10 of the Best Bartering Items if the grid goes down

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Last Updated on December 16, 2020

I have discussed potential risks with bartering in the past that I still feel would be valid, but assuming that barter was the only form of commerce you could use I wanted to write down my thoughts on what I felt would be the best bartering items to have on hand. If you could stock up on prepping items now with an eye toward a future without money, what would be the best items to have on hand for barter with someone else?

If we have an event similar to the nationwide power outage portrayed in American Blackout, there is little doubt that we will eventually have widespread panic, looting, and rioting by people who either don’t care or are driven to criminal behavior because of fear or need.

The duration of the hypothetical scenario in American Blackout was only 10 days, but for events lasting longer as in a societal breakdown caused by an economic collapse, we could be looking at years of chaos. With no formal way to purchase anything using what would at that time be worthless paper, people would need to revert to bartering.

Before I get into that, let me quickly explain what bartering is to those who don’t know. Bartering is simply exchanging goods or services for other goods or services. It is trading without using paper money.

What is bartering?

Bartering items could have value when paper money is worthless.
If the grid goes down, bartering may be how you conduct business.

An example of this is I have a neighbor who has a large and productive garden and he has tons of beautiful vegetables that he grows like nobody’s business. I on the other hand have chickens that lay a good number of eggs each day. He has vegetables and my garden is lagging this year. I have eggs and he doesn’t have any source of protein.

In a barter situation, I could negotiate with him some of my eggs for some of his vegetables. We would both work out an equitable amount of each (vegetables and eggs) and trade. The terms would be up to us and I would be free to set my prices as low or high as I wanted. My neighbor would be able to do the same.

This concept isn’t new and bartering was actually the way people purchased things for a very long time. Bartering continues to this day, but you can’t go into a Wal-Mart and say, “How about I cut your grass for all these groceries?”. Bartering would work best in small communities with people who know each other I think. Of course, outsiders would be able to barter too, but then we get into that risky part of bartering I spoke about in my other post.

Bartering isn’t limited to goods. Services in the form of work or skilled trades can be bartered too. If we had the same grid-down economic collapse scenario I was talking about and my neighbor needed his roof repaired on his house. I could barter my carpentry skills for those vegetables too. One issue I can see coming up quickly in a long term catastrophe would be services of a more personal and physical nature. When you have nothing to trade but your body, I can see very bad things happening and this isn’t a plot from a movie either.

What am saving these bartering items for?

Now, we know what bartering is and how it’s done, but before you start stocking up on items you intend to use for barter, you have to ask yourself what you want to barter for? If you have barter items, the implication is that you would trade these for something you don’t have. If you are already planning to trade for something you don’t have, wouldn’t it make more sense to get that item you want instead of purchasing bartering supplies?

Maybe that doesn’t work for all things and you would rather be safe than sorry. OK, I understand that, but the supplies listed below aren’t probably going to get you big-ticket items. If you plan to barter for guns or ammo, you better have something very valuable to the people you expect to trade with.

