Paper products seem like an easy thing to store on a boat. But it takes a bit of planning to keep them dry and bug-free.

Storing Paper Products

Paper products seem like some of the easiest things to store on a boat:  they don’t break and they don’t go bad.  Or do they?

Well, if they get wet, they’re of no use.  And if they harbor bugs, you’re not going to be too happy, either.

So maybe just pitching them into any available locker (as I did initially . . . ) isn’t really the answer.  So what is?

First, you have to get the items to the boat in good shape.  If you’re just going from the car down a dock to the boat, it’s not such a big deal.  But if you’re anchored out, dry bags are essential for transporting anything that would be harmed by water — toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, and feminine hygiene supplies as well as foods like sugar and flour.  Read more about dry bags in Provisioning by Dinghy.

Once aboard, the basic rule for storing paper supplies is not to put them all in one locker.  If that locker develops a leak, your entire stock could be wiped out.  It’s never fun to discover you have a leak, but it’s that much worse when you discover that your entire stock of toilet paper or feminine hygiene supplies has been ruined.

If possible, it’s good to store at least part of your supply in a solid plastic bin with a lid.  That way, should you get water in the locker, it’s far less likely to actually get the paper wet.

And in addition to splitting things between lockers and putting part of the supply in bins, I always keep an emergency stash of various paper products sufficient for a week in either vacuum bags or double plastic bags.  Okay, I’m overprotective!

As I’ve researched various questions on avoiding cockroaches and other bugs, there seems to be controversy as to whether cardboard and paper actually harbor bugs or not.  I err on the side of caution and put an ant trap and cockroach trap in every locker with paper supplies in it (if you can’t find these where you cruise, read Avoiding Critters on how to make your own).  If you use a liquid or spray bug deterrent, be sure not to get any on the paper supplies themselves.

And one final note:  paper supplies can take up a LOT of space on a boat.  You can use a lot fewer paper towels if you use cloth bar rags and tear the paper towels you do use in half (lengthwise is easier).  And compare the number of sheets on a roll of toilet paper to find the ones with the most (some have amazingly few sheets!).

Paper products seem like an easy thing to store on a boat.  But it takes a bit of planning to keep them dry and bug-free -- get tips here.

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  • Dawn Hoyle
    Posted at 21 September 2011 Reply

    We have friends who go to the Bahamas every winter. She smashes her paper goods
    flat and vacuum seals them. Amazing how little space is needed for flattened
    paper towels. Also keeps the bugs out.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 21 September 2011 Reply

      That will also help protect against any little water drips . . . not that a 30-year-old boat has any such things!

    • Krissy
      Posted at 26 March 2013 Reply

      Smash and seal is how we do it too. First for tp or pt we remove the cardboard centers. There is no rule that toilet paper must be pretty and round! Instead of hanging it off the wall like you would traditionally, just reshape it after removing it from storage and place inside a round plastic container near the head. Pull from the center like you would do other types of “wipes”. Put the lid on when your done. (I know… I know, another lid you have to shut in the bathroom! Oh the humanity!)

  • Sherry Day on Facebook
    Posted at 19 February 2013 Reply

    How timely! I was just trying to figure out how much I need to store to island hop throughout the South Pacific!

  • Stephanie Hamilton
    Posted at 19 February 2013 Reply

    I agree with Dawn….vacuum sealed. Works like a charm and reduces them to a manageable size, too.

  • Tami
    Posted at 11 October 2013 Reply

    I used zip lock bags for just about everything.

  • Dave Skolnick (S/V Auspicious)
    Posted at 12 October 2013 Reply

    I vacuum seal most of my paper products when we are cruising, mostly individually. Paper products make great rattle stoppers and end up spread throughout the boat as a result.

  • Jan Bogart
    Posted at 07 September 2014 Reply

    mejor que nada….

  • Dee Wolford
    Posted at 10 September 2014 Reply

    I just found a new product and bought some. Scott has recycled paper, toilet paper without the cardboard tubes! First since it’s from recycled I feel like I’m helping the earth and second without the center tube it is easier to smash and vacuum. I got mine at Wal-Mart. – Dee

  • tami
    Posted at 19 July 2016 Reply

    I’ve learned:
    –I don’t need paper towels. First I used bar towels, now I have the cotton cloth kitchen towels usually made in India, can get ’em in packs at Amazon, for example:
    –I don’t need feminine products. Got one of those ‘Moon Cup’ things, and wondered why I hadn’t gone to that years ago

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