The 20 Best Barter Items and Services to Trade When SHTF

Remember how you and your buddy Chuck became pals?

It was lunch period and you didn’t want your PB&J sandwich. You saw the new kid with a bag of Fritos and said: “Hey, wanna trade?”

The kid said sure and you both had a good lunch.

Now, here’s the thing: your friendship wasn’t the only thing that started that day.

You didn’t know it yet, but it was also the first time you bartered.

When society collapses, bartering is what’ll keep you and your family alive—it will be as important to your SHTF plan as building a prepper pantry, fortifying your home against threats, and securing a bug out location.

Here’s what you need to know about trading barter items and services:

How Does Bartering Work?

Before money became a thing, bartering was the main way folks did business.

Basically, a dude would head over to the market and trade goods or services in exchange for something a vendor would offer, like a dozen eggs for fancy wine or grains for fresh cheese.

The barter was considered done when both parties agreed that they got a fair deal.

These days, bartering has become a lot less common, but there are still places around the world that practice it. Of course, since this ain’t ancient Greece, folks now trade things like smartphones, kitchen tools, and even cars.

Bartering will start gaining popularity again when SHTF, and by that time, society will be a lot more desperate—which brings us to the next section:

Why Your SHTF Plan Should Include Bartering

During TEOTWAWKI, many common resources will become scarce. Folks will be itching to get their hands on these things.

Think a wad of dollar bills will be worth anything during that time? Heck no.

A roll of toilet paper will be much more valuable.

As you build your stockpile, you should also consider stashing barter items. You’ll have enough to keep your family warm and fed while also having extra to trade for things or services you want. Think of it as insurance that’ll help you survive when money isn’t worth dirt.

You don’t need to wait for things to go south to start bartering. In fact, it would even do you better to practice it now so that you’ll be a master at negotiation by the time S hits the fan.

Here are some tips:

  • Join online bartering groups.
  • Do your research. What do you know about this person’s needs? What are they looking for?
  • Lay down expectations. What exactly do you want out of the exchange?
  • Try picturing how the meetup will go. How will you get the other guy to accept your offer?
  • Listen well. While it’s tempting to block out the person’s blabbering, you can use this to your advantage and gain intel about them. You can adopt their mannerisms and speech to build their trust.
  • Don’t scam the other party. Who knows what they’ll do to get back at you?
  • Set deadlines to get them to decide faster.
  • Don’t finalize the deal unless the agreement’s crystal clear for both of you.

Keep reading to get an idea about the things you can barter:

What Can You Barter?

Your success at bartering hinges on what you’ve got to offer. As we mentioned earlier, having an impressive stockpile will help. But besides that, you can also offer your skills and even the stuff you make.

To give you a better picture, here’s what you can barter with others:

Barter Items

Emergency essentials like water and food will never fail to be in demand, but folks will also crave the things that bring them comfort.

We take all these into account in this list of must-have barter items:

Water Filters

Typically, people can only survive 3 days without water, which makes it the most valuable out of all the emergency essentials. While it’s not smart to give your actual water supply to folks outside your family, you can collect a bunch of water filters and purifiers for trading purposes.


Food is another one of the most important barter items you can stockpile. While people will always need staples like beans and rice, don’t underestimate the value of comfort food. Folks would trade a bunch of stuff for chunky peanut butter, a box of mac and cheese, or Twinkies.

Here are some of the food you can barter:

Fire Starters

fire starters like ferro rods will be valuable barter items when SHTF

Without fire, life’s gonna suck big time. You’ll either get salmonella from eating uncooked food, lose your way in the dark, or turn into a human icicle.

That’s why fire starters have a spot on this list of top barter items. Folks would be happy to trade almost anything for a ferro rod, BIC lighter, or waterproof matches.

Personal Care Supplies

A major disaster won’t stop most folks from wanting to look and feel clean. Heck, they’d willingly risk their lives for the last roll of toilet paper at Costco. You can bet these barter items will be highly coveted:

  • Toilet paper
  • Bar soap
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Shampoo
  • Hairbrushes
  • Combs
  • Lotion
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Shaving cream
  • Razors
  • Diapers
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrushes
  • Dental floss
  • Cotton swabs
  • Chapstick


‘Nuff said.

Garbage Bags

Garbage bags are versatile little things. They can catch rainwater, cover leaks, and of course, store waste—among other things. These uses make them ideal to have in emergencies.


There’s nothing wrong with using a tarp as a makeshift blanket, but nothing beats a real one. It just helps you sleep better at night.

