How To Pack A Shipping Barrel For Jamaica

(Post Updated July 2022)

If you want to pack a barrel for shipping to Jamaica but don’t know where to start, start here! This guide to packing a barrel gives you tips and tricks to get everything safely overseas with none of the most common mishaps.

Deciding what to pack in your shipping barrel and packing the first one is like going through a rite of passage and not necessarily an enlightened one if not done right! It takes time, patience, and cunning packing skills to ensure you start on the right foot. Cutting corners that create spillages and breakages could put you off from sending anything again.  

So let’s get into it and end your barrel packing dilemmas and nightmares, I have put together my top tips and tricks on how to pack a barrel for shipping to Jamaica the easy breezy way…

Getting Prepared To Pack A Barrel To Jamaica

Packing a barrel effectively can take some time, patience, and experience. But once you get the hang of it you will be able to make the best use of space and keep the contents safe and secure in transit.

I would highly recommend tackling the packing when you have a couple of hours (at the very least) to spare and when you aren’t tired, hungry, or generally in a bad mood, as it takes time to sort, seal, protect and pack all the items in the barrel securely.

Packing a barrel can become tedious, to say the least, and it’s best to get into it when there is plenty of time before you have the agents knocking on the door ready to start shipping the barrel to Jamaica.

Start way ahead of time, instead of leaving it to the last minute resulting in bags of breakfast cereal being popped and thrown around the room in frustration!

10 Tips On How To Prepare To Pack A Barrel:

  1. Grab a drink and maybe a snack and leave it to hand, packing a barrel can be hungry and thirsty work
  2. Clear a space to sort your items for packing, so that you do NOT accidentally pack something to Jamaica that should be staying put (goodbye remote control!)
  3. Wait until you have all (or most) of the items that you want to ship, before attempting to pack your barrel so you can properly sort all of your items
  4. Have plenty of packing supplies, including brown tape, gaffer tape, newspaper, bubble wrap, containers, plastic bags, food bags, and a black permanent marker
  5. Sort the items into types; such as dried foods, tinned foods, detergents/cleaning products, toiletries, clothing, fabric-based items, delicate and breakable items, and so on
  6. Seal all items with caps and covers – apply strong parcel (brown tape) or gaffer tape around all the covers and caps of items that have them, especially if they contain liquids/sauces
  7. Double wrap dried food items – items in thin plastic packaging, such as rice, couscous, dried beans, legumes, and breakfast cereal have a tendency to get snagged which sends the whole contents plummeting to the bottom of the barrel
  8. Bubble wrap fragile items – wrap any glass jars, crockery, china, and breakable containers in newspaper or bubble wrap; for extra security, you can put the wrapped jars inside a plastic storage container to keep them contained and protected
  9. Remove excess packaging such as the cardboard boxes that toothpaste tubes and breakfast cereal are packed in
  10. Remove ‘air’ from dried food packaging that won’t go stale; make a small hole in plastic packaging and squeeze the additional air out of the package, and seal back the hole with packing or gaffer tape – such as bags of rice and pasta, but NOT bags of chips, cereal or cookies that will go stale if the air is released.
How to Pack a Barrel

How To Load A Barrel For Shipping To Jamaica

  1. Sort your items – If you are shipping two or more barrels, pack the chemicals, detergents, toiletries, and tinned foods in one barrel, and pack the other food and fragile items in another barrel, to prevent the transfer of scent and to protect food from accidental contamination
  2. Pack your barrel in layers to prevent damage to the contents and the transfer of smell/taste; which is why it is important to sort the items into type
  3. Put heavy and bulky items to the base of the barrel to make a strong foundation for the rest of the contents to sit on
  4. Any chemicals should be packed to the base of the barrel so that they cannot spill over the other items
  5. Stack tins (of the same size) in shopping bags and tie the handles; put up to two layers of 6 tins (12 in total) in each bag, which are easier to wrangle than individual tins
  6. Pack small items, such as tubes of toothpaste and sachets of food, in empty plastic containers or plastic bags and push them into any gaps
  7. Seal scented items – you can restrict the transfer of scented items, such as soap and perfumes, by sealing them inside air-tight containers – do not pack them near dried goods that have a habit of ‘sucking up’ the scent (soap-flavored rice and pasta does not taste good!)
  8. Delicate food items, such as dried goods, snacks, and breakfast cereals should be packed at the top of the barrel and double-wrapped so they cannot be squashed or burst
  9. Make a barrier – use soft items, such as towels or clothes folded up in plastic bags (to prevent soiling) to form a barrier between the heavy and scented items at the base of the barrel and the food items near the top, which assists to protect the items and prevents the spread of scent
  10. Place any receipts for proof of the cost and age of electrical items, tools or other expensive items in an envelope and put it on top of the contents in case you want to show it to customs officials at the wharf to prove the value of goods; new non-food items will attract more import taxes, so if you can prove that set of pans, or an electrical item is used it will lessen the blow
  11. Leave a few empty plastic bags at the top of the barrel in case you need to put anything in them that won’t fit back in the barrel after customs have gone through it; it will be taped to the top of the barrel as you aren’t allowed to take anything back into the customs hall with you
  12. This may seem ridiculous, but… don’t clean, shine and spruce up used household items – the wear and tear ensure it is obvious that is a used item (see above point) – this is probably not appropriate if sending items to others, but if it is for your own use just scour that old dutch pot to within an inch of its life when you get to Jamaica!

