17 Best Bartering Items to Stockpile for When SHTF

Best SHTF Bartering Items

When society collapses, government currency will be worthless. Don’t get caught empty-handed. Here are the best SHTF bartering items to give you a leg up on your competition and help you make the most of the next apocalypse, disaster, or economic collapse.

Why Money Will Be Worthless Post-Collapse

One of the first questions I hear when I mention stockpiling bartering supplies is why I believe government currency will be worthless. Talk about brainwashed! Just because the government says a dollar bill is worth a dollar, who says it really is? And what’s “a dollar” anyway? More importantly, what happens to that dollar when the government is gone?

I think we can all agree that an item is only as valuable as the material it’s made from or the use you can get out of it. It’s pretty easy to understand why money will be junk if you look at it that way. Once the government collapses, paper money’s best use will be for wiping your butt, and even that is debatable.

Honestly, I’d rather use scratchy leaves than put a dollar bill where the sun doesn’t shine. It’s flimsy and filthy, and it’s not much use for keeping you warm on a cold night either. You might be able to get a small fire burning with a handful of twenties, but that’s not enough reason to keep money around, taking up space in your bug out bag or stockpile.

Rules for Safe Bartering

Before we hit the big list, I want to share a few important safety rules. Whenever you offer items for barter, you’re exposing yourself and putting a target on your back. Offer too many good items too often and word will spread.

You’ll quickly become the most popular person in the area, and I don’t mean you’ll be getting all the tea party invitations. Keep these SHTF bartering rules in mind and you’ll be much safer.

  1. Never flaunt your wealth. If everyone knows you always have the best stuff, they’ll start to see you as a tempting target.
  2. Barter in different locations each time. This will help conceal your location and keep looters and bandits from predicting your movements.
  3. Offer different items each time. You don’t want the label of “food guy” or “water chick”. People will come looking for you when they’re desperate for that thing, and they may not be there to barter.
  4. Keep a low profile. You don’t want people suspecting you’re hiding more than you’re letting on. Be modest and act accordingly. Never boast, hint, or threaten.
  5. Never share the location of your stash. Not even with your closest, most trustworthy friend. They might be trustworthy, but the desperate guy who overhears them mention your stash in passing may not be.
Rules for Safe SHTF Bartering

Items to Stockpile for SHTF Bartering

If you want to thrive after the next big disaster, and not simply survive, you’ll need to start planning now.

1. Water

Water is the most valuable bartering item on this list. The average human can last about 3 – 7 days without water. Climate, physical fitness, and other factors will determine each person’s limit, but that’s not what I want to talk about. What’s important here is realizing that all humans will always need water at some point.

That makes it our number one bartering item for obvious reasons: Desperate people will be willing to give you almost anything for a single swallow. Whether you choose to barter sips, ounces, cups, or full bottles, just be sure you leave plenty in your stocks or you may find yourself on the wrong end of the bartering table.

Don’t limit yourself to just water itself, though. Anything that can help locate, contain, or purify water will also be a huge hit. You can barter desalination kits, filters, water purification tablets, and even instructions on how to locate water. Teaching other survivors how to purify water can work in your favor, too. More on that a bit later.

2. Food

Food is the second most important bartering item you can stockpile. As with water, every human needs food to survive. The biggest issue with food will be spoilage, so don’t spend too much time thinking about fresh greens and gallons of milk.

Focus your attention on calorie-dense and processed foods that can last years. Dehydrated, freeze-dried, canned, and smoked goods will fetch a high price. Save lots of room for protein bars, protein powders, and MREs.

I really like the Wise Food Freeze Dried food supplies that are available, such as this freeze-dried emergency meat supply (amazon link). Meat is so incredibly difficult to have a longlasting shelf-stable supply of, but this freeze-dried meat tastes awesome and lasts a crazy long time (15 years).

