Have you ever collected shells at the beach and then wondered how to bring them home safely? I always worry that they’ll get crushed in my suitcase – especially the fragile ones.
But my solution is super cheap and easy, with materials that are easily available.
Just a reminder: collecting shells with a live creature in them is illegal, and there are areas where collecting even empty shells is not allowed. Please check and make sure you are allowed to collect before you get started.
Also, try to soak your shells in a large bowl or bucket with a little bleach for a few hours and then rinse them well before you pack them (1/4 cup of bleach to a gallon of water) to avoid bad smells.
What you’ll need:
large water bottles (more rigid is better)
newspaper (free shopper papers work fine)
1. Sort your shells by type and also by size. Some shells are tougher than others. Keep fragile and larger shells separate.
2. Pack shells by type into sandwich-sized ziploc bags.
3. Using a knife or sharp scissors, poke a hole into the top of a large water bottle, (I used a 3 Liter Easy-Pour Bottle from Zephyrhills.) Cut a hole large enough to fit your hands in. Important: keep the “shoulder” intact to keep the sides rigid.
Another view of the top of the bottle after cutting.
5. Place really strong shells at the bottom of the container. Florida Fighting Conchs are nearly indestructible!
6. Scrunch up some newspaper to create a “cushion” between layers.
You can also use plastic shopping bags if you have them.
8. Start laying the ziploc bag of smaller shells in layers, sandwiched with scrunched newspapers.
Continue adding layers of shells in bags, and layers of scrunched newspaper.
9. Wrap really fragile shells like this False Angel Wing in a roll of scrunched newspaper. If you have room to add it to the stack, make sure to provide plenty of cushioning all around. Otherwise, you can tuck fragile shells and larger ones into closed toed shoes in your suitcase.
10. Leave the last 1/2″ of the bottle empty, and fill it with scrunched newspapers.
11. With the bottle upright, start wrapping the jar in plastic wrap.
12. Continue wrapping around the bottle several times, then twist the wrap so you can go around the other sides.
Twisting and wrapping more helps keep the plastic wrap from loosening. Once the package feels secure, just cut the wrap and pat the loose end into place. You don’t need to tape it or anything like that. It sticks quite well to itself.
13. Voila! I packed all except a few large shells into these three water bottles, which fit very easily into my suitcase with no breakage. Try to keep shells of similar strength in the same bottles. If you have a lot of fragile shells, you may want to devote an entire bottle to them, with plenty of scrunched up newspaper.