Useful Skills And Items For Bartering After SHTF

There’s no way of telling quite how different life after a major disaster or serious collapse of society could be, but humans are remarkably resilient, so life would certainly go on.

One thing is certain, though: in the aftermath of a widespread disaster or the collapse of civil society as we know it, you’ll want to have useful skills and items that you can barter or trade with. In this article, I’d like to discuss some of the most useful items you can stockpile now, as well as skills you can develop that will serve you well should you ever need them.

First, let’s start with 5 indispensable skills that you could develop, any one of which will guarantee that your skills will be in high demand in a post-SHTF scenario of just about any scale.

  1. First aid and basic emergency medical care; think knowing how to stabilize a broken limb pending proper care, how to reduce or stop traumatic bleeding, how and when to apply sutures to a wound, etc. If you’re really inclined, you could go all the way and become a medic, a practicing nurse, or a doctor or surgeon. In general, medical training and knowhow are always in demand after a disaster or major catastrophe. There are never enough doctors or medics when you need them, so by developing some of those skills now, you can ensure that you’ll have skills that are in high-demand if you ever have need of them.
  2. Mechanical knowledge; knowing how things work, how they are taken apart, and how to put them back together or repair them with whatever you have on hand, is never more useful than after TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It). Study up on how to repair generators, farm equipment, even cars (they’ll be around for a while, even in the case of most super horrid events). Even being able to fix and repair clocks could serve to be a useful skill, get creative.
  3. Gunsmithing, repair and ammunition loading; take a moment to think about how many gunsmiths you know. Did you come back with a long list of names?Now think about the number of people you know who own guns and various other firearms, and think about how many firearms are going to be in use in a post-SHTF situation. While you don’t necessarily need to turn full arms-dealer, being able to repair various guns and maybe reload some ammunition would be useful skills to have indeed.
  4. Weaving, tailoring, sewing and mending; while these skills are on the more homely side of things, don’t let that fool you. Clothing wears out over time, especially when worn for hard labor, and everyone appreciates a good pair of socks. Holes will need patched, socks will need darned, and eventually new clothing will need to be made.
  5. Butchering animals; this might take a little while to show its merit, but if you’ve got the guts and knowhow to slaughter and butcher a variety of animals for consumption, demand for your skills will gradually return and rise as society starts to regulate again. Even during the hardest of times, if you can find work as a butcher it is usually sufficient to allow you to keep food on the table, as you can at least trade your skills as a butcher for a suitable share of the meat, if nothing else.

In addition to those 5 suggestions of useful skills you might choose to acquire, there are also many items that can be stockpiled with relative ease for use in trade and barter.

  1. Cigarettes, cigars, loose tobacco; supplies may be limited or altogether unavailable after whatever catastrophe has occurred, so tobacco products would become even morevaluable than they already are. Tobacco doesn’t keep forever, but properly stored loose tobacco, cigarettes or cigars can last several years.
  2. Lighters, matches, and/or butane fuel; if electricity grids are down for an extended period of time, or permanently, fire will become integral to daily life. A stockpile of lighters, matches and particularly fuel for refilling lighters, can provide you with a good barter item should you need it.
  3. Alcohol; in the form of beer, wine, champagne, and various hard liquors, alcohol ranks alongside tobacco for long-term popularity and usefulness as a trade and barter item. If you’re so inclined, you could also learn to produce alcoholic beverages, but that requires both the knowhow and the supplies, and may make you the target of potentially violent criminals who compete as producers / suppliers. By contrast, a case or two of fine wine or aged whiskey can just be nice to have on hand in case you need to trade for something or wish to celebrate a very special occasion.
  4. Older (pre-1964) US silver coins; from dimes and quarters to half-dollars and silver dollars, pre-1964 US coins are comprised of 90% silver content.Because of their various sizes and weights, old US coins are perfect for barter and trade in a post-SHTF scenario or after a major, debilitating disaster.
  5. Non-GMO, organic or heirloom vegetable seeds;after things settle down following a disaster or serious collapse of civilization, farming will be a top priority for anyone who wants to survive. Having heirloom variety, non-GMO seeds is another way to ensure that you have something valuable to trade and barter with if you ever need it.
  6. Sugar, salt, pepper, and other spices; many spices are quite affordable these days, but spices, sugar, even salt were much scarcer commodities traditionally.Stocking up on these kitchen staples now can provide you with desirable commodities for trade or barter, as well as for use in your own cooking and meals.
  7. Spare tools and basic hardware; think along the lines of hammers, saws, wrenches, nails, screws and other basic odds and ends. Even a few pairs of decent work gloves could prove to be a useful barter item, but nails, hammers and other basic tools will definitely be in high demand post-SHTF.


