I have been using and testing the Craftsman TradeStack tool box system, which first launched in mid-2021.
Craftsman sent over their 3-tool box tower, model CMST60420, which comes with a small tool box, a large tool box, and a rolling tool box.
Prior to its launch, Lowe’s placeholder product listing described this as a Craftsman Pro System Tower. The TradeStack name also suggests this is a sturdier and more professional tool box system.
Compared to the Craftsman VersaStack (and Dewalt TStak) lineup, TradeStack has a larger form factor, with a 22″ length.
Craftsman TradeStack’s biggest selling point is its one-touch-release, which promises to make it easier to unlock and remove tool boxes from a stack or tower.
I noticed some deformation of the plastic, due to the strength of the spring-action release lever, but it did not seem to have any detrimental effect on the sturdiness or functionality of any of the tool boxes.
In no uncertain terms, the one-touch-release is a brilliant feature.
When you press the lever, it unlocks the above tool box from a stack, and it remains unlatched, allowing for easier removal of the desired tool box.
Meaning, it’s not a press-and-hold lever, it’s a latching (or rather unlatching) lever that remains unlocked until you lift the above tool box off the stack or manually reengage it.
Here’s a quick look at how effortless it is to remove a TradeStack tool box.
Craftsman did a good job with the latches. They’re not quite as nice as the plastic and metal-loop latches on more premium tool boxes, but I think they made a fair compromise.
Here’s the small tool box, featuring IP65-rated dust and water resistance.
The tool box comes with 6 removable cups, each with its own hinged clear lid. I’m hardly ever a fan of the bins that come with modular tool boxes, and I especially don’t like these.
I found the bins difficult to open, and not just one or two of them, but all of them. I suppose I could modify the closure, but I wasn’t going to use them anyway, so I just removed them for testing.
The briefcase-style handle also suffered a bit from imperfect fit and finish. Hmm, or is it supposed to stop at a slight angle like this?
I received a test unit shortly after the tool boxes came out, and so this was likely a very early production model.
Frankly, its strength and functionality weren’t the least bit compromised, and so I didn’t mind.
Things like weak latches, defective seals, and shipping damage tend to bother me. Luckily, the Craftsman TradeStack was perfect and didn’t suffer from any of these types of issues.
The medium, tool box is a good size. I removed the tote and mainly used it for bulk equipment. But, the ~2/3 length removable tote is a good size, and it can be placed on either side of the tool box.
The rolling TradeStack tool box is the jewel of the system. Here, you can see the VersaStack and ToughCase adapter that’s fixed to the inner lid.
Using the included adapter, you can connect VersaStack tool boxes, organizers, or large ToughCase organizers to the top of the rolling tool box – or any TradeStack tool box.
You only get one adapter, but if you’re using the 3pc combo as a tower, that’s really all you need.
The adapter seemed well-made and secure, and I like the idea of the side handles.
Here’s a Dewalt accessory set with small ToughCase, attached to the VersaStack/ToughCase adapter plate.
There’s a spot for a second small accessory case. I didn’t have any medium ToughCases immediately available, but there’s space for two of them.
The rolling tool box has a wide step for leverage when you need to tilt a stack and get moving. It’s a nice touch.
There’s not much to say about the side of the tool box. The handle recesses are basic, but functional.
The extending handle on the rolling tool box is easy to use, and does its job well.
One thing I really like about the handle is that it has slots across its width, providing a convenient place to hang tools.
The handle is a nice spot for tape measures and what-not.
Some tools can only fit the center slot, however. My Dewalt cordless drill, for example, has a longer belt clip that needs the extra clearance of the center slot.
Additional Comments and Comparisons
There’s a lot to like about the Craftsman TradeStack tool box system. First, the one-touch release lever is perfect. There’s some distortion in the support structure, but without any noticeable impact to performance.
The front latches are basic, but sturdy and easy to lock and release.
Moving fully-loaded tool boxes aren’t as easy as with other tool box systems that have folding side handles.
