Prepper skills: How to barter effectively after SHTF
07/27/2021 // Virgilio Marin // Views

Barter is the exchange of goods or services of equal value without the use of money. It was nearly forgotten until the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic struck last year and revived bartering. Driven by panic, many people stockpiled essential items like diapers and used their excess supplies to trade them for things such as spaghetti.

In the event of economic collapse, bartering will be an essential skill that preppers must master to secure their family's needs. Here are some things to keep in mind to barter effectively after SHTF: (h/t to

What is valuable in a barter economy?

Scarcity often defines value in a barter economy. In an SHTF scenario, certain items such as prescription medicine will be scarce and therefore increase in value. Only commodities of equal worth can be traded for such items. Offering a shovel for an ax may be a fair transaction but offering four dozen eggs may not succeed.

But if someone who really likes eggs hasn't eaten them for a year, then trading four dozens of them may just work. Value is also highly subjective. While everyone needs everyday basics such as food and water, different people also have different needs. For example, women might perceive tampons to be more valuable than bullets while men hunkering down by themselves might prioritize the latter.

When bartering, you'll need to choose wisely who you're going to barter with and what you're going to exchange with them. If you have a significant stockpile of tampons, then it makes sense to trade with women in order to get the most out of the transaction. The more important a commodity is to a person, the more that person is willing to swap something extremely valuable in return. (Related: Why you should learn to barter for when SHTF.)


Check out some of the best barter items to stockpile before SHTF:

  • Water
  • Food
  • Medical supplies
  • Sources of heat and light such as matches
  • Hygiene products
  • Feminine products
  • Repair tools
  • Alcohol for wound care and fuel
  • Condoms
  • Salt, sugar and spices
  • Duct tape
  • Plastic bags

You can also barter items that you make yourself, such as homegrown produce or baked goods. If you have a unique skill, you can also trade your labor for things or another person's labor. If you're an accomplished timber-frame carpenter or a professional blacksmith, then you may find people in your area open to bartering. But like tangible goods, the value of labor also rests upon scarcity. The more specialized your skills are, the better your chances of a successful transaction.

Important tips to barter effectively

Here are a few tips to barter effectively:

  • Inspect items. Barter exchanges are final, which means you're stuck with what you got regardless of whether you're satisfied with it or not. Inspect the item first before wrapping up the transaction and make sure that what you offer also meets expectations.
  • Practice at a barter fair. Bartering is a skill that takes time and practice to master. Look up swap meets online or in local classified ads to hone your skill. Walk around on your first visit and check what people are offering. On your second visit, bring along some items and try your hand at bartering.
  • Build a network of allies. Keeping a network of reliable barter buddies will help you avoid scammers.

Bartering is an important survival skill that allows you to secure things such as food and water in the event of economic collapse. Hone your bartering skill by practicing and stockpiling items of value.

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