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If you’re looking to introduce some variety into your workout routine, a sandbag might be everything you’re looking for. However, natural sand is too dusty and might cause allergies and breathing problems.
So what’s the best filler for sandbags? Pea gravel and rubber mulch is the best sandbag filler as they don’t pulverize or make dust. You should mix 2/3 pea gravel with 1/3 rubber mulch. This sandbag filler combo doesn’t retain moisture or dry up easily, so they won’t mold or smell bad in the bag.
Let’s discuss everything you need to know about the various sandbag fillers. I’ll also provide you with a brief guide on how to properly fill a sandbag once you’ve decided on the filler you want to use.
What Is A Sandbag Filler?
Sandbags are handy training tools that are made of durable materials, allowing you to encase various materials inside them. These materials are known as fillers and they’re used for various functions while training with sandbags.
The primary function of a sandbag filler is being a basic counterweight for resistance training. For example, sand is one of the most commonly used fillers to acts as a weight in sandbags, hence the name.
Primary materials are usually supposed to be relatively heavy, especially when it adds up. Despite not always being the case, the primary filler is usually made up of small pellets or parts for the ease of carrying and filling.
In addition to the primary filler, some materials might be used as a secondary filler. These secondary ones are mainly used to add texture to the bag rather than weight.
For that reason, they’re usually lighter in weight but bulkier per grain. Rubber mulch is considered one of the most common secondary fillers among lifters because it’s bulky and has low density.
Want to know the best sandbag? Check out my review of the Rogue Sandbag.
10 Best Sandbag Filler Ideas
One of the best things about sandbags is the versatility, despite their name, you can use just about any suitable filler item to use them for your resistance training.
In the following list, I’ll walk you through some of the best sandbag filler ideas that you can use depending on the availability of these items around you.
The best sandbag filler ideas are:
- Pea Gravel
- Rubber Mulch
- Play Sand
- Wood Pellets
- Animal Feed
- Scrap Chains
- Spare Change
- Garden Pebbles
- Old Fabrics
1. Pea Gravel
Kicking off the list with one of my all-time favorite items to be used as a sandbag filler. Pea gravel is one of the most affordable items that behave almost exactly like regular sand but without being too dusty.
It also doesn’t absorb the moisture, which reduces chances for molding and foul odors. Sometimes, you might only find wet pea gravel. In that case, you’ll have to lay them out under the sun to dry for a couple of hours.
Ideally, a pound of pea gravel might cost you anywhere between $1.5 to $4 in home depot.
2. Rubber Mulch
Another great filler for sandbags is rubber mulch. Rubber mulch is basically shredded tires and recycled waste rubber. It’s a
However, you should keep in mind that this material is noticeably lighter than pea gravel and sand.
That’s why they’re better suited for beginners and as a secondary filler for intermediate and some advanced lifters. A pound of rubber mulch would cost you about $0.5 in home depot.
Rice is another alternative that a lot of people found more suitable than sand. It doesn’t dust as much, especially if it’s clean rice.
Make sure that it’s whole grain rice (the brown one), as it produces much less dust than the white one. However, it might be a bit pricier.
A pound of white rice is about $0.7 while a similar amount of brown rice might run as high as $4 per pound.
4. Play Sand
When it comes to sand, choosing the best variety is your key to minimize sand problems, such as dusting and allergies.
Ideally play sand is an excellent alternative to natural sand, as it has the same physical properties of sand but tends to dust much less. It’s also designed for kids’ play, so it’s not toxic.
Ideally, a pound of play sand might cost you anywhere between $0.9 to $1.2 depending on the quality of sand you go for.
5. Wood Pellets
A pack of wood pellets used for grills and starting a fire is a hardy material that you can also fill up your sandbags with.
They also pack a lot of value because you can still use them later for their original function. They run at about $0.95 per pound.
6. Animal Feed
If you live in the countryside, finding animal feed won’t be an issue. It’s super cheap and might even cost you less than $0.25 per pound.
They’re easy to work with and fill. However, they can have a bit of smell depending on their composition. Also, they might not be heavy enough for a serious lifter.
7. Scrap Chains
If you’re looking for a real challenge, you should try filling up your bag with chains. The advantages of using a chain are that you won’t need to use insert filler bags, as you can load them directly.
It also doubles as a perfect alternative for carrying the chains directly, which can cause some injuries.
The only downside of chains is their price, as they can be quite expensive if you buy them new (about $5 per pound). However, you can find them surprisingly cheaper at scrap yards.
8. Spare Change
If you have a lot of spare change lying around collecting dust, you can actually turn them into something worthy by filling your bag up with spare change.
I’ve done my research and found that the current 1 penny weighs around 2.5 grams (0.0055 lb).
By doing some math, you’ll know that you need about 180 US pennies to make one pound of weight, which is surprisingly less expensive than some of the filler options on the list!