This article has been written by Gaia Rady for Survivopedia.

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  • I think that only one in a thousand people are serious preppers, that’s going to leave them sitting ducks. Most people are too lazy to prep even they believe a tragedy can or will come. It’s sort of like the country today, those lazy bastards will expect someone else to take care of them, even if they have to steal from the people that prepared.

    • Seriously?? The people who are prepared (preppers) are also the most heavily armed, and belong to organizations that will join together to dismiss the lazy ones

      • If you’re the only prepper family in your neighborhood and 1,000 hungry neighbors break through your door to take your food and supplies, how many do you think you can kill before they get to you? 10? 20? 50? 100? Sooner or later you will be brought down through force of numbers even if you do have superior firepower.

        • The tip is to not blab your mouth about being a pepper. The second people know that and shtf and if they know were you live they will go after you first for hand outs then to steal your gear. SO don’t tell people you are Not even your close friends.

  • The common criminals will be a problem when it happens and they can be dealt with the traditional way. The problem that will be predominant, in my opinion, is the more normal hungry folks arriving at your door with a hand out for help. Similar to those folks will be the hungry but not criminal folks stealing things for their family to survive. My suggestion is to have a list of things you need to be accomplished around the place in order to “help” them. If you don’t help them they may be back when you least expect. In the Bible it speaks of this and says they must pay back 7 times and must give up all that they have so make it easy on them if you can by giving them a way out.

    • As part of our prep we created and stored small amounts of food to provide to neighbors who come- a-knocking on our door. Rather then turn them away we will give them a small heat sealed bag of beans and rice and tell them to go away or face a more violent reception if they return.

      • They will return and they will bring others with them. It’s better to lie to them and make them think you also have nothing than to string them along. Hungry people become animals when they see their children about to starve!

  • Under “skills” I note that you don’t mention “combat skills,” something which will be in MAJOR demand when criminals and others of their ilk band together the better to steal and rob. Oversight, or some other reason?

    • The combat skills are very important, but we shared the skills and items that people can use for bartering after SHTF.

  • Regarding the 5 indispensable skills, while I agree these will most certainly be needed, I believe there are two that should be at the top of the list. First skill learned if you do not already possess it should be in leadership. In a SHTF situation, people will need to depend on each other, there is just no way a person can have all of the skills and talents needed to cover every situation which will arise. The more people in a survival group the greater the number of skill sets that will exist. The problem is, the larger the number of people thrown into a survival situation where fear and uncertainty will be high, the more difficult it will be ensure the group will work together as a cohesive team towards common goals and not develop an “everyone for themselves” mentality. This is where the skill of leadership comes in. There will be those people who belief that they know more or better than everyone else and that this gives them the right to lead. As well, there will be those who just like to hear the sounds of their own voices and will loudly proclaim their right to lead. But good leaders are not born, they are made. Good leaders know to surround themselves with people who have the strong skill sets necessary to get the job done. Good leaders are trained to motivate these people who are at the top of their skill sets to work for the common good of all, to come together as one cohesive team. Without good leadership, in a SHTF situation I believe most people will have the “everyone for themselves” mentality, except for in cases such as looting when a mod mentality takes over. My advice is to take the time to study as many leadership techniques as you can, such as; negotiating, problem resolution, goal setting, and team building if you plan on surviving alongside others.

    The second most indispensable skill I would suggest having is very similar to what is listed here as Mechanical knowledge, but I would take it just one step further up and call it Engineering. Knowing how any individual item works and the ability to repair them will certainly be a most valuable skill, but those people who will be in greatest demand will be those who understand how the individual items can be used together to solve problems. Simply stated, the engineer is the person who can design mechanical devices to solve problems. Since the SHTF situation will most likely leave us living in a society where all of the modern comforts will be gone, i.e. electricity, communication, automobiles, etc., the skills to learn would be those used before these comforts where developed. There are many resources on the internet and many books available which show in detail how our ancestors engineered devices to help them solve their problems. My advice is to take the time to study these techniques, create a notebook filled with them and/or purchase a book or two on the subject.

