10 Rules for Trading in Long Term Survival Scenarios

Picture of Selco


I am Selco and I am from the Balkan region, and as some of you may know it was hell here from 92-95, anyway, for 1 whole year I lived and survived in a city WITHOUT: electricity, fuel, running water, food distribution, without any kind of organized law or government. The city was surrounded for 1 year and it actually was a real SHTF situation. Our allies were our enemies from one day to the next. Today I’m prepared and share my experience on this blog.

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All of us rely on our skills when SHTF. So we all hope that we can cover all of major skills that can lead us trough all basic needs in order to survive. So we choose to learn lot of things, how to fight , how to can, how to grow food, how to heal people. And we are buying equipment and learn things.

We choose different approaches, someone chooses to learn just basics from one skill, or someone chooses to learn one particular skill in depth. Like to be very good in growing food when SHTF.

But most of the people take trading and bartering in long term survival scenarios for granted. Most of the people see trading like scenes from the movies. So there is some kind of accepted picture that man gonna be able to go out with bag of potatoes for example and trade it for something, for batteries or whatever.

Or there is gonna be something like trading place, where you can go and check what is on offer there.

It is actually strange how lot of things are covered good at lot of places on forums and blogs when it comes to some skills and equipment, but when it comes to trading it is accepted more or less that it is common sense that it is gonna be easy to trade things.

When SHTF we all going to trade things, no matter how great we are prepared, because it is gonna be way of living, one of the few ways of obtaining the things we need, especially for long term survival.

It makes sense to think today about trading when SHTF. It can be major source of resources and provide for your living in hard times, and if you prepare carefully and act smart when SHTF, you can live much better than other folks around you.

Because differences between regions in the world some things about trading can not apply everywhere, just like advice about which weapon you should have.

But some things are common everywhere, just like you can say that shot in the head can kill you, no matter what kind of gun we are talking about.

So here are some things to keep in mind.

1.SHTF (real SHTF) = no law anymore

When you are taking your time today and think about being trader when SHTF, you need to stop for a moment and accept the fact that there is no law when SHTF.

After you accept that fact, only then start with thinking how you can improve your role as a trader in collapsed world. You can see what I store for trading in my supply list in course area. What you pick for trading depends on many things I also mention later in this article.

The point here is that you have to really understand how drastically things change when there is no law. It is hard to imagine but you look at life from whole different angle and from that angle you have to approach trading.

2. Look around you, today

Some common sense again. When people struggle to survive they gonna need everything. But use common sense. So there is no too much sense in storing something that can be found easily around you.

3. Small things, always

Whatever you trade, and whenever you trade do only with small things and small portions. For example you are not offering 5 liters of alcohol, you are offering ½ liter of alcohol. And thats it. Do you have right bottles for that? Why are you doing this? Other people might not take your life because it is not worth half liter of alcohol, but for more, or when they think that you have more at your home it is maybe worth.

Also it is much easier to go somewhere and carry with you 50 flints for trade than to go and carry 10 liters of fuel.

4. You wanna be big trader? Dont

If you have some big plan to do very well when SHTF and you store whole bunch of interesting things you need to keep absolutely low profile. So if you want to be big trader that means that nobody outside your house can know that you have whole bunch of things for trade.

Only thing that is standing between lot of nasty people and you and your storage is fact that you are not interesting for them. You can say that you are very good armed and prepared, and that you have friends with you, and that they are armed too.

I will tell you that sooner or later someone will come with more friends and more arms and you are dead and your stuff gone.

So stay low. You can not be anything like „big trader“ for other people around you. Whatever you have to trade you are gonna need to have some kind of smart strategy to trade / distribute that. Watch your ego too. Having resources means power, but showing that power gets you killed.

5. Middle man- golden solution

For best results in trading over longer period of time, you need to be something like „middle man“ in process of trading, not a guy who owns things. And of course this means that people need to think that you are only middle man, not a man who actually has things.

So if you are prepared for trading and you have lot of different things to trade, you can not go and offer things as yours, you need to be the guy who can obtain things.

If you have 1000 lighters for trade, and SHTF tomorrow, and after a month you realize that lighters have good price for trade, and you want to go and offer lighters, best solution is to be something like a man who knows a guy who has lighters for trade. So when you walk with few lighters in your pocket and trade them, they are „not yours“.

You are acting as a guy who has information where something can be found for a trade, you can „go there“ and find things for trade.

6. Basic security rules

Again and again, you need to be not interesting, so common sense again about security of trading:

  • Never trade in or in front of your house
  • When you trade with unknown people, always watch carefully if someone is following you on your way home
  • No matter how great deal you can make never do too much trading with one person in short period of time (for example, do not trade 10 liters of fuel 3 times at week with same person, or in the same street)
  • Make compromise. Trading with known people increases risk because known people know where to come if they conclude that you have lot of interesting things at home, on the other side trading with unknown people has risks too, because you do not know them.
  • I never trade bigger amounts of things, or some really interesting things with folks from my really close neighborhood unless I trust them 100%, which I usually dont. If I need to trade something bigger and interesting I take risk and go in other parts of city and do trade with people who do not know where I live.

7. Pricing, value of things

It can be very specific depending on the regions what things will have more value, and what lower. You may think that food will have biggest value, but there is a difference from what will be always wanted and what will have BIGGEST value. So yes, probably you will be able to trade food always for something usable, but better idea is maybe to have some interesting valuable things that YOU can trade for food.

