This is intended as very simple guide to packing materials. The packaging industry is simply huge, and there is a bewildering array of packaging options to choose from accordingly. The basic ones we commonly use day-to-day are:
The ever-useful cardboard box - combined with foam packing this is suitable for packing most items, even ones with an awkward shape. They are cheap, available in a range of sizes and can be custom made to your exact size if required. They can also be made water resistant.
Foam packaging - This comes in three main forms. Soft foam blocks or sheets, foam chips or white polystyrene (Which can be cut out in just about any shape you want making it very a versatile packing material)
Packing tape - This is commonly a very strong brown two inch wide tape, which is used to seal boxes up. Do mistakenly use sellotape instead of it, as it does not have the same strength. You can also get extra strong packing tape with a re-enforced weave in it.
Plastic bubble wrap - This can be used to wrap nearly anything and is ideal for wrapping around any item that you do not want to get scratched in transit. It is much cheaper when bought in bulk from a packing material specialist. Also ideal for wrapping small delicate items. It should be noted that you can now buy a much larger form of paper based bubble wrap, which is a greener option and useful for packing out larger parcels.
Cardboard tubes - these are ideal for sending documents or delicate items. Combined with wrapping the item you are placing in it, with bubble wrap and they can survive virtually anything. They are one of the most robust packaging materials, and are easy to re-use as well as recyclable.