If you have the space and the ability, you can attempt to grow fresh foods. Carrots, potatoes, and wheat store the longest and have multiple uses; grow these and you may end up the wasteland’s richest denizen. Consider saving and bartering seeds instead of your priceless fruits and vegetables. Got room for small livestock? Chickens are a great option if you have space. They’re hardy, surprisingly loyal, and great foragers and composters that’ll help with your garden. When they stop laying eggs, drop them in a pot and you’ve got dinner. Eggs and chicks are both invaluable bartering items.

See a list of the supermarket items with the longest shelflife here.

3. Medical Supplies

Medical supplies get the third spot on my list because every person will eventually be injured or fall ill. Humans are squishy and vulnerable, so it’s just a matter of time before someone needs antibiotic ointments, burn salve, or an aspirin for that pesky dehydration headache. Try not to focus entirely on consumable or perishable medical supplies. Save some room in your stash for bandages, gauze pads, medical tape, alcohol wipes, and examination gloves.

4. Heat or Light

Heat and light will be on the top of many lists when it comes time to barter. Non-preppers never have enough candles, lanterns, and flashlights stored away. Same with fire-starting equipment and batteries. But you know better, don’t you?

Bartering toilet paper
Desperate people will trade anything for a roll of soft TP.

5. Hygiene Products

Hygiene products aren’t just nice to have, they are vital when disaster strikes and running water and clean bathrooms are a thing of the past. Look for items that can store for a long time without degrading. Wet wipes and baby wipes will be in high demand, but they don’t store as long as dry paper products—you’ll want to barter these sooner than the dry stuff.

Toilet paper will be a luxury after a while; barter this sparingly in the first weeks after the collapse to get the best trades later. Toothpaste, toothbrushes, and mouthwash can hold for a few years. That long without a dentist will have people itching for minty fresh breath. Hold onto these items for the best return down the line.

6. Feminine Products

Feminine products may not seem “universally useful” but there’s no doubt that they’ll be highly coveted. Think about the guy down the road with a wife and five daughters. You better believe he’ll be pressured to keep his family supplied with feminine hygiene products for as long as possible.

While female survivalists aren’t generally the dainty type, it doesn’t mean we don’t want to be fresh and clean. I know that I’d trade extremely valuable items to get my hands on the right feminine products. Sanitary pads will always be a big hit, and they come with the bonus of being great bandages in a pinch.

Tampons won’t be as useful since not every woman will use these, but it can’t hurt to keep a few boxes in the stash. You can store them forever and they don’t take up much room. They can even be compressed into a tight space without adversely affecting their functionality.

7. Tools

Tools of all kinds should have a place in your bartering stash. After the collapse, the world will need to be rebuilt. That’ll be a lot easier with basic hand tools, screws, nails, and adhesives. Skip the electric tools, even the battery-powered ones. People won’t want to waste battery power on a cordless drill when they can use a regular screwdriver.

8. Alcohol

Alcohol isn’t just for getting tipsy. Many preppers keep a nice stockpile of top-shelf liquor for drinking, wound care, as a painkiller, and even fuel.

9. Condoms

Condoms, because let’s be real: Nobody wants a pregnancy or a new baby in the middle of a disaster. Stockpile these tiny treasures and you’ll be swimming in more barter offers than you’ll know what to do with.

They last for ages, but even if the expiration date has passed by the time you get to the bottom of the box, any condom is better than no condom. Go ahead and use that line when you’re in negotiations.

10. Salt, Sugar, and Spices

Salt, sugar, and spices will be a luxury item. As food stocks run low and people are left with dry, tasteless foods to sustain them, they’ll be begging for something to liven up their meals.

If you store these in waterproof and air-tight containers, sugar and salt can last indefinitely. Herbs and spices often have a shorter shelf life, but even when they start to lose flavor and freshness, people won’t care. Good choices include chili powder, granulated garlic, and Italian seasoning blends.

Barter your skills
The best bartering item you can have to trade, is your skills. Barter your skills for survival supplies and coveted luxury items.

11. Honey

Honey lasts forever. No joke; honey can literally last longer than you can. It will change color and texture over time, but it never spoils, making this an incredible item for SHTF bartering. Honey can sit in the back of your stockpile for years.

