Best Barter Items and Skills To Survive SHTF [2022 Guide]

Best barter items

Your plan A should be stockpiling food. When you have exhausted plan A, turn to plan B. Bartering can be your plan B. When SHTF, know what the best barter items and skills are.

If you follow the latest news about the coronavirus epidemic, you could notice that things are not getting better. Scientists are warning us of the second wave and periods of supply shortages.

Take a closer look at what is happening around the world. You will witness almost apocalyptic scenarios — people wearing masks, lock-downs, food shortages, soldiers on the streets keeping order, etc. States and governments are stock-piling food for emergencies.

If you haven’t prepared so far, you should start prepping now, because of SHTF. Coronavirus has proven to be highly contagious and lethal. It will be a long time before we return to normal life.

You can find a lot of great advice on Prepping in my past articles for PreppingInsider, like Beginner Urban Preppers – Easy Prepping Guide [2020], Best Emergency Food For 2020 Reviewed, or Best Survival Kit For 2020 – Always Be Prepared.

Is Bartering a Good Idea?

Yes. When you can’t rely on money, you can exchange goods, skills, and services.

Assuming that you have already stockpiled some emergency supplies for your family, I want to emphasize the importance of bartering, either with items, services, or skills. In a long-term SHTF scenario, I believe that having the right barter items or useful skills you can barter with will be crucial to survival.

After you have depleted your food supplies, ran out of batteries or medicine, you can turn to barter as plan B. Maybe you misjudged how long the emergency might last, so you ran out food or medicine. Maybe you forgot to stockpile some items altogether — it doesn’t matter.

What is Bartering?

Bartering is the direct exchange of goods or services without the use of money.

What are Barter Items?

Barter items are goods or services offered in trade, with no money transaction. You can trade your goods for other products, goods for services, and your services for other services.

barter items

What are some Examples of Bartering?

An example of bartering is when two farmers trade oranges for apples. Another example is when neighbors exchange plumbing service for a meal.

Any trade that doesn’t involve money is considered to be barter: jewelry for food, food for cigarettes, cigarettes for a service, etc.

History of Bartering

Bartering has been around forever. People have always exchanged goods between each other in the past, nowadays, and will continue to do so in the future.

In the past, people have bartered an extra cow, crops, or some personal items. Later, cocoa beans and some other commodities were used as currency. After that came the first coins and money as we know it today.

But, barter still exists. Everybody appreciates the value of gold, for example. Why is gold our universal currency, anyway?

Nowadays, family members and friends often exchange items between them, without even realizing that it is actually — barter.

Some barter because it is hip, trendy. At this new bar in Wynwood, you can swap vintage items for drink specials.

With the rise of virtual money and the popularity of bartering practices, you have to ask yourself, what will the future bring? Are we witnessing the disappearance of coins and banknotes?

Modern times brought virtual money. It is easy, fast, and safe. What do you think — Will Cash Disappear?

What kinds of Resources make the Best Barter Items?

Best barter items are finite resources, non-perishables, in-demand items, valuables, and small items.

Finite resources. 

Everything on Earth has an expiration date. The food that we eat and the products that we use will all perish. That is why every prepper religiously checks the expiration date on food cans and canisters.

Unfortunately, human factors like over-fishing, as well as climate change and various pests, have endangered a lot of animal and plant species. According to Simon Whistler (The Boy with the Blaze) on TopTenz, some finite resources in the world today are bananas, wine, honey, wax, caviar, and sardines.

  • Bananas. A fungus decimates this most consumed fruit in the world. Panama disease made manufacturing countries like Colombia declare a state of emergency. So far, it looks as they are fighting an unwinnable battle.
  • Wine. As temperatures keep rising, areas suitable for vineyards will disappear by 2050.
Best Barter Items and Skills To Survive SHTF [2022 Guide] 1
  • Honey, wax. Extreme heat, human use of pesticides, invasive pests, and CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) caused the bees to become endangered. To help preserve bee colonies, you don’t have to become a beekeeper. There are other effortless ways you can contribute.
  • Caviar. Human over-fishing caused endangerment of beluga sturgeon fish from which we collect eggs and call it caviar when served at the table. Illegal fishing and the black market make the situation even worse.
  • Sardines. Again, human factor decimated the sardines’ populations everywhere, leading to shortages and even influencing the appearance of today’s sardines, which used to be much bigger in the past.


