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Almost everyone in America has watched as southeast Texas bears the brunt of Hurricane Harvey. At the same time, disasters like Harvey happen with some regularity.  In the aftermath of disaster, barter skills can save you time and trouble.  Or executed poorly, they can lead to your death.

We all face the risk of one or more natural disasters:  wildfires, earthquakes, hurricanes, earthquakes or tornadoes to name a few.  Most people in today’s world have a hard time overcoming their normalcy bias when it comes to disasters.  Sadly, most would rather daydream about winning the lottery than prepare for a little adversity in their lives.

Obviously, even a modicum of emergency preparations will serve most folks well.  Those who utterly fail to prepare set themselves up to become refugees.  Or worse.  Yes, preparations help, even if only to help the prepared safely escape with critical items before their home floods to the roof or burns to the ground.

For those who think they have thought of everything, Mr. Murphy will pay them a visit.  On the other hand, the rest of us know we will miss something and prepare for that eventuality.  Much as even the best of us try to cover all our bases, it can be impossible to prepare for everything.  We’ll all need something, if for nothing more than comfort or convenience.  Bartering can fill that niche when your hard cash runs out, or when others don’t want cash.

What not to barter…

First off, do not barter anything that can later be used against you.  Seems like most folks think small arms ammo will always make a great post-disaster currency, but not so much.  Desperate people do desperate things.  That box of .22s you trade today might come back to you at 1200 fps tomorrow.  So don’t buy stuff with ammo – not even .22s.

Another point: never trade away a gun.  Even to Neighbor Dave.  You do not want him – or someone else – to use it to shoot you in the back a week later.

Top barter currency…

While lots of folks will want guns and ammo following an emergency, what else can you sock away to trade besides guns and ammo?  That’s easy.  The big three nearly universal barter currencies consist of fuel, grain alcohol and sugar.

Probably most folks will need fuel.  Have you noticed the lines at gas stations in the aftermath of emergencies?  Gasoline will become precious for running generators.  Storing a couple of extra five gallon containers of (treated) gasoline will provide your family options.  Because you can use it – or you can trade it for favors or overlooked needs.

Do you live in colder climates?  Store a couple of extra five gallon containers of kerosene.  Since people like to stay warm, those with kerosene heaters will trade for more fuel once their own supplies run dry.  Also, by adding a quart of Marvel Mystery Oil for every twenty gallons of kerosene, it will fuel most diesel engines.

Once again, with your own kerosene heater, you can burn that extra fuel yourself or trade it away for last-minute needs.  That’s another win-win!

Also, grain alcohol makes a nice barter commodity.  Even better, it stores easily and lasts a long time.  With one in eight Americans supposedly alcoholics, the market for booze runs wide and deep.  A bottle of decent whiskey or vodka might facilitate a very favorable deal for you and yours.  At the same time, a bottle of cheap swill might do the same for someone a little more desperate.  A word of caution:  don’t let the alcoholics know you have more booze back at the homestead.  Otherwise, their desire to trade may turn into a desire to take.

In a pinch, grain alcohol like vodka also works as fuel in some cases.

Sugar makes up the final barter commodity.  Because of the versatility of uses, sugar should find a place in any prudent preparedness plan.  People use it as a sweetener of drinks, foods and treats.  Old-timers will recall how the government rationed sugar in World War II.  More significantly, sugar and a little yeast will make grain alcohol.  Once again, you can trade grain alcohol for just about anything.

Bartering goodwill

Sometimes, wise and prudent men will barter for goodwill in return.  Everyone needs water.  Almost everyone prefers drinking water that will not make them sick.  Giving away clean, potable water may help make you a very popular and well-liked individual in your neighborhood following an emergency.

Even in a place like today’s southeast Texas, with floodwater everywhere, finding drinkable water can pose challenges.  Through forethought and planning, you can spend a few dollars now to ensure your family has clean water.

A person can store water for emergencies.  Cases of bottled water fetch less than $4 in good times.  For those living in arid regions, storing water in barrels can cost a little more.

Alternatively, surface water or precipitation can be filtered or chemically disinfected to make it safe to drink.  Filtration costs more, but yields very high quality, very pure water.   Chemically disinfecting water can serve to very cost effectively kill the nasty bugs that make people sick.