  • Sources of light and energy: lamps, batteries, candles, burning cubes (paraffin cubes for starting fire), lightsticks, flints, solar chargers, fuel…
  • Always have things stored that people in your region use in everyday socializing rituals.

You may think that when SHTF people habits gonna be erased and everything connected to that will be stripped to bare simple survival living, basic food and water intake. Yes, for great number of the people it was like that, but reason was that because they did not have these social / comfort things stored, or they did not have enough items to trade for them. If they could they would have got these comfort things.

What that meant in my case, people here drink coffee… a lot, 3-4 times per day, and most of the folks smoke cigarettes or tobacco. Drinking the coffee is more like ritual where good friends, or family sit down and have some special time.

When SHTF people were in hard situation of course, and some habits or rituals from normal life gain even much more importance. I mean when everything falls apart around you, to have some special moment with your family with coffee becomes even much more important.

As a result, coffee was very valuable. I mean very very valuable. Even some poor substitutes for coffee were very important and valuable. Same was with cigarettes. So depending where you live, check for those things, and have it in your storage. It can be coffee, cigarettes, tea, beer…

Have some kind of system in your storage to know what things you use for yourself, or for trading. For example you store food for yourself and your family only, but you store great number of batteries for yourself and for trading too.

8. Charity

There is no golden rule about trading process, other than those security measures that I already mentioned. But few more things to have in mind.

Charity in good times is good, charity when SHTF is wrong and dangerous. I know I disagree here with one big survival blogger but my advice is never do real charity when SHTF. I mean it is crazy if you give things away for free if others struggle to survive. What do they think?

This guy has a lot so we get what we can and then more even if that means taking with force. You can give things to people but it can not look like charity.

You need to get something if you give something. If you do real charity and word go around, you are done. I saw this happening several times. Even people everyone thinks who are always good went out to “convince” charitable guys to give them something and this ended up very bad sometimes.

If you see your kids starve to death but this one guy has food but is not giving it to you what do you do? Exactly…

9. Scams

Of course always expect scams, people will do lot of wrong things in order to get things, plaster in baby food is only one example from my time (they take out half baby food, stuff plaster in there and cover it to make it look like full).

I know how to make 1 kg coffee with just 20 % of coffee and 80 % of other stuff, and it looks and smells like real coffee, 90 percent of people will not notice difference, bad is that that mixture screws up people’s blood pressure really bad. That’s one example.

So common sense is to trade with „unchecked“ persons only for „canned“ or sealed things. If man gives you half bag of powdered milk for something, you only have his word that he did not mixed that with something in order to make it more heavy.

Different dried plants mixed with tobacco and sold as a tobacco, different seeds grinded with small amounts of coffee and sold as areal coffee, alcohol… I have more examples of this in my course.

10. Pick the right moment for trading

Value of things changed during my year in war, depending of lot of things like entering of goods in area, rumors and word on the street, state of black market or simply security situation, so in first month pack of batteries were worth maybe 5 kilos of flour, but in third month it was worth 15 kilos of flour.

Or another good example would be that candles were worth more in first few months of SHTF then after that. Example would be that people find some substitute for light in house like oil lamps, and also realize to have light in every room is just unnecessary luxury.

Watch carefully for rumors and word on the street. I mean do not go and trade some of your precious stuff for few gas masks just because someone told you on the street that you gonna need them really hard. Luckily he is knowing someone who has few of them of course.

Word on the street or rumors will work for you, but also against you and there will be moments when people or groups of people produce specific news in order to gain something or sell something.

This is basic advice for trading during long term survival scenarios.

How do you prepare for trading part of SHTF?

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80 Responses

  1. Great article. How about Ammunition? or tools? I remember reading in your past articles that you or someone else was refilling people’s lighter with a propane tank and a adapter as a trade?

    Also when you trade do you go in pairs or alone? What do you do if during a trade process the other party tries to rip you off or try to rob you? Do you have a partner that watches from a distance with a long range rifle?

    1. Of course, ammunition was always useful to have in greater amounts, tools too. In my case refilling the lighter was cool thing because very soon simple everyday things, small things became hard to get, so to have option to refill those cheap lighters was great.
      It was compromise of staying low profile and to be safe and secure, so to have somebody with you is good idea, but not to go in big group and be visible. If someone try to rob you then everything was possible (in my case it was) there were no police in that time.

    1. Seems like it would take some preparation and forethought to pull this off for very long before being found out. I’d like to know from someone who’s done this, lived through it like Selco how to stay safe for more than a month with this “guy who knows a guy” idea, when you really are the one with the stored goods.

      Seems like it would be an issue of the person you are selling to wanting to meet the “guy with the goods” and then feeling double crossed…

  2. Great article, as always.

    Kelvin, regarding ammunition, in my research, and for me personally, I would probably not be trading ammunition to people I did not absolutely trust not to then load it up and shoot me with. Trade food. Trade medicines. Tools, great. But guns and ammo you want to keep a tight control over. You want only your closest friends and family having them. Not someone who heard you have some rounds to spare. What you mentioned about covering yourself during a trade makes perfect sense. Go in pairs, and have someone watching.

    1. Selco, this is one of your better pieces of advice, and I hope that the folks who read it take it to heart.

      I want to amplify Chris’s remarks: NEVER BARTER YOUR AMMO.