    One last comment, and this is in regards to some comments left. I agree whole hearted with the suggestion to have a list of things you need to be accomplished around the place in order to help those who have not planned, trading labor for food was a very common practice our ancestors relied on. As well, the idea of creating small amounts of food to provide to neighbors rather then turn them away, such as a small heat sealed bag of beans and rice is another excellent idea. Having extra batteries and flashlights, lighters, and other small inexpensive items would also be a good idea. Another item which can be shared at very low to no cost is knowledge. Teaching how to filter water, start a fire, find or build shelter will also be methods of helping our neighbors in need.

    • Well written thought & informational article. I hope U’re in my area as I believe U
      are or have been a leader. I believe U were an officer & will function well in that
      capacity. The only problem is the panic, fear & uncontrollable, selfish trouble makers U have in all emergency, life threating circumstances, complicated by the
      likely hood they will be armed & will not be concerned about anyones’ survival
      but their own.

    • I would add one more to your list. Even a leader needs a strong 2nd banana. These can be created but are of extreme value. You will find anyone with experience in business or military knows the value of having the person to bounce ideas and concerns and who can fill in when the leader needs down time or just sleep.

  • In the book “Lucifers Hammer” the main character was partially handicapped and he knew that in order to be taken in by any group, he had to have a bargaining chip, which was the first book of 4 of the “How Things Work”. He knew that society would turn savage and that in order to rebuild, knowledge would be a rare commodity. I bought that same 4 books when American Express offered them shortly after I read the book. He also took all his books, placed them in plastic baggies and put them in his septic tank as he knew no one would search there for valuables.

  • Another book suggested that from all appearances, your group should look as if it has nothing to take. Stay modest, hide all items of survival needs and look like you also could use a handout.

  • Some of the above comments are dead on! I have been in areas that have been destroyed by war, weather and mismanagement by politicians. Good people, who are starving, will do terrible things. Isn’t it better to help them a bit than to shoot them down like dogs? Particularly since the latter action may bring a mob that will immerse you, no matter how many you are willing, and able, to kill. You can see this in the Middle East on a daily basis. I was raised in the backwoods to look for a helping hand on the end of my arm. I do everything I can to prepare for any eventuality. That said, you cannot imagine the horror that is present when TSHTF. Thank God most have never seen it and hopefully, never will. What reaction do you think a pile of dead and wounded in front of your hide out will create? What will you do then? Unless you are mobile and can move along as things transpire, you are truly trapped by your preparations which make you a great big bullseye. Keep operational security ever in mind.. Better think things through before the event. I certainly advocate weapons, the ability to use them effectively and to maintain them and a supply of ammunition. But they are, at best, a means to deter some felons, You cannot depend on shooting your way out of Dodge.

    • Thank you Sir for this grounding info, I myself pray that we do not have to see it either.
      We are being pushed and pushed and it’s for a reason, so I do not want to aid those who are pushing by craving a chance to take out the ‘zombies’ as regretfully so many seem to want to do. I have no need to see fellow Citizens in bad shape in need for their family’s.
      It will be a no win situation for all. I do hope to see more from you and all of the other posters who have replyed with such common sence advice for us.
      If you don’t live in a defendable, tightnit neighborhood with folk who are ‘onboard’, you best act as if you are in Worse shape than those around you.
      When the stores quickly get stripped and their neighbors are fleeced of everything, the hoards are going to the country sides for the cattle, poultry houses’, pig farms and so on.
      Just you live 50 miles away from a town/city – that’s only a 2 gallons of gas trip. now if it’s found out you are heavly defending something, you will have multitudes of folks all around you very soon. Just something to think about. Repent,
      Pray for Peace, Plan for hard times.

    • While all these comments cover areas and things that you will need, the original post was dead on point. Crazies, starving, criminals, and the rest all need skills they don’t have. You become a valuable resource if you have skills.
      I don’t worry much because I can weld, have built for years, am a good mechanic, was a small arms armorer in the military, and can grow food on a concrete block.
      I can trade a skill or lessons on how to do something for anything I may need.
      I would stress learning a skill!