“How cost effective?” you ask.  A $4 one-pound package of 68% calcium hypochlorite crystals will disinfect up to 10,000 gallons of untreated water.  The more commonly available 50% calcium hypochlorite crystals will disinfect thousands of gallons as well.

10,000 gallons of drinkable water will earn you a lot of goodwill from young and old alike.  It will do so without the risk to you or your family as would trading away a firearm or ammunition.

In short, a little planning and preparing can help keep your family safe and (more) comfortable following a natural disaster.  Better yet, it can help keep you out of a refugee center.  And for those things you’ve forgotten, some fuel or a bottle or two of vodka can fill those gaps quite nicely.  Without risking someone shooting you in the back with ammo you foolishly traded away.

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  1. I remember someone asking a fighter what the best things for bartering was during the Serb/Croat war..
    #1 Toilet paper
    #2 cigarettes
    #3 liquor

    • Agree whole-heartedly with this. Luxury items will cause almost every woman to tell her other half he’d better not come back without ________ (fill in the blank with items such as toothpaste, tampons, shampoo, hair conditioner, deodorant, laundry soap, beauty bar, a decent bra– the list is almost endless ad certainly worth having some of on hand for barter purposes). Some men would even kill for a bar of soap if momma said their B-O was pretty ripe.

    • I would like to swap cigarettes to simply tobacco products. Smokers will dip and dippers will smoke. Having some wintergreen stashed away will go along way when your team leader burned through his.

      I don’t dip or smoke but I brought dip with me anyway, lighters are a good thing to have too. cigs aren’t much fun without something to light it with.

  2. You’re telling people to store gasoline? Do you have any freaking clue how dangerous it is to keep large quantities of gas in your house? You’re basically storing a crate of dynamite.

    I think I’ll take my chances trading the guns and ammo. Body armor doesn’t work so well against explosions.

    • Yeah, I’d think kerosene would be at least slightly less suicidal and/or doomed to failure (gas doesn’t keep very well for a petroleum product). Denatured alcohol in large quantities (for cost; pure grain alcohol would be even better) would be pretty useful stuff all around, too; good for cooking, cleaning, medical, degreasing, fuel for modern automobiles, and even as coolant for machining aluminum. Petrol products generally aren’t useful for nearly as wide a range, unless they’re WD40. Kerosene comes close, though.

      Savvy readers should note that the entire list is comprised of energy sources (petroleum fuel, sugar, grain alcohol). There’s a lot of wisdom in that approach, even if the list itself is lacking. Being capable of producing those items is what’s needed beyond a week or two, though. It’s not a survival fact, but a political one. A guy who has the nitric acid on hand to produce biodiesel from soy/etc crops or the illegal still to produce fuel-grade ethanol is poised to be quite successful in the very situation facing Texas if the current fuel situation deteriorates badly & lasts for a month or more (it won’t)

      • If you’re using ethanol as as coolant for machining aluminum, note that is very *flammable*, and an ethanol fire has a nearly invisible flame, so take care with it…

    • Long-term storage of gasoline?
      Nope. I only keep as much as I need to run the lawnmower for the month. The large tanks I filled in anticipation of that giant mischievous bunny who tromped through Texas the other day will now go into the car. I’ve no intention of trying to hold onto it through the winter – limited shelf life on gas…

      • Upgrading your gas take with an extra several gallons of capacity and armor isn’t a bad idea. If you desperately need gas for your generator, the car probably isn’t going anywhere and you have the extra gallons just for the purpose of siphoning it.

        Also, out of sight, out of mind, less likely to be stolen.

    • I own seven cars plus a lawnmower, all filled with gasoline. Guess my house is just waiting to explode.

  3. Um, salt would probably be better than sugar. Sugar is a treat, salt is essential for seasoning and preserving meat when there is no power.

    • I could see doing both. They certainly are cheap enough. That said I would think salt having a way better shelf life too.

      The oddest one I will add to the list is 5 gallon buckets with lids. With some creativity you can get into a lot of spots where having a bucket or jug is handy.

        • Barn, please. 10 – 20 Jerry cans filled with ethanol free gasoline with fuel stabilizer out in the garage is nothing. Either run 5 gallons at a time periodically through the mower or vehicle and replenish.

    • “Um, salt would probably be better than sugar. Sugar is a treat, salt is essential for seasoning and preserving meat when there is no power.”

      I don’t agree.

