Yesterday I posted a quick first-look at the new Milwaukee Packout modular tool storage system, which will include 8 different products at launch – a roller tool cart, small and large tool boxes, compact and full-width organizers, and 3 sizes of tool bags.
Milwaukee Packout tool boxes and tool bags can be used together, as part of a system, or individually.
At first glance, the Milwaukee Packout modular tool box system is simply brilliant and unconventional. They’re calling the new stacking and connection system Mod-Lock.
The tool boxes, organizers, and bags connect together quickly and easily, from what I saw at Milwaukee’s NPS17 new tool media event this year.
I was immediately deeply impressed with the Milwaukee Packout system. Not knowing whether they’ll be available in brick-and-mortar stores for readers to check out themselves, I sought out to examine and photograph every aspect which might be of interest to potential buyers.
Basically, the following is a discussion of every little Packout detail that I looked at, at NPS17.
The new Packout tool storage products are a little pricey, so I wanted you to know what to expect, so you’re not buying blind.
ETA: September 2017
Table of Contents
- Sample Packout Configurations
- Small Tool Box
- Large Tool Box
- Rolling Tool Cart
- Small Organizer
- Tool Bags
- The Competition
- Future Potential
At the bottom of each section, there will be a link back to this table of contents:
One of the things I like about the Milwaukee Packout system is that you can have very different setups to cater to very different needs.
Here, there’s a short Packout stack with a large tool box, small tool box, organizer, and compact organizer, and another stack with rolling tool cart, organizer, and a tool bag.
There’s one potential complication – how do you carry the short Packout stack? Do you just use the middle-most front handle and just lug the connected boxes around? That’s one of the few downsides. If you don’t have a roller cart, your transport options can be a little limited.
If there was ever a “standard” configuration, this would be it: bottom rolling cart, large tool box, and a small tool box on top.
Don’t worry, we’ll go over all of the different Packout products in a little bit.
One of the great things is that Milwaukee designed the Packout system with all kinds of users in mind. Do you want to pair a small tool bag with a small organizer? Why not?!
The emphasis at the media event was mostly about how different modules could come together on top of a rolling cart, but why not just have a tool bag and organizer?
Although a little awkward, you can pair a large tool bag with a full-width small tool box as well. But if you ask me, this doesn’t hold the same appeal as the previous example.
Two of the tool bag options are half-width, as is the small organizer.
There’s also a full-width tool bag that is two thirds as deep as the tool boxes.
A “standard” tool stack is easily portable over all kinds of terrain.
I haven’t tried wheeling a taller Packout stack around, but this product photo by Milwaukee makes it look like a cinch.
Small Tool Box
This small Packout tool box is, as you probably noticed, very complex-looking, even for a modular tool box.
It has a large front handle, and smallish side handle recesses.
Like the other Packout tool boxes, except maybe for the rolling cart, you can place it on its rear side, as you would a briefcase.
Like the larger tool box and rolling cart, there are aluminum corner protectors.
There’s a lot of space around them, allowing them to also serve as grab-handles. In this photo you should be able to see drain holes that ensure water doesn’t pool up around the seal of a closed box.
The aluminum bar is a little too narrow to serve as a handle.
Hmm… maybe this will accept certain accessories in the future? Say, a large side handle?
Or maybe it’s just a corner guard.
Inside, you have 3 zones – two outer zones that come with removable organizers, and a central zone.
There are grooves that look to accept some kind of divider, but right now no such divider accessory exists.
You don’t need to keep those organizers inside the box – there’s more on this in a bit.
There are 2 bottom bins, with removable dividers, a shallow lidded organizer box, and a shallow open compartment tray.
But you can’t just put them anywhere. The two bottom trays have to go on the bottom, and the two top organizer trays have to go on top of them. There’s no mixing and matching, aside from maybe swapping things right to left and vice versa.
The small tool box can fit quite a bit of stuff – an M18 Fuel impact driver kit, some hand tools, markers, impact screwdriver bits, and a lot of fasteners.
Raise your hand if you want to see Milwaukee bundle Packout tool kits with select Milwaukee M18 cordless power tool kits! Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s in the works.
The small tool box felt nicely manageable – a nice size as a standalone tool box, but perhaps a bit too pricey unless a part of a larger system.
