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What is Dunnage? Meaning and Types

What is Dunnage?

By definition, dunnage refers to any material used to fill empty space in a package, and keep products from shifting during transport. Whether you are using a box or poly bag, you should make sure it is going in the right one. You don't want fragile products in a poly bag and you don't want a small product in a large box.

Not all products fit perfectly into a box, and this is where dunnage comes in to fill the space. There are many different types of dunnage, each with its own unique benefits.

Let's dig in and find out more about dunnage!

Why do Shippers Need Dunnage?

Damage protection

Dunnage protects items inside packages when they are in transit. It doesn't need to cost a lot, but it can save your package from getting destroyed before it gets to your customer.

Moisture protection

If your product is sensitive to moisture, you can protect it with the right dunnage. This is especially important for paper products and electronics.

Shock absorption

Carriers have a tendency to man-handle packages. The result is lots of bouncing around if the box is too big. Dunnage can be utilized to absorb the shock from drops, and compression to prevent damage.


Sometimes you may simply want your product to be presented in a fashionable way. Sure you can put a water bottle into a box, but if you had a custom/molded insert that the water bottle fits in it would look a lot better.

What is Void Fill - Is it Different than Dunnage?

Void fill is another name for dunnage that is used to fill empty space in a package. It helps to keep products from shifting during transport and can be made from various materials such as paper, foam, or airbags. Void fill dunnage is available in different densities and thicknesses to suit the needs of different packaging applications.

Types of Dunnage

Some of the most common types of dunnage/void fill include:

1) Hard Plastics

You'll see this normally with industrial products that are expensive. Using plastics is expensive, but necessary if your product is high-value.

2) Wood

Pieces of wood can be used to separate items, specifically those that are really heavy.

3) Kraft Paper

Kraft paper is a fan favorite and has been used in a variety of different structures from basic paper to crinkle paper to simulating bubble wrap.

It is:

  • Inexpensive

  • Environmentally friendly

  • Reusable and recyclable

4) Bubble Wrap

Bubble wrap is a type of dunnage made from clear plastic film. The film is filled with air bubbles to simulate sheets of tiny air pillows. It is often used in packaging to provide cushioning and support for fragile items. Because it is in the form of a sheet, you can easily wrap products in it.

5) Air pillows

Air pillows or airbags are a type of dunnage that is inflated with air to fill empty space in a package. It is similar to bubble wrap, but the airbags are bigger and not in sheet form.

They fill more space and help to keep products from shifting during transport and can be made from various materials such as paper, foam, or film. Airbags are available in different sizes and shapes to suit the needs of different packaging applications.

6) Foam

Foam dunnage is a popular choice for many packaging applications. It is lightweight and easy to work with, and can be cut to fit any size or shaped container. Foam dunnage also provides good shock absorption and cushioning properties.

You'll see this in use with fragile products and electronics for maximum shock absorption.

7) Corrugated Paper

The design of corrugated paper allows it to stand up under decent weight, protect against moisture, and is sustainable like Kraft paper. This comes in a sturdy sheet or in a roll, so it will have to be cut to size.

8) Steel

Steel is used for extremely expensive and heavy products that may not stand up with corrugated or wood.

9) Styrofoam

Styrofoam packing peanuts are not used as frequently due to their impact on the environment. However, they aren't gone completely. They are often used in packaging to fill empty spaces and prevent products from shifting during transport.

Do I Need Dunnage?

Dunnage is crucial for freight companies as well as smaller eCommerce brands simply looking to keep their product protected during transport to their customers.

If you are shipping products that are fragile, expensive, or need to maintain a certain shape, dunnage is a good option to consider. It can help to protect your products from damage during transport and can be customized to fit your specific needs.

Depending on what you are shipping, you may consider different types of dunnage. At the end of the day, you'll want something that looks nice, but most importantly, keeps your product from getting damaged which results in returns and unhappy customers.

If you're considering dunnage, take into account the type of product you're shipping, how you ship them, how much they weigh, how big they are, and what your goals are. If you're using a 3PL, talk with them about what dunnage they use and what dunnage would be best for your product.

Let OTW Shipping Fulfill your Orders Safely

OTW Shipping Dunnage and Fulfillment Services

With OTW Shipping, our team will discuss your dunnage needs with you to make sure your product arrives to your customer safely and securely every time.

Our fulfillment centers use Kraft paper, bubble wrap, and any other custom dunnage needs you may have. Give us a shout and we will figure out the best dunnage for you and your brand.


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