How to Pack & Ship Winter Sports Equipment

Skis are a classic example of a shipping challenge; how do you package something so large and prevent it from being damaged in transit?
The secret lies in using the right box and padding it well. Finding a big enough box for a snowboard or pair of skis can be tricky, so here are some tips:

  • Ask your local sporting goods store if they have any extra boxes (they may have leftover boxes from the new skis and snowboards they receive)
  • Ask surf shops and appliance stores for large boxes (from surfboards, hot water heaters, etc.)
  • Order a tall box from a shipping supplies company like Uline.
  • Take several smaller boxes and tape them together securely to form one larger box

1. Pack the Skis in a Padded Ski Bag

Start by placing the skis inside a padded ski bag, if they came with one (do the same thing for a snowboard). If the bag doesn't have an interior divider, wrap each ski individually with bubblewrap before placing inside the bag. Zip up the bag and make sure the skis aren't bumping into each other inside. Next, place a layer of packing peanuts in a large box, put the ski bag on top of the peanuts, then fill the sides and top with more peanuts. Before sealing the box, give it a gentle shake to make sure the ski bag isn't bumping into the box (if it is, add more peanuts).

If there's no ski bag, wrap each ski individually in several layers of bubblewrap, then follow the rest of the instructions above. Put extra padding around the tips; cut up pieces of old tires (or other heavy-duty materials) work very well. Secure the rubber with heavy-duty tape or twine, but be careful not to let the tape touch the skis as this can damage the finish.

2. Pack the Ski Poles in a Tube

Ski poles are delicate and can bend easily, so it's especially important to put them inside something sturdy. Here's a neat trick: wrap each pole in bubble wrap (put puncture-proof cushioning around the ends), then slip both poles into a heavy cardboard or plastic tube. Most hardware stores carry rigid-but-lightweight PVC and can cut it to size for you.

3. Pack the Boots, Jackets, Goggles and Gloves Separately

Fortunately, not all winter sports equipment is challenging to pack: boots, jackets, goggles and gloves are generally much easier to ship because of their smaller size. Still, it's worth taking the proper precautions when packaging: goggles should first be wrapped in a soft, non-abrasive cloth to protect the lenses, followed by a layer of bubble wrap. Hats, gloves, jackets and other clothes don't require padding but they should be placed in a sealed plastic bag to protect them from dirt and moisture. Smaller items can be shipped in Tyvek envelopes; larger items should be placed inside cardboard boxes.

4. Know Your Shipping Carriers Recommendations and Restrictions

Be aware of your shipping carrier's size and weight limitations. Fedex will only accept packages weighing no more than 150 pounds and measuring no more than 165 inches in length and girth (length and twice the width and twice the height). If your package exceeds these restrictions, you may have to ship the package via freight instead.

Follow your shipping carrier's instructions for addressing the package. Some have special requirements for placement of labels; for example, Fedex Ground requests that you stick the barcode label on the longest side of the package, as close to the address label as possible. Also, avoid placing the barcode label on an edge, a seam or a rough surface since that might make the label difficult to scan.

Fedex and some other carriers will also accept skis in ski bags. This is not recommended, however, as the bag won't provide nearly as much protection as a sturdy cardboard box (even though ski bags are usually padded, they don't offer much protection against compression). If you decide to ship skis in a ski bag, give the skis an extra layer of protection by wrapping them in bubble wrap first. In lieu of sticking a label on the bag, attach a tie-on tag with the shipping information to the bag's handle.

5. Insure the Shipment

Many will try to save a few dollars by skipping purchasing insurance, but will regret it if the package arrives damaged. Check with your carrier for insurance options. Since shipping costs can be high for oversized items, it's best to understand all the options and get quotes from multiple carriers.

Tips

  • Bulky jackets and snowsuits can be hard to fold, so lay the item out flat, then roll it up like a sleeping bag, compressing it as you go. Place inside a clean plastic bag and kneel on it to squeeze out as much air as possible, then seal the bag. Place the bag into the smallest box it will fit into. You shouldn't need to add any padding, since the item isn't breakable, but you do want to make sure the box is sturdy and can't be torn or crushed easily.
  • Boots and skates should be shipped in their original box (if you have it and it's still in good condition). If the skates came with the plastic blade guards, use them. Cushion each boot with crumpled tissue paper or bubble wrap, place in the box and then put that box in a larger cardboard box lined with packing peanuts on all sides.

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