Bug Out Bag: Bartering for Your Life!

As part of my Bug Out Bag series, today I’m testing another item key item of kit in my bug out bag. Items for bartering.

Thanks to James Norbury www.jamesnorbury.com for his thoughts and collaborations on this post. He’s an amazing artist and the great designer who produced the artwork for my latest book cover.

Why do we need to prepare to trade?

Can you predict the future? No. Nor can I. In an emergency situation I want to be light and agile which means I can’t carry everything for every possibility in the bag. So let’s face the fact we’re not able to know exactly what you’re going to need in a world where currency may no longer have value. The new currency will be whatever other people, often desperate people, need to survive or to make their life more comfortable.

So let’s look at what we could carry in the bag to use for bartering.


Everything in the kit has value in a survival situation. That’s why it’s there. However here we’re talking about including items in the kit specifically for the purpose of trading. You’d need to think long and hard before trading something in the kit you’d spent lots of time and effect selecting!

My initial thoughts were to carry gold in small denominations, but James disagreed, suggesting spending £1,000 / $1,300 on gold coins was a waste of money when many more items with their own uses in the survival world could more valuable if people were stripped back to their barest needs. So here we are.

What gives value in a survival / emergency situation?

Demand! When considering how valuable items would be in a survival situation we would consider those items which fulfil the needs of people in the world, with the most valuable providing the basic needs for life such as water, fuel, first aid. After those needs have been satisfied it would be anything else which would make life easier or more comfortable, but it’s not all about the value. We have to consider many other factors as we make preparations for a situation we hope never happens.

Weight & Size

You’ve got to carry it on your back and you’re already carrying a lot. The lighter the better and the more of the item you can carry.


Whole you’re not trading it, can we use for something else?



Can it survive the journey? There’s no point taking eggs! They’ll crack the first time you fall over. If they survive the hike you better eat them before they turn bad.

Abundance in an emergency

How easy will the item be to get hold of in a survival situation? The less abundant, the higher the value.

Abundance Before it all goes wrong

We have to get hold of whatever it is now, so it’s a key consideration, including its value now.

Where do we start?

I’ve made a short list of all the types of items I think will become valuable in a survival situation.

  • Water / Food
  • Treats – Alcohol / Chocolate / Cigarettes
  • Cooking Equipment
  • Sanitary Items – Toilet Paper / Feminine Hygiene / Soap / Nappies
  • Weapons
  • Survival Items – Paracord / Compass
  • Medical Items – Dressings / Pain Killers / First Aid / Medication / Vitamins
  • Fire Supplies – Matches / Fire Steel / Cotton wool / Kindling
  • Hand Tools
  • Toothpaste / Toothbrushes
  • Amusements – Playing cards / Dice
  • Salt – For food preservation
  • Batteries
  • Pencils and Paper
  • Books
  • Seeds

I’ve picked out some key items, mainly those which are light and feasible to carry around, for discussion in a bit more detail below. Each item is scored from 0 to 5, with 5 being highest score. At the end I’ll add the scores together and the items with the highest score will be the winner.


  • Demand – Everyone wants gold, right? Maybe not when the world’s gone to the wall – 2/5
  • Weight & Size – 28 grams & very small – 5/5
  • Utility – 0/5
  • Fragility – It’s metal – 5/5
  • Survival Abundance – The banks won’t have their doors locked, but still – 3/5
  • Abundance Now – Easy to buy, but pricey – $1,300 / £1,000 for the 28 gram – 2/5

Score = 17 / 30

Razor Bladespepperoni-273985_640

  • Demand – With many uses, it’s a high score – 4/5
  • Weight & Size – 180 grams for 100 – 5/5
  • Utility – Many uses – 5/5
  • Fragility – Keep them dry & they should be okay – 4/5
  • Survival Abundance – Depends if you’re the first to break into the DIY store – 2/5
  • Abundance Now – They’re everywhere & £10 for a hundred – 5/5

Score = 25 / 30

Water Purification Straw

LifeStraw® Personal Water Filter
  • Demand – High. Purifies 3,000 litres of clean water from any source! – 5/5
  • Weight & Size – 58 grams, but it’s 9 inches long. You won’t be able to carry many – 3/5
  • Utility – Only has one use, but it’s a good one, that’s why add already added one to the pack – 5/5
  • Fragility – It’s plastic, so a midway score – 3/5
  • Survival Abundance – Can only get them from an online or camping store, so would be near impossible when the internet or your luck is down. That’s good for the value – 5/5
  • Abundance Now – The internet is everywhere, only marked down for its £18 price tag – 3/5

Watch out for a future post about how to get clean water in a survival situation.

