Packing for Competitions
Each Whale Pod shipper comes with three foam inserts and a corrugated cardboard box. The box is very sturdy, and surprisingly smaller than comparable shipping box. Pictured with the box and foam inserts is a gusseted (think ziplock) bag. The bag is a nice addition, as it will help prevent any signs of breakage. When shipping, if a bottle breaks, the whole package is destroyed; so the bag is a little extra insurance that the package will arrive to the destination.
The Foam Inserts
From left to right is the top insert, the neck brace, and the bottom insert. As you can see, the most protection is at the base, followed by the top. The neck inserts help to prevent the bottles from moving during shipping and align the caps to insert into the top foam. These inserts are cut well, the fit is good, and can accommodate the large base Belgian-style bottles (it is a snug fit at the base).
The box ships flat, you need to assemble it. The left side, with the larger tab, is the base, the right with the smaller tab is the top. Assemble the base first, we will come back to the top later. Simply form into a rectangle and insert tab A into slot B.
Looks Like a Box
With the base folded in place you can proceede to insert the back and foam, or if you are like me, wrap the base with packing tape. Sure, it probably wont come open, but I like to put my faith into cellophane tape. Just that added bit of protection is worth the peace of mind. Tape the base up, flip it over and lets fill.
Flipped over, just waiting to be filled
Bag & Foam
Add the bag and the foam. I will use this box to go to my "cellar" (basement) and pull bottle for the competition.
Pick a Winner
Loaded up the box with all the beer from the cellar. I like to bottle condition my competition beer, and will label them with a paper label. (The smaller labels work better.) I will write the style and bottling date on them, that way I can combine boxes and still know what beer is what.
This slide paper cutter makes easy work of the competiton lables. There is a guide wire, just line up the cut marks on the print and slide the blade across.
Attach that freshly sliced label to your bottle with rubber bands. Get yourself a pack of 500 or so, should last a couple of years.
Once the bottles are all labeled, press the down into the foam base. Make sure they are snug and won't move during shipping. Slide the neck insert over the bottles, this will help align the bottles for the top foam, as well as add an extra layer of protection from jostling during shipping.
Top Me Off
Add the top foam. Once again, press firmly down to ensure a nice, snug fit.
Don't Forget to Zip
Zip the gusseted bag. I will zip about 90% of the way, then press the bag to expel any air trapped inside. Once it is mostly empty, zip it rest of the way shut and fold the bag into the box. It will tuck down the side easily.
Tape it Up
Once again, a little bit of tape will add much needed peace of mind. Also, the fragile stickers are so much easier than writing on the box four times. A pack of 100 will set you back around $8 on Amazon. (No more getting high off of Sharpie fumes, too!)
I like to use FedEx for shipping. UPS is also a good choice. DO NOT use USPS. Just don't. You don't want to receive a call from the Post Master General asking why you are shipping booze. FedEx drop off locations should have the plastic adhesive shipping label holder pocket. Peel the backing and stick it on the top of your package. I like to add an extra pass of packing tape over the top. (I had the label, plastic and all, come off during transit one time. Had to ship the entries all over again.) If you can, print your shipping label at home. It saves time, money, and you don't have to answer the question of "What's in the box?", either. Drop off your package at the nearest location. I like to do this on Monday. Why Monday? I prefer to ship ground, and ground shipping is only during the week. If you drop off on the weekend, or later in the week, chances are your package will sit in a a non-air conditioned space over the weekend. Minimize the unknown conditions, and drop off early in the week.