      • Learning new skills is always been enjoyable. Especially in our current situation. How do proceed ?
        Jeff McConnell

        • How to learn a skill or skills? Think basic living. Just as in prepping period. Once the store bought stuff is used up and broke. What will be needed. Look to those skills and then set about finding out how to learn them…be they from someone with that experience or the internet or where ever. Personally, I’m not mechanically inclined, so I am not prepping with gadgets AND not even guns. In my family, I’m known for breaking more than fixing. lol NO, my skills are in the healing arts both physical and mental…so I have been learning about what is available locally to forage. Although not totally confident, I teach many primitive (read as pioneer or native) skills which will be needed. Someone going through my home would not find much to steal. And yes, I do know about leadership and can teach that too. I am well marinated and seasoned in life so many would not see my value. In this too, I might survive better than those ‘hordes’ or crazies. I mean only ‘crazies’ would eat weeds right? 😉

  • I am reticent about bartering. What I have put away is for my survival. I won’t tell you what I have because I hinted that people should prep and have be laughed at being an alarmist. Think of Katrina, Fukashima and last week where they tried to move 400,000 East Indians because of a hurricane.
    Bartering, to me, is advertising that I have something you need or want. Base human nature will kick in for people who did not prepare.
    My thoughts, loose lips, sink ships.

    • It’s not just about bartering your supplies but your skills and services for someone else’s. When two hook up because together they make 3. It’s a win win situation which works.

    • Regarding what john had said about keeping quiet about what you have, loose lips sink ships but on the other hand helping others is only right. To an extent however. How do you accomplish both?

  • fire power, overwhelming firepower, water, supreme tenacity, no morale compass

  • May I suggest that, along with your basic tool kit, you would include a hand powered, “egg-beater” type drill and a basic set of drill bits. My tools include this, a brace and bit set, a “Yankee” screwdriver, and several other manually powered hand tools. These can be found at various websites that supply wood worker (they can be expensive purchased that way) or at flea markets, antique shops, etc. (much cheaper this way). These tools will allow you to use wooden pegs as fasteners when building after the power goes out (thereby saving nails and screws), will drill holes in plastic and light metal, and will give you a great bartering advantage by your being able to complete work others can not. All manual handtools will be at a premium after the electrical power stops.

  • Defining a particular region for the food choices of these types
    is not at all possible. After the feasts, the plates would have
    absorbed the gravy or sauces and remnants of the feast would be embedded into the
    soft dough. Beverages, breads, desserts, main courses, salads, and dressings – there was a Tupperware recipe for every part of a meal.

  • Thank you for your timely and wise advise.These are dangerous times and and we need to think of life differantly than we have ever known before. The more we consider, the better we can plan. Thanks, I want to be prepared mentally and physically and spiritually. The more I can be organized the better. I feel responsible for my grown children who feel that nothing bad will happen. How did I give them this impression on life?

    • they got that way I believe by them being cottled,everything will be taken care of for them no matter fosters non-self relience

  • Another good skill is mechanical watch/clock repair.

  • The best skills are the ones that can restore civilization. Mechanical and engineering, medical, horticulture and agricultural.Food preservation,preparation.Sanitation. People all need to eat, drink water, and get rid of waste. Next is a roof, climate control and pest control.

  • Great thoughts, also the mobility of supplies & personnel is primary. Having caches on route to your other retreats is a must. Sometimes dividing up is a good idea, sometimes remaining a solid unit is better. We would send out scouts to make sure route, caches, and retreat site are safe, and report back to unit. Mobility plan a must !

  • How truly sad that we have become such a death loving nation. A killer nation.
    A baby killing nation. And then we try to put sanctions on other countries who are doing much of the same as we are…only we’ve spread our killer attitude and filth around the whole world then complain when others hate us!!

    We want to “put a boot in everyone’s ass”. America has come a very long way down into the sewer pit. Yet there are still good people, perhaps very few who are willing to help others. Not merely kill them off. Does anyone here really know what it feels like to take the life of another human being – created in God’s image?
    Have we become so hardener that we can so easily kill someone without any remorse or conscience?

    Perhaps there will be very many people looking for a handout for their children and family. We lived through such times when the government was throwing people off their farm land – much like today with Agenda 21 and so many other “agenda’s” and Executive Orders — and putting them into makeshift camps.
    And o jobs. We’ve had hard times before. Hard times are nothing new for many of the people today.

    How easy it has become for American’s to want to kill and destroy. As a death defining nation – we will certainly, without a doubt, reap what we have sown.


  • Blacksmith will be a very needed skill.

  • You guys are way out there. Your average good people will still be good people. You will have something they want, so you will put them in your chain of command, give them a job to do and compensate them well. They will “Follow the Leader” so to speak and YOU will be that leader. Go here to see more on this.