Long after everyone’s sugar supplies have run out, you can roll out a big bottle of honey and reap the sweet, sweet rewards. On top of being delicious, it’s a great way to give a boost of energy in a low-food situation.

12. Entertainment Items

Entertainment items will be scarcer than you think. When all the mobile devices finally die, we’ll be left with no internet to browse and no emails to write. Suddenly, a deck of cards or a good book will start to look very appealing.

Pads of blank and lined paper, pencils, and board games will all fetch impressive barter offers. Just be sure to store these items in waterproof containers.

13. Fishing and Hunting Supplies

Fishing and hunting supplies are easy to store, last forever, and you can trade them for some of the most valuable items. Because these supplies allow people to procure their own food, savvy survivalists will see the value in these items right away and will opt for the gear before bartering for your food.

14. Duct Tape

Duct tape is a versatile and sturdy bartering item. It has countless uses and can last for years without degrading if you store it properly. Most people don’t store significant amounts of duct tape but will likely use up what they do have quickly in any disaster situation. This makes duct tape a great bartering item that will likely have a high value early on in a post-apocalyptic world.

15. Plastic Bags

Plastic bags and sheeting are one of the easiest items to stockpile. They take up very little room but have a myriad of uses in survival scenarios: quick shelters, sanitary disposal, simple water collection, and much more.

16. Clothing

Clothing is more valuable than many people realize. I don’t want you to avoid donating your old clothing, but I do want to encourage you to keep a few select items in your stash for SHTF bartering. People always need coats, jeans, socks, and gloves, especially when the grid goes down and it starts to get cold outside.

17. Your Skills

Barter your valuable services! Many people underestimate skills and services in a SHTF barter situation. Sorry, lawyers, but you’re going to be useless when society collapses. All the focus will be on practical skills and ways to improve daily life.

If you take the time to learn something useful now, you’ll have one hell of a bargaining chip when it comes time to trade. Hunting, fishing, gardening, animal husbandry, carpentry, foraging, welding—these are all skills that people will pay anything for.

It’s not all about survival either. Eventually, people will get bored. If you can sing, play an instrument, or weave exciting tales around the fire, people will pay well for your time and talents.

Coins Cant Buy Food when SHTF
If coins and precious metals could grow food, I might suggest you stockpile some coins. Unfortunately, you cant eat a silver coin.

Why Aren’t Coins and Precious Metals on the List?

Coins aren’t much better than paper money. Very few people will be able to turn them into usable materials, and most people wouldn’t want to waste the resources needed to process them anyway. I may get some arguments on this point, but the same goes for gold and other precious metals. To me, they’re worthless—you can’t eat them, build with them, or use them as tools. Precious metals and gems are mostly ornamental items with no intrinsic value to nomadic people or survivalists.

If you want to stockpile gold and silver chains in the hope that each little link might be worth something when SHTF, go right ahead. I’ll be filling my stocks with universally useful things that people actually need to survive.

Why Aren’t Weapons and Ammunition on the List?

Would you rather be well-armed or be the one responsible for arming that weirdo across the street? I’d rather have the bigger, better, nastier weapons than anyone else in a post-collapse world. I’m not about to barter away my weapons or ammo. It’s not even the end of the world yet, and there was a shortage of ammo in my area just a few years ago!

Imagine how bad it’ll be when the stores are all looted and the raiders are coming for your homestead next. Keep your weapons and ammo if you want to live to see society rebuild itself.


This isn’t an exhaustive list. However, it should give you an idea of the kinds of SHTF bartering items that most people will want to get their hands on after a societal collapse. Everything on the list is either cheap or very easy to come by today. Most are easy to store or will last a very long time.

Now, go spend your soon-to-be-worthless dollars on items that’ll actually be worth a damn when society crumbles!

What do you plan to barter with when SHTF? Are you stockpiling items to barter with or are you spending time learning a new skill? Share what you are doing in the comments below!

John Walter

John Walter is an emergency preparedness consultant with eight years of experience and training in related fields. He is a passionate prepper living in the Sacramento area of California.

Recent Posts