about them. While our family opts for cloth diapers, many families don’t. You can purchase disposable diapers rather cheap with coupons or invest in cheap cloth diapers to offer as barter items.
  11. Hand Tools: My husband’s grandfather had a motto: why have one when you can have many. Because of this, we have a huge stock of hand tools such as hatchets, saws and other fix-it tools. One day, someone else might need a saw or extra screwdrivers. If you want to invest in these items but don’t want to spend too much money, check out yard sales!
  12. Painkillers: For obvious reasons, people are going to want painkillers. You might not have access to prescription pills, but you could stock up on things such as Tylenol and Ibuprofen.
  13. Milk: Unless you have cows or goats on your property, you will want milk. However, we all know milk spoils quickly. Powdered milk is the easiest choice. It has an extended shelf life. You could also purchase canned milk, but it is hard to transport.
  14. Condoms: I know you are thinking “really,” but you have to remember that life will resume a normal sooner or later. Post-collapse, an unplanned pregnancy could cause disaster. People will still have sex afterward. Condoms help to prevent pregnancy and STDs. They are relatively cheap if bought in bulk!
  15. Canning Lids: Canning jars might be reusable, but most canning lids are not. You can get a 12-pack for less than $1.75. Once things reach a sort of norm, people will want to preserve their harvest. Canning lids will be right at the top of their list.
  16. Feminine Hygiene Products: For very obvious reasons, women will want these. For yourself, I highly suggest you look into something reusable, such as the Diva Cup.
  17. Livestock: If you have a running homestead, you may have livestock to trade. Animals such as rabbits, horses, cows, goats, and pigs will be valuable assets for everyone.
  18. Spices: Eating bland food gets boring rather quickly. We already mentioned salt, but other spices will be in demand as well. You can get spices cheap!
  19. Sources of Fuel: Gas, diesel, propane, and kerosene will be in high-demand. You need to make sure that you have enough stored for your family. These items are essential for running generators, lamps and vehicles, along with appliances.
  20. Duct Tape: Duct tape is a fix-all solution for many people. It has hundreds of uses, making it a great item for bartering. People will want and need a versatile option like Duct Tape.
  21. Books: Books of all kinds will be beneficial post SHTF. If you are a homeschooling family like mine, we need books to teach our children. However, people will also want books because they can learn new skills from them or just simply to relax and escape from reality for a bit. Books that offer information about gardening and foraging could be valuable.
  22. Chocolate: Just like books, people love comfort items that take them away from the issues at hand. Chocolate is a comfort item that someone may value more than you. The only problems with stockpiling chocolate for bartering is the shelf-life, and the deserve to eat it before bartering!
  23. Firewood: No matter if you live in the city or the country, you need fire to stay warm. Having a large stock of firewood to barter is a great thing to trade. Some people may not have the physical ability to chop wood or lack the tools.
  24. Pesticides: Typically, I don’t encourage the use of pesticides. However, in this scenario, growing your food is a matter of life and death. There won’t be a supermarket down the road if your crops fail for the year. Unless you have decades of experience under your belt, get some pesticides.
  25. Toothpaste: Although it is unlikely toothpaste will fetch much, everyone needs it to keep their mouth healthy. Unclean dental hygiene can lead to even more problems. You can get tubes of toothpaste for free with coupons!
  26. Reading Glasses: Reading glasses are cheap! You can get a pair for less than $5. People will have eyesight issues forever. You can accumulate a random collection.
  27. Small Tents: Shelter is one of the most important items needed to stay alive. Consider purchasing a few small tents to have on hand.
  28. Mylar Blankets: To avoid hypothermia, warmth is a necessity. You could trade blankets, but they are large and harder to carry. Mylar blankets are cheap, sold in packs of 10 for less than $20.

There are so many items you can stockpile and barter… Remember, some items will depend on your climate. Cool weather clothing isn’t a huge necessity in places such as Florida. It is also a good practice to barter with those you know rather than seeking strangers. Set a plan and prepare for a future of bartering!

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About Bethany Hayes

Bethany Hayes
Bethany Hayes is a mother of three kids who has a small, suburban homestead. When she isn’t homeschooling or gardening, she might be focusing on building up their homestead or preserving the harvest.

6 comments

  1. Bethany,
    An excellent article, and you’ve touched on most of the key bartering groups. If I may, I would like to expand on a couple of topics and add another category to your list.

    First, (#3) water filtration tablets are only useful for a very limited amount of water. If you have activated charcoal in sufficient quantity, you have a product that can be bartered with neighbors for long term filtration/purification. It is pretty easy to teach a neighbor how to construct a simple filtration system that uses activated charcoal.

    Second, if you have a reliable source of water (your own well or access to a stream) you can barter water on a long term basis for products or services from local residents. This doesn’t apply to high density urban dwellers, but it is an option for rural folks.