Long shelf-life goods don’t depreciate. You will never make a mistake if you stockpile long shelf life goods. You will always be able to barter them in the future.

Examples of non-perishable items, with long shelf life, are toilet paper, food-grade plastic containers, tools.

In-demand items.

Imagine what things disappear quickly from the supermarkets in a crisis.  Research what happened during major crises over history up to the most recent one that we are witnessing today. If you follow the Venezuela crisis, you can draw your conclusions. Read more about distressing food shortages in Venezuela.

Valuable items.

Sometimes it is difficult to estimate what things will keep their value in emergencies, or which ones will become even more useful.

In my opinion, the most valuable barter items are precious metals and precious stones. Silver and gold items, either coins or jewelry and precious stones like diamonds have always only gone up in value. Their owners were never sorry for purchasing them, as they could count on even higher resale prices.

Small items.

They are convenient. You can easily hide them, store, stockpile, carry, and transport. Useful small barter items are ammunition, a pocket knife, can opener, water filter, a small bottle of alcohol, perfume, cigarettes, condoms, etc. These are useful barter items to stockpile even if you don’t like guns, don’t smoke or drink. You will always be able to trade them for something you need.

barter items

What are the Best Barter Items to stockpile?

Best barter items are water purification filter, honey, coffee, alcohol, cigarettes, seeds, space blanket, knife, pre-packaged first aid kit, and gold jewelry.

When choosing the best barter items, think about things for basic survival needs: water, food, shelter, and safety.

  • Water purification. Invest today in a portable water filter and some water purification tablets. Clean drinking water is in demand already. With heavily polluted cities, many of us are used to drinking bottled water at home or using water boilers to prepare it for safe drinking. When you go camping, it is never a good idea to freely drink from a stream, like in the movies.
  • Food. Food items should always be traded carefully, and only in small amounts. Products like honey and coffee tick all the boxes. They are finite, non-perishable, always in-demand, small and convenient to carry, and therefore extremely valuable in emergencies. You should guard your food supplies well, and avoid bartering food if you can.
  • Shelter. A tent, a sleeping bag, a space blanket.
  • Safety. Ammunition, a pocket knife, cross-bow.
  • Medicine. Lip balm, gloves, mask, small first aid kit, sunscreen, condoms.
  • Condoms are surprisingly versatile. Sensible Prepper presents 20 condom uses for SHTF survival. You can use them to carry water, instead of gloves, for fishing, and the list goes on and on.
  • Precious metals. Gold, silver, as coins, jewelry, or tooth filling, never go out of style.
  • Alcohol. Even if you don’t drink, you should have it in your house.

Alcohol has many valuable uses

  • Social connector — lowers stress and boosts morale. 
  • Disinfectant — for cleaning dirty surfaces, dirty tools, dirty hands, and cleaning wounds. You can use cheap vodka or moonshine (if it is a very high percentage, it is poison anyway).
  • Medicine — painkiller, cleaning wounds, in surgery, to make herbal tinctures, toothpaste.
  • Barter item — unlike money, its value never goes down, only up. In an SHTF scenario, it is easy to trade with. Everybody will accept an expensive bottle of whiskey.

Which alcohol is the best?

Stronger alcohol, with a higher alcohol percentage, is better for stockpiling and bartering.

Remember to look at the expiration date. Don’t store liquors, nor wine.

Does Alcohol Go Bad, Stale, or Expire? It depends on the kind. Watch this video for a more detailed answer.

