Guide to Dunnage Bags to Secure Cargo

Guide to Dunnage Bags to Secure Cargo
Published On:October 11, 2018 Revised On:December 27, 2023

When it comes to transporting goods, ensuring the safety of cargo during transit is of utmost importance. Improperly secured cargo can lead to damage, losses, and delays, causing significant financial setbacks for businesses and inconvenience for customers. One effective solution to this problem is the use of dunnage bags. This comprehensive guide will delve into what dunnage bags are, their benefits, and how to use them effectively to safeguard cargo during transportation.

What are Dunnage Bags?

Dunnage bags, also known as airbags or inflatable bags, are flexible and robust packaging products used to secure and stabilize cargo during transportation. They are designed to fill the void spaces between goods, effectively preventing movement and shifting during transit.

Dunnage bags are typically made from layers of strong and tear-resistant materials, such as woven polypropylene, kraft paper, or a combination of both. The bags have an inner layer that holds the air, while the outer layer provides durability and protection.

How Dunnage Bags Work

Dunnage bags work on a simple principle: they fill the void between the cargo items and the container walls, preventing movement during transit. When inflated, the bags create a cushion-like barrier that absorbs shocks and vibrations caused by abrupt movements or external factors during transportation.

Types of Dunnage Bag

Dunnage bags come in various types, each designed to meet specific cargo-securing needs. Understanding the different types of dunnage bags will help you choose the most suitable option for your specific shipment requirements. Here are the common types of dunnage bags available in the market:

  1. Kraft Paper Dunnage Bags: These are the most common dunnage bags made from multi-layered kraft paper. They are suitable for light to medium-weight cargo and are relatively cost-effective.
  2. Poly-woven Dunnage Bags: These bags are made from woven polypropylene material and are more durable and moisture-resistant. They are used for heavier loads and offer better protection during transportation.
  3. Vinyl Dunnage Bags: Vinyl dunnage bags are made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride) material, providing excellent strength and resistance to punctures. They are suitable for heavy or sharp-edged cargo.
  4. Polyethylene Dunnage Bags: Made from polyethene material, these bags are used when extra protection against moisture and humidity is required. They are commonly used in marine or shipping applications.

Benefits of Using Dunnage Bags

Dunnage bags are essential for cargo protection during transportation due to several key reasons:

  • Preventing Cargo Shifting: One of the primary purposes of dunnage bags is to prevent cargo from shifting during transit. When goods are not properly secured, they can move around inside the shipping container or truck, leading to potential damage and instability. Dunnage bags create a tight and secure fit, immobilizing the cargo and reducing the risk of collisions and friction during transportation.
  • Minimizing Damage: Cargo that is not adequately secured can suffer from impacts, vibrations, and compression forces during transit. These external forces can damage products, especially in delicate or sensitive items. Dunnage bags act as a cushioning barrier, absorbing shocks and vibrations and protecting the cargo from harm.
  • Cost-Effective Solution: Unlike other cargo securing methods like wood blocking or metal bracing, dunnage bags offer a more cost-effective solution. They are lightweight, easy to handle, and require minimal storage space. Additionally, they reduce the need for excess packaging materials and can help save on shipping costs.
  • Versatility: Dunnage bags can be used with various types of cargo, regardless of their shape or size. They are adaptable and fit into different spaces, making them suitable for various industries, from automotive and electronics to consumer goods and industrial equipment.
  • Time Efficiency: Securing cargo with dunnage bags is quick and efficient. Unlike traditional methods requiring intricate bracing and blocking, dunnage bags can be easily inflated and placed between the cargo, saving time during loading and unloading operations.
  • Environmental Friendliness: Dunnage bags are often made from recyclable materials, making them eco-friendly for cargo protection. As more companies focus on sustainable practices, dunnage bags offer an environmentally responsible solution for safeguarding goods during transportation.
  • Compliance with Regulations: Many industries have specific regulations and guidelines for cargo securing during transportation. Using dunnage bags that meet these standards ensures that companies comply with safety regulations, reducing the risk of potential fines and legal issues.

Applications of Dunnage Bags

Dunnage bags have a wide range of applications in various industries and modes of transportation. Their versatility and effectiveness in cargo protection make them popular for securing different goods. Some of the common applications of dunnage bags include:

  1. Securing Palletized Goods: Dunnage bags are commonly used to secure palletized goods on trucks, containers, or railcars. They are placed between the cargo and inflated to fill the void spaces, ensuring the pallets remain stable and immobile during transportation.
  2. Shipping Heavy Machinery: Large and heavy machinery, such as industrial or construction machinery, can be difficult to secure during transit. Dunnage bags provide an effective solution for bracing and cushioning heavy machinery to prevent shifting and damage.
  3. Securing Drums and Barrels: For industries dealing with hazardous materials, chemicals, or liquids stored in drums or barrels, dunnage bags offer a reliable method to keep the containers in place and prevent potential leaks or spills.
  4. Protecting Fragile Goods: Delicate and fragile goods, such as glassware, electronics, and artwork, require extra care during transportation. Dunnage bags act as a cushioning layer, reducing the risk of breakage and ensuring the safe delivery of these items.
  5. Reefer Containers: For temperature-sensitive goods transported in refrigerated containers (reefers), dunnage bags help maintain the required temperature by preventing air gaps that could compromise insulation.

Choosing the Right Dunnage Bag

Selecting the appropriate dunnage bag for cargo is crucial to ensure its effectiveness. Consider the following factors when making your choice:

  • Cargo Type: Different cargo types require specific dunnage bags. Determine whether standard kraft paper bags for general use or water-resistant polypropylene bags are needed for goods exposed to moisture.
  • Bag Size: Measure the void space within the shipping container accurately to choose the right bag size. Dunnage bags come in various dimensions, so select the one that fills the gap snugly.
  • Load Weight: Consider the weight of the cargo when choosing the dunnage bag’s load-bearing capacity. Overloading a bag may cause it to burst, rendering it ineffective.
  • Inflation Method: Decide on the inflation method that suits the logistics process. Dunnage bags can be inflated using air compressors, hand pumps, or inflator tools.

Using Dunnage Bags Effectively

Follow these steps to ensure the proper use of dunnage bags:

  1. Pre-Inspection: Before loading cargo, inspect the dunnage bags for any defects, damages, or leaks. Use only undamaged bags to ensure their effectiveness.
  2. Correct Placement: Position the dunnage bags between the cargo items, filling void spaces to prevent movement in all directions.
  3. Proper Inflation: Inflate the bags to the appropriate pressure level, as over-inflation or under-inflation can compromise their effectiveness. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for inflation pressure.
  4. Secure Loading: Once the bags are in place, secure the cargo with other appropriate securing methods, such as strapping or bracing, for added stability.


Dunnage bags are a reliable and cost-effective solution to secure cargo during transportation. Properly selecting and using these protective tools can significantly reduce the risk of damage to goods, ensuring they reach their destination safely and intact. Always adhere to best practices and guidelines for dunnage bag usage, and peace of mind can be achieved knowing cargo is in good hands throughout its journey.