While your survival preparation kit should contain a comprehensive supply of everything you might need in the case of a serious emergency, it is critical to have a backup plan that includes a stash of barter items just in case STHF.
In prolonged emergencies, you might begin to run out of some supplies, or your kit simply doesn’t include a tool, medicine, or another supply you might not have stocked ahead of time. Some necessities can be difficult to predict before a true emergency strikes.
Your backup plan depends on having small, portable barter items to trade with other survivors for the supplies you need. Having a stockpile of goods to barter can allow you take advantage of the economy that is almost certain to develop among survivors and can make a significant difference in your ability to adapt as your situation unfolds and conditions change.
Choosing Barter Items
The best barter items are those you can stockpile in a moderate quantity, are easy to carry and transport for trading or if you are on the move, and are based on innate value rather than assigned value. The latter is particularly important – cash, the universal bartering tool prior to an emergency, is likely to have little value after disaster strikes because there may no longer be anything backing it and it has no useful qualities of its own in a survival situation. Instead, goods that are in high demand or that can be necessary for survival – such as tools, medicines, and food – are more suitable choices for barter goods. In addition, items that can be stockpiled cheaply prior to an emergency will give you the most bang for your buck, since the expectation is that the value of these goods will skyrocket after a disaster and having more of each will be to your advantage.
Another consideration when choosing items to barter is to look for items that you yourself can use as part of your emergency kit. For example, supplies like food and medicine are excellent choices since they have value to you as well as to other survivors, so that you can choose to use them yourself or trade as your situation warrants.
With those tips in mind, here are five of the best items to stockpile in your emergency kit for bartering:
1) Water Filter – Katadyn Hiker Microfilter
Potable water is one of the resources that is most likely to become scarce shortly after a disaster, so a tool like the Katadyn Hiker Microfilter that can make drinking water from nearly any water source will have a significant value attached to it. This filter is lightweight and portable, making it easy to carry several of them with you – important since you’ll want one to keep for yourself at the end of your trading. In the meantime, having multiple filters with you can allow you to filter large volumes of water rapidly if you are traveling in a group. Critically, the filter is able to be cleaned in the field so that the filter is durable enough to last for months to years of heavy use and can handle relatively dirty water without a pre-filter. Check out our field tested review here.
2) Water Treatment – Potable Aqua
Again capitalizing on the value of potable water following a disaster, Potable Aqua tablets offer a smaller division of currency for trading than a full water filtration system. These tablets are designed to dissolve in one-half quart of water each and purify the water from harmful bacteria in about 30 minutes. The tablets can be traded individually or as a whole bottle (good for 25 quarts of water) to allow for different sizes of trades or for trading with multiple survivors. They are extremely lightweight and portable, plus have the advantage of remaining potent for four years prior to opening the bottle or one year after opening the bottle. Plus, the tablets serve as an excellent backup in case anything happens to your water filter, although they won’t remove particulates from your water.
3) Freeze Dried Food – Mountain House Meal Pouches
Mountain House meal pouches are nutritious, filling, and relatively tasty freeze-dried meals that can last for up to 30 years! The pouches are designed with backpackers in mind, meaning that they are very lightweight and portable, don’t take up much space, and are easy to rehydrate with just a few cups of hot water (and even cold water will work if you let the water sit for longer after mixing). In addition to offering a noteworthy 600 calories per package, the meals are nutritionally balanced and offer much-needed fat and protein that is likely to be in high demand in a survival situation. All of these properties make Mountain House meals a valuable item for bartering with anyone who is short on food. Plus, if you keep a large stockpile, they can supplement your own emergency food supplies in addition to serving as a currency for trade.
4) Hard Alcohol
Liquors and spirits are a readily tradeable item thanks in large part to the demand for alcohol – it has long been a sought-after commodity in places where goods are scarce, as would be the case in a survival situation. In addition to serving as a social lubricant, alcohol can substitute as a painkiller, which can make it a useful supplement for minor medical procedures. Spirits that are over 40% alcohol by volume can also be used to disinfect wounds, while spirits over 60% alcohol by volume can be used as surgical alcohol.
When choosing among alcohols to stockpile, it is typically best to opt for the highest proof liquors you can find. This is not only because of their added disinfectant value, but because higher alcohol content liquors tend to last longer before the alcohol denatures – strong liquors like moonshine last forever, for all practical purposes. Avoid wine and beer, since these expire relatively quickly and are relatively bulky to transport for trading.
5) OTC Medicine
Medicines can be extremely valuable in an emergency situation, since without organized medical care it is possible for normally innocuous ailments – such as cuts, minor allergic reactions, or even colds and the flu – to turn deadly. Since many medications require a prescription to purchase, it is typically necessary when choosing which medications to stockpile to restrict your search to over-the-counter medications. From those, choose medications that address medical issues that are both exceedingly common and could be life-threatening in an emergency. Benadryl, or its generic competitors, stands out as an excellent choice of medication since it can be used to treat otherwise deadly allergic reactions from bee stings or food allergies. Antibiotic ointments, such as Neosporin, are also excellent since these can be used to prevent simple skin cuts from developing dangerous bacterial infections.
The downside to stockpiling medications is that they typically have short shelf lives, on the order of one to two years. This means that if you are stockpiling medicine in your prepper kit, you will need to turn over your supplies each year, and if disaster strikes you will want to trade or use them relatively quickly.
What do you have to trade?
Having a stockpile of goods to barter in your emergency kit can be an important component of your disaster preparedness plan since it allows you to leverage trade among survivors and adapt to a changing situation. Keeping a combination of these barter items, or in the case of medicine and hard liquors, a diversity of different medicines or spirits, can give you more opportunities to trade. For example, if the survivor you are trading with already has food, but is willing to trade for a water filter, having both available plays to your advantage.