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When I find an item which contains other items, I can see the image of its contents by hovering over it, but is there any way to actually get at the contents without having to equip it? Some items can be placed in the crafting area to get their contents, but that also destroys the item for scraps.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

If you want to take an item OUT of a container, then the answer is no. The container has to be in your hand for you to manipulate the items inside it.

However: If you use the Consume tool on a container, the player will eat some food or drink some water or take some pills out of the container, but this appears to be a little buggy and doesn't always actually remove the item from your inventory.

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Items that that stack while in a container while in another container won't show up as having multiple of them, so that's probably what you're experiencing with it not disappearing. –  Ullallulloo Oct 17 '12 at 15:22
    
There is now an "Empty Out" option in the right-click menu that works on unheld items (for a while it was necessary to use it to get wood from forests). –  Brilliand May 9 at 16:05
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