June 24, 2017

Skills and Items for Bartering

Bartering Skills

Sometimes finding the currency or items both parties find valuable is the hardest part. Once that is complete, a fair trade isn’t a difficult task. It’s not just items that can be bartered; often skills are much more valuable. Listed below are some skillsets that could be very useful in a mid to long term survival situation.

Food Services
Using cast iron cookware, Dutch ovens or other methods of cooking not used widely today.
Food storage/preservation, canning, dehydrating, smoking
Foraging/wild crafting
Hunting and fishing
Making cheese
Brew master
Farm/ranch hand

Teaching self-defense; from shooting to hand-to-hand
Reloading ammo
Security guard
Defense planner, fortifying a home or small area
Teach situational awareness

General Construction
General handyman
Mechanic; fixing cars, generators, small engines
Electronics repair
Wood working
Tool and die maker
Locksmith both traditional and someone who knows how to use picks (legally of course)
Well driller
Water collection and purification
Yarn Work; sewing, knitting, darning, crocheting
Leather worker
Candle maker
Glass maker
Woodland management; coppicing
Lumber maker
Brick maker
Knife maker
Pottery maker
Making soap
Alternative energy; setting up solar panels, wind turbines, making biodiesel and distilling alcohol for fuel
HAM Radio operator
Papermaker, for writing and toilet paper
Chimney sweep
Firewood collector

Animal Services
Animal husbandry
Bee keeping
Tending milk or egg producing animals
Dog trainer
Aquaponics (raising fish)

Medical/first aid skills
Basic first aid and CPR training
Alternative and Complementary Medicine such as; Reflexology, Reiki, Hypnosis, Meditation (thanks Jim)

Child Services


Items to Barter


Here is a list of barter items that I have compiled over the years. Some were suggestions from various forums, some are my ideas. I want to make a comment up front on two items that people always make negative comments on anytime bartering is brought up.

First is liquor. I have no problem with people not wanting to store it for barter. On the other hand, it will hold value and no one is saying you have to sell to everyone. You can decide whom you sell to.

The second is guns and ammo. Every time bartering is brought up, someone says something like “I would never barter ammo or guns. They could be used against me.” While this is technically a true statement, as with liquor, you get to decide to whom you barter with. Only trade or sell guns or ammo to people you know and trust. It will be a help to them and could provide food or protection for the community.

This list could be used for filling holes in your current preps as well as being stored for barter. I’m sure I missed some, so post them in the comments and I’ll add them to the list.

I have read about bartering in countries whose economies have collapsed and in countries who were struggling after conflict and war. Some of the things they sought were the pleasantries to make them feel human again; perfume, jewelry etc. This was, of course, after their five basic needs were met. My point is that just because it’s not an item that is NEEDED for survival, that doesn’t mean it won’t be worth keeping for barter.

Tea bags
Powdered additives such as Gatorade or Kool Aid
Water purifiers

Any shelf stable food, rice, wheat, beans
Canning jars
Canning lids
Paraffin wax
Fishing line
Snare wire
Foil Packets of baking active dry yeast
Cooking grates any size and shape
Aluminum foil
Canned and Dried Food
Coffee filters, which can be used for water filters
Cooking Oil
Eating & Cooking utensils
Salt, spices
Vegetable seeds

Bows and arrows
Pocket knives
Pellets (pellet gun)

Sleeping bags
Plywood, shingles and roofing materials
Multiple screw sizes
Misc tools (trade outright or rent)

Kerosene (and cheap lanterns)
Coleman Fuel
Varied sizes of propane bottles
Ferrocerium Rods
Zippo lighter and lighter fluid
Bic lighters
Solar battery chargers
Flint & steel

Personal care
Toilet paper
Famine hygiene products
Dental floss
Safety pins
Disposable diapers
Disposable razors
Packets of laundry soap
Materials to make a clothes line to hang out washing on
Wash boards
Chap stick
Feminine products
Nail clippers
cigarettes, I wasn’t going to put this on the list. cigarettes do go stale, but as an ex smoker, even stale smokes would be valuable to someone needing a smnoke.

Quick clot combat gauze
Small bottles Rubbing alcohol
Hydrogen peroxide
Antibiotic ointment tubes
Eye drops
Athletes foot spray
Salt tablets
Tweezers and scissors
Alcohol such as isopropyl or rubbing
Band-Aids of all sizes
Disposable gloves
Super glue
Herbs, essential oils and the supplies to make salves and tinctures. (thanks Countrymom)

