Letter Re: Advice on CONEX Storage, and Preventing Damage to Stored Items

I really enjoy your site and books and regularly recommend your work to a number of friends. Due to a job transfer I will be moving from my retreat to a large metropolitan area. I purchased a [Continental Express] shipping container (CONEX) to store some of my preparation items I will not need or be able to transport/store. Do you or your readers have any experience storing saddles/tack, wood items in a CONEX? Bulk food packed in 5 gallon buckets? How about soft goods (clothing, blankets etc.) in steel 55 gal drums placed inside the container? My main concern is “sweating” and resultant damage and mold growth. I live on the north Texas state line where we have hot summers and rainy/moist winters. I have elevated the box off the ground to increase circulation and I am currently in search of “anti condensation” paint for the interior. As a side note to your readers, I recently unpacked some items stored in Rubbermaid ActionPacker [heavy duty plastic bin]s. To my surprise mice had eaten through [the bins] and destroyed ponchos, poncho liners, water filters, matches, first aid supplies etc.. An expensive lesson but better now than later. Any advice on smaller man portable containers for long term storage in a non climate controlled environment i.e. barn, CONEX etc.

Thanks again for your work and I will continue to spread the word about SurvivalBlog. – Jim in Texas

JWR Replies:
The crucial things to remember for storing items inside CONEXes are to:
1.) Leave a 6″ gap between any containers and the “sweaty” walls.

2.) Install one or more “spinner” air vents in the top centerline of the CONEX. The general guideline I’ve heard is one 8″ spinner vent for each 10 feet of CONEX length.

3.) Store most of the items inside in their own vermin-proof and water proof containers. The 30 and 55 gallon steel drums work fine, but I particularly like the surplus US Army 20mm ammo cans. (These measure 18″ long x 14.5″ high x 8″ wide and are often available at guns shows. They are also available via mil order, but with most vendors you will probably pay nearly as much for shipping as you do for the cans themselves!) One vendor that I do recommend is Altrec.com Outdoors. (They are one of our Affiliate advertisers. ) They sell 20mm ammo cans for $19.95 each, and offer free shipping for orders over $45. (Hence, you’d have to order three cans or combine the order with other items.) Search on item # 30440. The 20mm ammo cans are a convenient size to store items up to 18″ long, and they stack efficiently.

With 30 and 55 gallon steel drums there is a lot of wasted space and it impractical to access items in the bottom row of drums if you stack them. One solution I’ve saw used at a consulting client’s retreat in Northern California: Making a framework out of 4x4s (attached with large carriage bolts) to stack the drums horizontally, as much as three tiers high. The great depth of drums makes it difficult to access items in the bottom of a drum without a lot of unpacking. But they do make sense if you have a lot of identical items. (For example, say you have 20 or 30 military surplus wool blankets that you are storing for charity or barter.)

4.) Include several packets of silica gel desiccant inside each sealed container. Large bags of silica gel are often available free if you ask at stores that sell imported tools, machinery, or pianos from Asia. A few phone calls or a “wanted” ad placed on Craig’s List can often yield quite a bounty. (There are local editions of Craig’s List throughout the US and internationally.)

4.) Be sure to put all of the boxes, crates and ammo cans that you store inside a CONEX up on pallets or 2″x4″ wood blocks. You can usually get free pallets at building supply stores or feed stores, and scrap random length 2×4 blocks free for the asking at construction sites.