Stockpiling popular SHTF bartering items

When it comes to preparing for disasters, especially long-term economic disasters where paper currency becomes useless, bartering is a preparedness skill that could come in very handy. Those who do it well will help ensure their ability to thrive in a post-collapse world.

If you’re fully stocked and prepared to survive, you need to start thinking about stockpiling some popular bartering items for those times when paper currency may be unusable.

An Old West Trading Post

What are the best bartering goods to stock up on before things go bad?

The exact items you choose to start stockpiling will depend on the situation you’re planning for; but in general, the following items will all probably be in high demand after a total collapse situation:

Water Purification Supplies

Most people don’t realize how hard finding clean drinkable water will become in a post-collapse situation. When the water treatment plants stop running, people are going to be scrambling to find a way to purify their drinking water. Iodine tablets, bleach, water filters, canteens, and even cooking pots will all be needed and in very high demand.

Guns, Ammunition and Firearm Accessories

1 out of every 3 Americans owns a gun, but how many of these gun owners actually stockpile an adequate amount of ammunition? After the economic collapse in 2008, ammunition became very scarce. Some types of ammunition, specifically .22lr, were impossible to find, and those that had it were selling it for 10-20 times its original price.

During a long-term disaster or collapse, ammo is going to be a highly sought after and will quickly become a very popular barter item. I recommend stocking up on calibers that you actually use, followed by the most common calibers (.22lr, .223, 9mm, .45, 30-06, 12ga, & .308)

If the SHTF, those 2 out 3 Americans who don’t own guns are going to be wishing they did. That means guns and firearm accessories are going to be in high demand. From people looking for parts to repair broken guns, to those who are currently anti-gun and will quickly change their position when the chaos hits, I can almost guarantee that firearms will become one of the most wanted items after a collapse. Even pellet guns might be good items to stock up on; They’re cheap, easy to find, and would be easier to part with.

Alcohol: It’s always a Top Bartering Product

The history of using alcohol as a bartering tool is long and complex and dates back probably to the beginning of alcohol itself. For early American moonshiners, making and selling alcohol wasn’t a hobby; it was how they survived.

Let’s not beat around the bush here, during hard times there is always a market for alcoholic beverages. And during an apocalyptic SHTF scenario, there’s going to be a huge number of people who will want to drink their sorrows away. Hard liquors like Whiskey and Vodka are going to be the best option because of their long shelf life.

Medications & Medical Supplies

Almost half of all Americans are currently taking at least one prescription medication. In a post-apocalyptic world, prescription medications will be another highly sought after item. From people who need to treat life-threatening illnesses with antibiotics, to those that will just want to forget everything that’s happening and dull their senses, medications will be worth their weight in gold. Check out our list of top medical supplies, everything on the list will be helpful in a barter economy.

Food & Water

This category is really a no-brainer. During a long-term crisis, food and water will be the most traded items on the market. Check out our list of some of the most important foods to stockpile. These will all be in high demand and are all good items to start stocking up on before things go bad.

Skills, Tools & DIY Knowledge

Having a good stockpile of tools, combined with the knowledge of how to use them, is not only a sound investment but can also ensure you have a method for generating income when things go bad. If things ever completely collapse, those who can fix things are going to be some of the most sought after people in the new economy.

Plumbers, carpenters, and handymen are all going to be able to trade their services for almost anything they need. That means the best thing you can do to ensure your survival is to start learning skills that will be important during a collapse.

Never barter with something that you may need.

The great thing about the last category is you’re not giving away anything that you might need in the future.

While bartering may become a real part of life in a post-disaster world, you really need to consider what items you can and can’t do without. That means when it comes to bartering, the only thing you should be trading are items that you have a surplus of, or items that you are sure you won’t need in the future.


  1. kloathis
    November 3, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    I would think that hand tools might pull in a “premium” price in a SHTF barter situation, even cheap crappy ones as long as they are functional. I would also say any type of “luxury” commodity such as cigarettes and coffee would also pull in top trade value.

  2. millenniumfly
    November 3, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    I only wish I had the problem of being fully squared away and thinking of barter items! Anyway, I might also consider small items that can be bought in bulk such as bic lighters, gauze pads, small candles, batteries, salt, and maybe cigarettes.

