Goods packed in a box with cardboard dunnage

Dunnage refers to the material used to protect, secure and support goods while they are being transported from one place to another. It can include materials such as styrofoam, bubble wraps and steel racks.

Fragile items tend to require more dunnage as they can be damaged easily during transit.


  • Dunnage is the material used during shipping to protect goods from damage, moisture and shock. It can also make odd-shape packages easier for handlers to manage.
  • Lightweight materials are typically used for smaller and more fragile items while heavy or custom dunnages are used for higher-value goods.
  • Purpose of Dunnage

    Packages go through a long handling process during transit from being loaded onto containers to being shipped. Protecting them with dunnage can ensure the following:

    • Damage protection

    Packages may slide around during transit. Hence, dunnage can protect goods from accidental damage that may arise during transportation or handling.

    • Moisture protection

    Cargos may be exposed to water due to rain. By using dunnages, they will not run the risk of being damaged by moisture. This is especially important if there are electronic goods involved.

    • Shock absorption

    During shipping, packages may slide around. They may also get dropped from a height or get crushed by heavier cargo. Dunnage can help to mitigate the effects of such external shock and prevent damage.

    • Easy handling

    Dunnage is used to allow handlers to manage cumbersome and odd-shaped items such as furniture easily. 

    Types of Dunnage

    There are various types of dunnage available for different purposes. Those made of lightweight materials are often used to protect small and inexpensive items while heavy and custom materials are used for expensive and heavy items. 

    Here are the common types of dunnage materials used: 

    Lightweight dunnage

    • Bubble wrap

    Bubble wrap is one of the most common dunnage materials. It is inexpensive and great for shipping fragile items. It can also be reused if the bubbles are not popped.

    • Dunnage bags

    Dunnage bags are reusable airbags that are used to fill empty spaces in shipping containers. This prevents packages from shifting around during transit.

    • Foam

    Foam packaging comes in different densities to provide different levels of protection. The higher the density, the more protection it provides. This type of dunnage is affordable and can be used as a gap filler. Alternatively, it can be molded to fit high-value items such as laptops and cameras.

    • Kraft paper 

    Kraft papers are made of chemical pulp and are thick and strong. They are also known for their high tear resistance, making them a popular choice for dunnage. Kraft paper is usually stuffed into packages as gap fillers.

    • Corrugated sheet

    Corrugated sheets, also known as corrugated paper/cardboard, are made of recycled paper. They are easily available and relatively inexpensive. Additionally, they have shock-absorbing properties and are able to withstand a wide range of weights. 

    Heavy dunnage

    • Steel

    Its hardy properties and ability to withstand heavy loads make it a good choice when transporting heavier packages and cargos. It helps to keep these items in place so that smaller goods are not damaged. However, this type of dunnage is expensive and is typically used for high-value items. 

    • Solid plastic 

    Solid plastic is made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and is great for preventing scratches and chafes. As it can be expensive, it is often only used for high-value shipments.

    • Wood 

    Wood is typically used to secure cargos so they do not shift around excessively, damaging other cargos. It is easily available and relatively cheap compared to solid plastic and steel.

    Custom dunnage

    Custom dunnage materials are often used when transporting extremely fragile goods. They are tailored to fit the specific dimensions of the product. As they can be expensive, they are generally used for cargos of higher value.

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