Medical Supplies As Survival Barter Items

Rourke: This article was originally published HERE at the website.


I recently received a communication from a paramedic who asked what I keep in terms of silver and gold for barter purposes in a collapse. In a true collapse, having some of this on hand would be very useful, but only in the early stages when people don’t yet realize that “money” may be worthless in terms of your chances for long-term survival. Food, items for defense, and medical supplies will, over time, become the most valuable surplus items you can have for successful trading.


Food will be in short supply, especially in urban environments once grocery stores are empty. Few have the knowledge of how to grow their own through gardening. Gardening has a learning curve and is subject to the whims of the weather such as the amount of rainfall, storms, and extremes in temperature. Soil conditions and pests will also be a factor, dependent on where you live. Although I’ve been through Master Gardener training in my state, I still sometimes have failures in my attempts to grow certain crops.


Once people know you have surplus food to trade, items for defense will be important for protection. It’s hard to believe that the desperate or unscrupulous would not make you a target in times of trouble. Whatever materials you have for home defense, make sure that you know how to use them safely, and practice with them regularly. A gun, for example, in the hands of the inexperienced may be a danger to themselves as well as to those who wish them harm.


So why medical supplies? Medical supplies and the knowledge of how to use them will eventually, in my opinion, become some of the most valuable items to accumulate in quantity for barter purposes. You can make a wound with a weapon, but few will have the things necessary to heal a wound. Having bandages, antibiotics, blood clotting agents, and other medical materials will give you purchasing power in a world without ATMs, effective water treatment or rule of law.


Nurse Amy’s Family Medical Bag


This is why you can never have too many medical supplies in your survival storage. You’d be surprised how many dressings one significant wound will consume. Don’t forget that you’ll be in charge of caring for that wound from beginning to end in a true survival scenario. Barter only what you can spare.


Don’t forget the value of your medical knowledge as a trade item. Not everyone knows how to stop bleeding, deal with orthopedic injuries, perform long-term wound care, or treat infection. If you are the medic, your services have a value. What do you think that value would be in circumstances where a family has a child that is sick or a loved one that is injured? To me, this is a compelling argument for taking the time and effort needed to learn these skills, even in normal times.


This doesn’t mean that you should expect something in return every time you help someone in medical need. The value of good will in a survival community is not to be underestimated. However, grateful parents, if they’re able, will often want to reward you in some way for saving a child’s life, and this may increase the chances for your own family’s survival. Indeed, your services may become so valuable that you will become an asset that your community will make a priority to protect.


Food, water, and shelter are the most important things to have if things go south, but medical supplies and the knowledge of how to use them is a strong second. An understanding of what plants in your area may have medicinal value will also help, as pharmaceuticals will run out in a long-term survival setting.


I strongly encourage you to become a medical resource by learning skills that might save a life in dark times or even today. You’ll benefit your family, your community, and greatly increase the chance that you’ll succeed, even if everything else fails.

Joe Alton, MD
















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12 thoughts on “Medical Supplies As Survival Barter Items”

  1. Great post !!! The preps put by, followed by knowledge and out of the box thinking will be our greatest assets in the future. Pretty nice to have even now…i like being self sufficient 🙂 That is one of the best things about a group….more ideas, perhaps/probably some i would not think of. Definitely one reason i enjoy this site so much! Information shared that makes me think in ways i normally would not.
    Speaking of thinking outside the box….Rourke, just finishing your book-A Survival Story-offered over Thanksgiving. Several things throughout were very thought-provoking. I especially liked the “salvaging” of solar panels. Enjoyed the good read-thanks for writing it and sharing with us when we could pick it up free. Not a small undertaking time wise either….the effort is MUCH appreciated! Don’t know how you fit so much in your schedule….looking forward to more of your writing, great job !!!

  2. I remember seeing a copper streak coming my way one nice summer day and thinking I’d better dodge. The next thing I knew, I was flat on my back with a lot of serious people leaning over and looking down on me. I really felt awful and it was impossible to breathe, just like getting the breath knocked out. I eventually did a weak a self assessment, wiggle toes and fingers and brought one hand up to my chest which was soon coated with sticky blood. My shirt was all bloody as was the ground beneath me. There was blood everywhere and I wondered who else had been shot. About then the pain really kicked in. It was even more of a struggle to breathe. I remember a flash from the ambulance. One of my buddies was setting next to the gurney sucking in and out on a paper bag. I remember the sound as the bag inflated and deflated. He looked awful.

    The next thing I remember was awakening for triage. The doctor glanced at me and left me on the gurney, and again those pasty faces were looking down on me, not doing much if anything. Written off for sure I thought.