      During wartime, when you expend ammo, no worries, the First Sergeant is coming with the LOCPAC and you can dip into the ammo boxes for more. But when SHTF, there IS no First Sergeant, there WILL BE no LOGPAC, there will be no resupply and what you’ve got is all you’ve got.

      Plus, what happens when you trade your ammunition? You’ve just telegraphed to a complete stranger that hey, you’ve got stash, and you’ve got guns and ammo to defend it. What ELSE have you got? And your trading partner and his boyfriends will return after dark, better armed than before (because remember, you just traded him ammo), and they will make you watch as they use your daughters before they kill you and raid your stash – which was their plan all along..

      The bullet you trade in the morning will be shot back at you in the night. Selco gives us many useful tips for barter items. Ammunition should NEVER be one of them.

  3. The only way I could imagine putting my ammo into another person’s hand would be *sharing,* not trading; sharing to accomplish a common goal, for example a partner in security. Trading ammo just has never sounded like a good idea. I would also be cautious of trading FOR ammo, especially here in the US where so many have re-loading equipment. It would be too easy to load ammo with too little powder (“squib” load) that would render your gun inoperable by plugging the barrel, or even substituting corn meal or sand, to get the right weight, but if done right and repacked into a commercial box like Winchester or PRVI, you’d have no way to know until it failed you. All it would take is a new primer in the case to perfect the illusion. The exception might be some of the Russian/East European surplus that has the Berdan primer, steel case, and colored-lacquer-sealed primer pocket and canelure, but even that could be faked by an experienced re-loader with red nail polish.
    Chuck B.

    1. I forgot to mention also, that using the wrong powder or an overcharge of powder can destroy the gun and possibly injure or even kill the person shooting it. Either way, there are only a couple people I would ever trust to trade ammo with, but since we’d likely be pooling resources already (including manpower=security) that’s a moot point.

      Chuck B.

    2. Chuck, too little powder sometimes leads to detonation–particularly true of ball powders. Your weapon becomes a fragmentation grenade when you fire it. I’m one of those people who reloads ammo, and I NEVER trust other people’s handloads, with only two exceptions–well, one now, my dad passed on.

  4. All you experienced ammo reloaders out there, reality check: get into boolit casting NOW whilst yet ye may before the Sainted O or Billary or whoever bans ‘civilian’ sales of moulds, scrap lead or wheelweights, etc. Learn now to substitute for your standard loads, and what reduced loads will do. Try making quiet/sneaky ACCURATE loads, and ZERO for them and RECORD that data for SHTF. Check out paper-patching. Recommended site: Cast Boolits…….. http://castboolits.gunloads.com/forum……….it is really amazing to the loudenboomer crowd how effective and economical all this can be. Sure, stockpile all the milsurp and .22LR ammo you can afford, but better to TRAIN unobtrusively with 1,000 rounds and be effective when necessary than STASH 1,000 rounds and not be able to hit with it!! And, get off the couch and DO the PT!!! You may have the finest, most expensive equipment available, but can you USE it after broken-field running 200 yards with it?? Selco KNOWS.

  5. Very helpful. I wish I were clever enough to think of places to stash stuff outside the house. If a single person can’t trust anyone to team up with, how long do you think they can survive?

    1. It is not too late to think about that places now. I am not gonna say that is impossible to survive alone, but i know for a fact that it is very hard. Just imagine how it is hard to keep yourself secure, safe and in good health if you alone. You need to be really invisible. Sooner or later you are gonna be in situation when you gonna be “forced” to trust someone. It is better to find someone today then when SHTF.

      1. Great article. Yes indeed. Best to develop networks of trust prior to SHTF. Find ways to help each other now. For us
        we’re big into homesteading and canning…making hard cider etc. We share with others/trade etc. now. Can’t say enough about building your community of like-minded people. Great post Selco! All the best in the New Year.

  6. Survival discussions nearly always revert to guns and ammo, so lets change directions this time and further discuss some of Selco’s other suggestions:
    Instant (freeze-dried) coffees and teas are much better than they once were – actually pretty good now – and they store longer, take less storage space, can be made as needed,by the cup so none wasted, and with the added convenience of nothing to dispose of after.
    Lighters and lighter fluid/flints, and refillable as well as disposable butane lighters are small and easy to accumulate – one or two items each time you pass them while buying groceries, and before long you have a fair stash without realizing you’ve spent any money on them.
    Same can be said of candles – instead of tapers, consider tea-lights or warmer candles that are in little tin cups (or made to be burned in little glass cups); not only are they usually cheaper than tapers, they’re easier to store. Even if in desperate need your “customer” will not be pleased with broken and/or warped tapers, not to mention that they (taper candles) waste a lot of wax from dripping even when in perfect condition. I’ve heard the argument made to “Make them need more/come back more” but I disagree. If you give the best value and most durable goods they will be the preferred, giving you more/first choice of what to demand in return. And by giving (and receiving) better value in your trades you may be safer by not having to engage as often.
    Alcohol? Although it’s not available in all places, a pint of 190-proof Everclear will dilute with about 4.75 pints of distilled water will make an acceptable vodka and is more compact and cheaper. A fifth would make nearly a gallon. If that’s all there was, it would by default be the best available.
    Feel-good items – like the old man said, “If Mamma ain’t happy, ain’t Nobody happy!” Simple and cheap cosmetic items so “Mamma” can feel feminine even when hiding and scurrying about like a rat will not only make family life better, but will make good barter items. Lip gloss and lipstick even in neutral/natural colors, small tubes of hand/body lotion, hair accessories like clips, pins, elastic bands, brushes and combs, so she can maintain control, solid-bar shampoos (like a soap bar) won’t leak or spill and are, again, better for storage. Nothing extravagant – just cheap, simple items that Mamma can put in her pocket to remind herself that she is still a Civilized Lady even if she goes to sleep watching the rats and roaches.
    During the relentless shelling of London in WWII, it was found that storing cases of cheap red lipstick in the shelters raised the overall morale of the population as much as, if not more than, any other single item as long as there was food, water, and shelter (to include blankets).
    Duct tape is like “The Force” in Star Wars: It has a bright side and a dark side, and it holds the Universe together. If I have to list it’s uses, I can’t help you, sorry.
    Hand sanitizers – of course you can use the “booze,” but this is so much cheaper, why waste the “good stuff??”
    Somebody else’s turn now, I don’t want to over-run our gracious host with my ramblings.
    Thank you, Selco, for all you share.