Score = 24 / 30


  • Demand – High. They’ll save lives – 5/5
  • Weight & Size – Minimal – 5/5
  • Utility – Only one, but you might need them too. It’s not a perfect score because there are so many different types which fight different groups of bacteria – 4/5
  • Fragility – You’re going to have to look after them. Keep the safe and dry and they’ll have an expiry – 3/5
  • Survival Abundance – There’s a chemist / pharmacy in every town so at first they’ll be reasonably easy to get hold of – 3/5
  • Abundance Now – Prescription only, so difficult – 1/5

Score = 21 / 30


  • Demand – Medium. Who can resist? Maybe a drink of water first – 3/5
  • Weight & Size – Okay, but not as light as the blades – 4/5
  • Utility – You can eat it so many different ways, but… – 1/5
  • Fragility – Smack it around, crush it, get it a little wet and it’s still chocolate, but get it hot and it’s ruining the rest of your kit – 3/5
  • Survival Abundance – Store on every corner, still going to be easy to find in an urban environment, at first – 2/5
  • Abundance Now – Just add it to your weekly shop – 5/5

Score = 18 / 30

Toilet Paper

  • Demand – Only ultra-soft will do! – 1/5
  • Weight & Size – Lightweight, but even when you take out the tube, it’s bulky – 2/5
  • Utility – Help start fires, write notes you’re not too bothered about keeping… – 2/5
  • Fragility – You can throw it around in your pack, but don’t get it wet – 2/5
  • Survival Abundance – Once the local store is out, that’s it – 2/5
  • Abundance Now – Local store is full to the rafters – 5/5

Score = 14 / 30

Pain Killers / Vitaminspill-1884775_640

  • Demand – With a lack of food or water, these suckers will make things a lot easier and keep those middle age conditions at bay – 4/5
  • Weight & Size – Minimal – 5/5
  • Utility – Only one real use – 1/5
  • Fragility – Retained in their packaging they should keep safe from water and the shelf life is pretty long – 4/5
  • Survival Abundance – Who’s keeping the shop open when the lights go out? – 3/5
  • Abundance Now – Easy pickings, although the cost of vitamins is not to be sniffed at – 4/5

Score = 21 / 30


  • Demand – High. Who can resist? – 4/5
  • Weight & Size – 10 AA batteries = 250grams & the box is bulky too- 2/5
  • Utility – So many things to power. Add in a bit of wire wool and you have yourself a fire – 5/5
  • Fragility – Keep them dry and you should be fine – 4/5
  • Survival Abundance – Rare as rocking horse poop – 2/5
  • Abundance Now – 30p per battery – 5/5

Score = 22 / 30


Those little salt satchels you get in fast food restaurants

  • Demand – Medium. Water first, then food, then shelter, then tasty food? – 2/5
  • Weight & Size – Minimal – 5/5
  • Utility – Preserve food. Keep the slugs away from where you sleep? – 2/5
  • Fragility – Can take the knocks, but it has to stay dry – 2/5
  • Survival Abundance – Like most things, they’ll be around in the first few days – 2/5
  • Abundance Now – Buy in bulk or get a decent pile for free. Start collecting now! – 5/5

Score = 18 / 30

And the winner is?

Razor blades, with the Water Purification Straw coming a close second. There’s many other great items which score high, so there’s lots to choose from and maybe the lesson here is to bring a range. Different objects will have different values to different people and you never know, to yourself too!

The list isn’t definitive, but the items I’ve looked at help to illustrate the various points.

If there’s anything else you want me to add to the comparison, then just mention it in the comments and I’ll take a look.

Keep an eye out for further posts testing the rest of the kit and see if I’ve made the right choices.

In the End…Why not read about what happens to IMG_3486a group of friends whose world collapses around them, forcing them to make difficult decisions just to stay alive. It’s not going to be comfortable, or an easy ride. Find out if they’ve got what it takes to survive when they’re no longer at the top of the food chain…

Here’s Season One to get you started!

GJ Stevens

I am a Writer. I love to write fast-paced action and adventure thrillers! Subscribe to my mailing list to get FREE books!


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