Survival basics: 12 Barter skills to learn before SHTF
By Zoey Sky // Feb 23, 2023

You can stock up on items that you can barter with but eventually, you'll run out of space in your stockroom. To maximize the space in your homestead, it's better to learn useful skills for bartering like home repair or sewing.

In a post-SHTF world, people will want to barter with you for other items you may need. (h/t to

Different prepping and survival skills can be used for bartering, but certain ones will be in high demand after a disaster. Here are 12 barter skills you should try developing before SHTF:


Blacksmithing refers to the ability to work with metal. With this skill, you can make and repair essential items and tools.

To practice blacksmithing, you should invest in the following tools:

  • An anvil
  • Fire extinguishers
  • A forge
  • Protective gear (such as safety glasses, a respirator, non-synthetic clothing, steel-toed boots, earplugs and gloves )
  • A vice

After a collapse, you can source metal from non-working vehicles and other abandoned sources of metal.

As a blacksmith, customers will require your services for sharp knives, tools and simple machines.


In a post-SHTF world, communications will be more important than it is right now. When smartphones, landline phones and the internet stops working, people will still want to be able to talk to their loved ones.

If you have a working ham radio, you will be in a good position to provide this essential survival service.

If you are considering comms as a barter skill, learn more about ham radio for preppers. You will also need to study for your technician's exam.

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To provide communications services to survivors of a post-collapse world, you will need:

  • A ham radio
  • Additional radio gear (Antennas, cords, etc.)
  • A way to power your radio

Farming or gardening

The production of food will be even more important in a world without grocery stores.

You can get food for bartering by:

  • Bee-keeping
  • Gardening
  • Keeping chickens
  • Maintaining an orchard
  • Raising livestock

If you want to raise livestock, you should also plan for how you're going to feed your animals after disaster strikes to keep them productive.

After SHTF, homestead livestock may be targeted by looters so you should be prepared to protect your animals with your preferred weapons or firearms.

If you want to start farming or gardening, get tools and supplies like:

  • Fertilizers
  • Garden tools
  • Pest control
  • Seeds

Here are the top 20 crops you can grow for your own use and for bartering:

  1. Beans
  2. Beets
  3. Berries
  4. Cabbage
  5. Carrots
  6. Corn
  7. Cucumbers
  8. Garlic
  9. Herbs
  10. Kale
  11. Lentils
  12. Melons
  13. Onions
  14. Peas
  15. Peppers
  16. Potatoes
  17. Spinach
  18. Squash
  19. Sweet potatoes
  20. Tomatoes

Foraging, fishing and hunting

Aside from growing crops or raising animals for food, you can also learn how to acquire it from the land around you.

While it's beneficial to know how to hunt and fish, you also need to know how to butcher meat. When SHTF, these skills will ensure that you can feed your family. You can use the excess for bartering.

Foraging is another important food-gathering skill. Being able to safely identify edible vegetation and fungi can add much-needed variety to your diet, especially if you are unable to grow crops on your property.

If you plan to hunt, fish or forage, stockpile the following items

  • Ammo
  • Bows and arrows
  • Fishing gear
  • Fletching supplies
  • Knives

Food preservation

When you're living in a world without electricity, refrigeration and fully stocked grocery stores, being able to preserve food for the long term is a crucial skill. (Related: Preparing to THRIVE in the post-collapse economy: Scavenging, barter, off-grid food production and rescuing survivors.)

There are many methods for food preservation, such as canning, drying, fermenting and pickling. If you also have a farm or home garden, preserve your crops for future use or bartering.

If you intend to learn all about food preservation, stock up on supplies like:

  • Canning jars
  • Lids
  • Supplies to package dried foods

Gun repair

Gunsmiths aren't as common in the modern world, but after a large-scale disaster, they will be in high demand.

When the world is in chaos, your firearm could be the only thing that can protect you from those who wish to do you harm. Before SHTF, you will need to be able to repair your weapons.

If gunsmithing is something you want to master, begin collecting these tools and supplies:

  • Allen wrenches
  • Bench blocks
  • Bench vise
  • Gunsmithing hammers
  • Gunsmithing punches
  • Gunsmithing screwdrivers
  • Gun vise or cradle


When society collapses, people will still need to get haircuts and other maintenance.

If things aren't as catastrophic, people will still want to look presentable for events like job interviews or funerals.

As a hairdresser, you will need:

  • Capes
  • A cutting comb
  • Good shears
  • Sanitizers
  • Sharpeners
  • A straight razor

Home repair

After a survival event like a natural disaster, many homes may sustain some damage and require repairs. This means carpentry, roofing and other types of repair skills will still be in demand.

If this is one of the barter skills that you want to master, stock up on the following items:

  • Hardware
  • Manual tools
  • Tar
  • Other home-repair essentials

Medical skills

Being able to keep sick or injured people alive is one of the most valuable skills that you can barter with after a survival scenario.

After an event causes large-scale panic and destruction, people who are doctors, nurses, medics and professional EMTs will be in high demand.

If you already possess these medical skills, focus on getting essential supplies such as:

  • Diagnostic tools
  • Essential medications
  • Manual equipment
  • Wound care items


While delivering babies is a medical skill, it could be considered separate from general medical skills. Unless pregnancies are high-risk, they should not be treated as an illness even after SHTF.

Pregnancies are natural and some assistance from a person skilled in midwifery can help greatly reduce the risk of maternal death.

If you are a practicing midwife, you will want to stock up on the following items:

  • Sanitation supplies
  • Various tools like forceps, hemostats, scissors and speculums

Sewing and needlecraft

Do your hobbies include crocheting, knitting, sewing or mending? Sewing and other fabric and fiber skills will be in demand once people can no longer buy new clothes.

If you can sew clothes from scratch, you'll have plenty of customers.

Buying new clothes might sound frivolous after society collapses, but in a post-SHTF world, children will continue to grow and need new clothes in the right sizes. Your clothes will also need to be replaced once you have to work more physically than you currently do.

Before SHTF, stock up on the following items:

  • Fasteners
  • Hooks
  • Manual sewing tools
  • Needles
  • Scissors
  • Textiles
  • Thread
  • Yarn

Shoe repair

Cobbler shops aren't as common in the U.S. now, but after a disaster, the ability to repair shoes will be in high demand.

Preppers and non-preppers alike will want to make their shoes last longer when it's no longer possible to buy new boots and shoes.

If you want to add shoe repair to your survival skills, stock up on these tools:

  • A hand-crank shoe repair machine
  • Leather working tools
  • Material for soles and heels

Learning a barter skill or two and stocking up on the necessary tools ensures that you can get more supplies by bartering after SHTF.

Watch the video below for a beginner's guide on how to crochet.

This video is from the Crash and Trash channel on

More related stories:

Prepper skills: How to barter effectively after SHTF.

Why you should learn to barter for when SHTF.

The barter and trade economic system of a SHTF economy; interview of a survivor who made it through.

Sources include:

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