    Regarding your #22 (Guns and Ammo), I would never barter a gun, but I am prepared to barter certain types of ammo. For example, I am willing to trade certain brands of .22 caliber ammo, such as CCI and Remington, but not the higher velocity brands, such as Winchester Super X hollow points. In similar fashion, I might be willing to barter Russian ‘Wolf’ .223 ammo, but not American made 5.56X45/.223 ammo with brass casings. I completely agree that you have to know your customer when it comes to bartering ammo. Unless there is TOTAL trust, which mandates a prior relationship, there would be no possibility of a barter.

    Regarding your #27 (Matches and Lighters), another bartering option is fire-starting kits, such as cotton balls that are saturated with Vaseline. Depending on climate zone and season, these could have a relatively high barter value.

    I would add an additional category to your barter list that applies mostly to rural areas. In a grid-down situation there will be a lot of small farm operations that need hay for their livestock during the winter. If you have the ability to provide this type of feed, you will be well positioned for bartering.

  2. In my opinion, cigarettes and alcohol should be avoided as barter items.
    Certainly they would be in great demand, but do you really want an addict, who would do almost anything to satisfy his addiction, knowing that you have what he desperately needs? This person would be back later to take your supplies by force.
    Also, do you really want to become the “pusher”? There are plenty of good, useful barter items that don’t require you to get involved in someone’s addiction.

    • Dan F. Sullivan

      I favor tobacco and alcohol over water and other basic necessities… It won’t be just the addicts looking for them, everyone will want comfort items in challenging times. Someone who got water from you could also follow you home to see where your stash is. I agree that in “normal” times, one would have to be an addict to barter for alcohol and such, but when SHTF, priorities change.

    • Really? Think out of the box a little. If SHTF who cares if someone smokes or drinks if they barter something you need in return.

  3. This link tells the real story of a man who made it through the Argentina collapse with lighters. You can buy them for 10 cents each at amazon.
    https ://m.youtube.com/watch?v=YCaPqqS9GkI

  4. I hope that you might consider a few additional suggestions – – –

    3. Water Filtration — stockpile coffee filters to filter out large debris such as dirt, bits of plants, algae, etc. Buy a high quality filtering system (like a Berkey system) and lots of spare filters.

    6. Dried food — Store in glass jars with metal lids to prevent incursion by rodents and insects. Attach label to each jar with contents and date of food purchase.

    10. Knives — Cheap folding knives with serrated blade can be bought at Walmart for $2. Sturdy kitchen knives are frequently discarded and can be bought at yard sales for 25c and can be had for free at your local Transfer Station (if they have a repurpose area for people to leave things and take things for re-use).

    12. Bleach — Bleach breaks down over time and is usually ineffective after a year.

    13. Antibiotics — Some of these deteriorate to the point of toxicity over time. Keep in the fridge and research which ones become dangerous (e.g., Doxycycline)

    16. Shoes — Emphasis should be on STURDY, PRACTICAL shoes and boots. (Likewise with gloves)

    23. Pepper Spray — The propellant will dissipate over time, even from a supposedly air-tight container. You might hit the button and nothing comes out. Do not bet your life on these.

    25. Flashlights — It’s an amazingly common fallacy that crank flashlights obviate any concern about batteries. Tell me: after you crank the thing up, how do you think that power is stored? All flashlights have batteries; most of the crank ones use small ‘coin’ style batteries to store power.

    28. Sugar — Store in glass jars. Also store honey, molasses, and non-sugar sweetener such as Stevia.

    30. Salt — Do not store iodized salt in bulk; it deteriorates over time. Best salt to store is canning salt, which is NOT the same as table salt (canning salt is much purer) and which is a MUST for home-canning of foods.

    31. Candles — Paraffin candles are fine for barter, but for your own use, stock soy wax and/or genuine pure beeswax. Paraffin is bleached petroleum sludge and emits harmful fumes and particulate soot when burned.

    37. Canning Lids — In a long-term crisis, these will be priceless. You simply cannot have too many. Also get some of the ‘Tattler’ brand lids, which ARE re-useable.

    40. Spices — Most of these come from other continents and 200 years ago they were literally worth their weight in gold. Modern travel has lowered the cost dramatically, but if conditions change, spices such as ginger, cloves, and cinnamon could once again become phenomenally valuable. Don’t overlook things like soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, etc which can make survival fare a lot more palatable. As always, look for glass bottles, since plastic breaks down over time (and transmits chemicals to the contents.)

    42. Duct Tape — This heading could better be titled ‘Fasteners’ and should include at least one 1,000-foot spool of paracord, as well as other rope / cord of various types; bungee cords; binder clips; clothespins; wire; and hose clamps. Anything that can hold materials together.

    45. Firewood — Will dry-rot over time. If possible, obtain a stove that will burn both wood and coal, and stockpile anthracite coal. It’s dirty but will keep for literally millions of years, because it already has.

    46. Pesticides — Even more important: rat poison. Rats and mice populations will skyrocket in societal breakdown, and these things teem with disease.

    49. Tents — Stockpile substantial quantities of mosquito netting; buy a big roll of it if you can. More than just annoying, these things carry a number of devastating diseases.

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