The TradeStack tool boxes feel a bit lighter when empty.
The side handle recesses on the large TradeStack tool box are better positioned – higher up – compared to the larger Craftsman VersaStack tool box.
I like the idea of the included VersaStack adapter. Craftsman has expanded the TradeStack system, starting with a new tool bag, but there’s no organizer yet. But, with the included adapter, you can attach the VersaStack organizer in just a few extra seconds. The same goes with other VersaStack tool storage products or Tough Case cases.
That the included adapter works natively with ToughCases is a nice touch. The VersaStack system requires a large ToughCase to serve as a bridge between tool boxes and accessory cases.
Despite slight deflections, and a front handle on the small tool box that doesn’t seem to want to fully fold open, the TradeStack tool boxes feel well-made.
The 3pc tower is priced at $149 at Lowe’s, which is between what you would have to be pay for a VersaStack 3pc combo ($90 seasonally, $99 now), and a Dewalt ToughSystem 2.0 3pc combo (as low as $193 right now).
At the time of this posting, the Dewalt ToughSystem 2.0 3pc combo is $239 at authorized dealers. Home Depot has a special deal where you can get a 3pc bundle for $193.
For the winter holiday shopping season, the Dewalt ToughSystem 2.0 tool box combo was $149.
To be frank, the Dewalt system is stronger and better featured.
But, right now, the TradeStack system is at its regular price of $149, and the ToughSystem 2.0 combo is at its regular price of $239.
The TradeStack system has some nice touches – an IP65 dust and water resistance rating, the one-touch latches, the step on the rolling tool box for easier tilting of a loaded stack, and tool mounting slots on the extending handle.
There are some niggles too, such as how I had trouble opening the bins included with the small tool box. Then again, do you want containers like that to open too easily? Which is better – a lid that’s too secure, or a lid that’s not secure enough?
I like the inclusion of the VersaStack/ToughCase adapter.
I found myself struggling to prefer the TradeStack tool boxes over other modular tool box solutions. I used the tool boxes individually, and at times part of a rolling system.
There are compromises here, presumably for price, but I think I agree with them. The side handle recesses are adequate. The front latches are adequately constructed and easy to open and close. The locking stacking method is wonderfully executed – it’s easy to both lock and release tool boxes.
TradeStack offers a more premium user experience compared to the Craftsman VersaStack system. For that matter, I do like these tool boxes better than my long-owned Bosch L-Boxx tool boxes.
If I had to guess, I would say that Craftsman designed these tool boxes to compete against the Ridgid Pro tool box system at Home Depot. I feel that the Ridgid is slightly better built, but the TradeStack design has significant usability benefits and advantages.
TradeStack is not as premium of a tool storage system as Dewalt ToughSystem 2.0 or Milwaukee Packout, but it’s more affordable.
Maybe it says something that I naturally compare the new Craftsman system to Dewalt ToughSystem and Milwaukee Packout, rather than Ridgid Pro, or lower-priced systems such as Craftsman VersaStack, Husky Connect, or Hart Stack.
I like to think that Craftsman sought out to design a better modular tool box system that was still reasonably affordable, because that’s exactly what they did here.
This isn’t a perfect system, but is there room for improvement while maintaining its $149 price point?
Stanley Black & Decker’s tool storage team is very good at what they do.
Although the TradeStack tool boxes lack some of the comforts of more premium options, such as in regard to side handles, it is larger than more value-focused systems, and much quicker and easier to connect and disconnect.
A couple of other nice touches elevate the user experience.
While I would struggle to prefer the TradeStack system, I do like and respect what Craftsman did here. They created a new category between smaller-sized value-priced offerings, and larger, super tough, and premium-priced storage systems. This is a great start.
COO: Made in USA with Global Materials
Thank you to Craftsman for providing the test sample featured in this review.
Individual Craftsman TradeStack Components
At the time of this posting, Lowe’s is also selling the TradeStack system components individually. Only the rolling tool box comes with VersaStack and ToughCase adapter attachment.