    Chuck B.

    1. All of these are great items to have for bartering. But for many folks, in a SHTF scenario, lots of pasta, and lots of beans are going to be the norm. Now that can get terribly old in a very short time. I would suggest a good and excess supply of herbs and spices for “organizational use” and bartering.

    2. Watch were and how you store butane lighters. They will actually “cook” all their liquid when they are in direct sunlight or get too hot.

      Comfort and trading:
      A simple heater is possible with alcohol, roll of toilet paper and coffee can. For large, double-roll of toilet paper use a metal 39 oz coffee can. For smaller, single-roll use smaller can. You need a piece of metal to use to put on top of the cans to smother the fire.

      Put toilet paper in can. Fill to top of toilet paper with alcohol. Light.

      FLAME IS INVISIBLE! This makes using the heater at night possible without showing off where you are.

      Fire starter:
      Save the lint from your dryer. Buy your eggs in the paper not plastic holders. Buy some bulk wax.

      Stuff the lint into the individual egg holders. Melt wax and pour into holders. Put in plastic bag for storage. The lint will be the catalyst, the holder the wick and wax is the fuel. This will start wet, small twigs if used correctly. Tear off one “holder” and use.

      Buy a bunch of “strike anywhere” kitchen matches. Dip them in the wax you melted. They will light when wet!

      This way trading is possible using items you would normally store for SHTF.

      Ammo: I use only 7.62 (x39/x51/x54r) 9 mm, 12 and 410. Keeping it simple works for me. Others in our group use 223/308 etc etc. I keep some extras in these calibers not for trading but in case one of our group comes up short. Hunter grade sling-shot with 10k bb. Blow gun and cross-bow made by those short folks in Northern Thailand.

      Grow your food now. Hard to learn how when you are starving!


      1. Actually alcohol burns with a light blue flame, so it is visible at night. During the day it is invisible, but you can still see the heat shimmer. I cool with a small alcohol stove when I hike, and have used a lot of different flammable liquids with them, none burn invisible.

    1. Buy a shotgun and #4 or larger shot, then worry about everything else. without a way to protect yourself you are more than likely to die in little time when shtf. I recommend a mossberg maverick 88 12ga. the best for your money, mines a warhorse.

    2. FIRST, same as I’d suggest to anyone else – be armed. Elderly and in a wheelchair or 23-yr-old MMA fighter in his prime, 9mm knows no difference. Sam Colt was indeed the Great Equalizer. Were I in a wheelchair, I would fit it with concealed holsters and a small discrete mirror or two like bicycle riders use. Compensate for your limited mobility by having defensive capacity (gun access) to whichever hand is free, and rear vision. Consider a couple defensive knives (each hand/side) also; you won’t be in any “knife duals” from a wheelchair, but if anyone chooses to get physical, or you have to retain your handgun, or maybe cut a string. For that matter, a good pair of (pointed!) all-steel scissors would be an excellent choice too – hidden in plain sight.
      I hope you have or are part of a family unit, because being alone would be hard enough even without limited mobility issues. Best of luck to you, hope this helps some.

      Chuck B.

    3. I agree with the point to be armed. Also if you are in wheelchair and elderly that does not mean that you can not be very useful as a part of some group, or member of your family. You can use your knowledge and experience to contribute and be very important actually.
      I mentioned few times older guys from my group who became suddenly very important and useful with their life experience.

  7. Personally, I would prefer NOT to trade with anyone, even with people I know.

    Trading what you have practically screams, “THEY’VE PREPPED, THEY’VE GOT A STOCKPILE!”

    Unfortunately, many Americans have an entitlement mentality, meaning that they believe that they have a “right” to what you’ve got. It was started by ochicken in 2009, and has now gone way out of hand.

    I’d rather trust to what I’ve got – let the others believe that I am as poor as they.

  8. I agree Sam, that’s why I disagree with the “Keep’em Comin’ Back” idea, but some barter will be almost inevitable. That could be an added advantage to some of the “minor” trade goods – no “Prepper” stockpiles lipstick and hair-ties, so you must be just a poor shmuck that just found a box under the counter at the looted Dollar Store. You have nothing of any perceived value, but you still have barter-goods if you need them or even “homage” if you unfortunately experience a shake-down – even something of little value may anger an aggressor much less than getting absolutely nothing for his efforts. Nothing would be what we’re used to in a “World Without Law.”

    Chuck B.

