Strapping vs. Stretch Wrap: Which Is Right for Me?

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No Shipping Operation Is Exactly the Same. Discover the Best Packing Materials for Your Needs!

Many palletized loads require extra reinforcement to keep items from shifting or sustaining damage while in transit. Strapping and stretch wrap are two of the most common packing materials for bundling and stabilizing larger shipments, like industrial equipment, construction products, and cases of e-commerce merchandise.

However, knowing when to use which solution isn’t always obvious. And in some cases, you should use both! In this blog, we’re taking a deep dive into strapping versus stretch wrap and the proper applications for each.

The Benefits of Stretch Wrap for Packing

Stretch wrap, also called stretch film, is a highly elastic polyethylene material that tightly binds boxes and other packages together. It’s most often used with an automatic stretch wrap machine or handheld dispenser to ensure all parts of the pallet are contained.

One of the biggest benefits of stretch wrap for packing is its flexibility. The film conforms to items of varying shapes and sizes with ease, making it ideal for loads that aren’t perfectly uniform and would otherwise be difficult to secure with packing straps.

When looking at strapping versus stretch wrap, the latter also tends to be the gentler option. Tensioned strapping can sometimes dig into lighter materials, causing damage to a package and its contents. Additionally, stretch film can provide some protection against dust and moisture, so packages are less vulnerable to outside elements.

Packing Straps and Their Uses

Packing straps are banding materials applied both horizontally and vertically to reinforce and restrain particularly large or heavy shipments. Like stretch wrap, an automated machine or handheld tool, known as a tensioner, is generally used to tighten and cut the material to the appropriate size.

Packing straps can be broken down into two main types: steel and poly strapping.

  • Steel strapping: Constructed from various steel alloys, steel strapping has the highest break strength of all packing straps, meaning it won’t give way even under the heaviest loads. It’s the superior choice if your shipment features any sharp edges as well, which have the potential to penetrate poly strapping. Although poly strapping has grown in popularity over the years, steel solutions are still primarily used for railroad shipments and other industrial applications.
  • Poly strapping: Poly strapping has more stretch than steel, so it expands and contracts around items that may shrink or settle during the shipping process. Loads that are sensitive to abrasion also benefit from it, as steel options can cause scratching.

In the debate of strapping versus stretch wrap, strapping can typically withstand rougher handling and longer travel times. It can also be argued that steel and poly strapping create less waste. Multiple layers of stretch wrap are required to prepare a pallet for shipment, while strapping involves only a few bands.

How to Decide Between Strapping Versus Stretch Wrap

Now that you know what sets strapping and stretch wrap apart, you can determine which material is right for your packaging requirements. Consider the following factors in your decision:

  • The weight of your palletized load
  • Your shipment’s uniformity and stacking stability
  • How far items will be traveling
  • How items will be handled
  • Budget and material costs
  • Customer preferences

Use Both Strapping and Stretch Wrap for Packing Ultra-Heavy Loads

Sometimes strapping and stretch wrap aren’t competing packing materials. Using both products can come in handy for ultra-heavy, obscurely-sized loads. By combining the two, you can secure shipments that are seemingly impossible to secure. The unique strengths of strapping and stretch wrap can work together to ensure your shipment safely makes it from point A to point B.

Shop the Best of Both Worlds from the Midwest Region’s Supplier of Premium Packing Materials

Alta-Pak is a one-stop shop for all your shipping needs. We stock a comprehensive selection of supplies, including strapping and stretch wrap, so you don’t have to search the city to get high-quality packing materials. Along with exceptional service, unbeatable prices, and no minimum order requirement, we’ve remained a trusted partner of retailers, fulfillment centers, delivery service providers, and more businesses for more than 40 years.

Our team is composed of industry experts, meaning we know what shipping methods work best for what you’re sending. We listen carefully to understand your operation and can make recommendations to help you ship items worry-free.

Reach out to us for more information about strapping versus stretch wrap and which solution is right for you. Call (816) 453-7204 or send us a message online. We’ll be happy to answer any of your questions.