We use sandbags on every shoot and often times we need a lot of them.  They keep our tripods anchored, stands from falling over, and help us in countless ways on a film set.  It seems crazy how expensive sandbags can be though.  Don’t we all want to pay as little as possible for sandbags?  Show me a person who wants to pay top dollar for sandbags and I’ll show you a person with too much money on their hands.

When I recently purchased a substantial addition to my filmtools lindcraft sandbaglighting kit, I also needed to pick up eight new C stands.   With that, I knew I would need at least ten more sandbags for all of the stands and lights.  I usually check B&H Photo and Filmtools first but on average the prices were clocking in around $30 for a 20lbs sandbag.  There’s no way I wanted to spend $300 for 10 sandbags after dropping a small fortune on lighting gear, bulbs, and ten C stands.expensive sandbags

The next stop was ebay.  For something as simple as sandbags, I figure that it shouldn’t be a problem.  Sorting by price + shipping is the way to go.  In that, I found a set of ten sandbags for $58 including shipping.  Killer!  That’s pretty much the price of two of the other sandbags I had found through the usual stores.  I also recognized the blue and black striped pattern from a glidecam op I know that seemed to have the same sandbags.  I never heard him complain about the sandbags so I rolled the dice.

Here is the description of the sandbags from the ebay auction:

ebay sandbag description

Upon receiving the sandbags, my 1st AC filled them up on set of a low budget short film.  About halfway through the set, he said he had one that was leaking and threw some gaff tape on the edge to patch it temporarily.  As it turns out these inexpensive sandbags ALL leaked and quite readily.  Yes, the bags were double zippered.  Yes, the bags are heavy duty construction.  But at the end of the day – a sandbag needs to do two things:  1) Hold Sand     2) Not Leak

The current solution being tested is gaff taping all of the edges of the sandbags.  If this ends up working, it will still probably save you a significant amount of money compared to the more expensive sandbags.  You’ll probably need to spend an hour or so securely taping all the seams and an extra $10-$20 on a roll of gaff just for the bags’ edges – but in the end, if it saves you more than $150, it might be worth it.  If not messing around with any side-stepping solutions is what you need, then don’t buy these sandbags.  They’re definitely fixer-uppers even when brand new.

I would consider this post a “to be continued” situation where I’ll report back as to how the gaff tape seams are holding up and if any other solutions are in the works.  Another idea I had was double bagging with zip-seal ziplock baggies all of the sand before putting the sand inside the sandbags – but I’m not sure how long that would hold up considering how sandbags are handled on set.  Ziplock baggies (even when double bagged and inside the sandbag) probably just won’t stand up to the challenge.  Maybe I’ll do one sandbag like that just to find out how it does…