    1. Don’t know how practical this would prove to be, but trading some sort of skilled labor might be a safer occupation, since nobody can rob you of your skills. My own include welding, particularly ornamental window and door grilles, designing, building and repairing almost anything of steel. A good carpenter, plumber or electrician could likewise find takers for their skills…

  9. Great point with the ‘middle man’ idea! Don’t overlook the use of a real middle man to reduce the risk to you and your family…remember that he/she will have to get something out of the transaction though. Hopefully, you have a trusted agent relationship with one or more people who can handle the horsetrading for you…make sure to provide them with a standing list of items you want as they’re dealing with people.

  10. thanks selco for a GREAT article. i emailed you a few weeks ago asking about a “bartering store” article. i KNOW a “barter store ” wouldn’t work after SHTF, but you have shown me a way to barter with MUCH less risk to me and my family .this really could save my life and others that read it too. i tell friends all the time, “you won’t have to have some food when shtf…..but you WILL have to have someTHING to trade for it”! but now i need to add a caveat to that. You may be able to barter for what you want, but at what RISK to you and your group? Right now when you go to the store to pick up something for your family for dinner there is no perceived RISK to that operation. BUT there ARE risks. you could be involved in an accident with your car. you could be robbed. the engine could blow up in your car……however small the risks are, they ARE there. BUT when SHTF the risks to your life and the group will go up EXPONENTIALLY! So it really is important to get those store gathered NOW while risks are small. thanks again. your insight is PRICELESS(maybe even MORE expensive) to me.

    1. Note: if you are “prepping” to ge things to barter with, get things that will last 50 years on a shelf. Like lamp oil, matches, vaselene, etc… even some cheap $9.00 oil lamps are a good idea. Batteries will be useless in 10 years from the day they were made, that means the ones you buy now already have 2 years gone from sitting on the shelves. but I suggest a lot of SMALLER items. small flasks of whiskey are far more valuable to you than the 5 gallon “I’m a alcoholic” size. You are not going to trade out of a bulk supply. you need small amounts that are easy to carry and trade as is. You know those $0.99 stainless flasks that are for sale right now after the holidays? 20 of those would be a smart thing to buy.

      Electronics outside of GPS or Ham Radio gear are 100% useless. 55″ Tv’s are simply for target practice after SHTF.

      1. Add to this excellent suggestion: replacement lamp wicks and chimneys, container candles (like those religious ones), candle wicks and bulk candle wax (once-lit block and character candles from Goodwill are cheap), LOTS of matches. If you have a vacuum-sealer, you can safely and effectively store book matches for decades. Mason jars will also work, and have so many other uses too – a pre-measured pint of alcohol, for one example.

        Chuck B.

      2. On the Modern Survivalist website, from the Argentina collapse, Ferfal mentions that a big tv was actually very valuable since watching movies was a safe way to enjoy time, not going out in a dangerous time. Obviously, not for barter, but they seem to get looted a lot during disasters (Katrina).

  11. The funny part is that most people, I mean 90% of then dont understand Bartering. They walk intoa supermarket and pay what is the asking price. Dont. BARTER with the store owner. I will not pay retail for anything, in the USA we have a store for electronics called “best buy” 99.9% of every person that shops there pays the asking price without a peep. I dont. I find an item and find someone that works there. ” if it’s a $100.00 item I ask… “will you take $90?” they usually hem and haw then I get the real guy, the manager. He shoots back with $95. I shoot back with $92 and he accepts it. Actually most of the time they accept my 10% less offer without batting an eye.

    If you pay asking price in a SHTF, that means you are 1- stupid, or 2 – have a lot of resources. Both will get you killed for what you have.

    Learn to barter and get good at it…. “I only have a couple rounds of 9mm for my pistol, and I’m really hungry. All i have left is a 1/4 bottle of whiskey, will you take that for 5 of your apples?”

    They will probably trade you. In reality you have about 50 rounds and 2 full flasks of the rotgut you are making at your homestead, but they dont need to know that. Note: dont be an idiot and give them a little out of a full bottle you just claimed was 1/4 full. a LOT of people are dumb like that.

    And all the time, no matter what you are doing, you NEVER EVER take the same route home. Always a different route, and learn to double back to see if people are following. ALWAYS assume you are being followed.

    1. you have a talent – congrats! but I still do not get the reverse trick with full vs 1/4th full bottle of moonshine – care to elaborate for an idiot?

      1. Plan on trading by having a partial for trade with you. It’s exactly like the people at a Flea market talking someone down on price because, “I cant afford that” and then whipping out a fat wad of $100 bills to pay for the item he just claimed he could not afford.

        If I was to go out trading, I would find a couple of old beer bottles and pour in some liquor and cork them. Then use that as my trade. 250ml of moonshine is actually enough to get most people ripped pretty good. Better would be finding old flask bottles of a popular local brand. It’s called appearing that you dont have resources, or you are trading all that you have.

        Practice this at local flea markets or trade events. You have your $2000 in cash on your left front pocket, and before approaching a seller you move a single $20.00 to your right pocket. then you can beat him up on price and turn out your pocket to show you have only a single $20.00 left. If someone thinks you have a massive amount of money, they will not budge on price. In fact at most places, go dressed as a rich guy and you will get the “rich guy” price. go dressed as nearly homeless, and you get a far better price.

        Best place to observe this is at the antique markets during the summer.