  1. Food – This one along with some of the others is a tough one. There will be people without food and I know that decent people will part with something of theirs that you want for food. Maybe if someone is desperate enough, they will barter a weapon for a big chunk of food to feed their family.
  2. Water filters – Clean water is so simple, but immensely important. Disease is one of the quickest killers in any type of natural disaster. People in Haiti quickly succumbed to disease in the quake of 2010 because they had no clean drinking water and sanitation was a major problem. Having some simple water filters like LifeStraw or gravity fed systems like the PointONE could be highly valuable.
  3. Ammo – This probably goes without saying, but ammo will be more valuable than even Gold I think if we really live to see TEOTWAWKI. The supply and pricing is still not back to the levels we enjoyed a couple of years ago. I don’t know if they ever would, but I can always use a little more.
  4. First aid – Antibiotics – Medicine is hard to stock up on unless you have a very understanding doctor. Fortunately, there are sources for antibiotics you can take advantage of now and stock up before the hospitals are overflowing with people.
  5. Toilet Paper – Feminine napkins – One of the first small wins in my quest to convince my wife that stocking up on some things wasn’t crazy. All she had to picture was not having some of life’s necessities on hand and that changed her mind about stocking up. A smarter alternative I think would be something like the Diva Cup that is reusable. Takes up much less space than 20 years of pads…
  6. Candles – Candles are cheap and you can store them just about anywhere and forget about them. I have several boxes of candles in my supplies and these provide light and potentially warmth to someone who has nothing.
  7. Batteries – Another no-brainer. If you have devices like radios, flashlights, walkies-talkies you will want to have batteries on hand. Bonus if these are rechargeable like Sanyo Eneloop.
  8. Propane – Small propane canisters like the kind for camping grills or lanterns are relatively cheap and could make an excellent barter item.
  9. Alcohol – Cigarettes – I don’t know how long cigarettes would store. If you kept them in a freezer they might last longer, but I wouldn’t devote a lot of space to something I can’t use, although I have said that if zombies take over the world I will probably take up smoking again. Alcohol on the other hand has a few uses. Buy small pint bottles and these may enable you to barter for something really needed if all other sources are gone.
  10. BooksResource books and even fiction books. Without our modern distractions, a good book will be welcome to someone who has the time to chill out or who needs to learn something.

What about toiletry items for hygiene and cleaning up? I have heard others talk about that and I am sure someone would want those if the situation were ever so dire that people valued getting clean more than eating or protection but I think that is of limited value.

What other ideas do you have? What if anything are you stocking up on to use as bartering items?

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Freedom-loving American doing what I can to help prepare and inform others. Editor and creator of The Prepper Journal 2013-2017, 2020 -

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Tampons/pads, diapers, and baby formula for sure! And the first two, feminine hygiene products and diapers have good alternative uses too. My mother used feminine napkins when we were kids as temporary bandages for deep wounds requiring a trip to the hosp for stitches.

Pat Henry

Baby formula is a great idea, but it has a more limited usefulness I think. That is unless you have kids who are on formula already. I agree that for someone who is looking to barter and has nursing babies, that will be an excellent idea. Thanks for your comments Barkway!


Bartering – Giving something away in return for something you need. Thin about it. what can you give that someone still alive would need or want? If they haven’t preped they will not be alive. If they have preped they will want or need something they either ran out of or forgot to stock. Most of the items mentioned are obvious and would have been stocked or is something you can’t do without. Best items in my opinion;
You don’t need then but they will want them – bad

Pat Henry

Great ideas Expat! Coffee is another good one. I had lumped that into the food category, but I think for some people that might be a little more valuable than food. At least in the beginning.


Besides the usual given Preps for Barter above, Stock up heavy on Lots of Cigarette Lighters, hand tools, saws, axes, drills, drill bits, garden tools, hoes, weeders, Q-tips, cottonballs, toothpaste, tooth brushes, paperplates, plasticware, papertowels, soap, handsoap, laundry soap, lots of 5 gallon buckets and toilet plungers to use to wash clothes in the buckets, mechanical weighing scales to measure grains, lots of pre-ground coffee vac packed in canning jars, coffee pots, sugar, flour, rice, canning jars, canning lids, propane gas, gasoline, cement and cement blocks, chicken feed, potting soil, PVC pipe,connections and cement, 55 Gal Rain Water catchment drums,… Read more »

Pat Henry

Excellent additions! Thanks for sharing that list theTruthmaster1. I think canning jars and lids would be an awesome idea as well.



I’d keep leisure items for bartering. Cigarettes, liquor, cheap puzzle books, I also keep a big bag of hotel toiletries that my mother-in-law and wife bring home every week. I like to keep a bunch in my bug out bag for personal use on the go and the rest would be for people who want to be able to wash their hair, moisturize, wash themselves and Listerine their mouths. Another thing I keep for personal use and for bartering is bullion cubes. Since my emergency plan is most circumstances involves travelling to my fathers property, I keep those to add… Read more »

Pat Henry

Thanks for the comments Andrew!

Yes, blankets and warm clothes that you no longer need/wear could help someone out who has been displaced in the middle of winter.



