A good friend who has own three acres at the end of my dead end road rented two 40 foot-long shipping containers eight years ago, paying $250 a month for the pair, and filled them completely up with stuff that he moved from Ohio. I recently built a two-storey barn for him. When we opened the containers, which had been sealed for eight years [to shift the contents to the new barn] we found that holes had rusted through the top of the containers and everything inside of them was totally ruined. Nothing inside was salvageable. He is depressed and heartbroken. He had spent $24,000 in rent but yet he had to haul everything to the dump. So if you use shipping containers make sure they stay sound and waterproof. - Jim W.
JWR Replies: Over the years I have heard from many readers about issues with Continental Express (CONEX) containers. While they have their advantages, there are substantial risks involving moisture--both rain leaks and condensation. It is essential that the contents of CONEXes be stacked on horizontal pallets and that no boxes are allowed to contact the walls or ceilings, which could be damp with condensation.
When buying, or renting a CONEX, I recommend that you get CONEXes made from Corten (or "Cor-Ten" steel. This is a weathering steel with a specially formulated metallurgy that will last many years longer than standard steel if comparable gauge.
Regular inspection (inside and out) is a must. In most temperate climates, moisture absorbers (such as DampRid tubs) must be replaced frequently, or continuous power must be supplied to several GoldenRod or Everdry electric dehumidifiers.
The other risk that I often hear mentioned is security. It is not unusual for CONEXes to be pillaged by burglars. Even the very best padlocks will not stand up to attacks from cutting torches or abrasive cutoff wheels. And if the locks themselves are not attacked, then it is often the hasp loops or other door hardware to that are attacked. The bottom line is that there is NO sure substitute to having a watchful eye on your property. So in the case of absentee landowners, you need neighbors who you can trust.
The archives of SurvivalBlog have many articles about CONEXes and their many uses. And for anyone who is toying with the idea of burying a CONEX, we have posted many warnings about the potential for CONEXes to collapse. (They are designed to take heavy weight only on their corners.)