    Turns out I was struck in the sternum by a subsonic ricochet from a suppressed SBR. The xiphoid process was severed – which I’m reminded of whenever I move these days. What I remember most was the sight of all of the blood and concluding several must have been shot. Later I learned all of that the blood was mine. And the pain, the pain.

    Folks, think of the bandaging that was used on this single injury, which fortunately turned out to be relatively trivial, thanks to modern medicine and the relatively slow velocity fragment. One just cannot have enough bandaging, kwikclot, and hemostats. I’m a believer in those things.

    That fine day also made me a born again believer in the value of body armor.


    • Panhandle, thank you for this post. You finally put things in perspective for this hard head. Even as a Vietnam Vet, this post of yours reminded me of what it’s like. No, I don’t own a Purple Heart, but have many friends that do. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. I think it’s good to have a good base of knowledge of meds, a stock of supplies and just as important a way to restock post SHTF. This is why I have jumped into herbal meds the last 3+years.

    I first bought a few of the basic herbs everyone starts out with and then really jumped into learning and reading all I could. After learning what herbs do what I got a lot of obscure herbs, tinctures and the like. I also started making my own tinctures, decoctions, infusions & herbal pills, herbal capsules. In the last year or so I have found family, employers and friends are coming to me for herbal fixes to some of the minor problems they have. I see this greatly expanding post SHTF. I have not tried to talk them into using herbs, but when they found I have knowledge about them, they ask questions.

    I did not give up on what we call traditional medicinal practices but I can see a time when we just won’t be able to get more med supplies so while I stock a lot of traditional med supplies I also started growing my one medical herbs so I can continue to have access to medicine.No herbs don’t do all that some modern meds, but they do a lot and in many cases they do just as well or better and do so without all the unpleasant side effects. Just watch TV and every commercial break there is a commercial (actually numerous ones) that tells you about the side effects, and they are always BAD, up to and including death. This is not good medicine as anything that causes all these bad things (including death) is poison to your body.

    A few very good books on herbs are anything by Mary Gladstar, Herbal Antibiotics and Herbal Antivirals by Stephen Buhner (these 2 books are must have for any herbalist) and The Green Pharmacy by James Duke.

    Also a good 4-part series documentary (each one 1-hour long) the BBC put out is “The Victorian Pharmacy) It’s on U-Tube and is worth watching.

    • Excellent Chuck – appreciate the info and recommendations. Herbs is certainly something I know nothing about. The invitation is there if you would be willing to write up a guest post to share additional information. Cool stuff!

  4. Chuck good post and Dr.Joe also. I have two of those exc. books . Please also have m alow vera plant.The gooey gel inside each stem is a very effective healing product for burns and cuts and one can buy aloe vera gel also .My Grand children know how to use it now as well.
    PS PR wow-excuse my ignorance but can you put in lay womans terms what hit you? Thanks.

    • Agreed Arlene….these guys have taken the comments to a higher level,(your comments also-ALWAYS look forward to seeing your name and the things you add to the conversation!) Aloe…yes, however i seem to NOT have the touch it needs. Do you have any tips on their care? I am quite weary of replacing them as they expire from whatever i do wrong. Please help me/them…
      Herbs….also have a couple of the named books and a couple more checked out from the local”treasure room”(translate-library.) Preparing with a stockpile will take you as far as it lasts OR as long as it is in your possession. Having the understanding and knowledge to provide what is needed from what is at hand is one of my focus points. Your points are well made Chuck. Would also enjoy to see a post…do try.
      i second Arlene’s p.s. -wrote down the particulars to look up but enjoy your stories and the info you share, or HOW you share P.R.-yes please, lay women’s term.

  5. I also have download to my computer 1,000+(over 140 just on herbs and growing) of U-Tube videos so I can view them off-line or if the net ever gets filtered or goes away. It’s time-consuming as I watch the videos first before I save them to make sure it’s good, but down the road I’m guessing the saved videos will be of help to myself and others. I still like books more, but the videos are also very handy to have but we need to understand not all videos are filled with good info so a person needs a good base of understanding in a given subject to be able to judge the worth of info in a U-Tube video.

    There is no way I can remember everything about every herb so the videos (and books) help me have a good base of info at my finger tips. I organize the video files by category so I can find them fast and I also make backup copies I burn to DVD’s as MP4 videos that any computer can read. I have burnt extra copies of these for friends and family. I know they haven’t watched them, but if a medical problem does come up I at least did my part by providing them info to help solve it.

    In the past computer memory was expensive and videos burn up a lot of it, but today its a lot less expensive and it’s easy to build a good library of possibly life-saving information and also be able to help others by using DVD’s or flash drives. Although I like DVD’s more to archive digital information a USB drive can work but I wonder how long it holds it’s memory?