Reading glasses
Small sewing kits
Rain gear
Rolls of string
Baling twine
550 paracord,
Embroidery thread
Sewing needles
Knitting yarn and needles
Nuts and bolts
Screws and nails
Zip lock bags
Garbage Bags
Hand saws and axes of any type
Bicycle tire repair kits.
All different types of files for sharpening
Crowbars of all sizes
Leather work gloves
Fire extinguishers
Hacksaw blades
Garden tools of any type
Plastic and metal tubs of any size or shape (many uses)
Hand air pump
Wire brushes
Solar yard lights (can also be charged in daytime and used indoors for lighting at night)
Toilet plungers (the heavy duty types to agitate/wash clothes in a bucket)
Twine, rope and steel wire
Wood chisels
Roofing nails
Zip ties (all sizes and lengths)
Rope, string, cordage
Duct tape
Glue of all kinds
Rubber bands
Silicon spray
Windup radio
Bug repellent
Knives, hatchets, axes
Magnifying glasses
Nails and screws
Non-electric hand-tools
Pencils and sharpeners
Playing cards or dice for games
Pocket-sized New Testaments
Simple water filters
Toilet paper
Eye glass repair kits
Gold and silver
Fishing tackle
Books on all subjects, from how to, educational, technical, novels and even coloring books. As well as sheets of paper and magnifying glasses. (Thanks Jerry)
Gold and Silver coins; they will have their place. While true that some won’t know the value, there will be enough around that do to make these useful. Keep in mind that unless you’re making a large purchase, silver might be easier to trade then gold.

Cloth diapers
Baby clothes
Yarn and knitting needles or crochet hooks
Shoes and laces
Socks and underwear
Winter coats and rain gear
Gloves such as work, garden and winter
Shoe glue

The last item I’ll mention is time. Whether you offer yours in trade for something, or someone who has a skill you do not have offers theirs, time is a valuable commodity.

If you see one I missed, mention it in the comments and I’ll add it to the list.



  1. AWESOME List Chris! Thanks.
    I’ll certainly have to update mine now, you have several things on there I haven’t thought of. I agree about alcohol. I plan to offer services as a Chaplain if things go sour, even more so than I do now. So, I contemplated stocking whiskey for a while before I added some to my preps.
    One thing in the Skills area – Alternative and Complementary Medicine such as; Reflexology, Reiki, Hypnosis, Meditation, and a multitude of other disciplines and practices. Whether you currently believe in them or not I believe you’ll see these things brought out and used more often when desperate times appear and what we’ve come to know as medicine in the last 150 years is no longer readily available (IMHO).
    Certainly knowledge of local plants, trees and fauna will be important for food and medicine.
    I hadn’t thought of cigarettes going stale. Good Point. Do you think they would keep longer if you vacuum packed them, maybe with an oxygen absorber?

    • Chris Ray says:

      I added the alternative medicine disciplines, thanks for mentioning them. As for cigarettes going stale, I really don’t know if Mylar and O2 absorbers would help. I know with cigars they put them in a humidor to keep them fresh, so maybe it has more to do with the humidity. Just a guess though.

      • Well, I did a little research on my lunch hour. It seems that tobacco refuses to be stored very long in any form. One guy on a forum says he had some 15 years old in a collectors tin that he smoked and was great. Hmmm! I guess my problem is, I don’t smoke, ha ha. Though I do help people quit.
        Anyway, looks like the best bet is to store it in a vacuum with a potato peel or orange peel to add moisture. I did find one person that suggested taking silica gel and soaking it in water then vacuum sealing it with the tobacco. Sounds reasonable.
        It seems cigarettes come in sealed containers. REALLY? That cheap foil stuff? That should seal the moisture in. I looked up humidor on Wikipedia and had to laugh at the part that suggests that if tobacco isn’t stored under 75 degrees F that tobacco worms may hatch. Hmmm!!! Barter potential – a little lessened.
        I guess we could vacuum seal it, put it in a cache and bury in the shade down here in the south. I have seeds (tiny little buggers).
        I also looked at the 2012 LDS Preparedness Manual. Only one reference to tobacco, QUIT! My Recommendation, stock more whiskey. Keeps longer :)
        Oh, here’s an idea I’m using. Some suggest that bleach plastic bottles only survive a couple of years at most. So, I found some old gallon wine bottles and transferred the bleach to them.

  2. countrymom says:

    Herbs, essential oils and the supplies to make salves and tinctures.

  3. chris,
    except for pocket size new testaments, i didn’t see books listed. survival books, technical, how-to, sign language, educational. being a member of the handyman club of america, i bought a lot of their encyclopedia that provide step-by-step instruction on a lot of subjects, including gardening. even books for entertainment. coloring books and crayons for the kids to keep them occupied. i would think blank or lined paper would be a useful commodity. magnifying glasses as well

    • Chris Ray says:

      Excellent catch Jerry, I should have noticed that myself. You’re right, books are a must, even if you just “lent” them out instead of bartered.

    • Uncle Mike says:

      I would suggest a couple of additions for books.
      Gardening and especially about saving seeds for next year.
      Some plants are Bienial, Carrots for example, and need a couple of seasons to grow seed. There may be tricks to get them to seed the first year.