  • Vodka, whiskey, rum, moonshine. Try to find alcohol packaged in smaller bottles. This way, you can exchange a smaller bottle for virtually anything. It is easier to carry and hide. A larger bottle is good only for more expensive items, so there are fewer opportunities to use it.
  • Tobacco. No explanation needed, I think.
  • Garden seeds. They are immensely valuable because they are cheap, light-weight if stored right — long-lasting, easily stockpiled, and always in-demand. My advice is to store seeds for locally grown plants. When used as barter items, it’s a good idea to have a manual on hand, to show others how to plant a garden, just in case.
Best Barter items

What are Good Barter Items?

Good barter items are radio, duct tape, flashlight, tabasco, can opener, lighter, razors, functional boots, etc.

If you have extra space for storage and extra money to spend on supplies, I propose buying the following items to be used for barter only. You don’t have to buy them in large quantities, like your standard emergency supplies. Keep these two categories separate, in different storage places in your house. A good trick is to forget about barter items completely, don’t rely on them, and only use them in case of an absolute emergency.

  • Communication items. Radio, walkie talkie, extra batteries.
  • Tools. Shovel, duct tape, knife, broom, plastic buckets, plastic containers, flashlight, headlamp, lighters, matches, candles, Boy Scout handbook.
  • Medicine. Ointments (Neosporin), lip balm, something for allergies like Benadryl, pre-packaged emergency first aid kits, thermometer, latex gloves, masks, vitamins supplements, a medical book.
  • Foods. Freeze-dried food, rice, grains, salt, tabasco, sugar, chocolate, vinegar, coffee, tea.
  • Cooking tools. Pots, pans, open fire cooking tools, can opener, aluminum foil, a recipe book.
  • Toiletries. Toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, baby diapers, Soap, shampoo, razors.
  • Clothes. Warm clothes, sturdy footwear, gloves, sunglasses.
  • Entertainment. Cards, dice, board games.
  • Fresh produce. If you live on a farm — fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts, berries, live animals like chickens, meat, milk, eggs, etc.
bartering services

Bartering services

Bartering services you can trade are doing manual work, babysitting, etc. For inspiration, remember the law of supply and demand. Observe what is in demand, and supply service.

Use your physical strength — offer cutting grass, shoveling snow. At the time of the coronavirus pandemic, you can suggest going to the store for an elderly neighbor.

Maybe your young neighbor needs babysitting, and his mother will be happy to trade you a jar of honey for your time and effort.

bartering skills

Bartering skills

Useful skills you can barter with are medical skills, repair skills, cooking, brewing, preserving food, fishing, hunting, foraging, lock picking, etc.

Like it or not, all resources on Earth are finite. But, skills have an indefinite shelf life, are non-perishable, are portable, valuable, and can be used as barter items. You will never run out of them, like all the other items you store.

It is imperative to “stockpile” as many skills as you can. Don’t wait to learn handyman skills after the disaster strikes. By then, it will be too late. Practice new skills now, while you can, without the added stress of being pressed for time.

Even in non-emergency situations, it pays to be self-reliant, and therefore more resilient to the ups and downs of modern society.

  • Medical skills — learn how to make stitches, and how to immobilize a broken arm, CPR, how to massage.
  • Repair skills — car repair, sewing, shoe repair, firearm repair, handyman skills, plumbing.
  • Brewing — distilling hard liquors, brewing beer.
  • Cooking — baking, bread making, cheese making.
  • Preserving food — fermenting, canning, drying, smoking, etc. The article on pemmican making is handy.
  • Fishing, hunting. These are a fun hobby, as well as money-saving activities. It takes time to become a successful hunter, so don’t waste time waiting for a disaster to strike first. Start acquiring the right gear and learning different techniques that many of our ancestors did without blinking.
  • Mushroom foraging, picking berries. Learn which plants are edible and which ones are poisonous. Learn recipes, or write them down, how you can use different plants.
  • Lock picking. This is a highly useful skill that can be quickly and easily learned. Here is a video to help you learn lock picking.
Best Barter Items and Skills To Survive SHTF [2022 Guide] 2

Bartering items to avoid

Best avoid these bartering items: cash, beer, wine, medicine, fuel, oil, cheap, worthless items.

