When disaster strikes and there's no law and order, what service or skill will a community need most in order to survive?
Food, water, guns and medicine are going to be in high demand because people will need to survive. When they've got a family to feed, they're gonna start looking for these items and some people, the ones that are going to thrive post-collapse, are going to be there to meet the demand.
Some people think food and water is the only thing they can barter with but that's simply not the case. There are plenty of other items you can give to people in exchange for something they have and it's way better than hoarding more of the same thing. It's impossible to guess what will be worth more so why not stock up on a little bit of everything?
Before we discuss the list of the top commodities, I want to mention what the most likely in demand service is going to be for just about every community that is still around following a collapse.
Some of you are already on this page and some places of the world already see effective vigilante groups working together when a country's police or military are failing to act or are simply corrupt and unable to act.
In some cases, it is making headlines. The top selling documentary (true story) right now is called Cartel Land. If you want something to watch this weekend Cartel Land tells the true account of real life vigilante groups that have turned on the powerful drug cartels of Mexico and have taken back their communities in some regions. This all unfolds as the Mexican government, local police and military, have proven themselves either corrupt or inadequate and unable or unwilling to defend against the cartels.
Cartel Land gives us a real-life look at how vigilante groups can work to help defend communities otherwise helpless to violence, gangs, and thugs that kill children and the elderly, rape females, and even bash infants to death on rocks in some instances. Cartel Land shows us what the face of evil looks like and is something we should pay close attention to and take warning from because -- like it or not -- it could very well be something that happens here at home following a collapse, in local communities and abroad.
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Agriculture - Seed planting, harvesting, and gravity fed drip irrigation to farms.
Home Repair - plumbing; woodworking; insulating from either the heat outside or the cold outside.
Self-defense (in a lawless land the threat from gangs, thugs and cartels will be real in both cities and the countryside)
Cooking (including making bread, cheese and wine)
Building a greenhouse (many people will either want to learn how to build one or to have someone build it for them)
Food preservation (such as smoking, canning, dehydrating, pasteurizing milk etc.)
Shooting and cleaning guns
Making and using alternative weapons (bows, arrows, slings, spears, swords etc.)
Which skills should you focus on? The ones you're already good at, of course, but don't fall into the trap of becoming good at only one thing. Learn at least 2 or 3 because you never know which ones might be useful.
Yes, in today's society you have to be really good at something to succeed but in a post-collapse society, things are going to be very different. Don't get me wrong, you have to be good at what you do but you don't have to be perfect. In a post consumer, post vanity world people will be more content with what an items actual usefulness is and a lot less concerned about what kind of status it brings.
Since the government is making it tougher and tougher to buy guns and ammo, it might be wise to accelerate your preps because it's likely you can re-sell them before SHTF to people who'll run out of ammo pretty soon. Many avid shooters and hunters are going to run out of ammo at some point.
Now, as far as guns are concerned, they might not be your best choice to barter with. In a post-collapse society, the more protected you are, the better and I doubt you'll be willing to give away some of your guns unless you really need something else. You can't really have too many firearms in a WROL (Without the Rule of Law) society.
Still, bartering with guns and ammo should be treated carefully, you don't want people thinking you've got even more back home. They might start to follow you, find out your weak spots and maybe even plan a home invasion.
Besides, someone who doesn't have a firearm but wants one might not use it morally. A better way of thinking about giving guns to someone else is by loaning them to the town watch of the community. You'll be doing it for your own protection as well.
This could be risky because your "partners" might figure out that if you can spare it, you obviously have enough. Never go alone, have a gun and make sure no one's following you on your way back. In fact, you can make it a habit of never taking your usual route when you return home -- it'll be easier to confuse someone they try to track your comings and goings.
If you're planning on bartering or selling your energy post-collapse, I suggest you also think about adequate means of protecting your panels, your wind mill and your generators on your property, you never know who might decide to steal them at night.
What else can you share that's also renewable? Well, it depends on what you can and cannot have on your property. For example, firewood might be of interest to a lot of folks but you have to have trees on your property, of course. Other things such as livestock, water from a well or a creek that passes on your property and, of course seeds.
Many will find faith in God during this time and find new strength and hope for life while many others, as it's been for thousands of years, will instead disregard faith choosing the things of this world, which a Biblical word might better describe as "idols".
