What is a packaging atmospheric conditioning test?

A packaging atmospheric conditioning test assesses its ability to withstand various worst-case environmental conditions and retain integrity throughout. Packaging is often made in materials that are prone to be negatively affected by changing environmental conditions.

For example, here’s a picture we took of a driver unloading packages in Canada in the snow so the packaging must also withstand cold and wet weather, in this case.

unloading packages from truck

Therefore the packaging is placed inside an environmental chamber and exposed to widely differing temperatures and humidities for a period of time to test its reliability and durability in these conditions.


Why perform this test?

Both plastic and paper-based packaging are affordable and strong (check packaging types including cardboard containers here), but they can be negatively affected by temperature and moisture respectively.

Even during normal shipping, a package will be exposed to different temperatures and levels of humidity, especially if being transported across the water. Not to mention, materials such as cardboard boxes may have been purchased in bulk 2 months before shipment and they might have been stored in a common warehouse during the rainy season. If your packages lose their integrity due to taking on too much moisture from humid air, for example, this will put products at risk, anger consumers, and cost you money in the long term. 

So, you need to know if the package can withstand a range of environmental conditions which is where packaging atmospheric conditioning tests, such as those included in ISTA’s test procedure for packaged products (150lbs or less). The objective here is to get objective evidence that your packaging can withstand quite extreme ‘worst-case’ scenario conditions while still maintaining its integrity during transit.

There is a range of reliability tests to perform in order to assess carton/packaging suitability and reliability, as you can see below in this typical reliability testing plan for export cartons (durable cardboard packages). We’ve highlighted the atmospheric conditioning test section for you:

packaging reliability testing with atmospheric conditioning test shown  

What is the atmospheric conditioning test process for packages?

The process usually simulates a subzero, a tropical, and desert step in most standards. This will give a wide range of evidence that helps you know how the packages will handle different shipping environments.

The process will include:

  • Choose 3 conditions to test at (temperature and relative humidity):
    Cryogenic -55°C ± 3 (RH N/A)
    Extreme Cold -30°C ± 2 (RH N/A)
    Frozen -18°C ± 2 (RH N/A)
    Refrigerated 5°C ± 2 (85 ± 5% RH)
    Temperate High humidity 20°C ± 2 (90 ± 5% RH)
    Tropical 40°C ± 2 (90 ± 5% RH)
    Desert 60°C ± 2 (15 ± 5% RH)
    Regular 23°C (50% RH)
    The various standards provide a chart that you can make the selection from.
    If your testing plan calls for ambient room temperature and humidity, this can be customized, also. 
  • Add the package to the environmental chamber and set the test parameters (as above)
  • Run the test for at least 72 hours (unless otherwise stated by the standard used)
  • Check that the package has retained its properties
  • Capture data from the test (these form your results) 


An example video of the test in action

Atmospheric conditioning is an exercise in patience once the package has been placed into the environmental chamber, so the video is not very ‘action-packed,’ but here’s an example of how a chamber in use:


A selection of atmospheric conditioning test standards for packaging

Not every lab uses the same standards for reliability tests, so it’s useful for buyers to know which is being followed. Here is a selection of common options (they are all fairly similar, but there are differences):

  • ISTA 2A
    Packaged-Products weighing 150 lb (68 kg) or Less (includes atmospheric conditioning test)
  • ASTM D4332 – 14
    Standard Practice for Conditioning Containers, Packages, or Packaging Components for Testing
  • ASTM E171
    Standard Specification for Standard Atmospheres for Conditioning and Testing Flexible Barrier Materials
  • ASTM F2825
    Standard Practice for Climate Stressing of Packaging Systems for Single Parcel Delivery
  • ISO 2233:2000(en)
    Packaging — Complete, filled transport packages and unit loads — Conditioning for testing


What other reliability tests should I do on my packaging?

The following would be considered as standard reliability tests for packaging:

Can Sofeast help to conduct reliability testing for our products?

Yes, we can. Click here to read about our reliability testing solution and get a quotation.


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