        1. Tim, this is off-topic, I suppose, but it may be illustrative of how-to negotiate for people unaccustomed to such. I and a friend who was an old used car lot owner always walked through the local flea market and made bets with each other that we could get a particular item that we wanted for the price we wanted to pay. It was a very cold and snowy Saturday morning, I wore a sheepskin coat and matching sheepskin vest and found a piece of automotive testing equipment I wanted. It had a price on it of $20.00 and I bet my buddy I could get it for $10.00. I took off the warm coat and left it with him, then returned to the table and offered $10.00 for the device. The man said it’s worth $40.00 new, and was still in the original package and $20.00 was the least he’d take. I told him I had only $10.00, and he said that if I wanted the item I’d have to come up with $20.00. I said: “If I had $20.00, I’d be wearing a coat, like your are…”. His wife snatched the item off the table and handed it to me, scolding her husband and she charged me $10.00…

  12. An additional caveat to Selco’s always good advice to anyone prepping. Start practicing this opsec now.
    In USA we have a TV show called Doomsday Preppers. This has not done much to educate the masses but it
    has educated the predators and those who will be your worst nightmare in SHTF. I have already had some contact with these sub-humans and their thinking goes like this; “Hey guys I was watching this TV show about preppers
    and I realized they are stockpiling stuff like food, guns, medicine and even gold and silver. Why don’t we get in with
    a group and take what they have now ?”
    They are not waiting until SHTF but are actively gearing up now. Our laws are not much inetrested in them but they
    are interested in what you are doing so the message is, keep your tribe quiet about what you are doing.
    Watch this vid for a glimpse of what you will face.

    1. The only thing I get from the TV show is that they look for the most undereducated and unhinged people possible. I have yet to see a family on “Doomsday preppers” that was not certified nuts. I am guessing it’s because real preppers refuse to be on a TV show or even tell others what they do.

      1. Yea, to be honest i saw lot of interesting things in that show, some good ideas and solutions, but i do not see any sense in being on TV with all of yours preps and everything. It goes against first rule of being low profile. To be prepper and to let everyone else know that you are prepper,and that you have whatever you have is just wrong. Maybe i am missing something about that shows.

        1. I agree Selco. There is some very good information out there. Disregarding what situation a person may be prepping for they are preparing. Most all of these preppers are covering the basics, but why advertise, it goes against rule number 1!

          Part of the problem with the show is an attempt to make preppers look crazy. On the plus side most people will go out of their way to avoid “crazy people”… It would be interesting to hear what those that have done the show feel about their exposure, and what consequences may arise due to such.

        2. It’s TV, it’s entertainment – no more, no less, if it happens to contain useful ideas or information that’s just a bonus that lends credibility to the show. Like any reality show be it Survivorman or Judge Judy, the promoters/producers have no interest in benefiting the audience any more than it takes to maintain their ratings. Learning from TV is rather like eating from a dumpster – you have to wade through a lot of garbage to find anything with potential, then you have to be very selective with what you have gleaned, and cautious even with that. This is the same industry that will make a 2-1/2 hour Documentary “Based on a True Story” complete with detailed conversations and sexual overtones, when the story is about mysteriously missing/dead people – REALLY???

          Chuck B.

          1. “Learning from TV is rather like eating from a dumpster – you have to wade through a lot of garbage to find anything with potential, then you have to be very selective with what you have gleaned, and cautious even with that.”
            I love this analogy– sage advice indeed.

        3. my thing with that show is that they are telling prep secrets, like hiding food etc in plain sight. there was one from last yr, whos a blogger. has a pretty high following. not all of the ideas are stupid. some are actually pretty good. ive totally hidden food in plain sight all over. i also have in plain sight for just that. ie this is all the food i have. now they could possibly say….well we’ll just have a lil lookie around. then my a#$ will be in s*&^. i really think they need to keep quiet about certain things. USE YOUR HEAD…. thanks for your ideas posted here. goin in notebook.

      2. Then you must have missed the episode with Christopher Nygeres. He is a California prepper who specializes in native skills and most of the episode focused on his ability to forage weeds that are 100% edible yet ignored or go unrecognized by the publicusually in plain view and abundance. He was without a doubt the most reasonable, logical (and stable) individual I have ever seen on the show. He still teaches Saturday classes on basic survival down in Los Angeles.

      3. Have you also noticed that their unidentified “Survival Experts” are extremely inconsistent and rather contrarian? If a prepper has a bunker, their “Bug-Out” plan needs work; if they plan to bug-out, they don’t have enough water stored; if they have a well, their bunker location is less than ideal; if they have an armory, they need a better vehicle for evacuation; every evaluation reads as, “Your (backpack) is okay, BUT . . . I call B.S. unless maybe their “Experts” are multi-millionairs.
        A word about “Bugging Out:” – As soon as you leave your base/home/rock, you are a refugee until/IF you reach a secure destination. Bugging out is seldom the best solution other than a fire, etc., that displaces you.

        Chuck B.

        1. im stayin put if at all possible. ive tried to really stock. i have no where else to really go. and i dont want to lose all ive accumulated. my GREATEST FEAR is the military or police at my door demanding things i own. get it…. that is my biggest worry.

    2. By Executive Order, titled National Defense Resource Preparedness, our president has given himself the authority to seize all food, medicine, medical equipment, water, fuel–whether for heating, cooking or transportation, buildings and even human labor “…in times of emergency or non-emergency…”. So, personally, I’d be more worried about predators with federal badges than with dirtbags who think they’re going to overrun and rob those who may have prepared…

  13. Great article, and great comments. I agree with those who advise refraining form bartering ammo. You might get shot with your own ammo, or the box of .308 ammo might be loaded with sand or worse, a case full of Bullseye. Trading your potatoes (or vodka made from same) for rimfire ammo might be a different story; it would take resources most people cannot muster to make a .22 LR round that will blow up your gun.