Tea and Coffee

Most people need caffeine to start the day. Without it, they’re more terrifying than any horror movie villain. But when disaster strikes, they’ll need coffee and tea even more. These will give them the energy to stay focused and alert.

Take pity on your neighbors and fill that caffeine void in their hearts. We’re sure they’d barter pretty much anything for it.


A disaster’s tough for anyone. While there are different ways to cope, sometimes, only a nice drink can take the edge off. You’re not just the one person who feels that way. The old guy down the street and that one lady with all those kids also feel the same.

As you can see, alcohol is gonna be extra valuable—and not only as a drink. It’s got other uses, too, like fueling a fire and as an antiseptic.

Duct Tape

A roll of this tape can do many things, like making cordage, repairing glasses that have broken in half, and fashioning a tourniquet. It’s versatile, lightweight, and won’t cost you much—making it one of the best barter items.


Basic over-the-counter meds will be hard to come by during TEOTWAWKI, as pharmacies and convenience stores may run out of them. Here are some of the meds you should stock up on:

  • Pain relievers
  • Antihistamines
  • Antacids
  • Decongestants
  • Anti-diarrheals
  • Antifungal meds

Basic First Aid Supplies

Folks can get seriously injured during catastrophes, so first aid supplies are gonna be high-value barter items that can save their lives.

  • Bandages
  • Cotton swabs
  • N95 masks
  • Gloves
  • Splints
  • Scissors
  • Hot and cold packs

Baby Supplies

It goes without saying that babies need a lot of maintenance. To parents, these barter items would be the ultimate jackpot during SHTF:

  • Pacifiers
  • Baby bottles
  • Formula
  • Baby clothes
  • Diapers (whether cloth or disposable)
  • Diaper rash ointment
  • Baby wipes

Pet Supplies

Whether it’s a large German Shepherd, a mixed-breed cat, or a tiny mouse named Stuart, pets are members of the family. Their needs are also gonna matter to their owners.


Without electricity, people will rely on batteries to power things like radios and flashlights. You can stash away a lot of them, but make sure you check every now and then for expired ones.


During a catastrophe, a radio may be the only way to get important updates and information. It’s an essential item that non-preppers might overlook.


Average joes never seem to have enough flashlights and in most cases, their lights are about as reliable as your granddad’s ancient jalopy. In that case, we’re confident that tactical flashlights will be great bartering items. Tactical flashlights are bright and heavy-duty. Plus, many of them are rechargeable.


Got a ton of old clothes you don’t wear anymore? Before you donate ’em to your local Goodwill, choose a few to keep for bartering. Folks will definitely be looking for jackets, gloves, and boots when things go south.


We can’t leave out entertainment from this list. Unlike the robots that may take over the world, humans do get bored. And they’ll eventually lose their minds if the only thing keeping them entertained is watching raindrops race down the window.

  • Board games
  • Musical instruments
  • Cards
  • Paper, pens, crayons, markers, and other coloring supplies


Besides trading barter items, you can barter skills. The more skilled you are, the more opportunities you’ll have.

The best thing about offering your expertise in exchange for goods or services is that you won’t be giving away anything you need. You’ll just be using your hands and your brain.

These examples show how you can use your survival skills to get something in return:

  • First aid: After patching up someone’s wound, they can pay you back by giving you the juiciest watermelons from their garden.
  • Cooking and baking: You can make a hearty dish or some tasty dessert to thank someone for fixing your fence.
  • Sewing and crocheting: These ain’t only for your gramma and her pals. Many folks will need clothes and blankets, which you can sew for them in exchange for a few bottles of milk.
  • Fishing: You can help the family across the street catch a huge sea bass for their dinner while they give you fresh eggs from their chickens.
  • Woodworking: If the house belonging to the elderly lady next door got damaged after a flood devastated the community, so you use your skills to help her rebuild it. Meanwhile, she compensates you by babysitting your kids.

Don’t Forget These, Too!

Your safety should always be your first priority, even if you’ve been hankering for fresh omelets. Keep these in mind:

  • Don’t do business with folks you know nothing about.
  • Do the exchange in a public space.
  • Don’t go alone.
  • Make sure no one follows you back home.
  • Don’t let anyone discover that you have a stockpile.

Also, not to be Captain Obvious, but don’t ever trade things that you’re running out of or will need yourself.

Final Thoughts

When SHTF, credit cards will be nothing more than pieces of plastic—and even cash will be useless.

You may have squirreled away enough supplies to keep your entire family alive, but you can never be too confident. To be safe, you’ll  know how to barter.

So set aside some barter items to trade, keep brushing up on your survival skills, and remember to keep things fair.

Any barter items we left out? Let us know in the comments!

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