While we all love the latest high‑tech shiny boxes with flashing coloured lights, it’s often the much more mundane things that actually make things easier and better. I’m referring to accessories like stable, droop‑free mic stands, good‑quality reliable cables and, the subject of this short review, the humble sandbag.
Of course, I’m not talking about the rough Hessian sacks used to keep flood waters at bay, but rather lighting sandbags. These are constructed like small saddle bags, with a pair of pockets attached to a central strap. When weighted with sand (or another suitable mass) the bag can be placed across the legs of lightweight tripod stands to make them more stable and safer, or attached to the blunt ends of microphone boom arms to improve their balance by bringing the centre of gravity back over the centre of the stand.
I have several ‘industry standard’ small Arri sandbags for these purposes, each typically weighing around 7kg. However, I recently came across a slightly smaller bag made by the Chinese manufacturer Neewer, and not only is it remarkably cost‑effective but it’s actually a more practical alternative for typical pro‑audio purposes.
The bags can be folded to show either the hazard stripes or the plain black side.
Constructed from a tough, black, manmade, basket‑weave material, the fabric on the outside panels has bold diagonal yellow stripes in the classic ‘hazard’ format. A double‑thickness strap handle is accessible from either side of the centre panel, so the bags can be folded to show either the hazard stripes or the plain black side, which makes them more versatile than most. The two pouches measure 230 (H) x 260 (W) mm and are intended to store sand (which is not supplied) or some other suitable mass like pea gravel, lead shot, or even stainless‑steel nuts; just don’t use anything with sharp edges! Neewer claim each bag can carry 8kg, but when using sand, about 5kg per bag is a more realistic expectation.
Each pouch has an inner and outer zip, which work in opposite directions to minimise content leakage, although it’s also recommended to use sealable plastic bags to contain fine materials like sand. I used grey plastic self‑adhesive mailing bags and kiln‑dried sand, with 2.5kg each side. I also fitted large lightweight D‑carabiners around the handle straps of each bag so that a pair can be clipped together to sit neatly over two legs of tripod mic stands, adding 10kg of additional mass for much greater stability, and the hazard stripes minimising the risk of trip accidents!
A single bag is also very practical for attaching to a microphone boom arm to counterbalance a chunky capacitor mic, thus bringing the centre of gravity over the stand and reducing the strain on the boom clamp.
As we’re in the Age of Lockdown, I acquired everything from Amazon. The Neewer bags are sold as a set of six for £27.49 including VAT$25.99 in the US, and I used a pack of 20 Packitsafe 9x12‑inch grey poly mailing bags to store the kiln‑dried sand, which I purchased as a single 25kg bag.
I filled 12 of the mailing bags with 2.5kg of sand each, measured using kitchen scales, and sealed them with their adhesive strips. (Some of the bags had split seams and had to be discarded, so the extra bags in the pack came in very handy!) I also folded the bag tops down several times and secured them with parcel tape to help prevent any sand leakage. Jiggling the mailing bags into the sandbag pockets was fiddly and frustrating but not difficult, and the whole process to fill all six bags only took about an hour.
The total cost per bag, including sand, poly‑bags and caribiners was under £10around $10, making them very cost‑effective indeed.
£27.99 including VAT for a pack of six.
$24.99 for a pack of six.