    I would like to point out one thing from the article: in No. 1 where it says SHTF equals no law; that is not necessarily true. It can also mean too much law. Think Warsaw in 1941, Stalin-era Russia, or modern day North Korea.

  14. Don’t forget that SKILLS can and will be bartered as well. I would think that someone with some blacksmithing ability, dentistry or animal husbandry (as in veterinarian) skills could barter their talent for some solid items. Can you guess what a guy with an absessed tooth might barter to the fella who could relieve that pain?

  15. selco the point of the show is rateings. do you think they would get rateings with sane people…no because to “normal” people its not interesting. so instead they put people on that are prepping of a polar shift or some other outlandish scenario

    thanks for the post happy new year

      1. Yes, I watched a Doomsday Prepper show last night and could hardly stop laughing. Not that I was not IMPRESSED with the food stocks weapons and preps.. but that they came on TV to show everyone what they had. Crazy alright.
        But I did learn a few things and my wife got interested and started asking questions about what I was doing.
        I read on another “survivalist site” that some who were asked to come on the show ..refused because they would NOT reveal what they had. They would not even discuss it with the shows’ producers. Like.. how many guns do you have.

        1. Things That Make You Sy “HHMMMmmm…? . . . . If they didn’t announce themselves to some degree, how did they get discovered to be invited on the show? Their “Op-Sec” needs to tighten up a bit, perhaps?

          Chuck B.

  16. I think in an urban situation charity giving would be dangerous, but perhaps not as bad in a sparsely populated area. Especially when you aren’t just handing stuff out but rather BARTERING CHARITABLY, especially with services as well as goods:

    Got a neighbor who’s in decent physical condition but did not prep food? He can spend an afternoon splitting wood for you (your logs, your axe) and in return he gets an armful of wood for his own home and a few cans of food.

    I particularly liked one of SouthernPrepper1’s videos in which he described a hypothetical scenario where he brought some clothes that needed mending to the little old ladies in the area and they mended his clothes while he inspected and cleaned their chimneys and did other small things to help them out. He didn’t really need his clothes mended but it allowed him to be charitable while still preserving the dignity of the local widows.

    I understand that may not work well in an urban war zone but it’s very similar to what happens in rural communities these days when folks are in need. As a young teenager my father would direct me to take a ladder and go clean the leaves from an elderly persons’ gutters for them, then they would usually give me cookies or something.

    My wife’s parents always made sure their children bought produce from the elderly people at the farmer’s market with just a few humble items for sale, even if they weren’t the nicest or least expensive. It ain’t strict charity, but it’s charitable.

  17. Don’t forget about keeping a supply of containers for your traded goods – A person may not be able to come up with the agreed to price of entire contents.

    Having a container for said product would be well worth having on hand. A cup of kerosene would be far better than new kerosene, for example. Inexpensive air tight (or nearly so) flasks would be worth having on hand.

    A few extra SOLAR battery charging stations would be a popular trade item, especially if you also have rechargeable battery sets as well.

    Thank you again Selco – great post worthy of discussion, I learned a lot!

    1. Darn, substitute the word ‘new’ for ‘no’ in regards to kerosene statement above makes more sense, doesn’t it ? Fumble fingered j.r. – sorry.

    2. I save all the handy little containers that come my way — pill and vitamin bottles, shampoo and conditioner bottles, anything that can be easily washed and reused. Pack a few of them in with each box of preps and you’ll always have something to hand.

  18. I just stumbled across this article and wanted to thank you Selco for an amazing read. There were many things here that I had not thought about. I am now going to go back and read the rest of your articles. You have a new fan! The input from the responses is well informed as well.

    I have a question about specialty skills and bartering in a SHTF scenario. If I am a person of skill, lets say Dentist or Blacksmith or Electrical repairman etc… Will that give me a better advantage in “setting up shop” and making me more secure in that while I have goods to barter as well. My actual knowledge is far more valuable than whatever my secret stash may hold? I’m just wondering how that fits into the equation. And I will concede up front that there is an inherent danger that hungry people really don’t care that I can build a nuclear reactor out of coconuts and baling wire. But does it still come into the equation?

    1. Bad people will chain you to the central heating element (or something stable like that) and will force you to practice your skills in exchange for tortures and otherwise humiliations.

    2. To have some special skill is always great, but that does not necessary gives you more security and safety. Sometimes can be even dangerous if some group or fraction choose to mobilize you because your valuable skills. In city SHTF again and again keeping the low profile stand too with your skills, so if you offering your skills to someone make sense to do everything like in bartering some goods. Good thing is that you carry your skills always with you, and you gonna have it always.
      Hungry people does not care for yours skill of “building nuclear reactor” for sure. But for example some fraction may care for that knowledge and you may find yourself in situation of being something like prisoner.
      When i am thinking about some skill using, i see dentist who go somewhere and do tooth extracting for some food or whatever, or mechanic going somewhere do some job for something, or even barber, or gunsmith, or nurse or whatever.
      Same security rules apply for this.
      Setting something like open “shop” did not work in my case, not in city SHTF, maybe it would work in some good organized village community.