    • phoenixfly11
      March 22, 2013 at 10:17 pm

      Right now, Kmart has a sale on bulk “Dum-dum” pops, I bought a couple bags myself, each has 180 of them in there, so that can be good for trading. That reminds me, I need to get some more batteries. I also get sugar cubes for barter as well, seems more effective than normal sugar for bartering purposes. Also, this seems kind of random, but from my experiences working as a vet tech, using Karo corn syrup is useful for malnourished animals. So maybe it works the same way for people?

  3. Dave C
    November 4, 2011 at 8:40 am

    Any chance of a list of medications, with they shelf life?

    • silver
      August 25, 2012 at 8:48 am

      The US Military recently tested out of date drugs and found out that after 12 years 99% tested at 95% still good, the drug companys don’t want you to know this as they want you to buy more…

      • Jack Hammer
        February 16, 2014 at 10:36 am

        Very good point. I believe the government removed that from the Internet so us dumb civilians wouldn’t know that about drugs. One drug to be very careful with is Doxycycline (spelling?). Once it passes it’s expiration date do not take it. It will destroy your kidneys. Doxy should be FROZEN in an airtight, sealed bag and once taken out of the freezer it should last about 6 months IIRC. Still, Doxy is probably one of the drugs you may not want to stock up on unless absolutely needed.

        • Marry
          November 22, 2016 at 9:50 am

          Hi, what is that for? Also Antibiotika medicine can be bought from pet shops and are the same thing. Check into it people. They are very important, iodine, sea salt which is cheap. The regular salt could have glass sand and salt mixed together because it is cheaper.

    • Marry
      November 22, 2016 at 9:45 am

      Most antibiotics have a shelf life of 10 more years than the date given. They are at the later time period just a bit weaker and only 10% so 90% is still very good. Keep all in dry and dark areas. The cooler the better but not freezing or mega hot. Room temperature is fine. The basement of dry is the best for many things.

  4. panhandleprepper
    November 4, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    One of my prep stategies is to include barter items and the way I purchase certain items. Although it is cheaper to buy a fifth of alcohol, I will occassionaly purchase in pint or 1/2 pint quantities. Anytime I go to a hotel, I always take the complimentary shampoo, mouthwash, lotion, etc. and put it in a storage container when I get home for later use. Additionally, I’ve purchased a couple of cartons of the cheapest cigarettes and just store them in the freezer. When I have leftover beans and rice, I put them in leftover soda or water bottles for use as barter as well.

  5. Prepping Preacher
    November 5, 2011 at 2:12 am

    alcohol can be purchased in mini-bottles; with a minimal investment of as little as $5, a cig-rolling machine can turn a bag of tobacco and box of tubes into gold for the possessor; butane Bic” lighters are 3/$1 @ the local dollar store and matches even cheaper; coffee can be purchased “tea-bag” style in boxes and broken down into 2 or 3 bag groups; sugar/sweetener packets can be obtained for the same; 3-4 ft strips of duct tape wound around any non-tearing article, ie, popsicle stick; individual-dose packets of pain relievers, antacids, anti-diarrheals; i even have a few spare fish hooks and short lengths of line;

    the possibilities are limited only by the imagination…

    keep your powder dry – and close

  6. tom r
    November 5, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    Sorry but ammo and guns are not smart barter items.
    They just may use them on you!
    Never would this be smart to do if you are smart.
    If I ever bartered a gun and ammo I would make it clear if I ever saw them come around with it they would be shot on site!!!

  7. J.s. Mack
    November 7, 2011 at 7:34 am

    I am going to revisit the topic of drinkable water – too many preppers that I know and that I read are counting on useing the liquid bleach they have set back to chemically treat their water to make it safe to drink. I, too had this plan until I made a startling discovery last year. According to the Clorex bleach site, liguid bleach begins losing it’s effectiveness as soon as it is manufatured! By the time 8 to 12 months have passed, even a whole gallon will not be able to make your water safe to drink. The only viable alterniative is to secure some form of chlorine dioixde or calcium hypochlorite in powder or tablet (like for a swimming pool) form. CAUTION: These chemicals arre dangerous, not just thru ingestions, but in handling so do you research well! There are several recipes online on how to utilize and store them in a safe mannner, as well as what kinds to use and which one to avoid due to other active chemicals. 1 lb of the right kind can purify up to 10,000 gallon of questionsable water and would make a good bartering items for a minimum investment. Again – exercise extreme cautions in storing, handling and mixing these, and any other chemicals. Good luck!