      Yes, you need *some* salt, a few pounds, maybe 20 or so if you salt preserve, will last a family a year.

      Granular sugar is not just a treat, it’s a concentrated source of carbohydrate that when stored dry, has a nearly *unlimited* shelf life. And you can hide it from others when dissolved in water.

      “No food here, just some water…”

      Table sugar dissolved in water has a light straw-yellow color to it, high-fructose corn syrup dissolves crystal-clear in color.

      Spike sugar stored in water with a tiny bit of sodium sulfate to inhibit fermentation, don’t if you are fermenting for distillation…

  4. May be a little slower than chemicals but Berkey water filters are great.

    The lake water that was your Houston front yard will be cleaned by these. I once had to run swamp water through a Berkey. I removed all the particulates I could, and dumped the water in. A while later I had safe drinking water.

    • Forget the nasty tasting iodine. A cheap half gallon of pure chlorine bleach from the local Walmart will purify a lot if water. Eight drops per gallon in clear water and sixteen if cloudy. Let it sit for a couple of hours. Buy it ahead of time.

      • Shelf life is short on liquid bleach. You can effectively make beach with calcium hypochlorite and use it to barter with.

        • Note that calcium hypochlorite is sold dry in tablet form in buckets as swimming pool chlorine.

          Currently in Florida, a 40 lb. pail of stabilized chlorine tablets is about 90 bucks…

  5. Not a bad list. Counting on being “popular” with your neighbors is a poor bet. 100% in agreement about never trading guns/ammo…

  6. And don’t trade in guns for promised security and protection. Historical events have proved the protection arrives too late, if at all.

  7. Another critical and inexpensive barter item: kitchen matches and/or butane lighters.

    Rounding out the list: chlorine bleach (either powdered or liquid). You can use chlorine bleach (greatly diluted with ample quantities of water) to disinfect wounds. And of course you can add a small amount of chlorine bleach to questionable water to kill bacteria and viruses. (I have my doubts that chlorine bleach will kill protozoa such as giardia and cryptosporidium.)

      • In terms of taste, I think I would rather drink chlorinated water over iodinated water. (Note: I am a water snob and hate nasty water where you can taste chlorine, iodine, iron, or anything else.)

      • Have fun with the iodine allergy and cyst infestations. Boil-purification after micron-filtering is the only guarantee of anything, and even then I’d be dropping some bleach in to stew if I planned to keep it around at room temp for very long. Even better would be to start converting all treated water to either beer or liquor, since it’s A) effective, and B) is probably the best shot at making the hell of an indefinite collapse bearable.

        The other fun bit of water purification that (as far as I know) there is no practical solution for, is chemical pollution, of which there is certain to be a shit-load of for people who are having to source water from developed areas. Yummy nitrate fertilizer, pesticide, wood-treatment, and petroleum chemicals coursing through the watershed unless you know where to get it & have access. Knowing how to put together a still to separate these compounds is likely a useful skill, but I’d still put it behind knowing how to put together a functional sewage treatment plant (which is way more important than just about anything if you hope to have some semblance of civilization for more than a couple weeks)

  8. And again no mention of iodine tablets. Most people need to drink disinfected water. It’s easier than wasting fuel boiling drinking water.

    • “Boil” water without fuel, but with science & the 3C’s; container, condenser, collector!

      Plus you can add extra science with beer-can reflectors!

      And for essential post-SHTF lulz, inform friends & neighbors their donated water was recycled from beer-cans too. Had to be done, before they got warm!

  9. A carton of aluminized mylar emergency blankets (“space blankets”) won’t take up much room and could be very much in demand in colder climates. This is a secondary item, to be sure, but cheap and indefinitely storable as long as you don’t put them to bake in your attic.

  10. Don’t forget useful skills. Canning, preserving, etc. provided as a service for a percentage of the product. You’re useful to have around and aren’t known to have a large stash of shiny desirable stuff.

    It’s like being popular with benefits. 🙂

    • Yup. I do a lot of canning this time of year.
      Down to my last two cases of tuna.
      Two years ago me and four other families canned 1,000 pounds over memorial weekend.

  11. When I was in the oilfield, alot of the guys were buying gold and silver. They would ask me if I wanted in on it and I’d always say no. I was buying ammo. If I needed gold and silver, ammo can get it for me. Gold and silver is worthless in the long run of survival.