FAQs On Packing A Shipping Barrel For Jamaica

Before you put a single item in the barrel consider this. Your barrel will be squeezed and stacked among enough barrels to fill a 20ft or 40ft container. The containers will be stacked sky-high on a cargo ship, which will transport your heaving barrel across the ocean waves to Jamaica, so take time to pack it well.

I find that the packing of my barrels goes much smoother when I have EVERYTHING I plan to ship in front of me. This lessens the chances of bad packing decisions that can cause mishaps.

What Should I Pack In A Shipping Barrel First?

Heavy items and hazardous chemicals should always be put in the base of the barrel and the caps and covers should be taped. It is not uncommon for the contents of bottles to be squeezed and compressed so much that they force their way around the cap spilling into the bottom of the barrel. Not good if it is bleach or shampoo.

Top Tip! Tape the caps really securely with strong brown tape or gaffer tape, ensuring any items with a pump cannot be dispensed.

How Do I Prevent Scented Items From Transferring When Packing A Shipping Barrel?

Soaps and clothes detergents have very strong scents which can penetrate through a plastic bag and soak into dried goods and even chocolate bars!  

Make sure you separate these types of items and preferably put either the offending items or the foodstuffs into airtight containers to control the transfer of perfumed goods. Better still, seal both if possible.

I like to use mason jars, plastic storage containers, and even empty ice-cream tubs to stuff small items inside, as they come in handy for storing foodstuffs when I get to Jamaica. 

Use soft items, such as towels, curtains, and clothes to form a ‘barrier’ between the items at the base of the barrel and the delicate items at the top which creates a great scent catcher too! You may prefer to place these types of items in a plastic bag to keep them clean.

Top Tip! Put dried foods and scented products in reusable airtight containers.

How Do I Pack Breakable Items In A Shipping Barrel?

If I am packing breakable items I buy a big plastic box with a cover, and pack the items inside after wrapping them individually in bubble wrap; this container can be used to store your supplies of dry goods afterward to keep them away from insects and vermin.

Make sure the container can pass through the mouth of the barrel! It will usually have to be packed on its end in the barrel, so pack the heavier items to one side of the box and place that end into the barrel first; I would also recommend taping the cover to the box so that it cannot come open when being removed from the barrel. 

If you are packing dishes or glassware which are sold in a cardboard box, I would recommend opening it and placing a sheet of bubble wrap between each item before replacing them back in the cardboard box. This may make it hard to fit everything into the box, so a good old piece of tape might be needed to secure a box bursting at the seams! 

Top Tip! Many warehouse stores and Ikea sell large plastic storage boxes – don’t forget to tape the cover on. Use Bubble wrap, or the very least newspaper to wrap breakable items and tape boxes at the seams.

How Do I Fit The Most Items In A Shipping Barrel?

Look for ‘hidden’ space lurking in the barrel, or create it. Any empty vessels such as pots and pans can be stuffed with something; remove the handles where possible, tape the handle and screw together before placing it inside if it will fit, along with some stuff that will fit inside (breakables or easily squashed foods are ideal as the temporary metal vessel it travels in is highly protective).

Release excess air from items that will not spoil by doing so. Put something else in the ‘dead space’ in packaging, such as the top of a bulk pack of clothes washing detergent – I recommend using a bottle of fabric softener, or something that won’t be affected by the strong scent.

Remove unnecessary extra packaging, if it will not be detrimental to the items arriving safely.

Top Tip! Look carefully for extra space you can find or save, to maximize the number of items the barrel can hold.

Five Things That Went Wrong When I Shipped A Barrel

Whilst I do highly recommend using up all the available space and nooks and crannies in your barrel, don’t go overboard. I have noticed if I pack too zealously and pack things super tight, things go wrong. I have a few incidents that spring to mind…

  1. The time a can of soda was pierced with an unidentified sharp object, which left sticky residue over everything below it. Problem Buster: I am now more aware of what is nestled beside each other
  2. The time a pack of dried chickpeas popped, spilling to the bottom of the barrel. Problem Buster: I double / triple wrap flimsy packaging in plastic carrier bags
  3. The time my brand new large plastic container cracked so badly at one end that a piece fell off. Problem Buster: I don’t overstuff plastic containers and I leave a bit of breathing (or should I say heaving) room around the outside; to be extra cautious you can wrap soft and cushioning fabric items around the plastic box itself
  4. The time two champagne glasses had their stems broken – Problem Buster: I drank my champagne out of sanitary cups… just joking! I now wrap every breakable item in bubble wrap
  5. The time my Mum secretly packed some Christmas goodies at the top of a barrel, but packed scented candles and chocolate together – Problem Buster: I put anything porous or scented inside an airtight container to stop the transfer of smell, as the chocolate tasted of perfume

More Information On Shipping A Barrel To Jamaica

As I have 10 years of experience personally clearing barrels myself, I know it can be intimidating the first time you arrange to do it for yourself, but it doesn’t have to be that way if you do a little research on all the stages. Check out these informative posts on all things shipping!

  1. What Are Barrels: Brief history of shipping barrels, what they are, and where to buy them
  2. What to Pack In A Barrel: Ideas and advice on what to purchase to fill your barrel
  3. How To Pack A Barrel: The best method of packing a barrel
  4. How To Ship A Barrel: How to find a shipping agent and arrange to ship a barrel to Jamaica
  5. How To Clear A Barrel: This post is all about how to clear a barrel in Jamaica