    • Jason Wilson
      March 5, 2014 at 11:43 am

      “The only viable alternative is to secure some form of chlorine dioxide or calcium hypochlorite in powder or tablet (like for a swimming pool) form.” Would you like to specify which ones you have seen to be the best option? I am new to this but I knew that bleach lost it’s usefulness just not sure what else to use.

        June 13, 2014 at 12:23 am

        Have you guys never heard of water distilling???? Look into that.

  8. old soldier
    November 7, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    As for barter items, consider what the dollar store and other stores have for a dollar: antidiarrhea meds, pain relievers, cold meds ( decongestants, mucus thinners, cough drops,etc) vitamins, cheap lighters, matches, cough syrup, canned foods (hash, spagetti, chili),energy bars, soy milk,tea, coffee (packets), sugar, vinegar, spices, rubbing alcohol, coffee filters, work gloves, cheap LED flashlights, batteries. As far as water purification, some of the survival stores sell the backpacker survival straw for about 9.95. and some of the 5 gal containers with a built in filter. Something else, alot of people miss …condoms, usually available for free at most health depts. Birth control will be very important in a meltdown situation. They have other uses as well. In short, think like a trader of the early 1800’s: items cheap, yet necessary for cooking, health, and chores.

  9. Joshua Wilson
    November 25, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    For me I’m only going to barter with people at the beginning while all the unprepared people are still “around”. So once they are all gone I am only going to trade when I need something not because I just want another gun to put in my closet.

  10. Hub Zemke
    February 1, 2012 at 9:25 am

    Why aren’t precious metals mentioned here? Silver coins (pre 1965 or current silver proof sets) would be great for bartering since they are small, light and relatively cheap. How about copper pennies (ie before they took the copper out of them in the ’80s)? You would care about the face value but some one might need the metal. Stamped silver or gold rings or earrings would also be good bartering items. Again, small and light and it has enough value to purchase a more expensive item like a gun.

    • easttex_survival
      February 16, 2012 at 10:01 pm

      I hear this mentioned alot and in certain situations it may be a good idea. But my opinion (not worth much) is that in a true collapse situation they will be usefulness (in a literal since). As society rebuilds, and it always does, they will regain their value. If you are starving, thirsty, alone, need medical attention, and your stranded somewhere, those shiny coins in your pocket can’t save you. Many people will not want to carry them around much less take them on trade for something that can keep them alive.

  11. jeremy
    February 4, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    you can’t eat gold. you can’t grow silver. you can’t shoot copper

    • Johnny
      February 21, 2012 at 1:05 pm

      WTF , are you saying ?

    • steve
      September 17, 2013 at 8:07 pm

      i’m sure you eat plenty of the near worthless dollars you carry…gold & silaver have been money for over 2500 years & will be used for barter..just like those george washingtons you eat now..anything that others want or need will be a source of trade just as…salt…was the main item of barter before currency.. the main reason gold & silver have been on a 12 year bull run & will skyrocket when the currency collapses is because all those george washingtons you eat on a daily basis have lost 97% of their value since 1933..but to each his own..some never learn from history repeating itself..btw..i’ll trade you all the g washingtons you could ever want for any pre 64 half’s quarters dimes you astute economists as yourself i’m sure has no peace or morgan dollars but for your info they traded less than 12 years ago for $4/ea..they now are worth $16.58..a 1658.27% increase in value over it’s one dollar face value!!! how’s your portfolio them g. washingtons taste to ya..& just one more…the copper pennies u can’t eat..pre 1982 pennies r worth .0211 cents..rinky dink eh? well if ya owned one thousand of them you’d have 2,110.00 worth in scrap…1million would be worth 2, got any to trade for some green?