  4. Margaret Kiemele says:

    It impressed me that basically you are listing (which is excellent) all the “old-fashioned” skills and items that modern, technology has dismissed or rendered void. It is a complete reversal back. My mom turns 95 this July and her generation would have great ideas and practical suggestions. I am quite excited that my husband has the ability to bend coat hangers and find water – he has helped people find water for wells and traced old water lines through thick layers of concrete. If ever stuck – hopefully that is a skill that could be put to use.
    OUr next purchase will be a Big Berky!
    I have been picking up packages of baby wipes – they would work for bathing as well has sanitary purposes and if unopened – will stay moist a long time. Even if dried out – would still be like toilet paper and not so bulky to store!

    • Margaret I wouldn’t attempt to store the diaper wipes for any length of time as most have alcohol in them and either they dry out of turn a ‘sour’ smell. You can pick up bolts of flannel to make into wash cloths and a paper towel roll cut in half, put in a diaper wipe box with 1/2 c water and 1/4 c baby wash would handle the little darlin’s bottom or a dirty face. We make our own ‘diaper wipes’ here as we need them. Diaper wipes purchased do not degrade and usually don’t stay fresh for much more than 6 mo to 1 yr under ideal conditions. We have had packs less than a year old that are like bricks–dried out and smell awful :(

    • Chris Ray says:

      You’re correct, many of the skills that I added are things our parents or grandparents knew how to do, and technology has taken their place.

      Congrats on the Berkey!

  5. GREAT list Chris,

    I liked the list a lot especially the skills section. You have several items that I had not thought of. I would caution storing up Hydrogen peroxide because it can go bad in as little as six months. Also, I would encourage people to add more items for kids to the barter list such as pacifiers. PLEASE do not store baby formula for barter because it will start to grow some very nasty things such as botchulism after its experation date. Chris also recently did a post on barter items (http://liferegardless.org/barter-anyone) and I am interested in what you think about my list.

    • Chris Ray says:

      I wasn’t aware Hydrogen peroxide had such a short shelf life.
      Your list is pretty thorough, good job.

  6. Just found your sight and am delighted with it. I have a “private” Facebook page where several of us share ideas and one of our members shared a link to your
    page. I do notice a few items that I have that are not listed: Charcoal, Sterno and Denatured Alchohol all for fuel sources. Several of us on our Facebook page are also saving sawdust (carpenter and we are building a new home) to form fire starters with old candles, etc.

    I don’t recall if I saw a suture kit/ medical stapler, but I’m happy to have added it to my supplies recently, and I don’t recall see pet food or protective masks, but maybe I missed them.

    I’m looking forward to exploring your sight more. Keep up the good work and God bless you.

    • Hi Candy,

      I’m glad your friend shared the link to the site. You’ve added some good additions. The sawdust could also be used in a composting toilet.

  7. Great list… but one thing huge thing missing (unless I didn’t see it)… MENTAL health professionals! We often think about physical needs with regards to a survival situation, but Professional Counseling skills will be SO necessary, perhaps on a daily basis! :-) So professional therapists of any type … GREAT skill to have.

    • Chris Ray says:

      oh nice add, thank you. I have written on the subject before, but didn’t think to add it as a barter skill.

  8. Due to time limits I must confess I just skimmed your list, (which i think is very well done) .Couple of thing came to mind as trade/barter items, you can pick up cheap whet-stones for knife sharpening, and trade them or use them, a good skill to barter would be the ability to sharpen a knife. BTY how many people do you know that can make homemade black powder? Plus for folks who like primitive how about flint knapping? You can make a wicked sharp knife out of a chunk of glass.
    I liked the suggestion for baby wipes, my wife does house cleaning with them, and they are cheap at the dollar store !
    Be Blessed

    • Chris Ray says:

      Whet-stones are a good idea, as is knife sharpening. With the advent of those sharpeners where you just run the blade through, many people don’t know how to use a whet-stone. It is a skill I know a little about, but don’t have mastered…yet.

  9. CreeksideFarmstead says:

    Great list. Just wanted to add another skill that might be in demand. That of a Farrier. I learned this trade of trimming and shoeing horses years ago and still stay busy at it.
    Horses just might be back in demand for more than pleasure riding again someday.

  10. All great comments and a great article! I’m glad you added “chemist” to the list. I will never claim to be one but I am a pyro at heart. I love fireworks and make my own. Having this knowledge I can make black powder that rivals most commerical powders. When smokeless powders are no longer available for reloading, black powder will be the go to. Not only will this knowledge be good for security but It can be used to produce it for barter. Not only that, fireworks are great for entertainment, celebrations and would be great for a society regaining civility. So I would add BP to the list.

  11. Charles Lewis says:

    Some additional professionals I would consider are physician assistants, dental hygienists, and chiropractors.
    Good list!

  12. Pattens for making clothes althouganh you can disasemble

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