You could definitely stock up on feminine products for bartering, but I recommend reusable menstrual products (RuMPs for short) such as cloth pads and menstrual cups. They take some getting used to but can be some of the most valuable items you have on hand for long-term or lifelong disasters. Menstrual cups do wear out after a while (most manufacturers say 10 years at the most) so you would want to have a few on hand for yourself and any other growing people with uteruses who may need them in the future. Cloth pads will last a few years if… Read more »

Pat Henry


I think that is my new favorite acronym! Great suggestions too and I have read about the cups, but don’t have any experience myself with any of those items… The cups seem to be a great idea.



CONDOMS everyone will need protection. They also have many other uses. There is also an ovulation microscope that lasts years as a contraceptive.

Miss Dandelion

One of my strategies has been to become an expert in useful skills that most people don’t know about: natural home building, herbalism, local and wild edibles. I keep a store of fresh seeds from my medicinal herb and edible garden that is always ready to go and become a new garden somewhere else. We can only hope to survive whatever comes…and then after that, survivors will eventually have to start cooperating and create new kinds of societies. I hope that humanity can reach its full potential and not sink into various kinds of despot-ruled feudal societies…

Pat Henry

Thanks for your comments Miss Dandelion,

You and I have the same hopes for what we want to see after any time of event that could put all of your skills into use. I think whatever happens we will have a long hard road of trials before we ever get to something stable and normal again. History is replete with stories of civilizations falling, rampant death, wars and generally horrible conditions. Even in our so called enlightened present, we aren’t immune from the base human instincts that have been around since the dawn of time.



While in the Army during the late fifties to late sixties C rations were a staple. The rations were WWII issue. After the meal I smoked many Phillip Morris/Chesterfield cigarettes 🙂

Pat Henry

Ah, the good ole days when you could still smoke without the guilt and scorn of everyone around you… Things sure have changed haven’t they rangerider?



Oh! how things have changed! Most of my life was spent with communism as the biggest threat to our freedom, to bad no body was listening 🙂 I still smoke, after a 10 year period of not smoking. I have been verbally accosted by the strangest folk on the streets, so now I smoke at home or when walking down a dark alley with no one in sight 🙂 Life goes on and I am so old that all I can say is :screw um 🙂

Big Mike

I think salt and sugar would be a great bartering item. You can cure meats to store them long term. Also paracord has a million uses. Everclear can be used as fuel and an antiseptic.

Pat Henry

Great additions Big Mike! Yes, salt and sugar are also easy to store and last a long time. As for paracord, I have a 1000 foot spool from military surplus that should fit the bill nicely.

Thanks for stopping by.

Sheila Orr

I have been buying, over time, travel size items of toothbrushes (foldable), toothpaste, mouthwash (antiseptic), chapstick, sunscreen, sanitary napkins. These are for barter. I would imagine if you’re desperate enough for something you will barter seriously with even food stores.

Pat Henry

That’s right Sheila and worst case scenario you would have extra on-hand for your family. Thanks for commenting.


farmer phyl

I’m a longtime gardener, with garden skills that could be used for barter. But I have saved very large amounts of open pollinated seed from my garden. They are free to me right now, but in a longterm emergency would be unavailable at any price. I also have lots of bar soap. It takes very little room and stores forever. Maybe getting clean wouldn’t be a priority; but cleaning wounds when antibiotics are not available could be invaluable. And vitamin C. It’s cheap and in large doses helps your body’s natural ability to fight off infection. Certainly, not as good… Read more »


Salt and vinegar. Important for nutrition, home remedies, and cleaning/sanitizing.