    • Strictly speaking; no, gold & silver are not necessary. But tell that to eons-worth of countless dead men who reached for gold instead of food/fuel/floatation.

      But as time progresses, it will be harder to find people who want gold instead of bullets or booze, because the greedy/lazy/misguided/pimps either die or diversify.

    • I have some friends who swear gold is the ultimate prepper buy.
      I ask who would buy it, and they look at me like I’m speaking Martian. “Everybody!”
      Then I ask them what it would be good for, and that’s when it actually hits them. In an EOTWAWKI situation, gold is worthless until a stable economic system is up and running. Their money is better spent on what they will need until that happens.
      There are, as several have pointed out, other things that could be on the list. I agree, don’t give away guns or ammo (that includes lowers that, a few years ago, were touted as excellent barter items).
      Gas or kerosene are extremely short term items, and the noise of an engine running it will alert the scavengers.
      There’s actually a lot of thought that goes into prepping, or at least there should be.

  12. Instead of gasoline, I have two 80 gallon propane bottles. That stuff stores forever.
    I converted my generator to run on propane.

    • FWIW, I converted an old 360cid Wagoneer to run on LP, and ran a PTO off the transfercase since it had a trashed front differential. It never had a working fuel gauge either, so I was used to running out of gas =D

      It seemed to work a lot better than the 350 conversion I did afterwards, which had something to do with the 360/TH400 making it’s grunt down around 1800rpm, rather than 3k for the GM motors. The AMC motor held compression better than the 350, but not by much. They both had about 200k miles on them.

  13. Did none of you see the documentary Mad Max II: The Road Warrior? You’re supposed to stockpile guns so you can saunter up to the guys hoarded fuel, and shout “Just walk away” over a megaphone while wearing a hockey mask & assless chaps. Stockpile enough, and you end up the leader of an empire powered by breastmilk and governed via Thunderdome.

    • “Stockpile enough, and you end up the leader of an empire powered by breastmilk and governed via Thunderdome.”

      I probably wouldn’t mind Tina Turner’s legs wrapped around me… 🙂

  14. I guess having a GoBag with a water treatment filtration filter is a good idea if I need to trade good water for something. Also have several different options for starting a fire and cooking options and clothes for my climate. Oh, and machete, three or more days of food for two and a canoe if water exit is necessary. There might be some unnamed weapons and ammo in there also. Biggest issue is the dog has never been in a canoe. Wife can paddle. I also live within a mile of a major river so if not a flood issue I can get to islands or isolate ourselves in the house if not forced out by a Harvey type flood.

    • Liquor is flammable and could be used to set you on fire or burn down your domicile. Beer / wine / liquor could give someone enough liquid courage to attack and seriously injure or kill you. So booze is out.

      Cigarettes could be used as a time delay fuse plus the other person could kill you out of spite when they get cancer from the cigarettes. So cigarettes are out.

      Coffee could be poisoned so the other person won’t take it in trade. So coffee’s out.

      Any other ideas?

      • Also, looters could pose as rescue workers and children could have suicide bombs strapped to them. Anyone operating a transmitter could be Chinese controlled media tricking Americans into thinking it’s safe to come out. Lock yourself in your bomb shelter and don’t open up under any circumstances until all supplies are exhausted.

    • They do have an expiration date, they’re not 100% effective, and do you want to explain to the angry man why the condom you bartered him didn’t work? Best to add condoms to the do not barter list too.

    • No, no, no. You can’t plan on having an eight ball around for bartering because it’ll be gone after the first party.

    • You can’t plan on having coke around for bartering because it’ll be gone after the first party.

  15. If you are that fearful of bartering with people in your own neighborhood whom you know and trust then you have much bigger problems than a few rounds of miscellaneous ammo could ever bring. Think about it.

    • The people in my neighborhood vote demoncrap and you think I trust them? (I know they vote demoncrap because the ’08 election I made the news by being the only person in my precinct who didn’t vote demoncrap for prez.)

  16. This is a poorly thought out article. Only guns and ammo can be used against you? So someone can’t use a petroleum or alcohol based fuel or even a drinking alcohol to burn your house down, or douse you with it and light you on fire? Or, power a car and run you over/down? Of course they can. So, you’d better not barter flammable things either.

    Further, you can’t trust the person to not shoot you with the ammo or burn you with the flammable items, but they’re going to trust you that the edible/drinkable item you’re trading them is safe to eat / not poisoned?

