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SHTF Barter…do you need to prep for it?

barter for shtfI see A LOT of prepper videos and articles out there talking about bartering in a post TEOTWAWKI scenario. They encourage you to get gold, silver, cigarettes, ammo, etc. so that you can trade it after everything goes to hell. But I wonder if that is really a good idea? Is it a good use of your current resources to buy items solely for barter after SHTF?

I tend to think the belief and use of barter gets over-played in people’s’ SHTF scenarios in their minds. That’s not to say that barter might not happen on occasion. Barter has been around since the dawn of man. The zombie apocalypse won’t stop that. But I think in a true grid down situation, folks will be more worried about security and survival than they are trading things like gold and silver coins.

God forbid that if the grid goes down for good, there will be a time when the focus will be on merely surviving. Food, water, shelter, etc will be what is important. Having the tools and abilities to survive will be king. Those times will be the most taxing, the most trying.

Not until society has had time to “reset itself” and stabilize will barter actually come into play. Without a decent social environment and a somewhat stable economy, barter is not going to be likely. And in the rare chance it happens, it will not be without tremendous risks and peril.

Even when things may eventually begin to normalize, barter will not be as frequent or as common as many people want to believe. I think there are way too many variables that would make barter a rather rare occurrence.

With no more “Grid” there is no more Craigslist or Ebay. So finding other groups of people in your area that might actually want to trade with you may not be all that easy. I mean, I guess you could go wandering the country side looking for those groups, but that obviously comes with risks. And even if you find another group, chances are very high that they may not trust you or even want to trade with you.

For example, during a WROL (Without Rule Of Law) situation, if a group of strangers shows up at your place and says “Hi, let’s see what you have for trade.” chances are you are not going to trust them. Why would they be any different?

Next, these other groups (once you find them and decide you should trust them) would have to have items that you need, and you would have to have items that they need. There is certainly no guarantee that both groups have items they are willing to barter. With resources being scarce, I tend to think this will be a major factor should we lose the grid long-term.

Finally, barter with outside groups always has the potential to end in disaster. Every time you trade with people outside of your group, you risk your security and survival.  By trading with them, you are giving them some information about what you have, and what you may need. For example, by trading away some extra food or medicines, they now know that you have a surplus of supplies that are essential to survival. That type of information is not something I would want potentially desperate people to know about me.

Maybe you traded with them before. And they might have been honest in their dealings that last time you traded. But will they be honest THIS time? Could something of happened that now makes them desperate? Desperate people will do desperate things to survive.

For me, my plans include becoming as self-sufficient as possible. Should we ever have a long-term grid down scenario, I want to be as far away from other people (outside of my group) as possible. Why? Because I cannot and will not trust people I do not know in a WROL event. Especially people who are desperate!

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I view stockpiling goods for the purposes of barter as diverting resources away from the ones I am prepping for, my family and myself. But that is just me. There will be folks out there that disagree with this sentiment. They plan on bartering, and are prepping accordingly.

So if you are one of those people, and barter is something that you absolutely want to include in your prepping plans, then here are some tips on bartering for SHTF. Let’s take a look at some items which you should NEVER stock for barter nor trade away. I’ll also look at some items which might not only help you in a survival setting, but also serve as potential barter goods should you go that route.


You should NEVER barter with/trade away supplies that are essential for life. Things like food, water, medicines, and medical supplies are items that you MUST have to survive. So why trade those things away? Even if you have a surplus, you should keep those items for you and your family.

Also keep in mind that if people are trading for these essential items, then those people do not have them. And because these items are a finite resource, at some point these items will run out. And when their supplies do run out, guess where they are headed to?

Yep…back to trade with you because they know that you have those items they HAVE TO HAVE to survive!

But what happens when you no longer have enough to trade away? What happens when your surplus runs low?

Well, then you have desperate people on your door step. And like I said, desperate people do desperate things to survive.

Ammoammo, ammo storage

Next, you should never trade away anything that could be used against you, ie ammo. Yes, ammo will be in HIGH demand should it all hit the fan. And there will be folks out there willing to give up A LOT to get it.

Unfortunately, there will also be a great deal of folks out there who would be all too willing to use that ammo offensively against you. Do you really want to arm people who could turn around and use it on you?

Not only should you not trade away ammo, you would keep your ammo supplies out of sight and hidden away.


Finally, I recommend avoiding gold and silver altogether for purposes of barter. This statement will certainly “raise the eyebrows” of some preppers. Yes, I know that gold and silver will always have an intrinsic value. History has proven that. But if we have a TEOTWAWKI event, and the global economy collapses, your gold and silver will be basically worthless for at least the first several years of the event.

fakeWith gold/silver, you cannot eat it. You cannot grow anything with it. You cannot start a fire with it or purify water with it, and you can’t wipe your ass with it. It has no worth beyond its intrinsic value.

Ask yourself this….in a TRUE SHTF event, what out of your supplies, preps, and gear would you trade away FOR gold or silver? If you say not a thing, don’t you think that would be everyone else’s answer as well? Especially if they do not have the expertise to tell the difference between real and fake gold or silver. Can you really tell the difference? Be honest with yourself.

I know A LOT of preppers buy up gold and silver coins. And as a financial investment in the current market, that is not a bad idea. But if you think you will barter with them post-Apocalypse, think again.