  • Cash — in case of any collapse, there is a good chance of money as we know it is becoming worthless.
  • Beer, wine — they have short shelf-life and require specific, highly sensitive storage conditions.
  • Medicine — short shelf-life. If you can, only stockpile medicine for yourself and your family, in a cool, dry place.
  • Fuel — short shelf life. Also, you can’t stockpile larger quantities, so get a good bike while you can.
  • Oil — cooking oil has a short shelf life, contrary to the common belief.
  • Cheap items — because they are easy to stockpile, and anyone can buy them, even on a budget, they will probably not be in demand. Now I remembered toilet paper. You can get that as much as you can.

Tips for Barter Items


Always use food-grade plastic containers. Keep the storage cool and dry.

Protect the food from mice and other pests.

Check regularly expiration dates, and rotate items if necessary.

Best places to hide your resources

Keep your barter items in a different place than your other supplies. Use several different locations in your house. If you live in an apartment, stockpile smart — only smaller, more valuable items.

Don’t brag about your stuff. Never let anyone see your resources.

Bartering Websites

Bartering websites are places where you can barter your things or services, without the use of cash. There are many bartering websites, and they are trendy. Some have specialized for specific items like books, clothes, or baby stuff. Others trade only in services. So, check them out because you may find irresistible deals.

Bartering websites include Craigslist, BabysitterExchange, PaperBackSwap, SwapStyle, U-Exchange, SwapThing, etc.

barter successfully

How do you Barter successfully?

The best strategies on how to successfully barter are bartering in public and negotiating.

  • Always barter in public. Come with friends – safety is in numbers. You are risking being attacked and your items being stolen.
  • Take every precaution not to be followed home. Someone could stage a barter just to get to your other supplies.
  • Avoid meeting at your house. Always keep your location a secret. Don’t let anyone know where you hide your supplies.
  • Don’t brag about your well-stocked basement. Don’t practically invite thieves to your house.
  • Don’t barter items you may need in the future.
  • Negotiate. Start going to flea markets and learn how to negotiate successfully.
  • Decline the bartering items you don’t need. You always have the option of walking away from the negotiation.

Is Bartering illegal?

No. But, you must pay taxes. You can’t avoid the IRA. If you barter, you must report on your tax return the fair market value of the products or services you received.

Advantages of Barter

Money is vulnerable against inflation, deflation, fluctuating exchange rates. Barter has existed before the invention of money and will always be present because it is easy, fast, and convenient.

You can always negotiate about the value of items.

Disadvantages of Barter

Barter has limitations. You have to find a person that has what you need and wants what you have.

It is difficult to find two different things of equal value for barter. Sometimes people have different ideas on how much something is worth.

Trust issue. Barter is accessible among family, friends, and neighbors who you can trust. Also, as a massive advocate of self-reliance, barter is best avoided. How to make somebody live up to their end of the bargain? It is difficult to rely on a man’s word these days, let alone in an emergency.

Bartering can be used negatively. Unfortunately, barter sometimes involves trading sex services for goods.


When choosing the best barter items, remember that no one list fits all people. Think about your location, food preferences, medical conditions, and the skill that you have. Take small steps. Think hard what food is smart to stockpile and which skills are useful to learn. You may need all of them, and others, in a crisis.

Bartering is a skill on its own. Master the art of barter, and you go from one paperclip to a house in only fourteen online trades! Congratulations, Kyle! His project, called One Red Paperclip, was inspired by a famous Japanese legend, The Straw Millionaire.

Let me know if I answered your questions, or leave your favorite bartering tip.

Greg - Prepping Insider

Hey, I'm a prepping enthusiast. Prepping for me is simply something of a passion. I have personally lived in many different rural properties that have given me a wealth of knoweldge and experience in practically living out survival and preparation situations. It’s not about getting the latest survival gadgets or buckets of food as its more of a lifestyle.

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