Large Tool Box
The large Packout tool box is like the smaller one, but double in size. Or at least I estimate it’s double in size. Maybe 1.7x? It’s hard to say, Milwaukee hasn’t released dimensional specs at the time, and I didn’t think to measure it.
All of the tool boxes measure a little over 21″ – I’m taking this at the product manager’s word – so as to be able to fit longer tools such as Sawzalls (reciprocating saws) and Hole Hawgs.
This large tool box was sized so as to be big enough to fit a circular saw.
It has a large top handle that provides a wide gripping surface.
And like all of the other Packout boxes, the large box has a front handle and can be placed down vertically along its hinge side.
One thing about the handles – they click into place. That’s why they look so neat in these photos, because they’re clicked into their stowed position. Pull them into their active carrying position, and there’s a positive click there too.
That means you can stand the handle up, as shown in the above photo, and they’ll stay that way until you fold them down again.
The front of the large box has all of the same features as the small box, which we’ll get into in a bit.
It has shallow side handles and large aluminum corner guard handles.
The side handles felt deep enough so as to be somewhat useful, but might be too shallow to be comfortable when lugging around heavier loads.
It’s a good thing then that the corner guards can double as spacious handles. It might be awkward to carry the tool box using these handles alone, but they could make a difference between easily pulling the box from a truck, and having to climb up and in to get it.
The box is fairly large and looks like it can hold a good amount of tools. As mentioned, it’s sized to fit a circular saw.
There’s a half-size removable tote.
If you look closely there’s a groove sized for some kind of divider that does not yet exist.
It’s unclear as to whether Milwaukee has something in mind for this groove, or they were simply future-proofing the box in case something came to mind.
This box gives you more bang for the buck, respectively.
Rolling Tool Box Cart
Other than the large tool box, the roller tool cart seems like the next most practical box for standalone use. It has spacious storage capacity, large wheels, a strong-feeling extending handle, and some nice usability features.
Like the other boxes, its top has a grid of grooves 4 wide x 3 deep, for connecting other tool boxes and bags to.
Unlike the other Milwaukee Packout tool boxes, this one has actual side handles.
Its extending handle requires two-handed operation.
If the choice is between two-handed raising and lowering of the handle, or a floppy mechanism that doesn’t quite work right, I’ll take the two-handed mechanism.
The rubbery wheels were large and overbuilt – as you would expect and want to see on a rolling tool cart like this one.
I’d like to have seen… nothing done differently. Some field use might change that impression, but I don’t think so.
A beefy axle goes to both wheels.
This is my favorite feature – an easy-tilt step that allows for heavy loads to be quickly prepped for rolling. Grab the handle, push down on the step, and the Packout stack is tilted and ready to go.
The handles were surprisingly complex, no doubt to give it extra strength and rigidity. The rolling tool box is designed to support “box loads” of up to 250 lbs, and so the handle was designed to help move loads of up to 250 lbs.
The handle extended and collapsed smoothly and easily.
I have a heavy duty carrier cart from another brand, whose name starts with B, and it’s strong and supportive in many respects, but its extending handle lock flat out stinks.
This one has a large recess. I didn’t take a close enough look, but I’d guess this is where a locking bar slides into, for keeping the handle in place when fully collapsed. There’s likely another recess like this for keeping the handle fully extended.
At the very bottom of the front, there’s a large metal loop, which can serve as a quick handle, or an anchor point for straps and hooks.
There’s a pivoting hook at the rear of the top, providing another anchor point. Let’s say you want to secure a tool bag, a bag of sand, or something else that doesn’t lock to the Packout system. You can use these centrally located hook or strap anchor locations to help secure it.
The inner lid is reinforced with cross-ribs for added strength. There’s a place to mount a One-Key Tick tracker, right at the bottom center of the lid.
The wheel bays don’t take too much away from the rolling tool box’s storage capacity, and neither does the extending handle. This does make the tool box larger overall, but inner walls of the storage space is at least less awkwardly shaped.
The new Milwaukee Packout organizer is just a little larger than their standalone organizer.
Both have space to accommodate removable bins 4 across and 3 deep, but this one has an added central span for holding longer accessories and what-not.
The central storage strip is a little lower than bin height.
The bins have small notches, for hanging off of hooks, in case you want to mount them outside the box, such as on the wall of your workshop.