Possible Barter Goods/Services

Ok, if you are dead set on having items and supplies for barter after the zombie Apocalypse, here are some things I would suggest you consider.


For starters, certain skills will be in high demand. Those in the medical profession, skilled mechanics, carpenters, and gun smiths will have skill sets that they could parlay into equitable commodities. And they can use those skills over and over. They don’t disappear like coins or supplies do.

In that regard, it makes sense to me to invest in yourself by enrolling in skill courses or programs. Your local vo-tech should offer multiple classes on things like first aid, small engine repair, etc. Sure, it requires time and commitment on your part. But those skills could save you and/or your family’s life some day! (And they weigh nothing in your bug out bag!)

And who knows. Maybe you could parley some of those skills now for a little extra money on the side.


If you are going to stockpile items for barter in the future, I would suggest items that have multiple purposes. Take alcohol for example. Not only does alcohol have value as a barter item, it also has other utilities, such as a disinfectant and pain suppressant.

If you are looking for alcohol and spirits to store for long-term use, I’d stay away from beers and wines. Yes, some wines get better with age. But many turn to vinegar over time. And most wines do not have an alcohol percentage high enough to have much medicinal value. The same goes for beer.

Instead, I’d look for booze that is at least 40% alcohol (or 80 proof). Those work well as disinfectants.

That being said, if you are looking at alcohol to stock long-term (as opposed to using for personal consumption) I would stay away from things like liqueurs, which usually have sugar in them. This typically shortens their shelf life.

I’d stockpile things like spirits that are plain and not flavored. Distilled alcohols like vodka or grain alcohol have a VERY long shelf life. Whiskey is another option to consider, although I personally am not a whiskey drinker.

Luxury items with long shelf life

The shelf life of freeze-dried coffee is decades when left unopened, and several years once opened. Trust me, what you don’t use as a morale boost would be a valuable trade good.

Salt has several different uses (food flavoring, preserving meat, etc) and can last forever if stored correctly. Honey can also last indefinitely if stored correctly. Both of these will have value on a barter economy. And both can be used by you every day during a SHTF event.

There are some candies out there that have long shelf lives. Things like Fireballs and Gobstoppers can last for many years if stored correctly. And things like Altoids Mints, Skittles, and Smarties can last 2-3 years if stored well.

Candy and coffee are items that will be in demand, (it is a great morale boost during SHTF), but are not vital to your survival.

Extra Gear

Extra gear can always be bartered as well. Having an extra axe, knife, rope, or some extra candles could come in handy at the “barter table”. And they are still useful to you should you need them.

I’m not recommending storing extra gear for the sole purpose of barter. But having some extra tools and equipment on hand makes sense. In a pinch you could always trade some of the extra away.

I know there will be some out there who disagree with me, and think that barter will play a major role in a post-apocalyptic world. And if you do, then I hope these tips help.


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6 Responses to SHTF Barter…do you need to prep for it?

  • Honestly I think one of the most mentally challenging things that will come about with ANY shtf scenario will be turning away people (Strangers or people you know) that will look to you for help. You will know in fact that you can help them but in reality Helping them will be to some extent compromising your own survival.
    IE: you have 10 bottles of water in your hand and are standing next to 9 people who have not had water in 2 days. yes you could help them all but in 12 hours you will be doomed to the same fate as them.
    It’s easy to armchair it now and realize that you prepared and they didn’t but when your looking in the eyes of a starving man turning him away is going to leave a lasting impression. Sadly if things go sideways it will be a daily issue.

  • “Next, you should never trade away anything that could be used against you, ie ammo. Yes, ammo will be in HIGH demand should it all hit the fan. And there will be folks out there willing to give up A LOT to get it.”

    When you think about it, it’s not really all that much for some of them. Who cares if they give everything up for a box of 20 rounds. It’ll only take one of those for them to get it all back.

    Trading anything that can be returned at high velocity is something I’m definitely not interested in doing.

  • I also have said many times that if people have gold and silver don’t bring it to me to trade in a post disaster world. Even as a blacksmith I can only use garbage metal like that for ornamentation, I’ll be bartering my skill in blade, plow, and tool making for food, water, meds…you know useful things. I also have information I plan on giving out to help others settle in for a different life like Hugelkulture, that is something people can really use plus it helps to start communities

  • I agree with what you have to say. I have been saying this for sometime. If you want to barter, barter things you make like a water filter or a small game trap, or fish trap just for a few. Most of the comments I read on a lot of the different places I go is “I don’t have enough money to prep”. If this is so why add something to the table you can’t afford anyway. The things you make will not show anything of what you have other than tools. It might even open doors to make other things people need. I would never trade anything that is life saving, food, medicine, ammo, guns, alcohol or even soap. Being clean is very important in SHTF.

  • Stocking items for barter can be done without a compromise to stocking for survival. The question is what to stock. I would suggest stocking things you would use anyway. Things like soap, female needs, razors,lighters ect would be a good example. The problem comes in when you have to decide why you would barter something that you may need yourself down the road. there will always be people that have more of something they need and people that don’t have all they need so I think barter will come into play. I am sure someone will come up with a plan to set up an area (for a fee of course ) that people can go to for trade like a flee market today. Of course there will be danger getting there and getting home but security would probable be set up at the site. As for trading alcohol,ammo guns, food ( unless you are growing more than you need). I would not recommend any of these . I would stick to easly stored and transportable items.

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