      • JMJ
        November 14, 2015 at 5:15 pm

        Sorry to say, but your math is a bit faulty there my friend. 1,000,000 X .0211 = 21,110.00 NOT 2,110 million……

    • Dr Moses J Moose
      April 22, 2014 at 12:14 pm

      You can melt the copper down into bullet casings or solid bullets.Or you can turn the pennies into make shift Broad heads. So Sir, I beg to differ. Just because one doesn’t know the uses of things doesn’t mean its useless

      • ibathinker
        February 13, 2017 at 6:12 am

        And you make so little sense that the only thing you have given us is a good laugh.

  12. joe
    February 7, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    when it comes to acl. you can make your own i know how to make it and wines some thing any one can make back in the old days our founding fathers used to drink acl becouse of the ? they had about the water. and you can make it out of just about any thing , and theres a lot of books that you can use to get ideas from. it could be a good sorce of income if needed and it lasts for years. you can make i think 500 gallions per adult in your house so its worth looking into

  13. tracker370
    March 28, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    the c.d.c. recomends 8 drops of bleach to 1 gallon water. 16 if water is cloudy,let solution stand 5 mins. i work with fema.

  14. matt
    June 1, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    #1 Water transport, collection & purification
    #2 Food: non-GMO heirloom seeds, non-perishable foods (beans & lentils r ideal)
    #3 Cooking: Butane/propane Camp Stove with space fuel, woodstove, lighters, matches, axe
    #4 Heat: Spare electrical heater, woodstove with piping to install indoors
    #5 Medical: Teeth, Hygene, First Aid, Basic Operations, Lidocain Lotions, Medicine
    #6 Self-Defense: Knifes, Guns, Bow & Arrow, Baseball Bat, Alarm System
    #7 Tools: Gardening, Kitchen, Car & Home Repair, Building
    #8 Leisure: Playing cards, dice, play books
    #9 Books: Survival books, cooking, gardening, etc.
    #10 Precious Metals: Silver & Gold coins, bargain jewelry
    #11 Transport: Fuel efficient car, jerrycans, functional city & off-road bicycles, bike & car trailers, basic repair/maintenance gear

    Obviously look after yourself before thinking about barter items. Just don’t be afraid to jump on deals and buy extra of ANYTHING which can then be used for bartering.

    Take care fellas.

  15. Lloyd
    June 15, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Guys, as far as water purification goes, bleach doesn’t really work well. Iodine works, but not completely, either. We used Sterasyl ceramic filters for about 20 years overseas in ‘the boonies’, and they worked very well for our family. They are made for run-off water, for pond water, for river water, for rain water… not so much for water that’s polluted with organic pollutants or radiation or things like that.
    I’ve developed a US-version of what we used to filter our water, and it’s shown at – I’ve got a large size unit (the ‘Base Camp’ unit) available right now for $125, and am working on several smaller sizes as well. The Base Camp unit has 2 filters inside, and is good for about 1500 gallons of pure water. The filters should last you up to a year, depending on how much crud you pour into the top bucket, and extras only cost about $30 each. Not too expensive, and certainly very simple. Only one moving part – the spigot – and the rest is just gravity fed. No electricity, no need for running water… simple, cheap, and they work. We used them for 20 years – they work.
    Water may well become a thing to barter, as well – if we can produce pure, drinkable water for our families and then some extra to sell/trade, I think these units would pay for themselves in a short time!

  16. Lisa
    July 30, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    I am storing condoms. We don’t need them anymore…. but perhaps my married children will want them or great for barter. Just a thought!

  17. Pat
    March 11, 2013 at 6:10 pm

    Condoms can hold roughly a liter of water before breaking. Just want to make sure you have a non lubricated condom if you are drinking it.

  18. Bgsxxy1
    April 22, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    Sawyer water filtration systems are great but pricey , does any body have another idea that’s just as good but cost a little less ?

  19. rimman
    November 9, 2013 at 12:23 am

    TOILET TISSUE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  20. guido-b
    December 16, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    I suggest that folks should educate themselves on greenhouse gardening and hydroponic gardening.I also suggest th take up winemaking as a hobby.It is a fun hobby and a great bartering tool as well

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