The organizer has a clear lid, and lacks the aluminum corner guards of the Packout tool boxes, but other than that it has most of the same features and strengths.
You have to be a little careful about how you return the bins to the Packout organizer, due to the way the lid is configured.
The Milwaukee Packout small organizer is a half-width organizer. It can stack on top of any Packout tool box, and the 2 smaller tool bags can attach on top of it.
Like the full-width organizer, this one has a clear lid, strong latches, a front handle, and rear support for standing it up briefcase-style.
The small organizer feels every built as sturdily built as the rest of the Packout tool boxes.
The front of the case is a little more tightly designed.
I hadn’t checked at the time, but I think you can still open up a small organizer even if it’s docked next to something else, such as another organizer or one of the smaller tool bags. There should be enough space to throw the latch.
Other than being smaller and with fewer cleats, it has the same Mod-Lock connection hardware.
The handle is narrower, but still spacious, and looks to have the same strong pivoting hinge as the other boxes’ handles.
The latches are smaller too, but still easy to toggle open and closed.
You also still have a weather seal.
One of things I noticed is that if you rearrange the removable boxes in a certain way…
You can accidentally prevent the organizer from closing. The same is true for the larger organizer. Milwaukee’s product manager wasn’t too happy about my wanting to take these photos, but it’s important to show you.
It places some limit as to how flexible the organizers can be. You cannot, for example, load this compact organizer with 6 small boxes. That box in the middle HAS to be a large box, or nothing. The same as the large organizer. This has to do with how the lid is shaped. I am not sure why it couldn’t have been molded differently.
If you ask me, this is a very minor concern, but it’s still something to be aware of.
This is the 10″ tote, with floppy handle (for lack of a better description).
This one is the 15″ tote, with hard handle.
And this is the 20″ tote tool bag, also with a hard handle.
The smallest Packout tool bag seemed as well-built as the other tool bags, despite being a lot smaller in size and differently featured.
The 15″ tool bag has a few zippered compartments, pockets on the outer sides, and a large space for holding bulkier tools and perhaps smaller cordless power tools.
On the other side, more pockets.
The 20″ Packout tool tote seems to be an extended version of the 15″, but there’s perhaps more to it. Sorry, with limited time I focused on the hard tool boxes, giving the tool bags less attention.
There are pockets-galore on one side, and a wider open space on the other.
A tape measure dock and pockets on the outside can hold additional tools.
One thing I didn’t check out was whether the handle could support the weight of a fully-load tool bag PLUS the weight of a packout tool box or organizer underneath.
10″ Tool Bag: 48-22-8310, $80
15″ Tool Bag: 48-22-8315, $100
20″ Tool Bag: 48-22-8320, $130
The 10″ tote costs as much as the small Packout tool box, and the 20″ tote as much as the rolling tool cart.
The latches were super-sturdy.
One thing I liked is that they all felt strong and secure. On some other brands of modular tool boxes, sometimes there’s a standout lock that feels differently, either too strong or too weak compared to other tool boxes of the same size or style. Not so with these, although the sampling was limited and could have been cherry-picked.
Here you can see how the cleats on the bottom of a full-size box are arranged. You don’t have full locking on all 12 cleats, presumably so as to make attachment and removal easier while still providing as much strength as practically needed.
The attachment tabs seem to be very strong, with little chance of unintentional breakage.
The same could be said of the cleats on the bottom of the tool tote bags. The positive locking latch on the tool bags was a little different, but the mechanics of attaching and removing the tool totes are the same as for the tool boxes.
Milwaukee says the impact-resistant hard molded bases on their tool bags are up to 5x more durable than competitive bags’ bases.
There are 3 locking grooves on each lid. The central one is for full-width attachments, and the others are for the half-width compact organizers and smaller tool bags.
These tabs, which made with the cleats on the bottom of Packout accessories, don’t look the least bit fragile, and I’d bet they’re designed to stand up to jobsite grit and debris.
There’s a rubber grommet laced around the perimeter of the tool box lids, for weather sealing to IP65 standards.
A ridge along the inside of the tool box mates up with the rubbery seal. There are also drainage channels, to ensure that water doesn’t pool up outside the ridge.
The hinges are as strong as you would expect from the rest of the box.
Here is the spring-loaded locking tab, which helps keep everything from sliding apart. It’s easy to disenage with one hand.