    Lastly, even if you don’t barter your ammo away, your trading partner can barter whatever non-ammo item you gave them for ammo from someone else and then use that ammo on you. Or maybe they’ll use the food item you bartered to feed someone in exchange for killing you. So, you’d better not barter your food either.

    It seems like Mr. Boch should refrain from bartering and stay hidden in an underground bunker out in the woods since clearly no one will be able trust each other enough to barter anything.

    • In an EOTWAWKI situation, barter will be the only way to get what you need.
      It must be nice for you, having a bunker you can hunker down in for the rest of your natural life, but most of us aren’t that fortunate.
      For those of us who aren’t in your shoes, life has risks (in fact, even for you, life has risks). We need to deal with those risks as best as we can.
      Planning is essential. You have, evidently, been fortunate enough to plan to live for an extended time on your own, or with a select few others, without running short of needed items for a long time. Good for you. The rest of us, living with finite resources, have to plan for the eventuality of the necessity to barter.
      But thanks for your input.

      • You seem to have entirely misunderstood my comment. Mr. Boch’s argument is completely preposterous. The same argument he makes against bartering ammo & guns can be applied to pretty much anything that could be bartered. Including the items he advocates for. My comment clearly demonstrated that. Almost anything could be used against you in some manner or fashion. So if that’s his criteria for what to barter, he shouldn’t be bartering. Hence the suggestion he hide in a hidden bunker to avoid all the untrustworthy people (which is apparently everyone).

        Personally, I don’t subscribe to his theory. It doesn’t make any sense. I would suggest that who you’re bartering with matters, not so much what you’re bartering. As to the rest of your comment, I don’t have a bunker. I don’t have the level of planning and preparation you’re attempting to give me credit for. It would be nice, but if I were to survive whatever incident brought about TEOTWAWKI I would expect to be bartering and that ammo will be a defacto currency.

  17. I’ve lived through several hurricanes, a couple wildfires, mudslides, and even some pretty major earthquakes. The best “preps” are 1) a big truck or van that will hold your most valuable possessions as you drive to a safe city and 2) cash to pay for food and lodging when you get there. Stay there where things like food, water, and all the conveniences of civilized life are on the shelves. Come home after civilization is restored. Natural disasters are always contained within a relatively small area. If you can drive for 3 or 4 hours, you are usually safe. If your house is smashed by the wind, drowned under flood water, or burned to the ground, at least you and your family aren’t in it.

    In the aftermath there is no need to stay in the “s…t” and barter anything. You can call your insurance agent from your hotel room. Within a few days you can drive back into town to claim your FEMA trailer and begin the process of rebuilding after essentials like food, water, and power become available again.

    If you believe in TEOTWAWKI (I don’t…it’s an event that has never happened in all of human history), then go ahead and stock up on whatever you think you might trade for the food that won’t exist after 300 million people strip the supermarkets like locusts stripping a field of corn. In my opinion, there is no prepping for such an event. It would be so unpredictable, violent, and tragic that no amount of ammo or cigarettes would get you through it. You can’t trade anything for food that doesn’t exist. You can’t shoot your neighbor to take the food he doesn’t have. You can’t hide enough food to get you through the chaos and violence. You can’t hold off the dozens, hundreds, or thousands of starving and desperate people who come to your door because they heard a “rumor” you had food. TEOTWAWKI makes for great movies and TV shows but if you seriously think you are preparing for such an event, you’re wasting your money and kidding yourself. Better to “prep” by accumulating “money” to “barter” for things like retirement, college for your kids, your daughter’s wedding, etc. Those things may actually happen someday.

  18. Even adding “fuel saver” treatments to gasoline does FA these days. You can thank the Greenies for that, who insisted that Ethanol (up to 10%) be added to gas.

    Besides the gas turning gummy after 2-3yrs, now with ethanol you often end up with water in the tank.

    I don’t know the chemistry behind it or if it’s an evaporation+moisture exchange that takes place, but it happened to me with 3x5gal tanks of gas I was storing for emergencies (here in N.Houston) and a covered generator. My 6.5k generator is still out of action.

  19. “Also, by adding a quart of Marvel Mystery Oil for every twenty gallons of kerosene, it will fuel most diesel engines”

    Not if you want to keep it running for very long…

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