Dennis Lundberg

Just a couple of items I would like to touch on…first, remember NEVER TRADE HARD FOR SOFT…those of you who are in barter know what I mean…second, Information is invaluable if the info is first hand and trusted. And last, knowing where you can trade a trade outside of the market is also worth the time and effort…you may not need a ax, but if you had an ax you traded for 5 loaves of bread, to a guy who needs to split 4 cords of fire wood… for a shotgun with 80 rounds of ammo, then by all means… Read more »


Nobody mentioned duct tape which is a staple as far as I’m concearned. The giant bags of baking soda are super cheap and it has uses too many to name including: puts out fires, poultice for stings and bites, toothpaste and odor eliminator. If you live on your own land an outhouse or composting toilet disguised as a tool shed would be useful. Here in Hawaii the moisture is tough on stored items. we bought a couple 30 gal metal trash cans, lined ’em with contractor bags and filled with canned goods and instant coffee and tea. These are buried… Read more »

Doug Linn

Also the little cannisters for the MSR Pocketrocket stoves (and others) and having that as a back up is good as it is lightweight and very small. The large canisters for them are somewhat smaller than the small propane bottles for camp stoves/lights.

Pat Henry

That’s a great idea Doug, thanks for sharing!


A cast Iron skillet and dutch oven are a must. Also a good instruction booklet on digging latrines (a must to prevent disease). Also strike anywhere matches, a steel/flint set up for sparking fires. Various types are available all over the web for cheap and you can start a fire anywhere anytime (almost) with these items. Cheaper than dirt sells lightweight space age blankets that fit almost anywhere and works as good as wool, but take up about 1/8 of the space for around 2 dollars each.

Pat Henry

You would barter away cast iron skillets? Mine are so expensive I am hanging on to them.


Actually I’ve got three of each…so yeah; I’ve got some wiggle room on that.

Jason Bowen

First off Great article! It’s well thought out and practical. One thing to remember is that items don’t have to be expensive now to be invaluable in an emergency. A few more items to stock up on for bartering might include… Duct taped super glue, buckets/gas cans/ ammo boxes/other containers, cleaning supplies and shoes! nobody ever thinks of shoes. When the looting starts I’m stealing boots and socks. sure look at me crazy but a year later I’ll have them and you won’t. Also you can get a few things now and charge small amounts in trade to rent them.… Read more »

Pat Henry

Thank you very much for the comments Jason and you bring up some very good points also. I have thought about shoes or boots for the rest of my family but it’s like pulling teeth to get some women into a sensible pair of shoes that will last…


Been in the prep game for 25 years…and I need to take exception with your EXPERT claim of limited value…though I follow very few of you internet experts, I find it amusing that many of you make the same mistake…YOU SPEAK or WRITE before you know what you are saying. Have you ever been down range? Have you ever been without food and water for 6 days? Have you ever been in a hostile enviroment? If you have, THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE…IF not you need to understand what limited value is and you need to do your homework or… Read more »

Pat Henry

Thank you for your comments iamdlogan and for reading this post. I must first tell you that anytime there is a URL in a comment it is automatically held by our software. This is because I don’t want bad links in my comments that could lead people to spam or sites with viruses. I don’t screen comments as a rule and anyone is free to say what they think about any article on here as long as it is generally civil. If there are links, it just takes me a little time to get around to reading the comment and… Read more »


I have given some thought to what D Lundberg has said and I think they have a fair point. There are many different types of people in this world, some will survive, others will struggle to survive and then there will be those who struggle to grasp the concept that their survival is at stake (it’s like they are brainwashed or indoctrinated to the point they struggle to recognise anything that does not fit their ideological belief). Lipstick, as referenced by D Lundberg, was no doubt grasped at as being symbolic. Many in the description would have already accepted their… Read more »


OK…I know that I should not have impuned your article, but the fact is this: Limited Value is not what you say it is…So let try again without the added facts that have prevented me from expressing my thoughts on YOUR SITE…this needs to be read and understood by preppers everywhere. Let this article be posted please. The following is An extract from the diary of Lieutenant Colonel Mervin Willett Gonin DSO who was among the first British soldiers to liberate Bergen-Belsen in 1945: “I can give no adequate description of the Horror Camp in which my men and myself… Read more »


This….has absolutely to do with Barter. Also, even my somewhat controversial postings have at least been on the topic for the article.
Second, while the dead wont have need of goods, the living will. From food, to ammunition (for hunting or fighting), spare parts for the things that are still functioning, etc.
This article was a very good article, with a lot of applicability to Prepping. For shame.