Here you can also see a loop for locking the organizer. All of the Packout tool boxes have a similar security feature, even the smaller organizer. Unless I’m remembering incorrectly, and the images are misleading, the Packout tool boxes, but not the organizers, look to have metal-reinforced padlock loops.
The central locking groove is shaped a little differently. I was told that this is just how it was molded, but I’m not entirely sold on that..
I found that the shape of the central groove makes it a little softer on the hands…
Making it comfortable and easier to disengage and remove a top-mounted organizer or tool box from a stack. I was able to do this with one hand for the smaller Packout boxes.
As for the larger tool box, it’s possible, but not very comfortable. It would be a better idea to try to press on the unlocking ring while pulling the handle. Or just use two hands.
You can open a tool box, even if another Packout product is docked above. Obviously this becomes harder to do with greater loads or taller stacks.
This opens up the potential for smaller Packout organizers, jobsite radios, or LED lighting products that are designed to sit on top of a tool box with nothing else above it.
The small and large tool box have easy to spot Tick tracker placements. Also notice that the lids are designed to keep the organizers in the small box and removable tote in the large box perfectly in place.
The Tick mounting holes on the lid of the roller tool cart are a little harder to spot, but they’re there.
It’s a rather convenient place to mount your Tick.
Hmm, it’s recyclable as PP – polypropylene. After asking about this, we were told that it’s not simply polypropylene, as other components – “special sauce” – are added in for strength and durability.
There’s a “No Step” warning, but some people tried it anyways, with some flex becoming noticeable when some bounce was added. I’ve found that everyone tests “don’t step on this” surfaces in the same way – first they stand on them, and then they bounce.
It’s obvious that Milwaukee has their sights on Dewalt and their ToughSystem tool storage system. There are pros and cons to both, which I’ll cover in a comparison once the Milwaukee Packout tool storage system hits the market.
This Dewalt ToughSystem 3 tool box stack, with rolling tool box cart, large tool box, and small tool box, went on sale last holiday season for $129. You can also buy it now for $129 for all 3 pieces, after $20 seasonal promo.
A similar Milwaukee 3-piece combo will be $280 at launch.
If I had to tell you right now, based on limited experience, which I liked more, I’d point to the Milwaukee hands-down. But aside from a few isolated issues discovered at the moment of delivery, my Dewalt ToughSystem tool boxes had never let me down.
It’s going to be a tough comparison. Dewalt’s ToughSystem tool boxes and accessories are tried and true, but Milwaukee’s is more advanced and holds much more potential for future expansion.
There’s a lot of potential for what we might see Milwaukee come out with. Perhaps internal organizers and dividers with added features. Or different types of accessories for the tops of Packout tool boxes, such as an aimable LED worklight. A Packout jobsite radio?
A Packout box built to charge M18 and M12 battery packs?
A Packout cordless air compressor? Maybe one that doubles as a rolling tool cart?
A Packout dust collector or wet/dry vacuum?
Milwaukee designed the Packout modular tool storage system to be future-proof, and I expect many more great things to come to the lineup.
Maybe we’ll see a large Milwaukee jobsite box, with a Packout lid that can fit tool boxes next to each other? It could be twice as wide as the Packout tool boxes are long.
Maybe there will be some type of accessory that takes advantage of the corner guards? Surely they’re not just there as corner protection and as convenient handles. What could users possibly want to mount here?
Maybe there will be a top handle accessory, for mounting to the tops of the tool boxes? That would explain why the tops and cleat patterns are designed the way they are.
It surprises me that there are no folding side handles except on the rolling tool cart, and no top handle except on the large tool box. Some compromises are sure to be made.
Overall, WOW, just WOW. I think that Milwaukee did a great job, and some hands-on testing or long-term use will surely only confirm that.
The price point will be disagreeable for a lot of users, but many will get over it. When buying high quality tool storage, you have to pay more to get more.
I’m hoping Milwaukee chooses to come out with other colors, such as black. That would surely spread its acceptance in other fields outside construction and the trades, such as by photographers. I think that these boxes have a chance at taking on Pelican cases, although they’ll need to come out with some kick-ass internal organizational accessories first.
Keeping in mind that I don’t have any of these new Milwaukee Packout tool storage products in front of me at the moment, is there anything else you like to know?
I don’t have any dimensions – yet. All I was given is that the boxes are a little over 21″ long.