    To save money on blank DVD’s I find them at garage sales at reasonable prices. I hardly pay more then $3.00 for 30 or 40 of them. And blank CD’s are always under $2.00 for 30 or 40 of them. At these prices it’s easy to make extra copies of info to pass out to other people.

    Here is a site that allows easy downloads of U-Tube videos.

  6. Chuck,

    How about writing an article on your plants? I’ve tried herbal gardens primarily for cooking purposes but with a little effort, it could be extended to medicinal herbs and plants.


  7. Arlene,

    You know, a subsonic ricochet from an suppressed SBR. Seriously, a suppressed SBR is a short barreled rifle with what is commonly called a silencer. Weapons with silencers optimally shoot subsonic rounds that fire a projectile just slower than the speed of sound. Remember the sonic booms back in the 50s from the fighter planes that caused the chickens to stop laying? Bullets traveling faster than the speed of sound likewise trail a sonic boom. Anyone shot at with a high powered rifle or even pulling targets in the pits know the three sounds, crack (or boom) when the bullet passes nearby (the sonic boom), thud when it hits something, then perhaps even several seconds later depending on how far away the round was fired from, another boom generated by the muzzle blast as the rifle fired. Subsonic rounds eliminates the supersonic boom. The .45acp is but one of the many popular subsonic rounds. In my case, the shooter had fired the venerable H&K MP5 submachine gun (SBR) with a suppressor (silencer) using subsonic 9mm Lugar (or parabellum) round. The bullet struck something hard or metal and it bounced back toward me at a good fraction of muzzle speed. I actually saw the bullet in flight as a copper streak. Having a helmet light made it even easier to see the bullet. Many people myself included, are convinced slower projectiles are more likely to ricochet.

    I never never shoot at metal popper targets.

    Firearms are inherently dangerous, to the shootee and the shooter.

    Always wear hearing protection, (huh?), and eye protection. Most people don’t understand the need for eye protection. When a modern weapon is fired, it may generate as much as 65,000 pounds of pressure (which forces the bullet out of the barrel at a good clip). When the bullet exits the muzzle, the pressure is released suddenly making the bang. Suppressors slow the rapid release of pressure by use of baffles and may even generate out of phase noise to further counter the bang. If there is a failure of obscuration by the brass case against the chamber (never never shoot with an oily chamber), high pressure caused by a fouled or obstructed bore, over diameter, or too heavy bullet, and/or over power charged case, that pressure may be breach the brass case and be directed back into the weapon/ action expelling powder or even metal fragments into the shooter or bystanders. The eyes are most vulnerable. Many Mauser style action bolt action rifles, have a hole in the receiver on the left hand side. This hole is a gas release vent to redirect gasses and particles away from the shooter. Never never cover this hole with a finger. If you’re a bystander, don’t linger in line with this hole. Most of the time you would be ok… Other times, the primer cup may fail and the primer anvil or pieces of the cup itself may be blown back into your eyes. Yet still, the muzzle blast alone may even stir up debris. Anyone shooting a .50 BMG near the ground has seen the cloud of dirt and debris from the muzzle blast. Firearms are just dangerous and require proper attention.

    While I’m so deeply aside, you might want to don a headlamp at night and direct it at a safe target 25 to 50 yards away. Put on eye and ear protection and fire your .45 at the target. You will actually see the bullet as a copper streak. Same can be done if someone stands behind you shining a flashlight along the bullet path. You should be able to see .22 bullets and regular 9mm bullets as well. The key is to have the illumination on axis with your eyesight and bullet path. For those of you who hunt, you know that vision mounted illumiation makes optimal use of the retroreflective nature of animal’s eyes. The side mounted eyes of prey animals light up at all angles. But again, the light must be in line with your eyes and what you’re looking toward.

    Apologies for the lengthly explanations.


  8. I’m not an expert, I’m just a guy that researched info I wanted and then applied it to my life and it worked good for myself and those I interact with. I not a doctor and I don’t play one on the net.

    I won’t be doing an article, it takes a lot of time and almost ALWAYS generates responses from people that tell you you don’t know what you are talking about. (I have submitted a few articles to prepper blogs and a few to home remodeling blogs (I’m a 20+year self-employed handyman) and it almost always brings some internet expert that will argue with you about what you said and go on response after response about how he has it right and you have it wrong. Even when you debunk the argument with facts, they shift to some other point and rant about that. It’s like trying to shoot a moving target, just when you line up on the target the person runs off with it and you have to start over.

    Sorry but I just don’t want to spend time debating over such stuff as work keeps me busy enough and I don’t need a new hobby of endlessly debating people with a passion to argue over such stuff.

    In the post above I gave suggestions about a few very good books to get and things to look into. If a person wants more info they should buy the books and do their own research. It makes all of us better prepared if we do our own research. At least it does with me…


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