If something catastrophic does happen in the near future, paper and/or electronic money will most likely hold no value. You need to have items in your bug out bag that you can use to barter (trading goods without money) as well as bartering skills.
It also helps to have trade skills – mechanic, medic, hunter, teacher, blacksmith, welder, carpenter, engineer, martial arts expert, etc – as well so you can offer services in exchange for items you may need. Keep in mind that whatever glitters isn’t gold – people might try to take advantage of you and your skills/items in a time of crisis.
To be a successful barterer, you have to have something that other people want. You get something you hold of higher value than what you are giving them. It’s basically a win-win situation. You need to make them think that they’re getting the better end of the deal. If someone is desperate, they will be willing to give more in return for what they want. For example, if someone is out of water and you have several bottles in your bug out bag as well as multiple means of purifying other water, make them think you only have one bottle left, and they will probably give you more in return than if you told them you had as much as you really do.
Bartering items fall into two general categories – what people need and what people want a.k.a. necessities and luxuries. The great thing about bartering items is that if you don’t trade them, you can still use them!
1. Water – Potable water, water storage containers and means of making water potable will be the highest demanded items in a crisis situation. Iodine, chlorine, boiling containers (pots, cans, etc.), and filtration systems are all great investments for your bug out bag.
2. Food – Fresh produce, seeds, fresh meat, livestock, canned/preserved goods, etc. Obviously, you won’t want to carry around a baby pig in your bug out bag, but you can carry several hundred seeds without taking up much space or weight. You also might want to keep an eye out while you’re on the move for “targets of opportunity” such as farms or warehouses.
3. Fire-making means – Lighters, matches, emergency candles, flint and steel, and any other fire-making means will prove invaluable in any sort of survival situation. Fire provides heat, light, cooking/boiling abilities, and peace of mind. Without fire, mankind would still be a caveman.
4. Tools – Knives, hatchets, multi-tools, 550 cord, hooks, snares, garden tools, etc are all things can help people get other resources or make other tools, so they will be more valuable than food and water in some circumstances. They also aren’t just a one-time use (such as a can of beans) which also increases their value.
5. Medical items – Pain relievers, disinfectants, antibiotics, and bandages are just the first few things that come to mind. Once we run out of the mass-produced items, we’ll have to start finding remedies in nature. Stocking up on these things now would be a great idea as well as learning medicinal plants found in the wild. If you come across any of those plants, you can use them instead of depleting your packed items.
1. Ammunition – Some of you might think ammunition is a necessity, but once manufacturing of bullets stops, they will become a luxury. Stock up now as much as you can – not only for your personal use but also for bartering. A 25 round box of .22 rifle ammo could very well be worth its weight in gold.
2. Precious metals/jewels – Gold, silver, diamonds, rubies, jade, etc have all been traded since they were discovered. In a survival scenario, however, a ring you paid $1,000 for probably won’t get you $1,000 worth of goods. Copper will also prove surprisingly more valuable because of its multiple uses. Quarters made in 1964 or earlier are 90% silver and 10% copper. They’re actually worth about $4.00 depending on the market price of those metals.
3. Tobacco, alcohol and coffee – No matter what happens in the world, people will still have their vices. Some MREs have instant single serve coffee packets inside them. Bags of tobacco can be bought in most grocery or convenient stores and take up little space or weight in your bug out bag. Bottles of alcohol could end up being too much to stuff in your bug out bag, but it might be a good idea to have a small cache at your bug out location. I also carry a flask of whiskey in my bug out bag for possibly disinfecting wounds or just taking the edge off a stressful day of survival – don’t overindulge though.
4. Toiletries – Toilet paper, soap, tooth paste, floss, hand sanitizer, etc. These are all things that we as a society deem necessary now, but if the world reverts back to older times, we will start performing personal hygiene the way it was done before. In the beginning of the collapse, things such as toilet paper will be in high demand. Knowledge of how to make soap and tooth paste will also mean that you will have a virtually unlimited supply of those things that you will be able to barter with.
Bartering isn’t a skill to wait to use when you need it the most. Since the economic downturn some years ago, bartering has actually started to spring back to life. I suggest trying to barter when you can – flea markets, fish markets, etc. They’re are also several sites where you can barter online.
Who wants to trade?!