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Smart WarehousingJan 22, 2024 10:00:00 AM4 min read

What Is Dunnage, and Why Is It Important?


While a term common in the logistics world, “dunnage” has now begun weaving its importance into the fabric of eCommerce and resonating with the everyday consumer experience. Encompassing packaging materials like fillers, crinkle paper, bubble wrap, plastic bracing, kraft paper, blocks, boards, and planks, dunnage plays a vital role in securing and supporting packages as they move through the shipping and handling process. Let’s explore exactly what dunnage is, why it’s a crucial piece of eCommerce fulfillment, and why it’s beneficial for your business. 

What Is Dunnage?

Dunnage refers to the sturdy material leveraged during shipping to protect goods from unwanted damages. Ranging from bubble wrap to industrial solid plastics, dunnage is an effective way to prevent items from shifting during transit. If you’ve ever packaged and mailed a gift for the holidays or a birthday, you likely used dunnage to cushion the item during its journey. Fragile items, such as a glass vase, require more dunnage (think: lots of bubble wrap to eliminate gaps), while less risky products, like a pillow, don’t require extra support.


Dunnage is most effective when used in conjunction with an appropriately sized box or bag. As a best practice, shippers should refrain from placing small items in overly large boxes or fragile items in a simple bubble mailer, as this could cause unwanted damage. 

Dunnage for Effective Packaging and Protection

Once an order is picked, packed, and shipped, packages can be exposed to a variety of conditions while in transit. Dunnage offers security and stability, absorbing shock and preventing items from shifting while items make their way to the end recipient. The three main advantages of utilizing dunnage include:


  • Shock absorption: During the shipping process, products can easily slide around, get squished, experience a collision, or fall off a truck bed during loading or unloading—all of which cause shock and vibration. Dunnage can effectively absorb shock and safeguard goods from sustaining damages. 
  • Damage protection: In a similar vein, packages can slide or roll across a truck, train, or ship while in transit. Dunnage offers a cost-effective way to protect loose, valuable, and fragile items. 
  • Moisture protection: During transportation, packages are often exposed to the elements. Leveraging the right dunnage can ensure products, like electronics, are protected from harmful moisture. 

Types of Dunnage for Optimal Packaging

There’s a myriad of dunnage materials available in the market. From the use of steel to fortify heavy, expensive items to lightweight bubble wrap for smaller goods, you can determine the best type of dunnage materials for your business based on what kinds of products you sell. Let’s dive into the most common dunnage materials used during shipping. 


Bubble Wrap

Shipping glass or a similar fragile product? Bubble wrap is a popular and dependable way to safely move your goods from point A to point B. It’s also highly durable, so it can be reused in the future if desired. 


Solid Plastics

Solid plastics are commonly used in high-value, industrial shipping and have a higher price tag than most dunnage materials. However, its efficacy in protecting high-value items makes this material a worthwhile investment. 


Air Pillows

Often used to fill unoccupied space, air pillows provide a great way to prevent products from sliding inside the packaging. 



This type of dunnage is commonly used to pad medical equipment, electronics, fragile or sensitive items, and sharp pieces. You know that 55” flatscreen TV lovingly mounted on your living room wall? Chances are, you encountered foam dunnage when you first unboxed it.



Wood dunnage can be ethically sourced and is both affordable and recyclable. It’s typically used for heavy goods to create a barrier between items. 


Kraft Paper

Made from recycled materials, kraft paper is durable and highly popular because it’s eco-friendly, affordable, effective, and reusable. 


Corrugated Paper

Corrugated paper is another popular dunnage material that offers moisture protection, supports a diverse range of weights, and provides an eco-friendly packaging alternative—all thanks to the material’s high-tech construction. 



Commonly employed for high-value shipping, steel comes with a steeper cost compared to other dunnage options. For heavy, valuable goods, however, steel is highly effective as it provides a sturdy foundation and protects lighter products from sustaining damage. 


Custom Dunnage Packaging

Custom dunnage becomes essential in situations where fragile materials possess precise dimensions. Collaborating with dunnage providers allows you to design customized solutions that effectively safeguard your products.

The Right Dunnage To Elevate Your Products

Dunnage is essential in the shipping process—whether you’re an e-commerce brand or a big freight shipper. The type of dunnage your business uses can greatly impact both your reputation and your ability to strengthen customer loyalty. Consumers expect packages to arrive on time and undamaged, and being able to deliver on that expectation is vital for maintaining a competitive presence and driving repeat business. The right dunnage is also important for minimizing returns due to damages sustained during transportation. 

At Smart Warehousing, our expertise as a 3PL goes beyond providing the best dunnage materials for your products. We can help support your entire logistics picture—from order fulfillment to inventory management to transportation. Discover how our technology and experience can help your business thrive by contacting our team today.