With all that said, as far as comfort foods go, many people are likely to stock up on:
Sweets (such as chocolate)
Popcorn (not microwave)
Tip: Better to store cocoa powder instead of chocolate, it has a longer shelf life of around 2 years.
Tip: Need a fast way to brew coffee post-collapse when an electric coffee maker may be a thing of the past? While an old fashioned french press or camping percolator can do the trick, another easy way is to just boil the coffee grounds in a pot of water and then let it sit a few minutes and cool off. Cover a second pot with a towel and let the towel sag a bit (you'll use the towel to filter out the coffee grounds); pour the coffee water from pot #1 over the towel and before you know it you'll have a pot of coffee to drink in pot #2.
As long as you have the room, you can literally save all the clothes you'd otherwise throw away. The really sweet part is that they don't need to be stored in a cool, dry, dark places (such as food and water). You can keep them in your attic, for instance, where there's plenty of space. Your nicer, fancier clothes can be donated, and your older clothes, more casual and especially those that will hold up to the weather, are the ones you should consider keeping around.
If you do choose to hold on to some more expensive clothes pay attention to how you choose to store them. Attics are full of dust and can house termites so you don't want to take that chance. What you should be doing is wrap each item in a plastic bag. Even better, use vacuum sealed bags to save up to a third of the space.
Toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, Ziploc bags, Steel Wool (use for heavy cleaning and can be used as an emergency firestarter along with a 9 volt battery), batteries, condoms (even if you're married, in a post collapse it may not be a good idea to start having children right away, something to think about beforehand), chainsaws and anything made of metal such as nails, tweezers, multi-tools, spoons, forks, knives and so on.
Of course, for bartering purposes, you probably won't want to sacrifice your knives (unless it's urgent!) so what you should do is get some of these items that are cheaper and stock up on them. Since they're not perishable, you can keep them in the attic with your clothes.
Band-Aids of all shapes and sizes
Gauze and surgical tape
Antibiotic cream, etc.
Tip: If you stock up on first aid supplies to barter with (or simply to hand out freely to people in need), consider the generic name brands as a way to save money. For the most part, many generics do just as well as the more expensive brand names (unless that is we're talking about survival gear -- a good piece of gear that has a lifetime of use is worth the price paid, specifically if it doesn't break or rip on you).
What kind of gear will you be able to loan out? One of the things a lot of folks will need is clean, drinkable water. Whether you have a complex filtration system or even something as simple as a LifeStraw, people will want to use it. Of course, there's also the option to purify the water yourself and then sell it or barter with it but that depends on whether or not you have access to that water in the first place.
Crabbing gear (if you live near the ocean)
Chainsaw (you will need to have gasoline on hand)
Rope and pulley
Come along (hand winch)
(unscented, 6 drops added to each gallon of questionable water purifies it for safe drinking; read more specific details here before you use chlorine bleach to purify water)
Plastic 50 gallon drums for water storage
.... or smaller 6 gallon jugs
Barbed wire (to keep out wildlife or keep in livestock)
Razor wire (to keep criminals, dangerous wildlife out of an area or supply room)
With HAM radio, you'll not only need the proper equipment but you'll also have to get a license and training so it's safe to assume most preppers won't go through this trouble. (Besides, some of them are worried about the government keeping a track on them that they'd rather not have one than to show up on one of their lists.)
Last but not least, there's no harm in letting other people use your tools but make sure you keep an eye on them. If you don't get them back as soon as they're done, they'll most likely forget, leaving you with less items to barter with.
Let's not forget that gold and silver have been around longer than money and, when things will go back to some sort of normal after the initial catastrophe, people might turn back to them in order to trade and the economy will stabilize.
It's good to think not just long-term but really long term and my view is that whoever will have gold and silver will inevitably have power. They're called precious metals for a reason...
I know some preppers would never let anyone inside their home in a post-collapse world but that's just fantasy. Who knows how many women and children would be willing to work 12 hours a day for a couple of hot meals? Let's not get caught up into any particular Doomsday scenario and keep an open mind.
A good rule of thumb would be to only barter with people you know and trust and avoid having random strangers show up at your doorstep (that could be dangerous at some point).
Our goal may not be crime, but like the cartels it's to keep dangerous criminals at bay and reduce the odds of theft or robbery. In a lawless land, communities, like those in "Cartel Land" (taking place today in Mexico where cartel violence is a real threat), need to be smart and take precautions in order to help protect themselves and their food, water, and commodities.