I just can’t see your “societal breakdown” where apparently nearly everyone is able to survive and barter. What I see is that with an industrial societal breakdown the planet has 7+ billion hunter-gatherers with not enough food or water or heat or mobility or any other necessity to support even one tenth of one percent of the population.

The world completely ENDS no later than when the electricity goes off. For the overwhelming majority there will be nothing to do but die.

Pat Henry

OK, so just give up? Is there nothing left for anyone to do but die? What about the 10 percent who live in your example toktomi? Do you think they would ever trade for something they didn’t have?

Muhammad Yasir

Hi Pat, Its really an interesting article. I am a PhD Student at University of Otago, New Zealand. My PhD research is also inlined with modelling of communities living in catastrophic situations. I was wondering about the possibility of bartering of same commodity in catastrophic events. For example, in grid-down crises, I have solar PV installed on my roof top and my neighbour has wind turbine at his backyard. I have abundant electric power during day time because of sun and nothing at night time, Whereas my neighbour has nothing during day time and abundant power at night (because of… Read more »

Pat Henry

Thank you for the comments and the question Muhammad!

I think the most basic answer is that anything that two people can agree upon to trade would make a potential bartering item. Regarding your specific situation though, why wouldn’t both of you store energy in batteries? That way you could both use power when the source isn’t as prevalent because it has been stored in deep cycle batteries. Both of you are producers that way and perhaps could focus energies on something else.

Muhammad Yasir

We assume that they dont use batteries because of many reasons: firstly, no proper recycling/dumping mechanism of batteries, which actually trigger up the environmental pollution, secondly efficient batteries like lithium ion batteries are expensive (large size), thirdly we talk about catastrophic events where the goal is to help each other through battering,
not to save up for the later use.


First and foremost, thanks for writing an article for public consumption!
I think that a lot of what you said is very much in line with good stuff, but I think spices should be in the top 10. What it would replace, I’m not sure, but the ability to flavor your food would be a HUGE trade good, both because it has morale benefits, and because it is a very lightweight for value item.

Sir Dirty Harry

Vacuum pack many items like cigarettes, vegetable seeds and cigars. Books on Wild Food, Medicinal plants and animal snares will all be useful. Have books or print out on methods of food preservation without refrigeration by smoking, sun dried and salted. Learn how to produce salt from saltwater, how to make a natural water filter, be sure to have flint and steel for fire making, matches get wet and lighters run out of fuel. In a National Crisis, 90% of the population will be dead from disease, bad water and food poisoning. Only the strong will survive because country boys… Read more »


Barter in alcohol as one good item. Something you can hide in your pocket, lasts forever and something that is universally understood. Walking around with a fifth of whiskey is asking for trouble. So my analysis would be a bunch of 200ml glass bottles of Gentleman Jack whiskey and well liked Smirnoff vodka in 200ml glass bottles. Bet you can get a can of chili for a bottle on the street. Otherwise some Everclear for medicinal uses as it is 100% alcohol and burns nicely to sterilize a open wound before sewing or stapling.


In my world view anything worth bartering away is doubly worth keeping except in exceptionally cases. The whole tone of this article seems to be that a person ought to stock up on items that might be useful as barter during a future collapse situation. Ain’t that retarded? Now if you ask me, I would say that anyone who is acquiring goods based on their prospective future commercial value [barter] is being distracted from a more critical need to be acquiring goods and making other preparations based on their probable future value as immediate personal needs for survival. Six months… Read more »

Fr Chuck

M+ Lots of cooking oil. Wood stove, have an extra cord…covered. Perhaps a pipe w. pipe tobacco. Liquor…absolutely…never goes bad.
A doz bottles of honey..medicinal use and also to smear on scraps/cuts. It prevents infection. The LDS published a prep manual: -Amazon books. It’s the best…all-encompassing. cir. 500 pages. Hot item: heirloom seeds.
Stay informed…be safe.
Fr. Chuck

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