Getting a 50 lbs worth of pennies won’t be a huge problem either. Simply, a local bank might provide you with rolls of change for free depending on your region.
Garden pebbles are highly similar to pea gravel in terms of shape but they weigh a little bit more, making them ideal for an advanced lifter who are looking for more weight per the same volume.
Keep in mind that garden pebbles are a bit larger than pea gravel but run even cheaper. Ideally, you’ll be able to land a pound of these fillers for $1.3 or less.
10. Old Fabrics
If you’re on a strict budget, you can try using old fabric you have lying around and not pay a single dime.
Look for old and worn out fabric that you don’t use and cut them to pieces using a pair of scissors. This can include:
- Old gym clothes
- Old carpets
- Newspapers and magazines
While they technically cost you nothing to make, they don’t transfer easily. In other words, stuffing these fillers into the inserts will require some patience.
Also, they can get wet and moist from sweat pretty easily, especially the paper, which makes them mostly a one time use.
Related Article: Rep Fitness Sandbag Review: 12+ Months of Testing (Honest Thoughts)
How Do You Fill a Sandbag?
Now that you know more about the best materials for filling a sandbag, it’s time to fill the sandbag properly.
First, you should know that your training sandbag will mostly arrive empty, so you’ll have to fill the bag yourself. As I’ve mentioned above, some materials might require different procedures while filling the bag.
However, the main outline of the process is fairly similar regardless of the materials you use for the bag. Here’s what you need to do to fill a sandbag.
Step 1: Prepare the Inserts (Filler Bags)
The first thing you should know is that the main sandbag should never be filled with your filler materials. Instead, you’ll usually find a couple of smaller filler bags, which are also called inserts.
These inserts are the ones that are filled with pea gravel, sand, or whatever filler you’re going to use to add weight.
Keep in mind that if you’re using water or relatively moist fillers, you’ll have to use extra filler bags to ensure that these items won’t leak out.
Step 2: Choose the Weight to Add to Your Bag
The weight used in the bag mainly depends on your athletic status and how much weight you want to lift. Here’s a quick guide that you can start from:
- Beginner male: start with 40 to 50 lbs (20 to 25 kg)
- Athletic males: start with 50 to 60 lbs (25 to 30 kg)
- Beginner females: start with 20 to 30 lbs (10 to 15 kgs)
- Athletic females: you can start with 30 to 40 lbs (15 to 20 kg)
Step 3: Choose the Ideal Primary and Secondary Fillers for You
The list above contains a wide variety of items that you can choose for your sandbag as a filler depending on how much weight you want.
Ideally, I recommended that you go for the pea gravel as the main filler and rubber mulch as an additive to add more texture but you can choose different types of filler depending on what’s available around you and what suits you the most.
However, if you’re going to use more than one type of filler in the bag, make sure that they have similar pellet volumes to prevent the bag from feeling bumpy or inconsistent.
Step 4: Fill the Bag Up
To fill up the inserts, hold it open in a vertical position to add the filler. As a rule of thumb, you’ll find a market line towards the last third of the bag.
Always make sure that you fill the insert bag to that mark and never exceed it so that the filler doesn’t leak out or break the seal when you throw the bag around.
Once the inserts are ready, load them into the bag and securely zip it then give it a test run to make sure it fits.
If the bag feels a bit saggy or empty at your desired total weight, you can cut pool noodles to the length of the bag and add 1 or 2 of them inside to keep the bag stretched out.
Want to learn more about the benefits of training with sandbags? Check out my article: 7 Sandbag Training Benefits (Plus, 1 Drawback).
Frequently Asked Questions
What sand is best for sandbags?
Sandbags can be filled up with various types of sand. This includes washed sand, which is plain white sand, beach sand, and other types of washed sand used for construction. However, these types of sand tend to pulverize easily, which leads to a lot of dust. That’s why play sand is considered the overall best type of sand for sandbags, as they don’t pulverize as much as plaster and mason sand.
Can you use kitty litter for sandbags?
Kitty litter is usually made of clay pellets and recycled paper. It might seem lightweight, but adding enough cat litter to fill up a sandbag can add up for some people. You can use kitty litter for sandbags because it’s relatively cheap when compared to other materials. Also, it shapes up nicely, so you’re able to control the wobbliness of the bag by adding some hard pool noodles to help it retain its shape.
Can you fill sandbags with soil?
Soil is one of the most commonly used materials when it comes to filling sandbags for training. They have a nice density that’s close to regular sand, so you can easily fill it up to 40 or 50 lbs per bag. Additionally, they’re also widely available, so you can grab some soil from your backyard and use them. However, you’ll need to spread the soil first and let it sundry as well as remove all insects, and unwanted specks before you use it.
As you know, exercising with a sandbag is all about adding variety to your workouts, so there’s no right or wrong about what you’re using.
Instead, give yourself time to try different materials and combinations to come up with the best sandbag filler for you!