I’m always looking for new and interesting ways to mix up my workouts. New techniques, new approaches, and new tools. As many of you know, a sandbag can make for an excellent training tool. They’re quite versatile and, with a little ingenuity, one can be had for about $25 to $30.
I decided to get myself a good sandbag last year and, as with so many other things, climbed aboard the Google-copter to find some more information. There are plenty of good options out there, but for an item as simple as a bag filled with sand (or other materials, as I’ll outline), I simply couldn’t see spending $75 to $175 on a sandbag “system”. I figured I could fashion something of my own making to get the job done.
After gathering a bit of advice from some friends and acquaintances in the GoRuck community, I made my way to a local Army/Navy surplus store and picked up a plain duffel bag. I settled on the Everest bag shown below. It cost me a whopping $16.
This was an easy decision and, I’m happy to say, represented the end of my search for a proper sandbag shell… one and done! Settling on the sandbag filler would be a bit of a different process.
I began with what one would think is the “obvious” choice: sand. Sand certainly wins in two departments – it’s heavy and it’s cheap. The problem is, that it’s TOO heavy… at least for a man of my size just starting out with this training method. Filling this duffel bag less than 1/2 way makes for a weight in and around 120 pounds. While I could certainly graduate to this amount of weight over time, this is not where I wanted to start. In addition, sand packs down quite densely, doesn’t always “flow” nicely within the bag, and can bring a fair bit of concussive force when slammed against shoulders and limbs. I needed to find something better.
I started with multiple types of gravel. Each of these caused issues with how dirty and abrasive they were. I attempted to combat this through the use of inner bag liners (basically, triple bagged and taped industrial trash liners), but this did not prove to be the best solution. The inner bag liners segmented the gravel inside the duffel into large lumps of weight that shifted and moved in very unnatural ways. Ultimately, the gravel was abrasive enough to tear through the liners as well.
I looked at rubber mulch, but it was too light, and considered many other types of filler, before finally settling on something that has been working out great for me:
Just like the bag says, it’s “Clean, Efficient and Economical”. Wood pellet fuel really strikes a beautiful balance as a sandbag filler. It’s heavy enough to get the job done (a 1/2 filled 30″ duffel weighs about 50-60 pounds), it’s smooth and soft enough not to wear through the bag, it doesn’t require an interior bag liner, and it moves and flows very naturally inside the duffel bag. Two bags of this stuff can be had at most any hardware store for around $10. Along with your $16 duffel bag this gets you a solid “sand” bag, up to 80 pounds in weight, with four handles, for less than $30.
I brought the zipper pull to one end of the bag and zip-tied it to the metal shoulder-strap hook to secure the filler inside the duffel. I recommend sanding down the burr from the cut zip tie with a file so you don’t cut or scrape your hands while working out.
This setup has worked great for me. The only small caveat I’ve seen thus far is that the wood pellets can generate a mild to moderate amount of dust as they get beat up inside the bag. This is a minor issue, and is only observable as a thin ribbon of dust around the zipper seams. All in all, this system makes for an excellent workout tool that you can use for all kinds of workouts. A quick YouTube search will direct you to a host of exercises that you can use to incorporate a sandbag into your exercise routines. If nothing else, you can always haul one around while cutting the grass, and roll a bit of extra Good Livin’ into your weekend.