  19. I only have a generalized comment to make regarding this topic:

    In the absence of money or a functioning economy or law and order, there are things that become *like* currency.

    drugs and medicine
    coffee/tea/soft drinks
    candy and sugar

    There are others but those are the main ones. Most people in wealthy westernized nations have never experienced a long term shortage of these simple basic luxuries and do not understand what happens to your body and mind when you are deprived of something as simple as sugar. It becomes an obsession. People start to crave and covet it as if it were heroin.

  20. If there are things that you’d crave to the point of craziness, obviously you could stock up. But also consider taking action to reduce your dependencies.

    If you smoke, quit. Fight that battle NOW and don’t look back. Both your health and your wallet will benefit.

    Drink less coffee or pop, consume fewer junk carbs. Adapt your menus and learn to enjoy food that’s closer to the way Nature made it.

    You will be stronger in SHTF if things like caffeine or junk carbs are options for you, not compulsions.

  21. I did not miss your point, you missed mine.

    Yes, other people will have cravings, and a smart prepper could certainly contrive to take advantage of that.

    But that smart prepper will also take action … starting now … to reduce his/her own vulnerability to cravings.

    Among other good reasons, it’s a lot easier to sell your stock of coffee or whatever if you’re not craving it yourself!

  22. DO NOT TRADE WHEN SHTF!! If you show that you have something, they will think you have more. They will find you, kill you and take what is yours.

    They will ambush you on the way to the market, ambush while you are they, ambush you on your way home and/or follow you home and ambush you there.

    When SHTF and people get hungry – THEY WILL GET MEAN!

    Heed these words or perish – THE CHOICE IS YOURS!!

    1. It is much easier when you do not have need to go and look for someone to trade something because you are very good prepared with everything and you have all things in great amounts.
      But fact is that you will need to go out and do some trading sooner or later, no matter how much things you have with you. Most of us are common people, who do not have underground ex missile shelter, and all resources for 20 years.
      Most of us are common folks who gonna need to interact with others in some moment in order to survive. Yes point is to minimize need to go out to trade (with some good preparing) and prolong that moment maybe (again with good preparing), but you can be sure that most of us gonna wake up one day thinking “i need to find some food” or firewood, antibiotics, tarps, ammo or whatever.
      Of course that hungry people will be mean mostly, it is natural, it is survival. Point of all this is to be prepared for lot of different options.
      It is very dangerous for us if we are thinking that we are so good and prepared so we are not gonna have need to go out to look-trade something. Leave all options open for thinking.

    2. I agree totally! Perhaps, long after SHITF, I just “might” consider trading and or helping others, BUT at the beginning, the first year or so, or until the dust settles, I have planned to be OK, self sufficient, and keeping a very low profile. I trust only God!

    1. I pay attention about my trash even today, so I always look what is gonna be in trash can and what people can find out about me basing on that, and use possible against me. When SHTF in city one thing is easier, and that is fact that trash is gonna be literally all around you, so some things gonna be very easy to hide.

  23. Harking back to an older, but quite valuable and informative thread:
    Coal (or coke, if you’re lucky enough to have a source) and/or charcoal are cheap, easily purchased, and easy to store – they don’t spill, break, leak fumes or gas, or smell; nor attract insects or deteriorate/degrade in storage like wood can, while taking less space.
    Any wood-burning stove or heater will also burn charcoal, or can also be converted to coal with just a drop-in coal grate. A decent small wood-stove can be bought fairly cheap almost anywhere, and chimney-flue is cheap and light so it can be stored (for example) in the attic easily enough. Such a stove can heat a room as well as cook, heat water for washing, etc. while not using too much fuel. It will also burn paper and any other trash as needed, as long as the chimney effectively discharges the smoke and fumes. I knew an old man that burned asphalt roof shingles in his for heat – NOT recommended, but it does make the point.
    (Trivia Warning! – I know a retired GI that was in Korea during the Occupation of the late 50s/60 era that told me they had to re-pave the road around the base perimeter fence every few months. It seems the Koreans were “mining” the asphalt from the road every night to use as heating fuel! Another fact to file away for “maybe someday.”)
    Here in America charcoal is sold in convenient bags at most stores for Bar-b-Que grills and usually goes on sale for Memorial Day and on clearance at the end of summer (retailers don’t want to have to store it for months). Sometimes the store just gets a good deal in volume, and passes the savings on to the customers. Commercial charcoal is usually ground and re-formed into “briquettes” by use of water-soluble binders (glue), so it is best kept out of direct weather or it may “melt” when the glue gets wet.
    Coal (and coke) can actually be stored in a pile outside without problem. Coke is produced by “cooking” much of the impurities from coal, leaving just the carbon base matter, so although it is stored and used in all the same ways as coal it is lighter and actually burns much cleaner.
    I didn’t set out to write a book, so I’ll just say “Good Night” now.

    Chuck B.

  24. I would most likely have an armed friend or two by my side when trying to trade something just in case someone pulls out a piece to shoot me for the product being sold whether it’s moonshine, coffee, or a shiny piece of metal or machinery.

  25. Selco,

    I gather that when trading it was important to be wary and to be prepared, to appear strong so as not to be taken advantage of. Were there any times when you appeared “too strong” to a trading partner so that he got scared and wasn’t willing to do business with you?

    How did you balance between being secure and being “open” enough to your trading partners so that business could happen efficiently?

    Thanks for your time,

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