SHTF bartering dos and don’ts
By Virgilio Marin // Oct 07, 2020

Bartering after SHTF comes with a lot of risks. As the reality of the survival situation sets in, looting and deception will become rife while survivors grow accustomed to violence.


If you’re forced to barter when SHTF, keep in mind the following do’s and don’ts. (h/t to

Don’t bring unnecessary items

The people you barter with will be naturally curious about what else you have. In fact, you're likely curious about the same thing. Therefore, you should only bring the bare necessities and refrain from acting like you're holding out on them.

Do keep your bug-out location hidden

Bartering is not a meeting of friends that have your best interest in mind. Where you live and how you’ve gotten to your meeting place should be kept private. If the other party asks you where you’re bugging out, then all the more reason you shouldn’t trust him no matter how friendly he might seem.

Don’t dress to impress

Appearance matters. If you don’t look like everyone else, other survivors might become suspicious of you, making you a target. Study the people that you might encounter during the meet-up. If they look a little rough and thin, then wearing clean clothes or making your hair look good is likely a bad idea.

Do study the area

It’s important to familiarize yourself with the area around where you’re doing the trade. That means studying the terrain, the groups of survivors living there and the best routes. This should help you hatch an escape plan and anticipate potential hitches.

Blend in and avoid taking a direct route as it's easy for someone to follow you. Bartering in places that are not so hidden might seem like the safest approach, but if other people see two parties trading, you both become targets for robbery.

Don't barter by yourself

Bring someone with you whenever you’re going bartering. You don’t know what could happen during a trade, so having a buddy or two will help you defend yourself in case things go wrong.

In addition, it should be a cause for alarm if you’re told to come alone. Communicate with the person and set the terms of the trade. If you fail to reach an agreement, then it’s best to call off the barter.

Do have something for self-defense

Preppers are already aware of the importance of arming oneself, that said it’s still a point worth hammering home. Your weapons will be key to your survival especially when entering a high-risk situation.

Don’t appear too hostile

It’s important not to appear overly hostile as that might rattle the other party. A good rule of thumb is to keep your weapons hidden but accessible.

In major trades, however, there might be ground rules that require you to be searched for weapons. This is usually done to provide a measure of safety in cases where people might be dealing with someone untrustworthy. (Related: Prepping to barter when SHTF: What skills to learn and items to stockpile.)

Do run a background check

You should be wary of the people you barter with. Do some research on the bartering community and establish a network of reliable contacts. They can keep you updated on who’s blacklisted and vice versa.

Don’t trade counterfeit items

Trading counterfeit or adulterated goods ruins your reputation and precludes the possibility of future trades. You can brag about your product as long as it holds up. Otherwise, refrain from making any promises.

Inspect items properly by looking for the following indicators:

  • Broken seals
  • Tape or other signs that appear the product is resealed
  • Small holes flimsily patched over
  • Absent labels or labels that don’t look right
  • Rare item offered at an unreasonably low price

Bartering entails a lot of prepping as it comes with a lot of risks. Strategize and consider the tips above to keep yourself out of danger.

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